Early Music for Metalheads Part 2: Organum

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The influence of classical Greek thought was present in most aspects of intellectual life in the middle ages. Aristotelian thought is central to the works of Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the best known theologian of the era and neoplatonism was influential on those theologians of a more mystical inclination. In the musical world, the basis of medieval music theory – the Church modes – was derived directly from the medieval understanding of Greek musical theory. This musical theory had its origins in the Pythagorean school. Pythagoras was the first westerner to record the mathematical relationships between pitches and used these relationships to derive musical modes. Related to this was the idea, also attributed to Pythagoras, of the music of the spheres, the concept that the proportions of the movements of celestial bodies create an inaudible music that is superior to any form of audible music. Implied in this idea is the belief that audible music should microcosmically re-create this celestial music.

 

Medieval music theorists did not interpret this Pythagorean conception of music as a mere metaphor. There existed a consensus that certain musical intervals were superior to others by virtue of their simpler and therefore more universal harmonic ratios. As a result the earliest examples of organum in medieval music involved the doubling of a chant melody at a consonant interval (1). Over time this practice evolved organically, with the added voice being granted greater independence from the original melody. Eventually organum evolved into a practice where the notes of the chant melody were extended into lengthy drones while the added voice sung extended composed melismas. This practice was known as florid organum.

 

This example shows an earlier form of organum with the added voice having some independence, however parallel consonsances still form a significant component of the musical texture.

 

This next example comes from the St. Martial of Limoges school of composition which produced a large number of works in the 12th century. This piece is not based on a chant melody and is therefore not an organum but rather a conductus. This shows the trend towards more freely composed music.

 

By the latter part of the 12th century the practice of organum was widespead across Europe and numerous theoretical treatises had been produced which shed light on the musical thought of the time. One of these treatises came from an English music student studying in Notre-Dame, Paris, who is known only as Anonymous IV. He wrote at length about the two musical masters working out of Notre-Dame whom he called Leonin and Perotin. If not for Anonymous IV’s treatise the names of these composers would not be known. Together these composers made a number of significant innovations in the composition of organum and other genres which ushered in a new era of musical composition and played a key role in the eventual development of counterpoint and harmony.

 

The older of the two composers of the Notre-Dame school, Leonin, is best known for his organum duplum (organum with one voice added to a chant melody) which employ a form of rhythmic organisation using six rhythmic modes (short rhythmic patterns). Leonin’s younger contemporary, Perotin, was probably the earliest composer to add a third and fourth voice in his organum. He was therefore instrumental in the development of counterpoint of which his music is an early example albeit following different rules to those that governed the counterpoint of later composers. Perotin also utilised the six rhythmic modes although in contrast to Leonin’s free and improvisatory use of these modes Perotin created thematic structures from these rhythmic materials which were developed and varied throughout a piece. Through the use of this and other techniques Perotin composed organum which were an early example of large scale, structured compositions of the kind which became the standard during the common practice period.

 

This example is a somewhat stylised performance of an organum composed by Leonin. The use of rhythmic modes and melismas above a chant melody are made quite clear.

 

And here we have one of Perotin’s two surviving organum quadruplum: Sederunt Principes.

 

 


[1] It may be of interest to note here that this doubling of a melody at a consonant interval is precisely the same technique as playing a melody in power chords rather than single notes since the melodic line is doubled at the fifth.

Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody reveals first single

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After parting ways with Rhapsody of Fire, legendary mastermind Luca Turilli started his own project officially called “Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody”. The style of this new Rhapsody echoed the style that Turilli was recognized for in his own solo projects.

 

The project saw its first release in 2012 with Ascending to Infinity. Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody is now set to release a second album on June 19th.

 

https://www.facebook.com/ltrhapsody?fref=ts

 

Antropofago to release second full-length

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Modern technical metal band Antropofago is set to release Æra Dementiæ, which was originally set to be released in 2014 but has been delayed until this year, August 14th.

 
Limited to 500 copies, Kaotoxin Records will release the album as a deluxe DigiSleeve double CD featuring an expanded version of  Between Fear and Madness. Æra Dementiæ, features guest appearances by past and current members of Gorod, Insain, Nephren-Ka and Savage Annihilation.

 
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Obsession’s Carnival of Lies to be reissued

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US. heavy metal band Obsession will be releasing a re-issue of their album Carnival of Lies (a reunion album originally released in 2006 that is now out of print) through Inner Wound Recordings. Carnival of Lies is set to be released on July 27th in Europe and on Jul 24th in the U.S.

Track listing

  1. Smoking Gun
  2. Carnival of Lies
  3. In for the Kill
  4. Playing Dead
  5. Imagining
  6. The Offering
  7. Pure Evil
  8. I Don’t Belong
  9. Written in Blood
  10. Guilty as Charged
  11. Marshall Law
  12. Panic in the Streets
  13. Judas

 

Obsession “Carnival of Lies” line-up:
Michael Vescera [Animetal USA, ex Loudness, Yngwie Malmsteen] – Vocals
Jay Mezias – Drums
Scott Boland [MVP] – Guitars
John Bruno [X Factor X] – Guitars
Chris Mccarvill [House of Lords, ex Dokken, Jeff Scott Soto] – Bass

Obsession online
Website: www.theobsession.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/obsessionmetal

 

Dew-Scented – Intermination (2015)

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Having been called everything from thrash to death or melodic death metal, Dew-Scented play metalcore in its original inception, as inspired by At the Gates’ style on Slaughter of the Soul.  Everything from the simple drums which half of the time fall into variations of fast d-beats, catchy and short melodic ideas on the guitars with a tendency towards breakdowns for variety, to the blatant imitation of Tomas Lindberg. Being an heir to this tradition reviled by the fans of the old school styles and hailed as an improvement and distillation of the best aspects of the older music by the mainstream audience, Intermination invites a comparison with At the Gates’ come back album released last year, At War with Reality.

 

While the seminal band tried to bridge a gap between fans of its older and later styles by taking its metalcore-founding album and introducing more complex elements as visited in Terminal Spirit Disease and vaguely from With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness, thereby creating a middle-of-the-road offering that pleased neither group, Dew-Scented plant themselves solidly on the style developed in Slaughter of the Soul and part faithfully from there to create variations without bringing down the delicate and extremely constricted walls delimiting the definition of this minimalist, extreme pop genre.

 

Being the catchy, duple-time riff-fest that this genre is, Dew-Scented do a phenomenal job at creating solid, punching riffs which if not necessarily connect concretely with each other too well throughout a song (given the shock-oriented nature of this modern style), go a long way to maintain the drive of songs by switching and keeping the overall feel, avoiding the over-use of a particular riff. Without any ill-will towards this talented band, we must clarify that the album presents a very flat result, which is a necessary result of the definition of the genre as driven by impacting riffs and sonic shock tactics. The tight upholding of ideals of the genre in Dew-Scented’s hands, even with their carefully and appropriately crafted variations, becomes a hindrance in the context of a crippling genre.

 

Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror (2015)

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Compiling gestures from throughout legendary band Blind Guardian’s discography, Beyond the Red Mirror shows us a synthesis of their journey, bringing in their late 1980s style along with updates in the power and so-called symphonic metal up to the present state of affairs in said genres.  As such, this album’s strongest uniting element is the band’s own style, which lies in great part in the vocal approach of Hansi Kürsch. Apart from that, there is an evident diversity in the songwriting that ranges from the mediocre, to the best power metal from any period can offer. But it should be stressed that the consistency in style is still very strong and this along with the sober and talented songwriting skills of Blind Guardian lend a coherence to the music that set it on another level completely apart from the distracted music the vast majority of bands of its kind display. This is also something the band has improved on compared to its earlier albums where the anxiety to insert interludes bordered on gimmick instead of having them moderately and carefully contribute to the aura of the album.

 

Despite bringing a mature and experienced offering in Beyond the Red Mirror, Blind Guardian is not immune to the pitfalls of the power and “symphonic” metal subgenres. Some of the tracks still fall into simple catchy grooves with little thematic substance and straight-up pop structures. Some may raise their hands against this last comment, but in the context of the nature of power metal, a genre driven by standard chord progressions and simple, catchy tunes, having a strong theme is very important since the music is almost all about this. This is why choruses are so important in power metal as well (that and the fact that it is essentially pop music going on metal). The clearest example of this in the album is the fifth track, “Ashes of Eternity”, which is unabashedly a pop, pseudo symphonic metal track that relies almost entirely on groove, which indicates an empty song.

 

As for the highlights,  the band has some truly outstanding features in the album like very smooth tonicizations that elongate sections or connect two different sections smoothly in away that does not break up the melody but rather transforms the song, giving it the aforementioned variety within consistent style and coherent expression. I would like to point the audience in the direction of the fourth track (which is taken from their previous album), “At the Edge of Time” , for a remarkable example of this. This track contains all the cliche elements of modern power metal. The spoken word, the beginning without drums and only guitar melodies, the heavy synth “orchestration”.  But here they point strongly in a direction, they all seem to be working together for the concept, and actually carrying the song forward surely and decidedly through passages, ravines, forests that take your breath away through the power of expectation, prolongation and the shifting of the harmonic goal so that the moment you are almost there, a new vista is revealed. Each a vital support for the leading vocal melody, the different ideas in the smoothly connected sections build on and connect strongly with each other here, an exemplary lesson for metal composition of any kind.

 

The appropriate, technically efficient and inspiring guitar solos come when expected and do not steal the show. This in itself should be a lesson for power metal bands. Blind Guardian have also finally reached a point (which they have been approaching throughout their discography) where the music does not seem to be entirely about the saccharine expression of the vocals or screechy guitar melodies that do not add anything to the construction of the music except superficial flare. This is a mature band that has released in Beyond the Red Mirror one of the best records this genre can offer, which is admittedly very limited by its very nature. In spite of this, and contrary to personal preference complaints (the overdubbing of the vocals this guy always does is beyond irritating), I have to say that if you absolutely have to listen to this sort of music, then listen to Blind Guardian.

Withering Soul to release new album

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Withering Soul’s upcoming album, Adverse Portrait, was engineered and mixed by Chris Wisco at Belle City Sound, and mastered by Dennis Israel at Clintworks Audio. Cover art is by Pierre-Alain D of 3mmi Design. The album is due out June 9 via Mortal Music.

 

Tracklist:

 

  1. Vestige
  2. No Longer Within
  3. The Dreadful Echo
  4. Awakening
  5. Hour of Obstinacy
  6. Hex Illusion
  7. Shadow Path
  8. In Absence

 

 

Vehemence to release new full-length

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Following an entire decade without a new album, Phoenix-based melodic death metal band,Vehemence, return to full-time duty in 2015, having reactivated the band and completed their fourth full-length studio full-length, Forward Without Motion, which is now set for release this Autumn via Battleground Records.

 

Vehemence will release Forward Without Motion through Battleground Records on October 27th in various formats, including a 2xLP set on 180-gram black vinyl in gatefold packaging, a CD version, and across various digital platforms.

 

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http://soundcloud.com/vehemenceofficial

http://twitter.com/vehemenceaz

http://www.youtube.com/vehemenceband

Xibalba release video for “Guerrilla”

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Protest deathcore band Xibalba have released a new video for their song “Guerrilla”. Playing an easy-to-understand style of heavy music for the masses, Xibalba find a strong audience among the disenfranchised members of the lower echelons of society looking for validation and a call to revolution by catering to their mental needs in their gang-themed revolution lyrics.