Beats The Hell Out Of Me
Revising History

The first signing to Metal Blade’s short-lived Modern imprint in the early ’90s, Arizona’s Beats the Hell Out of Me were criminally underrated throughout their career. Their self-titled 1994 debut was a mixture of Helmet’s start/stop rhythms and Tool’s minor-chord fascinations. 1995’s Rolling Thunder Music added more atmosphere with ambient passages, experimental psychedelia, and the big-city production of a young Ross Robinson (whose name, back then, was synonymous with Korn and the arrival of nü-metal). Despite the great press they received, booking/management problems and the predictable lack of label support caused BTHOOM to slip into semi-permanent hiatus…until now. The self-released Revising History marks the triumphant return of a sound that was before its time a decade ago, but now its burly mix of hardcore, rock, and metal fits the genre perfectly.

Because its members are trained jazz musicians, fans have come to expect the unexpected from BTHOOM, and the rhythm section of bassist Aaron Stewart and drummer Erik Rogan is primed to handle all the twists ‘n’ turns meted out by guitarists Chris Bailey and Tom Coffeen. “Down” and “Questions & Answers” hearken back to their debut, with lean chords and taut snare snaps. The mid-paced “Sun Fire City” and “The Call” build up like Helmet, and “Move Along” sounds very much like Life of Agony, thanks to vocalist Mike Pistrui’s warm, warbly tenor like LOA’s Keith Caputo. “The Promise” is a slow-burning ballad, not unlike similar cuts from Rolling Thunder Music; Pistrui’s vox is clean and full-bodied, and Rogan (an obvious disciple of Rush’s Neil Peart and The Police’s Stewart Copeland) fills the ample space with a gentle snare march and swishing hi-hat.

Former BTHOOM references stop here, for the remaining tracks stretch out into new realms of sonic exploration. The balladesque “Check the Mirrors” not only boasts female backing vocals, but it also sports pinging electronic devices like old Tapping the Vein. “Ongoing Criminal Investigation” sounds like a heavy-metal Steely Dan with all its different jazzy applications: rock guitar flourishes and polyrhythmic drum fills, making for a very diverse—and extremely tight—cut. “Transmission” wades in Cave In-like (circa Tides of Tomorrow) guitar noise, which peaks in an emotional climax, only to slither away behind the traps before the final note. “1,000 Words” showcases Pistrui’s astonishing range: unscathed by age and pitch-perfect. It’s these dynamics that make Beats the Hell Out of Me so vital to today’s musical landscape, and with an album as well-crafted as Revising History, this group will not remain unsigned for very long.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
April 22nd, 2007

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