Too many metal bands these days attempt to meld clean and guttural vocals, but few of them do so as effortlessly as Beyond the Embrace. This six-man outfit from New Bedford, Massachusetts, blends melodic thrash and death metal into songs so heavy, so convincing and so damn addictive that you'll keep comin' back for more. A memorable triple-guitar arsenal, a fierce rhythm section and a singer who also plays keyboards make Beyond the Embrace's debut album, Against The Elements, one of the year's more exhilarating releases.
The album opens with "Bastard Screams," the song that best showcases the band's deft approach to metal. In between spewed vitriol ("A bullet doesn't fly, a thousand miles/Just like I couldn't die, a thousand deaths/But if I keep this flame, of bitterness and hate/It will keep me warm until my dying day") and amazing guitar solos comes a pain-filled chorus bursting with melody. Vocalist Shawn Gallagher alternates so seamlessly between indecipherable growling and James Hetfield-like singing that he sometimes sounds like two men, and chunks of Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Evergrey and In Flames blow across many of these songs. Although Against the Elements wanes a bit near the end, Gallagher and Co. never let up – pounding relentlessly but not aimlessly, as it appears so many of their brethren do.
By the time "The Riddle of Steel," the album's 10th and final track, kicks in, listeners don't know what to expect. And Beyond the Embrace surprise on this instrumental (one of two here) by churning some thick and slow-tempo power chords into a lovely piano and acoustic guitar piece, thus ending the album much more peacefully than it began. And, somehow, that unexpected turn of musical events seems appropriate.