Published Sep 26, 2010Montreal, QC is the home of technical death metal (i.e., Cryptopsy, Gorguts, Neuraxis and Augury) and Beneath the Massacre are a modern product of that environment. They've created some of the most brutally technical, overtly complicated and utterly face-melting music since their 2004 inception, and their latest release, five-song EP Marée Noire, continues the tradition. Meaning "black tide," Marée Noire is easily BTM's best effort since their stellar 2005 debut EP, Evidence of Inequity. While their two exhaustingly intricate full-lengths (Mechanics of Dysfunction and Dystopia) stand as obliterating works, they were lacking the crude, raw aspect found on Evidence of Inequity. With Marée Noire, BTM have recaptured that early feeling and engulfed it in thought-provoking imagery and death-/grind-infused Quebecois complexity. At just over 12 minutes, the EP starts strong with "The Casket You Sleep In," containing severe, unbelievably fast guitar work from Chris Bradley. "Black Tide" continues the pace with incredible ferocity, as vocalist Elliot Desgagnés delivers death metal vocals as they should be: incessantly guttural and commandingly brutal. Excellent production from Chris Donaldson (Cryptopsy) ties the madness of Marée Noire together, resulting in structured chaos.
Did the musical direction for Marée Noire differ from BTM's previous releases?
Desgagnés: It's nothing really that new from us; it's just after years of working on our sound, this is where we've gotten to. It's just another step in the direction we've always wanted to go in. As a musician, I don't think I'll ever be 100 percent satisfied, but I feel like this is as close as I'm going to get. This was the first time I came out of the studio being truly happy with what we recorded. It's still death grind, fast and heavy, and it sounds angrier and more organic. We spent more time writing the songs and it shows. Sometimes, the label pushes you to go to the studio and write songs quick so they can be released quick, so we can tour quick and sell CDs quick. And the EP is just a format that you know in advance that no one's going to make money off of because it's just a short four- or five-track disc. So we had all the time in the world to just sit back, relax, listen to the tracks, think about it and do this and that. It's nothing new, but it's definitely the best stuff we've released so far.
How would you say the band's sound has changed since the first EP, Evidence of Inequity?
We've always been looking for that sound, but at the same time, we knew what we were trying to do, but it's a long, long road. We learned a lot in the past. Mechanics of Dysfunction was a little more tech-crazy, then on Dystopia, we slowed it down too much and there was too much repetition. We just learned more about how to write good songs; it's a perpetual quest for the perfect track, but I doubt we'll ever be completely satisfied.
I heard the concept for Marée Noire was inspired by the BP oil spill.
That's not really right. The thing is, because it's called Marée Noire, which means "black tide," people just assumed that. I was writing about the definition of "The Absurd Man" by Albert Camus. It's not necessarily about the BP oil spill.
Where do you find inspiration?
It's usually about books I've been reading lately. And lately, I've been reading about the concept of "The Absurd Man" in The Myth of Sisyphus. It's a story of a guy pushing a rock to the top of the mountain and once the rock is at the top of the mountain it just falls back down the other side. Sisyphus is condemned for all his life to bring the rock back up, but it rolls down, he brings it up and it rolls back down. It's just a way to say that our life doesn't mean anything and it's not supposed to mean anything, but it's the daily revels and passions that make life worth living; it's that simple.
Marée Noire leaves you wanting more. Even as far as EPs go, this is a really short one.
Here's the thing, we were ready to either rush another full-length or just take our time and write an EP. We're already in the process of writing the next full-length so we figured it would be better to release a short EP now and a full-length later, as in early 2011. The EP may be short, but that's the point.
Quality over quantity?
Yeah, that's exactly it.
Do you prefer making EPs to full albums?
Oh shit yeah. We've only done two EPs and two full-lengths, but from my experience, yes, of course. For the lyrics, it's easier to make connections between songs on a five-track album than on a ten-track album. Songwriting-wise as well, you have more time to listen to each track and make corrections here and there. Often what happens with a full-length is there are some tracks that were written very fast and you never play them live and no one cares. An EP is just a fun format to work with. On top of that, we could release an EP a year. Full-length albums are a lot of pressure from companies: there's a big budget, they need to make their money back and you have to tour a lot. An EP is more like a demo; you're more in control and you're just putting out what you've been jamming lately.
Beneath the Massacre have always been a technical band. Is staying technical in your songwriting important?
Not really. I mean, I don't think Chris [Bradley] could write anything else but fucked-up music, but we never sit down and say, "Okay, this song's not technical enough, we need to make it harder to play." If anything, it's the opposite. When we're doing pre-production, we try to go back and make it more playable. Sometimes it gets too crazy and we definitely go over the top and it gets harder to nail on stage with too many things going on. We didn't start a band to show off our skills, it just happened to be the type of music we play.
Is it ever exhausting for the band, especially the guitarists, to play these songs live?
Definitely. Justin [Rousselle, drums] and Chris used to have a punk rock band together and they could play for hours and hours, but when you play Beneath the Massacre songs, it's a different story. If it's getting late at night or we drank too much the night before, it can get sloppy on stage. Also, the monitors are the most important thing for us because in other bands, you can still play without hearing yourself, but if we can't hear ourselves, it's pretty much impossible for us to play. I remember especially at the beginning, I tried to get the band to write less complicated riffs so we could just have more fun on stage because I was getting angry. I mean, if Chris can't hear the snare on stage, he just freezes like a deer in headlights, he can't play anything. I'm like, "Dude, just play the song, whatever" and he's like, "You don't understand, I need snare." So it gets frustrating sometimes, but we learn to deal with it. We try to, at least.
Why do so many great tech-death bands come from Montreal?
I think it's just the culture of metal in Montreal and Quebec in general. We grew up listening to Cryptopsy and Gorguts, so for us, when we started listening to death metal we thought this was all regular death metal. Then we realized it's not regular at all, it something more, it's more technical, more complex. There's a culture of extreme music and a lot of musicianship in Montreal, not just in death metal, but all types of metal. Often, the bands from Montreal are a notch more talented; it sounds wrong saying it, but there are a lot of good musicians. In every sphere of metal, it's always well-done music with awesome musicians; I can name bands on and on. Even in terms of fans; we're always proud to come home when we're on tour. The scene is strong here, you can feel it. It's true metal, you know? (Prosthetic)