Author: Larry Best
(Century Media, 2014)
#FOR FAN OF: Death Metal, Morbid Angel, Obituary
I'm not sure I agree with referring to Florida's Massacre as 'legends'. They had one great album in the early 90s, one god-awful pile of shit in the mid 90s, and...pretty much nothing else. While Death, Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Obituary etc. were busy cooking up album after album of superb death metal goodness - Massacre couldn't manage any more than one worth talking about. Legends? Hardly. Yes, 'From Beyond' was a damn fine death metal release. You know why? Because Massacre understood the need for depth within the longer song structures, and for brevity within the entire affair. Their brand new effort, 'Back From Beyond' (yes, they actually called it that), completely misses this point and falls flat on its face. Let's start with the positive: firstly, the absence of Kam Lee might have worried many. Though I never viewed him as much more than a reject from Death's 'Spiritual Healing' era - he did have some nice grunts which enlivened Massacre's debut. However, fear not! Ed Webb is more than capable of filling Lee's murky shoes. In fact, the vocals are the best thing about this record, period. Webb's visceral growls sound so natural and controlled, even when he completely lets loose and treats the listener to a merciless high-pitched scream (see the beginning of "Succumb To Rapture"). He also gains merits in my eyes for being decipherable, helping 'Back From Beyond' to at least succeed in accessibility where it fails in creativity. The production also warrants a round of applause. Tim Vazquez deserves much praise for making 'Back From Beyond' sound up-to-date and glossy, whilst maintaining that classic Flori-Death feeling. Webb's masterful growls still dominate, but the guitars/bass/drums all fuse together as one well-oiled metal machine. Unfortunately - that's really where the positivity ends. The songs themselves are similar to my writing: dull, and appear far longer than they are. I find it almost insulting that they have an ambient intro in the shape of "The Ancient Ones". This implies that they are preparing the listener to delve into a realm full of atmosphere and well-structured schematics. Unfortunately, it only emphasizes the disappointment when you find out that every song is uninspired, devoid of any excitement, and contains as much variety as a Tesco Value biscuit party-pack. Seriously. Every song sounds the fucking same. Not in the hyper-fun Dragonforce way - in a monotonous, bore-you-to-suicide way. This is where the band should have taken a lesson from their superior debut. 'From Beyond' consisted of 9 tracks, mainly between 4 and 6 minutes. This forced each song to have enough substance to be memorable and interesting, encouraging repeated listens. 'Back From Beyond' consists of 14 tracks (!), mainly between 2-3 minutes. This forces each song to end before it ever has a chance to develop any intriguing musical ideas. Even now, after 5 painstaking listens, I cannot distinguish one song from the other. Superb vocals, production, and artwork contrast awkwardly with bland riffs, forgettable 'hooks', and badly-executed solos. I'm not sure I hold out much hope for this band returning with another full-length release, and neither do I care. I'll stick to Cannibal Corpse, Obituary or Gorguts for quality old-school death metal. 'Back From Beyond' is not excruciatingly bad - it just seems irrelevant in today's climate. It would probably make excellent background music though...