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Beastwars - Blood Becomes Fire Review

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Beastwars - Blood Becomes Fire

Beastwars - Blood Becomes Fire

When the New Zealand based band Beastwars released their self-titled debut in May 2011, it didn't take longs for critics and fans to start singing their praises. After being nominated for the Best Rock Album at the 2011 Vodaphone New Zealand Music Awards and shortlisted for the Taite Music prize, the band found their album attracting the interest of major labels Destroy and EMI, who re-released the record worldwide in September 2012.

Hot, smoky and deeply distorted, the record garnered favourable comparisons to bands like Kyuss, High on Fire, and Mastodon, while their off-kilter, unsettling energy evoked a fuzzier Unsane. On the heels of these achievements, their sophomore record Blood Becomes Fire sets out to change their identity from surprising newcomers to respected figures.

For starters, Blood Becomes Fire is heavy enough to have its own gravitational field. Even quieter, more brooding tracks like “Riverman” feature mile-wide riffs and deep doom atmospherics. At their more aggressive, such as the driving “Caul of Time,” the crushing weight that Beastwars are capable of rises even more to the fore.

This heaviness is a product both of technique, from the agonized and snarling vocals to the shattered drumming and generous use of distortion, and also of the songwriting, which gives rise to a collection of songs filled with deep grooves and surging choruses. It's hard not to be sucked in and smashed to death.

What might initially be mistaken for dialing down the energy compared to the last record is actually a successful attempt to tighten and contour Beastwars' aesthetic. On their debut, the songs often frayed around the edges, becoming messy and a little unwieldy in a way that was easy to forgive because of the sumptuous tone and unmistakeable enthusiasm and drive of the record. Here, however, the approach is more cool and mature, the lines drawn more sharply, the songs more carefully crafted. Tracks like the closer, “The Sleeper,” are an excellent example of this.

Blood Becomes Fire is at once more varied and more cohesive than the last record. “Shadow King” is a chillier, almost mechanical piece, whereas “Realms” is lush and melodic. “Ruins” builds quickly and cuts deep, with an abiding ferocity, while the title track has a winding emotiveness too it, a slowly unspooling sense of regret and loss. All these varied emotions and approaches, however, are used to build songs with deep sonic and conceptual links and a strong sense of narrative.

Beastwars certainly piqued many listeners' interest with their debut, but now with Blood Becomes Fire, we are officially all ears. An ambitious and tightly executed record that shows no sign of a sophomore slump, Beastwars have claimed their spot as a band to watch. With an added emphasis on memorable, hooky songs and excellent riffs, they have proven they are worthy of the buzz.

(released April 23, 2013 on Destroy Records)

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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