Beyond the Sixth Seal
Earth and Sphere

I’m pretty sure the same virus that infected Gothenburg in the mid-’90s has mutated an infected musicians on the East Coast. Some of the music comes from that area is just phenomenal, and for me at the top of the rapidly growing pack are newcomers Beyond The Sixth Seal.BTSS started as a thrash band in 1998, and after a rotating line-up stabilized, they have unleashed an amazing, landmark of an album. BTSS should be of interest to many U.S. grindcore fans, as it features to members of underground favorite The Red Chord; vocalist Mike McKenzie and bassist Adam Wentworth. However, those expecting something similar to the eclectic grinding off The Red Chord will be a little disappointed. Earth and Sphere is still fierce, however, it’s perplexing to describe Earth and Sphere’s style for some reason, as I really couldn’t come up with too many names to drop.

With BTSS being on a primarily metalcore/hardcore label, but with two grindcore members, you’d expect a mix of the two, but what you really get is some brilliant melodic, yet still somehow ferocious death metal with just a tiny smattering of hardcore sensibility. Don’t get me wrong, this is not breakdown heavy, with shouted vocals, clean breaks and anarchistic angst, but rather a form of European-influenced death metal that occasionally inserts U.S. styling into its perfect delivery. As you can see, I’m having a hard time describing the overall sound; needless to say, it’s simply brilliant.

Where this differs from the current explosion of melodi-core are McKenzie’s vocals, which are pure U.S. guttural viciousness. They, on the other hand, still somehow powerful and emotive. His deep bellow is reminiscent of Akerfeldt’s on Bloodbath Resurrection Through Carnage. None of his peers in the scene compare to the pure death metal attack of these vocals. No whispering, or solemn poetic interludes, just roaring, seething rage.

The guitars of Adam Wentworth and Justin Chapell are just the right balance of dual melody that is common in the current wave of U.S. metal, but they have a early ’90s Swedish sense composition mixed in with the obvious NWSDM influence. But when I say NWSDM, I don’t mean simple dual harmony or In Flames clones. I’m thinking more Sacrilege (god, I wish they would do another album!) or early Ebony Tears. The sound is a far more driving, aggressive form of savage melody. Plus, some of the hooks, grooves and licks for some reason remind me of defunct Finnish rockers Convulse. But they are still are simply far more brutal than Dead To Fall, Unearth or Evergreen Terrace. Of course, Earth and Sphere is bolstered by magnificent songwriting that intertwines crunchy U.S. riffing with a mixture of somber and uplifting harmonic riffs that are never wispy or wimpy;they are intense as all hell without the blastbeat crutch.

The bass playing of Matt Woods also got my attention as his four-string delivery has a loose, classic galloping twang that Steve Harris perfected. It all ads up in the final mix of stupefying death metal that should please fan of all genres. Songwise, Earth and Sphere pretty much is perfect – from the melancholy opening ivory notes that crash into “Medusuan” (a pure classic melodic death metal attack) to the short but blazing “Idol in Human Form”, with its subtle harmony and slightly more hardcore mid-section, Beyond The Sixth Seal know how to jam. One of the standout tracks is “A Potent Wind”. If Iron Maiden played death metal this is what it would sound like; brutal and catchy as fuck, with a main riff and snarled chorus straight from Gothenburg and a hair-raising solo, but it’s also musical, as evidenced in the haunting piano outro. Classic stuff.

There is not a weak song on the album. I’ve listened to this thing over and over all the way through, and each time sounds as good as the last. Then to seal the deal, the final song “A Subtle Texture” is another perfect song. The intricate yet so simple classic metal flourish that ends the main dynamic riff is heavenly and spine-tinglingly good. Of course, with all good albums, it ends with a classic album-closing section that gives a sense of epic, yet sobering closure to a perfect 40 minutes.

Fans of The Red Chord will be happy to hear a more grindcore influenced (and humorous) hidden track that, despite the album’s surprisingly deep and intelligent lyrical display, shows a sense of fun. Damn you DigitalMetal! Just when I have my year end Top Ten list all nice and tidy, this late entry comes in and fucks things up royally. I have listened to Earth and Sphere non-stop for about 10 days now, and I’ve tried to stop. It’s just magnificent. You need Earth and Sphere like yesterday!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
November 30th, 2002

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