To say that 2023 has been a whirlwind for New York death metal band Undeath would be an understatement. Having toured their native USA, played sell out shows in Australia, alongside appearances at Europe’s top festivals (including a set at Download, reviewed here), the band make their third trip to the UK as support for Municipal Waste. In the midst of this activity guitarist Kyle Beam took time out to speak to The Midlands Rocks.
It’s been a wild ride since the band formed in 2018. Did you always believe the band would take you this far, or do you constantly have to pinch yourself?
Lots of pinching! When we started the band we formed just to play local shows, I didn’t expect anyone to listen, our first release was early 2019 and it got a great response, way more than I ever thought, and the same can be said for every release since.
This year in particular has been hectic for Undeath. How have you survived, and do you feel like road warriors now?
No, we’re not road warriors! We’re on the road now with Municipal Waste and they’ve been touring for 20 years or more, but we’re getting there…we’re certainly more professional than we were a few years ago.
Do you have a highlight of the past year, I thought your set at Download was amazing.
That’s definitely one of the highlights, for sure. We toured Australia, and we’re back in the UK for the third time this year. I love playing here at The Craufurd Arms (reviewed here), it’s a great venue with great staff. Download was a big highlight, it was awesome.
As you mentioned, this is your third time in the UK inside 10 months. What’s the magnetic pull that keeps you coming back?
Because you keep asking us! [laughs] It’s an awesome country, the shows are always great and the beer’s great!
In numerical terms Undeath live shows in the UK is second only to the USA. Do you feel you have a special relationship?
Definitely. I really love the UK because you’ve got a lot of history. In the States you don’t have anything pre-1776. We get on here pretty well.
I saw you last time you played The Craufurd Arms, but this time it is a more mixed bill with the crossover of Municipal Waste and the hardcore of Gel. How have the shows been going down with the fans.
It’s been awesome. This is night four, all show have been sold-out, the crowd reaction has been great for all the bands. I think all three groups share fans, they kind of overlap, but there’s people here to see individual bands as well, but it’s a really great package with three really great bands.
How do you feel you slot in with Gel and Municipal Waste?
We’re a little darker, but we bring a similar mentality of good tunes and good times, and everyone’s here to riff. As I said, every band has got good tunes, and that’s the most important thing to have.
I’ve seen Undeath live a few times and your shows remind me more of a hardcore gig; there’s people windmill kicking and walls of death, so what’s the crossover appeal there do you think?
I grew up going to local hardcore shows because there wasn’t a ton of metal bands to go and see every single day, but there was always hardcore shows happening in town. I don’t know if that influence comes across in the music so much, but we always try to have a good heavy riff in a song, but you know; mosh how you want!
The band hails from upstate New York which, apart from Cannibal Corpse, is not my first thought when thinking death metal. Did this musical isolation help you shape a unique sound?
Yes, I grew up smack in the middle of a farm, so there was really no music around me. Syracuse was the nearest city to me and they had a hardcore scene, bands such as Earth Crisis, I also liked Japanese Hardcore. But I do think the isolation helped shape our unique style.
Undeath have become famed for a full-on live show. People will always expect this now. So do you feel as if you’ve set a dangerous precedent?
For me there’s two aspects to a great live show; a) the band has got to be “on” and great on stage, they’ve got to sound good and be tight, then b) audience participation is a huge aspect. I do love to play a good show with an excited audience.
I’m sure there’s some nights you’d rather be at home with your partner. So how do you fire yourself up to be on point every gig?
A really loud amplifier definitely helps! When you get on stage, the crowd cheers and you have an amplifier blasting at your back, it is hard not to get excited.
Recently you’ve been throwing some new songs into the set. How have they gone down?
Awesome, one we’ve been playing since January and we’ve added two more now. I love playing them. In Undeath, I like variety, having songs in different keys or different tempos, and these three songs are very different than each other and it makes for a colourful set, or as colourful as death metal can be.
How indicative are these songs of the new album?
Quite. I can’t be too specific about the new album, but we’ve got a great collection of songs, we’ve tried to take what we’ve done before an up it.
Although Bassist Tommy Wall and guitarist Jared Welch were in the band when you recorded your second album, now they are fully ensconced in the band, so have have they altered the dynamic in recording the new album?
Everyone has input as to the song arrangements, if we all feel a song should be changed, then there’s never any hard feelings about that. Most times we’ll all bring a track and then work on it together. Tommy and Jared have both got tracks on the new record, they’ve definitely influenced the way I write my arrangements and it feels more cohesive than ever.
Perhaps more than other genres, death metal is constrained by self-imposed rules. Do you have any plans to break out of those shackles to expand you sound even further?
The genre is definitely defined by the troupes, and I’ve never assumed the obvious troupes of death metal. I love drop-tuned guitars, double kick drumming, guttural vocals, I’d never change anything about that, and I do like the way we’ve worked our way into a more tuneful style, it’s more focus on vocal hooks and tuneful guitars. Death metal can get one-tracked real fast, so we focus on different keys.
As we mentioned, this year has been pretty hectic, so how easy is it to slot back into normal life?
I’m a gamer, I play a lot of video games, I also practice guitar, but I just like to keep it how it is on the road. At first it can be a little weird going home because there’s not something to do every single moment of the day and you’re not waiting around to do stuff all the time.
Finally, if I had a magic wand and could make one dream come true for Undeath, what’d it be?
We get Jeff Hanneman back and we go on tour with Slayer!