Death Metal Underground

Lord Wind – Atlantean Monument

August 25, 2008 –
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Lord Wind – Atlantean Monument

Probably the best work from Eastclan group since 1998, this release culminates the pagan dreamlike melodies that have been appearing in Graveland and Lord Wind releases. Over an hour long, it represents the best music currently available for those who long for the society of honor that ruled long ago, before dualistic religions, technology and finance took over our lives.

Read the review: Lord Wind – Atlantean Monument

Interview: Mike Smith (Suffocation)

August 24, 2008 –
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No one has or will create death metal like Suffocation. Taking the muffled hard-stop strumming of speed metal, mixing it in with the structural cryptograms of death metal, and amplifying the intensity, Suffocation innovative the percussive death metal that spawned the goregrind genre and countless imitators. Drummer Mike Smith was kind enough to give us an interview on the state of the band and its future.

You’ve said in the past that Suffocation was inspired by the heavy metal of its time as well as the hardcore punk that was contemporaneous. A lot of the Suffocation sound however seems influenced by the speed metal bands like Exodus, but taken to a new extreme. Is there any truth to this, and how did you arrive at this fusion?

It was a natural progression of all things unaccepted in the mainstream. It started with metal, we rebelled like punks, and were driven by the speed or thrash metal that was at the time.

Suffocation is what we choose to be at any given time. If we chose to do an album of gloomy doom metal we’d differ from most at that too. It depends on how we feel and what kind of attention the world is paying.

In the Effigy of the Forgotten group photo, a Morpheus (now Morpheus Descends) tshirt is visible. Did this band influence your style?

No, our influence into music started way before that. It was just a shirt of a band we knew and hung with at the time. There was no special meaning behind it.

When you write songs, do you start with a concept for the whole song, or do you accrue riff ideas and fit them into a narrative? Do you conceptualize the song in lyrics first, or write music and fit lyrics to it?

When I write personally, I start with the guitar rhythms first and maybe a topic so as to work in a chorus. The song then gets built over time.

The feel and approach of the songs are also built on what emotion I want to portray on stage to the fans or to my self at the time.

I usually have the song complete with riffs, drums and a definite lyric direction before I submit it to the others. It can be done in days, or take months.

It depends on my mental state at the time. When things are good, things flow, when I’m stressed riffs and concepts take their time to form.

Night City was like a deranged experiment in social Darwinism, designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button. Stop hustling and you sank without a trace, but move a little too swiftly and you’d break the fragile surface tension of the black market; either way, you were gone, with nothing left of you but some vague memory in the mind of a fixture like Ratz, though heart or lungs or kidneys might survive in the service of some stranger with New Yen for the clinic tanks. Biz here was a constant subliminal hum, and death the accepted punishment for laziness, carelessness, lack of grace, the failure to heed the demands of an intricate protocol.

- William Gibson, Neuromancer

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

I suppose your experience in life dictates your music. But one who wants to murder someone or cause mayhem could write a death metal song as well as blues or Grunge. For example, Kurt Cobain had a successful life in music but still chose to expire early, but the grunge music didn’t dictate or preach the message of suicide.

So it is what it is, the skill you have as a musician will dictate the type of music you play. Even though you may be a member of Satan’s circle you could easily sing bubble gum pop because you have no special skills musically.

What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

There is no difference. The artist usually is looking to speak or release through their choice of artistry first, if the world happens to catch on then thats a bonus.

I would still be a musician who speaks through music if no one knew of Suffocation.

Do you think death metal has a distinctive worldview different from that of “normal” people? Can people interpret that worldview from the sound of the genre, and does this make them converge on musical communities?

First you would have to show me what a normal person is. I dont know of any or why they would be considered such.

I know plenty of dummies though. The communities they choose depends on the path their life experiences took them.

Some have said that death metal and black metal use “narrative” composition, where a series of riffs are motifs that evolve toward a passage between states of mind for the listener. Is this true, and if so, how is it reflected in your songwriting?

To each his own, some bands write with no goal or direction.

Suffocation chooses to have a purpose to the way the riffs, tempos and impact come across.

We hope to stir a certain emotion. We start by writing to draw the emotion within ourselves first, and hope the fans understand the idea.

Although your music is technical, you have taken pains to distance yourselves from technicality for technicality’s sake. What is the difference between technicality, progression, pretense and good (death metal) art?

The difference lies in the person listening. Technical to some could be as simple as a Sesame Street song to me.

My version of technicality is to be unique and unpredictable, without confusing the listener. Classical is completely intense and technically composed, but its purpose and direction is crystal clear when listened too. It just wasn’t created for the unskilled to pick up and play to like alot of the top selling crap.

The end result of complete cellular representation is cancer. Democracy is cancerous, and bureaus are its cancer. A bureau takes root anywhere in the state, turns malignant like the Narcotic Bureau, and grows and grows, always reproducing more of its own kind, until it chokes the host if not controlled or excised. Bureaus cannot live without a host, being true parasitic organisms. (A cooperative on the other hand can live without the state. That is the road to follow. The building up of independent units to meet needs of the people who participate in the functioning of the unit. A bureau operates on opposite principle of inventing needs to justify its existence.) Bureaucracy is wrong as a cancer, a turning away from the human evolutionary direction of infinite potentials and differentiation and independent spontaneous action, to the complete parasitism of a virus.

(It is thought that the virus is a degeneration from more complex life form. It may at one time have been capable of independent life. Now has fallen to the borderline between living and dead matter. It can exhibit living qualities only in a host, by using the life of another — the renunciation of life itself, a falling towards inorganic, inflexible machine, towards dead matter.)

- William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Have the values of metal music changed from the early 90s? How, and what does it make you think?

The values in the music haven’t changed. The value in the industry and those with the power to help it grow has changed for the worst and most likely its demise if left in their hands much longer.

Those with the power to promote it don’t have the skill to write or create it, so they should do more listening to the direction of the musicians instead of trying to shape and mold the artist to what they think the world needs.

Breeding the Spawn followed a massively successful debut with an album that reached farther but seemed less complete as a vision. How did you learn from this, and how has it influenced your later work?

We learned that we need to record with who we wish to record with, and let the label take what we give them, when we give it to them. For BTS we followed the direction of our label which led to an unsatisfactory outcome that won’t happen again for Suffocation. We write record and produce our own. No one knows better than us what we are looking for so we’ve chosen to stay self contained in many aspects.

What influenced the choice of Latinate language and structuralist phrases in song titles and lyrics? (Epitaph of the Credulous, Anomalistic Offerings, Liege of Inveracity — a beautiful use of language)

The need to be different, unique, and think out of the box of most at the time.

On Despise the Sun, you mixed more fluid phrasing — fast tremolo strum, fewer hard stops — into what was otherwise percussive, or based on syncopated patterns of hard stops, music. What prompted this change and how have you developed this since then?

An unfocused Suffocation prompted the change. Some wanted to stay as is, others lost focus of our originality and chose to try and follow what was the trend. The band called it quits soon after.

Here are some revealing excerpts from an especially vivid hacker manifesto: “The Techno-Revolution” by “Dr. Crash,” which appeared in electronic form in Phrack Volume 1, Issue 6, Phile 3.

To fully explain the true motives behind hacking, we must first take a quick look into the past. In the 1960s, a group of MIT students built the first modern computer system. This wild, rebellious group of young men were the first to bear the name ‘hackers.’ The systems that they developed were intended to be used to solve world problems and to benefit all of mankind.

As we can see, this has not been the case. The computer system has been solely in the hands of big businesses and the government. The wonderful device meant to enrich life has become a weapon which dehumanizes people. To the government and large businesses, people are no more than disk space, and the government doesn’t use computers to arrange aid for the poor, but to control nuclear death weapons. The average American can only have access to a small microcomputer which is worth only a fraction of what they pay for it. The businesses keep the true state-of-the-art equipment away from the people behind a steel wall of incredibly high prices and bureaucracy. It is because of this state of affairs that hacking was born.

- Bruce Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown

You’ve got a best of collection out on Roadrunner and two post-reunion albums that lead the subgenre of percussive technical death metal. Where to from here?

The new album is in the works. It is titled BLOOD OATH. We expect our first DVD to be out very shortly as well.

Then we plan to make only the right choices in touring and biz associates to ensure that we finally reach the level we truly feel we deserve to indulge in.

20 years has been long enough to prove that we aren’t an overnight success or a basement idea. We mean what we say, show and promote, and I dont expect it to change anytime soon.

Thanks for all the great music, and I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions, as will our readers. Hope to see you on tour!

No doubt, no problem, take care.

Trash Talk

August 21, 2008 –
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Trash Talk – S/T
Trash Talk Collective, 2008

When music runs out of ideas, it recycles old genres. When that happens, smart music fans look for the exceptions that give both style and substance some tweaks to make them compatible with the current time and its challenges. Where the retro-thrash movement has produced some imitators of no substance, Trash Talk comes crashing in with a punk-inspired, thrash-influenced offering that invokes elements of the underground that developed while music festered in nu-metal and metalcore. Although the band compares themselves to Cryptic Slaughter, and comparisons could easily be drawn to Municipal Waste, what fuels this mania is more akin to the suffocated rage and dissident misanthropy that made Eyehategod and Acid Bath favorites of the late 1990s. Songs are sludgy rants that explode into frenetic activity, then smash it all down again, like a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. It is as if Trash Talk enjoy beating on their audience, lulling them into a false sense of security such as they might enjoy from media, religious or government leaders, and then detonating the result in a searing diatribe. While people will compare this record to works from Discharge or DRI, it’s more like Eyehategod meets Crass with Neurosis in the wings. It’s fortunate to see punk hardcore given another chance with this acerbic testament to the enduring powers of resistance through surliness.

Trash Talk – Dig MP3
Trash Talk Homepage

Jesu – Why Are We Not Perfect

August 18, 2008 –
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Jesu – Why Are We Not Perfect
Hydra Head, 2008

Justin Broadrick demonstrated through his early works a desire for that moment of unitivity when the conscious mind and emotions synchronized. Through Godflesh, and later Techno Animal and Final, he showed a passion for bringing colossal structures to bear on moments of quiet contemplation. With Jesu, he resurrects his music outside the ghetto that extremist offerings can be, and melds into post-rock disparate influences from industrial, shoegaze, noisepop, and so forth. Jesu, protean as all Broadrick projects are, in turn twisted from more radiantly noisy to its current softer state. On “Why Are We Not Perfect” Jesu moves the slider closest to shoegaze and pop, losing much of the more complicated structuring and sound that made earlier Jesu challenging. This gambit may prove risky: many in the post-rock fanclub would like to leave behind what so rigidly defines rock and brings the moths to its one-size-fits-all dose, and “Why Are Not Perfect” drapes its nearly ecclesiastical encompassing layered sound over the exuberant shuffle beats of rock/pop. Song structures are not linear but follow a verse chorus pattern culminating in a serenity like the moment after a surf crashes on the beach when water lapses into absorbent, silent sand. Less jagged distortion and cleaner, plaintive emo vocals guide each song and sounds elide smoothly from abrasive feedback to silken, reminiscent of shoegaze classics like Medicine and My Bloody Valentine. While this EP satisfies as a taste, and an exploration, this reviewer hopes Broadrick abandons the past — and doesn’t relapse into his influences — so he can keep exploring the seemingly erratic, intense jigsaw song structures he served up on the self-titled Jesu debut.

Austin, TX

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When I write about metal, I often distinguish works — which I consider to, at their best, be art — by how honest they are. It’s fairly easy to tell, although most people find that unnerving. An honest work tries to communicate with you; a dishonest work tries to game you by convincing you it’s something it’s not, so that you do x, or y or z that benefits those who made it. It’s a virus, in other words.

Dishonest works are generally the product of The Hipster, which is any person who tries to be hip for the sake of their own ego, instead of having a useful function of any kind. Hipsters are parasites on the social scene in that they want attention for being unexceptional, and since they can’t succeed at life by being exceptional — including making good music, being people we’d like to know, etc — they become dramatic and draw attention to themselves with increasingly radical styles of dress and behavior. If you ever find someone doing something humiliating, stupid, freakish, or pointless while slyly watching you out of the corner of their eye, you’ve found the same psychology.

It’s not much different from parasitic religions that convince people to fail at life so they can succeed at the board game called “What God Likes.” I’m not saying life is about success, or material success, just that if you want to have a good life, you need to have some function and challenge yourself to do it well. Hipsters don’t do that. They want the reward without the work.

We have a hipster core here in Texas. It’s called Austin. Hipsters are fond of one of many modern illusions, a socialized liberalism — a well-intentioned emotion channeled into a fashion that pretends to be an ideology, but never achieves its goals, despite making a hash of things on its path — that like drugs makes us feel better, but doesn’t solve any problems, and strengthens rather than weakens its ostensible enemy, the total state. Hipsters are useful because they beat liberalism out of people who are still able to think.

When I went to Austin, I was all about tolerance. I was still clueless as to the problems of the world, mainly because I spent most of my time working.

When I saw the liberal paradise that is Austin, I realized that liberalism is basically parasitism. “If someone has x, and I don’t, I deserve it, and I’ll force them to share with social guilt”; after seeing that, and the complete social havoc — where good people were not only ignored but socially persecuted, and vapid whores predominated and suffocated art and culture with their lies — I left Austin and liberalism behind.

(There may be an honest liberalism. To me, when I was a liberal, it meant not allowing big pointless entities to rule over people in destructive ways. I’m thinking about all the people who got dicked over by their stupid jobs, all the toxic waste dumped into rivers, all the junk products that just ended up in landfills, all the overdeveloped areas where forests were sacrificed, etc. For me, liberalism meant restraining humanity’s appetite with common sense. I soon learned that if you oppose power, however, you soon get people who oppose power for power’s sake because they’re powerless. They have no power in life and no control over their own appetites, so they hate anything that resembles power, but since they’re weak, they don’t attack directly but through whining. I was a classical liberal, which meant treat people fairly. That philosophy however decays un-gracefully into revenge for the underdog, hatred of excellence, and desire to turn the world into one uniform Safe(tm) place. I realized quickly how this plays into the hands of our leaders. It distracts our best people and sends them off to defend those who have failed at life, and then the activists in turn fail at life, so they spent their time fighting for the right to fail. It’s a sick cycle but easily avoidable if you think it through: the problem isn’t power, but people in power without a clue, and they’re in power because all the failed people want pleasant illusions instead of reality. So if you’re an honest liberal, don’t take this column as a personal attack, or a political statement. I’m pointing out how liberalism commonly decays into self-importance, hipsterism and other problems, not trying to assault the emotional or psychological impetus behind liberal thinking.)

Austin is the hipster capital of the world, in many ways. I’ve been to Seattle and to San Francisco, to L.A. (Silver Lake) and to Mizzoula, MT, all of which are hipster-havens. But Austin hipsters have the city locked down. Under the guise of fighting the man, you’re supposed to be weird and freaky and do whatever the man doesn’t expect. But you go back to work the next day, having learned nothing. It’s a good town to work food service until you’re 42 and then become a regular, bitter writer on Alternet.org.

Austin suffocates every quality band who tries to set up shop there. Metal bands in particular suffer because, unless you infiltrate the social network and start behaving like a hipster, no one will attend your shows. People are too afraid of being un-hip to go see an unknown, unless that “unknown” is secretly an underground favorite. As a result, the best Austin bands are the ones that have nothing to do with the “seen” (Scene) there.

Emos, hipsters, modern primitives, trend whores, carnies, defiant minorities and lesbians, drug use theorists, mantra-chanting New Agers, feminists, body modification fetishists, coprophages, “witches,” faux artists of all variety, embittered defiant hippies, foreskin collectors, and other failures of all sorts cluster in Austin. They have failed at making something of their lives, so they are using cognitive dissonance, and making themselves a Big Deal in social/moral/hip circles.

When I seize power, it will be very unwise for anyone to spend time in Austin. The B-52 carries 27 tons of high explosive and, if unleashed on a city block, literally landscapes it into a moon surface of ceramicized dirt covered in the dust of charred, vaporized plants, animals, and buildings — this is a consequence of the TNT/HE mix used in modern bombs. The explosions are so loud that people up to a mile away will lose hearing for the next two days. Some of the fireballs approximate a quarter mile in size, and can be seen from nearby cities. A flight of B-52s, properly targetted, can erase a city so thoroughly that from space it resembles a desert, and this is without use of nuclear weapons.

That form of horror, visited upon Austin, will not cost the human race any geniuses. Nor will it diminish its artistic or social potential. Instead, it will increase our potential by removing the false and giving space to something new, like weeding a garden and dropping in seeds for non-parasitic plants. Don’t cry for Austin, because that entire town is one giant emo hipster cognitive dissonance passive aggression parasite. Its death in flaming vapor will be a great step forward for taste and beauty.

Metal music, like nature, is not about fashion. It’s not about being nice to everyone so they can feel good for being exceptional. It’s about results. About making civilizations that make people inhale sharply whenever they see their ruins for the next 10,000 years. About getting art, science, culture, etc. right. About doing things that matter because they’re not the same humdrum. Forging new spaces, destroying emptiness, making life interesting and giving us something to live for. Like nature, in metal life is struggle, but struggle for beauty and not the bloated, ugly, self-importance of an ego. Metal is anti-hipster, and anti-Austin.

Dismemberment is metal

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(click for larger image)

Police on Thursday accused a Brazilian man of killing and dismembering his 17-year-old British girlfriend, taking pictures of her body parts with his cell phone and stuffing her torso in a suitcase.

One photo appeared to have been taken in a bathroom shower stall, showing Burke’s severed head placed on the chest of her torso along with a bloody butcher knife.
Man accused of killing, dismembering girlfriend

So she was dating a cocaine fueled maniac, probably oblivious, and he dismembered her and got a good laugh out of it. Life is nature, folks. There are predators everywhere. Watch your step, but don’t forget the lulz when you accidentally cut up a corpse and post cell phone pics.

al-Qaeda translator releases metal album

August 12, 2008 –
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Raised and homeschooled through high school by his parents on an isolated farm in Southern California, Adam played Little League baseball and participated in Christian homeschool support groups. As an adolescent he became very involved in the underground Death metal community. In 1993, he formed his own one-man band called Aphasia, releasing a few limited self-releaesed tapes.

This is one such tape, originally titled “DELIRIUM: 7 Hallucinatory Interludes, Op.2″ A melange of experimental sounds and ambient passages, fused with occassional guitar interludes and drum machines bringing us into the adolescent mind of this future propagandist. Perhaps the final words of the last track, “Insanity,” summarize the character of this esoteric individual when he closes the album with the words: “I’m mad!”

Adam Gadahn – Aphasia Op. 2

DARK TRANQUILLITY (Not Quite)

August 6, 2008 –
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For whatever reason, a lot of Swedish death metal seems to be created by the inordinately young, and often, the inordinately skilled for their age. Even before ENTOMBED released Clandestine, and at the same time that AT THE GATES was gelling its impulses, the members of DARK TRANQUILLITY, only 15 and 16 themselves, were putting together high-intensity death metal that was more melodic than the common offerings of the time, but whose stylistic bent would be adopted by hordes younger replacements within a matter of years.

The now-classics that emerged from Stockholm managed to channel their youthfulness into solid composition without succumbing to it as such. Unfortunately for DARK TRANQUILLITY, the band’s compositions of the period bear the weight of their ambitious minds rather poorly; seemingly decent ideas are too-far fractured to be remembered long, and what remains are riffs — often well-written riffs — but only that, parsed through series of confusing time signature changes and strange juxtapositions of melody. As demo material it is probably suitable, but its broader importance was over-inflated by the incestuous Swedish scene, as well as the playful dress-up of simpler ideas that became more conspicuously pursued by the band itself as time moved on.

This is just one tale among many of bands who were almost there, damned by any number of circumstances or peculiarities. It is interesting to reflect on them in the context of better things.

Averse Sefira: Trees don’t pay taxes

August 4, 2008 –
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One of the more lucid metal interviews:


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