Death Metal Underground

Metal bands to love to hate

January 31, 2010 –
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If you like anything, you hate what destroys it. The worst are things that destroy it from within. These usually pretend to be it, then use it for their own purposes, corrupting it. Like a cancer or disease.

The best example in our time of course is the hipster. The hipster is the eternal party of one: he or she does everything to make him or herself look good to others. They “like” music because they want to look like the image of that music. They then have to be a very big deal, so they make their own art or music which is shallow and surface-oriented, but they trick it out to make it look cool.

In metal, we have the equivalent. They come in many forms. Some like to think they’re smart, so they like dumb kiddie music tricked out like prog rock. Some like to think they’re cool, so they like angry pointless three-chord bands with weird names and gimmicks. Some like to be political, so they pick bands that are anarchists or Nazis. They’re not thinking about the music; they’re thinking about how cool it makes them look. The best music to make you look cool is basically the same crap you get on MTV, but with a cool image. They are a cancer on metal.

And they have some favorite bands. Not coincidentally, these bands are the worst depthless and pointless stuff to hit metal. Note bene: This list is about music I hate, not people I hate. Some people whose music I like hate me, and some people I hate make great music. Some people who I like also make terrible music. I can only tell it as I see it and hope the pagan gods sort out the fracas.

Here’s the list:

Dethklok

How can you hate a cartoon? It’s supposed to be funny. It makes fun of metal’s weaknesses. Ergo, by the passive-aggressive inversion, if you dislike this you’re afraid to laugh at yourself. And who likes someone who can’t laugh at himself? Except that joke bands have always been stupid, with the joke/hype/trend coming before the music, and Dethklok is no exception. Recycled riffs. Moronic pop song structures. TV commercial jingle-like melodies. And bad guitar playing that dumbs metal down to MTV levels. Let’s turn it around on them: who has a need to look like they can laugh at themselves? Why, people who cannot, of course. But they don’t want you to know that.

Cannibal Corpse

When I was a wee liberal, I never thought much of Cannibal Corpse until I read their immensely misogynistic lyrics. Then I decided to hate them. Upon reflection, however, what I really hate about this band is its falseness. They studied metal in the early 1990s, and came up with a pre-chewed version. Taking their style from Suffocation, and their songwriting from Malevolent Creation, they bashed out these simple hymns and instead of having an idea behind them like “only death is real,” they just tried to be offensive and gross. How junior high school! Even more, they have gotten more repetitive and grind-you-down-with-simple-stuff as they years have gone on. I couldn’t hate this band more. But, having met them and seen they are nice intelligent fellows, my only conclusion can be that this band is a pure money-maker — and they about admitted as much.

Opeth

Life isn’t fair to you. You have few friends. You haven’t succeeded at anything, school or otherwise. Even your parents think they consumed too much Bisphenol-A before conceiving you. But you’ve found a new weapon; you’re going to show everyone you’re better than them. Enter the fake progressive rock band. Opeth take very simple songs and dress them up with prog rock lite flourishes, and “unexpected” changes like ZOMG going from acoustic to distorted on the chorus, because they know that all you low self-esteem cases want a reason to seem smarter and more profound than the rest of us. Well, now you have it. Opeth “sounds like” prog even if it has none of what made prog great: real musical development, song structures that build upon themes instead of being random, and truly mindblowing chops. Instead, you get watered down Rush riffs and random songs, all with a lot of guilt and bleeding-heart sympathy because they, Opeth, know you are a loser. Stop comparing homosexuals and Mac users to Opeth. It’s an undeserved insult to homosexuals.

Meshuggah

I was talking with a Texas technical deathgrind master and he wrote a formula for me: Meshuggah = lots of clueless fans x lack of musical knowledge. If you have played guitar and learned theory, you know how trivial this band is. It’s basically a jazz percussion approach to metal rhythm guitar. Lots of offbeats within offbeats, if you know what I mean. No melody, no song development. In fact, song structures are linear in that they follow the sub-division of beats to a riff, expanding over time in a circular fashion. It’s really boring. But if you want to seem like you got the ultimate in technical metal, you’ll think you’re really cool for liking this distracted, random, artless band. Same critique applies to Necrophagist. They both attract people who want to be cool and smart, but have no knowledge of how the world works, which is why people are Meshuggah fans for exactly two years and then go on to liking Deerhoof and Yoko Ono.

Cradle of Filth

What’s the best new thing? Something that’s the old thing… but “sounds” new! You can make anything sound different with different production, playing at different speeds, using black metal voices or more distortion. And so if you take Iron Maiden, throw in some fast melodic death metal riffs, but keep it nice and tasty pentatonic, you’ll have the perfect product. People can be undercover conformists. They can look like rebels for listening to this angry sounding music, but underneath it, there’s that same old happy Iron Maiden that millions of people the world over like. Cradle of Filth is the perfect product and millions bought it, then immediately forgot them, to the point where you don’t hear about them at all. But this was a huge trend and basically boring music with a lot of drama surrounding it.

Ulver

In theory, I would like this band as they have a formal background in music and clearly know theory. However, they have no souls. They made the plasticine “Nattens Madrigal” by imitating black metal bands, but playing indie rock songs in the black metal style. Sweet, twee, poignant, ironic melodies and pop song structures defined that CD. Ever since then, Ulver has made a career out of being “different.” They make electronica that sounds like an angrier version of all other electronica! They make concept albums that sound like two indie rock CDs with the lyrics re-written! They make bold public statements and image changes like Bono of U2! What they don’t do, however, is understand metal and what makes it great. Instead, they try to make metal into the genre they belong in, which is indie rock, and dumb it down accordingly. Again, conformity disguised as non-conformity, because if you tell everyone you’re a non-conformist, you can’t possibly be a secret sheep, amirite?

Necrophagist

Musical illiteracy is a ripoff musician’s best friend. People do not understand how melodies should develop over the course of a song, and how technical playing without a goal creates chaos and fragments your consciousness, not builds on it. Necrophagist play melodies, all right. They play short blasts of melody over and over again, very quickly. Then the song jumps to something unrelated and obviously “different.” It’s like a sampler plate at a restaurant, a little bit of everything so you don’t have to choose what you want. Then it jumps back. And back again. And then it’s over. The vocals are like the chant of an auctioneer. The riffs are advancing guitar exercises. Drums are what you’d expect from a failed jazz drummer on tons of meth trying to cover Nine Inch Nails. The end result? A lot of distracting, directionless crap. But people like it because it’s more technical than what you are listening to, therefore they must be smarter. QED, muddafugga.

Baroness

If your douchey alt-rock band fails, throw on the distortion and play really slowly with obvious stoner themes. Now, thanks to the magic of record company marketing, you’re the latest metal trend! Work hard before your 15 minutes (or 18 months, at which point all your fans get promoted to head waiter) of fame evaporates. You’ll make money by making them feel like they’ve discovered the one secret rebellion that will really upset their parents. It’s like a giant tribe of stoners, descending on the world, man. They’re going to make everything right or at least feel all-right. Do you realize you’re listening to the same sad crap your grandparents grew out of in the 1970s?

In Flames

First there was At the Gates, who made The Red in the Sky is Ours, and blew us all away. Then came black metal. Then came Dissection. Then someone wondered what would happen if you took Dissection and dumbed it down, made it a little more like regular rock ‘n’ roll, and claimed it was new and exciting. I guess that person was a genius because people still take In Flames seriously, although at the time their first CD came out metalheads universally viewed them as clueless, wimpy and latecoming carpetbaggers. These guys are ripping off Iron Maiden on every album. They get away with it because their fans want to think they’re new and fresh and evil, not warmed-over 1978 heavy metal. These retreads from the mid-1990s keep puking out the crap and for some reason, people still discuss them.

Rammstein

Once there was a band called Ministry. They realized that no one had done IDM with guitars yet. So they made this style of really simple metal/punk/rock with industrial beats and weird background samples, and a huge audience went crazy for it. The same year, Nine Inch Nails made an album that was equal parts dance and hatred, with lots of keyboards and some buzzy guitars. Ever since then, people have been trying to recapture this audience because they’re still out there. Rammstein is the industrial hard rock version of Mickie Krause, with a heavy dose of Tool in the backdoor. They like to be shocking. It’s really a tiresome play that happens every generation as kids try to shock their parents and teachers. But you can’t shock the world at large because it doesn’t care. It’s more apathetic, cynical, nihilistic and cruel than any candy-industrial rock band is going to be. So Rammstein are in the big picture like greeting cards. They tell you a little bit of truth, put some flowers and kittens around it, and you pay a 1500% markup and go home happy, but confused. Just go listen to Ministry already.

Cynic

This band started out really well with a solid demo that sounded like it was one third speed metal, one third death metal, and about a third jazz fusion. No problem; we all want to be Atheist. But then immediately the neurosis started. First they tried to get more fruity sounds in their instrumentation, then they added the harmonized vocals, and finally, they just admitted they didn’t want to be death metal and quit, after a decent first album, Focus. Then in 2009 they decided to really ruin their reputations except among morons. They piled together a bunch of jazz cliches and metal cliches, and threw them at each other, then overplayed the rest. This is because they know their fans know little about music but want to seem like they do. If you take a few guitar lessons, you really want to show you’ve got that knowledge, so you start listening to Big Important Concept bands and genres like jazz, which is sort of like degraded classical music for people who need ideas pre-chewed. Cynic fans like to act outraged that anyone cannot see the greatness and complexity of Cynic, and use that to imply that the rest of us are stupid, when if they took the time to tab out these songs, they’d see that they are random bits stuck together with excessive guitar licks.

Wolves in the Throne Room

You’re at home listening to your new outrageous indie rock CD when your Mom comes home and catches you. It turns out she has the same CD. In the car. She and her friends listen to it, your Dad likes it, even your grandfather thinks it’s OK, because indie rock is the same crap they’ve made since 1952 or so, just with more wailing and self-pity (and minor chords). So you storm out of the house thinking, “I’ll show them!” You go to the record store and decide to skip past all the music for healthy people, you’ll get metal. And then you find Wolves in the Throne Room. It’s like that outrageous metal, but it’s safe. It contains safe moral opinions that people at your church and Democratic fund raiser would agree with. It’s basically indie rock, but they play it like it was black metal. And it’s totally boring, so you can have it droning in the background while you wonder if anyone ever anywhere has suffered as much as you have.

Boris

Wait — it’s Yoko Ono! No, it’s Deerhoof! No, it’s another chick wailing her head off with the coordination of a trisomy 21 patient. She wants us to think this is profound and progressive and new because normally, people don’t try to repackage SUCKS as SUCCESS. But that’s her gimmick, and the gimmick of most modern art. This is unusual because it’s illogical. If you don’t understand it, you’re little people — fetch me a sandwich. Only the enlightened pure and true understand our indie rock that we play (occasionally) as if it were black metal. Nevermind that black metal already existed. We want to remake it in our new and improved style. Which suspiciously resembles normal indie rock, but did we mention, there’s a chick wailing like a burnt Down’s syndrome kid? The fans can’t tell the difference because they learn to play guitars and basic music theory, but never think about what gives music meaning, because that would require they look into their own souls. And you can’t look into your soul, and still think you’re the whole world. Hipsters love this music because each one of them is a party of one and the rest of the world just doesn’t exist! So they call it brilliant. On and on, South of Heaven.

Sunn o)))

Stephen O’Malley is a fantastic person, a great artist, the world’s best stoner and truly, an insightful individual. However, he sold his soul to the devil with this hipster project. If you live in Austin, or are intimately familiar with the apps on your iPhone, this might be for you. It’s concept art. That means that they think up an idea that would be unusual, and make it in musical form, even if it’s boring, because it has symbolic value that us peons cannot decipher because we have tiny peon brains. So when someone plays a guitar really slowly for ten minutes and never develops a song out of it, you either get it because you’re a genius, or you’re an intolerant backward moron with a peon brain. They even get funky and throw in “found sounds” and sometimes have an orchestra show up and try to riff on the two notes allotted for each song. The word “sophomoric” describes people who take a little knowledge and use it to pretend they understand the world. It also describes all Sunn o))) fans.

Pantera

We’ve saved the best for last. Rocket back to the late 1980s with me. Your hair metal band just failed because you look gay even to homosexual rights activists, and not in the good way. In the supersonic stupid way. You’re out of money, and this band named Metallica has just raised the stakes for metal bands by being harder and faster. They’re harder and faster, while you’re prancing and pouting. So what do you do? Turn that fear of your masculinity outward, and become a tough-guy version of Metallica. This is what Pantera did with their first “real” album, Cowboys From Hell. Metallica riffs in simple songs with lots of ‘roid rage posturing. It got worse after that as Pantera added more trends to their faux metal charm bracelet, dabbling in death metal and blues rock, until their music ended up a mishmash of completely random influences. People like this band because it’s a good introduction to basic rock guitar. They can understand it, and it also appeals to their wounded masculinity. If you buy a Pantera album, the thinking goes, you’ll become more tough and angry like Phil Anselmo. People from the real world know that’s not true, which is why most of Pantera’s fans are skinny teenagers trying to figure out which fraternity will be most likely to help them score someday.

There you have it: a catalogue of fail. Or rather, fail that is highly praised by those who know not much of anything. Naturally, products designed for idiots that make idiots feel like geniuses are big sellers, so you’ll have to suffer seeing this bands around for a while yet. But as time goes on, it’s amazing how the crap gets filtered out and the really powerful stuff endures.

Sadistic Metal Reviews 1-31-10

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So much of what we do in life is politics. Telling people things they want to hear and making warring parties proffer the olive branch. But metal should not be about politics. Metal should be about pure spirit, both inside of us and in the world at large, meaning that we know ourselves and we know reality. With that kind of background, we don’t need politics. We don’t need drama. We don’t need to be flattered. We want adventure — musical adventure, preferably with tragedy and triumph, violence and vengeance, sodomy and satisfaction! Meet this week’s Sadistic Metal Reviews, where sacred cows get sodomized and we find satisfaction in the diamonds among the cluttering turds.

Fenriz’ Red Planet/Nattefrost – Engangsgrill

We’re going to talk about the first band here, Fenriz’ Red Planet, because Nattefrost is forgettable 1970s punk rock dressed up as early 1980s black metal. This band is a hybrid between doom metal, 1970s heavy guitar jam, and what they call stoner doom now but was recognizable in St. Vitus, Pentagram and Sleep for many years. The production approach and song style is closest to 1970s heavy guitar rock, like Cream or even Led Zeppelin, in that songs are verse/chorus works with a big fat diversion stuck in the middle that may run through a couple of riffs but comes back into key and rhythm so the cycle can spin again. But over half of the riffs are straight out of old school 1980s doom metal, and that would be St. Vitus and Pentagram but also late-blooming NWOBHM with a doom edge like Witchfinder General and Budgie. It’s not exciting; if anything, it sounds like a demo where the band hasn’t yet finalized direction and aesthetic. However, it is good; these songs have character and a spirit to them which you cannot get anywhere else. You can hear a few lifts from Fenriz’ folk/metal project Storm and one or two similar themes to Darkthrone, but this CD doesn’t need to namedrop to stand on its own. They named it “Engangsgrill,” which apparently is a type of disposable barbecue, which fits exactly the kind of sloppy rock/metal hybrid you have here: pickup trucks headed to the country with a keg, a bong and some friends, followed by a weekend of the best neighborhood bands jamming, society gets forgotten until on Monday morning you drive back with a mouth full of ash and the kind of diluted hangover that comes from cheap beer in constant consumption.

Baroness – The Blue Record

Oh neat, an emo/stoner metal hybrid with lots of indie and punk rock touches. If you can imagine Neurosis and Jawbreaker making sweet love with newer Sleep, and throwing in tons of stuff from the heavy metal and indie rock canons, you’ll have a good image of what this cheeseball release has to offer. From the way the labels and the big industry reviewers — who have about five minutes to hear each CD, and put them on in the background while socializing for two weeks, then forget about them — went on about this CD, you’d think it was the second coming of innovation itself. Instead, it’s stale and completely loses what’s good about metal and punk, converging on a mean that’s closer to your run-of-the-mill hipster band. This is awful.

Despised Icon – The Ills of Modern Man

Metalcore is rock songwriting with technical death metal technique, and a desire like punk music to string together radically “different” riffs as if it can surprise us, and since it’s random in structure, built around what’s left: vocal phrases that end on the expectation of the offbeat like a sales pitch. Despised Icon is as a result about 80% the fratboy-pleasing, gurgling, blasting, very simple riffs played in difficult time of technical death metal, like Immolation, and the rest is bouncy moronic rock music that I got into metal to escape. Consequently, it has no attention span and cycles like carnival music between different styles and tempos, then crams it all into a barely-disguised verse/chorus structure. What is the point of typing this all out? To point out how to fail at metal. This is the abyss of music and is every bit as stupid as your parents claim your music is. If you want to fail at life, try listening to this random accumulation of parts — each part is in itself OK, not great, but together they add up to a conversation made by borrowing a phrase from 30 works of literature — and as a result project a scatterbrained, neurotic, pointless and non-constructive view of the world. No wonder people hate metalcore; it’s the nadir of underground music.

Cryptopsy – The Unspoken King

This is what’s left of the band that made None So Vile? The neatly structured, compact death metal has been replaced with blasting metalcore. Metalcore, as you may know, is kind of a garbage plate for underground metal and punk. Based around the interpretation of technical metal into punk structures that Human Remains showed us, metalcore loves randomness in circular song structures, so you get ten minimally-related riffs linked by a breakdown and a few slow chants, and then the whole thing repeats, and then the song ends. It’s music for a fragmented mind and as a result, has the IQ of a headless chicken watching daytime TV. Cryptopsy utterly fails to make coherent music out of this style as their countrymen Neuraxis eventually did, and instead defecate this collection of random riffs based around an egodramatic vocal track. It’s total garbage for morons.

These Are They – “Who Linger”

Imagine Iron Maiden doing a simplified version of 1990s Demigod or Amorphis. This CD is unique in that it successfully applies both (a) the old school death metal style and (b) a heavy metal, harmonized-guitar, bouncy riff style — and does it by coming up with a melodic phrase and answer, and using these to make layers of verse and chorus. Play riff; play notes of riff in variation of rhythm; harmonize guitars and repeat, then cycle. The choruses do the same. Nothing sounds out of place, and the deep guttural voice guides it along, but it seems entirely out of place when the heavy metal riffs and trills come into play. In addition, the riff salad of death metal isn’t here; like rock or indie, this rides one pattern for verse and one for chorus, and much variation is not to be found, which probably places this out of the range of old school death metal fans. Still, these are quality riffs and excellent use of basic harmony, which makes this easy listening and because it is not random, a great improvement on the metalcore-heavy stuff we hear daily. For albums like later Bolt Thrower, which tried to make a heavy metal/death metal hybrid, this is probably the best so far.

Vreid – Milorg

Black metal was about writing unique melodies and building song structures to fit them. Vreid is about mimicking the past with more intensity in each riff, but relying on predictable melodic strips and linear song structures in circular repetition, resulting in songs that are binary like nu-metal: a softer part, then a harder part, then a response to that which softens the hardness, then a restatement at full blast, fade out and win. Most of these riffs come from the 1970s and 1980s generations of metal and get a “black metal” treatment, so end up sounding like rock music in its Sunday black metal evil clothes. The music is driving by a chanting vocal which rides the beat like the shouts of the drummer commanding the slaves to row. Every now and then they launch into an extended melody like a pentatonic version of early ancient, and they have the raw rhythmic power of an early Marduk or Zyklon, but it doesn’t add up to more than most rock music, and considerably less than the formative works of Nordic black metal.

Black Funeral – Az-i-Dahak

Throbbing notes rhythm a rhythm that then reverses, examines a portion of itself in detail, and then picks up in a new direction which dovetails with the old; the throb remains, like symbols etched in the air with a torch caught on the slower memory of film. In this way, Black Funeral achieves an odd ambience similar to that of Impetigo, where a higher note is strummed repetitively at an offset rhythm where most bands would hammer a lower note on the beat, but by the nature of the larger melodic structure of the riff, this throb does not bounce jauntily like a rock rhythm; it hangs, like a reminder of mortality. Vocals are chant-ish black metal rasps and the mechanistic pedaling of the drum machine fits this sound like a glove, getting further inhuman as it distances us from musical expectation and clean aesthetics. Like the humming beeps of an alien machine exploring the night, this album rediscovers humanity by removing it from the picture and showing us the empty space in which we must construct as inevitable death closes in. While most experts agree “Vampyr” is the height of this band — and who am I to disagree? — this perhaps less proficient album is more haunting and bizarre, yet fits it into a pattern similar to our reminiscences of isolated nights when the future angled away from us like the shadow of an unknown doorway.

Decrepit Birth – Diminishing Between Worlds

If the recombinant album name and band name didn’t clue you in, here’s the skinny: this band is totally postmodern, meaning that they fit together all sorts of random influences and then link them together with the basics of rhythm and harmony. As a result, it’s like a fast ride at Disneyland: constant changing stimulus of radical difference so much that after a while you lose any idea of where you are, and end up thinking you’ve come very far, when at the very end as the buggy slows you realize you’ve been circling around the same relatively small space. Unlike most bands of this type, which I’m going to call crypto-metalcore because it’s (a) without death metal’s style of organization, preferring instead the hardcore method of having riffs have as little in common as possible and no narrative (b) of mixed riff styles and (c) depends on rhythmic buildup/breakdown for tension because you’re not going to get it in contrast between riffs, Decrepit Birth is good — it’s like an Iron Maiden album hidden in Deeds of Flesh with Blotted Science and Negativa offering critique. However, I can’t listen to this carnival music; it breaks down concentration and replaces it with elaborate versions of territory trod long ago.

Funebrarum – The Sleep of Morbid Dreams

What happened here? Eight years ago — before old-school “revival” was even a blip on the radar — this band had the apparent potential to give proper life to archaic death metal form. Their first album/demo was a brooding, infectious and grimly cohesive piece of work, enough so to make this sound almost brazenly cheap by comparison. Toss in every imaginable death metal riff style coined between 1989 and 1993, lay them out on a rhythmic smorgasbord and put them through enough mood changes to make a pregnant teenager blush and you’ve come damn close to this; add enough embarassing Bloodbath-sounding material (listen to the opener) to something otherwise “authentic” and you’ll never want to hear “old school” again. – kontinual

Star Fucking Hipsters – Never Rest in Peace

There are some of us who believe that rock and roll music, instead of being a thing deliberately created, is an aggregate of what was left over when we tested everything else against a captive audience. Star Fucking Hipsters prove this by carefully absorbing everything they can into the great sponge of melancholy indie pop. These songs usually start off with fast punk or speed metal (Slayer) riffs, and then pass through a few exciting transitions borrowed from anything industrial, black and reggage or between, but then we get to the core: darkish, self-pitying, somewhat helpless indie pop. True, it’s in pop punk format like The Descendents meets Blink 182 with Jane’s Addiction advising on behalf of the emo CIA, but basically, it’s pop. And when we get to that point we see this album is like a confused and lonely person in the city, covering themselves with newspapers or whatever fashions they can yank out of the wind, hoping no one will ever get a glimpse inside. If that’s its goal, this is supreme art, but more likely it is the emoting of such people hoping we’ll justify their existence for them. As pop, it’s not bad, a little toward the “poignant” side of minor key melodies sliding into major key to give you a sense of hope. But it’s really the same old thing, or the latest incarnation of it in whatever styles have stuck over the past twelve years, and so I can’t imagine why you’d listen to this instead of any of the 100,000 other albums this “good” in the rock style.

Ahab – The Divinity of Oceans

Funeral doom of a style similar to Skepticism if merged with Esoteric, with a tiny bit of Paradise Lost or Sleep in the wings, Ahab is a studied take on the slow and depressive atmospheric music that many people seem to enjoy. Stylistically, it is probably the most advanced of its kind; musically, it is perfectly competent; artistically, it is not particularly compelling. Its melodies have less of a sense of mixed emotions than do those of Skepticism, and its songs develop in predictable cycles within cycles, leaving us with atmosphere by default once all else has been blocked out. Like American rock bands, Ahab also has to throw in that sense of “contrast” where any dominant idea gets a contrarian voice thrown up against it, where bands like Skepticism bear down with enhancement and variation inside their major ideas. Few want to be the voice to stand up and say this, but most doom metal is boring, and not just because it’s slow. Ahab, while better than most, falls under this umbrella.

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine – The Audacity of Hype

Purists will kill me for this, but this is Biafra’s best work — it’s musical. Where the Dead Kennedys sounded disorganized and messy without really building on that as an aesthetic, he’s slowed down to a pop-punk combo that uses hardcore riffs (Discharge, Exploited) to balance its melodic lead picking (Circle Jerks, The Plugz). That, plus Southern Fried guitar solos and lead guitar noise, forms the underpinning for a more interesting Biafra performance than has ever been heard before. On this CD, Biafra develops his vocal lines both melodically and in timbre, giving the performance of his life with verve and energy. You’ve heard these riff types before, and many of the note progressions are “pop culture” stalwarts that show up in movie soundtracks and commercials, but here Biafra and his band develop each into a song that’s half-rock and half-hardcore, creating a foundation that will introduce a new generation to the sounds of hardcore punk.

Akitsa – La Grande Infamie

Most of us love the idea of black metal: a few totally socially alienated people, armed only with the truth, pick up guitars one weekend and make a simple mind-virus that helps slay all of the vastly powerful illusions that make our modern world miserable. The problem is that this is far from the truth: most of the people who have made great simple black metal were expert players or at least savants who self-schooled themselves in a unique and powerful style, and their work is very deliberate and designed to make us enjoy life as much as convey some idea. But as in all things, each generation picks up where the previous generation appeared to leave off, so the source of the idea is always lost. Akitsa sounds like a cross between The Exploited and early Dark Funeral, with simple melodic riffs offset against sawing basic power chording; the melodic riffs are too candy-sweet and the power chord riffs are too much of a style we can get anywhere. “Silence” appears to be heavily influenced by “Thy Winter Kingdom” from the first Behemoth CD. The rest of the CD is alternating Burzum influences with later model droning melody. It is both not bad and not really compelling enough to want to hear again.

Orthrelm – OV

I wish this album were a joke, but like most modern and postmodern art, it’s an attempt to “demonstrate” an “idea,” and that idea has no correlation to the reality of an artist both entertaining and informing his listeners. Instead, you get a lot of fast chromatic playing over serial drumming with occasional breaks into jazz-style breakdowns that are either sloppy or misinformed about music theory. The result is a dissonant atmosphere after the band lulls you into contentment with repetition. Over time, the basic pattern increases in a period-doubling format, creating a linear expansion on a basic idea that resembles holy books that write about the universe expanding from a breath, except here the expansion leads to nothing but a reflection of itself. When Burzum did this with Det Som Engang Var, it built a mood that gained resurgent power of time; here it is purely deconstructive and fragments the listener’s attention span by forcing it through a narrow slit of musical awareness. People will like this because it’s unique, and talk about how genius it is because no one else “dared to be different” to such a degree, but as a work of meaningful art and a listening experience, it is worthless.

Blood Mortized – Blood Mortized

This band claims “active” status in the early nineties, with zero material to show for it. It may very well be true; current personnel have some of the more run-of-the-mill Stockholm bands to brag about in their ancestry. Excited yet? This falls somewhere between Amon Amarth and Dismember’s Massive Killing Capacity, smothered in the “soft” mimicry of the Sunlight sound that seems so common for these fence-sitting bands. The plod is painful and simple and the song development as bluntly screwball as the song titles, lending an air of crafted irony to the whole presentation lest somebody seriously stack it up against any of its predecessors. One wonders whence this stuff keeps coming — I’m wont to call this the “Swedish mid-life crisis” and leave it at that. – kontinual

Junius – The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist

What is post-rock? For most, it’s slow atmospheric rock beats with emo, punk, indie and noise riffs slowed down to provide texture. On this CD, Junius blend in a modern taste of the ancient with a Dead Can Dance influence. The result is like a river, winding around obstacles to rejoin itself, but only suggesting a topography. This music is comforting and melancholic, but not really exciting. It is pretty, but will find it hard to escape a lukewarm rock underpinning that reigns in its tendencies to escape for the outer limits. A reasonable comparison might be if Danzig decided to do a space rock album: you can appreciate it aesthetically, but sense how the voice isn’t really there, and how as much as these guys want to be ancient, they’re stuck in a modern paradigm.

Virus – The Black Flux

For the last time: if I wanted indie rock, I would have gone to a different part of the record store. Take your Sisters of Mercy gothic vocals, your bad indie rock open chord guitar riffs, and your basic song structures interrupted by dramatic outbursts, and put them there. I don’t want to fall into the old trap of saying “this isn’t metal,” because what I really want to say is that this is indie rock and should be integrated into that genre for the modicum of black metal stylings and ideas it still possesses. Sure, they’re going to call it a “post-rock” influence, but other than a little flexibility of rhythm, what’s going on here is the same stuff emo, indie and shoegaze bands were pumping out in the early 1990s.

Mefisto – The Truth

This CD resembles death metal in no way other than the vocals, which are the kind of reverbed whisper shout that made the first Sepultura EP so memorable. But the music… well, it’s stranded in the 1980s. Throw a lot of Metallica, Kreator, Slayer and Destruction in a blender — like every other band from that era — and you’ll get this mismash of riffs very similar to both the aforementioned bands and a huge heritage of heavy metal. To their credit, this band string them together well rhythmically but otherwise seem entirely random. Before someone convinces you this is a forgotten classic, ask them if classic means “good” or just that it was around in the early 1990s.

Sarke – Vorunah

We all want to love anything with the enigmatic Nocturno Culto on it. In fact, many of us were hoping he would pull off a Nemesis Divina where his skills converted an unexceptional band into a relative masterpiece. Not so on Sarke — his performance is phoned in, mainly because these songs are sparse, undeveloped, and entirely derivative of their influences in a 1989 way. In fact, the whole CD has the vibe of a collection of songs that have been kicked around since they got written in the 1980s, finally put onto vinyl years after the genre has passed them by. You’re familiar with these chord progressions and general rhythms, since many of them come out of punk rock and hard rock, and you’re probably not unacquainted — unless you’ve been under a rock labeled BLACK METAL GO HOME for the last two decades — with Culto’s interpretation of them. It’s all quite vanilla; nothing to really be appalled at here except how little you care about this flat regurgitation of the past.

Drautran – Throne of the Depths

We live in a time of fools. Given no real truths to chew on, they raise themselves on lies, and make competing lies so they can be heard. Then they tell us what metal bands to listen to, and they cannot tell the difference between good music and derivative shit. They will, for example, convince themselves that Drautran is folk metal, when really it’s indie rock songs dressed up in black metal chord forms with a little extra violence. Unlike metal songs, where riffs fit together and make sense, these are rock songs with some metal riffs dropped in between the sing-song verse chorus. They take their riffing inspiration from Enslaved’s Frost but none of the compositional coherence is here. Listen to this if you want to distract yourself, fragment your concentration and dull your possibilities of ever understanding the difference between good music and crap.

Moëvöt – Abgzvoryathre

Every now and then, people who lack direction in life and so pay attention to surface features more than anything else, hoping to use these to justify their emptiness, will try to tell you how good a band is because it’s unique and nuanced. Usually this includes some kind of infantilism, like extreme minimalism or incoherence. This tedious little recording fits the bill. People like it because it’s obscure, kvlt, whatever… the truth is that it’s melodically simplistic, goes nowhere in song development, and showcases no really unique ability except to waste your time. They try to eat up as much tape as possible with intros, chants, and very basic keyboard melodies, but basically there’s nothing here. Maybe that’s the artistic point — emptiness — but then again a blank tape would have been more effective, and pleasant.

Black Vomit – The Faithful Servant

Interesting approach by this Mexican band: take a more technical version of the full speed burst style semi-melodic black metal that Sarcofago made, and intersperse it with flowing keyboard-enhanced choruses in the style of countrymen Xibalba and Avzhia. The result suffers from the radical shift between two very identifiable poles, but the music although very basic develops gently through this style, and as a result is more credible than most of what we get sent here at the Dark Legions Archive Metal Reviews and CD Recycling Center. This is a band worth keeping an eye on.

Archgoat – The Light-Devouring Darkness

I’m convinced that a lot of death and black metal is music designed for children, because not only is it painfully simple and repetitive, but it also uses gentle rhythms of chord change — while playing at top speed. It’s like listening to a fan slowly playing an early Mozart piece. This album is similar. Sounds a lot like Blasphemy meets Impaled Nazarene, with the lower register production and slamming tempo changes of Belial. So as a retrospective of Finnish metal technique it’s great, but for anything else, it’s kind of a droning lullaby. What excuses it is that this CD shows purpose in its songwriting, and captures a mood, but for many of us the droning outweighs its significance.

Cruciamentum – Convocation of Crawling Chaos

During the past two years, underground black metal shifted from emulating the early 1990s — fast melody — to emulating the late 1990s, specifically Demoncy’s “Joined in Darkness.” The Convocation EP does its best to revive that sound, with an injection of Finnish death metal and possibly American doom/death like Incantation, Winter and Infester. Although it keeps its goals limited, which is appropriate for a demo, this release shows promise in songwriting in that (a) every piece works together (b) together they create a vision of some idea, experience or emotion we can recognize from life itself and (c) while a good deal of it covers known death metal archetypes, it does so without borrowing straight from one source and so gives us a sense of exploring these ideas from a new angle. Low rasp voices, downtuned rigid guitars, and drumming that sounds like it’s straight out of drone/hardcore punk fusion gives this CD a sense of growing out of the past toward something even more ancient.

Declare Heavy Metal your religion

January 28, 2010 –
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From Brokeback Island:

Nine years ago, during the last census, a grass roots campaign urged the British to list ‘Jedi Knight’ as their religion. Everyone was shocked, and not a few appalled, when 390,000 people signed on. According to census results, there are more Jedis in England than Jews. Jedi-ism is the fourth largest religion in Britain, after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

Metal Hammer first searched out a face for their campaign. Biff Byford, the lead singer of Saxon, agreed to act as “World Metal Peace Ambassador.” Then they set up a Facebook page: ‘Heavy Metal for the 2011 Census’. One week in, they already have 10,000 fans.

Everyone who signs on is being asked to put “Heavy Metal” in the entry under ‘Faith’ in next year’s census.

The Star

You can join and support the Facebook groups here:

Get the word out!

Morgue Supplier – Constant Negative

January 26, 2010 –
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If you visualize the modern death metal genre as a knightly tournament with splendid banners adorning the tents of the contestants on an ancient Briton field, you can’t escape the prominence of the progressive camp espoused by Necrophagist and the obscure evil camp belonging to hairy South Americans and occult woodland Finns. Then there are the loved and the hated “brutals”. The unfortunate Morgue Supplier goes all the way to the leaden territory of mechanized grindcore, brutal blastbeat and convulsive gore that is best epitomized by Cryptopsy’s and Cannibal Corpse’s groundbreaking albums Blasphemy Made Flesh and The Bleeding (or your favorite other pick from that mostly dubious discography). The speed is astounding, the songs careen through slashes of riffs like the beak of a vulture on the prowl, injecting pinch harmonics into mono chord chug while vocals are the dual growl-and-shriek statement we have heard enough times in this beaten substyle. A couple of minor gems arise though. The cover version of Metallica’s “Fight Fire By Fire” is an entertaining lecture on the genealogy of early speed metal and how it almost by itself mutates to something close to Possessed or Sepultura if played with intensity, distortion and malevolent speeds. On the side, the title track Constant Negative has a smudged enough texture to operate as a chasm of interlocking layers similar to Gorguts’ fusionesque work on the mighty Obscura. Perhaps a hint where brutal death metal might develop if given enough care and attention? I personally could do without the mosh parts, but those who were disappointed by the wimping out of Cryptopsy should perhaps check this release out.

-Devamitra-

Windham Hell – South Facing Epitaph

January 24, 2010 –
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Darkthrone managed to conjure something far more stimulating to the imagination when they were inspired by horror and science-fiction movie soundtracks to create vast journeys of cosmic Death Metal. Windham Hell’s first album also follows from the deeper recesses of popular culture and cinema, fucking with the senses and expectations of the Metal listener through this Lynchian maze of psychological horror and ominous mortality. The first thing that’s evident about the musicians at work here, particularly the late Eric Freisen on guitars, is the uncustomary level of formal training demonstrated in these pieces, which bear close stylistic resemblance to the famous concertos of Antonio Vivaldi. The riffs that make up the bulk of actual Metal songs on this erratic album are nothing spectacular or unconventional but formed with the lead guitar in mind, acting much like the movie samples and vomitory vocals do to provide a kind of ambient feeling of suspended horror and panic that the leads then magnify through their virtuoso performances, building on the looming fear with sporadic outbursts of mental excitation. The rest of the album is a feast for those who would enjoy the subversion of popular culture through a post-modernist cutting and pasting of morbidly curious voices bridged with Classical flourishes, although may lose the attention of others. There is enough tastefully executed technique on show to keep this as engaging as possible, and a far superior album to the following Window of Souls.

-ObscuraHessian-

Interrogations

January 17, 2010 –
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Correspondence of Tranquility – Interview with Disaffected
The Putrid Stench of Gnosis – Interview with Grave Miasma
Nocturnal Transcendence – Interview with Midnight Odyssey

Correspondence of Tranquility — Interview with Disaffected

The early nineties was replete with Death Metal bands that are now legendary, contributing to the cult’s creative height, but largely from the now infamous concentration zones of northern Europe and across the Americas. This left several adjacent scenes with relatively little notoreity and condemned some first-rate albums to obscurity. Our review of Disaffected’s ‘Vast‘ touched upon one such example from Portugal, so we decided to uncover this legendary band even further by talking with their evil bassist, António Gião about the past, present and future of Disaffected and Portuguese Death Metal.

ObscuraHessian: As Disaffected are still unknown to many, despite the legendary status of ‘Vast’ as a pillar of Death Metal wisdom, could you give a brief history of the band and what led you to join?

Gião: Disaffected were formed in 1991 by drummer Joaquim Aires and Sergio Paulo (guitar/vocals), as a Death/Thrash metal band. Later adding Zakk (guitar) and Sergio Monteiro on bass, the band released ‘…After…’ demo in ’92, and later that same year we were included in ‘The Birth of a Tragedy‘ (MTM ’92), a vinyl compilation of Portuguese Metal bands with the song ‘Echoes Remain’. In 1993, the line-up changed; Zakk and Sergio Monteiro left the band and I joined the band, invited by former bassist. Later, vocalist Gonçalo Cunha and guest vocalist Nuno Loureiro (Exiled) joined the band and we performed a lot of shows with this line-up.

In 1994, keyboard player Fatima Geronimo and vocalist Jose Costa (Sacred Sin) joined the band and with this line-up our music had become more progressive and complex. In 1995 we got signed by Skyfall Records (Portugal) and released ‘Vast’ full-length album in October 1995. This album was recorded at Namouche Studios (Lisbon) and produced by Marsten Bailey. A videoclip for the song ‘Vast – The Long Tomorrow‘ was recorded to promote the album ‘Vast’, and was aired on MTV, VIVA, MCM and RTP (Portuguese Television) and we’ve also covered ‘Seasons in the Abyss‘ for the Slayer tribute album ‘Slatanic Slaughter II‘ (Black Sun Records ’96). In 1997 due to internal problems, we stop activity.

But in 2007, me and guitar player Sérgio Paulo, decided to reunite the band after 10 years of silence, and after a few meetings with the band members discussing a possible band reunion, the decision was “Let’s do it!!!”. A lot had passed with the band and the band members during these inactive years. Each had gone their own way in music and life. Due to the tragic accident of Sergio Paulo (guitarist) in 2004, all members got together again for the purpose of supporting a good friend. Sergio was lucky to survive a coma sleep of 2 weeks. His force of living had made him come back to us, and he had (literally) to restart his whole life, like being born again. He recovered most his abilities, and even his guitar mastery is back in 99%. A lot of things he had lost in his memory due to this accident, but he had never forgot DISAFFECTED music and his friends!

…And its coming back to life! Keyboard player Bianca and drummer O joined the band and the reunion happens! In 2008, the song ‘Vast – The Long Tomorrow’ of Disaffected’s debut album ‘Vast’ was included in the ‘Entulho Sonoro 5‘, a compilation CD of the April ’08 edition of the Portuguese underground magazine, ‘Underworld‘. Now we are structuring and putting the finishing touches on 10 songs that will be part of our next full length album, which will be recorded in Urban Insect Studios (Olival Basto, Lisbon) in May 2010 with producer Fernando Matias (F.E.V.E.R., Target35, Moonspell), for a late 2010 release.

ObscuraHessian: The Iberian peninsula is not very well-known around the world for its Metal. Was there a strong Death Metal scene in the early 90′s and how have things changed for this underground music cult in your country?

Gião: Portugal in the 90s had very good bands in death metal genre, but due to geographical location, away from the centre of Europe, away from the circuit of tours, ended up having a premature end. National labels betting little to promote domestic and internationally, and it was very difficult for bands to play outside the country. At the present, here, there’s a good movement, good Death Metal bands with great quality and with the technological evolution of media and the internet is easier to promote. There is more publicity and recognition on national and international levels…no such thing as the days of the ‘Vast’.

ObscuraHessian: So are any other good bands hidden from the rest of the world that we should know about?

Gião: I could list many good bands from Portugal, but wanted to leave a great name in Portuguese Death Metal scene of the 90s…Thormenthor!

ObscuraHessian: ‘Vast’ is one of those albums that moves away from the morbid and violent dimension of Death Metal, but unlike many other bands of the same generation, it remained as uncompromising and brutal in its exploration of deeper consciousness. Can you talk a little about the musical and philosophical influences of this album?

Gião: ‘Vast’, as the name implies has a very large extent on the level of composition and musical influences. All the musicians had the most varied musical influences and backgrounds, from Classical music to Jazz, through the dark and obscure, but always with the intention to give a personal touch and unique style to progressive Death Metal. We tried to invent the style Disaffected, and I think that we did. At the level of the lyrics, the theme was dreams, illusions, human condition, cosmos and man’s interaction with the universe.

ObscuraHessian: During the quieter, contemplative moments of the album, we hear a lot more of the bass. Is your background in Jazz? What other music influences and inspires you on a personal level?

Gião: Yes, I’ve a musical background in Jazz. I began playing bass guitar at age 16. I studied musical formation at Sinatra Music Conservatory in 1990 and during the years of ’93 and ’94, I studied electric bass at the Jazz School of Hot Clube Portugal. I have many musical influences from Metal to Jazz, through to Funk and Rock. I also have several musicians in a variety of musical aspects as a reference, but there is a Jazz bassist who definitely impressed and inspired me: Jaco Pastorius. Guitarist Sergio Paulo also has musical background of Jazz and is currently musical teacher. And the other band members also have musical formation knowledge.

ObscuraHessian: Could you give a round-up of your work in other bands? I’ve been trying to track down Exiled’s ‘Ascencion of Grace’ with no luck!

Gião: I’ve played with many artists and bands as a studio musician and as a performer too. At the present, I play bass guitar with Disaffected and Target35 (Progressive Rock Experimental). In the past, I played bass guitar with Papo Seco (Hardcore) and recorded a 4-track demo tape, produced by Luis Barros (Tarantula) at Rec’n’Roll Studios (Valadares, Porto) in March ’92, and later that same year the band changed name to Grito Suburbano before we split up. Since ’93 till ’94, I played bass guitar with Exiled (Death Metal) and recorded Exiled’s album ‘Ascencion of Grace’ (Slime Records ’94), produced by Zé Motor at Tcha Tcha Tcha Studios (Algés, Lisbon).

In 1994, I played bass guitar with a Jazz sextet featuring vocalist star Patrícia Fernandes, and we performed a show at Festa do Avante’94 (Seixal) in September of that same year. During the Summer ’97, I played bass guitar at Flood (Alternative Rock) as the support band of Santos & Pecadores Summer Tour ’97. In March ’02, in the aftermath of our Death Metal project Skinblade (1999-2002), me and drummer O decided to form a new band called Sybila, based on avant-garde style, and in December ’04, we entered Studio G22 (Feijó, Almada) with producer Paulo Vieira (Firstborn) to record the promotional song ‘Cycles’. The band split up in 2008 due to professional commitments of the musicians.

During the year of 2006, we at Target35 performed a lot of shows to promote our first promo CD, which was recorded in May ’06, produced by Makoto Yagyu (If Lucy Fell) at Black Sheep Studios (Mem Martins, Sintra). In the fall 2008, we at Target35 recorded 5 songs at Urban Insect Studios (Olival Basto, Lisbon) with producer Fernando Matias (F.E.V.E.R.). These 5 songs are included in our new EP ‘Post Rock Mortem’, self-released in May ’09. Briefly, this was my work as a musician in other projects as well as Disaffected over all these years.

ObscuraHessian: The great news you mentioned is that Disaffected will return to the studio and unleash new disharmonic soundwaves upon the world. What is the band trying to achieve with the upcoming release?

Gião: Musically, we intend to continue with the style that characterizes Disaffected, trying to explore new levels of music, sometimes melodic sometimes dissonant. In this new album the lyrical context consists in two parts. Part 1 with dark and obscure lyrics, showing the route of the band from the stop until the meeting, and then in Part 2 we will try to depict the rebirth of the band with lyrics more encouraging and positive. We’ll sign a new label contract too, but for now, we have nothing confirmed yet.

ObscuraHessian: No similar deal with Skyfall Records again, then? Hopefully, you’ll have a better distribution this time round.

Gião: No. The contract with Skyfall Records ended a few years ago and we currently have no label. But it is guaranteed that the label who launch our next album will have to give us guarantees a good distribution and promotion. After we sign a new deal and release the album, we can also confirm tours and other kind of promotions.

ObscuraHessian: Any other subliminal messages you’d like to convey?

Gião: Support Death Metal all over the world!

The Putrid Stench of Gnosis — Interview with Grave Miasma

With the advent of another grim Autumn, half of the world retreats into glowing boxes of warmth and comfort to preserve the sickly and feverish Summertime langour. In a time where the seasonal rituals of harvest survives only as a novelty for urbanites and other moderns, for the sinister few, this is the season to step out into the growing shade of night and harvest the souls of the damned for they will be reborn into a new, unholy dawn. Such apocalyptic ends have necessitated a gathering of gargantuan proportions and could not be more appropriately named as the third ‘Black Mass Festival‘ in Helsinki later this week. Nefarious and astralic cults known to Hessians the world over, like Necros Christos, Sadistic Intent, Cruciamentum, Neutron Hammer, Lie in Ruins, and Death Metal legends, Demigod will be devastating the city and delivering winter even earlier than the Arctic already experiences it. Among such legions and Deathmetal.Org personnel in devout attendance will be London-based Death Metal occultists, Grave Miasma, making a similar journey to myself, but before our paths would re-intersect on the shamanic land of ancient Suomi, I posed a few questions to their guitarist and vocalist, the acronymious Heruka C.C.O.T.N., who seeks to re-ignite the dying embers of Death fucking Metal’s true fucking spirit on the very soil of the wider genre‘s birth.

ObscuraHessian: The change from Goat Molestör to Grave Miasma seems to have been a real metamorphosis, as the former atmospheres of graveyard desecration are, on ‘Exalted Emanation’ imbued with a deeper sense of occultism and morbid mysticism. What was going through the mind of the band during this transitional time?

C.C.O.T.N.: Quite simply, the band evolved without the necessity for conscious thoughts mapping a direction for this metamorphosis. There was a lengthy period of exchanging ideas and writing material following the ‘Realm of Evoked Doom’ recording sessions. I would say that this enabled us to define the Grave Miasma sound, with the name change not being an important contributing factor.

ObscuraHessian: Interest in more archaic forms of Death Metal is growing all around the world, as if returning to first principles and rediscovering our primordial selves. Consequently, as evidenced in your EP, the music is becoming esoteric like it used to be, wrapping dark and cosmic imagery in death-worshipping ‘theological’ statements. How important is esotericism in such a style and scene as Death Metal? Is it just a ‘thematic choice’ or something more?

C.C.O.T.N.: Esotericism is the driving force behind Death Metal. Many bands attempted, and unfortunately succeeded, to reduce the genre to a brainless parody. For Grave Miasma, riffs and rhythms are not just music for the sake of existence, but the key to unlock inner mysteries of the subconscious and beyond. Only the contents of bands’ recordings can separate those who utilise such imagery for thematic choice from the genuine.

ObscuraHessian: You invoke everything from Vedic, Greek and Egyptian deities to Qabbalistic designations in this suffocating EP. Why do you connect these symbols, like building a temple filled with antique curiosities to stand before the Abyss?

C.C.O.T.N.: Whilst not professing to have any cultural link with the Vedic, Greek and Egyptian deities alluded to, studying the esoteric traditions through the ages, it is clear that there is a principle of unwritten transference of intrinsic principles between epochs. For instance, one can find similarities between some of Crowley’s thoughts and doctrines of certain Mesoamerican shamanic cults. Through making and meditating upon such connections, one can discover only a fraction of the eternal laws of this universe.

ObscuraHessian: There’s a lot of sounds from ‘Joined in Darkness‘-era Demoncy that surface in the music of ‘Exalted Emanation’, which adds a Black Metal flavour to it. Is this a favourite album of the band or are you more into Death Metal? Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?

C.C.O.T.N.: A highly astute elicitation, as ‘Joined in Darkness’ was perhaps the most instrumental album in spearheading the Black/Death ‘revival’ of last decade. It was and is a major staple in the listening habits of all four members. Concerning musical influences, our earlier era was characterised by inspiration confined to Death and Black Metal. As the band and our selves developed, we draw from the source of many wells. I would go as far as saying that elements found in Ambient/Cosmic and Near-Eastern music are of greater importance than Metal when it comes to obtaining conscious insight and ideas.

ObscuraHessian: How strong is the Death Metal scene in the south of England, right now? Are there many other bands have you listened to or played alongside with the potential to crush the skulls of mortals?

C.C.O.T.N.: There are very few bands in the UK generally who play Death Metal with the old coffin spirit. Whilst completely detached from Death Metal, one newer band I worship are The Wounded Kings.

ObscuraHessian: London is an interesting city, with a lengthy and diverse history represented by ancient Mithraic temples, Medieval Christian architecture and modernist hubs of rabid consumerism. How does living in this capital play a part in your music, if at all? How does life here compliment or conflict with an existence aligned with occult knowledge?

C.C.O.T.N.: To draw inspiration from my surroundings, I go out of London – often far indeed. Man is attuned with his surroundings, and living in this city is not congruent with the contemplation needed to collate this stimulation. I do find desolate urban areas during the dead of night to exude such sinister ambience, however. Whilst there are locations of Occult interest in the capital, other provinces of England are more relevant whether in regards to tangible brooding atmospheres or unseen power currents.

ObscuraHessian: Are there plans for an album as yet? Having released ‘Exalted Emanation’ last year, what is the vision for the future of Grave Miasma?

C.C.O.T.N.: The next step will be a full length album. We are not a band who place deadlines upon ourselves, as creativity often has no limits and needs time to bear fruit. Should the forthcoming material not meet the ‘standard’ of ‘Exalted Emanation’, then it is most likely we will cease to exist as a band.

Hail to C.C.O.T.N. and Grave Miasma for answering these questions and contaminating this urban wasteland with their noxious, cemetary fumes. The ‘Exalted Emanation’ EP and re-release of ‘Realm of Evoked Doom’ MCD can be obtained directly through the band or Nuclear Winter Records.

Nocturnal Transcendence — Interview with Midnight Odyssey

As much of the northern hemisphere is being overwhelmed by the onslaught of winter, the flames of Hell are rising to consume the south at summer’s peak. Still, the hardened souls of Black Metal warriors remain unfrozen, and Australia‘s Dis Pater from Midnight Odyssey is no exception. A recent arrival on the scene producing beautiful and mature music demanded one of our interrogations, which revealed some of this artist’s thoughts on ambience, patience and experience.

ObscuraHessian: We thought ‘Firmament‘ was among the best albums of 2009, and I was pleased to hear that I, Voidhanger is doing the good deed of re-releasing your old material within the next couple of months! Looking back at your first Midnight Odyssey work, with its exhibition of diverse influences, how would you describe your mindset as an artist back then, compared to putting tracks together for the more streamlined ‘Firmament’?

Dis Pater: Hello, thank you for your compliments. I, Voidhanger is in fact re-releasing “Firmament” which shall be out early March hopefully. The Forest Mourners was for me somewhat of a transcendence between the music I used to write and record privately and the Firmament release. I had a lot of influences which I wanted to incorporate into the project, and I guess I wanted to keep the door open as much as possible to prevent being labelled any one genre of music.

ObscuraHessian: In addition to hearing the obvious traces of bands like Burzum and Summoning in the demo, the ambiental feeling seems to quote some of my favourite ambient output, from Jääportit to ‘Dark Age of Reason’-era Arcana. What’s your relationship with ambient music and what’s your recipe for ‘Ambient Black Metal’?

Dis Pater: I have long been a fan of Cold Meat Industry bands, particularly early Arcana, Raison D’Etre, Ildfrost, Mortiis, Deutsch Nepal, In Slaughter Natives, etc, etc. Ambient music was the first music I ever tried to record, and it’s something I have worked on as much as black metal, so combining the two seems natural for me. A recipe? Well A lot of modern bands do a fantastic job of mixing ambience and black metal – Paysage D’hiver, Coldworld, Darkspace, Marblebog, Vinterriket, etc, I think it’s just being able to use keyboards with metal in a not so pompous way.

ObscuraHessian: I like to imagine that an entire Black Metal album could be recorded one day without percussion. Midnight Odyssey’s proclivity for ambience demonstrates as well as a ‘Filosofem’, ‘Winterkald‘ or ‘Antichrist‘ how this could actually work. Do you think that there’s enough scope in ‘Black Metal composition’ to eschew drums completely? Maybe an artist should just go and make electronic music like so many warriors have done?!

Dis Pater: It’s funny you say electronic music. I too have delved into the electronic side of things in the past, and find a unique way of writing music there that seems to work well with the way I write for Midnight Odyssey. Bands like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, all the way up to Trance and Industrial Electronica all have some unique element for repetition and layer building. I try to do the same with Midnight Odyssey, but with guitars and bass. I think it is possible to record an entire album without drums, it’s something I have thought about, and think I could achieve in the future, without going too far down the line of electronic music.

ObscuraHessian: On ‘The Forest Mourners’, there is a subtle but still more continual folkiness to the music. Some of it reminds me of the folk/ambient images that A. Tolonen produces with Nest, but other times are a little more Celtic? as is the case with the opening track – which makes me think of a more contemplative Himinbjorg. Did you use such folk stylings as a conscious expression of ancestry, or is this a direct manifestation of musical influences? Being an Australian, is such a tribal connection even possible, in the manner of the Norwegians from Helvete, for example?

Dis Pater: The folk element is something deliberately incorporated into the music. I have good friends who are in a celtic folk band here in Brisbane, so their influence on my music is sometimes present. Also I enjoy folk metal, and some heavy metal such as Gary Moore’s Wild Frontier album, where there seems to be a lot of celtic folk/rock influences. So yes in Brisbane it is possible to still maintain some connectivity with a European heritage, probably more-so than say America because Australia is a much younger country, most of us have parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who weren’t born here. Also my music is about a time long ago in the past, and thus folk music has its meaning there.

ObscuraHessian: There is as much mention of ‘spirits’ in the titles of songs from ‘The Forest Mourners’ as there is of nature, but the ideas of the subsequent album seem to suggest that this reflects more than just an animism of some sort. You talk about ‘Departing Flesh and Bone’ and of course, the whole work is underlied by this connection between the active and earthly, and cosmic and eternal. This is an idea which is really interesting to me because it seems to get lost in modern discussions of both natural science and populist, Judeo-Christian religion. Could you explain how you came to terms with this understanding?

Dis Pater: To me, this entire area has been corrupted by Judeo-Christianity and most modern monotheistic or dualistic religions, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, etc. The album Firmament is based on the moment of death, the moment a soul leaves the human body and what supposedly comes after. This is based on a somewhat personal experience which I have attempted to migrate to a more populous and general theme, set back in a time which I believe has been erased from human record, a time when humans were a little more in touch with their spiritual and carnal natures, when everything wasn’t so easily divided into what’s good and what’s evil. I like the moral ambiguity of everything, that to me is what existence is about, it’s not about the ultimate battle of good and evil that religion tells us to believe in.

ObscuraHessian: Even with your influences on your sleeves, so to speak, the music of Midnight Odyssey is very imaginative and this rapid-fire consistency at this point of your career makes it feel very ‘lived out’! How would you describe the way in which the actual sounds that you produce are a representation of the aforementioned ideas or feelings? I mean, with most popular music, it seems to be fabricated in such a way to prioritise the broadest demographics, but obviously, good Black Metal wouldn’t be composed with such vagueness in mind!

Dis Pater: Yes my music is rather spontaneous actually. I won’t write anything for months, then do an album in three days, then sit back a few weeks and let it mature, perfecting it. When the time comes to write music, I am completely obsessed, engulfed in this strange atmosphere, it’s kind of like walking out before a summer storm, you can almost feel the lightning seeking you out ready to strike, it’s almost panic. It’s usually after hearing a certain song somewhere, an idea will come into my head, and I won’t be able to sleep, I usually don’t eat or drink anything for a day or so. I listen to a lot of music, and I know what I like and I only release music that after a while I can still listen to and not feel embarrassed or ashamed about, to me it has to envoke those same impulses and manic trances that I got whilst recording the music. I know the exact tones, the exact reverb levels, the exact production levels I like and desire, so my music is always a mixture of new creative forces and learned processes, which has taken me nearly 10 years to get to.

ObscuraHessian: The sound of the full-length is naturally better as there’s more space between instruments but you still managed to reflect an enclosed feeling which sounds like the music is passing through a million leaves and branches before it hits the listener. Did the demo receive any remastering before sent to be pressed for its forthcoming distribution?

Dis Pater: The demo, actually both demos which will be re-released, (The Forest Mourners on Kunsthauch Records in Russia, possibly as a split) But neither are going to re-mastered, they are being kept the same, the only difference is with the new version of Firmament, the songs will be made to cut out less at the end (i.e. the music fades a bit before ending abruptly) and the last track From Beyond The 8th Sphere is being renamed simply Beyond the 8th Sphere (We noticed I used the word From a bit too much haha).

ObscuraHessian: Are you still working on music for an album to follow ‘Firmament’?

Dis Pater: Yes there are a couple of things. One is a split with Wedard, which will be two songs from the Firmament sessions, actually one was written in between Forest Mourners and Firmament and has a bit more of an epic folk, and the other was written after and is not really a metal song). The next full length is recorded (except the vocals) and is a continuation of Firmament. Musically I think it is similar, but maybe a little bit more epic and ethereal in feel.

ObscuraHessian: Could you tell us a little about your activities outside of Midnight Odyssey, including any other musical projects?

Dis Pater: Other than Midnight Odyssey, I have a project called Fires Light The Sky. I had recorded two songs but have changed the style a bit of the band and am set to release 4 songs (which are actually old old Midnight Odyssey songs reworked and re-recorded, I think three of them I wrote in 1999, and one in 2001, so it’s a more aggressive and standard black metal but nonetheless I feel I have to release them just to get them out of mind, it’s like holding on to a secret that you want to tell everyone and can’t do anything else until you tell someone. Also I have plans for a funeral doom project at some stage this year.

ObscuraHessian: What was the last awesome book that you read?

Dis Pater: The last good book, well strangely I don’t read much, I think the last good thing I read was a book on Early Greek Philosophy, it was interesting to see just how fragmented records are and the work that goes into fitting the pieces of history together. It was interesting too to see these people from thousands of years ago try to describe something, and doing it relatively correctly, but just not having the correct terminology and understanding to fully comprehend it.

ObscuraHessian: What was the last piece of music you heard that resonated most with your own thoughts and feelings?

Dis Pater: The last music would definitely be the Polish band Evilfeast, I got some cds on the way and I can’t wait to hear the whole albums, a couple of songs I’ve heard of them blew me away – epic, atmospheric and very depressing dark music.

Hails to Dis Pater for answering my questions and all the best for the future of Midnight Odyssey!

Written by ObscuraHessian

Totten Korps – Tharnheim: Athi-Land-Nhi; Ciclopean Crypts of Citadels

January 7, 2010 –
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South America holds a very unholy place in the minds of Death Metal legions around the world, with the Brazilian scene of particular note for unearthing a bestial and blasphemous mode of Death Metal worship that drew inspiration from the mightiest warriors of Satan known to them: Bathory and Slayer, and would infuse these ideas with a level of wreckless primitivism and rawness unheard before. Chilean veterans Totten Korps’ music is an advancement of this style, assuming the forms of infamous Speed/Death barbarians like fellow Chileans, Pentagram and Brazilians, Holocausto and Vulcano within a cleaner soundspace that allows for more exploration of sinister melody in a winding, maze-like structure that is symbolic of the album’s perpetual struggle for primordial knowledge and occult powers. This is what separates Totten Korps from the trendier bands like Krisiun who have little taste for well thought-out narratives, preferring a collection of soundbites that cleave to a roughly Death Metal template. The band also knows how to keep the South American atavisms of bouncy and rhythmic passages that are punctuated by a vague melodic pattern in line with the greater whole of composition, often reflecting a central, recurring theme. There’s almost a Kataklysm-ic sense of grandeur in this method, although it sacrifices the flair of such precision for the fragmented and impulsive butchery of a good, old school Death Metal album from the land of condors and corpses.

Havohej, maggot
They are going to drag
Yourself in the dust
Ethereal orb
Let your thought go

-ObscuraHessian-

From a different planet

January 5, 2010 –
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Letters, we get letters:

Dear Dark Legions Archive,

Sometimes I feel like I am from a different planet. The people around me like mundane and boring music, but if there’s something quirky about it like being from Kuala Lampur or having a flute, they think it’s genius. I listen to it and realize there is nothing being communicated. The musicians are making music, and they’re doing an OK job, but it doesn’t convey any experience or emotion. It’s just there and the only way to appreciate it is by the techniques they use, the quirks it has, or how blasphemous it is. I seem to be the only one who sees this. I will be in a crowd of people who are headbanging to something so stupid it’s painful. They think the best part of death metal is the breakdown. They also fervently believe that Ulver’s “Nattens Madrigal” was actually recorded in a forest, probably one with lots of electric outlets. I don’t think they’re stupid, but they seem to be oblivious. Help — what do I do?

Signed,
Metal UFO
Portland, OR

We live in an age where image is more important than reality. Because we are all equal, we can only get ahead by convincing other people to use their equality to support our more-than-equal-ness. So being able to sell things to people, or make them like you, is really more important than doing anything productive. This is why our jobs are boring and our currently is losing altitude faster than Flight 93. As part of this, people listen to music in the same way they shop — to buy things that make them look good to others. So the short answer is that they’re not really paying attention to the music. Even if they were, they listen to it on their iPods while doing a million other things, including watching TV and IMing, so it’s not clear they have the mental focus to even know if they like it or not. But no mind: they don’t care if they like it. What they care about is that their friends like it, and think they’re hardass (kvlt) or educated (prog). It’s all about status climbing. Your solution is to be very selective about what you listen to and stop going to concerts with people who still believe in this dying civilization. Good luck, because realists are the ultimately minority, making up less than 2% of the population, and few of them have any time for metal, rock or pop culture at all.

“Only Death is Real” by Tom G. Warrior

January 2, 2010 –
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The OG (originall G. Warrior) of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost has penned a new tome to complement his last, Are You Morbid?, and this time include 288 pages of reminiscences and several hundred photos from the vault:

“This is a book about the real Hellhammer, the essence of that group, the aura it carried, and the truly unique spirit of revolution of the times in which it existed. It is a book about a group of outcasts—about persistence, dedication, and an utterly personal vision. I have worked very hard to make sure it will do justice to the work of a number of very unique people who shared the same ideas at a very unique point in time.”—Tom Gabriel Fischer

“Only Death is Real,” by Tom G. Warrior

Having thoroughly enjoyed Are You Morbid?, I’m looking forward to this. Fischer skips over the odious hallmarks of the professional writer that turn every adventure into a narrative like a TV show, and instead lets his natural voice ring out, which is good because his desire to seize life by the balls and wreak manic mayhem upon it is evident in every page. This is clearly an intelligent, purposeful person and his art reflects this fact. Looking forward to getting this new book as I’m sure he has only improved since that freshman effort.

Pages of Pure Fucking Damnation: Zines in the Death Metal Underground

January 1, 2010 –
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1. Introduction

2. Individual Thought Patterns: Apostles of Death Metal

3. Infestation of Evil: Chroniclers of Black Metal

4. Droid Sector: Information Networks and the Degeneration
 

Written by Devamitra with Alan (Buttface), Brian (Chainsaw Abortions), Niko (Hammer of Damnation), Timo (Fallen Pages) and Pete (Pure Fucking Hell)

Introduction

The violent, obsessive and obscurant phenomenon of death metal arose in the middle of the 1980’s from the minds of alienated and intelligent artists, writers and musicians while the powers of the world were engaged with the nuclear paranoia of the Cold War, while computer technology broke through to everyday life in Western societies, while preachers were fighting against Satanic messages in party-loving hair metal albums and while musicians in the vein of U2 were participating in massive events that attempted to bring world peace and end famine with decades old clichés of British rock music. NWOBHM and British punk were dying out, replaced by the tough street gang aesthetics of hardcore and the satanic postures of early speed and black metal. The public stances of groundbreaking bands were growing to be more and more incompatible with mainstream rock media, which since the demise of the “counterculture” had abhorred ideological consistency as a threat to the marketing forces for which it owed its livelihood.

Real metal fans tended to be smarter than the average mainstream rock fan and naturally gravitated towards more critical sources, written by fans to other fans. The success of bands such as Metallica and Slayer wasn’t founded on big corporations’ agencies of promotion. Active touring, circulation of demo tapes and word of mouth established the reputation of these non-compromising bands, along with independent heavy metal publications such as Metal Forces Magazine in the UK and Kick Ass Monthly in the USA. While these started out as photocopied zines, they soon became professional but continued championing the authentic observations of the editors, distinguished metal writers such as Dave Reynolds and Bob Muldowney (R.I.P.), for relatively small profit and a benefit to metal fans worldwide in search of ever more lethal developments of the basic ideas of heavy metal music.

Individual Thought Patterns: Apostles of Death Metal

Death metal in the 80’s was as avant-garde and extreme as metal went. In keeping with the independent spirit, death metal fans corresponded with each other and compiled newsletters that were at first minimal and crude, spreading the viral infection of an art form which was long abhorred by fans of classic metal and power metal. Thus, the crown jewels of death metal media originated perhaps from lands separate from the Anglo-American centers of youth subculture dissemination, where enthusiasm for the new style existed alongside speed metal and crossover interest: Metalion’s Slayer Magazine (Norway), Laurent Ramadier’s Decibels of Death (France), Desexult’s Blackthorn (Denmark), Headbanger Zine (Peru), Alan Moses’ Buttface (Australia), Streetcleaner (Germany), Isten (Finland) and lots of others with enormous local influence. Contemporary US zines that didn’t lag behind included, for example, Aggressive Metal/Screams from the Gutter, Ripping Headaches and Chainsaw Abortions.

Alan: I am into different extreme styles, so I did not want to limit my zine to one style – there was way too much good stuff across the board back then, and very little crap. It’s the opposite today. At first I just read zines , all of them from overseas, and the thought never came to mind to do one myself until I realized I had a lot of contacts by tape and video trading. There were no metal oriented zines in Australia in those days – and only few punk/HC zines – which really didn’t get distributed well here, and they just were not good. So I decided to combine my love for all the styles, and I had a partner who helped me get interviews etc. too – we combined our resources and became the biggest traders with the biggest and really only zine from here – Buttface. It worked exceptionally well because none of the bands we ever contacted back then had done anything with an Australian zine – so a lot of the time that worked in our favour. Barely anyone in this country ever saw my zine because nobody was really into the music as much yet, it would be years before the underground bands got a big enough following here.

Brian: For me, I think the idea for Chainsaw Abortions just came because I’ve always loved music, hearing new things and spreading the word about things after I discovered them. In those times doing a zine was the best way to do that. My only contacts when I started were the local bands here in Buffalo, then from letter writing and tape trading my connections quickly grew. Of the zines that I bought back then, I really liked Death Vomit from Virginia and Ripping Headaches from Florida, plus of course Buttface from Australia.

Alan: Haha, I noticed that Brian mentioned Buttface! I only saw Brian’s zine in 1990, which was good because it was a bit like BF, in that it had a bunch of different bands (despite the zine’s name implying more of a death metal zine it had variety). Personally my favourite zines were Blackthorn from Denmark (my friend Esben Slot Sorensen’s zine with his fellow Desexult guitarist Henrik Kjaer), Decibels of Death zine (DOD) by Laurent Ramadier who was also a trader of mine, and Ultimate Speedcore Dislocation zine (USD) which had a couple editors, one of them which was a trader of mine called Evil Ludo Lejeune – both those zines are French. In the USA without a doubt for me, Invincible Force (Bryan Daniel) and Ripping Headaches (Bruce Davis) both from Tampa FL, although there were other much older zines like Total Thrash and Uniforce which I loved getting my hands on when I could. I never purchased any zines pretty much except Blackthorn, it usually worked out that I got copies from the editors in trade or they were included in packages of tapes or shirts or records, as extra goodies you know? We always did shit like that, crammed photos or stickers or flyers into the package to make it cooler for whomever you sent it to. We all did that stuff pretty much – shit, a lot of us couldn’t stand to have blank audio tape in a trade, and we’d put filler music to highlight a band we liked to another person, or we’d send messages to each other on the cassettes to fill the space. That was always fun, to hear your trader’s voice, read their letter, check out all the cool music they sent you, then have a photo as well. You really felt special and connected to people, and you had to pay your dues.

With their down to earth, entertaining but always informative reviews and interviews the zines of the era opened for many ignorant small town kids the landscape of the underground, the indivisible fabric of ideals, images, and hard work by their intricate visual and literal presentation of the latest frontier of metal. Often black and white, cut and pasted by hand and then photocopied, the zines were constructed with care and attention to build an aura of mystery and power, laid out symmetrically with blasphemous figures and gory art, encasing the alien appearance of foreign bands in sheets of terror resembling an ancient tome. The DIY method had an invaluable asset in that it was relatively independent from monetary concerns and possible for basically any fan with the required intelligence, attention span and literary abilities. Actually many zines seemed to even manage without these.

Brian: Chainsaw Abortions was just photocopied, so my part time job paid for issue #1. For issue #2 my dad made the copies at his work for me because they had a copy machine that could handle 11 by 17 copies so it ended up not costing me anything to do, except of course postage.

Alan: I was going to college full time and had no job, but I was getting a student allowance from the government here, so 100% of that money went towards all my underground activities. In 1988 I got a very well paying job in a factory – so I busted my ass working 6 days a week, and many times 16 hour days. My parents were cool and didn’t ask for too much money from me, which left me with a lot to spare – I just boycotted Australian record stores though. They never knew what stock to get in and always overcharged (100′s of % overcharge). I went right to the labels (which were all underground mostly) or got the stuff from the bands if the released records themselves, and had things sent sea mail which took a bit longer but was so cheap, saving more money. Time management was easy, because I was a full time student back then, with no wife, no kids, not much responsibility and was well trained in making my time count that I could get the zine done with not much effort time-wise. I never paid to have my zine printed, it was photo copied, at my father’s job on weekends… but Buttface was thick, massively thick, with the best quality back then you could get by photocopying anyways. There’s no way I could have done a printed zine, you have to have a ton of money for that. Ronny Eide from Morbid Mag in Norway worked, plus later he started to distribute porn to pay for his exceptionally high quality zine. We also glued our stamps – there is a special technique to be able to reuse a postage stamp. It’s a federal crime of course, but we did it anyways saving $1000′s of dollars a year. I think I traded records with one of my many Brazilian contacts for 12 months by airmail and only purchased two sets of stamps – that’s a shit load of money saving, hehe!

Typically, when starting out, the editor of the zine was a young fan without widespread indoctrination to the scene in the sense of agendas, friendships and contacts, while of course being impressionable and receptive to new drifts and ideas. One accustomed to the 21st century neurosis which causes every black metal fan to consider himself an expert on religion and politics may note that the reviews in the old zines were sparse, usually a few sentences describing the style with a brief note on its perceived quality, while interviews tended to concern the mundane activity of the band in recording and rehearsal conditions, including aspects of everyday life. Far from boring and trivial, it was the sort of discussion the target audience could best relate to and helped the spawning of new bands, as fans realized that the masters of death metal mostly weren’t trained musicians or professionals of the business, but other fans and maniacs themselves who passed their time between school and work engaging in art, violation and a healthy distaste for conformity.

Alan: Too funny, I do not consider I was a critic, we had stupid funny questions and hell, it was fun but not a piece of journalistic work, heh!

Niko: I used to do tape trading in the late 80′s and more or less related to that I got my hands on some early issues of some Finnish fanzines, for example Isten and Axe. I found them very inspiring. At the time there was no Internet as we know it today and it was very difficult to find information about bands you were interested in, or bands you didn’t know even existed. So it all pretty much started from a personal obsession to find out information about bands and artists I was interested in myself. I didn’t have any contacts in the beginning, apart from a number of tape traders, but the flyer circulation was a very handy and effective way to learn about various activities as well as spread information about your own. It was all somewhat difficult in the beginning as I was young and obviously didn’t know anything about how to edit a magazine and have it printed, but once I managed to get the first issue of Hammer of Damnation out the ball started rolling.

Timo: Of course back then there was no Internet available, so it could take weeks to communicate the simplest things. There was also huge demand for information about bands from the audience and a need from the emerging bands in the scene to get promotion for themselves. So when in 1990, I was very young – and listening feverously to Morbid Visions by Sepultura – I felt a strong urge to be active in the underground scene. I was already friends with Sodomatic Slaughter from Beherit , so I was aware of the scene and as Black Crucifixion was only in its earliest pre-stage in the autumn of 1990, my way to act was to start a zine. I had already enjoyed reading some good quality early Finnish fanzines, my favourite was called Intestinal, so starting Fallen Pages was a natural step. The first issue was in Finnish and in A5 size under the name Damn Zine. The very first number along with bands like Beherit and Samael also featured thrash, speed, death, doom and punk bands. You have to remember that there practically was no “second wave of black metal” yet: Norwegians with the rare exception of Mayhem were mostly playing death metal with often humoristic lyrics, Swedes were all about copying the Sunlight sound, with the exception of the mighty Tiamat and even Beherit labelled their sound as “brutal death metal”.  After the first issue was received very well among the buying public and the “colleagues” in the scene, I decided to do the next issue in English. Holocausto Vengeance from Beherit suggested that I would change the name from Damn Zine to something more suitable for international market. So we came up with the name Fallen Pages of Damnation, which I then shortened to just Fallen Pages. I also got more ambitious with the layout and went for A4 size and very heavy glossy paper. The substance got heavier along with the outlook, as the second issue included mostly black and death metal bands. It was published in the 1991 and I was surprised by its reception as everybody seemed to like it. Maybe it was a bit ahead of time with its outlook and probably my pretty juvenile style of writing added something to the mix. The English language was still pretty much shambles, but by the standards of the time that didn’t matter, as some of my favourite foreign zines could hardly be recognized as being written in any language.

The limitation of resources and time applied to everyone working on a fanzine; they had no hope of creating profit from their publications without crossing over to mainstream press, as some of the early 80’s zines such as Metal Forces had done. The sheer amount of competing media also meant it was impossible for anyone to claim the status of “a death metal Bible” and retrospectively, this was valuable to the development and outreach of tangential, even opposing points of view. Xeroxed artifacts as an after school hobby guaranteed freedom of speech to an extent alien to major media prone to be manipulated by management and executives.

Alan: Almost all of the experiences in doing a zine that I had were positive. Perhaps the only negative thing was when customs would sometimes steal from me (money, t-shirts, tapes – really anything that took their fancy) or a band would rip you off and not send you whatever it was you paid for. I mean back then you had this nightmare of waiting for shit, and you had to just trust people and the most you could do to protect your ‘well hidden cash’ to wrap it in carbon paper to avoid detection by x-ray. Jesse Pintado did that to me infact, the shit, heh. I sent him $5 for a demo and never got it, imagine his surprise when I showed up in Tampa in 1990 for the whole damn ‘Harmony Corruption’ recording sessions, haha! It was OK though, on the last day there he said he was sorry, I told him it was OK. If I had stayed in Australia and never got to do all this stuff, then I would have been pissed off of course. My zine policy was that we would only review what we liked. I wasn’t going to waste space writing about what I don’t like about this band that I think sucks. So we stated that anything like that we would pay to return, you know, so the band could send it out to someone who could actually do something with it. A lot of people didn’t grasp the concept and would get mad. I mean, would you rather someone blast your band and lose you fans, or would you like them to shut the hell up and mail it back to you? That’s a damn no-brainer. There were one or two people that I met later down the road, even that I used to write to, years before, and we didn’t get along that well. I won’t name names. Most everything about it all was positive, I didn’t do phone interviews because of the expense calling from Australia then was insane. Now international calls from Australia are cheaper than calling someone on the same street I live on! But it was cool just to bullshit with my traders buddies, or Lori Bravo, Trey, David, Mitch Harris… there were a number of people I would call just to talk to and get news from.

Brian: I’m not trying to sugarcoat the past, but I can’t think of a negative experience that I had. Positive experiences were plentiful… I enjoyed doing phone interviews back then, because the bands were still small, it wasn’t a strictly business call. I interviewed Trevor Peres (Obituary) and after the interview we just kept on chatting about the scenes in Florida and Buffalo and just music in general, same when I interviewed Steve Digiorgio (Sadus) and Sharon Bascovksy (Derketa).

Niko: I guess it’s simply that if you’re enthusiastic enough you’ll find the time and money. Money was always a problem, but somehow I more or less managed to fund the printing from the sales of previous issues. As for time, the zine (Hammer of Damnation) and the band (Thergothon) were my main activities outside school, I had no interest in sports and other such hobbies. The most positive aspect was the opportunity to do everything by yourself from start to finish and finally have the printed zine in your hands. The most negative aspect was probably when something went seriously wrong in the printing process. I used to look into all kinds of mainstream, high-profile magazines, art and culture etc. and tried to use that kind of presentation in the fanzine/underground context and subject matters. Of course I still had to do everything by hand, with some help from a primitive computer, word processor and matrix printer. Luckily I knew someone who could screen the photos for me for free.

Pete: Well, the money was needed only for printing and time wasn`t an issue. There was no computers and such, I wrote the interviews for Pure Fucking Hell with typewriter and band logos & photos I got from the bands if they had any. Then I “designed” the pages, like where the text, possible photos and band logo goes and when all the pages were ready the whole thing went to print. If you knew a good printing place and used a bit of your brains doing the pages you could get a surprisingly good end result with that kind of procedure.

Timo: Time was a resource that most of the scene people back then had loads of. Although a lot of things were going on in the scene that kept growing rapidly, the pace of life was slower because there was no Internet or mobile phones. Most of us did not go around boozing and fucking. At least I did not. Not because we did not want to, but for example I lived in a very small town of Rovaniemi, in the middle of Lapland. There was not so much to do if you were a nerdy long-haired boy living away from town. And it was very cold and dark most of the year. So editing a zine and sending out tons of letters seemed like viable option. The first two issues of Damn Zine/Fallen Pages were actually funded in a surprising way: I managed to convince the city of Rovaniemi to pay for on the grounds of the zine being a cultural project. So the good tax payers of Rovaniemi are to thank. The third and final issue I paid for myself, but luckily the printing house sponsored it as well, even though their management consisted of very strict and devoted Christians! The devil works in mysterious ways…

Infestation of Evil: Chroniclers of Black Metal

The beginning of the 90’s was greeted by an explosion of death metal into mass media attention, MTV airplay and new fans. There were probably more death metal zines than ever, the likes of Balance of Terror (Canada), Biopsy (Finland), Fallen Pages (Finland), The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds (USA), Hammer of Damnation (Finland), Hellspawn (Finland), Putrefaction (Sweden) and The Requiem (USA) catering to the hordes yearning for information from the realms beyond Morbid Angel and Obituary who thrived at the peak of their fame.

Pete: There were a lot of great zines but I think Slayer (Nor) was the best. I don`t remember where the idea for making a zine came from, but there were a lot of people involved making the first issue of Grey Apple zine. We started from zero, put out the first issue and sold all the copies (100 I think) and then it was time to make the second issue and nobody else was interested except me, so I thought I`ll do it myself. I changed the crappy name to Pure Fucking Hell magazine and put out the second issue and it went from there. I don`t really recall any negative experiences, some bands didn`t answer to interviews though. All of the interviews for PFH were done by letter, so I didn`t meet the people in person. You got to remember in the early 1990`s it was all underground and the bands weren`t touring like nowadays. I think the only live interview was with Napalm Death in Lepakko on the Napalm Death/Dismember/Obituary tour in 1992, that was in the first issue.

Timo: There were many zines back then and surprisingly many of them were Finnish: Intestinal, Biopsy, The Untouchables, Hammer of Damnation and of course the mightiest: Isten. Slayer magazine from Norway was superb as well. I enjoyed many foreign zines but in 1990-1993 the Finnish ones were prime of the prime, interesting writing and good English skills combined in a fine way.

Niko: There were a number to zines that, similar to mine, attempted to think outside the box so to speak, trying to find new angles to things and featuring new, unknown, different artists. You know, trying to introduce things that the reader wouldn’t yet know he/she will find interesting! As for people, there were many great, intelligent and interesting people such as Marko (Beherit), Morbid (Necromantia), Euronymous (Mayhem), Roberto (Monumentum) etc. and naturally also a few assholes but I must say I don’t really remember any particular examples. Maybe because I pay more attention to works and ideas than persons, in general.

Timo: It was totally positive for me, I can’t truly name anything shitty about those years. I got to know great people from bands, witnessing new art being born and in my own small way helping to create a scene that will be interesting to research for anthropologists of the future. I could feature the bands I wanted and loved: Rotting Christ, Blasphemy, Beherit, Impaled Nazarene, Necromantia, Carcass, Nocturnus etc. and made great friends with some of those people. Fallen Pages was the second publication in the world to interview My Dying Bride, I thought that their demo had potential in it. I have to say that I could not see the careers that Burzum or Cradle of Filth would have judging by their early promo tapes they sent to me – I actually ignored them.

All the while, dark minds were brewing plots in their suburban chambers as the black metal militia was slowly starting to strengthen its grasp on the souls of puny mortals. The electrified web of contact across regions allowed necromantic, spiritual and evil traits of the emergent possession cover ground at vast speed. The influential Mayhem axis, gathering followers around Scandinavia, sought to spread fear amidst the normalized death metal culture, which had accepted a new generation of funny skateboarders who loved brutal music and extreme sounds. They were not alone in their dark aims, as the blasphemies of witchcraft surrounded Canadian, South American, Finnish and Greek death metal and black metal alike, but the obsessive quality and Euronymous’ media manipulation skills wrestled the attention from the faltering death metal community. Coupled with an era of artistic magnitude for Nordic black metal, the zine culture caught the bright burning fires of the churches, heralding the age of the final artistic statement of underground metal before Internet covered everything in ashes and the smoke of deceit. Fans of mid-90’s black metal often grabbed a copy of Cerberus (Finland), Descent (USA), Desecration of Virgin (Germany), Imhotep (Norway), I Return to Darkness (Finland), Kill Yourself (Finland), Nordic Vision (Norway), Petrified (USA), Pure Fucking Hell (Finland), Tales of the Macabre (Germany), Voices from the Darkside (Germany) or Wheresmyskin (USA) to accompany the nocturnal excursion, candlelit mutilation or a visit to the toilet.

Black metal coverage was also picked up by the mainstream press in the wake of the terror of those Norwegians they called the Black Circle. French bands of the Les Legions Noires community (Vlad Tepes, Belketre) and the Polish Slavic heathens around the Temple of Fullmoon sect (Graveland, Veles) added their own violent, occult and occasionally political statements to the chaotic melting pot of obscurity. Rhetoric was at a completely new level now compared to the death metal years. Defying any kind of reason and common sense, bands declared war on each other and society at large, used their anonymity and obscurity to suggest the presence of dangerous cult fanaticism and deliberately alienated every average death metal fan. While there is no denying the fact that black metal was a serious matter for these groups, and rightly so, the intensification of image eventually led to role play and narcissism.

The harsh attitude of black metal created an irreconcilable gap between death metal, now consisting mostly of the “melodic” offspring of the Gothenburg clique and the “brutal” bands who imitated Cannibal Corpse, and the romantics, nihilists and Satanists who sought things that were hardly descendants of American rock music. The traditional image of the headbanger was rapidly becoming obsolete, with black metal bands opting for a gothic or medievalist appearance, brutal death metal and groove metal assimilating items of hardcore or rap and people difficult to tell apart from the crowd invading in flocks.

Zines as the purveyors of in-depth interviews and archaic scene knowledge became more philosophical, influenced by the creativity and intelligence of black metal, ambient, neo-classicism and other weapons of the Nordic uprising against normative death metal. Issues of the kind were occasionally available at black/death metal oriented record stores and mailorders, but for those without access to them the alternatives were either the moronic mainstream press or the resurgent Internet.

Droid Sector: Information Networks and the Degeneration

A few metal obsessed hackers had spread information, news and reviews through phone lines before, but personal computers became a common household item during the 90’s and most of the mainstream users got their first networking and online discussion experiences in this era through the Internet, which grew radically during the decade, from a mostly college and university utilized serious information channel to a worldwide asylum of Babylonic proportions.

Engineers, housewives and Aspies alike accessed organized discographies, commentaries, discussions and news of old and new metal alike on webzines and portals such as American Nihilist Underground Society, BNR Metal Pages, Chronicles of Chaos webzine, Inferno webzine, Lost Souls Domain, Mega’s Metal Pages and USENET newsgroups. Never before had trading, correspondence and contact with underground metal fans all over the world been so easy. Today, in the era of Encyclopedia Metallum and similar databases it’s hard to imagine the work it had taken to find information and discographies of bands no-one at your local record store knew a thing about.

While webzines didn’t directly compete with printed zines because of their more limited readability and different approach in organizing information, the easy access to metal databases undoubtedly contributed to the contraction of zine culture, along with the reasons outlined earlier. Only entertaining, in-depth and unique zines survived in printed form, often published more infrequently than before. Jobs and families occupy the time of the old school and the new generation has many other options at their disposal beside the laborious DIY printed publication.

Niko: I grew tired of the whole metal scene in the early 90′s, partly because it all turned boring due to thousands of emerging bands sounding all very similar to me, and partly because I was discovering electronic and experimental music that seemed more & more interesting to me. I did go on with the zine for some time, featuring less metal and more other stuff that interested me, but after a while I put an end to it. I think what eventually killed it for me was that I was tired of having this “obligation” to review all the stuff I received, and to try to be analytic about music instead of simply exploring and enjoying it, etc. It was becoming an unpaid job, I didn’t find anything creative or enjoyable about it anymore. Actually I still don’t enjoy writing about music or trying to analyze or describe it, something about that process kills part of the excitement.

Pete: The bands got bigger and stopped doing interviews for smaller zines and the newer bands weren`t interesting. I think the whole zine culture somehow faded in the late 1990`s, I don`t really know why. I also had started buying recording equipment etc. so I didn`t have money to print the zine anymore.

Timo: I got very ambitious about the zine, wanted to make every issue more and more professional and at the same time my musical taste got more ambitious as well. Making just another issue of a metal magazine was not an option for me, so after some time passed other things took its place in my life. The three issues are all as good as I could make them during the time they were made. Soon my band Black Crucifixion would also transform into Promethean and I could express myself even more through music. One day I realised that there would not be a fourth issue. I didn’t have much material for it ready, maybe just one interview of Impiety that Holocausto submitted. So there is no “lost” Fallen Pages #4 waiting in my vaults.

Brian: For me it was a combination of things. I got a full time job so my time was much more limited and I didn’t want to do something that I could only put a half assed effort into. The other part of it was that the scene was changing and becoming trendy and it just got old fast, new bands would pop up and get signed when they really weren’t good enough to be signed and it just watered down the scene.

Alan: It took over a year between Buttface 1 and 2 coming out, it just kept getting bigger and bigger and we thought we’d do something odd and make this monster fat ass zine, heh! My co-editor was meant to keep getting material for it while I went to the USA and Canada for 6 months in 1990, but he didn’t gather any material and I ended up getting offered a job with Morbid Angel while I was in Florida. That killed the zine. If I had come back to Australia as planned and never went back to the US, then BF might have stayed around a few more years – but by ‘93 I might say it would have stopped because the music was overpopulated with garbage bands. And it’s got 1000 times worse by 2009.I did try to keep Buttface alive as Buttface Productions in Tampa, by financing the release of my friend Jan’s band Agathocles’ first flexi disc. But my partner in that turned out to be a cokehead and ripped me and the people who ordered the flexi off badly. Some got out, here and there, but the majority I kept with me all this time, and only sent the leftovers to Jan in 2009! Almost 20 years later!

The underground metal zine is not yet an obsolete form of media. Publications such as Baphometal (Argentina), The Convivial Hermit (USA), Cross of Black Steel (Romania), Crypts of Eternity (Peru), Dauthus (Sweden), Fall to Your Knees Pissing (USA), Funeral Maelstrom of Hate (Italy), Grievantee (Finland), Hellpike (Germany), Horrible Eyes (Germany), Kaleidoscope (Finland), Oaken Throne (USA), Psicoterror (Peru), Qvadrivium (Finland), The Serpent Bearer (Finland), The Sinister Flame (Finland), Strength Through War (France) and Womb (Finland) are equals to their legendary forebears in literacy, style and tomblike appearance. They publish in-depth interviews dealing with topics from philosophy and magic to science besides the actual recording process, whose nowadays sophistication is unmatched by the legends of the past. Even the most obscure of bands are frighteningly conscious about their image and aims. Yet, their statements remain inevitably in the shadow of their colleagues from past decades in terms of influence, not because of any fault on behalf of the writers, but in keeping with the cycle of life and death which, as we have sadly noted, death metal and black metal are not exempt from.

Timo: Fallen Pages gave me direction in life, I would not be sitting on this chair now had I not been able to see things in an international perspective from very early age. And having to handle schedules, layout, printing, writing and monetary issues. Back in 1990 Rovaniemi was very, very far even from Helsinki. And even further away from Europe. Now with Internet it is different for kids living in distant places, but looking at it now, it is weird that the small town produced people and bands like Beherit and Lordi. And Fallen Pages and Black Crucifixion.

Alan: I think the zine culture as you put it pal, it’s all about paying your dues, and showing the scene that you mean business, that you care enough about it to get up off your ass and promote the bands as best you are able. It doesn’t exist really anymore I guess, not on the level it did anyways. Instead of doing the work, today more people are concerned with ‘collecting’ Myspace official band page profile photos on their top friends list. You know? That’s gay to me.

 


 

This piece of death metal research was conducted with the help of the following generous individuals: Alan Moses of Buttface zine, Brian Pattison of Chainsaw Abortions zine, Niko Sirkiä of Hammer of Damnation zine, Timo Iivari of Fallen Pages zine and Pete Ilvespakka of Pure Fucking Hell zine. You can admire scans of some of their issues and many more of the period at the Deathmetal.Org Exhibits page. Alan and Brian have joined their forces recently to publish a recapitulation of the most important years of death metal, 1984-1991, through a collection of photographs and stories narrated by the bands and zine editors of the era. Niko pursues the wizardry of ambient and avant-garde soundscapes. Timo and Pete continue performing pure black metal with Black Crucifixion and Diaboli, respectively. Deathmetal.Org loudly hails all the participants!

What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions.

– Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Non-moral Sense