Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Beyond the Existence - Thoughts Through Imagination (2019)



Country: Greece
Style: Atmospheric Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 27 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Official Website | YouTube

Having thoroughly enjoyed the thoroughly different recent albums from Greek bands Mistveil and Voidnaut, I couldn't resist taking a shot on another one, from atmospheric death metal outfit Beyond the Existence. It took me longer to get into this one, but I got there and there are a couple of reasons why it took a little while.

For one, the narrated introduction that is the title track is oddly louder than the rest of the album, so everything sounded softer until I remembered to turn up the volume once that was done. What's more, things remain softer than I expected, albeit in texture rather than lack of power. "Atmospheric" seems to mean a different thing to every band that uses it to describe the work they do. I'm thinking that Beyond the Existence use it to mean texture rather than use of ambience or lots of keyboards.

For another, the vocal style of Ikaros "Ikki" Poimenidis, who founded the band in Thessaloniki back in 2012, is an odd one. While it's closer to the growling style we expect from a death metal band than any other, it's not remotely like the growls I'm used to. It's raspier and almost has a shouty hardcore aspect to it. It stands out, even after we've got used to it, and does help to add an interesting texture.

Musically, the band start out slower than I expected, albeit well, with a doom/death feel at points, though they never get that slow. There's a good riff to kick off the first track proper, Memoria, a nice melodic line and those recognisable growls. There's a lot going on here and it takes a few listens to truly appreciate how much.

Invisible Chains and A Glance to Afterlife continue in similar style, only for Illusions of a Life's Remains to shake things up completely, grabbing our attention by being a lot more vicious. It kicks off faster and the rasp is angrier, though it doesn't stay there; there's a section in the middle that screams of early Black Sabbath and that turns into an oddly surprising narrated message of peace. Now, death metal preaching peace isn't as wildly jarring as unblack metal preaching Jesus but it still feels weird.

While this underwhelmed on a first listen, a couple more times through got me on its side and I started to look at all the different styles that can be found in the album. The base of it all is death metal, of the melodic style because it never gets brutal even when it gets fast and it likes the medium pace best. There's a lot of doom/death here but it's chirpier and a little quicker. There's old school heavy metal too, often in instrumental sections. Occasionally, they ramp up the speed, like in My Darkness, but slow down to that Sabbath groove more often.

And there are interesting little touches here and there that don't signal a style, unless you want to throw progressive metal in there too, which would not be unfair. The end of Only Ice and Stars, for instance, is built out of an interplay between bass and drums (no, not drum 'n' bass). Bassist Kostas Papageorgiou gets some interesting things to do on Disgusting Misery too in response to a guitar and drum led challenge.

This is far from the most immediate album I've ever heard, but it's worth a good deal of exploration. It grows with each time through and, after four or five times, I'm still finding new things.

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