Written by Kep
>Besieged – Violence Beyond All Reason
>Released June 6, 2022
>via Unspeakable Axe Records
Thrash is a relatively simple beast. You can boil pretty much any variation of it down to a few essential elements: speed, riffs, and shred. There are plenty of great thrash outfits out there, but the best of them never fail to deliver quality on those three things, and it’s pretty damn hard to disappoint fans of the genre without stumbling in one of those categories. Canadians Besieged certainly didn’t disappoint back in 2010 with their well-received debut Victims Beyond All Help, but it’s been twelve years since then, and a repeat performance isn’t always a guarantee. Let’s dive in on the follow-up Violence Beyond All Reason and see how they managed.
Brothers Nolan and Tristan Smit, on guitars/vocals and drums respectively, and bassist Nick Tober don’t waste any time establishing that they’re not going to waste any time, like, ever. Without even a moment of introduction “Last Chance” rips out of the speakers, barrels through an old Metallica-esque opening salvo of chords, and launches into frantic solo of vintage shred. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a sucker for an album that gives me a solo before it gives me lyrics. This first minute truly sets the tone for the whole album, because the seven tracks contain nothing but pure speed and aggression; there’s not a single moment of calm to be found.
The listening experience, as a result, is a whirlwind from start to finish. I’ve listened to grindcore albums that felt longer than Violence Beyond All Reason, which is a grand total of 26 minutes and feels shorter that that somehow. It literally flies by, propelled first and foremost by Nolan Smit’s energetic work on the guitar. His riffs refuse to rest or relax, rarely even sitting rhythmically on a single note or chord and instead punctuating even the most straightforward ideas with vicious jabs and leaps. The main riff in the title track is a great example: its shifty, classic thrash motions use a fast single-note chug as their foundation, but Smit‘s acrobatic style means that you never hear it for more than a moment or two without it being peppered with little stabs and pseudo-melodic motions. That sort of uncompromising approach keeps things exciting, and that’s before taking his killer solos into account.
Speaking of which, they’re easily the best part of the record. Thirty seconds of literally any song will make it clear as day that these guys have the technique to play their asses off, but it’s the solos that establish that the talent on display is something special. Smit’s shred in these spots is absolutely breakneck, hair-to-the-wind playing that will flay the skin from your skull in mere nanoseconds. It’s mostly non-melodic, lightning-quick speed-forward type stuff—the MO is a few quick moments of subtle melodicism followed by an ungodly avalanche of cascading notes—but that’s not a knock in any way. He knows what we’re here for and he doesn’t disappoint.
But don’t let my focus on Nolan Smit’s axe take away from the other individual elements on Violence Beyond All Reason, including his throaty shouted vocals, which skew juuuuust enough in the death metal direction to give them a bit of real heft. Tristan Smit is an android behind the kit, supplying a remarkable amount of driving vitality and staying super precise while maintaining that all-important human element. Generally speaking, his performance falls pretty much in line with your average thrash tropes—lots of galloping double bass, a ton of that typical bass-on-the-beat snare-on-the-offbeat rhythm—but it’s all done in superb and rousing fashion. Nick Tober’s bottom end is the same sort of deal, lively lines and tremendous playing that stand up well against the guitars and drums and create an enjoyably fuller texture, though the actual bass riffs are mostly standard fare for the style. I wouldn’t complain if it were a notch higher in the mix either!
The place where Besieged stumbles on Violence Beyond All Reason is in the overall scope of the album. The 26-minute runtime feels oddly truncated, especially considering that it’s made up of only seven tracks, and that’s not helped by an oddly sloppy master and a few puzzling songwriting decisions. On the (rather loud) master: there’s next to no silence between the tracks and the openings of some of the songs feel like they were cut a bit too close. Add in multiple false endings and awkward transitions spread throughout the songs and things get a bit slipshod. For example, the back section of “Path to Defy” is a bit of a mess, with a strangely cut off non-ending followed immediately by a restart with a different riff that I initially thought was a new song altogether, and then a true ending that somehow feels less final that the false ending. These are the sorts of warts that blemish the otherwise outstanding individual performances, which carry the album on their backs throughout.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite those things, though, my initial statement above still holds true: thrash metal is about speed, riffs, and shred, and fans of the genre are likely to be pleased with how firmly Besieged delivers on those elements here, even though there’s not really anything new or groundbreaking. Violence Beyond All Reason is, more than anything else, a fast and furious experience built for scorching flesh through pure heat energy and aggression, and that’s definitely worth hearing.