March 29, 2012 | | 3.5

Beaten to Death, Xes and Strokes

Beaten to Death: Xes and Strokes

Norway’s Beaten to Death actually unleashed their debut effort, Xes and Strokes last year, but that’s no reason for me to fully explore it in 2012. These dudes play grind-core, but not in a traditional sense. Within the confines of this 19 minute long implosion is an interesting blend of blasting grind, groove-fueled death metal (think Benighted) and… melody?

Yup, melody.

“But melody doesn’t belong in grind-core,” I hear you say and, for the most part, I would agree with you. There’s no melody to be found from the likes of Wormrot or the now-defunct Insect Warfare. Well, there’s some here in Xes and Strokes and it sort of works too.

Bordering on indie-rock at times, Beaten to Death take grind-core to areas that it hasn’t necessarily been to before. “Pointless Testament” starts off typically enough for a grind song with plenty of reverb and distortion and thundering drums, but it doesn’t take long for you to notice something a little different — the chugging groove that arrives along with the dual vocals is a solid clue. It’s not until after the rumbling bass of “Winston Churchill,” though, that we first hear elements of melody leak into the band’s sound.

As the short album progresses, the group introduces more and more melody into each subsequent song. “A Soulless Alarm” starts off fairly mildly with a bit of an atmospheric vibe to the guitars as the rhythm section arrive to blast as furiously as they can — and let’s not forget the string arrangement that shows up toward the end. The ridiculously titled “Cat Olympics” is all over the place with melody peppered amongst the frantic blasts and the ebb and flow of “Groundhog Day” is an interesting touch as the band injects some early Helmet perhaps into the mix.

Xes and Strokes is not an album for everyone. I’m still not totally sold on it, but much like Liberteer’s Better to Die on Your Feet than Live on Your Knees it’s all about pushing your buttons until you either finally snap into a fit of rage and destroy the stereo from which this music is coming or accept it for what it is, genre-pushing extreme metal. I haven’t personally made up my mind just yet.