Beastwars – Beastwars

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Finding a band that fits a person’s individual personality is as tough a proposition as finding the right jacket. There are no objective criteria to assess—taste is not, as most blogs would have you believe, a psychic checklist—things simply gel or do not. New Zealand’s Beastwars gel with me. From the sound of it, these are musicians I could get along with.

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Beastwars – “Empire”

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For starters, they share a moniker with my preferred childhood cartoon show. “Beast Wars” was a computer-animated Transformers series in which incredibly toyetic transforming robots land on a prehistoric earth littered with smoking volcanoes and mysterious obelisks; lacking cars to disguise themselves as, they turn into ice-age mammals (heroes) and dinosaurs (villains). Beastwars the album shares that prehistoric aesthetic: they play sludge with a rubbery bass tone and tribal-influenced drum beats. But their songs have mechanical discipline as well: sludge often meanders, but Beastwars proceeds from point A to B in a direct, hook-laded line, usually in under 5 minutes.

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Transformers Beast Wars Intro (season 1)

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Vocalist Matt Hyde plays center-field here. He portrays a real character on this record, in turns charismatic as David Kaye’s Megatron in “Beast Wars”, then stark raving mad as one of Lovecraft’s afflicted protagonists. Hyde lets the riffs carry the hooks, while still heightening the drama a la LG Petrov on Wolverine Blues—actually Sludge N’ Roll is a good genre tag. Get on it, Wikipedia.

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Beast Wars: Megatron ‘Yes’ Compilation

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Entombed is not the biggest touchstone for Beastwars; their most obvious influence is early Mastodon, some of my favorite music. But, unlike almost every band with that same influence, they keep the vamping minimal. Their list of song titles even reads as short and punchy as the backside of the Leviathan LP. Universal has as much faith in Beastwars as Warner had in Mastodon—that label is re-issuing this album after it made financial waves in kiwiland two years ago.

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Beastwars – “Damn the Sky”

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I don’t see Beastwars and company breaking the Billboard 200—their sound is too noisy, and Hyde’s stories are too aggressive. Mastodon got to their financial peak with vocal harmonies and emotional lyrics. Beastwars have neither, nor do they have the workout music appeal Lamb of God has. But on the off chance they do achieve mainstream acceptability, I will not hesitate to sing their praises anyway—on this debut, at least.

— Joseph Schafer

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HEAR BEASTWARS

Listen on Beastwars Bandcamp

BUY BEASTWARS

Bandcamp (Digital download)
Gravedance Records (LP) [America]
Witchhunt Records (LP) [UK/Europe]
Ozium Records (CD) [Europe]
Smoke CDs (CD) [Rest of world]

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