(Andy Synn ventures forth once more into the multiverse of madness to experience the kaleidoscopic thrills and spills of The Beast of Nod, whose new album is out tomorrow in all known dimensions)
One thing I absolutely hate, with the burning passion of a thousand exploding suns, is parody bands.
They’re (almost) never funny, nowhere near as clever as they think they are, and generally just rely on lazy, lowest-common-denominator tropes to get by. Hell, even the best of them barely rise above the level of “children’s entertainers with guitars” a lot of the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against bands having fun (as I hope to demonstrate with this review), nor am I ignorant of the fact that, well, Metal (particularly the more OTT and “extreme” forms we all know and love so well) is, frankly… a little bit ridiculous.
I mean, c’mon, a significant number of bands spend most of their time trying out “out-gore” one another with ever more biologically implausible (and borderline indecipherable) lyrics, while another extremely large contingent likes to rant about the evils of organised religion while dressed up like undead wizards!
With that in mind, then, there’s definitely something to be said for bands who, while still taking their craft seriously, are fully aware of the genre’s inherent absurdity (but, then, isn’t all life absurd, really, when you get right down to it?) and don’t try and shy away from it or act like they’re ashamed of it but, instead, choose to openly embrace it in all its shameless, everything-turned-up-to-eleven excess.
And if there was ever a band who exemplified the preposterous potential of Metal, not as a weakness but as a virtue, then it’s those shameless sci-fi Tech-Death troubadours who call themselves The Beast of Nod.
Those of you already familiar with the band’s signature shred ‘n’ synth heavy sound will undoubtedly be pleased to know that Multiversal improves upon practically every aspect of its predecessor.
The instrumental performances across the board are, as expected, absolutely top-notch – the riffs are bigger, bolder, and more bombastic, the leads are brighter, sharper, and more melodic, and the drums (courtesy of stupendous session drummer Marco Pitruzzella) have a newfound flair (and power) to them.
But it’s the song-writing which showcases the biggest improvement, with practically every track benefiting from the group’s improved grasp of structure and flow, the band tightening up some of the more rambling and/or random aspects of their previous work(s) to produce a series of songs – actual songs with distinct identities and a clearly defined sense of purpose and direction – which are more cohesive and self-contained but, thankfully, still absolutely overflowing with exuberant energy and creative spontaneity.
And while a certain sub-section of the band’s existing fans might be a little disappointed to learn that they’ve pretty much done away with any remaining Slam and/or ‘core influences this time around, the increasing abundance of synthy symphonics and artificial orchestration will no doubt make up for this by drawing in even more listeners from the proggier side of the Tech Death scene (fans of Inanimate Existence, for example, will be tech-tastic, technicolour heaven).
The six-eyed elephant in the room, of course, is that several of these changes/improvements have only served to exacerbate the band’s already well-documented sonic similarities to Technical/Melodic Death Metal titans Allegaeon, and this really isn’t something that can be ignored (especially since several of the album’s best moments, such as the irresistibly headbangable conclusion of opener “Flight of the Quetzalcoatlus” could have fit easily onto that band’s classic Formshifter).
But, simply by confronting this fact and staring it right in the face, it quickly becomes clear that there’s too many differences and distinctions between the two bands – some surprisingly subtle, some glaringly obvious – to accuse The Beast of Nod of simply being a derivative copy of their Colorado cousins.
Far better, in my mind, to think of them as a mirror-dimension doppelganger – sinister goatee and all – who share many of the same features on the surface but whose history and identity took a different turn down the trousers of time.
It helps, of course, that TBoN are astonishingly good at what they do, and the album’s many highlights are as numerous as they are redonkulous, from the shimmering synth patterns and rapid-fire melodic riffs which underpin the aforementioned “Flight of the Quetzalcoatlus” or the spellbinding juxtaposition of massive grooves and moody ambience which characterises “Intergalactic War!”, all the way to the rambunctiously heavy, irresistibly hooky, strains of the record’s grandiose finale, “Shredding of the Cosmos”.
It isn’t, of course, perfect (but then what album is?). The improved power and diction in the lower vocals occasionally serves to highlight the slightly weaker delivery of the higher shrieks/snarls (especially when they lapse into a sort of strangled-goblin screech), and there are still a few places where the band’s increased ambition and unbridled enthusiasm end up getting them lost up/down their own prog-hole.
That being said, at its very best (which, I would say, comes around half-way through with the back-to-back barnburners of “Unleashing Chaos” and “The Plan for Multiversal Creation”, which sit somewhere between Decrepit Birth and The Devin Townsend Project on the Prog/Tech spectrum) you can tell that The Beast of Nod aren’t going to be happy dwelling in anyone’s shadow for much longer.
They’re here to make a name for themselves, on their own terms, and to see it written in giant, neon letters across the sky so that no-one who sees it, and hears it, will ever forget it.
And, on the evidence presented here, they just might have what it takes to make that demented dream into an even more ridiculous reality.