Genre blending is a tricky task, but when a band like Befallen comes along and gets it right, the results are oh so sweet.
Although firmly grounded in death metal, the album drops none-too-subtle hints of black, tech and extreme, with the occasional hint of thrash. A tad longwinded perhaps, but this debut is a sign of good things to come.
Degeneration maintains your classic, balls to the wall death metal sound, relentlessly driving the listener through each track. Beneath this however is a distinctly modern technical sound, which adds a melodic edge to the blasting drums and guttery vocals. The tech elements keeps the sound interesting, while the old school death metal sensibilities of unleashing pure energy resonate throughout.
Switches between genres occur seamlessly, utilising the death metal grounding as a transition point to experiment with variations on the typical sound. Slow, sustained chords akin to a funeral dirge will suddenly come to life as tremolos, then slide into a technical riff before rounding out the song. Befallen shift the melodic tones down a notch, creating a blackened death tone, complete with the necessary tremolos.
But the drums, which sit towards the front of the mix, rarely get their moment in the spotlight. It’s a massive shame, as the handful of technical moments gifted to the drums showcases some real talent. The shared vocal work, traditional guttery death and black metal screeches, isn’t much better, lacking power resulting in a sludgy, raspy pit which rarely fits the music.
Nevertheless, the music blends together nicely, creating an almost symphonic death sound, only without the orchestra. Degeneration seems to be aiming for the wall of sound effect, what with so much going on in the mix. Sadly, it doesn’t quite get there, leaving a distinct hole in the music. The result is an album that doesn’t reach the intense aspirations it’s aiming for, but only by a inch. The point is driven home by the repetition which sets in by track seven, which makes one wonder if their debut would have been better suited as an EP.
Befallen have produced an interesting example of genre blending which musically works very well. A bit more attention paid to the drums and an overhaul of the vocal work would have given Degeneration the unique hook its digging for, giving the album that extra shred of intensity. But regardless, Befallen have carved out a clever, technical approach to adding melodic tones to death metal, which will grab the attention of those who love their music to be unrelenting.
1. Fatalistic Demise
2. Embodiment of Failure
5. Prayers of the Perverse
6. Carnal Adherence
7. The Black Which Binds
10. Dark Decorum