Children of Bodom – I Worship Chaos (2015)

Children of Bodom - I Worship Chaos (2015)
I think I missed this band’s big moment in the limelight. By the time I became aware of underground metal in any fashion, they’d already received a lot of flak for not playing the same style of vaguely neoclassical themed pop melodeath that they started their career with, and I steered my musical inquiries away. Apparently they’ve metamorphosed into some sort of bizarre fusion of such with overt Pantera style groove party rock, which sounds like an obvious awful, misguided idea that even the more mainstream-leaning metalheads would reject out of hand. That I Worship Chaos often juxtaposes various styles of former pop metal tends to support this hypothesis.

Underneath everything it carelessly throws at the listener, I Worship Chaos is not very artfully written. Like most pop music, it’s vocally driven, and like most pop music that adopts metal technique and aesthetics, the vocals are monotonous; in this case, they’re locked into a mid-range shriek with little in the way of timbral or rhythmic variation. The other band members are aren’t shackled to the same degree, so they take advantage of it by performing riffs and patterns reminiscent of many other previously commercially successful subgenres. Nuclear Blast probably has it down to a science – “Add a long breakdown here, and some stop-start riffing in the middle of this one song, and maybe one noisy solo after that, and we’ll earn 38% more tour ticket sales per album purchase” levels of formula that don’t exactly make for intelligent songwriting.

As a reader, you’re probably not looking for what is essentially a carnival of warmed over old pop metal and probably would avoid Children of Bodom’s latest even without our criticism. However, I Worship Chaos also fails in comparison to other recent pop metal albums. The fact it throws so many cliches at the listener (like rotting fruit) is bad enough, but the brickwalled production won’t do it any favors, either. Although it’s far from the worst example of such I’ve heard recently, the fact that the band attempts to have some dynamics (even if only by alternating obvious fast songs with obvious ballads) renders it unfitting. It does pass the major label litmus test of being otherwise competently performed and produced, but skilled musicians playing banal parts have never been on the menu here at DMU, and such does not save the band members from my displeasure.

Megadeth premieres a new track from Dystopia

Megadeth - Dystopia (2016)
In their glory days, Megadeth was always commercially #2 to Metallica – more technically proficient by far, structurally simpler, and literally #2 on the American Billboard 200 when they made their own dumbed down Black Album equivalent in Countdown to Extinction. Post-reformation Megadeth has been somewhat inconsistent about what part of their career they want to evoke, but if “Fatal Illusion” is any indication, Dystopia may very well be full of ’80s self-worship. There are some new aesthetic tweaks, like heavily processed, harmonized vocals from Dave Mustaine, but the overall structure of the song is an adequate facsimile of previous Megadeth and ’80s speed metal for commercial purposes. The current lineup of Megadeth notably features Kiko Loureiro (of Angra) and Chris Adler (from Lamb of God) in addition to its two founding Daves (Mustaine and Ellefson), although this track in isolation doesn’t really offer enough information on what their contributions to the band will sound like.


Slayer Repentless over-analyzed

Slayer - Repentless (2015)

Only one can lead: guitars, voice, bass or drums. Whatever takes the lead will compel others to follow because lead means sketching out the structure of the song. The classic metal albums all lead with guitars and vocals catch up while drums provide accents and bass does whatever it feels necessary.

Repentless reverses this formula. It is built around Tom Araya’s mostly fast-spoken or chanted vocals, and guitar keeps up and drums frame the whole thing. The bass doubles the low notes and does little else, but Slayer has always used that technique. The problem is that in a desire to make catchy choruses and compelling verses, Slayer has relegated its most powerful aspect — the lead rhythm guitar — to a supporting role.

Despite a number of good riffs that call to mind material from the Seasons in the Abyss era, on this album Slayer has had to contort itself to fit around the vocals like a rock song, which de-emphasizes guitar and consequently cramps it and, in its reduced role, forces it to show off and simultaneously keep itself restrained. This keeps the worst of metal guitar and throws out the best. In addition, this reduces songs to minimal song structure based more around a lyrical narrative (or topic of a video) than development of melodies or patterns in the riffs.

This is far from a bad album. The problem is that it is the wrong sort of album. Metal escaped from rock by minimizing the human, especially vocals and feelings, to create a gritty realistic confrontation with the nihilism of existence — the knowledge that events do not depend on feelings or mythological beings, but cause and effect. Slayer expanded its audience in the 1990s to the present by being more centered on vocal hooks and foot-tapping rhythms, and does well at this, but at the expense of what made this band great.

La Gloria Cubana – Churchill Maduro

La Gloria Cubana Churchill Maduro

This medium strength cigar begins with a leathery flavor with undertones of vinegar. For the Churchill size, especially in a Maduro wrapper, I recommend making as broad of a cut as you can and then using a tamper to push in stray tobacco and expand the airflow by disrupting the tightly layered leaf. This opens up a massive wave of rich smoke from the oily and aged leaves, which burn through an initial bitter flavor toward a nutty, buttery and satisfying deep tobacco flavor.

La Gloria Cubana came of age during the 1990s cigar boom as people reached beyond the traditional market leaders for new, intense flavors. Originally blended by Ernesto Perez Carrillo in the tradition of his family back in Cuban, these well-rolled cigars with high-quality leaf have now become standards at most cigar shops to the point that novelty seekers (hipsters and others) will avoid them. These cigars begin life as blended tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, layered and bound with a binder of the same and then wrapped in an outer shell of broadleaf Maduro color leaf from Connecticut.

The result preserves the contents for breathing necessary to age and percolate those sugars to the surface, but also avoids adulterating the flavor. At medium strength, the cigar burns from hints of leather into a nutty middle and then ends in a leathery, strong smoke that bears down on the smoker with copious nicotine. Like a Wagnerian opera, the Maduro Churchill cigars work up to a crescendo and then become avenging Valkyries intent on the kill. For the fifty-nine minutes of your life that this cigar will occupy, much of the world will recede and thoughts will become clearer. Ash falls in full clumps and your sense of time evaporates, leading to a disappointment when the nub finally cashes and the cigar remains a pleasant memory.

Quality rating: 4/5
Purchase rating: 5/5

Pipe smokers are the rebels of the 2010s


Take your TARDIS back to the hazy 1960s. A buttoned-up Dale Carnegie America has encountered the new rebels: like the beatniks, but simplified, the hippies shock society by systematically violating its standards. They smoke marijuana, have promiscuous sex, listen to loud protest music, and live in squalor, much like the Bohemians of the 1900s that the beatniks were imitating.

Now spin the dial forward to 2015. Television lauds the hippies, who are now old and grey and telling us how we should think. Rock music is used in every commercial, played in every grocery store, and government agrees with the protest lyrics — as do the large, buttoned-up corporations. Promiscuous sex is the norm and marijuana is legal in many states and tolerated with a wink and a nod in others. How do you rebel against the rebellion?

One way is to smoke a pipe, which violates the taboo of our current social pretense of “health” and moral “goodness”:

Interestingly enough, a side-effect has arisen as marijuana becomes more prominent at Stanford. As support for it rises, that for tobacco seems to be waning and a prejudice rapidly forming against it. Recently the Faculty Senate postponed voting on an all-campus smoking ban (tobacco only, recall), that would in essence push all forms of tobacco smoke to the other side of Campus Drive. The only spaces allowed for smoking would be designated outdoor areas and, interestingly enough, faculty/staff residential areas. Slight hypocrisy aside, the ban was designed to be a preventative measure against any sort of respiratory problems resulting from potential second-hand smoke.

The radicals are now in charge and have become old and boring. Anyone singing their song is just bleating. But they have their taboos, too. They fear tobacco and alcohol, masculinity and strong warlike music such as heavy metal. If you think humanity should have a future, you owe it to yourself and the rest of us to rebel against this new generation of buttoned-up nannies and their attempts to control us.

Academics create witch hunt against metal


Academics, always in a position to justify their jobs and knowing they can make headlines by finding “racism” and “sexism” under every rock like 21st century witchfinders general, have recently released a study claiming associations with racism and sexism in folk metal.

As Leeds Beckett University states:

“Through the study, I found that although women fans of heavy metal enjoy folk metal with the same kind of passion and intensity as male fans, and there is no doubt they find identity and belonging through the music, the heart of folk metal is predominantly masculine. The warrior myth that folk metal is focused on is normalising this masculine predominance in our modern day world- men still have enormous social, cultural and political power.

“Folk metal’s obsession with warriors and cultural purity, displayed through tales of Vikings and dressing up as Vikings on stage, reduces belonging and identity in a muti-cultural, cosmopolitan society to a few exclusive myths. It is showing white men how to be white men and showing women and ethnic minorities their place in European society.”

Talk about jumping the shark: the definition of “racism” used by these academics is pride in your heritage and masculinity, in the context of music enjoyed by women (and, from my observation, people from minority groups as well). What is this, then? It’s another attempt to browbeat metal into going along with the SJW agenda by calling us bad names and hoping we’ll apologize, purge the dissenters and start repeating the correct message as these academics see it.

Karl Spracklen, previously interviewed here, became part of Metalgate when he “unfriended” me on Facebook and presumably helped block me from the Metpol mailing list after SJWs attacked me for allegedly having opinions that were not politically corrected. It is interesting that he, as a white male, caught the fear and now has joined the SJW side.

As always, metal remains a desired commodity. Metal symbolizes rebellion and freedom. That is why many groups — Christians, Nazis, SJWs, corporations — would love to be able to control it and have it parrot their party line, thus controlling more minds. But as Metalgate pointed out, the resistance in metal to such control is strong and we enjoy telling society where it can stick its pretentious and manipulative “moral” standards.

Satan – Atom by Atom (2015)

Satan - Atom by Atom (2015)

A good legacy and a promising single can do much to build up expectations for any album. Atom by Atom was shaping up to be a textbook example of this axiom back in September, when I first became aware of it. Having listened to the end result, I can confidently say that the band’s reformation continues to pay dividends to those who pay attention (and/or cash).

The general formula hasn’t changed since Life Sentence – Satan plays the same sort of NWOBHM/early speed metal style that they became famous for, but in a more musically adventurous fashion than they favored 30 years ago. This sort of path leads many a band to neglect the coherence and intelligibility of their songwriting, but that doesn’t turn out to be the case here. The guitarists are particularly inventive here – the melodic and consonant style they perform in belies the wide variety of riff construction techniques they’ve incorporated into these tracks. They’re particularly good at the harmonized ‘dueling leads’ that so many similar bands have adopted; lesser bands would find their musical language shackled by overuse of one mode or otherwise limited.

This power would be strong enough to draw in many a listener, but Satan’s strengths on Atom by Atom go beyond mere creative guitar wizardry, although they are still unified by an emphasis on mastering a subgenre. For instance, the vocals (which are pseudo-operatic in style) remind me somewhat of James Rivera’s contributions to Helstar in their sonority and dynamic range, although Brian Ross sings closer to the guitar lines than many similar vocalists. However, this applies most to the song structures – while Atom by Atom tends towards typical pop verse-chorus structures like so many albums before it, these songs notably don’t rely on any one specific technique to cloak this or elaborate on their musical ideas. It should not escape your notice that in doing this, Satan otherwise consistently sticks to the limits of their musical language; while the way they vary it suggests to me that they could successfully execute a major genre shift if they so desired, I find their success within a genre to be a good outcome as well.

Musically skilled, technically proficient metal may be the norm these days, but Atom by Atom also succeeds on the organizational, structural level that is lacking and often completely ignored in so many of its contemporaries. This makes it a highly worthy acquisition.

Deafheaven – New Bermuda (2015)

Deafheaven - New Bermuda (2015)
On a less rigorous, and slightly looser site, my thoughts on New Bermuda could be expressed as something along the lines of “whatever”. The music here has been performed before by a cavalcade of metal-themed indie acts, each more individual and revolutionary than the last, yet stunningly conformist for their efforts. Deafheaven enjoys rather more media attention at the moment, even sometimes drawing our attention for their little escapades, but they’re pretty much cut from the same fabric – a few hints of loud guitars and blast beats to liven up boring sugary pop stretched far beyond the limits of its songwriting.

The stylistic deception is pretty shallow, to be honest. I found it mildly amusing that the album began with a few minutes of more overtly black metal flavored material, which was then abruptly cast off in favor of the basic rock riffing and reverb textures that Deafheaven seem to so particularly enjoy. It returns every now in then in case you forget you’re supposed to be listening to the future of black metal, but I can confidently say New Bermuda relies more on the band’s rudimentary modality (major-minor ad infinitum) than their rudimentary dynamics to occasionally wake up a sleepy listener when the soothing, inoffensive guitar strumming has lulled them into a dreamless slumber. The drumming in these sections gradually devolves into basic modern rock downbeats and timekeeping, as if to represent your transition towards a drowsy (indie) state of mind. That probably wasn’t the intent, but the idea that it could’ve been is dangerously tempting.

Now, I’m not the kind of person who tries to fall asleep to music, but were I to treat this as a collection of lullabies, it would still be fairly underwhelming. That it has loud sections at all is counterproductive for insomniacs, but even those are rather predictable in how they play out. The straight ahead black metal sections consistently move sluggishly under the blastbeats, with a vocalist who has learned but one type of shriek and a few basic vocal rhythms. Given how Deafheaven is marketed, that these sections sound like an afterthought is problematic. Maybe the album would be better if it was divested of the clearly unwanted black metal, but then you’d be left with just another unwashed (but charmingly patchouli and spice scented) post-rock/emo/indie-pop album essentially indistinguishable from all the others and guaranteed to gather dust after something newer and more exciting comes out.

I slept well last night. What about you?

Causality in music

Domino cascade (Image by aussiegall on Wikimedia Commons)
Guest post by William Pilgrim

Causality is the interplay between cause and effect. Infinite regress, or reduction till singularity, is of little practical use to our daily affairs, but when you pause to think about it, everything you do today has its roots in what you did yesterday. Today and yesterday might seem like two altogether discrete entities when considered in this fashion, but cause and effect work against the backdrop of time, and as such entail an infinite number of degrees or gradations between each other. Introduce a sufficiently large number of minute increments between the succession of two events, and this line of regression can be stretched all the way back to the point of our birth, and based on modern prenatal research, even beyond. This is the same principle that Buddhist philosophy talks about, the same premise on which Isaac Asimov’s Hari Seldon created his discipline of psychohistory in the Foundation books, and the same concept on which current market trends and data are analyzed.

There shouldn’t be complaints of determinism leveled against this line of thinking, simply a greater accountability for our actions, in both conscious and unconscious states. And, in any case, life cannot be lived with any kind of energy while constantly tracing our footsteps into the distant past; we can learn from our past but the power to affect change in our present and, more importantly, in our future rests entirely with us. How then does causality influence music? In the post on old and new extreme metal, I briefly mentioned how an idea arises in the mind and has to be persisted with for the entirety of a song for it to be logically, and emotionally, coherent. The following is a comment I made on the same post on DMU:

“A point I would’ve liked to touch on in this post is that in the case of most good extreme metal songs, you can trace a way back to the overall theme of the song from whichever point in its trajectory you may currently be occupying. David Rosales had a post on something related to this under the heading Developmental Variation, and it goes beyond simply staying in the same key, following chords, etc. “Vetteneter” is a good example of this, despite the significant change towards the end; so is Gorgoroth’s “Måneskyggens slave”. The cause needs to inhere in the effect, tenuous though it may seem, for a song to be coherent.”

The property of inherence means for a certain quality to be endemic or inherent in a substance. By the same token, it can also be taken to mean that this quality is permanent in the substance, and that the substance ceases to remain what it was once it loses this self-same quality. Often, effects bears little to no outward resemblance to the causes that led to them, but by the very nature of causality, all causes are germane in proceeding effects.

Music presents a peculiar example of causality in action. Songs have themes; the good ones do anyway. Every moment in a song exists in a chain with every other moment in the song, sharing an intimate bond with its neighbours. Good songs ensure that these bonds remain embedded in the listener’s consciousness, whether he realizes it then or not, and however strained their “valency” might initially appear. Simple rock music and rock-derived metal have it easier in this respect than architecturally intricate and harmonically ambivalent genres like death metal and black metal where songs are generally built on floating relationships between notes and modes.

Nevertheless, the point made above regarding a song’s trajectory holds, and that is this: the essence of a song has to suffuse its entire body, as impermeable as the body itself may seem. We can refer to this aspect of songwriting as logical dialogue and internal coherence between parts and of the parts themselves; the idea behind the song, wherever it may come from, needs to inhere throughout the length of the song, and maintain a trail of crumbs back to a relative first cause, as disparate as the effects that follow in its wake may seem.

The three songs below are from distinctly different extreme metal genres but they illustrate this point well. They use different techniques to realize these ideas but what initially appears as a jarring, irreconcilable severance from the core of the song is eventually subsumed into the greater idea. Subsumed, in fact, is the wrong word to use in this context, because the change, by everything that has been written above, would have had to naturally subsist in the initial idea.

A call to arms – How to get published on DMU

"How to be a feisty rock critic" - Matt Groening (1986)
One of our goals here at DMU is to be free of the incessant marketing and gossip that plagues all too many metal music/culture websites. This deprives us of a lot of potential content, and surprisingly, not posting the occasional throwaway video of a photogenic animal ‘enjoying’ metal (or at least moving to a rhythm almost, but not entirely unlike that of the music) costs us some traffic. With that in mind, every now and then one of our readers gives us a hand by contributing an article, a review, or even just a topic they want to see discussed. We’d like to see more of that.

A brief summary of what we are looking for:

  • Intelligent, in-depth articles about various metal related topics – theoretical analysis of the music, cultural analysis, academia, and so forth.
  • Reviews of albums both old and new. I focus on covering major new releases at this point, but there’s always room for everything else. This is to be distinguished from the publication of press releases, or the promotion of your avant-garde neo-traditionalist blackened bedroom death metal project with nearly 3/4ths of a view on their one Youtube video.
  • Did something worthy of our commentary in the land of metal pass unnoticed? This is your opportunity to fix a glaring omission.

If your submissions meet our quality and relevance standards, we will publish them; possibly suggesting some revisions in the process of getting them ready. Ideally, we will get more content and more reader interaction without sacrificing an iota of quality, but that lofty goal depends on you specifically rising up to the challenge. If this interests you, send your submissions to the same email address as always.

P.S: Our ‘lifestyle’ (read: drugs and alcohol) reviewers are looking for someone who can analyze whiskey. If you’re a connoisseur, or at least a gas chromatograph, this might be a good way to get started.