Thursday, September 27, 2012

Advent of Bedlam - Flesh Over God (2012)

Costa Rica is not normally one of the first places I think of when considering underground death metal, but Advent of Bedlam have produced a real storm here, on this, their second album. Coming from a scene I’m not so familiar with, it’s especially pleasing that they’re so good. Flesh Over God has a pretty ridiculous amount of variety in its 35 minutes, and if there’s one thing these guys can do, it’s write a riff… or about 1000, in this case.

Flesh Over God is a different kind of melodic death metal. It has nothing at all to do with groove-happy, uninspired Gothenburg or metalcore drivel, sounding more redolent of Polish boundary-smashers Behemoth, or Australian tech phenoms Psycroptic, than any derivation of Dark Tranquility or In Flames. But melodic they are, building off a variety of riffs that are really, actually riffs; consistently varied and ever-flowing, not just atonal chugging patterns that many death metal bands use as a crutch. While not all of them are terribly memorable, many of them are, and there’s enough variety to keep you on your toes. In conjunction with the insanely varied pacing, though, their efforts come off as pretty universally appealing.

Whether they’re blasting away, removing your flesh like a whirlwind of knives, or soaring high in a mid-paced layering of melodies, you’ll be both impressed and transfixed. The word gets thrown around a lot, but this record is truly dynamic, and forces one to rethink the moniker ‘melodic death metal’, as it’s just so far left of center. Yeah, Flesh Over God is melodic, with lots of riffs that feel very uplifting, but they can also pull out their battle hammers at the drop of a hat and go brutal death metal, crushing your life with little warning. There are a variety of vocal styles, including high rasps, lower growling, and some instances of chanting, further differentiating each moment. There’s even a spectacular guest spot from Tim Aymar (Pharaoh, Control Denied), which totally caught me off guard. The production is largely even, but I felt the drums were just a tad loud, sometimes obscuring the guitars, but only slightly. That said, it’s a very minor complaint, and the performance itself is absolutely badass, matching the compositional insanity with ease, and drummer Luis Ortiz can clap himself on the back for a job well done.

Advent of Bedlam have released a very capable record here, only flawed in that some of its constituent parts feel so familiar. The band truly take Behemoth as gospel, and one can hear a smorgasbord of notation clearly inspired by the sheering, ancient wave of energy those Poles produce around virtually every turn. This is both a strength and a weakness. For me, it’s a strength, as I absolutely love Behemoth and their trademark style (one of my top 20 artists, no doubt), but some may no doubt write them off for it at first glance, without deigning to go deeper. That would be a mistake. They do take perhaps a bit too much influence from them at times, but to the band’s credit, their riffs are always engrossing, and rarely feel like plagiarism, even when they wear the influence on their sleeve. There are also subtle nods to At the Gates, but they remain in their place, and none of it feels downtrodden or trite, like the 2,893,000 other bands who name them as a primary influence. I can also pick out some Greek here, a la Rotting Christ, in some of the creepier riffs, and the cleaner, more cultish vocal styles.

Other than the bands listed above, the vast number of individual riffs here still feels vaguely familiar, even if those sources are not immediately identifiable. However, the riffs are so strong, and these songs are constructed with so much care and force as to render that complaint pretty minor. Flesh Over God is a very compelling package, a damn good death metal album (with awesome cover art) that attempts to defy the usual classifications, instead existing somewhere in the middle of melody and brutality. It’s not always memorable, but it is absolutely fun, and often surprising, for the entirety of its short length, and I feel that if the band could put their own unique stamp on the riffing, they could make a significant splash in the death metal consciousness. I certainly hope they do, as they have a scary amount of combined ability, and they play with undeniable passion.

If you’re looking for a good underground release that’s a bit different, this is a good bet. It’s always a pleasure to witness such inspiration and talent in the underground, and even though they didn’t quite wipe the floor with me, I’m glad I ran into Advent of Bedlam. They’re clearly inspired, know how to construct a song, and stir in an appreciable variety of elements with ease. Flesh Over God is just on the very cusp of being great, and I have a feeling this will appeal to a wide range of death heads, from fans of Spawn of Possession to even Arch Enemy. They’ve got all the elements here, and they can count me impressed, but I still think they can do better. I’d love to see some big names take these guys out on tour so they can get some more experience under their belts, tighten their sound for a defining album, and explode. Until then, do these guys a favor and throw some fuel on the fire by plunking down the meager pittance for this intriguing album. It will not disappoint.

7.75 / 10 - Melodious Malodorous Monstrosity