JOHN TRON DAVIDSON
Reviewing records means listening to things that you're quite possibly not going to like. This is part of the life, but when a band shows that they've got in them to make a good record and can't seem to get it together, disappointment turns to anger. So here we sit with BEYOND THE STYX, a French band who have done the unacceptable and released an album worse than the one that went before it.
It's hard to see how the same band that made the pretty reasonable Leviathanima could turn out something as life-draining as Stiigma. From the very start, 'Neoblivion' sticks a flag in the ground marked 'average', and BTS rally aimlessly around it. What follows is one of the longest half hours of this reviewers' life; a pioneeringly bland smear of toothless, sub-standard metalcore marshalled by papery, irritating vocals. Gone is the guttural bray of tracks like 'Lupus', pointlessly replaced by a rasp so breathless it could have come from an also-ran '90s hardcore band.
Although it could be chalked up to an anaemic production which makes the drums sound like samples and the guitars like 10 year old plugins, it seems as though vocalist Emile had an off one for the entire record. The anger and dark rage of their previous work has evaporated, leaving behind a thin, tossy film. Nowhere is this more apparent than the expertly appalling 'King S', on which the ailing Emile is joined by another vocalist called Rom who sounds like a shrivelled gran.
Desperately clinging to the hope that one track would stick out as being even remotely accomplished, this reviewer waded through the muck like Andy Dufresne clawing his way to the freedom until the penultimate track, 'Walls (Cement Of Disorder)' felt like it might cough up something half-decent. This was not to be, as the difference turned out to be a key change and the staid, core-by-numbers plodding remained. It seemed impossible that BTS would have stuck with one key for the whole album, but so it was.
Metalcore takes a lot of stick for being a join-the-dots genre, and what makes this such a frustrating listen is that BEYOND THE STYX have shown that they've got more in the tank. It's not an issue of ability or competence; everyone handles their instruments fine and makes all the right moves, but there's no spirit to it, like the whole record's been robbed of its essence somehow. With a meatier production perhaps the dynamics would have leapt out, the structures of the songs might have had more of an edge. If this was the album before 'Leviathanima' it would make sense that it was less formed, but this reversal of fortune makes little sense.
To the band themselves, this reviewer would say the following; you guys can do this. It's extremely hard not to get mad when progress has been steady but a band take a big step backwards, and even harder when everything that should be improving isn't. If this was a debut album, the lack of intrigue would make sense, the lack of punch in the production would be understandable, and the flatness of the songs would be forgivable, but to have already made a good, solid record and follow it with this is a genuine shame. Please, please don't let yourselves down when you've got it in you to do better. Please.
Victor: Lead Guitar
David: Rhythm Guitar
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