One of the more revered names in European brutal death metal, and the primary name in Maltese death metal, Beheaded have been around since the mid 90s and have released 4 fine albums of brutal/technical death metal, with a near classics in 1998s Perpetual Mockery and 2002s Recounts of Disembodiment.
I have not heard 2012s Never to Dawn, as 2005s Ominous Bloodline was the last album I heard. But here they are again, 5 long years later after some rumors of splitting up with album number 5, and it is a real scorcher, being one of early 2017s best death metal releases.
As you’d expect from a Unique Leader band/release, this is top notch technical/brutal death metal with ample amounts of both noodly, blasting tech savagery and enough grooves and oomph to stick with you. The first thing I noticed, and maybe this transition occurred on Never to Dawn; the band is slightly less ‘broodle’ and guttural, both musically and vocally. Though still, plenty brutal and guttural, there’s a more commanding, militant almost later Behemoth and Vader (especially the vocals) presence as opposed to the more straight up 90s USDM influence of yore.
After the title track and “The Horror Breathes”, two ample slabs of death metal, the first track that really grabbed me was “Crossing the House of Knives” as it just hits all the death metal sweet spots, with a savage climax around the 2;55 mark that makes me see red. “Reign of the Headless King” continues with another strong track and another controlled, commanding lurch to end the track.
Next, we have a curve ball in the 8 minute “The Black Death”. Without going back and listening to all prior albums, I don’t recall a slow, menacing 8 minute number in Beheaded’s repertoire (“The Ancient Acumen” from Never to Dawn looks to be eight minutes, but not a slow track according to research), but here it is and it’s mighty impressive; a slow, doomy lope and moody crawl bleeds into a militant mid pace march and rumble littered with blast of fury, deliver something ADE might kick out, before a huge close out. Other highlights include the blistering groove of “Fid-Dlam-Tadejjem” and other rangy number in the 7 minute closer “Punishment of the Grave” which has some nice blackened melodies to end the album on a high note that highlights the bands growth and development, even are so many years.
Unique Leader is off to a good start and we are only one month into 2017, but if this is any indication, the label will have another stellar year and Beheaded is the spear tip for 2017.[Visit the band's website]