The metalcore scene has grown since the advent of Shadows Fall, and at last it's getting old. MTV2's Headbanger's Ball hardly plays anything else. Century Media records had a 3-for-$20 deal with Manntis, God Forbid and Diecast records awhile back, and purchasers could hardly tell which CD they'd put in their players.
So it's refreshing to hear Cincinnati's Beneath the Sky, a band that tops its metal riffs with not only drill sergeant screams but death metal hisses, screeches and growls as well. More than a little ridiculous and over-the-top – sometimes the band turns on a dime from death metal to melodic hardcore – but at least no one will confuse them with Killswitch Engage.
'What Demons Do to Saints' features 11 tracks, most of which sound pretty much the same. Guitarists Jeff Nelson and Chris Profitt perform with some proficiency, even if only a few riffs pass the memorability test. Often they simply do the 'metalcore chugga-chugga-chug' on low notes.
Listeners cling to every fragment of melody they can get their hands on, so the punk chorus to 'A Grave Mistake,' and the bridges in '7861,' 'How Times Have Changed' and 'The Glamour of Corruption,' really stand out. The trippy breakdown in 'Being in a Coma is Hell Carried On' makes an even greater departure.
It's also interesting that the lyrics (the band provides them, thankfully, because no one can understand a word vocalist Joey Nelson says) avoid the Satanic trappings that have permeated death metal through two decades. In the acknowledgements, three of the six members even thank God or Jesus.
Unfortunately, the production is rather poor in places. If one listens to the guitars, it's sometimes obvious they come down in volume each time the vocals come in. For a dramatic example, listen to the first 15 seconds of 'For Each Remembered Name.' Modern mastering demands the loudest recording possible, but a little less compression would go a long way here.
All considered, 'What Demons Do to Saints' is a worthwhile contribution to the metalcore scene, creating a bizarre clash of genres with a decent degree of success. It seems absurd at first – and it is – but these are talented musicians who deserve a listen.
Robert VerBruggen (http://www.therationale.com) is Assistant Book Editor at The Washington Times.