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Beneath’s “Ephemeris” Brings Sci-Fi Fantasies to Life

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Icelandic tech-death outfit Beneath are in the zone. Their third full length Ephemeris (released August 18th via Unique Leader) is a work charmed with massive and clear sections. There’s a mathematical rigidity to the album overall, colliding with its icy and organic nature. Surely, one of the main reasons for such exactness was session drummer Mike Heller (Fear Factory, Malignancy). The Brooklyn native was locked in a zone within a zone, and it was mighty: the completeness of Ephemeris is notable, as it was made in under some rather unfamiliar circumstances.

“The record was not in any way normal for us,” noted vocalist Benedikt Natanael Bjarnason. “We had to come up with fully completed songs and send them to New York where Mike did the drums. Usually we have time to work on the songs in the rehearsal space, but with the change in lineup so close to the set studio date, we had no other choice than to do it this way. Mike’s level of skill is just unbelievable and we were really honored to have him on board.”

Heller was a perfect fit on Ephemeris, an album with serious variance. Technicality sparkles throughout, with riffs and choruses changing constantly. Beneath have a vibrant approach to death metal. There’s an early 1990s rawness to it, juxtaposed with avant-garde and modern extreme tendencies. It’s the breaks and jaunts that spin the record constantly; circularity is flattened, still holding its function, but working linearly. The result is a fullness that the band strived for during the process.

“As for the completeness in songs, there are thousands of bands out there today trying to come up with more technical and faster riffs,” Bjarnason says. “However, it does not always result in a good song structure and a listenable record. For us it was more important this time to have both fast and technical riffs, but not be afraid to dial it down a little and make space for some other things. This hopefully made the album a different and interesting listen from back to back.”

Ephemeris has a dreamy and airy quality to it. It’s not hard to imagine the clean and grey skies of Iceland sprinkled with futuristic space stations and aircrafts hovering about. The music lends itself to imagination, lulling and stacked like an old sci-fi tale. On the album’s sixth track, “Cities Of The Outer Reaches,” things really start stretching out. Elasticity and fiction merge in the nether regions: a quick and totally punishing outing.

“That song draws up a prophecy of a discovery of an extinct civilization somewhere deep in the cosmos,” Bjarnason explains. ‘There’s a lot of science fiction inspiration to our songs. Lyrically it has a similar theme as our last record, The Barren Throne, but there’s a slightly less pessimistic undertone to this story. The story on Ephemeris is more about new frontiers in technology, sort of a Brave New World-esque prophecy.”

Ephemeris is a mighty record, an offering that reaffirms the artistic spirit: the drive to create and to see ideas become reality. With each sculpted riff and extended vision, Beneath creates a work that sustains and evolves, bridging the gap between abstraction and tactility. Every time you hear such a revelation, keep this in mind: these records just don’t fall from the sky, they’re experiments in teamwork and bravery.

“One piece of advice I recently heard and I think is very good is: always finish the work you started no matter how bad you think it is,” Bjarnason opines. “You will get better by just going through the whole process of composing, recording and doing all the other stuff needed to run a band. I don’t know how many bands or artists I know of that have had some great ideas but never came around to finish them.”

Beneath finish an idea spectacularly with Ephemeris. The combination of growth, determination and flexible, works magically, developing a structure that is both bold and spatial. You can fly with this thing, dream with it, and play it over and over.

— Christopher Harrington

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