BESIEGED – Violence Beyond All Reason (2022)REVIEW

Away from the rat racing competition of nowadays over-filled and variously substantive extreme metal underground and its dull yet fast-moving edge chasing we find the truest fringes of sub-genre fealty incubating just as they always have. Patient and oft perfectionist sects weathering the storm of creativity in earnest without the tunnel vision of the ‘market’ to artificially speed out a product rather than a lasting, personal work amount to crowd of few whom add to sub-genre rather than feed off of it like a cancerous growth. In the case of Canadian thrash metal band Besieged a combination of realistic, no-bullshit attitudes and a slow, deliberate process of achieving the exact classicist desired result ensures they’ve something serious and signature to offer on this second full-length album which releases a full twelve years beyond their last. Because of this gap in the action ‘Violence Beyond All Reason‘ has the potential to spark two-fold inception for listeners depending on their fandom, the first being a trip back to the start of the last decade if you’d been a fan of their rapid, brutal thrash metal style, and the second being a trip back to the late 80’s extreme thrash metal boon as death metal’s peaking early popularity found its ferality developing in tandem with then-fading thrash metal domination of the underground heavy metal headspace.

Besieged formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba circa 2003 with their primary inspiration being late 80’s extreme thrash metal, specifically noting their love of Sepultura‘s ‘Schizophrenia‘ in their fairly scarce interviews early on but also citing early black/heavy metal a la Venom, speed metal classics, and essentially showing some clearer appreciation for the bands who’d influenced the -riff- to hyper-evolve in the early-to-mid 80’s before death/thrash metal began to peak. It was clear they were doing this for fun and for the love of thrash metal above all else, there were no ambitions for money (around that time ‘retro’ thrash was technically going ape) just primarily two brothers, guitarist/vocalist Nolan Smit and drummer Tristan Smit, attacking their ideal version of that sound per their developing capabilities, soon including Sabbatory bassist Nick Tober and a revolving spot for a second guitarist, mostly for gigs.

Within just a couple of years they’d pulled off a short demo titled ‘Visions of Pain‘ circa 2004 with a few decent enough songs that’d serve as a promising toe in the waters, so to speak, as their press-released yet redacted debut full-length (‘Visions of Pain‘, 2005) ended up being a sort of false start for the band as Besieged scrapped and denounced it, changing their line-up soon after that from what I remember. That record rules well enough from my perspective, having discovered it while trading around rarities/unreleased records on the internet throughout the years — I personally think it should be officially released as an archival thing since it rips but, I understand how they had not found their own sound yet and I guess some of the riffs are pretty much amped-up ‘Beneath the Remains‘ worship, but there is no good reason not to document it. Anyhow, they’d characteristically take their time and gear up for a for-reals debut full-length (‘Victims Beyond All Help‘, 2010) which featured as one of the strong early releases from then starting up extreme thrash label Unspeakable Axe, still the place for reputable thrash and each Besieged release since. From that point it wasn’t yet clear just how deliberate their approach to songwriting would be and it seems they were not keen on the idea of iterating with any harried frequency.

Though you’ll recognize the direct and intentional continuity between Besieged‘s debut and ‘Violence Beyond All Reason‘ in terms of their production values, similarly themed Ed Repka album art, and the sheer intensity of their approach this new record is most comparable to their even more nutso-smasho self-titled 7″ EP (‘Besieged‘, 2015) which’d end up being their defining moment going forward when we look to the past for precedence. That is to say that we are not getting a profoundly curated listening experience with neatly ordered milestones but a ~27 minute ripper that blazes through its purpose with a minimum of melody deployed, no real rest in between barrages of riff and as a result it all manages to be a brutal thrash metal blur heavy on nuance but without any obviate musical grandeur in mind. The furor of it all is head-spinning to start, especially if you were expecting something a bit more like the pre-1993 era of Sepultura expanded a few generations beyond, instead of getting Gladiator‘s ‘Made of Pain‘ we’re getting chunking shades of Kreator‘s 90’s metal cruncher ‘Cause For Conflict‘ and brutally blazing stuff a la Gammacide, shit that makes the first Invocator album sound dog-tired in terms of sheer machine-gunned thrash metal riffing.

To my ear Besieged‘s style doesn’t necessarily ride the fence between brutal thrash metal and death/thrash metal but represents both well enough, leaning well into a modern vision of classic thrash metal delivered as fast as possible without resorting to straight-up post-1992 death metal drum techniques, hammering it out at an (earlier) Revocation level of attack (see: “Violence Beyond All Reason”, “Paragons of Brutality”) rather than a Demolition Hammer burn, featuring plenty of groove and kinetic energy flying around but less of the strutting heavy metal structure expected. We’ll call it thrash-death metal for the sake of easily conveyed sub-genre categorization but I would set this band in the general canon of 80’s thrash metal influenced modern thrash metal, since considering them a pure ‘retro’ act just isn’t going to land with most folks. If you’re looking at me like a homeless dude talking about reptilian abduction while he shits his pants on the streetcorner while reading this, eh, man you’ll understand what I mean once you’ve ripped through the album a few times. It reads as one big ball of energy ripped in a linear fashion without any flashy-ass space between the pieces. Their pacing being largely samey means it reads as variations on a theme, or, one great bit ranting accost when taken in as a listening experience front to back.

Though I’d had trouble picking any one song out of the tunnel of scorched brains the album presents there are a few which did eventually stick with me, “Path to Defy” featuring some of their most breakneck death-thrashing acrobatics as it continues to ramp up within its brief three and a half minute run and likewise transitioning into the groove metal-era thrasher “One World Coma” as it takes a serious bite out of the fastest rushes of circa mid-90’s aggression (‘Diatribes‘, ‘Chaos A.D.‘ etc.) while levelling it all into a pit-ready thrash metal piece. This’d all amount to pretty commonplace digs without consideration for the conviction of performance — the main reason ‘Besieged‘ had been so convincing back in 2015 and why I think a lot of folks will warm up to ‘Violence Beyond All Reason’. Not only are Besieged rifling out one truly impressive high-speed kicker after another here but they’re doing so with a full-bodied tension that is frighteningly amplified by Nolan Smit‘s hatefully barked vocals, one absolute beast-mode presence generated after another at intense speed and diction which rivals the best of their idols, some of my own personal favorite bands.

An extreme thrash metal record should make me want to see the damned band live, to get yelled at by the dude playing the guitar while I’ve got a buzz going, and *fingers crossed* get punched in the head by a far too sweaty stranger in the midst of the chaos conjured. There is always room on my shelf for any album that gives me that feeling while also representing a well-maintained level of consistency (style, artwork, production value etc.), but beyond that point Besieged‘s meticulous-yet-determined riffcraft has ultimately held up to the shit-ton of listens this album and the one prior have inspired thus far; In terms of selling the greater havoc they are capable of creating ‘Violence Beyond All Reason‘ had me straight-up on board within the rub of the first song. Still an untamable wrecking crew and still well worthy of a very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Violence Beyond All Reason
LABEL(S):Unspeakable Axe Records
RELEASE DATE:June 6th, 2022

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