Beheaded from little Malta went on to become one of the bigger brutal death metal bands of the 00s but their debut Perpetual Mockery was a somewhat different animal from the relatively orthodox Suffocation-leanings they adopted later on. Perpetual Mockery saw light during a global lull for death metal, when most big names had petered away to a lukewarm, appeasing, soulless mid-life crisis. What did death metal even sound like in the period leading up to the 00s? The initial impetus consumed, most bands, especially on the European front, were content adopting a far more streamlined, compromised stance, in some cases even verging into outright non-metal territory, not too far separated from their immediate lineages in rock and punk. Beheaded were one of the first to look across oceans and whole-heartedly embrace the percussive, atonal musings of their American counterparts while retaining, like forebears Seance, just enough of a traditionally melodic slant to distinguish themselves.
As is the norm for the New York style of battery, the drum beat is the point of emphasis in rhythm on many of these songs, the guitar merely serving to embellish this instant with more flavour. Choppier and more punctuated than general Scandinavian death metal, peppered with an elephantine groove particular to the North American continent, guitars are consistent with the intricate right-hand work of a Monstrosity cross-bred with Suffocation. But Beheaded also embed this barbaric surface demeanour with exquisitely crafted and suppressed melodies, in many ways referencing the early 90s Floridian school of death metal along with the doom of Europe; where most brutal death metal is centered in the moment, Beheaded reach for something of the ether, often summoning a surprisingly delicate, nuanced air to their progressions. ‘Ethereal Passages’, to illustrate a point, is on par with the great metal instrumentals, displaying a depth of pathos and self-awareness one normally doesn’t associate with this style.
Beheaded were on to something special with this particular incarnation; counter to most listless wham-bam brutal death, these are songs composed explicitly to overcome their base foundations, aiming for a higher ideal. Their latter work, as technically accomplished and enjoyable as it has been, can’t hold a candle to the ambition they displayed on their debut. Perpetual Mockery is living document of the worm in the gutter struggling to rise above its station; the outcome doesn’t matter, the strife itself becomes reason for existence.