Review: “Condemned” by Beneath The Embers

Beneath The Embers may have been in the game since 2016 and released their debut EP “Ashes” a year later but when it came to their debut album the band have been ones to bide their time to get things the way they want them to be. They recruited Chris Clancey (Machine Head, Kill The Lights, Kataklysm) at Audioworks Productions, known for his work alongside the esteemed Colin Richardson as a highly regarded producer and mixing engineer to ensure that the standards were kept high throughout the recording process and have created what they are calling a line in the sand statement piece that defines what the band are all about…

As with 2016 debut EP “Ashes“, Beneath The Embers create atmosphere and set the tone for “Condemned” with an introduction piece that combines sombre music with radio transmissions of War in “Contact” but unlike the first record however the introduction piece feels a little more throw away. It’s not conjoined to first cut proper and single “Set Me Free” and doesn’t really grab or hold the attention; however that perversely works in the records favour as Bullet For My Valentine, Iron Maiden and Metallica influences flow free from the start of that one. Combining Metalcore with Thrash with guitarists Clint Bredin and Quentin “Q” Radburn firing on all cylinders, delivering rich leads and a powerhouse breakdown while Lewis Roland spills his guts, all the components of a great record are on display. Slicing and dicing in similar fashion “Battleborn” combines a lot of things you may have heard as the 2003 era of American Metalcore expanded further away from the Gothenburg sound of Swedish Melodic Death Metal and while it may not have anything you may not have heard before, its still a bloody energetic good time. All three of the tracks from “Ashes” have been re-recorded for “Condemned” and they start with “Drag You To The Grave“, the clean vocal moments having improved greatly since that debut. It’s an interesting move and they each in turn fit the flow of the record incredibly well in their new setting, this one in particular being 7 seconds longer than original but each one having been clearly refined in the fires of time and tweaked in accordance to their live renditions.

The chunky bassline from Liam Gloster has been allowed to bleed out in the mix during the verses of “Heaven And Hell Can Wait” but its the latter half of the song when it really comes alive with two distinctive unclean vocal styles intertwining in a darker and a shriller one. The choruses are all big bold and clean sung but fortunately the band skilfully avoid the need to slow down the music to allow them to breathe, a trapping that a lot of American Metalcore acts in the second wave fell into, however there are a couple of points where you ask yourself if they need to have cleans on every track. It would be nice to have for example something all clean sung and something all unclean. Arguably the heaviest cut and a real eye opener is “Undead” which has a real barnstorming set of riffs, punchy breakdowns and a face melting solo all wrapped up in stand out performance from drummer Spencer Churchill. Circling the drain of Nu-Metal introspection but not getting dragged down “Condemned” has the fiercest of extended solos from lead guitarist Clint Bredin, an absolute ripper that simply needs to be witnessed however that’s also something of an irony as the song itself would work well in acoustic form thanks to Roland’s clean vocal parts. It’s the title track that an album of this stature demands and works incredibly well. Dancing around Metallica style riffs “Breaking Down The Walls” has the fist in the air spirit for the live shows, old school enough to get the attention of an older audience, fresh enough to keep the younger crowd happy. That of course makes them ideal candidates for festivals.

There are a few moments on the album where comparisons with bands like The Raven Age spring to mind and “Lesson Learned” is one of those, heavy enough in the tale end to get the mosh pit started and bold enough in the chorus to get an arena sized audience to sing-a-long. The balance between the two is clever with a cigarette paper between them so how they maintain that as extremes push out in future cryptic writings together is going to be intriguing. Things get personal with “What You’ve Become” as Rowland wears his heart on his sleeve, the vocals delivered with that extra certain something in the emotional register to give it a real grit. The lyrics are also broad enough that you can make the song your own as a listener, it could be one about a broken relationship, surviving the drug or alcohol addictions of a loved one but it stands out as a classic. It intertwines with “Demonised” to the point that the song feels like a partner piece and the two need to be played back to back live. The latter punches hard with barrel loads of riffs, another face melting solo and a surprise “Bleigh!” moment, all of which combine to bring a smile to the face of even the hardest of Metal heads. Closer “Fade Away” is one of a few on the record that feel a little flat the first time you hear them but grows on you with multiple listens and with that little bit more energy when played live it has the potential to bring the house down in style, the stomping closing section in particular being classy indeed [7.5/10]

Track Listing

  1. Contact
  2. Set Me Free
  3. Battleborn
  4. Drag You To The Grave*
  5. Heaven And Hell Can Wait*
  6. Undead
  7. Condemned
  8. Breaking Down The Walls*
  9. Lesson Learned
  10. What You’ve Become
  11. Demonised
  12. Fade Away

Condemned” by Beneath The Embers is out now via Metal Massacre Records

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