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Beastwars - Album Review: Tyranny of Distance

11 Oct 2023 // A review by Kris Raven

One of Aotearoa's finest acts, Beastwars are set to release their 5th album Tyranny of Distance upon the world and damn, you better get excited. Their previous record, IV dropped in 2019 following on from a series of concept albums laid out by the band over the last decade. Tyranny of Distance offers an album of material from a diverse range of Kiwi artists and bands from the last four decades that have been reimagined and turned up to eleven with the signature Beastwars sound. As you move through the album, you will find gems, deep cuts and classics by artists such as Emmanuelle (Snapper - 1990), Dark Child (Marlon Williams - 2015), Looking For The Sun (Children's Hour),  High and Lonely (Nadia Reid - 2020), We Light Fire (Julia Deans - 2018), and more.

While I won't touch on every song in detail on this album, I will delve into songs that really hit me hard in the feels and took my senses on a musical trip. We Light Fire has an amazing feel, an offbeat groove of swing and swiftness, based around a core riff setting the tone and keeping the song in stride. The quiet slightly inaudible spoken vocals underneath the harmonic dissonant guitar of Clayton Anderson, creates a wall of noise, that slowly builds, with guitar layers being further added and the vocals yelling out in dissonant pain from behind. Vocalist Matt Hyde’s range is explored throughout not only this song but the whole album and it’s delivered with such passion, sadness, aggression and harmony. The climatic outro with guitar layers colliding and intense vocal passages really delivers an amazing song. 

Emmanuelle has quick pace, a sense of urgency while High and Lonely sets a slower pace with a sinister bass line wavering underneath Matt Hyde’s vocal sermon. The song builds with a sea of pounding toms courtesy of powerhouse drummer Nathan Hickey and low fuzz guitar all perfectly rhythmically in sync, it breaks away but soon returns to the core piece, keeping track in a mesmerizing loop. Identity (The Gordons) originally released in 1984 by NZ’s loudest band, keeps the spirt of NZ's loudest band intact. It's heavy, crunchy and driving from the get go. Hyde’s vocals are on full display, as he hits high notes, mid-range patterns and intense yells and screams with the full force and weight of the Beastwars machine behind him. Marlon Williams' Dark Child is more subdued musically, allowing the lyrical content of this song to be the main star, delivered like a storybook, an evocative journey

Waves (Superette), this is the ultimate stand out. I love the groove and pace of the song with the rumbling and rolling bass of James Woods, particularly the high notes taking the musical lead with Hyde’s intense rasping yelled vocals projecting amazing melodies which soar. I really enjoy the small sections between vocal passages when there is just the riff breathing with the rhythmic groove, there isn't a constant need to be over saturated with vocals and the music breathes with slick riffage and brooding goodness. The chorus hits hard. The addition of the synth/guitar line with the incredibly talented Julia Deans (Fur Patrol) backing vocals elevate the song to new heights. It’s haunting and beautiful and this vocal arrangement works so well together. The bridge has a spooky horror vibe with the keys/guitar layers adding a whole other conversation of awesome and one of the many inspiring musical elements that Beastwars add to their reconceptualized songs. What makes this song even more wild, is that it's a mix of two Superette songs, featuring music from their song Saskatchewan. Two for the price of riffs. 

The great thing about this album is it offers existing fans a new offering of the Beastwars they know and love while taking in fans of the original material with a whole new vibe on these songs. It's a unique experience, most bands or artists might take on a cover or pay tribute or homage to a song or artist that they make their own or sticks close to the heart of the original with some minor differences. This album turns these songs into Beastwars inspired songs. They have taken the foundation of the song and like art they have not copied it as a trace, but they have redrawn it on new canvas taking inspiration from the compositional elements and highlighted select pieces or in some cases reimagined the whole concept.

The production has a live and raw feel to it, with a clean instrument mix, steering clear of over production and radical compression. Because it has to be done right and fit the vision, 4 musicians in one space with some additional dubs and vocals. It matches and elevates the concept and feel of the album and what they are trying to do and keeps it within the Beastwars realm. The gritty guitar tones and loose and low bass really stand out and Hickey's drums are so real and have huge atmosphere. 

If you have not seen Beastwars live, this is must. An exceptional live band and presence. One of best releases of 2024!


About Beastwars

New Zealand sludge metal four-piece Beastwars abide by one steadfast maxim: Obey the Riff. Described as "a mongrel mix of Kyuss, Neurosis, and the mighty Godflesh..." (NZ Herald) and playing "heavy tunes for heavy times" (ALARM), the Wellington-based sonic soothsayers utilize the chaos that engulfs our world as ammunition for their defiant howls into the abyss.

Two years on from their internationally acclaimed, self-titled debut, Beastwars return on 20 April 2013 with Blood Becomes Fire. The new album serves witness to the end of days, told through the eyes of a dying traveler from another time. It is a work inspired by eternal themes. "It's a reflection on mortality, death and disease. Sooner or later they come for all of us and we've all screamed to the gods for answers, not that they've ever come."

On Blood Becomes Fire Beastwars hammer the story home with concussive force. "It’s a heavy album, both sonically and lyrically, but what solidifies it are the really triumphant 'fuck yeah' riffs. To us, this music is like getting psyched up to go into battle. You could be at war with someone else or yourself.”

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Beastwars


Tyranny of Distance
Year: 2023
Type: Album
Live at San Fran
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
The Death Of All Things
Year: 2016
Type: Album
Blood Becomes Fire
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Year: 2011
Type: Album

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