Beyond the Embrace
Insect Song

The spate of high profile U.S. metal acts continues as Beyond The Embrace vie for the attention of Shadows Fall, All That Remains, Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God fans, with their second offering. Their debut Against The Elements held some promise amid its In Flames/Iron Maiden worship, but their three-guitar attack was understated and the almost idolatry nature of their songs made them seem simple clones.

 

With this sophomore effort, Beyond the Embrace have evolved perfectly, allowing the three guitars more prominence and injected a chunky thrash/rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic to creep into their melodic death metal exterior. While certainly Iron Maiden and In Flames remain a primary influence, you can now hear a bluesy rock/thrash element that almost sounds like Metallica or The Cult mixed into an eclectic, enjoyable mix. Vocalist Shawn Gallagher is partially responsible for the slightly more commercial sound, as he has developed an emotively clean, yet gravelly voice to go along with his expected Gothenburg rasp. The abundance of clean vocals may put of many purists, especially when you listen to tracks like “Fleshengine Breakdown” (an unfortunate album-opening bad impression), “Redeemer” and “My Fall”, which border on Metallica-like accessibility, with Gallagher adopting a Hetfield-ian throat.

However, amid a slightly more commercial sound, BTE deliver some superbly crafted moments of sublime riffage and undeniable catchiness. Second track, “The Plague”, is a real winner that mixes the U.S. thrash/core elements with a stunning Gothenburg harmony and Gallagher’s alternating vocals. The three guitars of Oscar Gouveia, Jeff Saude and Alex Botelho finally deliver a sound that actually sounds like three guitars unlike their prior effort and Maiden’s last two offerings. The album isn’t as consistent as I would have liked, as after “My Plague”, you have to wait until the killer title track for some truly impressive material to emerge, even though the material in between isn’t really terrible; average is the perfect descriptor. “Insect Song” is what a title track should be; bigger, better and simply standout from the other tracks, its thick riff and Gallagher’s pained chorus makes it standout head and shoulders above the other nine solid tracks.

The needless acoustic (yet apparently required by U.S. law) instrumental “Ashes”, gives way to the album’s final three tracks that are fine in and of themselves but just don’t have the capability to lift the album into the upper echelon. The tracks only flirt with brilliance on occasional riffs. “Absent” is the album’s ballad, with an ill-advised occurrence of programmed drums, while the opening of “Within” is pure Maiden worship, before reverting to a fairly standard but admittedly enjoyable In Flames clone. One obvious improvement is the production; it’s thicker, chunkier and far fuller than the debut album, so much so it almost detracts from the sometimes middle-of-the-road songs.

On the whole Insect Song is a pretty good album from a still developing band with a few moments of utter brilliance sprinkled in it. However, it’s not enough to get their peers to worried at this point, especially considering the commercial tangent BTE seem to have taken.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
May 17th, 2004

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