Review Summary: An exciting debut from a group at the forefront of the Australian metal scene.
As one of the more critically recognised metal acts in Australia, 'neath deliver an experience unmatched in the country's progressive scene. Since the release of their debut LP The Spiders Sleep
, a steady stream of metalheads have discovered the atmospheric offering for themselves and quickly added the Brisbane unit to their list of bands to look out for. And considering the quality of material here, this is hardly surprising.
'neath can quickly be defined as a progressive death metal band, comparable to Opeth and Katatonia pre-loss of death vocals. Fortunately, lead singer Boyd Potts has his brutal growls intact, and offers one of the most ferocious voices in the country today. Coupled with a perfectly serviceable clean singing voice (which ranges from solemn Jonas Renske to screaming Devin Townsend), 'neath can sit safe in the knowledge that their impressive instrumental prowess is only too well accompanied.
Opener When the Birds Lie Dead
demonstrates the technical veracity the group are quickly becoming recognised for. Not only do the various riffs introduced throughout this one song force you to rock wherever you may be sitting, the layered keys also add an atmospheric gloom missing from a lot of their contemporaries, who may thrive a little too much on a thin, baseless sound. These keys provide constant support throughout The Spiders Sleep
, and add considerably to the density of the band's material.
Tim Dowdle's guitar is a vital element to the make-up of 'neath's sound however, and it pains me to discribe exactly how technical yet simply accessible his riffs are. Along with Jonathan Moore's percussion and David Lingard's bass, the three of them provide many moments of pure, unashamedly primal metal, which although sounds at odds with their progressive tag, actually offers fleeting remedial moments where the listener can indulge in a little guilty headbanging. The mix between progressive and basic styles is a welcome relief, and illustrates the group's multi-demensional spirit.
In terms of individual tracks, The Spiders Sleep
isn't let down by any of the players here. The Silk-laden Whore
begins with an eerie introduction, and eventually ends up at what is possibly the most brutal passage of the album in it's crushing finale. The Sordid Grim Lie
brings back the Townsend comparison, with the studious keys and Potts' vocal styling sounding curiously similar to the famed metal icon's. It's also one of the best songs on the album.
With the immense Blank Identity Crisis
closing the proceedings with it's epic soundscape, you have to acknowledge exactly what 'neath have achieved here - a quality slab of progressive metal that deserves to stand amongst the best in the genre. With their second LP The Small Untruths
already available, it would be wise to invest in this impressive debut before it's all but forgotten.