Beak - Let Time Begin (2014)

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We've all had a favorite band fade into oblivion, or just abruptly cease to be. Faith No More. Nirvana. New Kids On The Block. Whatever your musical choice, you are constantly looking for someone to replace that void. And frankly, it doesn't work that way. No one, regardless of their sound, will ever be the next anyone else. And would we really want them to be? Beak, a Chicago institution for the last few years, have drawn comparisons to the now defunct Isis. And Neurosis. And Cult of Luna. Those names loom large in the heavy music scene, and for good reason. But Beak isn't any of them. Beak is a current four piece, with ideas and songwriting all their own. Their debut EP garnered a lot of praise, all justified. But that was merely the smallest of looks into the minds of men. Their new album, Let Time Begins, continues where they left off, but with loftier expectations and goals. The universe begins, and the Big Bang now has a soundtrack.

If you've come for subtlety and shy build ups, Souls In Streams is enough satisfy, and possibly to put that need or desire to rest. With each booming downbeat, your rattling rib cage will be equated with the sound of distorted joy. The guitars here are weighty, but not overly so. They give just enough of a platform for each short gasp of vocal ejaculation. The stark contrast from one section to the next must be noted, as Light Outside proves. An unsettling melodic opening is quickly smashed with a baseball bat without any regard for human life. But amidst the crushing chords and cymbal crashes, there is a deft use of spacey melody. The anchor of it all, the ever rumbling bass line, is both perfect and punchy. However, The Breath Of Universe sees the band at their heavy best, eclectic as it may be. There is a healthy dose of distortion here, but the guitar progressions are broader than before. It adds depth at a time when the album needs it most. It opens doors for the title track, which boasts a similar melodic to chaotic dynamic. But while the instrumental bends and flexes, the vocals are static, sticking to the same short bursts throughout. It isn't an issue of sound as it is changing the perspective.

But with Into The Light, you get everything you've been missing out on. There is a clarity here that rings so true, along with a handful of tempo and tone changes. This is a band at their best in ever capacity, and the seven minute run time allows the song to breathe. The guitar work just before and running through the halfway point is frighteningly good, and the conclusion, as it reduces to a whisper, is haunting. Having crossed the midway point, the concept has come full bloom, changing the album's entire complexion. Carry A Fire is as self aware and massive a track as you'd hope to find, layered with distortion and heavy chugging riffs. But the melodic passages do nearly as much damage, posing a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde back and forth. You're soothed and relax by Over The Shelter, The Morning Breaks, and it's airy harmonies and pattered drums. But if the album is the Big bang put to music, Fiery They Rose embodies the moment the universe exploded. Building from clunking drums into a calculated and deliberate assault, this is a focused and carefully planned piece of post metal creation. But after that blast, the track fades, as the stars and meteors and planets fade into place.

A concept album is a dangerous proposition to undertake; it can go a million different ways. For some, it becomes a defining moment in a great career, as it did for Mastodon with Crack The Skye. But for others, it could be a stumbling block for a band that hasn't established itself yet. But Beak, despite the simplicity of their name and what the album appears to be on the surface, have something hear that is both surprising and wholly appealing. They've created an arc to the album that is reflected in the sound and structure of each song, and changes substantially as things move along. It's evolution, happening right before your eyes. It's as if they gave you what you wanted before you had enough time to say what it was. You wanted a splash of melody, there it is. Clean guitars? You've got it. Beak have made eight tracks that have the "something for everybody" feel, without selling out their own desires and visions. In the wake of great bands who gave us a big bang in years gone by, this looks like a second coming.


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