Review Summary: The bloody and visceral feast promoted by Alterbeast will delight those who are looking for something quick, atonal and with occasional melodic flourishes.
Sophomore albums present a challenge to any band. Plenty of speculation is made over the group’s sound, members or genre, and the way of following a highly regarded debut differs with every band: some try to take a new direction in order to prevent their sound from becoming stale, while others take the easy route of repeating their successful formula. To everyone’s relief, the latter is precisely the case of Alterbeast’s latest opus Feast
; even though the Sacramento tech-death outfit suffered some line-up changes to the point of becoming a duo conformed by guitarist and sole remaining original member Andrew Lamb and ex-Flub vocalist Michael Alvarez, Alterbeast’s outstanding and dense musicianship is still heavily present here, spiced up with some dark and funereal melodic shifts and occasional experimental tendencies.
isn’t exactly pushing many boundaries on technical death metal, nor is it re-inventing the wheel; everything that you’d expect from a modern day tech-death band signed with Unique Leader Records, for better or for worse, is incorporated on Alterbeast’s second outing. However, what this record does well is to reveal itself as a fun, incredible display of insane power and adrenaline right from the beginning. Similarly to 2014’s Immortal
, Alterbeast’s piercing riffs, up-tempo chugs and percussive fury rely on fast tempos for the majority of the album; after a brief and beautiful piano intro, ''Welcome to Your Doom'' immediately devolves into a chaotic three-minute monster with machine gun drumming and a full assault of shred-fueled, spiraling guitar playing that won’t let the listener any moment to catch his breath.
With nine songs and a thirty-eight minute runtime, Feast
lives up to its ferocious title and its captivating cover illustration. The band keeps subtle atmospheres and acoustic sections only at a couple of places, focusing more on the rawer, punchier and more apocalyptic sides of the genre. While this straightforward approach may contribute to the feeling of this being just another tech-death effort of the bunch, the band proves to be quite good and effective at executing this style, bringing enough catchiness and intricate performances to make this an enjoyable collection of brutal, complex and slightly theatrical up-tempo songs. Alterbeast’s straight-up playing has often been compared to Detroit melodic death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder, and the main similarities that can be drawn between these two groups are the tight drumming and vocals.
The frantic percussion work, provided by session drummer Alex Bent (Trivium, Brain Drill, Battlecross) never lets up on this album, with a relentless blast-work and complex, energetic drum fills providing a breakneck pace to all the tracks, while Michael Alvarez’s insane, almost schizophrenic vocal interpretations and wider range consist of high-pitched shrieks and deep, evil barks/growls sometimes comparable to Trevor Strnad, regurgitating his lyrics at a rapid-fire and inhumane speed. Last but not least, guitar wizard and main composer Andrew Lamb continues to drive the songs with his terrific and polished riffage, melodic leads and shredding solos. The band’s razor sharp and harsh mood is solidly consistent for most of the time, with hellish technical assaults such as ''Vile Skin Possession'', ''Black Flame Illumination'', the unstoppable onslaught of the title track or the symphonic-influenced instrumental work on ''Coffin Crescendo'' wasting no time to get to the best riffs.
The musical chemistry between the three musicians is impressive, however the album’s quality drops a bit near the end with the rendition of Dissection’s ''Where Dead Angels Lie'', as it does fall into the ''sounds a bit same-like'' category, with the band molding it in the same monumental and non-stop approach of the rest of the songs instead of venturing into something new and otherworldly. Fortunately this is compensated with Alterbeast’s occasional experimentation and weirdness on songs like ''The Maggots Ascension'' or the six-minute closing ''Upon the Face of the Deep'', showcasing more abstract passages, interesting build-ups and cosmic atmospheres, while melancholic, classy piano work is welcomed during the over-the-top chorus of the amusingly sinister and cheesy anti-religious anthem ''Apex Night Eclipse'' ('Six six six/Summoning the blackest fiend/King of hell, Satan hear our spell/With fang of wolf, we shall feast upon the sheep'
Overall then, Alterbeast’s second studio effort is a very fun record to listen to and definitely worth having if you’re a modern tech-death metal diehard. While this macabre feast would’ve benefited more by featuring more of Alterbeast’s experimental traits, the album still packs up substantial and dark arrangements, intriguing performances and death metal’s characteristic punch and roughness to make this an entertaining and vicious experience.