This New Jersey death metal band has been busting its ass since 2000, releasing music, garnering press accolades and touring with no help from others. That changes now as Screaming Ferret steps in to reissue the band's 2003 album "What the Mind Perceives" to a worldwide audience.
It's always nice to see a hardworking band, particularly in a thankless genre and climate, get a little bit of a leg up. But it's frustrating when trappings of the band's low-budget past still hinder them — to be specific, the production on "What the Mind Perceives", while clear, is thin and anemic, rendering their melodic guitar lines and tasteful drumming too muted, and further flattening the already somewhat one-dimensional vocals. I'm reminded of when the otherwise-decent Texas band DEEP came out a few years ago — any hint of interest in their debut album was killed by a boring, muffled production that made everything sound the same, and the reviews (and sales) reacted accordingly. Since then, not much has been heard out of DEEP.
BEYOND THE FLESH aren't quite that bad off here. Opener "Rise Above the Weak" is a simple, catchy affair with tasty melodic guitar lines a bridge that features both blast beats and some refreshing bass soloing. There's a lot of thrash in their sound, and hints of everything from DEATH to CARCASS to early black metal and old IN FLAMES in some of the riffing styles.
The most impressive thing about BEYOND THE FLESH is their consistent, efficient songwriting. They're indulgent with solos and they spit out more riffs in every direction than a DARK ANGEL album in a cyclotron, but there's not a wasted note here. They betray a wide range of influences, from the deathcore stomp and pinch harmonics in the verse of "The Sick" to the brief acoustic interlude in "Scattered Thoughts", without sounding too “prog" or intentionally overreaching. At the end of the day, this is still solid meat-and-potatoes death metal, just spiced up with some flourishes.
I find myself liking BEYOND THE FLESH's approach, but losing interest after a few tracks. The melodic guitar runs start to sound the same quickly, and the aforementioned flat production does little to distinguish one song from another, despite the diversity they throw in. Songs toward the end like "Scattered Thoughts" aren't bad, they just fail to inspire any excitement. I want to like BEYOND THE FLESH more than I do, and I'll definitely be watching to see how they've developed when they get the chance to make a new album showcasing their growth since 2003. But the fact remains that, despite the impressive effort, "What the Mind Perceives" just leaves me a little underwhelmed.