3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mark R. Guglielmo
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I feel the need to preface this review by stating for the record that not only have I met the guys in the band a couple of times, but I absolutely LOVE this album, and I do truly wish for BEYOND THE EMBRACE to succeed. This is probably not going to be the most un-biased piece of metal journalism you've ever read. So, with that said: they're one of (if not the) most deserving, yet unnoticed, unrecognized, underrated, under-hyped, under-publicized bands that currently exist in the metal scene. With half the promotion they should be getting, this band would be going places. Against The Elements is catchy, accessible, aggressive, overflowing with energy, and yes, even scorching at times. Considering that the band has existed for just a touch over 3 years and this is their debut album, the fact that no more than a handful of metalheads in the world even know about them is to me, a criminal act punishable by death!
Now that I'm done ranting, let's talk about why this album is so damned good. There has been some criticism bandied about that BEYOND THE EMBRACE isn't original at all. That BEYOND THE EMBRACE is merely "another clone" melodic death metal band. That BEYOND THE EMBRACE isn't all that "far removed" from IN FLAMES or IRON MAIDEN. Well, to set the record straight, unlike many of their contemporaries in the underground, BEYOND... has never proclaimed to be reinventing the wheel. Ever. They wear their influences on their sleeves for the world to see and hear, and wear them proudly. Personally, that's a refreshing attitude to hear a young band take. Vocalist Shawn Gallagher previously told me that they set out to "just bring back a traditional metal sound." And they do just that. BEYOND THE EMBRACE is just a group of kids (yes, kids; new drummer Kevin Camille is the elder statesman at only 30; the other 5 members are in their early-to-mid-20s) from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Kids who grew up like many of us, listening to IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA, IN FLAMES, QUEENSRYCHE, DARK TRANQUILLITY, AT THE GATES and the like. The only difference is that they're in a position to create music and keep the longtime fan favorite style alive...with a twist.
Twist? Huh? Yeah, BEYOND... has a 3-guitar attack, and I'm not talking about Jannick Gers-being-kept-on-because-Steve Harris-feels-bad-type-of-attack either. Oscar Gouveia (who also writes a large chunk of the band's music), Alex Botehlo, and Jeff Saude comprise the core components of the BEYOND THE EMBRACE sound. Which is largely characterized by ripping lead guitar work, dual guitar harmonies right out of 1987, and the more uptempto thrashy technical prowess made famous by a certain scene in Goteberg, Sweden circa 1994. Just when you think they've run out of spare tracks to make their sound even more full, along comes Adam Gonsalves with his rumbling, melodic bass lines to finish the recipe. So what about the songs? Can they write? Judging by the sheer ferocity of "Bastard Screams," which is marked by an intensely passionate chorus, incendiary lead guitar and trudging breakdown, or "Mourning In Magenta," which demands radio play thanks to its near punk-like vocal pattern, damned catchy chorus, and sadistically saddening lyrical content, or "Rapture," complete with downtuned riff-heavy madness and thundering rhythm section, or "The Bending Sea," a speedy, whirlwind of a thrashfest that will surely get any pit going, I'd say yeah, they can write. And let's not forget "Drowning Sun" or "The Riddle Of Steel," the 2 instrumentals they chose to include, a bold move for a veteran act, let alone for a band no one knows about on their debut album. The former, a placid, melancholy island in a tranquil sea of despair; the latter, an angry, tribal shout at a god who no longer answers. Yeah, they can write. Because it comes from their hearts. There's love on this album.
Finally, I want to comment on the musical talent that's so evident on Against The Elements. The guitar trio, the bass, the drumming, are all a finely blended engine, with each member an important cylinder providing 1/6 of the juice behind this metal beast. If there is anywhere where there's room for improvement, it's in the production. To be fair, the band self-produced this album, but at times, even the most skilled ear would have trouble picking out all 3 guitars. And at other times, it seems as if entire pieces of the drum kit are missing (the cymbals in particular are very weak). BEYOND THE EMBRACE will surely benefit from having a pro twisting the knobs on their sophomore release.
I knocked the final rating down just a notch due to its barely noticeable production faults, but that is it. Sometimes, music doesn't have to be insanely complex to be good. Sometimes, music doesn't have to be rebelliously inventive to be good. Sometimes, music doesn't have to make a statement to be good. Sometimes, music just has to be good. This is.