The Death Of All Things sees the nails being hammered enthusiastically into the coffin lid of Beastwars’ ambitious post-apocalyptic trilogy. The New Zealand band has been something of a undiscovered gem over the course of its career so far, even within metal circles. Those who caught their 2011 debut rightly treasured it but up to now they’ve yet to make a lasting impact outside of the southern hemisphere, but this album might well change all of that.
Whilst there’s no doubting that this is a crushing and heavy piece of work, Beastwars never lose sight of the idea that there should be a hook, a riff, a rhythm or a vocal line to grab on to. So whilst there’s a fair amount of sludge and filth that seeps from the speakers the minute that Call To The Mountain rips into life, there’s also a keen sense of dynamics, atmosphere, and groove. The breakdown at the centre of Call To The Mountain is a good case in point.
The band lays down a thundering low-slung groove before dropping out completely to leave vocalist Matt Hyde alone to howl into the wilderness. His feral vocals on their own are quite something to behold, they’re growled but not intelligible, damaged but forceful, and most certainly red in tooth and claw. He carries a lot of emotion in his vocals and it’s palpable when he’s roaring into the void or battling for space with the brutal riffs laid down by his band. He’d be the band’s secret weapon were their riffs not so brilliantly crafted.
Black Days hints at Kyuss in their pomp with its rattling stoner groove practically impossible to resist. Disappear meanwhile draws on the blues and mixes in a little grunge for good measure. In its calmer moments it could almost be a Tom Waits offcut, but when the band launches into full on assault mode, it’s like being hit with a wrecking ball of sludge (straddled by Tad Doyle writhing around in his underpants, naturally). Even lower slung is the grinding dirge of Devils Of Last Night, a song which switches between all out bombast and crawling threat and then back again. Beastwars certainly know how to pack a punch, and its here that they’ve perhaps perfected the art. Some Sell Their Souls follows and whilst the band play a similar loud/quiet/loud trick, the frenzied guitar tone gives the whole thing a bug-eyed twitchy sense of unease.
Whilst this is an album in thrall to the riff and primal growls, there are a few more introspective moments that give the whole thing balance. Witches might rumble with intent, but there’s no knockout punch here, just a relentless dirge as Hyde roars at God with palpable emotion, causing God to think about what its done. It is The Devil Took Her that stands out as being a real change of direction however. An acoustic ballad complete with strings and wind instruments, it finds the band drawing on folk and murder ballads for inspiration. Hyde’s usual rough vocals give way to a clean and delicate voice that will certainly wrong foot some. There’s no disguising Clayton Anderson’s guitar work however, and sometimes he sounds as if punching his guitar, such is the frustration at having to play a goddamn acoustic. Rounding out the album is the suitably bleak title track, which calls to mind the Kansas band Paw’s ability to inject weighty melancholy and emotion into huge riffs. When it’s done this well, it achieves an elegance that shouldn’t be possible.
As the album fades to silence, it signals a change. This might be end of the trilogy, the band might be mourning the death of all things, but on this kind of form, it’s hard not to bet on a new lease of life for a band that has remained a well kept secret for the last five years.