Beyond the Embrace
Against the Elements

You’ve got to give Metal Blade credit. Rather than searching overseas for the latest In Flames clone, they have simply stayed in the homeland and discovered an In Flames clone, and very good they are too.BYE resides in the mini Sweden we called Massachusetts, which is suddenly home to a plethora of death metal bands. Not the monotonous blast beat drivel that the Midwest chucks out, or the archaic floundering Death archetypes of Florida, but a new breed of American death metal. This new vanguard led by Shadows Fall, All That Remains, Killswitch Engage, Serberus and now BTE, are carrying the torch for a genre long thought extinct in Europe, but as most musical phenomenon’s, eventually found its way overseas and been given and good soak in the American cultural musical melting pot.

The main selling point for BYE is their three-pronged guitar attack. Alex Botello, Jeff Saude and Oscar Gouveia weave an intricate labyrinth of notes, licks and general fret board frolicking to easily rival anything from the frozen wastes of Scandinavia. The fact the guitarwork is pretty much identical to recent In Flames, almost wipes out the fact this album is loaded with great riffs, that although Swedish in lineage are saddled with an American machismo and that give it some chest-swelling attitude.

Vocalist Shawn Gallagher is responsible for most of the sonic Americana that permeates the foreign instrumental shell, while his rasp is Anders Fridden worship at its most flattering, his genre requisite clean vocals are far more soulful and blended, rather than the ever so common emotive croon that is often used to inject some form of commercial harmony into the music. However, back to the focus of music-the guitars.

Having the knowledge of three guitars made me drool with anticipation for the results that might batter my ears. Don’t be to anxious though, the result resembles Iron Maiden’s Brave New World (also with three guitarists), in that this element is never utilized fully enough to make it a worth while selling point. Sure there’s the of genius like shredding overlapped with acoustics and fret smoking solos-but its nothing that cant be recreated with one guitarist and a studio. I’m sure the result is far more satisfying live. Anyway, regardless of that minor issue, BTE kicked out some solid licks and solos that should please most air guitar gods, and give them a finger cramping workout as they listen to this.

The Iron Maiden influence is laid on thick with plenty of dual riff and safely mid paced antics. Most of the riffs are suitably melodic and frequently end with a high-end flourish that often sticks with you long after the song is over. The dual solo in “Rapture”, is one of the few moments that shows of the three guitars and also BTE’s penance for excellent layered soloing that sends shivers. Where I really think BTE shine thought is the times they let loose a little and tear up the joint with some superb musicianship firmly dipped in some innate American aggression. One of my favorite tracks “Compass”, has balls and beauty within its deeply “Whoracle” sounding roots. It has some speed and also contains enough melody to please fans of both. The strong title track also has more of a focus on high-end frantic fretwork, but breaks down nicely into some introspective moments of chugging.

I wouldn’t consider these guys too much to Shadows Fall as they are far less thrash and groove, but more weaving and sublime harmonies. They are also more death metal than Killswitch Engage, with a foot firmly planted in old school guitar work of Maiden, Priest and Saxon, not in the bay area. The commercially viable “Release”, just screams for airplay, with mostly clean vocals and acoustic interlude, but still ultimately serves as a memorable vessel for the guitars. I would like to have seen the production have a little more focus on the main instruments, Mike Bresciani’s drums and Adam Gonzales’s bass, are dominant in the mix, often leaving the guitars in the dust within the mix, they could have used more bite to really take them to the next level. For example, the already stout breakdown in “The Bending Sea”, (another stellar tune) could have been huge if the guitars had a little more beef.

Overall, this is an excellent release with solid song writing, superb musicianship that finely balances plagiarism with individuality. It was a welcome change from the swarming mass of melody drunk Swedish wannabes that continually pour from Europe, and shows that the US can proficiently recreate the genre’s historically finer moments. It should propel BTE to the forefront of the suddenly burgeoning wave of melodic American death metal as well as into the heads of any fan of good music.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
July 13th, 2002

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