‘Success story’ isn’t a phrase that gets thrown around too much in reference to technical death metal acts, but the story behind Canadian quartet Beyond Creation is an inspiring one. Their 2011 debut The Aura album became a sleeper hit and quickly amassed the band a vast, dedicated following, with the band itself receiving a great deal of praise for their ambitious technical virtuosity, and bringing a more apparent sense of identity to their music, receiving retrospective esteem by the press as one of the finest technical death bands of recent memory. It is clear that their sophomore release Earthborn Evolution has some pretty big shoes to fill.
While many critics were divided on the prominence of Lapointe‘s bass on the band’s last album, with some complaining that it was too distracting or didn’t mesh with the other instrumentation, this time it’s the vocal work of Simon Girard that gives the band its distinct sense of character. He’s completely redeveloped his vocal style, delivering some absolutely astounding theatrics with an immense, intimidating vocal range of growls, shrieks, and other cool-sounding onomatopoeia. Still, even though Girard‘s vocals do a great job of entertaining us, and redefining the band’s personality, they’re thankfully not the main focus.
With Earthborn Evolution, Beyond Creation have really kicked it into high gear in the composition department, smearing absolutely everything with a jazzy tinge, mirroring the likes of early Cynic in style but not in sound; they place an emphasis on the arrangements, and not so much on conveying the atmosphere or the lyrical themes, like their contemporaries in The Faceless or Fleshgod Apocalypse. While Beyond Creation have their virtuosity down to a fine art, it very much sounds like there have been small, conscious attempts to move the songwriting down a less dense and more emotionally-affecting path. The atmospheric cues in the songs feel like small nudges to progress the album little by little, but fail to do just that, feeling suffocated between all the tightly-packed virtuosity. This is a shame because, from a listening standpoint, Earthborn Evolution really needs these cues to break apart its thick structures of complex rhythms, arpeggios and all of that. While the band is gifted with god-like levels of musical artistry, the lack of breathing space makes it harder for even the most hardcore of metal nerds to appreciate. After the initial burst in the first couple of tracks, it all just coalesces together into some shapeless, amorphous blob.
This is not for casual listening; from a listening standpoint, Earthborn Evolution is a dense, sturdy, difficult album to enjoy. It needs to be approached and appreciated like a fine wine, and those who can tolerate its full, unbroken runtime will find some jaw-dropping technical set pieces on display. If you can make it you’ll definitely see that Beyond Creation are very much capable of standing as equals alongside other Canadian greats of death metal, like Martyr and Cryptopsy.