Obscura – Akroasis (2016)

Akroasis

Akroasis stands proud as a representative of cracked out incoherent sugar high penguin of doom random technical “death” metal, and even has a cover that looks like various forms of congealed sugar melting together into a nutrition-free whole. It is truly the perfect product – a deceptively simplistic and potentially addictive recording with little in the way of more rewarding development. Obscura’s efforts on this album alternate between either random gibberish or surprisingly basic song constructions that don’t quite fit the apparent intent and would be shockingly obvious were they not surrounded by thousands of rapid fire notes like a swarm of flies around rotting meat.

One thing that makes reviewing Akroasis particularly easier is how the first track (“Sermon of the Seven Suns”) encapsulates so much of what Obscura is attempting to do. Much has been made of what this band takes from Death, particularly from their later traditional/death fusion works, but the most patronizing is the circular song structures. “Sermon of the Seven Suns” doesn’t have a lot of content, and after an intro arguably inspired by Cynic, it awkwardly rotates between its two major sections of rapidfire blasting and slow jazz fusion jams. The band uses some basic modulation techniques to disguise the repetition, particularly in the first section, but the overall structure does little more than hide the excessively basic structure. While the band’s apparent devotion to this on this track is vaguely admirable for how holistic it is (extending even to the lyrics), it doesn’t make for particularly compelling listening once the shock factor of Obscura’s instrumental proficiency wears off. At best, they’re slightly more creative than Chuck Schuldiner was with song structures – as an FYI, pretty much everything Death put out went main section -> bridge -> repetition of main section -> who needs a coda anyways?

The rest of Akroasis is more densely packed with content, but instead of employing the care and diligence required to shape these into anything coherent, it just falls into all of the typical metalcore traps, so it sounds less like an album and more like a checklist of errors. Besides what I’ve already mentioned in dissecting the first track, Obscura’s songwriting is full of aesthetic novelties (vocoders, non-metal instruments for no apparent reason) and they even incorporate a goofy breakdown in “The Monist” because apparently, metalcore musicians just can’t resist the temptation. Obscura would be a much better band if they could resist their vices, but were they to try and succeed, they would probably become completely unrecognizable to their fans. Why would they bother? The disorganized candy coated tech-death approach seems to be netting them enough fans.

Dystopia revisited: The political trap

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Metal journalists are yet again falling into to the trap that of believing that the differences in their political opinions and those of the bands they cover are somehow a valid criterion for judging the overall merit of the music they’re listening to. It happens every day when a prospective metalhead first learns about Burzum, and it more recently has permeated how we interact with the horde of propaganda bands out there who never let a good song get in the way of a good slogan. Megadeth’s latest full-length (Dystopia) wasn’t quite that heavy handed as a mouthpiece for Dave Mustaine’s politics (and indeed, I found it to be a banal and sterile experience compared to the band’s more ambitious early work on its musical elements alone), but it expresses enough of an opinion through its lyrics that it stung a few dissenters.

Illustrating this neurosis today are two reviews of Megadeth’s latest that are more concerned with David Mustaine’s politics than his musical efforts. First, a writer for the AV Club had to stress that even though they enjoyed the music, they were also certain that “…there’s simply no room in our already fear-laden culture for any more xenophobia”. Another review hosted on Cisternyard Media is more critical of the music, but is otherwise similar in its condemnation. Interestingly, they explicitly mention a similar level of political fervor in Megadeth’s earlier works, which doesn’t exactly attract their vitriol, and therefore helps to illustrate the writers’ specific beef with their positions.

These reviewers’ criticisms read like a poorly written tutorial on how to be the perfect social justice warrior, railing against the injustices that are clearly inherent in Dystopia‘s lyrics that therefore requiring immediate shaming and censorship, and then making lasting friends with other like-minded people in the process. The other major problem with these reviews is that they discuss the actual sound and execution of the music in an exceedingly shallow manner at best, instead choosing to be seduced by Megadeth’s technical wizardry. Given that they’ve already rejected Dystopia for not being politically kosher, I’m not expecting them to attempt more advanced topics, such as “Does Dystopia‘s songwriting effectively complement the themes Dave Mustaine is trying to convey?”, but that is a venial sin at best, given that your average metal critic cares little for musical analysis. If they continue to pursue their political vendettas, though, the odds of them writing anything significant on these subjects is nil.

Classical and Pop Metal – Part 2 (Inadequacy of Existing Definitions)

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Article by David Rosales, 2nd installment of a 7 part series; read the first part here

Most people with no formal training regard pop as a subset of the many kinds of music genres they can possibly listen to that are not considered “classical”. This implies a delimited genre that is easy to listen to, particularly repetitive, and with a strong emphasis on catchy choruses that form the whole of the content. It’s considered superficial even by those who profess to love it, who do so in a tongue-in-cheek manner. It’s all about the fun, they say. Classical music actually has two definitions, but the popular take on it is that it’s boring and long-winded music written and performed by some old men and nerds at school.

Modern academia unofficially defines “popular music” simply as “everything that is not what we do”. Sadly, they impress upon this broader group the same restrictions that non-academics would on their particular “pop” genre. It is obvious to anyone who explores so-called popular music beyond The Beatles or Michael Jackson that this definition is more of a belligerent and dismissive gesture than a sincere attempt at distinguishing what is a much richer well of music. In short, it is an indirect way to claim the irrelevance of anything that is not academic music.

When confronted with this reality, either through accidental exposition (such as a music teacher dealing with the musical tastes of a classroom with varied musical backgrounds) or as a result of a casual debate, it is not uncommon to see academics jump through hoops to justify an out of hand prejudice or a forced humanist humility that will accept the most vulgar and banal musics as a valid expression of the soul. In either case, real discernment is sorely missing. Also, that the musical academic establishment hilariously wants to keep calling itself “classical tradition” when they have abandoned all but the most materialistic of the original precepts is a sign of their arbitrary and lazy attitude towards music that is not spoon-fed to them (oddly, a reflection of the same attitude of most mundane popular music listeners).

When we accept that music goes beyond mere forms, beyond parts and consists not only of the instruments, or the notes, or the intentions but is truly an entity completely apart born from these elements, we tacitly acknowledge that the terms used to describe genres most also go beyond the surface and take into account holistic considerations. For this, both current uses of the terms “popular” and “classical” music are not only unsuitable, but defined unevenly. While pop music is defined in very narrow and simplistic terms, classical music is considered this vast and unrestricted attitude that is only tied together “objectively” through the most superficial and politically-motivated arguments.

Those with a serious background in academic music would readily accept that correct distinctions have to lie at a metaphysical level, even though we must necessarily judge them through concrete notes and forms. It is here that the average person becomes bewildered, at a loss since he is no longer able to make universal egalitarian statements. The key to untangling this moral conundrum is to be truly scientific about the matter and take into account the context at several different levels, in which music develops. The distinction between the broad groups distinguished through our new “classical” and “pop” (to avoid using the noun) terms take on a much more abstract though still nebulous character.

That it is abstract does not mean that it cannot be decided or that concrete music analysis cannot be applied. It simply means that strong contextualization is a must, and that the fact that art can never be objective, because the whole of the human experience is itself necessarily subjective. This in no moment means that standards should be lowered, but that standards should be understood not at a superficial level of complexity, but in the interplay between intention and realization in proper context. For this, the concepts of natural and artificial, inner and outer, as well as transcendence need be discussed and understood.

Artillery to release Penalty by Perception

Back in the late ’80s, Artillery was (to my understanding) one of the more musically literate speed metal bands out there, arguably peaking in commercial success on By Inheritance, which like many late ’80s and early ’90s releases in the genre reflected a more polished, assimilated, and mainstream take on the various ideas present in the genre. Artillery reformed in 2007 and has attempted to capture something of that era with their albums since; Penalty by Perception will release on March 25th and bears at least a superficial resemblance to the band’s previous material on first inspection. For the band’s sake, let’s hope it doesn’t fall victim to the lack of animating spirit that some other revivals from Denmark (like Denner/Sherman) have suffered.

Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature – Infernal Curse – Apocalipsis (2016)

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Article by David Rosales

When listening to most of these modern funderground bands, one gets the impression that a group of random guys eating hot dogs suddenly came up with the idea of recording a death metal album to give some variation to their Saturday afternoons in which they normally just discuss fantasy football. Is this derogatory? You bet. Is this accusation completely out of hand and unjustifiable? Not really, there are very clear reasons to say this.

For starters, a release like Apocalipsis by Infernal Curse amounts to nothing more than foggy noise, lacking any memorability but the memory of a passing metallic cloud of percussion and occasional chords. You might perceive this as being only the personal impression of the author, that it amounts to nothing more than another opinion on an otherwise objectively tolerable and enjoyable work of music. But nobody here is objecting to the idea that someone might enjoy this music. The point is that it is indistinguishable from anything even vaguely similar and devoid of its own character.

Apocalipsis is only the reflection of the disaster that war metal has been for death metal, a poor and superficial of what being an underground art movement is. This is usually the result of becoming self-referential, very much like university “revolutionaries” and other posers who confuse image with content. The trap is believing that through imitation of appearances you might somehow bring about the essence of what is being imitated. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and this piece of unrecognizable shit is just more ammunition for our poser-bashing posts.

Upcoming tours – Nightwish, Sonata Arctica

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Before you ask, the answer is no; you haven’t overdosed on power metal yet. You’re still alive and reading about how Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, and Delain (whom I’ve never heard of but was apparently formed by an ex-member of Within Temptation) are about to tour the United States and Canada. If you absolutely had to hear tracks from Endless Forms Most Beautiful in a live context, now might present a golden opportunity for you, or at least a yellowish one. However, this tour is apparently popular enough that some of its earlier dates have already sold out. Expect musical literacy, science advocacy, overblown melodrama, and whatever Sonata Arctica does to rule these nights.

No God Only Pain – Roads to Serfdom (2015)

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DMU proudly offers a stream of No God Only Pain – Roads to Serfdom. This band fuses Motorhead-styled roadhouse heavy metal with punk and underground metal to present its justifiably paranoid view of government and corporate control of our lives. Fueled by a long underground pedigree including black-doom metal band Dawning, No God Only Pain shows metal a way out from its current morass of thinkalike “underground” and hamster-safe mainstream metal.

No God Only Pain – Roads to Serfdom (2015) – “Cannon Fodder” (5:25)

No God Only Pain – Roads to Serfdom (2015) – “Lick the Claw” (1:50)

No God Only Pain – Roads to Serfdom (2015) – “Roads to Serfdom” (7:50)

No God Only Pain – Roads to Serfdom (2015) – “Servitudo Completum” (4:10)

No God Only Pain – Roads to Serfdom (2015) – “Who Forgives God?” (3:10)

Roads to Serfdom features the heavy metal distrust of society and its machinations taken to another level: seeing how moneyed interests are pushing the ordinary citizens into dependency on corporate jobs and government, while simultaneously manipulating public opinion to avoid awareness of the impending crash. Put into the form of raucous rock ‘n roll influenced heavy metal with a strong beat and instrumental chops, No God Only Pain serves as the perfect introduction to metal for new fans or those who want metal to get back to its roots.

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With stylized artwork by German artist Ketza, Roads to Serfdom shows the new wave of self-produced DIY metal music that is abandoning an increasingly conformist and boring scene. For those who appreciate Motorhead, Danzig and the punk-infused rhythms of the NWOBHM, No God Only Pain deliver a new option and a path away from the inevitable staleness in both civilization and heavy metal.

Here’s what Metro Silicon Valley had to say about No God Only Pain:

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Sorcier des Glaces sets release date for North

We had a brief teaser for North almost a year ago. In the mean time, Sorcier des Glaces has released one of its upcoming tracks, as well as a longer trailer for the album, and they’ve also set a release date – February 29th. I’d take this release date with a grain of salt, since Sorcier des Glaces has been known to delay them a great deal for whatever reason. Case in point – this album’s predecessor (Ritual of the End) was originally planned for 2012 but didn’t release until 2014. Still, whether or not it gets released on time, it should be a worthy acquisition; the band’s style remains intact, and that means strength of melodic development and extended songwriting for everyone.

Toyota to dissolve Scion brand

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Scion was rare amongst car brands for being explicitly youth focused, and furthermore for the Scion Audio Visual project, which released a great deal of metal music related content in its heyday, including a couple of freebie singles and promotional EPs. Sure, most of it was trash we at DMU would dismiss immediately, ranging from the products of Immolation (Providence) and Enslaved’s (The Sleeping Gods) decay to a digital single from Repentless, but if these releases meant that a youth would purchase a car from Scion/Toyota instead of one of their competitors, then the entire scheme was an effective loss leader.

Despite this, Scion recently announced on their official website that Toyota was going to end the Scion brand and transition its products back into the main Toyota lines. Dissecting the corporate marketspeak is difficult, but apparently mainline Toyota products are now doing better with young buyers than they were back in 2003, when the Scion brand was first created. At the moment, it’s unclear whether Toyota will keep Scion A/V going in any form, but I’d say its outlook is dim, since without the Scion brand, Scion A/V would have to work overtime to point its customers towards Toyota products without being criticized for corporate shillery. Rarely do these developments in the automotive industries significantly affect metal fans, but Toyota’s personnel, at the very least, claim they learned useful lessons from operating the Scion brand.

How #MetalGate affects DMU and you too – Advertising

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Google has informed us that they threaten to remove advertising — how we pay our writers — from our site because of controversial content. Since Google is a monopoly on search engine technology and internet advertising, it can act much as a government would to censor content that it finds objectionable. Much like a government, that places control over what you can see, hear and read into the hands of a few bureaucrats with no concern for the needs of free speech.

Listen to the safe spaces rhetoric: “Google does not allow the monetization of content that may be sensitive, tragic, or hurtful.” This vague description makes makes abuse of violation reporting a trivial task, especially given that the sheer reach and volume of Google’s customers forces some degree of automation into the process. Given how metal is under attack by SJWs constantly through abuse reporting mechanisms this forces sites to censor themselves and keeps that censorship — unlike that by governments — entirely invisible.

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In the meantime, #metalgate has gone into full war mode with the disinviting of Phil Anselmo’s band Down from FortaRock festival in the Netherlands. This response to Anselmo’s allegedly ironic Nazi salute at a festival reveals a perfected form of censorship: by convincing businesses to censor your content or otherwise cut off its revenue stream for fear of potentially harmful content, SJWs can destroy content that does not agree with them and face zero recognition or accountability.

A metal festival is one thing; what about the collected knowledge of humanity which had entrusted to the internet? If Google drops advertising, and eventually starts redirecting “dangerous” searches to counter-propaganda, as the company starts to seize more power this type of censorship will only gain more power. It has its fans among the usual power brokers who want to put people in jail for merely visiting questionable websites. This means we have a monopolistic company that has the power of a government to prevent you from seeing whatever material it deems as bad, and instead of using a clear filter for this, Google will continue to use the nebulous “offensive” tag to remove information.

This denies the human nature of truth which is that truthful information goes through a long period of opposition and censorship before it is accepted:

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. — Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)

Google possesses the perfect way of keeping truth caught in the “violently opposed” stage so it can never be accepted as self-evident. By being vague about what is “offensive,” and putting the burden on sites like us to figure out what they object to and remove it, they ensure broad content removal of controversial topics. Given that five large companies control the internet, your right to speech is governed entirely by their desire to provide a “safe” product. Government never needs to get its hands dirty nor the companies officially admit they have censored anything. In their view, they are merely providing a safer product. And somehow, government seeks OK with Google’s attempts to stay on top through underhanded deeds.

While we detest Pantera, and generally think ill of Anselmo and his many antics, and have personal reasons to detest neo-Nazism and all associated with, at DeathMetal.org we are aware of the history of censorship: it starts with ideas no one will defend, like Nazism and pedophilia, and then expands to include anything that those in power — including rich companies like Google and the other Big Five — find threatening. This is the censorship of the future: removing anything that makes people feel uncomfortable, which will quickly produce a circle-jerk that repeats the same accepted opinions to itself and fails to notice uncomfortable realities. In metal, we face uncomfortable realities head-on because they are still part of reality and throughout history, humanity has thrived where it accepts reality and failed where it denies it. Google, FortaRock, SJWs and other “safe spaces” types are leading us into failure as a species by making denial into a moral good, even if they do it “in our best interests” with the most benevolent of motives.