(DGR reviews the new EP by Unbeheld from British Columbia, which was released near the end of July.)
Something happened in the three years since their self-titled EP in 2014 that caused Canadian death metal band Unbeheld to develop a nihilistic streak that has spilled over into their music. The group’s latest EP, Dust, features seven songs and not a friendly thought amongst them. The band themselves even explain this upfront on the Bandcamp page for Dust, stating:
Dust is lyrically based on thoughts rooted in depression and anxiety. The sort of feelings that one dealing with such mental conditions goes through on a daily basis. The sense that nothing ever quite feels “right”. The fact that that exists in itself is an absurd phenomena. It also deals with the usual death metal themes of death and violence; but instead of being about the process of these things, it more so deals with the thoughts that go through ones mind during death and or while performing acts of violence as well as a general fear of fading away into nothingness. That is to say that after we die; nothing we did really mattered.
I’m not a gambling man but I’d guess that “friendly” and “approachable” will likely not be the words attached to Unbeheld’s music, and to be fair, the artwork for Dust matches the music within — intense and violent.
Dust weighs in at seven songs — one intro and six following tracks — and about thirty minutes worth of gale-force death metal. Unbeheld released “Dust” and “Lamentation” earlier this year in the build-up to the full release of the disc, and the other four songs are just as intense as those two.
“Dust” is the first real song following the intro piece and it does the classic heavy metal move of hitting the ground running, full-throated scream and all. Like previous Unbeheld works, it is at times ultra-precise and at other times has so much going on that it feels like it’s barely holding on, with the band clinging to the edge hoping not to be thrown lose. The main rhythm section that the screams of ‘DUUUUSSST!!’ are built around is exceedingly thrashy, knocking itself about in a start/stop fashion.
“Lamentation” is the more rhythm- and atmosphere-focused of the immediate pairing that were released beforehand. It’s as noisy as its brethren but it is one of the songs on Dust that is chock-full of headbanging groove, and the build-up to single-snare hits in its opening sections is really fun. Unbeheld even toss in a quiet section during the song to let you cool down a bit, before essentially doing the whole beginning over just to annihilate any rest you might’ve had.
The two closing songs make for an almost perfect pairing of nine minutes worth of destruction. “Vultures” and “Nothing” are both manic songs”, and “Vultures expressly seems built around the idea of having the vocalist destroy himself with high screaming in order to hang with some exceedingly fast guitar work. Where “Vultures” really shines, though, is in its closing gallop, as it is one of the few clearly melodic lines that works its way into Dust as a whole. That’s a nice change of pace given the relentlessness with which “Vultures” conducts itself for the majority of its four and a half minutes.
“Nothing” handles the job of being EP closer admirably, basically picking up right where “Vultures” leaves off with the buzzing guitar opening and the constant drum bashing. “Nothing” is a slower-moving track, but by Unbeheld standards that means that the fretwork is still fast by normal standards and the double-bass drum is still plenty present; it’s just that the band sneak in a brief moment of rhythm-fueled glory about a minute in before going back to flooding you with guitar. “Nothing” has an excellent closing guitar solo as well, which spills into one last chance for an armageddon-fueled blast run to close things out, with the last few notes feeling like a consolation award for having made it on the journey through Unbeheld’s violent mood swing.
Dust stands at an interesting crossroads for heavy metal as it is one part technical death metal and one part nihilistic throwback, and the two combine with a crash as loud as two semis colliding head-on into each other. With seven tracks in tow — one intro and six separate pockets of violence — Dust portrays a version of Unbeheld that is in a very dark place, a band using heavy metal as a sort of cathartic anger alongside the traditional collection of hyperfast guitar playing and destruction of a drumkit via blastbeat. While the hopeless philosophy of Dust may be expressed in the lyrics, musically Dust is the type that blows your hair back when you press play.
Unbeheld have created an excellent follow-up to their self-titled first release, though the three years since that release have obviously left the gentlemen of the band angrier than ever. The six blasts contained on Dust are worth your time; just be prepared to scrape everything around you off the wall after “Nothing” wraps up its four minutes with you.