Several years ago I had the pleasure of seeing Crowbar open for Carcass. While I was a much bigger Carcass fan at the time, I was floored by both bands’ performances. They’re on different ends of the subgenre spectrum, but in the moment the booking made sense. However, the thought didn’t occur to me until now: what if you combined Carcass and Crowbar? The result would be something great, like Beggar’s debut album Compelled To Repeat.
Beggar has all of the sludge/stoner burl of Crowbar and the visceral, spiteful delivery of a band like Carcass. There’s a ton of other bands you could draw comparison to as well: Napalm Death, Neurosis, Eyehategod, and Iron Monkey being a few. But to compare Beggar to a handful of bands doesn’t fully do this album justice. This record may be one of the grimiest things you hear all year, and I mean that in the best way possible. The guitars and bass are corrosive and tarry, the drums are pummeling, and the vocals are projected with rabbid savagery. But all of this is shrouded in an occult smog. The band is deft in creating dark atmospheres while also remaining heavy as hell.
Despite the album title, the band isn’t compelled to repeat themselves much. When the band makes use of repetition it is sparingly, only being used to create hypnotic energy within the chaos that surrounds. “Black Cloud” makes the most use of this, using swirling riffs to put the listener in a trance after they’ve just been bodied seconds beforehand. The song structures are varied yet incredibly cohesive. The band adds so many flourishes between (and even during) different riffs. Look no further than the opening track “Blood Moon”. The tempo changes are seamless, and the fills between verses are enthralling. What starts as a devastating and vile song somehow finds space for a bluesy guitar solo. And just when the song feels like it’s over, the band triples down with hyperspeed blast beats.
The band also injects very brief moments of calm to add the perfect amount of suspense. These moments are used as sparingly as they use blast beats, which makes both occurrences all the more impactful. At 24 seconds in length, “Custody of the Eyes” is the only full calm song we get, albeit an eerie calm. Speaking of eerie song that precedes it, “Trepanned Head Stares at the Sun”, displays an unsettling balance of summery vibes and pure bile. The disturbing contrast makes for a great listen. The bridge of the sagely “Anaesthete” is also very haunting; the band uses dissonant clean guitars to inflict terror upon the listener.
The most sinister cut on the album is “Matryoshka Brain”. The song starts with that bluesy guitar again before the band quickly descends into a dissonant, doomy trudge. It features pointed lyrics like “those who trembled in the caves, tremble now in the skyscrapers”. The song also features a post-metal bridge, sharp syncopated riffs, and a devastating outro. Both vocalists have a strong showing here. Bassist Charlie Davis, Beggar’s primary vocalist, has a blackened shriek that can be likened to Carcass’ Jeff Walker, while guitarist Jake Leyland possesses this deep, guttural roar.
The riffs on Compelled To Repeat are absolutely ferocious. The guitars in the main riff of “Anaesthete” pull apart like mozzarella on pizza, while the riffs on “Tenantless the Graves” move with all of the grace and fragility of a battle tank. The drum parts are really hooky too, be it the fills in “Black Moon” or the tom runs in the intro of “The Cadaver Speaks”. The album closes out with the post-apocalyptic title track, which features some of the band’s most spatial guitar work. While the song starts somber, it evolves into an absolute ripper with a full-on black metal blast beat section, one last bluesy solo, and a brooding, layered doom riff that bookends everything.
I really hope this album gains traction and sweeps the underground like all the bands mentioned at the start of this review have done. I find myself mesmerised more and more with each listen, even going as far as “accidentally” letting it replay in full. Compelled To Repeat is an incredible debut from Beggar – I hope you get as much joy from this bleak, filthy album as I did!
Beggar’s debut album Compelled To Repeat is out April 3rd via APF Records.
Best Tracks: Blood Moon, Matryoshka Brain, Anaesthete, Trepanned Head Stares at the Sun
Weakest Tracks: n/a
FFO: Napalm Death, Eyehategod, Video Nasties
Overall Score: A-