Well, this seems almost too appropriate, doesn’t it? At a time when life feels its most uncertain and COVID-19 has effectively put the entire globe on lockdown until further notice, a band like Beggar dropping their own destructive and nihilistic worldview feels like an incredibly apt soundtrack (especially with a title that could easily apply to the baffling numbers of people who seem to be blindly ignoring any safety precautions laid out for them). Of course, it’s not like that’s anything more than a coincidence, but considering how regularly applicable this sort of thing has become, there doesn’t seem like a better time for Beggar to release their debut album, topped off by a fairly strong string of live connections to the likes of Eyehategod and Slabdragger that have drummed up significant excitement for Compelled To Repeat in certain scenes. Coupled with the fact that, if nothing else, there’s usually always some form of primal, visceral thrill to be gleaned from music this heavy and oppressively bleak, and Beggar do seem to be hitting all the notes of a successful album rollout.
Granted, it’s not like Beggar are striving to break the mould or do that much beyond the established means of what this sound has achieved already, but that doesn’t mean Compelled To Repeat loses any of its heft or impact. It’s still just as guttural and violent as ever, and there’s something about falling into the skull-crushing, low-end grooves so regularly that really does hit the spot on an album like this. For an album so ingrained within its own genre, Compelled To Repeat is a satisfyingly weighty listen; it’s not the kind to smash the walls of heavy music and open it up to a wider audience, but for doing exactly what it’s aiming to do, Beggar hit their mark with flying colours.
And it is worth saying that a lot of that can be rather predictable, especially for those who are already well-versed in what this sort of sludgy extreme metal is all about. If song titles like The Cadaver Speaks and Trepanned Head Stares At The Sun don’t give that away, the sound certainly does, as pitch-black production coats the carving guitars and, on a track like Black Cloud, some excellently fuzzed-out bass to fully embody the claustrophobia and pressure of the world that it’s being unleashed into. It’s all rather par for the course for this sort of thing, and at its fundamental level, it’s not like Compelled To Repeat is looking to shake that up, but when it’s done this well, it’s hard to complain at the same time. For one, putting less of a focus on sprawling, doom-like passages keeps these songs much tighter and more manageable, though without ever sacrificing how full and complete they feel. Thus, the opportunity for Beggar to play with different sides of extreme metal become more open, and weaving in the abundant classic rock guitar solos or the build to the passage of blast beats on the closing title track give this album the feeling of versatility when, in essence, Beggar are sticking pretty closely to what they know. On top of that, there’s Charlie Davis’ wonderfully feral vocal performance which doesn’t always fall on the most flattering side of the mix balance, but always has the enormity and burning intensity to give the hammer-knell grooves an even more earthshaking presence.
It’s suitably destructive and dark stuff, bathing in its own sense of nihilism and the despair that comes with repetitive behaviour and how constricting that compulsion can be. It’s an interesting concept and one that’s perfectly suited to music like this, even if a lot of the actual words coming from Beggar can be just as applicable to situations outside of the ones they’re looking to explicitly detail. Still, the necessary grimness that extreme music is typically reliant on is here in spades, imbued with the imagery of tracks like Trepanned Head Stares At The Sun and Matryoshka Brain that has all the darkness and volatility one would expect. It’s definitely compelling, and the suffocating atmosphere that Beggar cultivate gives the whole thing an almost insidious sort of magnetism that can be difficult to look away from. Again, it’s all falling rather firmly into an established camp, but Beggar are actually applying those ideas with a bit more thought to augment the familiarity rather than outright replace it.
And for a sound like this that’s so frequently reliant on how well the established formula is adhered to rather than how far it can be spun, that’s the sort of medium that proves incredibly fruitful going forward. The vast majority of Conpelled To Repeat is almost immediately recognisable, but the minor tweaks that Beggar bring do add up rather considerably, and the whole thing seems just that bit fresher as a result. It’s not an exact science, especially when there’s still a good deal that’s operating on the usually letter-for-letter basis, but this is more than just another throwaway example of the sound and that’s encouraging to see. There’s clearly more to Beggar than might initially meet the eye, and to see how far they can actually take that and get away with it is definitely worth paying attention to.
For fans of: Eyehategod, Down, Iron Monkey
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Compelled To Repeat’ by Beggar is released on 3rd April on APF Records.