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Album Review

by Beastwars


Review Date
29th April 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

We are living in the salad days of New Zealand metal. At the start of the new millennium we had a band become a (practically) household name in 8 Foot Sativa. The last few years have seen world-class album releases by many degrees and shades of kiwi metal: instrumental freak outs in Kerretta and Fornax Chemica, hardcore chops from Every Man For Himself, the gut-rumbling brawn of House of Capricorn, the astral dirge-n-roll of Arc of Ascent, and many more besides. These bands are playing high-profile shows and receiving the critical praise they have earned. In order to properly secure its status our home-grown metal needs two things; a category in our annual music awards, and an album this year to champion. The year is not even halfway over yet and we may well have gotten one of those things. Since metal will probably never be fully recognised by the mainstream music press we will just have to do with the killer new album from Wellington’s Beastwars.

This four-piece have served up 10 tracks that are heavier than a fistful of mammoths without sacrificing songcraft for added weight. Make no mistake; their self-titled album has all of the elements that make up any metal classic including raw vocals and a veritable landslide of percussion and ballsy guitars. It appears that Beastwars are handing out lessons in cutthroat metal so get in line. Even the awe-inspiring album cover screams “Come and get some!”. Take the opening song ‘Damn the Sky’ for example. From the very first note you can sense that something big is about to happen and happen it does. Apocalyptic riffs crash like slabs of molten rock from the sky offering up arguably the tastiest metal groove in years. It kicks your teeth clean out the back of your head, and that is just the first song. Not content to just ignite and dissipate, that deadly neck-breaking groove is echoed through practically the whole album.

The motto of Beastwars is “Obey the riff” and songs like ‘Daggers’, ‘Lake of Fire’, and ‘Call Out the Dead’ are happy to oblige. Writing a powerful, gutsy riff that deserves obedience and warrants devoted repetition is an art unto itself. But what about a whole album filled with them? Whether the riffs are rapid and chugging or sludgy and suffocating, this album has blunt-force guitars of every colour to suit every need. Once you are under the spell of their seismic groove you may never want to leave. Looser tracks, like the swaying ‘Mihi’, let Beastwars show new sides to themselves while still staying true to their powerhouse roots. ‘Mihi‘ in particular recalls the hard rock legacies of Danzig and The Cult filtered through the intensity of 21st century metal to make one hell of a riotous “slow song”. These moments do come more frequently at the end of the album as they turn the primal thrash down to a bloody-knuckled jam that culminates in the spaced out ‘Cthulhu’. The album ends just as it started - in full-blown hellfire mode - with ‘Empire’ which takes the MVP award for heaviest song on an album full of heavy songs.

If you are a fan of riff-oriented rock bands such as Kyuss, High on Fire, or Mastodon then this is the album you deserve. Admittedly this may limit the album’s appeal somewhat to fans of ‘heavy music’ but Beastwars have never pretended to be anything they aren’t. What they have done is craft an almighty record that acknowledges metal of the past, present, and future and in doing so have made one hell of a racket. So come and witness the throat-shredding majesty of one of New Zealand’s finest metal bands in full swing.


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