Review Summary: The Norwegian Meshuggah create an incredible and progressive follow-up to their debut effort.
Embrace the End and SikTh are a couple examples of bands that have two separate vocalists to achieve different ranges in screaming. I don’t like the former as much, but the latter executes it well. Norway’s technical/experimental metal act Benea Reach has two distinctly different screams as well. There is a baritone scream that sounds much like Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman and higher shrieking screams that sound much like Mikee Goodman from SikTh. Now, meet Benea Reach’s vocalist Ilkka Volume. Volume is capable of changing his vocals very well, so that having the speculation that there are two separate vocalists is not deplorable. He is a bipolar screamer wielding the mic as a convincing Jekyll and Hyde. The major vocal variation is the most notable aspect of the album, even more so than in Monument Bineothan. The transitions from the low screaming to the high are very clean, and some of the higher screams reach scathingly high, octaves up and ledger lines above if you wanted to somehow put screaming into the context of note pitch.
But Volume also has some “talking” parts that are incorporated appropriately, that sound like throaty but calm speeches. In addition, he also uses some clean vocals in various songs but don’t cringe yet; they are used sparingly and are actually quite good. It is interesting to note that his clean vocals never seem to sound alike in any two tracks (compare “Reason” with “Unconditional” with “Sentiment”). However, Volume is not the only one that sings in the album. There is a female guest vocalist that adds significantly to a couple tracks, the most notable being “Reason,” one of the best songs on the album.
“Reason” starts with a quick soft introduction that lead straight into the heavy onslaught that was the predominant composition of the four tracks that precede it. But within two minutes, a sforzando piano brings everything down, tempo and dynamics, and the female vocals enter for a relieving and beautiful breather from all the heaviness. As Marco Storm maintains a steady pumping beat with the bass and open hi-hat, Volume joins the female guest with his soft singing and a swooning lullaby of a duet commences. A quick crescendo resumes the intensity of the beginning but with the guitars strumming an ascending melody creating a wonderfully hopeful emotion. It is surely the highlight of the album.
The album opener “Awakening” starts with a single guitar playing a very catchy swinging melody that so appropriately “awakens” the intense aggression. “New Waters” is very catchy in the overall melody created, with a chorus that makes you want to scream along while pumping your fist. "Legacy" has the same effect but with some additional choir-like background vocals as Volume screams the chorus. Benea Reach does very well in creating intense vocal attacks over spacey and very melodic musical sections. And in all cases and in all forms of vocals, Volume maintains a passionate energy throughout, thus the reason for why you may raise your fists and scream along. There are many other great tracks throughout that I can continue addressing individually, but it is really not necessary. This is an album that should be listened to as whole, that works greatly as a collective. The development is perfectly constructed and provides for an inspiring listen.
Marco Storm has mentioned in a few interviews that one of their major influences is the veteran powerhouse Meshuggah. This is very apparent in much of the guitar work, with the polyrhythmic chugging and the heavy tone that is sometimes given off. Much of the instrumentals are heavy indeed, but many parts (especially choruses and grandiose buildups) seem to conjure a light and hopeful mood, as I mentioned with “Reason.” When listening to the epic buildups of bands like Devil Sold His Soul and Envy, it is breathtaking and incredible but in a very bleak and depressing way. Benea Reach seems to be the opposing counterpart. But don’t be misled by my saying this. This doesn’t take away from the heavy and furious aspects. Listen to the album to really get what I mean.
Monument Bineothan, which was excellent in its own accord, but Alleviat is such a major progression that it is consistently captivating. They are excellent in constructing forceful sonic assaults as well as atmospheric and soothingly beautiful moments, the latter being a feature infrequent in their previous release. Even if you’re an avid fan of their debut, there can be nothing but great admiration and awe, and most of all, surprise for their new effort. This is indeed one of the better releases of the year and I am eagerly waiting to see what direction this band will take next.