(DGR reviews the debut EP by a Canadian band named Unbeheld.)
And so, a new year dawns. We’re already close to a week into it and honestly things don’t seem that much different, other than the fact that we are still releasing a massive spate of lists as well as beginning to hammer our way through the seemingly never-ending and always growing list of infectious songs, eventually creating a huge playlist that will hopefully help people discover a huge batch of new bands when all is said and done.
Normally, around this time, you find all sorts of garbage floating around about resolutions, promises to be better people, “new year, new you”, like the fact that accidentally writing ’14 on all your dates for the next half month is going to somehow change you at the sub-atomic level and some brand new, fresh being is going to be borne of it.
I can’t make too many promises on that front, and given that I already got my scientifically accurate horoscope this year, I can consider that crossed off the list. What I can promise you is a grand NCS tradition of always poring over underground pages, trying to find new bands, writing reviews that are way too long for their own good, occasionally posting utter blasphemy in the form of clean-sung music on this site because it’s so good that people should be able to look past that, and discovering groups and discs far too late to be relevant to the initial burst that comes from a just-released new EP/album.
We find ourselves looking north this time, for our latest discovery in the form of Canada’s Unbeheld — a four-piece group that had been formerly grinding it out under the name of Damn The Eyes and hailing from the city of Maple Ridge, British Columbia (which, according to my research, seems like a churched-up suburb to the north of Vancouver). Their death metal antics have taken the form of an ass-end-of-November-2014 release, a self-titled EP with the amazing cover art that you see at the top.
In recent years Canada has proven, far and away, to be one of our greatest treasure troves of death metal to mine. It has had a vibrant tech-death scene for some time and has consistently, across the whole country, been churning out other varieties of death metal on top of that. Unbeheld are a more traditional death metal band in that context, forming their music out of a lot of crawling, slow grooves and mid-tempo, churning riffs that have the effect of making you feel like you’ve been fed through a meat grinder.
Unbeheld check in on this EP with three songs — “Sadistic Ascension”, “Draped and Displaced”, and “Destroyer” — clocking in at a little under ten minutes when all is said and done. The music on this EP is delivered breathlessly, with nary a break between the songs, the sort of music that feels like it is just a huge rock entering our planet’s atmosphere, already barreling to hit terminal velocity before it strikes the ground.
For that reason, Unbeheld’s EP feels like one song, a ten-minute trudge through the swamp that death metal comes out of, full of swirling riffs caught up in the disgusting foul ichor and maggot-teeming flesh that make up the bubbling maelstrom from which we pull our requisite blasts and grinds.
The EP seems like a relaunch for the band, one that sees them hammering away at the listener for its close to ten-minute run. Unbeheld are more on the brutal death/old school death metal side of the death spectrum, so the huge number of notes and scales that we usually expect have been reigned in — in favor of a battering drum performance and groove-heavy, percussive style of guitar playing. The recording on this EP is fairly clean, so even though the music itself is this gross, roiling mass of music, everything comes through pretty clearly.
It’s a ten-minute sprint from the get-go. Starting Unbeheld’s EP is like taking the brakes off of a truck at the top of a hill: There’s no stopping the thing as it just keeps rolling downward. They employ a double-vocal approach, with both their drummer and guitarist handling the multitude of screams that come out of the creature that this band is. Naturally, this allows them to go from low to high on an incredibly fast turn, and it is one trick that Unbeheld use a lot, in addition to the vocalists doubling over each other. It also lends itself well to the constant guitar-shifting and hammering bass lines, which sound like they are in sync with the kit behind them, effectively transforming Unbeheld into the hydra of death metal that the band aim to be.
As a quick injection, Unbeheld serves perfectly. Ten minutes isn’t that much time in the grand scheme of things, and because the songs basically start at 100 mph, they don’t seem to ever come to rest. There’s a pretty hard beginning and end to each track, but it’s hard to notice the song changes in between. It’s a ten-minute beating that ends just as quickly as it began. But if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll find yourself doing constant repeats. The driving riffs of this EP make it so that you’ll got a consistent headbang going over a listening session.
Given that this is the first big release for Unbeheld, it’s a good first impression. It’s a breather from the usual slate of tech that we’ve been receiving from our brothers in the north, and it’s nice to have an ugly, tumorous beast to roar and thrash about for a little bit. Of course, since they don’t have the huge techy “shock and awe” to rely on as a way of capturing attention, it puts a sharper focus on whether the songs are dynamic enough to keep you locked in as a listener. In Unbeheld’s case, they are.
In a way, the band remind me a lot of the group Leprous Divinity — whose EP I reviewed late last year — in that the whole thing is just a massive slab of death metal that makes zero compromises in terms of niceties.
As these three songs show, Unbeheld have established a good and solid foundation on which to build; they’ve obviously got some history as a previous group, but with a new name this is one of those stealthy releases that people should really check out. They’ve created a monster with this EP and now it will be really interesting to see if the group are able to control it and mutate from there into a full-length.