The Barren Throne
Unique Leader Records
Brutal Death Metal
Unique Leader Records has been releasing a string of strong brutal and technical death metal albums this year, from The Kennedy Veil‘s sophomore to the recent Alterbeast debut, all of which helped deepen my interest in this particular branch of death metal. Icelandic brutal death metallers Beneath‘s sophomore album, The Barren Throne is the latest in the line of brutality that is unleashed by the label.
Unlike other technical and brutal death metal releases of late, Beneath seems to take a more melodic route on The Barren Throne, as opening track Depleted Kingdom introduces the listener to a melodic and calming soundscape with the clean guitars, before throwing the listener into the midst of a heavily melodic death metal influenced barrage of riffs. But this is just a facade in rousing the interest in the listener, as the band quickly enough goes into full on brutality. The guitar works of Unnar and Johann easily reminds one of the brutality that bands such as Hour of Penance and Nile has brought to fans of the genre, yet at the same time retaining that slight sense of melody. The lead works on the album see the duo alternating between melting finger work and soaring melodies, and moments such as these bring about comparisons to the later works of Origin and even Decrepit Birth.
What sets Beneath apart from many of their counterparts is in the way the band prevents themselves from being overly focused on writing the most technical or brutal music and neglect the melody and groove. The emphasis on the melody is obvious on the album, as the band constantly makes use of acoustic and clean sections in the middle of tracks, and on songs like Chalice there is even that slight desperate touch, relating back to the themes in the lyrics. Songs like the title track also make use of some black metal stylistics a la Behemoth to reinforce that darkness that is abound on the album.
While I thoroughly enjoy my technical and brutal death metal, the rather long running time of The Barren Throne was one of the minor things that pulled down the listening experience of Beneath. With records such as these, the almost hour-long record easily wore out its novelty towards the end of the album, and the non-stop, punishing attack soon took its toll on the listener.
That said though, Beneath‘s sophomore is still an excellent death metal release, and the band’s ability to play at such speed and intensity is nothing short of impressive.