“Obey the riff” is Beastwars‘ maxim. Who’s gonna argue?
A little background for those who aren’t already familiar with Beastwars. The Kiwi quartet have been building their sludgy epic stoner doom sound since 2007, and so far have three solid full-length albums under their scuffed-up warrior’s belt. They first caught my attention with their self-titled debut in 2011. As is the case so often, I was drawn to their album through the incredible artwork presented on its cover. Partly due to the ridiculous number of bands we sift through on a yearly basis, coupled with my infamously terrible memory, they kinda fell off my radar prior to 2013’s Blood Becomes Fire, such that I don’t really remember listening to it during that time at all. Now in 2016, I can again attribute their re-emergence in my peripheral vision to another of the striking oil paintings by fellow New Zealander Nick Keller. Good thing too, as it seems the band have progressed along nicely, further concentrating their attack with pleasing results.
The stream above has been set by the band to start on track 5. Skip back to the start if you like, doesn’t really matter, there aren’t any bad songs, but I think if you want to check out the band’s rockier side, opener “Call to the Mountain” is your best bet. Alternatively, if you’re looking to hear their doomier aspect, start at “Devil’s of Last Night” (track 2) and you’ll be greeted by some huge bass-heavy stomping similar to those of Haast’s Eagled. The guitar tone and playing style is quite reminiscent of Red Fang‘s dual attack, although Beastwars manage to achieve this with just the one guitarist. The subtle harmonies could be likened to the quiet but no less powerful wing-strokes of a large bird taking flight. Sorry, I just got lost staring at that cover again. Even at its hastiest moments, the riffing is mid-paced and utilises a lot of varying degrees of palm-muting and feedback. This opens the gate for the bass to rise to prominence on multiple occasions. And while it certainly does get its fair share of the kill, the sound gives the impression that it is constantly struggling to free itself from several layers of accumulated surface filth, as it threshes, thrashes and violently jerks around in the mix. The drums have a distinct natural thud to them, although there are a couple of parts where when isolated, the kicks have a nice reverberation not too dissimilar from Bonzo’s famous staircase sound used on the Zeppelin classic “When The Levee Breaks”.
Matt Hyde’s vocals are a little less trad-doomy this time around, as he dials back some of the Crypt Sermon-esque bellows for more of the wince-inducing hoarseness. If you’ve never heard his unique voice before, try to imagine an ungodly amalgam of Matt Caughthran’s (The Bronx) post-punk anger and the throat-scouring stoner roars of Matt Pike (Papilla perspirus), along with everything in between. I’m usually relatively indifferent to vocals, but on The Death of All Things I found myself paying extra attention to his performance, no doubt due to his strong presence throughout. When you hear the pangs of anguish calling straight from the 70’s on tracks such as the acoustic “The Devil Took Her”, or sounds like the demented newborn scream at the end of “Holy Man”, it’s hard not to take notice.
Throughout this feast of an album it seems the band are periodically rotated on a lazy susan/steven, so that there is nearly always one instrument thrust to the front and center of stage. The guitars, drums, vocals, and to a lesser extent, the bass, all share the limelight, taking turns to impress your ears with their individual contributions. Sometimes the pieces overlap for a few bars, segueing smoothly into focus under the scope. Other times the transition is immediate, as one piece all but silences the others, and proceeds to court like an alpha male attempting to demonstrate his prowess to you, the listener. For the most part, this cavorting feels almost flattering, but it’s when the band align and hit a groove in unison that you see their true power. This is something I would have liked to hear a bit more of, as I feel the consolidated impact approach should be the dominant force in a typically “flashless” genre. Overall, the album is a well-balanced trek that takes you just far enough away from the norm without going too far or too long, leaving The Death of All Things as quite possibly their strongest release to date.
3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell