22nd July 2016 - Nuclear Blast Records
01. The Aftermath
02. Inner Demons
03. Drapeau Noir
04. Bad Vibes
05. Dedicated to Extinction
06. Grind Forever
07. Time Bomb
08. One Last Martini
Comeback albums are inevitably a difficult proposition for bands that were able to cultivate a legendary mystique in their time away from the stage. For as many artists that deliver on the promise of their hype (Cynic, SikTh, Gorguts, Anthrax, Carcass) we have just as many who at best add nothing to their legacy and at worst damage their name (Faith No More, Morbid Angel, At The Gates). The landscape for deathcore has shifted tremendously since Despised Icon‘s prior album Day Of Mourning a full seven years ago, so then is Beast a welcome return from these veterans – or a pitiable misstep?
Opening track “The Aftermath” serves as a reintroduction for Despised Icon, alluding lyrically to their extended dormancy. As all the instruments fall off towards the end of the song, the phrase “the beast awakens” is bellowed with a force and conviction palpable enough to feel in the pit of one’s stomach.
While the song itself is deathcore perfection, it does lean heavier to the ‘core’ side and as such was mildly disconcerting as a prelude to everything else that follows. The concern was that the band would eschew their technical prowess in favor of a more simplistic styling, but that is quickly alleviated by the intricate, melodious guitar work on “Inner Demons” and the outstanding “Drapeau Noir” which possesses sharp staccato riffs like a military march, a gorgeous guitar solo, and precision drumming from Alex Pelletier who must be some kind of cyborg octopus (note to readers: make sure to check out the band Cyborg Octopus).
As a whole Beast does a magnificent job ebbing and flowing between the faster and more technically oriented songs and the groovier, more animalistic pieces. The second half of the album comes after a gentle instrumental break titled “Dedicated To Extinction” which serves as a welcome reprieve for the intensity that comes before and after it. The same cannot be said for the second break “Doomed” which uses the iconic clip from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator in much the same way that literally every other socially-minded metal band has done during Despised Icon’s hiatus. It is such a trope at this point that it is puzzling why they included the clip at all and it remains the only real head-scratcher on an otherwise perfect deathcore album.
The second half of Beast brings us a one-two punch of “Grind Forever” and “Time Bomb“, both of which serve to completely justify the band’s use of two vocalists in Steve Marois and Alex Erian, who are so tremendously versatile, forceful, and distinctive that they are, in a word, irreplaceable.
Despised Icon have managed to do what so few bands can: come back with an album that is as strong – if not stronger – than anything else they have written. That alone would be a triumph in isolation, but how badly this subgenre needed a shot in the arm in 2016 they have given deathcore a new lease on life by releasing one of the highest quality and replayable albums of the year. Beast is an unequivocal success and represents Despised Icon at their peak. They have delivered an album that, even shy of a half hour running time, feels extremely full due to its density and hardly has a moment of filler, and comes highly recommended for anyone who is famished—with a thirst for blood.