Review: Not Beneath - Memento Mori

Gabriel Mesones
Gabriel Mesones   Follow

Band: Not Beneath (opens new window)

Album: Memento Mori

Label: Independent

Release: January 16, 2018

Length: 47 Minutes

Genres: Progressive Death Metal/Metalcore

Track List:

  1. Eben-Ezer
  2. Worm
  3. The Wisdom of Joseph
  4. Infanticide
  5. Metamorphosis
  6. Dichotomy
  7. Reflection
  8. By Blood, By Faith
  9. By Faith, By Sight
  10. The Covenant
  11. Eulogy

Not Beneath is a Christian death metal/metalcore band from Cleveland, Ohio, with a nostalgic, yet fresh sound that can be labeled as many genres, but it does not quite fit perfectly in any genre description. Progressive death metal/metalcore are labels that nearly describe their sound, yet I would not argue with anyone, if they labeled them differently, because they cannot be labeled satisfactorily (which is awesome).

The amount of different styles and genres this album incorporates is mind-blowing, and it is crazy to read how many band names I wrote in my notes while listening to this album. They took influences from so many diverse bands to generate something completely new and unique. This is interesting because this album has a really strong old-school metalcore vibe, but it is so refreshing, pure, and original that innovates with every single song.

From the very first song, the energy of this album is massive, and it swallows you into this whirl of aggressiveness surrounded by a dark atmosphere. This is not a surprise, considering where these guys come from. They were part of the late 90s metalcore scene (in bands like Narcissus, Outcry, Vessel, and North Meadow Park), but not just a regular metalcore scene, we´re talking about Cleveland, Ohio´s metalcore scene. A scene that is known for having a “micro-genre” called Holy Terror, which was a darker version of metalcore. Heavily focused on atmosphere, sludgy-riffs, and borrowed elements from many extreme metal genres to produce a dark ambient and a “spooky” sound. This scene was led by (secular) bands like Integrity, In Cold Blood, Ringworm, Pale Creation, and many other bands that adopted the Holy Terror imagery and particular dark style. Therefore this places Not Beneath, as the closest a Christian band has ever been to be labeled as Holy Terror. Even though its sound has many influences from this Cleveland-born style, I do not think that label does justice to Not Beneath´s sound.

Not Beneath took these local influences and did something with them that impressed me. They stepped it up. They took a step ahead and elevated the sound, mixing it, and amalgamated a new sound. With so many layers and levels of musicality, it's impressive they did not lose the focus. Latent Becoming The Archetype and Extol influences throughout the whole album, especially in composition, adding a solid progressive death metal layer to their sound. It is unnecessary to express how brave and courageous you have to be to take influences from these Christian metal titans, but I am thrilled to tell you, Not Beneath not only did this correctly but also made it their own. You can genuinely distinguish a new original sound.

The drumming in this album, I cannot believe it is programmed drumming, it feels so organic and fluid, full of black metal-ish blast beats that give the album a constant black metal sensation. Which was reinforced by implementing some kind of black metal riffs; I think of bands like The Drowned God, early Underoath, and Abigail Williams (secular). Of course, the guitar and bass work besides being progressive, has a great sense of melody, contributing with another musical layer, a melodic death metal side that instantly will make you think of melodic metalcore bands like As I Lay Dying, Haste The Day, Your Chance to Die. This also welcomes Not Beneath, into the category of old-school bands that mixed both metalcore and melodic death metal, like Zao, Still Breathing, and Embodyment. They deliver it most masterfully and innovatively. Not Beneath has the potential to revolutionize the metalcore scene, that needs a fresh outlook of the old-school.

Believe it or not, the album still has many layers. One of those is the violent grooviness it presents in some songs. Listen to the song Worm and tell me that riff isn’t similar to Pantera or Mastodon. This aspect also leads me to talk about the unique sound the vocals present, really original and expressive, I guess I have not listened to vocals similar to these before, it´s like a mixture of Living Sacrifice's with xDeathstarx´s. They also added some industrial textures to the record, introducing a metallic/robotic voice that fits well with the atmosphere of certain songs, a really smart step to take.

By Faith, By Sight is a real masterpiece, completely different from the rest of the album. With lots of post-metal influences that are really near shoegaze or metalgaze, along with some Demon Hunter-ish clean vocals. At this point of the album, I completely lost my mind, there was no way something like this could work in an album like this, but this song perfectly fits the album.

The lyrics are openly Biblical (with Biblical citations and notes for every song, which I appreciate), full of a message of hope and change. These are sincere lyrics that spoke to me about the regret of the past yet also highlight the opportunity the Lord gives us to be better every day. Hence, the name of the album Memento Mori, which means “Remember you will die.” This explains the whole essence and message of the album. Live fully with your family, and enjoy every second. Live for God and we obey his laws because they bring blessings. Also, By Blood, By Faith is dedicated to Guy Gray, and it´s pure and honest to dedicate a song like this to commemorate an important person. So I wanted to add my respects. I understand this pain and say rest in peace, Guy Gray.

This album is a masterpiece. Do yourself a favor and stop everything you’re doing and listen to it right now. I am looking forward to the next release; you have won a die-hard fan.

Rating: 9.8/10

Favorite Tracks: By Blood By Faith, By Faith By Sight, Infanticide, The Covenant, Eben-Ezer.