(TheMadIsraeli prepared this review of the new album by Iceland’s Beneath, released in August by Unique Leader Records.)
I was a 100% emphatic fan of Beneath’s sophomore release The Barren Throne. it was one of 2014‘s finest examples of technical/progressive death metal done with immaculate nuance and care. I wasn’t a big fan of the band’s first album, Enslaved By Fear, but it was different from The Barren Throne. Based on the band’s new album Ephemeris, I can now see that what I attributed to just natural evolution or getting better as a band wasn’t that. It’s actually that Beneath wants to write a different kind of death metal album every go around.
Ephemeris abandons The Barren Throne and it’s Suffocation-esque mix of bleak melody and noodily passages of inter-dimensional angular tangents, opting for something of a more opaque sci-fi aesthetic.
The riffs, and the songs in as a whole, are definitively less direct. There’s more of an emphasis on progressive song structure and strange otherworldly melodies this time around that I can definitely appreciate. If I were forced to provide a succinct summation for Ephemeris, I’d say that it’s Krisiun written through the eyes of Cynic. I know that sounds weird, but that’s also just about the most accurate summary I can come up with. You could argue the band has also adopted some influences from the legendary Martyr as well.
While the music is no less brutal and scathing than any of Beneath’s previous material, this is definitely more of a smart man’s death metal album. The riffs have a great deal of consideration put into them, and the album feels like every part was gone over thousands of times to finalize it. This sophistication pays off in droves, offering an experience that is brutal and hooky, as all good tech death should be, and that’s also quite riveting in the song-writing department.
There are not only tempo shifts but also constant changes of mood due to switches from melodic to not at all, and vice-versa, utilizing an angular sensibility — not like Meshuggah, but more in line with the more melodic aspects of Suffocation, Incantation, or Immolation.
I think what this album proves most of all is that Beneath is a standout band in the world of tech death because of their ability to be amorphous, yet themselves. This album is so different from the two before it, just as those two differed from each other greatly. It would seem Beneath are just a gifted group of dudes who really fucking like death metal in all its splendor. Ephemeris is not only a fine addition to the Beneath discography, it’s also the best album I’ve heard this year as far as this more considered, deliberately-paced sort of tech death is concerned.