Monday, July 12, 2010

Beyond the Embrace - Insect Song (2004)

The debut of Beyond the Embrace amounted to little more than sodden In Flames worship which tried to distance itself with a mix of bland Hetfield vocals and one more guitarist. You could take even the most rueful, underwhelming effort from the Swedish band and have your ears profit ten-fold to what the Massachusetts youngsters were birthing. We all make mistakes, though, and perhaps once the band shook free of the cabbage patch of wannabe mediocrity, they would truly carve out a niche for themselves. Two years later, a sophomore album manifested by the name of Insect Song, and the band took another shot at reaching the spotlight that many of their peers were now suckling upon like a great rock star teat.

You'll immediately notice that the production of Insect Song is thicker and superior to its predecessor, creating a lot more impact when the rhythm guitars chug along. The first track on the album, "Fleshengine" is an attempt to break from the baleful comparisons of the debut. Sure, they still sound derivative, with more of a fueled 90s Metallica or Testament thrusting thrash rhythm, and the vocals to match, though they're a little more sad and 'rock and roll'. This is a fairly bad tune, but at least I wasn't scratching out my taste buds. The melodic death does arrive in the bridge, but it's competently executed and the heavier emphasis on the rhythm leads to a semi satisfying crunch. "Plague", however, is a complete reversion to the In Flames dominated drive of Against the Elements, only with the added burden of a terrible breakdown at about 1:45 which sounds like any garden variety, shitty New England metalcore band who wants to prove just how angry and emotional they are. This foul taste only crosses the tongue for a second before the band heads off into lead territory, but its enough to ask the waiter for the bill and leave the restaurant.

After hearing such tripe, one could only ascertain a dire prediction for the remainder of the CD, and "My Fall" seems to enforce this, a bouncy middle paced melodic death tune which fuses in some big rock chords to try and befriend you, like a Massachusetts alternative to Sentenced. We're back to copying In Flames with "...of Every Strain" and "Redeemer", though the latter has 1-2 half-decent riffs in their brought low by the mix of bad Friden style rasps and soaring melodic Hetfield vocals. The latter half of the record is just about as bleak as the former, with the title track offering no impact, ANOTHER instrumental acoustic piece in "Ashes", and something like "Absent" just pulling off another mix of In Flames and Sentenced that lacks in the writing.

I'd like to say Insect Song is an improvement over its predecessor, but despite the increase in production standards (courtesy of Ken from Unearth), the music is actually worse, with treacherously dull riff and predictable melodies for the majority of 43 minutes. The vocals are diverse, but annoying, which is the pitfall of so many US metalcore and melodeath bands striving to find an identity in the shadows of their betters. It's a more diverse offering in general than Against the Elements, but here that is not a favorable measure. The band has been fairly quiet for the past 5-6 years, so they could be on the verge of disappearing into time, their two albums having long preceded them into that void. Yet, one hopes that there is still something more impressive below the surface which they've yet to deliver us: a black eye, bruised cheek or a fat lip.

Verdict: Epic Fail [1.75/10]

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