Since The Faceless started falling apart and Meshuggah had a brand-new genre label foisted upon them, Beyond Creation have been my go-to band for technical death metal. The Montréalais quartet don’t sound like every other tech death band, and honestly, given how samey tech death tends to be, that’s enough to get me interested. But Beyond Creation went beyond getting me interested and got me well and properly hooked.
The not-so-secret sauce, of course, is that six-string fretless bass (god, that sweet, sweet six-string fretless bass), but another thing that distinguishes them above other weedily-weedily bands is their grasp of melody, in both the riffs and the solos. On their third album, Beyond Creation take this aspect of their sound and develop it, with very pleasing results. It’s like they’ve been chipping away with their egg teeth at the rigid outer structure of tech death for their first two albums, and Algorythm is them finally peeking through, just beginning to transcend their niche. As such, it occasionally makes a choice that feels a little clumsy, but it’s a precious kind of clumsy, and you can’t fault the intricate, precise musicianship Beyond Creation have been honing since 2010. Overall the album’s a great time.
The first track, “Disenthrall”, is a bombastic horn-and-string intro, a proclamation that Beyond Creation are switching things up. I’ve gotta be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of bombastic horn-and-string intros on metal albums. If I put on a metal album (even a goofy power metal album, but especially a death metal album), I want to hear metal right out of the gate–I’d really rather not listen to an E.S. Posthumus B-side first. In this case, the catch is that Beyond Creation don’t abandon the classical palette after the first two minutes, nor do they get bogged down in it. Instead, they use it to inform and expand their sound throughout Algorythm, particularly on the last two tracks, “Binomial Structures” and “The Afterlife”, which are some of the best music they’ve ever written. The strings, accompanied by band mastermind and vocalist/guitarist Simon Girard on piano, also feature on the interlude “À Travers Le Temps Et L’Oubli”, which is followed up, in a brilliant juxtaposition, by the slam-riddled “In Adversity”.
Outside of horns and strings, the other typical avenue by which tech death acquires melody is jazz, and there’s some jazzy bits interspersed (particularly at the beginning of “Surface’s Echoes”), but, probably by taking careful measure of the scene around them and exercising the same delicate touch they used with the strings, Beyond Creation deftly avoid the ways in which jazzy bits can cheapen metal.
Past those gimmicks, all that’s left is good songwriting and stellar solo-crafting. New bassist Hugo Doyon-Karout trades solos with the band’s guitarists and brings all the sinuous flash of his unusual instrument to the fray, doing his predecessor and the band justice. Simon Girard has quietly retired the pig squeal from his vocal repertoire, and his two-tone screams continue to serve admirably. We even see something new from his voice on the last two minutes of “The Inversion”, wherein the flames are dialed down and we luxuriate in some smoky whispers and clean guitar.
My one complaint here is that “The Aferlife” ends so abruptly, and on such an unresolved chord, such a musical cliffhanger. Dang it all, Beyond Creation, I remain hooked.