Written by: AP on 17/02/2021 19:35:24

I have to admit that the meteoric rise of BAEST to being a death metal powerhouse has taken me by surprise. After all, it is extremely rare for Danish proponents of the genre to make such a huge and sudden impact on it as the band did upon the release of their début album “Danse Macabre” in 2018. At the time, the Århusian five-piece had already been picked up by Century Media, who, unlike me, immediately saw the potential in their resurrecting the sound of old-school Swedish death metal in the spirit of acts like Dismember, Entombed and Grave. But once the record arrived, I had the same epiphany at last, impressed by the unapologetic lack of frills and the band’s total focus on writing effective and memorable songs. Indeed, even though BAEST had reinvented the wheel, it felt refreshing amidst the swarm of other artists in the genre trying to outdo each other in the avant-garde and progressive. And as the band was not expected to start a revolution with every subsequent step, there must have been very little pressure on them when creating this sophomore outing of theirs, “Venenum” — which may explain how the five musicians were able to assemble it so fast and release it just a year after their début, and why their third record is already set to drop in a couple of weeks from now, a year and a half later. Clearly, I have a hard time living up to BAEST’s work ethic, but I trust no one will mind that I have decided to dig into “Venenum” anyway and finally give it a deserved review.

As already hinted at in the above preamble, BAEST do not take many chances or make any leaps on “Venenum”. Instead, the quintet seems hellbent on capitalising on their newfound success, with a bit of prodding and probing here and there to gauge their fans’ interest for something different. It is not a very different album compared to “Danse Macabre”, so if guttural growls in the vein of Bolt Thrower’s Karl Willets, chug-based grooves like Dismember did ‘em, and that buzzsaw guitar tone that has been the signature of the Boss HM-2 pedal since Entombed perfected it on 1990’s “Left Hand Path” did it for you on BAEST’s début, you will find yourself in familiar terrain here. The first track “Vitriol Lament” picks up where “Danse Macabre” left off, with guitarists Lasse Revsbech and Svend Karlsson drawing strands of diabolical melody out of a thunderous rhythm section to create the appropriate backdrop for vocalist Simon Olsen to explore sin and punishment in the lyrics. It is a tightly composed piece even if it does not bring any novelties to the table and indeed most of the songs on the record are like that: pleasers, not rousers. And whenever BAEST does feel inclined to rope in some further influences for the likes of “Gula”, the title track and “As Above So Below”, the result is never too far astray from their established sound. Rather, they serve to introduce more variety to the band’s palette and thereby stand out as clear highlights.

“Gula” enlists the starkest dynamics in BAEST’s repertoire yet, juxtaposing a brutal stomp from the darkest corner of sludge metal and eruptions of syncopated dissonance that would not sound out of place on an Ulcerate album, while in “Venenum”, the guitarists use tremolo picking to unleash the hellish atmosphere of black metal upon the listener. “As Above So Below” meanwhile reveals esoteric riffs that must have taken inspiration from Gojira and marries these with a distinctly Floridian death metal groove that consistently brings Morbid Angel to mind. But while each of these songs sticks out by virtue of the diversity they offer, it is not like some of the more ‘classic’ BAEST tracks such as “Nihil” and “Sodomize” cannot hold their own. The former is the longest and most melodic cut on the album, teeming with eerie leads and squealing guitar solos torn from the tome of Slayer, while the latter utilises double-pedal drumming to perfection to achieve a savage groove not unlike Vader’s 2011 track “Come and See My Sacrifice”.

That is a lot of highlights for an album that consists of just nine songs plus an interpretation of Bolt Thrower’s “No Guts, No Glory” in the end, and outside the fact tha BAEST are playing it safe on “Venenum” so as to not risk alienating the mainstay of their fanbase, there is virtually nothing on it that would invite a frown to my face. No, this latest offering from Denmark’s premium death metal export was always going to accelerate their ascent toward the genre’s elite, and in retrospect it has done exactly that. The group’s triumphant show at the 2019 edition of Copenhell, which saw them performing to one of the biggest audiences at the festival and earned them universal praise from the music press, is thus only the beginning, and once touring becomes a thing again and their third album “Necro Sapiens” has landed, BAEST will be perfectly positioned for stardom.


Download: Gula, Nihil, As Above So Below, Sodomize
For the fans of: Bloodbath, Dismember, Grave, Morbid Angel, Vomitory
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.09.2019
Century Media

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