For those unaware, Machines of Corruption attempted to take the group into much more of an epic direction comparable to a cross between Blind Guardian and Manowar. For As the Spires Fall, Beyond Fallen return to their traditional heavy metal roots with tinges of power metal riffage throughout, complete with a far better sounding audio quality compared to it. While still favoring a slightly thinner presence in the mastering than we’ve seen lately, the digital quality still leaves each instrument and the vocals sounding crisp and powerful enough to get your head banging along with each passing piece of metal infection drilled into your ear drums.
Once you clear the traditional epic build of the introductory track “The Arrival”, you’re thrust back into the band’s glory days with “Return of the Sky Gods”. The mixture of lighter main verses with a hint of Iron Maiden melody compliments the addictive, slightly faster chorus with hints of Nordic Amon Amarth style hooks that play up the subject matter perfectly. “As the Spires Fall” takes that enthusiasm and folds in some slower main verses that cause the powerful chorus to simply pop the moment it kicks into gear. While easily one of the group’s best, the closing could have used a little more range in the vocals. Instead of holding on to the same pitch for a few seconds, I found myself becoming frustrated that it didn’t drop an octave for the sake of melody given how the music changes and doesn’t stick with the held consistency of that note. Sure, it’s nit-picking, but it’s the only blemish on an otherwise flawless performance.
But these faster cuts are not all As The Spires Fall has to offer. “The Great Distance” is the lightest, most diverse track of the release, finding vocalist Joe Karavis partaking in some somber clean singing during the more depressing main verses and bridging segments. It’s not bad, but his presence feels lacking sometimes, especially in the heavier passages craving a little more action to them over time, even if it is a stronger layered attribute like what appears as the song begins to fade or a backing falsetto from time to time beyond the first chorus which does seem to briefly pull it off but in too muted a fashion to have the desired impact. This and the aforementioned thinner sounding mastering leaves the folkier performance a bit barren before the pace picks up about four minutes in, and even a bit after. You also have “Seven Scorpions”, which is the only track to feel at all like filler. While keeping with the overall theme, it just doesn’t have the same quality as the others, often feeling disjointed between how the guitars sometimes clash with the rattling bass and drum presence. The guitar solo, however, is the best part with how everything comes together to present a stronger Egyptian theme on par with the overall tone of early Nile recordings or even “Egypt” by Mercyful Fate.
Even though the first few tracks together feel as though you’re sitting through a live performance from Beyond Fallen, that power does kind of stop abruptly come “Destroying Reality”. This one immediately breaks the flow of the release in favor of a slower, gloom filled bout of grandeur with riffs and an atmosphere on par to “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, a band you could often hear traces of in their works over the years, but not to this extent. While not bad, it ends up detrimental due to its placement on the release, as if force-feeding you a handful of Ritalin and commanding you to sit down and listen to a slow-moving opus after downing one of those large pixie stick tubes in one sitting. Given the finality the song carries, it would have made more sense to put it at the end following “Razor Wire Halo”, which just sounds like the band collectively woke up pissed off and wrote a song developed specifically to slam your face into the gravel and slowly scrape it along the jagged rocks. This thick slab of metal is accentuated with traces of Judas Priest authority in the attitude and backing falsettos that just add an extra edge of aggression to the mix, a superb choice given the inclusion of their post-Machines of Corruption single “Hatecrown” towards the end which could have been handled as bonus track had “Destroying Reality” actually wrapped up the newly recorded material.
While Machines of Corruption was a good departure from the norm, it didn’t quite have that Beyond Fallen spirit that has made them the well oiled metal machine they have become. As if the group didn’t even care too much for the change in the long run, we find them back to doing what they do best, though not too close-minded to dabbling with other ideas. While the folk influence common to the group’s later output is still felt in the material, it’s hard to ignore a subtle norse and middle eastern presence in the guitar work and drumming that bares some melodic death metal fangs at times without going overboard and breaking the signature sound of this act, adding a little more variety than their last two albums had shown. Despite a few hiccups along the way, As the Spires Fall is not only the energetic third album long-time fans have waited over nine years for, but something it seems the group simply needed to get off their chest. If you’re a fan of heavy metal overall, this is something you won’t want to pass up.