Death Metal Underground

Obituary – The End Complete

August 31, 2009 –

It’s nearly impossible to assess the value of this album without first referencing the classic that preceded it. Despite the almost riskily simplistic style of Cause of Death, it still remains an undisputed and unmatchedly brutal Death Metal monster. Little had changed since then with the release of The End Complete and yet something essential was missing. No, not the haunting, melodic appeal of James Murphy’s lead guitars. Something slightly less tangible, but is terribly apparent when listening to the album. All the components of a quality Obituary album are there, because they are basic enough to reproduce over and over again (how they failed at doing even this with their following albums is a great mystery) but where the magic has gone seems to be due to it’s misplaced sense of rhythm. Obituary were essentially beginning to streamline (read: commodify) their sound, so that none of the parts related to the themes, that of disease, dying and death. Where this was most apparent was in the rhythmic dimension, which just grooved and nothing more. It was catchy but it still sounded like Death Metal to the less discerning of ears, and so it sold more than the average Death Metal album at the time. Although it plays innocent, blame this album for every crime the band has commited since.

-ObscuraHessian-

diSEMBOWELMENT – Transcendence into the Peripheral

Comments Off

Transcendence into the Peripheral

diSEMBOWELMENT’s only full-length release is one of those classic Metal albums that takes the most rudimentary elements of the previous generation and arranges them in accordance with a unique and evolved artistic and spiritual vision. Though initially reminiscent of the blasting, grinding chaos of bands like Necrovore and Napalm Death, diSEMBOWELMENT waste no time setting in motion the epic, spiritual journey that they have clearly defined through the course of the album. The resonant tremelo riff that suddenly mystifies the raw and brutal, typically Death Metal soundscape is actually the centerpiece of the entire album. It’s a phrase that will recur throughout, and as it strummed, chanted, plucked and synthesized, it reflects an elevation of consciousness from the realisation of mortality, suffering and the nothingness that envelops it all to a state of serene understanding. The frenetic riffing more often gives way to monumentally heavy and meditatively slow passages, crafting a sense of silence or stillness that is at one with cold and impersonal reality. These are punctuated and layered with primal rhythms and manifestations of that central theme, as the journey unfolds to illustrate the gruelling path of spiritual awakening. Transcendence… is an album that should be approached with the same discipline that the band itself put into it’s creation. It’s one of the most thoughtfully crafted works of Death Metal that deserves a place as more than just an unusual, cult classic.

-ObscuraHessian-

Son of Metal FAIL

August 29, 2009 –
Comments Off

When we let rip with our “Metal FAILs — Volume I,” people were pissed — mainly because we didn’t include their favorite fails. So in the grand tradition of whoring ourselves for populist acclaim, and thus perhaps thousands of grubby fingers clicking on the same links, we’ve brought you the sequel: “More Metal FAILs” or “Son of Metal FAIL,” depending on what you want to call it. We just call it not letting this abundant bushel of failure slip the noose. So without much further ado, here’s another heaping helping of metal FAIL:

10. Celtic Frost – Cold Lake

Years of being a metalhead will condition a bowel release when you see this album. Celtic Frost is one of the handful of bands who created a completely unique take on metal, and this album represents their moment of exhaustion with life and its deeper questions. “Screw it all, we’ll be a hair metal band!” While this record is clearly a fail, it’s a minor fail because while the music is dressed up as glam, the compositions would have fit seamlessly onto “Into the Pandemonium” without the vocals.

9. Death – Individual Thought Patterns

As in life, in music the time when you are most likely to screw up is right before your final victory. Death clawed their way up the ranks and after the superlative “Human,” appeared poised to take over metal entirely. Then out came this throwback to the pretentious, glammy, art-metal of the late 1980s. It’s basically reboiled Queensryche and Shok Paris, given a death metal edge, but under the skin pure heavy metal. Now the only people who like this album are drunk masturbators on guitar has-been forums.

8. Massacre – Promise

Alcoholism is probably to blame for this weepy, whiny, and downright creepy rendition of Massacre. Their first album was great brainless hard-driving death metal, and then they tried to get all emo on us, ending up simultaneously smug and as brain-bleachingly confessional as Facebook at its worst. This album was so bad it would bring an easy chair and a newspaper whenever it arrived in a used CD rack, knowing it would be there for a while… a long while.

7. Atrocity – Blut

Their first album was good cryptic death metal, and their second a feast of technical death metal that could compete with the American bands. Next logical move? Why, go Goth metal, of course, probably because after the 11th beer what record label execs say almost seems sensible. So Atrocity excreted this poppy, dance-friendly piece of crap, and now the only people who buy it are Germans, out of misplaced national loyalty. (True story: I found one at a garage sale in the distant suburbs two months ago, proving just how far metalheads will drive to drop off this furry turd.)

6. Cryptopsy – Whisper Supremacy

Riding high on “None So vile,” Cryptopsy was a sure winner… until this. Wanting to be both death metal and “different,” as their label probably kept whining for them to be, Cryptopsy invented proto-deathcore with this disconnected, jaunty, chaotic album. The same people who love Marilyn Manson and Slipknot think it’s pretty cool. I repeat… well, you get the point.

5. Terrorizer – Darker Days Ahead

Legendary band makes comeback album almost twenty years later. Quick, what’s the first thought that pops into your head? Legendary fail? That’s correct! Unlike the first Terrorizer album, which had balls and distinct songs, this collection of riffs sounds like these guys working around their drug habits, appointments for car repair, ex-wives and beer guts. Uninspired and wandering, this album will stun you into a stupor.

4. Sepultura – Chaos AD

How do you follow up to an album as classic as “Beneath the Remains”? You make a watered-down but more musical version, Arise. One of the ten billion things you did to that record was include a few seconds of tribal beats… so that’s your new direction, obviously. It wasn’t the quality songwriting, the epic riffs, or the powerful atmosphere: it was that tribal beat. So start making standard nu-metal with a tribal beat and hey, you’ve got your niche! Even though this album pre-dated nu-metal, the (Mordred) writing was already on the wall that this was how mainstream rock would take over underground metal.

3. Carcass – Heartwork

Famous for making gutter-level grindcore, you decide to make a frilly speed metal album like your older brother (you know, the one on methadone) might have liked. Most fans don’t know this, but this album is a collection of recycled riffs and cliches from the power metal bands of the late 1980s who didn’t make it. Just a few years later, Carcass decided to re-envision all that old stuff with their trademark vocals intact. The result is as painfully blockheaded as speed metal, and as inept as grindcore bands without a good topic to write on. Fail and forget.

2. At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul

Wait, he must be crazy; that’s their most popular album! Yep, but if you made a graph of its popularity since release, you’d see it’s a steady downward curve. That’s because unlike everything else this band did, “Slaughter of the Soul” is an attempt to sound like other bands who made it big, just — you know — Swedishy instead. So it’s recycled 1980s speed metal with death metal flavor, like soda pop’s flavor is inspired by something that once tasted sort of organic. Now that we have dozens of melodic death metal bands, this FAIL just seems ordinarily bad.

1. Atheist – Elements

The number one dropping on our second list of bulging, greenish, corn-studded, mucus-sheathed turds is this raging FAIL from Atheist. This band is clearly one of the best in metal, and their first two albums are top notch. Then there’s this thing. Sounding like a Phish ripoff with occasional metal riffs, it fails like all progressive music does, mainly by being so busy jamming on cool stuff, man, that it fails to concentrate and write songs. So instead you get the kitchen sink: a little funk, a lotta jazz, some rock riffs, some metal, and then back again. Add the extra pretense of a prog metal album and you have a turd with an English accent, an emo livejournal, and a disorganized snobbery even us prog-metal fanatics cannot stand.

BandFAILs

Now, as an added bonus track to this blog posting, you’ll get more — BANDFAILS: bands who should never have existed or if they had to exist, should have stayed underground in mom’s cellar until suicide was the better option.

10. Weapon

We get it — all those years of black metal getting beyond its roots were too hard to re-do, so you’re going back to the roots as you see ‘em, which is Venom. Nevermind that Venom sounds like clumsy NWOBHM, not black metal. Let’s re-live that past one more time!

9. In Flames

If you’re a Dissection clone, and the Dissection guy shoots himself, do you do it too? Might not be a bad idea. From their first derivative album, which sucked in comparison to everything else out at the time, to their recent awkward contortions in order to stay “hip,” this band have been like AIDS at a swinger party.

8. Origin

This comical deathcore band make really goofy songs, to the point that you think someone would say, “Hey, didn’t I hear that melody on a commercial for a 24-hour law firm?” But people seem to not want to notice, because someone in a magazine somewhere told them this band is the future of metal. If so, I hope the sun swallows us first.

7. Meshuggah

During your first year of guitar lessons, this band just seems killer. Man, listen to those rhythms. Then as time goes on you realize that (a) not much goes on in Meshuggah songs and (b) past the rhythmic technique, nothing they’re doing is particularly hard. So you’re listening to faux prog that really has more in common with a bad Exhorder or Vio-lence clone. Errr… I’ll pass.

6. Cannibal Corpse

This band makes experienced musicians weep through their laughter. A large musical joke, Cannibal Corpse depends on fans being stoned enough to think irony means pretending you like something really dumb because, you know, dumb is funny. That lets the band keep touring and buying the quality weed. When they “compose,” they buy the cheap weed. Repeat the same blunt-shaped metal riff and chanting vocal, then split for fast guitar and a breakdown, then repeat. This music demands nothing of its fans except they think it’s pretty funny, when you’re high. In fact, you have to be wasted on something to even tolerate it.

5. Opeth

Over a breakfast of fish eyes in milk one morning, Mikael said to his friends, “You know, metalheads have low self-esteem and like simple music. If we make simple music that sounds like it is complicated, it will make the metalheads feel smart, and we will be able to afford all the spandex we want!” So Opeth was formed, causing progressive rock fans everywhere to weep. The riffs don’t add up. The fans don’t care. They’re too busy thinking about how smart they are.

4. Cradle of Filth

If someone paid me, I could not design a bigger metal failure than Cradle of Filth. If a new metal genre comes about, try to make it as boring as possible by repeating the same old formula with the new vocals and faster drumming. Then again, if they hadn’t, we’d think they were just another piss-poor Iron Maiden clone.

3. Mortician

While just about no one remembers this band now, for some time they were the future of metal: basic riffs, no key changes, simple rhythms and a drum machine doing kickbeat drums at dirge pace. It’s as if Spock rushed back into the engine room, screamed “Set phasers for dumb!” and then let the ship’s computer write an album.

2. Necrophagist

Like Opeth and Cynic, this band survives by convincing people with little experience of music that they’re experts. Overnight, they become sophisticated aficionados of the difficult, obscure and brainier-than-thou art of technical death metal. But when you peel back the hype, you find very simple songs wrapped in layers of sweep, chug, squeal, repeat. Confusing this with quality metal is like admiring a painter who can paint cars really well, but sucks at painting anything else, so he makes who pastoral scenes out of Hyundais talking to Lamborghinis.

1. Pantera

This is it, friends… the metal doofus epicenter of the universe: Pantera. They started as a hair band, then were a Metallica/Alice in Chains crossover that hit MTB big time with “Cemetery Gates,” and then suddenly they became the metal equivalent of hip-hop. Songs about the hard life on the streets: Check. Marijuana songs: check. Violent, swaggering attitude: check. Songs based mostly on rhythm with occasional random melodic fragments: check. If these guys were more honest, they would have just been a Public Enemy tribute band called We Rule the Burbs.

For whiners

Yes, we know: you hate us, you hate them, you hate something, you’re bubbling over with rage at how someone on the intertard can be so wrong. Either that or you were reading ANUS once, came upon a word you didn’t recognize and instead of growing a pair, tip-toeing your fingers to dictionary.com and rising to the occasion, you wimped out with the chorus all failed people like to repeat: “It’s not my fault, you’re an elitist, it’s not fair!”

To all such people we say: Go whine up a rope, because the only people who like that kind of mealymouthed rambling are other failures. You can all go fail together somewhere. And maybe touch each other, but in the grand tradition of being in denial so you can fail more efficiently, you’ll insist you’re not gay… it has nothing to do with what Uncle Ted did to your peenor after he’d been drinking. If you’ve failed at life, it’s because you’re disorganized and cannot man up and face reality. Don’t blame us for your weakness; fix it. (Listening to the albums on this list will not help.)

People get bent out of shape about our opinions, but somehow it’s only the people who have nothing better going on. Humans of that type enter any situation with the goal of making it “safe” for themselves, meaning that they don’t want to hear about how some fail and some are great, only that we’re all accepted. We’re all the same and we’re all OK. That kind of bullshit, of course, converts thriving metal scenes into big circle-jerks where everyone accepts everyone else but ten years later, you look back and realize finally that all the music was thinly-disguised FAIL with smugness for bling.

Faking it

August 28, 2009 –
Comments Off

Did you ever get that sneaking suspicion that some metalheads are “faking it”?

Sure, they have bought all the right things. They have the posters on the walls, the tshirts, the CDs and rare vinyl and maybe even some classic demos.

But they’re faking it and you can tell because they don’t understand metal as being different from rock music, indie, emo, punk — you name it!

They’ve picked metal as an identity, because they need some cause in order to claim their lives have meaning, but they don’t seem to understand it at all.

It’s like they’re spectators at an art gallery who say “I like the red one; red’s my favorite color!” or tourists visiting a battlefield when they can’t remember who the two sides were. It’s like they’re not actually engaged with life itself much at all, but want to dress up like metalheads so we think they are.

Now, if you get enough of these people together in a room, they’ll start to vouch for each other. “John’s okay, he’s ueber-kult, especially if you ignore that collection of emo and indie punk moldering in his closet!” And across the room, John’s saying the same thing about Shawn.

But if you step outside the happy little circle of social bullshit, suddenly the truth is revealed like shapes under snow in that instant where you realize your location and recognize its landmarks: these people are inverted metalheads. They don’t like metal, they like the idea of looking like metalheads. They don’t like the ideas behind metal, but they like that it seems “different.”

Who do you know who’s faking it? It might be time to call them out on it just to watch them squirm.

The most epic metal FAILs of all time

August 25, 2009 –
Comments Off

Of all genres of music, metal is unique because the line between “acceptable” and “total failure” is very narrow. Making metal is easy, but making good metal… difficult. Periodically, metal bands either sell out or have personal problems, and they create metal failures.

We’re going to tour some of these today.

These failures have one thing in common: an otherwise promising band made a shining, mucus-sheathed, corn-studded turd of an album, and in most cases didn’t have the decency to shoot themselves in the face. In some cases, they went on to get rich and famous, even though they failed at making quality metal.

10. Slayer – Divine Intervention

There will never be anything cooler than Slayer. Most metalheads agree that this is fact. However, they will be quick to add, “…old Slayer.” What they mean to say is that sometime in 1996 or so, Slayer switched from their mythological, occult, intense music to dumbed-down impersonations of themselves. Maybe they were jealous of Pantera getting all the big bucks. Maybe it was alcoholism. No one knows. But this album is a series of one-noted-removed interpretations of older Slayer riffs, and really simple songs that sound almost like Slayer except they’re boring. It took the band ten years to come back from this with “Christ Illusion.”

9. Cynic – Traced in Air

The first Cynic album was a ripoff of all jazz fusion and prog metal to date, sure, but it was a good ripoff so we don’t care, even if they did use early autotune vocals. But the followup? It’s a disorganized pile of derivative jazz riffs interrupted by banging, dumbed-down, mouth-breathing metal. Fail on both counts.

8. Pestilence – Hold the Mustard

This album is so bad I can’t even remember the title. It’s like they booked an afternoon of studio time and pulled an album out of their asses, then tried to make it extra bang-y just so the dumb kids in the crowd could like it. The result is both boring and annoying at once, which is usually hard to do but Pestilence packed this so full of fail it was effortless for them.

7. Morbid Angel – Domination

More metalheads shouted “what the hell is this?” at their speakers for this album than any previous. After three brilliant studio albums, Morbid Angel decided to sound like Pantera, and came out with this cranky, braindead-simple, bouncy shadow of their former selves. Gone were the brains. Instead we had bounce. This album was so dumbed-down it lost all of the Morbid Angel mystique, and sounded like another third-rate Pantera ripoff. Add to that the goofy cover and you’ve got a cup runnething over with FAIL.

6. Emperor – IX Equilibrium

This Norwegian band used to make the kind of mystical musical experience in album form that made you want to never let go of the CD. “In the Nightside Eclipse” transported more teenagers to midnight forests than Tolkien, almost. And then they came out with this hunk of rubbish, basically a riff salad with singing amongst the black metal vocals. It shocked many people into simply abandoning black metal altogether because Emperor went from “getting it” to “clueless” in thirty seconds of mismatched riffs.

5. Suffocation – Souls to Deny

Basically inventing the style of blasting deathgrind, Suffocation used to make these epic, legendary albums. Then they heard a bunch of deathcore, and formed an equation in their minds: deathcore = how to succeed. So they ripped it off, but tried to make it fit into Suffocation, or vice-versa. The result sounds like Suffocation with a fever, on cheap drugs, and locked in a rape basement with a one-eyed inbred tormentor. The riffs don’t make sense. The songs are bad. But it’s definitely deathcore. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

4. Obituary – Back From the Dead

Their previous album, “World Demise,” was bad, but on this one they had to go hyperspace into pure feces. If the rap/rock remix “Bullitary” didn’t clue you in, the suddenly “streetwise” song titles and cliche cover might have. But if you ignored all the warnings and listened anyway, you were in for a vomit launch of cliche meeting absent-minded riffing that fulfilled every negative stereotype about death metal.

3. Asphyx – God Cries

Asphyx are legends. They dominate completely. Except on this album. Two members left, so the remaining members sought a clue, and one drunken night decided to do a morose, emo tribute to one band member’s dead father. So instead of cavernous booming riffs of doom, you get weepy, slow, melodic chanting choruses and really bad interludes. Most Asphyx fans deny this album exists. To do otherwise might make their heads explode, especially if they sit down with “The Rack” in one hand and this lump of guano in the other.

2. Entombed – Wolverine Blues

“Clandestine” captured the imagination of every death metal fan on earth when it was released. That fuzzy, thick guitar sound! Those song titles promising realms beyond the visible! The powerful rhythm riffing and breathtaking tempo changes! And then… out came this, a bluesy rock album with some death metal riffs and a cartoon character on the cover, sounding like a fifteenth-rate jeer of an Alice in Chains ripoff. We still don’t understand why they chose to give their career a Viking funeral in this manner.

And the #1 metal FAIL of all time is…

1. Metallica – The Black Album

You knew it was going to be this. The bringer of grimaces to the faces of metal fans, this was the album when “we’ll never stop, we’ll never quit, ’cause we’re Metallica” became a curse. Cliff Burton spun so fast in his grave he got vertigo and barfed all over his own ashes. It’s sappy, sentimental, slow, goofy and really panders to the dumbest, geekiest, most clueless among us. Yet it launched their mainstream career, proving again that most people are complete idiots with no musical taste.

From looking over these, there are some warning signs that metal bands are about to fail. First, they get sensitive. Next, they start writing songs about being themselves. Finally, they get bitter that the Pantera guys don’t have to work day jobs. Put together one part sell-out, two parts disorganization and fifteen parts clueless, and you have a METAL FALL on a grand scale.

We had a buttload of runner-ups. In fact, since most metal bands start falling apart when their members are given the choice of “sell more albums, or it’s back to your day jobs,” no shortage of material can be found. But ordinary sell-outs are nothing compared to these epic turds. If you ever want proof of Newton’s idea that every action creates an equal and opposite reaction, you have it here: the bands that started out the best went just as fast in the other direction when the time came. We can’t change that, but if you see these albums waiting to pounce on a used CD rack somewhere, don’t walk but run in the opposite direction.

Sadistic Metal Reviews 8-16-09

August 16, 2009 –
Comments Off

Scientists have found that we learn more from our successes than our failures because of the way individual brain cells respond in real time. Like natural selection, this is a process where the winner takes all: when the idiots have run out of steam or exterminated themselves, the smart take over and breed like mad. Metal is exactly the same way. Across the world, tens of thousands of bands launch their albums at one giant egg which is the mass consciousness of metal fans, and a few make it in and become golden classics that people will talk about for decades. It’s not random; it’s about music quality. In the following reviews, we search for the 0.1% of quality in the metal world and mock the 99.9% of directionless gloop that people will talk about this week and next, and then forget.

Medusa – En Raga Sul

You know, post-metal is horsepuckey just like post-punk was. You’re making the same music with a little more dexterity and some slicker exterior. But you can’t escape the fact that your approach is the same. This circularity of doom by ignorance of abstract afflicts Medusa. These guys — normally from indie bands — can clearly play their instruments, but they understand metal on the same level as my parents. “Oh, I get it, be as loud and interruptive as possible, and random if you can.” No way, dueds. Random is an indie hipster thing. Order rising from chaos in a majestic fountain of context-expanding revelation is a metal thing. Like post-rock, post-punk, etc. this is a disappointed because they threw everything but the kitchen sink into the compositional mix, and came out with one giant average that screeches, howls, whines and cajoles like a methed-out whore. This CD will experience the wrath of Lord Bic, my lighter (and the object into which I have projected the spirit of my dead warrior ancestors).

Zebulon Pike – Intransience

This lengthy EP brings three songs in a fusion between King Crimson of the Red era and the mellower, rolling doom metal of bands like Cathedral. Thankfully, there are no vocals, which makes this quite exciting; sadly, it’s still entrenched in the “prog rock” category and does not make a metal voice out of its influences. However, it one-ups bands like Cynic or Maudlin of the Well by escaping the pop song ghetto and going for the gusto with these lengthy, prog-worshipping songs that are not so much intricately structured as they are intricate structures applied cumulatively in repetitive layers, causing a sensation of ascending a spiral staircase that changes geometric dimension at every floor. All instrumentation is straight out of 1970s King Crimson, with occasional bounding punk or doom-death metal riffs, but by the nature of keeping open harmony so it can write melodies through the chord lines in a complex fashion, there’s a lot of clanging open chords and chords formed around the upper notes of the scale, giving it a clangy old school vibe. Fans of Pelican might appreciate this fusion between indie retro aesthetic and the impetus toward topographic space savant rock epics, but if this band really wants to move forward they should forget their influences long enough to fuse a new language out of the shared heritage of rock, prog and metal that fuels this exploratory band.

Havok – Being and Nothingness

Despite the cool song titles and album concept, this is tedious metalcore: a mix of prog metal, speed metal, avantgarde punk and indie rock that uses death metal technique sometimes. Lots of heavily repetitive strumming, “groove” occurring in the midst of rhythmic chaos, and sudden breaks to “unexpected” acoustic or proggy parts in the same self-considered profundity that Opeth and Meshuggah use. Maybe you’ll like it if you like those. But then it would be an imitation of an imitation.

Woodtemple – Voices of Pagan Mountains

I am told by reliable sources that other CDs from this band are not as good. However, this one stays on my B-list of metal and will eventually be purchased. In the 2000s, buying something you’ve had kicking around on mp3 forever is a sure sign it’s destined for repeated listening. In style, this disc is like Graveland Following the Voice of Blood re-done in the style of Thousand Swords, but as if informed by early Ancient, say, Trolltaar. Longer riff-melodies and repetition interrupted by a kind of prismatic re-use and re-contexting of past riffs makes this an engrossing, labyrinthine listen. There’s some hilarious intrusions from later Bathory (Hammerheart), including experimentation with percussive riffing, but on the whole, this is a great disc and one of my favorites from post-entropy (1994) black metal, even if in style it’s a total tribute to the past.

Amesoeurs – Amesoeurs

Proving again that they’re low self-esteem losers, the vocal black metal community tripped over its own feet rushing to praise this release. I understand why; it’s easily listened to, pleasing to the air, and maintains an atmosphere that is pleasant. However, it’s shoegaze and not black metal, and deviates entirely from the moods which produce the epic experience of black metal. For sure, there are moments of storming guitar riff over blasting drums. But musically, it has little in common with black metal, and does a lot of dressing up My Bloody Valentine-style pop as something more extreme, kind of like a brainier version of Marilyn Manson. The problem with the pop approach is that it’s two-stroke: you get two emotions, mix them, and leave people with that wistful sense that something important happened and they missed it. That will not scratch the black metal itch because it’s very karmic,

Worship – Dooom

I really wanted to like this. But playing a heavy metal band this slowly crushes the ability to make riffs that are distinctive, so you end up with chord progressions you’ve heard before in a rhythm too slow to recognize; when that gets arduous, the band pause like waiting for an audience to clap along, and then resume again. And so it goes, for minutes upon minutes. It isn’t bad but it’s not necessary, and it will always gall me to have CDs sitting around that aren’t as good as the other stuff I have, but are “newer” so must be really important. It’s not. Stoner doom is the latest trend and while we all like a trend because it seems like the hand of the world has reached down to offer us an easy solution, usually this means that people adapt whatever they have to the new trend with predictable results. These songs are generic stoner doom of the heavy variety; seek Skepticism instead!

Havohej – Kembatinan Premaster

Paul Ledney makes brilliant albums every other album. You can tell from his history that he has an active mind and explores new methods of making music. Some are communicative, and so make us understand the dark mental journeys he’s taking, and others convey emptiness in a way that not only is un-informative, but also is not much fun to listen to. After all, good art is half Schopenhauer and half “Harry Potter”: it should have the profundity to twist our minds to see a greater context to our lives, but it should also be entertaining and show us our everyday struggles in a new context where we can more easily grasp what we’d rather be doing in similar situations. This latest from Havohej, like Man and Jinn before it, is an experiment in ritual rhythm music using noise instead of guitars and bass. His technique appears to be using ultrasonic noise and sublimated harmony in the drone to create additional rhythms through separation sounds (as used when tuning an instrument). The result is “interesting” academically, but horrible for listening. The sense of adventure is dead. It’s more like a mathematical proof by an interior decorator. Skip this and pick up the excellent Profanatica Profanatitas de Domonatia instead.

Greenfly – Hidden Pleasures of a Nonexistent Reality

This CD is just bad. The choice of notes is predictable; the choice of rhythms is blockheaded; the instrumentation is so competent it’s thoroughly uncreative. It’s so strikingly obvious in construction it’s hard to imagine it as something other than guitar practice that got accidentally recorded. The metalcore vocals don’t help either, nor do the recycled and completely cut-from-form speed metal riffs. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was a parody of death metal. It’s like an angry caveman howling while he beats rocks with his club. I think the worst part is that this band seem to think they’re clever, or pure in some ironic way, for having distilled the genre into this blurting, bumbling, pounding disaster.

Hammemit – Spires Over the Burial Womb

Over the last dozen years, I have become more cynical about noise and ambient music. The reason is that there’s so much of it, yet 90% drops into the category of “goes nowhere, does nothing.” Hammemit straddles the line: a good deal of thought went into these compositions which create a ritual atmosphere of contemplation. The problem is that they do so under the conscious level, and do not form any distinct thought, only a vague impression of something sacred happening. I like that, but it’s not going to motivate people to listen to any piece of music (same problem modern and postmodern “classical” has). These collections of moans, natural phenomena noises, occasional piano and guitar, and found sounds are compelling in that they do not whack you over the head like modern material does, but they also shy away from approaching the clarity of ancient works. My suggestion to this artist is to vary the sound palette between tracks, and to aim at making the concrete form out of nothingness, as that way the mind will retain what’s afoot here.

Ihsahn – Angl

I’m going to say what others are afraid to say: this album is shit. Equal parts Cynic and Meshuggah, it shows nothing of the creativity of Ihsahm during his Emperor days; actually, it’s just a collection of well-done cliches. It’s like Nordic metal is the peak of ability in making songs, but if you feed the same crap into it, you just get a better version of that crap. I think instead we need something, like — just to pull a name out of the hat — Emperor where they made something entirely different, and as a result, were inspired to make better quality music. Repeating the past is painful. This recombines and repeats the past. I had to run across the room to hide my Emperor CDs from this dripping turd.

Demigod – Shadow Mechanics

This refreshing album eschews the pure death metal outlook for a hybrid of death metal and later Voivod-style progressive metal, using complex rhythms and multiple offsets place emphasis of protean phrases; there’s also the usual expanded chord voicings and quirky tempo changes, and while song structures are basically complex verse/chorus in the Rush model, there are enough deviations — usually about two per song — to give atmosphere and create anticipation. Smooth vocals and catchy rhythms give a nod to populism, but it’s unlikely the band thought they were authoring a best seller. It’s more likely that, like Obliveon on Nemesis or Voivod on Negatron, they were simply hoping for a more accessible canvas onto which to splash their brighter ideas, in the camouflage of being an entertainment/leisure product.

Grave – Into the Grave

After enjoying this album during the early days of Death Metal, I set it aside for about a dozen years. I don’t know why I set it aside. I know why I picked it up: I was curious to see what degree nostalgia played in my enjoyment of music, and why I seem to pathologically forget to mention this band or even think about it. Now I know: this is an album with passion, rhythmic intensity, and utterly boring selection of chords in very similar riffs and very, very similar song constructions. Musically, it’s like Asphyx played a lot faster with Slayer-esque drumming, and almost no deviation from a half-whole interval progression. They do a good job of thematic presentation, but every riff is astoundingly self-evident and without much tonal contrast. True, it’s heavy as hell, but like a bulldozer pushing rocks: after a while the dynamic is dead and you have background noise.

Corpus Christii – The Fire God

The Fire God should consume this CD. It’s entirely coherent, but aims so low that fitting together verse and chorus riffs with a bevvy of hovering keyboard trills should be easy. And it is, and that’s kind of the problem: there’s nothing here you could not find somewhere else in a more articulate form. In addition to being basically bland black metal, this CD also incorporates a lot of heavy metal elements blah blah you know the story by now. Throw in too many ingredients, and the recipe turns to mush. So does this CD. It needs a fire god to give it real passion, but for that that, it will have to pick a direction and try to find songs that can express conclusions of its own voice. Right now, it sounds like a clever recombination of things known from other sources and since I own those, well, why would I listen to this?

Demigod – Let Chaos Prevail

Most people confuse external form with content, because they assume form mirrors function. It does, but the function must come first; if there’s no clear function, we end up with an aggregate of misplaced ideas. That’s what has happened here. Demigod have tried to update their death metal sound with the “modern death metal” (read: deathcore, which is deathy metalcore) style, complete with sweeps and jazzy chugging rhythms, and the result is that they’ve adulterated their music — even while producing at the top of their musical knowledge and technical ability. In this, they are very similar to Cadaver, who did the same thing with Necrosis. The bouncy, jaunty, distraction-oriented nature of rock music and metalcore does not mix with the subtle building of atmosphere out of seemingly unrelated attributes of a stream of riffs; instead, on this CD, Demigod sound like a riff/chorus band who periodically jam on alternate riffs before going back to the safe and repetitive. Clearly they are talented, a lot like Behemoth and better than Meshuggah, but this is written in such a blockhead way that the dumbing-down traps all hopeful bits and intelligent riffs in the amber of a soon-to-be-obsolete style called metalcore.

Death Courier – Necrorgasm

What happens to innovators when the music they produce is not all that exceptional? Like Venom, this Greek band helped establish the aesthetic of death metal. Their music is not bad; it’s just boring. Moderately technical, it shows a nice grasp of basic harmony, and is probably about 50% rock music and 50% death metal. There are plenty of heavy metal riffs. There’s a clear influence on early Darkthrone, especially Goatlord, in some of the bidirectional chord progressions used in riffs. Some might point out similarities to Varathron His Majesty at the Swamp as well and not be inaccurate. But listening to this for a modern death metal listener is kind of painful.

Criterion – The Dominant

I really wanted to like this, but the riffs are too… obvious. Not much other than straightforward riffing like cutting bread, at least harmonically. Rhythmically, there’s more space, but with two glitches: their voice is derived entirely from Deicide “Once Upon the Cross” meets later Morbid Angel, and the organization of these riffs goes nowhere. Songs cycle, then end. Thud. The spirit and intent seems good behind this CD but the result is battering repetition.

Code – Resplendent Grotesque

This is really bad. It’s dramatic gothic rock pretending to be black metal, sort of a fusion between the Dimmu Borgir softer parts and Mardukish harder parts. But at the end of the day, it’s the same ranting style of vocals without much organization, recycled riffs, and lots of noise to hide where there’s no real idea. This is to be avoided if you have musical knowledge or just like quality music.

Angantyr – Haevn

I keep trying to like this band and getting halfway there. It’s very pretty; it’s very repetitive; somewhere in the middle, its direction ends up getting simplified and to my ears, not really deviating from its starting point. However, if you want to swing your willowy limbs to something pleasant and droningly melodic, this will fit the bill. Fit the bill. Fit the bill. Fit the bill.

Diaboli – Mesmerized by Darkness

Resembling Impaled Nazarene’s Ugra-Karma most in its approach, this is pneumatically-driven high speed quasi-melodic black metal with a relentless attack. Like the most extreme hardcore band you can imagine, Diaboli roar into song with verse/chorus riffing interrupted by some transitional “budget riffs” of rhythmic variations on a couple of chords. As a result, like most hardcore, it wears thin after some time. However, there are some great riffs on here and the intensity stays high. This would probably not make a great go-to album, since it lacks the kind of mystic atmosphere Forest Poetry or the aforementioned Ugra-Karma created, but it’s a good rainy day fallback.

End – III

Someone made the perfect generic black metal album: it’s rugged and rough black metal written as if it were “symphonic” metal and the keyboards got accidentally left off. Heavy metal riffs, black metal drums and vocals, sounding a lot like a cross between Absu and later Immortal if you then crossbred that with something really bouncy like Nifelheim. Even if you’re not an orthodox blackmetaller, you can see how this lack of direction leads to a very confused band who basically jam on some really basic stuff and then try to differentiate it however they can. It’s not badly done but there’s no reason to listen to it. Imagine the best SUV ever made, if you hate SUVs.

Behemoth – Evangelion

No matter what anyone says, this is deathcore or metalcore: it’s not put together like death metal. The idea behind death metal is that a string of riffs makes sense in an expanding context. This is totally cyclic, a bit of verse/chorus dressed up with some transitions, and instead of emphasizing a through-composed outlook, it directs itself toward — just like rock ‘n roll — a rhythmic chorus pattern with open chords behind it. The “carnival music” aspect of pasting together disparate riffs and layering them in keyboards to distract us is gone; these are basic heavy metal riffs done “extreme” with high BPM and lots of distortion. Vocals are masked in some odd way that makes them sound like a crowd of laryngitis sufferers demanding their change at a Burger King. It’s fair to mention that Behemoth know their basic music theory and so this holds together well as music; it’s more harmonically coherent and thus easy to listen to than most death metal. However, it conveys mostly a repetition of battering rhythm, put into the minor-key Gothic theatricism that is a kissing cousin to Marilyn Manson, which makes it more suited to the punk/rock crowd who enjoy metalcore because it’s basically rock music with prog-metal riffs.

Detournement – Screaming Response

For a minute, I was thrown back into 1994 when the fresh-voiced, power-pop-infused posi-pop-punk started hitting the shelves. Like all those bands, these guys try really hard to show both how purist punk they are, and how not punk they are, by cutting a ballad like “No Estan Solos” full of soulful appeal but ultimately pretty repetitive. The rest is surging political punk that tries to keep the outrage high but, as in the 1990s, sounded simply like the children of a post-industrial wasteland howling protests at leaders themselves in the grip of forces they cannot control. Both of these tendencies make the pandering and amateurishness come out, but other than that, there’s nothing wrong with this high-energy modern hardcore EP.

Havohej – Man and Jinn

The difference between the indefinable presence of discernible structure, natural forces and emergent properties, and the world as we experience it of visual appearance and seemingly absolute cause/effect linkages that yet are not universal, afflicts this EP both in its triumph and its failure. Its triumph is that by using sampled sounds of nuclear explosions and other droning material sounds, Paul Ledney creates a recording that sounds like avantgarde black metal without blatantly slipping into avantgarde territory. In doing so, he tweaks our noses for accepting the “air conditioner with a drumbeat” style that black metal has become; unfortunately, the failure of this CD is that it does not provide a better artistic and listening experience, only a demonstration of form. Sometimes, I wish Ledney would devote his considerable talents to writing analysis about metal instead of trying to show us sonic evidence for what only a few can perceive anyway.

Man and Technics

August 7, 2009 –
Comments Off

The Hessian guide to the proper care and maintenance of your records and sound equipment.

Part I – Digital

Throughout the years, I have met many hessians that, despite the passion for metal music that is so common among them, haven’t yet learned how to take care of their records and sound equipment of which they depend so much.
Being part of a culture means, among many other things, maintaining the material manifestations of that culture. We get stronger, as individuals and as a culture, by learning good habits and applying our energies towards the preservation of the things that we care the most.

So it is imperative for us at the Hessian Studies Center, in our efforts to improve the well-being of metalheads worldwide, that we provide our readers with a comprehensive guide to the proper care of your music records and reproduction system.

CDs

Compact discs are by far the recording medium of preference for hessians of all ages and inclinations, and it is easy to see why: it is small, so it’s easily transportable and manageable, provides great, clean sound, and doesn’t degrade with use since the reproduction of sound doesn’t involve the constant friction of a needle or a cassette tape head. Of course, this medium has its detractors, and much more in the metal culture than other music-oriented human groups, for reasons we’ll explain later on.

Despite its advantages, CDs are very easy to damage if mistreated, so you must take the following cautions:

  • Never touch the readable surface of the CD. Grab the discs by its edges, never by the middle. It could get fingerprints on it, resulting in bad playback.
  • Always keep the CD in a protective jewelcase if you ain’t playing it. Other storing devices, such as wallets and cakeboxes, are not recommended since they could easily scratch the discs. Make sure that you have the inner tray of the CD case as clean as possible, removing all particles of dust, before storing the CD.
  • If the CD gets some dirt or dust on it, clean with a dry cloth, gently so that you barely touch the surface of the CD.
  • Keep your CDs away from humidity or high temperatures. If your CD gets splashed with water, gently dry it with a soft cloth, from center to edge, in a careful fashion so that you don’t scratch it.
  • Never use solvents or liquids of the sort to clean the CD, save for those cleaning kits available in commerce. Better yet, Just try your best to keep your CDs from getting dirt on them and they’ll be fine.
  • If your CD ever gets scratched, and those aren’t too deep into the surface, you can try one of those machines that refinish the readable surface, meaning they remove the scratches by polishing the acrylic plastic that is the transparent layer of the CD. If the scratch is too deep, or in the label side of the disc, it probably damaged the silver layer (where the audio is recorded). In that case you’re screwed. Repair kits aren’t too efective, so I wouldn’t mind with them if I’m you. DVD renting or used CD stores usually keep one of the aforementioned machines handy, and charge a small fee for the repair of a disc or several.

Also, keep in mind that straight scratches from the center to the edge of the CD are much less likely to cause your CD to malfunction when compared to scratches paralel to the circumference of the disc, for obvious reasons – a CD reproduction system can afford to lose one or a few bits without any problems, but not several of them, in which case the information (audio) might be impossible to read by the equipment.

CDRs

To record a sample from your recordings, compilations and rare albums you know you won’t easily get otherwise, CDRs are very practical. They are also cheaper than they were years ago, but the average in price have lowered in great part because of cheap quality CDRs flooding the market. In choosing your recording medium, pick a good brand of CDR: Sony, Zykon, Kodak, Mitsui. Buying the CDRs in packs of 20, 25 or 50 is cheaper in the long term as well (less value per unit).

Make sure you buy a good brand of CD burner. Favorites among the public are Asus, Sony, Samsung, LG and AOpen.

For recording, use a good software such as Nero Burning Room 9. Always record your CDRs at the lowest speed possible. Preferably, you should never burn the disc faster than 4x of speed.

The bad combination of low quality CDs, cheap CD burner equipment and excessive burning speed may cause your CDRs to fail to reproduce on the short or the long term, so be sure to spend a little more and be a bit more patient. That way your burned CDRs will last for a long time (+5 years, at least, if you pick a good brand).

For storing the CDRs, you can use either a jewelcase or a slim case, the latter tending to be more practical if you have way too many CDRs. In the last case, it is also a good idea to have an Excel sheet of all your recorded CDs so you can find them, since you can’t easily label the side of slim cases.

Care tips for CDs are equally applicable to the recorded sort. Another thing that should be considered, though, is the damage that heat can produce to the special chemical properties particular to a CDR. So, you should never place a CDR in direct sunlight. More info here.

To label your CDRs, use a water-based marker with a non-sharp tip.

Digital formats

Not much to say here. Preferred audio formats for PC playback are mp3 and FLAC. The latter allows one to keep a CD quality, lossless reproduction of the recording, with its downside being a lot heavier in individual file size than mp3. Other formats, such as .ogg, are also preferred by certain digital audio aficionados.

One thing that should be mentioned, though: if you keep a large collection of digitalized music, it is convenient to store them on a separate external hard drive in case your computer crashes or fails, like they do so often these days.

Some links on the subject you may find useful:

  • Foobar 2000 – best damn audio playback software for your computer with lots of different options for amateur and expert audio freaks.
  • FLAC codec home – to download the program/codec that allows your PC to reproduce and burn FLAC files. It includes a coding/decoding software that is light and easy to use.
  • Fraunhofer mp3 audio codec – One of the best mp3 encoders, allows to get a better quality or definition of sound.

Part II – Analog

Members of the metal culture have a natural preference for analog formats, such as tape and vinyl. Other musical subcultures share this inclination with headbangers, whether out of audio resolution considerations (electronica fans seem to be of this camp) or simply out of an indescribable mystic feel that the listener captures out of enjoying or simply owning an album on analog format. I’ve seen that most hessians prefer this for the last consideration, that is, the special aura it invokes.

Not that there aren’t any practical considerations for preferring analog over digital formats. Tapes, for example, are sturdier than CDs, which give them an advantage on physical resistance. Besides, tapes permit multiple recordings as long as its sound quality lasts (which depends on the type of cassette…more about that later).

As you all most know, the main disadvantage of analog formats is their weariness. Since sound reproduction in their case involves the use of either a head or needle which is mechanically attached to the source of the recording, the latter slowly experiences a wearing of the surface layer where the audio is recorded, resulting all of this in a progressive loss of sound quality.

Yet, as with CDs, there are certain tips that can help increase the lifespan of your tapes and CDs in order for them to provide the maximal amount of listening time and enjoyment.

Tapes

Tapes were (and still are, for some) tremendously practical for the active listener, in great part due to its portability and endurance. Besides, who didn’t start out on its metal journey without a Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden cassette on one’s walkman? Few, I guess.

  • First of all, keep your tapes from extreme temperature and humidity conditions. The recommended range is within 59 and 77° F and 40% to 60% relative humidity (that is, not wet, but not too dry either).
  • Keep your tapes away from any sort of magnetic field. Those include not only magnets, but also home appliances such as refrigerators, speakers and anything containing an electric motor.
  • Keep your tapes evenly wound, otherwise they get easily stuck on their casing and it may bring problems to sound reproduction, screwing with the tape itself and your deck as well! If your tape has a see-through casing, you should easily see uneven woundings in the rolled tape. If not, then try to roll the tape by hand to check if it presents difficulties or if it gets stuck. Solve the problem by fully rewinding your tape several times until it gets looser. If the tape is stuck in the casing, it would be better to do the process by hand, carefully so that you don’t break it. Also, be sure to rewind tapes completely after each use to maintain high performance.
  • Don’t leave your tapes in the car or other places where they may get direct sunlight or excessive heat. Remember the first tip.
  • It’s recommendable that you make quality copies of an original so that the latter lasts as long as it possibly can.

Vinyl

The LP and EP formats are a favorite for hessians and the one that carries most “mystique”. A lot of it has to do, in great part, with nostalgy: after all, in the classic era of metal the LP was THE format for albums that got released at the time, and most cover art was done specifically to fir into the large sleeves of LPs: if you want examples, you should look into Iron Maiden’s, Morbid Angel, Carnage, Dio and many, many others…the list goes on and on.

However, this particular medium requieres a lot more care to it, as vinyl is a very delicate material and the discs have some significant weaknesses that, with the arrival of the compact disc, were no longer an issue for listeners.

  • First things first: clean your records thoroughly. That is by far the most important detail you should think about. Not only the disc’s lifespan depends on it, but also its sound quality. Playing dirty records can eventually cause permanent damage to the disc, not to mention that the stylus on your record player wears more rapidly. Distilled water is recommended by many sources to be ideal for cleansing of the plastic in the record, it being a non-abrasive liquid, doesn’t leave any residues and the bottle is inexpensive. Besides, it disperses static charges and counteracts the increased conductivity from the pick-up of salt deposits form finger prints. Nonetheless, water isn’t enough. Surfactants are used as additives to enable water to be a grease solvent. Clean with a soft, anti-static cloth. Discs should be cleaned before and after each performance for the best results.
  • Handle your vinyl records as follows: keep finger contact with the edge and the labeled surface of the disc, never with the grooved surface. Remove the record from the jacket with the inner dust sleeve by bowing the jacket open by holding it against the body and applying a slight pressure with a hand. Hold a corner of the inner dust sleeve and pull the record out. Avoid pressing down onto the disc with the fingers as any dust caught between the sleeve and the disc will be pressed into the grooves. Remove the disc from the inner sleeve by bowing the sleeve and letting it slip gradually into an open hand so that the edge falls on the inside of the thumb knuckle. The middle finger should reach for the center label. Never reach into the sleeve.
  • Use inner sleeves made of polyethylene. Do not use record sleeves made of PVC. Paper made sleeves may scratch the surface of records.

Part III – Sound Equipment and Storage

We won’t stop here to review all kind of sound reproduction systems available in the market, for that would take many lines of text. A general rule that can be said about sound equipment shall, instead, be mentioned: that is, when you buy a new piece of equipment, give it a try at the store. Bring one of your CDs and check for the following:

  • Bass and mids response.
  • Speaker response @ full volume, although many stores won’t be so enthusiast about that test.

The ideal would be for you to buy one of those multi-unit hi-fi equipments that can be mounted on top of each other. Those usually are the best, for the reason that you can buy each unit from different sources and assemble your own, personalized system.

Your system needs to be dusted periodically, optimally once a day, to prevent particles of dust to reach any delicate part of the equipment, such as the lens from the CD player or the tape head. I’ve found that keeping a disc inside the CD player and a tape inside the deck while not using the stereo prevents this, in part. Also, be sure to put a piece of cardbox on top of the ventilation holes of the equipment so that dust and others don’t penetrate through them. Just make sure that you take the cardbox out when you’re using the stereo! Those ventilation holes are there for a reason, and if you obstruct them, your system may malfunction out of the heating of the components.

Your CD unit should be cleaned periodically. Electronics stores sell a kind of special CDs with little brushes on them that are made specially for the task of cleaning the lens of the unit. Using those with a once-a-month frequency can greatly augment the lifespan of the CD player.

For the tape deck, regular cleansing of the head with isopropyl alcohol is recommended. Buy a box of cotton buds and use it to apply a small amount of alcohol on the playback and recording heads. If there’s oxide, apply the cotton tip until it is removed. Give it a few seconds to dry out. Also, in the same way clean the tape guides and capstan (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, refer to this diagram). The pinch roller should also be cleaned in the same manner, this time using a mixture of water with a pinch of washing-up liquid. Do not use alcohol for the pinch roller, as it is made of rubber.

Demagnetizing the tape decks is also recommended. With use, the tape heads and guides tend to accumulate a magnetic charge that not only can interfere with the appropiate playback of the cassette, but an also destroy its high frequency content (remember what we learned about the sour relationship between tapes and magnets?). There are cassette-shaped, battery-powered demagnetisers available in commerce. Those should be applied to your decks once a month.

On vinyl record players, the following tips should be followed:

  • The stylus should be cleaned with a special kind of brush. This should be applied along the cantilever, in the direction pointed by the stylus (see here).
  • As stylus wears out, it eventually needs to be replaced. Have yours checked once a year by a specialist – usually someone who sells record players and related equipment. He will tell you if your stylus needs to be changed.
  • Place your record player on a stable, solid surface.
  • Dust it every once in a while.

Storage

This one is simple: keep your vinyl, CDs and tapes in their respective cases, and always store and stack them vertically, that way you avoid the deformation of the cases and the disc itself, in the case of vinyl. Obviously, the environment in which you store your records should have respectable temperature and humidity rates and be as clean as possible.

Rembrandt – The Anatomy Lesson

August 5, 2009 –
Comments Off

Metal isn’t the only artform in history to portray sick imagery. Back in the “good old days” (18th century and below), when people were less afraid of seeing all sides of reality, even the most uncomfortable, genius artists made artworks like our pick of today: Rembrandt van Rijn’s “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp”.

Fitting as the insert of an Autopsy or a Carcass album, this painting shows the artist’s preference for the contrast between dark and light, with the latter only to draw more attention to the former (like metal does). The image itself portrays the urge to study the morbid in order to bring more health (again, like metal does). Its exquisite aesthetic details are carefully crafted to further draw us onto the imagery, even if we could initially feel repelled by such, and when the contemplation ends we finally see the subject as a normal, natural thing (metal’s best albums tend to do that as well).

Besides, it looks fucking metal, what else could you possibly want from it?

More info.

Danzig – Archive de la Morte

August 3, 2009 –
Comments Off

(Music Video Distributors, 2004, 60 Min, $10)

Few underground bands will achieve a video document of this quality. It consists entirely of MTV-style song videos, professionally filmed and edited, which are either miniature movies in which the band is featured or high quality live recordings. The sound quality is excellent, as is the image quality, but having someone take the time to edit and shape the video experience as one might find in a cinema puts these in a different league. However, this DVD has a weak spot, and it is the choice of material. Where a disc of sloppier and less coherent videos from classic Danzig, namely the first two albums, would be a gigantic hit, there’s only one song from that era on here, and while the material from his later albums is good, it’s also more typical hard rock/heavy metal and thus does not show this band at their most adept and inventive phase. Furthermore, this DVD is literally an archive, and gives us six songs with up to three versions of the video for each, which makes it not only unsuitable for casual viewing but very limited. Couldn’t someone tack on some crappy handheld video of a live set at the end, as, well, that would be more the whole of the Danzig experience than this narrow snapshot? The videos are quite artistic, and feature heavy symbolism and plenty of evil moments. It culminates in “Mother ’93,” which is essentially the album track dubbed over some hammy but expertly edited live video. If you are a Danzig fanatic, this provides you with the videos you saw on MTV and the uncensored versions that you probably wanted desperately at the time. For the more casual fan, this video will probably seem like a hasty and unthinking compilation of material that documents the less triumphant moments of an otherwise influential act.

Bones – “Mayhem on a Cross”

Comments Off

(Fox, Episode 421, 4-16-09)

Covering metal as a setting presents a problem for television because it’s nearly impossible to reveal much about the genre from a mainstream perspective, especially since it’s not the topic of the show. On Bones, the topic is murder and the setting is an underground of black/death/nu-metal bands who use the corpse of a murder victim as a prop. Having followed Temperance Brennan in Dr. Kathy Reichs’ books for some years, I was glad to see the show clarified her character. In addition, this show obliquely tackles the issues at the core of death and black metal. Brennan represents science and rationalism; her counterpart, Seeley Booth, represents monism and aesthetics. The interplay of their characters reminds me of the interaction between Fitzwilliam Darcy (Bones) and Elizabeth Bennet (Booth) in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Much like people in modern society, they assume Rationalism as a basis of reality but find the details overwhelm them. In the course of the show, they explore a desire in parallel between the show and the metal bands represented — how to express the horror of a modern time in a way that makes you like it, and want to use it as a showdown between good and evil, especially evil disguised as good, and how Rationalism — linear, logical, discrete, symbolic thinking — can get in the way of understanding our task of understanding ourselves. Diehards will not be pleased that the genres get lumped together in the bands shown, but will be interested to see the show’s clinical psychologist analyze the difference between the two. However, since the show is not about metal, but murder with metal as the setting, the airtime given to these underground genres is generous and the depiction accurate albeit distant.