Kiwi four-piece Beastwars have shared the stage with the likes of Helmet, High on Fire and the Melvins. Their self-titled, self-released debut (rightly) won a New Zealand Music Award for best artwork for its two gorgeous gatefold paintings – inside and outside – by Nick Heller, and the record itself is a finalist for “Best Rock Album.”
It’s a long list of accomplishments for a band just releasing their first record, but damned if Beastwars’ Beastwars doesn’t stand up to the quality, taking the less-explicitly Southern elements of early Alabama Thunderpussy’s crunchy riffing and injecting it with some Voivod-type dangerousness and grunge-based moody swagger in its quiet moments.
Beastwars – vocalist Matt Hyde (not the recording engineer), guitarist Clayton Anderson, bassist James Woods (not the actor) and drummer Nathan Hickey – balance accessibility with an underground mindset. Their songs are deceptively catchy, and they hone in on riff rock without ever completely giving way to the conventions of the genre. Hell, on the airy, late-arriving “Cthulhu,” they border on Radiohead’s pre-indulgence ‘90s radio days. Their spectrum is broad, but the sound consistent, and they work well within the contrast of the two.