Review Summary: A return to something perhaps better left in 2007.
Frankly, I don’t really think “throwback” records are a great idea in metalcore and deathcore. Hell, records in any genre made with the intent of returning to a band’s roots are iffy things by nature, more often than not becoming ventures that backfire violently. Keeping the point centered in the relevant genre camps, Miss May I and Suicide Silence both attempted this to generally mixed results, hindered mostly by a clear lack of conviction in their songwriting. It’s somewhere between hard and impossible to recapture that special energy that made an early record so effective, and trying to do just that seems to result in the opposite effect many a time. With Despised Icon’s reunion record, Beast
, it seems pretty clear that they were shooting for something similar, as the album feels like it was plucked straight out of the burgeoning 2007 deathcore scene, complete with pig squeals and breakdowns galore. While it’s a fun nostalgia trip at heart, some things are simply better left in the past.
The biggest thing Despised Icon seems to be missing here is that it wasn’t their older records that impressed the most. It was when they progressed into a more technical, high intensity sound on Day of Mourning
that they cemented themselves as forerunners in deathcore. The musicianship here doesn’t retain much of that technical edge except for the drumming. A lot of these songs feature blisteringly fast, quickly shifting drum work, but only regressive bottom string chuggery masquerading as riffs or sluggish half time playing that’s meant to contrast with the energetic beats. Not that there aren’t a few solid riffs here, like the spastic, mathy intro to “One Last Martini”, but they’re nothing more than just solid. The title track, a curiously bland choice for leadoff single and album closer, is really nothing more than a series of slams, chugs, and nauseous vocals over three minutes. Most tracks fall in between these two songs in quality, some dipping down and others coming up stronger. A pair of interludes serve Beast
well in variety and to slow down the furious pace, with “Doomed” standing out thanks to a moody clean guitar passage. However, it’s more than a bit off when an interlude is one of the best tracks here. Despised Icon’s notable dual frontmen don’t really do them much good to boot. Alex Erian’s trademark mid ranged screams are fine, but Steve Marois, contributing all the necessary guttural growls, ear splitting screeches, and pig squeals, just sounds ragged thanks to the vocals being mixed a bit too highly. Some might think he’s just lost his touch, but comparably Day of Mourning’s
vocals were mixed lower into the unrelentingly heavy music that may have covered up his weaknesses.
I’ll give Despised Icon props for one thing, and it’s that they don’t sound like they lack conviction. Beast
sounds wholly convincing in its desire to return to the “glory days” of deathcore, as some might say, though just as many more would argue that deathcore either had no glory days or that they were long after this one. Beast
is ferocious and high energy and flat out fun
, but that’s not an excuse for regression. Breakdowns and pig squeals we can deal with, enjoy even if done right, but let’s put some worthwhile music in with it shall we?