A fell rumour surrounded Beastwars 2016 release, ‘The Death of All Things’. Many who covered the release reported that the album might have been aptly named by the band - to signal their death. Not so fast. The kiwi sludgers are back from the brink and they’re as monstrous as ever. With long-player ‘IV’ breathing life into the band, little doubt remains that this quartet of doomers are deserving of a following that bands like Wo Fat, High on Fire, and Elder enjoy.
The album opens with the single ‘Raise the sword’. It’s triumphant in its return, with the band embarking on a journey that ebbs and flows, ascending the fretboard before resolving to into the roots. Although it’s common for bass guitar to feature prominently in the sludge metal mix, few bassists dominate the bottom end of their band’s soundscape like James Woods. His Unsane-esque stylings should be enough to let you know you’re listening to a new Beastwars record, but if you couldn’t quite pick it from Woods’ sound, Matt Hyde’s rasping sermon won’t leave you in any doubt. Hyde emerges from a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma preaching a new gospel that asks as many new questions as a dance with death might answer.
If there’s a track that says the most about his delivery on ‘IV’ it’s ‘The Mortal Decay’. Hyde screeches out and conjoins the words ‘Here I lie’ in such a way you’re sure it is a singular adjective for mankind’s reckoning with mortality.
‘Wolves and Prey’ is a surging number that is encouraged to bludgeon on by drummer Nato Hickey. It dips into trodden ground for the band like ‘Realms’ and ‘Call to the Mountain’ did previously, obeying the riff, but with a hint more urgency.
Track three begins with thirteen seconds of suspense laden phaser set against a patient kick and hi-hat beat. At the snap of Hickey’s snare ‘Storms of Mars’ erupts in its immediately infectious and torturous glory. This is a chordal wall of bending notes from guitarist Clayton Anderson that sees Beastwars evolving new talons. Hyde delivers a spiritual performance that evokes the on-stage delivery he’s known for. Listening here, you can envision his hands raised to the skies, his eyes piercing either the ceiling and the horizon as if he can see past the confines of any venue Beastwars haunts. This is a standout track that dares to be more grandiose than any of their previous efforts and its rewarded for it. The band might have chosen to end the album on ‘Mars’ had it not have been for the piano led ‘Like Dried Blood’ bookending the 8 track offering.
The band’s live set looks to benefit from the versatility emerging from IV with lead singles ‘Omens’, ‘Raise the Sword’ and ‘Storms of Mars’ all offering long-time fans new territory to explore.
Beastwars have emerged from the ruins bearing a gift fashioned from sorrow that is a delight for the sludge fanatic.