Review Summary: And a recipe for immortality.
Scottish-based Man Must Die have been around for the best part of two decades now, churning out under the radar death metal mainstays. More specifically, (and almost twenty years later) the band’s fifth full-length, The Pain Behind It All
continues the group’s trend of bludgeoning death metal into warped hardcore aesthetics. Simply, The Pain Behind It All
is techy, but it’s also expectedly up-tempo. It’s less flavor of the month and more blueprint of a career just waiting to explode. Man Must Die diligently stick to their guns, fleshing out more and more from their almost linear, groove heavy soundscapes. Riffs snap and grab, teeter hooks barbed with frenetic groove and distorted tenacity. The Pain Behind It All
is the stereotypical foray into the world of death metal influenced by technicality—but it isn’t ruled by it. Now I’ll admit I haven’t been the most diligent student when it comes to Man Must Die’s extensive discography and yet I can’t help but recall the downright familiarity of Peace Was Never An Option
and its less than stellar artwork. Well, the tables have finally turned, and the art is mostly irrelevant in the case of analyzing music (der). A quick bit of research tells me Man Must Die has flown underrated, unobserved and unappreciated long enough. The Pain Behind It All
signifies ascension, a turn in the right direction and more importantly, a trajectory for continued relevance in this overflowing niche of death metal.
After a short dose of “O.C.D.”, Man Must Die crash unmistakably with their brand of aggressive, frontal death metal. “Patterns in the Chaos” is rigid, unyielding as wire riffs cut in and around vocalist Joe McGlynn’s tenacious shouts. There’s vehemence here, plenty of it and the album’s opening moments make clear what is to come. The record’s leading single and namesake however is melodically more explorative, less linear on an aesthetic built from speed, hate and aggression. If anything, “The Pain Behind It All” is introspective and an early reprieve from the wall-to-wall blast beats and rough growls that define the rest of this Scottish act’s music. Here, Man Must Die offer difference, progression in their own sound and a welcome escape from the bludgeoning noise they are more familiar with.
The let-downs here are minimal and to tear apart the minor details seems reductive against such a blistering, well-put-together backdrop of angry, efficient death metal. If there is a case to be made for The Pain Behind It All
having a weaker moment, it’s the pointed “Clickhate”. Perhaps there’s something to be said for taking a little wordplay too far, however the lyrics seem to be on the nose for a band so well-versed and aesthetically aware as Man Must Die. Instrumentally, the track is ferocious, tenacious and fervent as you’re ever likely to hear this Scottish group, but its chorus, and repetition of theme are somehow too blunt on this canvas. While McGlynn’s growls and shouts are on the more decipherable, understandable end of the distortion scale, some of these lyrics seem questionable, if not downright basic against this music—an issue which rears its less than pretty head again on the record closer, “Who Goes There? / I.F.F.”.
On a larger scale The Pain Behind It All
is massive for a record that doesn’t exceed a forty-minute run-time. The Pain Behind It All
is comparatively stacked with blistering moments, subtle breaks and moments of melody that simply just land in all the right spots. Man Must Die’s newest entry doesn’t really let up on the interplay of aggression and …well aggression. There’s nuance here, buried under the blasting drums, rumbling bass and furor of riffs and screams—but that’s not the haggis this little Scottish band is forcing down listeners’ throats. Ultimately, The Pain Behind It All
is a head-banger, the lyrics understandable even under the weight of basic death metal stereotypes. Ready to be listened to again and again all while Man Must Die reaches for immortality.