Released: Oct 2009
Release Type: EP, CD-R lmt 100
Genre: Down Tempo Black Metal
New Zealand, verdant plains, terrible acoustic guitar comedians, sheep, and well... more sheep; not the kinda place you'd expect black metal to take root. Well lo and behold, Beyond Mind, one of the only bands I know of from New Zealand (besides Black Boned Angel and Ulcerate, here look for yourself). Regardless, in my eyes, they are worthy flag bearers to this young scene.
Interestingly enough, black metal has proven to grow (and thrive) in the most unlikely places (San Francisco, I'm looking at you) which of course is due to such a dedicated fanbase. Similarly to many offsets of punk, black metal proves easy for the novice to walk into, yet as we've seen with the Myspace era, bedroom black metal has become one of the worst things we've had to deal with. Quorthon set the mark, one which no one could ever reach, but it was Varg's attention to minimalism and isolation that proved to be every black metal kid's wet dream. Uninspired, and downright awful guitar riffs run through artificial distortion paired with a poorly programmed drum machine and vocals with more distortion and reverb then you'd ever think possible and you've got the blue prints to a significant portion of black metal out there. To make my point, maybe a good anecdote would be that cat that poops the most expensive coffee bean, Beyond Mind may just well prove to be one of those poop beans, lost amidst some stupid animal's shit.
A pleasant surprise for me, and big plus was the thick and strong production, something that's far from the tepid waves of static and anonymous cymbal crashes that have become a mainstay as of late. The thick and robust production works so well, I really can't stress that enough. The bass drum really punches and the bass even does a good job in the super slow dismal sections. I was surprised to realize it was a programmed drum kit, as they sounded pretty good. The strong, clean, yet ominous production is the kind that any black metal purist shouldn't scoff or vilify as it works oh so well.
My affinity for the production aside, Beyond Mind couples a slower and more pensive sound which excels when juxtaposed against blazing blast beat sections and riffs to match. Straying from languid exercises in monotony, Beyond Mind emphasis slower sections which harsh contrasts and effectively moving song structures. Personally, the shifts from quarternote bass thuds and distant drumming, to full on cacophony are some of the best parts of the album. The interplay between the guitar, drums, bass, and vocals works surprisingly well as they all drop out at times to highlight another, keeping an effective juggle going of textures atmosphere and mood. The quiet clean picked guitar, to an addition of vocals, then drums is a common trick, yet Beyond Mind utilizes it in such an effective way actually creating a sense of excitment in the listener as to what might come next. The variance of tempo, rhythm, riffs, vocal patterns, and mood make this EP an exceptionally enjoyable and an easy listen.
As mentioned earlier, the drum programming is pretty good, in fact, it's miles ahead of most bands. Accents, interesting and varied fills, ordination to highlight vocals, or guitars, as well as shifting beats and a decent sound create solid ground work for the vocals, guitar, bass, and even piano to wander on their own. The vocals are very throaty, drawn out whispers, screams, groans, and everything in between, yet they remain quite decipherable ( and the same tone). They, as well as the band itself, remind me a lot of Silencer(Swe), luckily for them the vocals aren't as ludicrous and the the production and variation's a bit better. One of the highlights for me is the lonely bass line that begins "Caressed by Cold" (which is probably my favorite song, excellent motif), setting the theme for the song. There's good use of the bass throughout this EP, something I can't say for most black metal. The intro could be shortened, but interestingly enough, the very similar outro is great.
If you enjoy black metal at a slower pace and dreary, then this is for you. A nice surprise, being the cynic I am, Beyond Mind come off very promising with this one. Proving to have compelling riffs and widgets as well as an effective atmosphere, Beyond Mind get the job done. Buy it on their myspace, and take a listen there too.