Review Summary: Battling the illness and the road to recovery…
In 2016, after releasing the aptly titled full length, The Death of All Things
, one of the most consistent and powerful acts in the stoner/sludge metal spheres called it quits. The three LPs we had received by then were excellent affairs that catapulted Beastwars to the forefront of these genres. I didn’t expect them to return, at least not so fast, but I was stoked to listen to IV
as soon as it was announced. The story behind it isn’t that beautiful though. The catalyst for the reunion was vocalist Matt Hyde’s battle with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, whose remission made this album’s creation possible. Luckily for everyone, the group managed to reconcile and deliver another massive epic.
continues Beastwars’ sonic evolution, searching for the heaviest grooves, complete with several moody passages. Occasional low key moments are featured, although less prevalent here than on The Death of All Things
. On their latest record, the band focused on exorcising their demons, especially Hyde, whose lyrics often describe the numbness, terror and confusion in his mind during chemotherapy. Tunes such as ‘Raise the Sword’, ‘Sound of the Grave’ and ‘Storms of Mars’ share a very dense atmosphere. The former’s bellic attitude is supported by scorching, doom-infused riffs and chugs. It’s a slow opener, however, it sets a fitting tone for what’s next. The uncanny ‘Sound of the Grave’ displays how hard is to maintain hope in such challenging moments in life, whereas ‘Storms of Mars’ got me closest to shedding a tear. Lyrics like “Let me live, give me 10 more years, let me see the stars […] I want to be alive to see my child grow” are wrapped in a cosmic twist, so you can read them as a hyperbolic story as well. Nevertheless, there’s a justified, naked fear that characterizes a good chunk of the record and this track might be the most touching. The vibe is augmented by Matt, who’s ripping his vocal chords over ponderous riffage as if there is no tomorrow.
In between the cuts mentioned above lies 'Wolves and Prey' with its dirty, fuzzy, pile driving bass lines. As expected, potent drumming & guitar interplay join in to tear down the walls. Moreover, Beastwars continue to fire on all cylinders on ‘Omens’, boasting a hellish main riff, one of the hardest hitting in their catalog in my opinion. Luckily, they worked on dynamics too, unleashing their fury in waves. The guitar & faint piano leads surfacing halfway grant the song a more melodic layer too, nicely diversifying the overall sound. Towards the end of IV
, the band tones things down a bit, as ‘The Traveller’ grows from restrained chord picking to interesting, fragmented rhythms. Returning to what they do best, the soaring coda is drenched in fuzz and Matt’s robust screams. ‘Like Dried Blood’ puts things to a close in a touching manner, using cold piano lines as well as clean vocals on the first half. The quartet ends the album on a high note, cranking the distortion one more time for an epic finale. While there are some clear highlights on the LP, each tune has depth and groove to grab your attention. I’m very glad the band reconvened so fast, because they wrongfully called it a day at their peak. Also, I am happy Matt is alive and kicking, so they can continue exploring their ideas and chemistry as a unit.