In a year that has already delivered enough superb tech-death releases to give frenetic-metal addicts a month’s worth of wet dreams, we now have one more from a remote locale: South Africa. But the debut album by Bloodbeast is not the precision music of accelerated, machine-like aliens. It has no avant-garde injections of jazz fusion. It isn’t the musical equivalent of a chalkboard crammed with the formulas of quantum mechanics.
No, Bloodlust is the maniacal fever dream of ghouls, a canvas sprayed with blood splatter, a landscape decimated by a lurching horde of the electrified undead. It’s a technically masterful fusion of death, grind, and thrash that takes no prisoners and wants to drink your spinal fluid. I was fortunate to get an advance listen to the music, but thankfully, the album has now become available for everyone on Bandcamp.
Bloodbeast is a new band, but its members are veterans of the S.A. metal underground. The band’s leader, Van Zyl Alberts (aka Van666), was also the guitarist and co-vocalist of Architecture of Aggression, a long-running progressive death metal band we’ve written about several times at this site (e.g., here). The other members have paid their dues in outfits such as Bile of Man, Fuck the Corpses, and Demented Martyr. Joining together in Bloodbeast, they’ve clearly found a musical vehicle that suits their interests and successfully integrates their talents.
The album’s first track (“Visceral Birth”) is a brief, creepy intro consisting of heavy breathing, strange noises, and what sound like body blows. Through the remaining seven songs and approximately 30 minutes of runtime, Bloodbeast maintain a blistering pace, dropping the tempo only briefly during parts of “Butcher For Pleasure” and “Crawl of the Maggot”. But the rhythms and time signatures are in constant flux, the instrumentalists veering seamlessly from one one frenzied measure to the next in a display of coordinated dexterity that’s impressive.
Yet despite all the runaway rhythmic complexity, Bloodbeast dodge the dreaded “wankery” label. Just when you think this helltrain is going to completely jump the rails, it consistently pulls the listener back on track with compulsive, driving beats that bring cohesiveness to each song.
At every position, Bloodbeast are on top of their game. The guitar leads are inventive and varied, alternately chugging like an over-powered locomotive and taking off in bat-like flight — unpredictable, fast, swirling, darting. The bass lines are almost equally varied, the notes in rapid motion, often dueling with the guitars as if in a cage match. And the percussion is as seemingly crazy and unpredictable as everything else, until you pay attention to how quickly it syncs with the rest of the rhythm section to pull each song back on course.
But as effective as all these elements are, the guitar solos on Bloodlust are the album’s most stand-out feature. On “Out For Blood”, the solo writhes like a school of piranha after a fresh carcass in the water. In “Merciless”, it screams with abandon while the rhythm section beats a frenzied death rattle. It erupts like pure acetylene shred in “Butcher For Pleasure”. It attacks in harmony with the bass and then explodes like a flash fire on “War Eternal” while the rhythm section hammers out a relentless martial stomp, like a voracious demon army on the march.
The vocals are a key piece of the puzzle as well. The hoarse growls and hair-raising howls contribute to the ghoulish atmosphere of the music, keeping it brutal as well as dextrous.
Most technically demanding metal seems to feature sharp, clear production, so that all the impressive fret work and acrobatic drumming won’t be lost in the flurry of notes, chords, and strikes. But on Bloodlust, you don’t get the kind of overly compressed sound that can render a lot of tech-death into something antiseptic and machine-like. You definitely notice the instrumental flash, but the sound is still raw, rough, and pleasingly distorted. There’s also genuine balance in the mix, with nothing too out-front — except when those solos start fucking with your mind.
Here a stream of the album. If you like it as much as I do, you can download it on the Bloodbeast Bandcamp page for the completely appropriate price of $6.66. Below the music player I’m also including the band’s new lyric video for “Out For Blood”. For more info about Bloodbeast, visit their official web site here or on Facebook at this location.