Artist: Beyond the Aftermath
Album: Dead – EP
A spectre roams the barren, magma-scarred surface of earth. A wraith roams, haunting the gutted, ashen city streets that were once lined with storefronts and filled with life. Where the sky was once a pearlescent blue and trees were vivid shades of green, there are only clouds of smog and piles of smut-soaked grit and earth. There is nothing left of the world as you and I knew it—all changed at the hands of the punishing poltergeist that is Beyond the Aftermath. With their latest release, Dead, Beyond the Aftermath inflict precise, painful punishment upon the listener, living up to their EPs namesake. Dead drains the listener of the will to live, bludgeoning them with bewildering, bass-heavy slams and bone-crunching breakdowns. Even if you happen to be skeptical of down-tempo’s legitimacy as a genre, these Virginian villains will make a believer out of you. Beyond the Aftermath continue a time-honored legacy of North Virginian heaviness, taking their already beefy style of beatdown-tinted deathcore and adding even more heft and girth to it, providing the listener with a down-tempo deathcore disaster that is truly explosive enough to change the genre—and the planet—as we know it.
There is not a single blast beat—nor a single tremendously fast tremolo-picked lead, for that matter—to be found on Dead. In fact, the closest to “quick” Beyond the Aftermath stray towards is the snappy, moderately paced introduction to “Pathstalker.” This absence of speed is not to say by any means that the band’s instrumentation is lackluster. Rather, Beyond the Aftermath are simply in no hurry to peel every inch of clinging, engorged skin from the listener’s body. Take, for example, the percussive contributions made by drummer Lucas Shackelford. Shackelford is sinister—plodding, pummeling the listener with obnoxiously low and absurdly resonant toms and slashing through the listener’s ears with sharp, crisp cymbal work. Every time Shackelford stomps on his kick drum, it sounds as if someone is smacking the listener in the side of the head with raw steak—meaty is an understatement. Shackelford uses his perfect, deep tone ideally—rather than wasting the resonating boom of each tom hit with hypertechnical speed, Shackelford writes patterns that play to the band’s penchant for super-low, super-slow deathcore. Together with bassist Michael Peznola, Shackelford creates a low end that makes Mariana’s Trench look like Mount Everest. Peznola weaves around Shackelford’s strong kick drum with grotesque, sickeningly filthy bass tones that are so laden with grime the listener feels as if they need to shower after hearing a single track. The EP’s first track, “Dead,” for example is home to a series of booming grooves and super-heavy breakdowns that progressive shatter the listener’s spine one vertebrae at a time. However, Peznola and Shackelford aren’t the only sources of low, slow misanthropy Beyond the Aftermath have to offer. Simply put, guitarists Sean Larer and Zak Beard are seventy-ton steamrollers, flattening everything in their path. Whether it’s the groove-filled “Scavenger,” or the blunt and bold “Dead,” Beard and Larer are ludicrous, brutalizing the listener with guitars strung so low, the strings must be made of industrial cable-coil.
What good would all of Beyond the Aftermath’s brutalizing instrumentation be if their vocals weren’t up to the same spine-shattering standard? Fortunately for the listener, this question is redundant, as vocalist Billy Miller fits the bill—and then some. Miller is a psychopath—a misanthropic, malevolent mastermind behind the microphone. Whether it’s his eerie, nightmarish whispers in “Pathstalker” or “Ghoul,” or his gritty, sandpaper-like shrieks in “Geno Breaker,” Miller is capable of painting any picture of despair and dread Beyond the Aftermath need illustrating with relative ease and enormous diversity. Dead is a short EP, but it does a wonderful job of illustrating Miller’s miraculous vocal range, while at the same time avoiding monotony, keeping the listener thoroughly engaged, never even nearing boredom. Even if the listener were to grow weary of Miller’s vocals (and this speaks more of a problem on the listener’s end than on that of Beyond the Aftermath), “Geno Breaker” is home to a stellar guest appearance by Matt Gagnon of Villiska, adding a fresh, grisly voice to the manic intensity Dead already so proudly boasts.
Even though I love it, I was skeptical to legitimize the “down-tempo” trend that took deathcore by storm in 2014—until I heard Beyond the Aftermath. Not since Black Tongue or Traitors has a band so convincingly worked together to create an immersive, overwhelming EP with such a low average BPM count. What Dead might lack in beats per minute, it makes up for in gutwrenching, prolapse-inducing insanity. If the ending breakdown (or breakdowns) in “Dead,” or the climax to “Pathstalker” doesn’t bring out the listener’s inner cage-fighter, then they must be deaf. To put it simply, Beyond the Aftermath are a band so violent and malevolent, they could turn Ghandi into a serial killer.
Blood pools. Flesh shreds. Bones crumble. Beyond the Aftermath are here, and what they might lack in experience, they make up for in pure, unending evil. Dead is an EP that will leave the listener just so—face down in the dirt, bereft of life and hope…
…But loving every second of it.
For Fans of: Black Tongue, Traitors, Bodysnatcher, Ingested, Chamber of Malice
By: Connor Welsh