Review Summary: A masterpiece this is anything but.
As if taking the piss out of one crappy modern tech death band this week wasn't enough, I felt it only necessary to give a listen to Canadian death metal band no. 452, Beyond Creation. Hailed by many as the shining beacon of light in the technical death metal scene of today, it's an absolute wonder to me that their debut record The Aura
is being hailed far and wide as a masterpiece of its intended subgenre. This record is anything but a masterpiece. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this record almost completely sucks. Why you ask? Well maybe it's because of the incredibly poor song writing. Or perhaps it's the fault of the terrible mix, as well as the simply atrocious drum sound that has come along with said terrible mix. Maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about and I'm just "jealous that I can't play as fast as the band" as a negative remark on my most recent Rings of Saturn review claimed, although I highly doubt that.
Those that don't already know my inherently negative feelings about modern technical death metal should know that I mostly hate it. To me, it's a sea of Brain Drill clones that do nothing but sweep pick, blast beat, and growl with what sounds like an identical singer for each band while occasionally throwing in an actual riff, although those tend to be very few and far between. Beyond Creation, while not completely conforming to the "beat the listener in the fact for 40 minutes with nothing but fretboard masturbation" method of tech death, have adopted the generally not that good songwriting of fellow genre bands such as Brain Drill, Beneath the Massacre, and the all around atrocious Rings of Saturn. The band seem to have attempted the opposite of no two songs sounding the same here, as no one song has any real identity of its own, each consisting of fast blasting sections, slow, jazzy grooving sections, annoying tapping and sweep picking sections that wouldn't sound out of place in a glitching NES game, and occasionally some deathcore styled breakdowns, with no smooth transition or lead in/out from one section to another. Even with the flowing undercurrent of melody there to separate it from most of the rest of the modern tech death bands out there, it is still for naught as the writing overall is just not engaging enough to justify more than one curiosity listen. One of the big problems for me is that there are some great riffs on this record, particularly in the instrumental "Chromatic Horizon", which is probably the one track from this album that I'd go back to and listen to for enjoyment, only the band squanders these good riffs by having every other aspect of the music surrounding them utterly worthless. The transitions are, as mentioned, jarring and inconsistent, each song sounds pretty much identical, and the mix, which I will address later on, is just awful. It's very much the problem I have with the music side of Liturgy, how both these bands show throughout their respective records that lying underneath all the bull*** is indeed a great band just waiting and wanting to show itself. Sadly, these flashes of brilliance are bogged down beyond rescue by everything else sucking as hard as it does.
The other major problem for me when it comes to this record is the mix. Quite simply put, this record sounds like ***. Let us assemble a checklist of every cliched problem with this album's mix, shall we? Overly compressed and brickwalled beyond belief? Check. Guitars overpowered by the drums and vocals? Bingo. Vocals even more overbearing and annoyingly in-your-face than you would ever possibly want them to be? Abso-friggin-lutely. Drums sound like a series of farts and clicks and in almost no way resemble how drums are supposed to sound? Indeed. Inaudible bass? Actually no, as the bass on this album is quite audible. While normally this would be a good thing, as I absolutely despise the fact that bass is made practically silent on most modern records, the bass here sounds so ridiculously warbly and up front that it's a major distraction from everything else going on. The fretless sound employed on this record is just annoying in how over the top it is, as there is not a hint of subtlety to be found as the band smacks you in the face with "We're a technical death metal band! We have fretless bass! That makes us good by default!" No, it doesn't. In addition to the bass being way too much to handle, the vocals are as stereotypical of modern death metal as possible, with a never ending supply of mediocre growls, shrieks, and pig squeals to contribute to the listener's ever growing issues with tinnitus. The fact that they're mixed the loudest out of everything on the album is even more a burden on my ears, as they are even more over the top and ridiculous than the bass is. Sterile, robotic, and with a not-so-healthy scent of plastic covering it, the whole thing just reeks of inherently bad modern mixing, and that's exactly what it is.
As mentioned earlier on, underneath all the crappy aspects of The Aura
, all the poor transitions, the non-engaging writing style, falling victim to almost every possible problem one can fall victim to in modern metal album mixing, is a genuinely good, possibly even great, band that is just dying to come to the surface and let the world taste its wares. That is, unfortunately, not to be with Beyond Creation, who are nothing more than just another lame modern tech death band in a sea of lame modern tech death bands. And to me, inconsistency and not realizing one's full potential is just as bad, if not worse, than consistent sucking. While I can see why some people would enjoy this band and album, I can also see why some people enjoy feces porn and snuff films. Doesn't automatically make it great though, and Beyond Creation will have to shed a lot of the fat away and make a lot of changes in order to get me to pay attention in the future.