Monday, April 16, 2012

Album Review: Beaten To Death - Xes and Strokes

I stumbled across a video from these guys for the title track off of their debut album Xes and Strokes. It's basically the five of them rocking out in what is probably a rented out rehearsal space. The song held my attention long enough to win me over at the one minute mark when the melody-tinged drop chord grind does a sudden shift of gears and turns into a palm-muted stompfest that makes you want to boogie the fuck out, complete with bass and drum breakdown. The band separates themselves from the pack by utilizing a lot of high end melody within their sound, riffs that wouldn't be alien to an Arch Enemy song if you tore away the blastbeats pushing it forward from behind- it works for them, and even more so because of it's juxtaposition to the big ugly fat guitars and guttered out bass that keep the band's sound down and dirty, think of that first Korn album on trucker speed (two for two on the bad metal references). For me personally, some of the best moments in Grindcore happen when a band's disfigured and violent sound breaks away from it's own grip for just a brief moment, and opens up the wound enough to show a glimpse of something almost beautiful within the carnage. The almost majestic riffage towards the end of Brutal Truth's 'Dead Smart', or the desperate vulnerability that's exposed both musically and vocally in the second half of Pig Destroyer's 'Towering Flesh' are good examples. BTD accomplish this at the end of 'A Souless Alarm', when the grind halts to an eerie harmonic that is built upon with orchestrally choreographed volume knobbery (think Metallica's To Live Is To Die -HAT TRICK!!!), and then rolls forward into a percussively driven jam-out moment at the end. While I do compliment the band on messing around with melody and still keeping it grind, the formula just isn't strong enough to keep my attention throughout the entire album, as some tracks just fall into the mediocre after the half-way point once I got used to hearing it and I may as well be listening to the monotony that is Leng Tche'. But at the same time there are moments when the music makes you want to move, and sometimes the simplicity of the punk formula just fuckin' works the best, as evidenced in their opener "Pointless Testament", the actual music lasts less than a minute and the track beats you down with really just one main riff. "On Running" is another bad ass tune that works well mainly because it's still fresh early in the album and teeters back and forth between a happy little blast-tainted melody and stuttering breakdown power-chording (I know it ain't a word).  The vocals are pretty straightforward and typical for the genre, low to high, with little variance at both ranges, but the emotion is there. The tracks on the album vary from just over a minute to just under three, so with only nine tracks the band does a great job of not wearing out their welcome and wrapping it up in 18 minutes and some change. Production is top notch, and the drums sound clean and powerful against the downtuned guitars and dirty bass. I get the feeling that Beaten To Death got the final product to sound exactly the way they wanted it to. I wonder how many groups hit the studio unable to match the sounds in their head and end up resting on their laurels or embracing it and changing a bit of the writing to fit into the sound better. The band also must have some good pals that majored in film editing because they've got three high quality straight-up cool videos available for your perusing on youtube where it's them just grinding their shit, including the aforementioned "Pointless Testament". I always dig when a group puts so much work into a video for a song that short. These dudes aren't anything I'd rave about in line at the next Weekend Nachos show but they are still good at what they do and aren't weighing down the scene with run-of-the-mill mediocrity, I'd definitely recommend them to anyone looking for something decent and new. I think Beaten To Death is one of those bands that will either win me over or lose me on their next release, and as of now I'm looking forward to hear where they go. Check out the video for 'Xes and Strokes' below, and then follow the links to watch 'Pointless Testimony' and 'Winston Churchill': It's a fun lil' watch.

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