It’s been almost two months since our last installment of EYE-CATCHERS, and it seemed like a good time to renew this series of posts, especially after publishing BadWolf’s artistic analysis of Travis Smith’s cover art for the new Opeth album earlier this week. While I’m on that subject, I have a new piece of information to add about the appearance of the Opeth band members’ heads in the tree on that cover — which seems to be a source of controversy about the artwork, even spawning rumors that the cover art released this week is just an elaborate prank and isn’t actually the true cover.
That piece of information came to us via NCS reader markus, who informed us of the artistic linkage between the Opeth tree and the jinmenju. Go here to see what markus was referring to. I still don’t think the cover is a prank.
To remind you, the object of these EYE-CATCHERS posts is to listen to new music based solely on the attractiveness of their album covers — testing the completely irrational hypothesis that cool album art correlates with cool music.
Our test subject for today is a Montreal band called Beyond Creation, who released their debut album The Aura in April. The cover art was created by Marco Hasmann, who has created equally eye-catching covers for the likes of NCS favorites Fleshgod Apocalypse and Blasphemer, as well as a host of brutal death metal bands. I think of all the bands we’ve featured in this series, Beyond Creation has been our most successful subject. We’re too lazy to keep Best of the Year lists, but if we did, I’m pretty sure The Aura would be in my personal Top 20, maybe my Top 10. If you appreciate the music of Obscura, The Faceless, or Augury, Beyond Creation will blow your fucken minds. (more after the jump . . .)
The music is immensely intricate, but the variety of countless, rapidly moving pieces interlock coherently and satisfyingly. This is music into which you can dive deeply, and never want to come up for air. Each song is woven around a riotous profusion of musical variations on a theme (or multiple themes), with tempos that turn on a dime, and a tag-team match of different instruments taking the lead in the music.
It’s as perfect an example as I could name of the ménage à trois of death-metal aggression, prog-metal inventiveness and emotional sweep, and the kind of wild improvisational feel that I most often associate with jazz — and here, calling to mind the sense of heart-bursting freedom you feel when seeing a flock of swallows darting and diving in flight, multiple minds following a freakish path as if organized by a single mind.
Dominic “Forest” Lapointe (ex-Augury) will undoubtedly garner much of the individual attention for his performance on The Aura, because so few metal musicians play a 6-string fretless bass and fewer still play it as superbly as he does. The distinctive tone of his instrument and the marvelous technique of his playing injects every song with interest. Wisely, the band features his remarkable bass as the lead instrument at times in every song. Jeroen Paul Thesseling (Obscura, Pestilence) may be the reigning king of fretless bass in metal, but Forest Lapointe is his peer.
But singling out Lapoint for individual praise would be unfair — because every other musician in this band is also stunningly accomplished. The two guitarists, SImon Girard (on 7- and 8-string guitar) and Kevin Chartré (on 7-string guitar) are shockingly good, not simply in their technical dexterity, but in their feel for tone and context, for how to bring from their instruments exactly the right leads and harmonies and eye-rolling solos at the right times in each song.
The percussion on The Aura is a match in every respect for the virtuosity of the bass and guitar. I suppose it goes without saying that Guyot Bégin Benoit‘s physical skills are far beyond average; he could not hold his own in this band otherwise. But sheer reflex, timing, and physical flash would not be enough. Fortunately, he brings as much artistry in the design of his patterns and fills as do the artists on the stringed instruments. He’s a wonder to hear in his own right.
There are times when all the instruments are so tightly in sync, so beautifully harmonized, that you can hear the simultaneity almost note for note. At other times, the instruments are playing off each other in counterpoint, but still harnessed by the yoke of the song as a whole. Rhythms drive, heads will bang, but the part of your brain capable of higher thinking will think it’s died and gone to heaven.
The album contains so many riveting moments, in every song, whether it be the call-and-response soloing of the guitars and bass on “Omnipresent Perception”, or the stunning displays of guitar wizardry on the prog-heavy album-closer “The Deported”, or the short, softer, instrumental pieces “Chromatic Horizon” and “Elevation Path”. The music wraps you up, lifts you out of yourself, makes you proud to be a member of the human race.
You didn’t think I would forget the vocals, did you? Perish the thought! They’re fucking great, too. Amazingly, Simon Girard is not only a whiz on the guitar, he can inject a galvanizing combination of death-metal roars, hair-raising shrieks, and just about everything in between.
I had the devil’s own time picking a song for you to hear. In the end, I picked two, to give you a sense of the musical variety of which Beyond Creation is capable:[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/04-Omnipresent-Perception.mp3|titles=Beyond Creation – Omnipresent Perception] [audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/09-Elevation-path.mp3|titles=Beyond Creation – Elevation Path]
When it comes to marketing, money may be king. But word of mouth can work pretty damned well, too. So help spread the word: Beyond Creation is a head-spinning trip like few bands you’ll hear this year.
At least in the U.S., The Aura can be downloaded from Amazon MP3 and iTunes. For those of you on Facebook, you can find Beyond Creation here.
(Credit where credit is due: We first saw the album cover that set this review in motion on the excellent metal blog The Living Doorway — a consistent source of great writing and great musical discoveries.)
Marco Hasmann set this review in motion with his cover for The Aura. So, while you listen to Beyond Creation, let’s serve up some more of his eye-catching album covers. To see the band names, hover your mouses over the pics: