Beyond the Structure are the Necrophagist of Estonia, although that sounds more like the epithet for a serial killer than a technical death metal band. The point is they play the type of complex and cerebral music that impresses fellow musicians but struggles to find an audience beyond guitar students and the people that attend drum clinics. Scrutiny is their sophomore effort, and the fact they started it in 2018 and are ready to release it four years later tells you much about the instability of their line-up. The drummer, bassist and vocalist that contributed to the original writing sessions all left the group, leaving founder member, Artjom Balakshin, to recruit a new cast of musicians for the studio recording. For perseverance alone, they deserve respect, but their final product will leave you with more questions than answers.
On first listen, Beyond the Structure’s sound falls somewhere between early Decapitated and Archspire with the mind-boggling guitar work of Necrophagist’s Muhammed Suiçmez. The dissonant chords and violent syncopation of opener, ‘Endless Cycles’, flirt with a groove metal bounce, but drummer, Simo Atso, is the one who steals the show with an audition for the sequel to the film, Whiplash. The shades of melody in the simple chord-picking sequence towards the end suggest they’re not just students of jazz fusion, either. Is the lack of song structure a deliberate extension of the song’s misanthropic glee towards humanity’s eventual retardation? “When the system shell is cracked/ The ugly truth will be revealed/ Global failure already committed/ Irreversible process will be completed,” roars Edgar Balabanov, in a monotone death metal vocal.
Minor irritations start to emerge within the first three tracks. ‘Progressors’ parades its stupendous musicianship and Nietzschean misanthropy with pride, but the song lacks direction. ‘Worms of Consumption’ starts with a technical thrash riff yet never delivers on its promise, despite the fascinating lyrical diatribe against the coming retrogression of the human mind from the twin evils of consumerism and big tech manipulation. Often, the lyrics are as abstract as the compositions. ‘Portal to Eternity’ thrives on a chunky death metal riff and a precise double-kick groove and explores more of a Death/Gorguts approach to enhance the annihilation. “Chained by a stream of dreams, the stream where everything is relative, we become a part of it, the space that needs to be erased for us to break free,” declares Balabanov. You’d think a message as insightful as this would deserve a chorus, but one assumes the Estonians would see that as shallow.
Unfortunately, too many of the songs here are an excuse to shred rather than an opportunity to connect with the listener on a more emotional level. The problem with tech death is its cold precision. Nothing about this music is chaotic or out of kilter, which blunts the sonic impact of what it wants to achieve. Closing track, ‘Mass Psychosis’, is a triumph of sorts because it builds from a promising intro of chunky Decapitated riffing and sustains your attention until the last note, including a reprisal of the melody from the opening song. We need more material like this, that’s urgent, less enamoured with obscure guitar chords, and liable to make your nostrils flare.
The excitement surrounding Beyond the Structure is understandable, and their imagination and musicianship deserve praise. What a shame that they forgot to include the art of songwriting on the list of priorities for this album.
Release Date: 28/04/2022
Record Label: Vicious Instinct Records
Standout tracks: Endless Cycles, Progressors, Mass Psychosis
Suggested Further Listening: Cognizance – Upheaval (2021), Necrophagist – Epitaph (2004), Archspire – Bleed the Future (2021)