I don’t make much of a secret of it, Brutal Death Metal to me is the pinnacle of music, aside from Iron Maiden of course, but that is another subject for another time. I first discovered Brutal Death Metal some ten years ago and was absolutely drawn to its over the top gore, black humour and shock factor. The latter being something that has always appealed to me in music be it the seemingly innocent Satanic imagery of the early days of metal to the outlandish horrific stage presence of GG Allin and beyond. Shock is something that captures ones attention, Alice Cooper would be a prime example, his style even going on to inspire the genre tag of Shock Rock. Yet why are we drawn to this depravity? Who knows, for me I guess it is a means of pushing the boundaries of censorship.
Not afraid to break the barriers of barbarity come Beheaded the legendary Maltese quintet. Having formed in 1991 the band arose in the golden age of Death Metal if you will. Yet they were a band that brought something new to the table, more extremity. However it wasn’t until 1998 that the band unveiled the classic Perpetual Mockery which has sadly left the album as a bit of an unsung gem. Nevertheless the band have continued forward as an inspiration to the world of Brutal Death Metal, now in 2019 via Agonia Records we get a taste of their latest offering, Only Death Can Save You.
As the album opens with The Charlatan’s Enunciation we quickly get our fill of Brutal Death Metal, complete with more traditional Death Metal vocals that amplify the swirling guitars and mess of blasts to a whole new level of anthemic hellfire. Evil Be To Him Who Seeks Evil is another blaster that comes across with war like tendencies, much the same as A Greater Terror. However it is an album that appears to give the vocals far too much attention, almost all of the riffs and drums are a medley of cacophony and not in a good sense. It’s a trait I often find with more traditional Brutal Death Metal bands, for example the ones which don’t adapt their sound with Slams or slower sections. Rather the songs meld together into a long lasting blast beat that never seems to end, sounds great on the tin but open it up and blandness ensues.
That said Embrace Your Messiah brings a dash of variation, slowing down the pace and actually giving us some musical differentiation whilst still retaining the hook heavy nature of the old school style vocals. Which begs the question, is this album really Brutal Death Metal? Perhaps that shows the current state of affairs in the scene, I would now consider Beheaded more a modern Death Metal band in the vein of say Aborted than an actual Brutal Death Metal outfit. Sure they may be heavier than the likes of Obituary or Cannibal Corpse but by today’s standards they are relatively tame. After a brief spell of filler the titular track busts in delivering more enticing hooks and actually adding a dash of melody in the riffs to give them a stand out quality, possibly the best track on the release. Thereafter the album comes to a somewhat anti-climactic closure with more unending blasts and carnage.
Overall Only Death Can Save You is a bit of a mixed bag and leaves the listener feeling rather torn. On the one hand I appreciate this level of speed and ferocity, just look at Putridity or for a more recent affair Body Harvest. This sort of heaviness for the sake of heaviness can often be a winner, we are even now seeing bands like Full Of Hell bringing Power Electronics to the table in a bid to up the stakes further. For all of that I give praise but it has to be backed with some sort of purpose, luckily for Beheaded they have the saving grace of legible vocals that are able to worm their way into our ears and keep us coming back for more. I would like to end by saying this, Beheaded have created a sterling album here and one that should be looked upon with admiration but the best thing for fans of Death Metal to do is hear it for themselves, make up your own mind, where do you sit on the subject of brutality?
(7/10 George Caley)