Beyond The Styx – Sentence
Release Date: 04/02/2022
Running Time: 30:10
Review by Rory Bentley
The term ‘one trick pony’ is often used in music criticism in a disparaging way to outline an artist’s lack of versatility and sonic diversity. A derisive snort from a snobby writer pouring scorn on a band for not reinventing the wheel every time they pick up their instrument, as if this is the be all and end all of musical achievement. While there is certainly merit in innovation and being blown away by something you’ve never heard before, not every record needs to rip up the rulebook to hit the spot. For example I don’t want AC/DC to take me on a jazz odyssey that stretches the fabric of my mind – I want four minute songs with big simple riffs that fire me up, make me want to chin pints and pump my fist like a dishevelled uncle at a wedding reception.
Hardcore is a genre where this approach definitely has its place. The no-nonsense slug to the gut of a Madball song is often just what I need to scratch an itch when I’m having a rough day and I need an endorphin rush to drag me through to five o’clock. But other times I crave the angular, unpredictable catharsis of Converge to take me to another exhilarating realm far away from the tedious reality of modern life. There’s value to both ends of this spectrum and these two examples demonstrate why Hardcore is so exciting and why so many people gravitate to this raw, painfully human style of heavy music.
French quintet Beyond The Styx are firmly in the former camp with their confrontational metallic Thrash crossover approach. In fact it was their scabrous first single ‘Overload’ that made me want to review “Sentence”, evoking the kind of beat down heavy, tempo shifting attack that gets my pulse racing and makes me want to start a one man circle pit in my living room.
The album certainly lives up to the promise of the single and the gnarly album art, something abundantly clear on scorching opener ‘DC’, its title and sound a nod to the Washington scene that spawned so many legendary acts. Every chug, snare hit and passionate roar is performed with the precision and urgency of a unit that has cut its teeth through gruelling tours in sweat-drenched venues, doing the hard miles between gigs and leaving everything out on the stage.
As the frenetic momentum carried through to ‘New World Disorder’ I was struck by the excellent production job that captures the kinetic feel of a noisy rehearsal space without compromising the clarity needed to make each down tuned groove leap out of the speakers with optimum potency. I went back to earlier BTSTX releases for comparison and while there is a ramshackle charm to their previous recording, the benefits of this more polished execution are evident and allow everyone to shine from the scraping guitars to the thumping rhythm section.
One thing that is certainly undimmed by the upgrade in recording is the unhinged, glass-throated vocals that carry a feral intensity that sells every single lyrical attack on social injustice with bitter sincerity. Even if mosh calls like ‘Listen up you ain’t shit’ do verge on Biohazard levels of macho pastiche. The bruising concrete jungle mentality of Biohazard is further evoked by the news-report style samples littered through the album that gave me a warm, nostalgic feeling for the early 90’s and tick off another genre touchstone.
By the midway point of the album it became clear that BTSTYX weren’t in any hurry to deviate from the crossover formula and while I was still having a good time fluctuating between being slowly stomped and vigorously pummelled, I did start to pine for a little more variety to my aural mugging. ‘Scorch AD’ and ‘Cyclops’ do introduce the welcome addition of some guest vocalists to stave off monotony, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that songs were blending into one another and the lack of memorable hooks was becoming a problem. Thankfully at 30:10 the album narrowly avoids outstaying its welcome and it left me bruised but not completely broken, however I did have the lingering feeling that “Sentenced” could have delivered a little more in terms of memorability and variety.
The band clearly have the fundamentals nailed and their forceful demand for social justice is a worthy one, but there is very little to separate them from the pack. They may perform this style to a much higher standard than most and I’d happily do further damage to my ailing neck if I was at the front row of one of their shows, but as an album this has been little more than an enjoyable way to spend half an hour. If you’re down with the ‘core I can’t see you having a bad time with “Sentence”, it’s as caustic and belligerent as one could hope for, but I can’t in good conscience call it an essential listen.
As I stated in the beginning, sometimes being a ‘one trick pony’ can be a strength if it’s a really great trick, but when there’s bands that have already been doing it before you maybe it’s time to learn some new tricks? Gripes aside though, this is a bloody-fisted bouncy effort that gets in, spin kicks you in the chops and gets out. My only hope is next time BTSTYX give me a good kicking they hit me with a few more surprises. I should probably clarify that I’m speaking entirely figuratively here lads. Please don’t beat me up.
‘Overload’ Official Music Video
3. New World Disorder [feat. Luis Ifer / Teething]
4. ESC XIX
5. Self Hatred
6. Chain of life
8. Scorch AD [feat. Guillaume / Final Shodown]
10. Cyclops [feat. Vincent / The Butcher’s Rodeo]
Emile Duputie – Vocals
Arnaud Morfoisse – Guitar / Vocals)
David Govindin – Guitar / Vocals)
Yoann Cesar – Bass / Vocals
Adrien Joulin – Drums
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