Massacre - From Beyond (1991)Release ID: 10463

Massacre - From Beyond (1991) Cover
Daniel Daniel / December 27, 2023 / Comments 0 / 0

Florida death metal outfit Massacre have always maintained somewhat of a legendary status within death metal circles, primarily off the back of the undeniable pedigree that their list of current & former band members holds as well as the stories around front man Kam Lee having been the inventor of the death metal vocal tool we so lovingly refer to as the "death growl". This makes it a little more interesting that I’d honestly never heard of them prior to their 1991 debut album “From Beyond” hitting the streets. I’d quickly rectify that oversight by purchasing a copy of “From Beyond” on cassette shortly after it was released & giving it repeated return visits in the hope of discovering the true magic that many people claimed it to contain. I’m not sure I ever quite stumbled over the full breadth of Massacre’s appeal though & “From Beyond” has kinda been one that I’ve remembered as a pretty fun release that’s lacking a bit in the depth department. This week’s revisit has been about rekindling my fire for the album & seeing if it really has what it takes to compete with Florida’s finest.

The production job & artwork certainly don’t hurt Massacre’s chances of drawing the attention of your average old-school death metal fan as the record looks & sounds like something that’d appeal to the target audience with a shredtastic rhythm guitar sound & an attractive & gnarly (even if it is pink) cover image. A lineup including ex Mantas/Death drummer & current The Grotesquery front man Kam Lee, former Mantas/Death & current Left To Die guitarist Rick Rozz, former Death/Six Feet Under & current Obituary/Left To Die/Inhuman Condition bassist Terry Butler & former Death drummer Bill Andrews certainly doesn’t hurt Massacre’s cause either as they clearly possessed a strong death metal pedigree, even more so when you consider that Obituary/Six Feet Under axeman Allen West was a former member too. But if you look at that lineup with an unbiased & impartial magnifying glass, you can also see the limitations that stop Massacre from achieving a higher position in my Florida death metal hierarchy.

Hhhmmmmm... it's sounding like ol' Daniel's gonna pull out some constructive criticism here, isn't it? But let’s not paint Kam Lee with that brush as his vocals are excellent on “From Beyond”. Lee really proves a point here with a muscular & aggressive performance that I'd suggest is the clear highlight of the Massacre sound. It’s more in the instrumental contributions that we find the limitations I was referring to. You see, Massacre opt for a VERY straight-forward brand of death metal indeed. There’s no doubt that they do it exceptionally well but I do still find myself craving a little more… I dunno… class perhaps? Rick Rozz’ riffs are certainly tightly performed but I do have to say that they’re very basic in their makeup & would sound a lot like generic thrash metal if given a traditional tuning & a different guitar tone a lot of the time. As with former band mate Allen West, Rozz’ guitar solos have always been built around the heavy (over)use of whammy bar histrionics rather than any sort of melodic composition too & you’ll rarely find a better example of that than we do here. And then, the rhythm section of Butler & Andrews have never been known for their musicality either, have they? Both have pretty much built their careers on providing simple yet rock solid beats that accentuate the riffs of the guitarist(s) & that’s what they do here too.

Now, that might sound a little negative but in truth the tracklisting on “From Beyond” is completely blemish-free. It’s the lack of any truly mind-blowing death metal anthems that’s the limiting factor here. Only opener “Dawn of Eternity” & the very solid “Succubus” come closest to meeting a top tier Florida standard but both see their potential capped out by their sheer simplicity. The song-writing is certainly catchy as the structures are quite traditional & the choruses usually just repeat the song-title so I find myself enjoying the ride but rarely feeling like the music is commanding me to go all in. The potential for those sort of feelings is perennially curtailed by just how meat-&-potatoes “From Beyond” is to tell you the truth. I can’t see that being a significant issue for a lot of the death metal fanbase (& it clearly isn’t based on the general feeling on “From Beyond”) but it appears to be for me.

Don’t get me wrong, “From Beyond” is a more than decent representation of the death metal model. It’s just not a great one in my opinion so I don’t place it on the same lofty pedestal as the work of Massacre's main competitors of the time (see Death & Obituary who both did this sound much better). Instead, I feel like we're destined to eternally see "From Beyond" sitting in the middle rows with the Cancer’s & Benediction’s which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. It’s perhaps just not in line with Massacre’s reputation, that’s all.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / June 27, 2021 / Comments 0 / 0

There’s few death metal bands out there who can boast the list of names that Massacre have had in their ranks over the past thirty seven years. A speed/heavy/power metal band until the arrival of Kam Lee and Allen West saw the band adopt death metal as their chosen style, the band have had one of the most tumultuous histories in terms of line-up changes and legal disputes. Amazingly still active to this day the band for me only ever really put out one significant release, From Beyond in 1991.

This album showcased the layered vocals of Kam Lee brilliantly. Lee is considered by many as being the founding father of the “death growl” on the band’s 1986 demo Aggressive Tyrant. His vocal style has graced the ranks of Death (as backing vocals and he also did drums) as far back as 1984 and his Nattravnen project as recently as 2018. Listen to From Beyond though and you will hear all manner of sounds that showed commonality with existing behemoths such as Obituary, Morbid Angel and Master.

Now let us be clear here, From Beyond is not that unique an album. You won’t find anything on here that wasn’t done on Slowly We Rot, Master’s self-titled, or even Cancer’s To The Gory End the previous two years to Massacre’s debut coming out. What you will find distinctive is Lee’s vocals but also the gnarly edge to proceedings. Those riffs could easily open cuts on your cheeks and brows if you were stood too close to them but overall, the album has an intensity to it that is relentless. They intersperse the odd song with an intro here and there but mostly this is pound for pound a heavyweight death metal record that is out to do some harm.

With Terry Butler handling bass duties, Rick Rozz on guitar and Bill Andrews on drums (the latter two being founding members) it is kind of hard to expect anything else really. These were all established musicians, responsible for some of the most extreme metal of the time who had worked on the superb Leprosy or Spiritual Healing albums with Chuck Schuldiner and therefore brought a wealth of experience to the table (some of it built in Massacre and further developed in Death). This was death metal royalty of the time, and it shows on From Beyond. Notwithstanding that it is not entirely unique in sound it is so very well put together, so clearly thought through and planned in terms of composition and writing that it just cannot fail to make any death metal fan sit up and take notice of it.

Rozz’s riffs have a thrashy edge to them most definitely and probably are nearer to Master’s brand of death/thrash – albeit they are slightly more coherent and stable in comparison. Andrews does a sterling job as you would expect behind the skins, and it sounds like he was able to transpose the energy and enthusiasm he has for the genre onto the record. It is easy to track his performance across all nine tracks and he remains audible in the more intense passages and unobtrusive on the calmer stretches. Butler’s subtle twangy bass is harder to pick out at first but it is there when you knuckle down to the whole listening experience and you can pick it out clearly if you concentrate.

There is a cavernous depth to Lee’s vocals that reverberate around in the same abyss that the rest of the instruments dwell in. The whole album sounds like it was recorded underground, on moving tectonic plates. It has a rumble to it throughout the album but also a feeling of dread and of doom (not sounding like doom though) accompanies pretty much all the album. As a result, it has a grimy feel to it, sounding like it was recorded to make you feel uncomfortable. It is like whilst it is clubbing you over the head with unhindered vigour at the same time it is stroking your cheek or running a clawed finger around the circumference of your lips.

Whilst it holds an undeniable macabre charm to it, From Beyond does still have its limitations and I cannot say I play it all that often when compared with some of the other bands I mention above. At the end of the day, it does not put a foot wrong, but it also does not distance itself all that well from what was available in abundance at the time already and as great as it is there is not much justification for calling it a classic. Most of the band’s members had arguably exhausted their best output in Death by the time they ever got around to committing their own material to tape. Therefore, From Beyond’s legacy seems to be that it will forever be known as an often overlooked death metal album from the genre’s heyday.


Release info

Release Site Rating

Ratings: 4 | Reviews: 2


Release Clan Rating

Ratings: 4 | Reviews: 2


Cover Site Rating

Ratings: 4


Cover Clan Rating

Ratings: 3

From Beyond
The Horde
Death Metal

Death Metal (conventional)

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