The best concert you probably never went to

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The two authors of Glorious Times, a book dedicated to the early speed metal/death metal years of the metal underground, were once writers for far underground zines. But they were also fans, and as most fans do, over the year they accumulated experiences and artifacts.

On their blog the old schoolers have written about the A Day of Death festival from 1990, which was an early death metal festival in the style of Michigan Death Fest or Maryland Death Fest, but featuring all the old school bands because back then, they were the new school and scraping by to survive.

Not only do they give us a review of each band playing, but they also offer a CDR of the event — two songs each from Autopsy, Repulsion, Incantation, Cannibal Corpse and Deceased in either lossy MP3 format or lossless FLAC format if you want to burn an exact original. This is quite a treat as live material from the time is quite rare, because next to no one thought this death metal thing would take off.

Check out the lineup:

  • Radiation Sickness
  • Lucifer’s Hammer
  • Deceased
  • Suffocation
  • Goreaphobia
  • Incantation
  • Mortician
  • Disharmonic Orchestra
  • Cannibal Corpse
  • Immolation
  • Baphomet
  • Repulsion
  • Autopsy

The scary thing is that most of these bands have come back and are recording or touring. Amazing how time flies past and yet people remain essentially the same. I would kill to be able to go back in time to this show, however, as it was during the formative days of one of the few modern music genres worth writing about.

Check out the blog post and consider downloading the CD-R. It’s worth it, if for nothing else the glimpse of this time, but the sound quality isn’t bad and the music is vital from the most intense years of these bands.

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Hipster metal

Blogging over at Examiner.com, which I use to introduce metal to the “new media” through a popular site that wouldn’t normally care about metal at all, I review the literature about hipster metal and get us a working definition of hipsters and hipster metal:

A hipster is someone entirely dominated by society. Trends, how they look to other people, what they’re eating and how they’re entertaining themselves — these are what a hipster thinks about. They are the ultimate surface people, never seeking a greater meaning in life but only the appearance of it. They are also the ultimate consumers, because they’re always chasing the latest trend (and buying lots of stuff to that end) hoping that it will keep them “hip,” or current, young, savvy and exciting.

Hipster metal is just as shallow. Hipster metal is metal that has been assimilated by the mainstream. Hipsters like trendy new surfaces on the same old stuff. So they make metal-flavored indie rock, and in doing so, hope to make mainstream indie rock assimilate or swallow up metal. That also makes it easier for them because that way, they don’t need to feel bad about us being different. They want us to join the Crowd, to be just like them. – “Hipster Metal,” Examiner.com, July 12, 2010

A hipster is just a trendy version of the average modern citizen. These people are disconnected from any sense of hierarchy or values except an ethic of convenience toward personal comfort. When one of these boring ordinary soulless drones feels that he or she is completely forgotten by the world, they dress themselves up funny, talk funny, and start being “artistic” to show us they’re more important than us. That’s the hipster in a nutshell: a status climber by pretense, especially that what’s “new” is more important than what’s realistic, correct or sane.

In the article “Hipsters:The Dead End of Western Civilization”, adbusters describes the hipster: an ordinary person, a little nerdy, who decides to become a Big Deal drama llama egomaniac and so becomes even less useful than you average modern person and starts pretending to be the undiscovered artistic genius of the millennium.

These people are death for real art. They hate the real; they like the shallow that appears to be deep, and appears to be new, because their goal is to use that art to make other people feel small. When others feel small, and un-hip, the hipster triumphs through self-importance. All of the rest of you who work jobs and take care of your families are idiots, the hipster says. I’m the real deal.

And of course they’re not, and in metal, their hipster moron bands (The Sword, Boris, Mastodon, Isis) are insipid crap you’re supposed to swallow or be considered ignorant. Of course, that’s laughable. They’re trying to take the one thing that took a different path — metal — and convert it to the norm, and they accuse us of being normative if we don’t go along with the great crusade to be average in an ironic shirt with “unique” tattoos.

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Cannibal Holocaust

This is by no means the easiest of films to watch. It has numerous flaws and executions within the film that would provoke one to make immediate criticism, for example the sub-par, almost at times robotic acting and unimaginative script, and what could indeed be labelled a lack of cohesion (could this be due to editing and censoring? I am not sure), Cannibal Holocaust never ceases to shock and provoke, as well as provoke immediate questions of ‘who are the real savages?’ and how people might want to generally assess their modern, non-organic way of living.

For those unaware, the film centers around an anthropologist who is searching the wherabouts of a film crew, lost and presumed dead after having gone on a expedition discovering primitivist tribal cultures, and the alleged cannibalism associated with it. Upon retrieving a camcorder containing reels of film that entail the ill-fated decline and fall of the expedition, the anthropologist then returns to the United States, to show the footage to the executives of a major television station. As each reel is played off, we see the young crew begin as arrogant, gung-ho, civilised and white skinned carefree adventurers, with little or no respect for a habitat that is not, and will never be their own. As the film footage progresses, we see the crew make contact with the native tribespeople, and imposing their presence on them in a harsh manner, committing beatings, tortures, arson and rape, whilst filming their deeds, which they attempt to justify on the grounds they are more civilised than they. As the title of the film partially implies, the predators surely but quickly become prey, each of them killed barbarically and ritualistically. In between the pausing of the reels, the executives of the television network are convinced that the celluloid they witness would indeed make for good viewing ratings, to the anthropologist’s objection that such a thing is exploitative and in bad taste.

The film is at times unsettling, and we see many obvious critiques of how life, substance and nature are valued by the modern ‘civilised’ human being. One easily gets the impression at times that the intrusion of camera, gun and machete wielding Westerners into isolated, indigenous land is a metaphorical allusion to the ills of colonialism. The film also questions the bloodthirsty sales appetite we see in the modern media, ‘blood equals ratings’, which is too often seen when a mainstream newspaper is more than happy enough to make their own material gains from anothers tragedy. As I have illustrated in the opening paragraph, this film is badly executed in certain avenues, and when viewed it is easy to realise this. The real-life killings of animals are stomach-churning, and will alienate many. The depictions of sacrifice, abortion, rape, castration, mutilation and torture are profoundly realistic and shocking, they give a raw attribute to the film that very little in the cinematic world will ever match.

The most redeeming features of the film are the soundtrack by Riz Ortolani, which utilises rather dated synthesisers alongside a string orchestra, often interspersed with music that sounds not too dissimilar to Italian religous music, with arpeggiated acoustic guitars playing upbeat music that adds a brilliantly sarcastic touch to an otherwise grim and unrelenting series of violent acts. The usage of hand-held camera is very effective. As opposed to films where every scene is portrayed from a multi-angle perceptive, we see absolute realism for the most part, and is done in a non-perfective, improvised fashion that otherwise contributes heavily to making the film for the most part, very convincing. Cannibal Holocaust is flawed, yes. But it is a triumph of the cold, efficient will. Unlike the humoured (but still excellent) Dawn Of The Dead, Cannibal Holocaust is the work of the cynical sociopath, and seems to metaphorically imply that when one reaches or exceeds a certain threshold of excess, be it due to ignorance, lust, greed, self-indulgence etc, there is not even the vaguest chance of redemption. In a sense, the message of this film is an all-out war against the modern way, and the belief that furthering it to those who are otherwise unwilling to accept it is nothing short of a disastrous consequence. The film also suceeds in that it doesnt moralise about the issues it raises, and also leaves the film open to many possible interperatations. Overlooked by critics for its very bad acting, reviled by the politically correct, adored by much of the exploitation crowd, here is a film which holds truths and meanings beyond a framework that would isolate and sicken many.

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Were the good old days really better?

Jason Netherton from Misery Index thinks so. In a provocative essay, he argues that the old days were better because:

1. The scene was incredibly tight knit and the friendships were earned.
2. The MP3 (had not yet arrived)
3. The mainstream had yet to commercialize death metal.
4. The unity.
5. No one ever expected anything from being in a death metal band.

Worth reading. For the record, I agree with him: before the genre became a means to an end unrelated to the music (money, popularity, status) it was a goal in itself — to make killer metal of this new type — and all of us got caught up in it. Now it’s another genre like any other, about where hardcore punk was when death metal got birthed.

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State of the Metal

A few odds and ends, from other blogs and the forum:

In addition, we bring you the uncanny association between Republicans, death metal, and knowitall lesbian news anchors who got promoted for the novelty of hey-did-you-know-she’s-a-lesbian-and-my-grandmother-thinks-it’s-shocking:

That ought to keep you for awhile.

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Metalsucks.net understands us

Thanks to a reader, who pointed this out:

THIS GUY HATES ALL THE BANDS WE LIKE

At least that’s what some dude at Anus.com (American Nihilist Underground Society, oh ok) would have you believe when he rips into several other well-respected metal bands that we like because, ya know, we like their music: Opeth, Cynic, Baroness, In Flames, Cannibal Corpse and many others.

His arguments against every band basically follow this format:

Band X is stupid because all they did was combine what Band Y and Band Z already did. Their first self-released EP was pretty cool, but after that they sold out. People listen to Band X to appeal to a certain lifestyle, not because they actually like the music, and they’re duped into doing so by superficial musical tricks. Only non-thinking automatons follow this band!

This article smacks of the self-important elitist attitude perpetuated by all-knowing “my taste is scientifically provable as ‘good’ music” message board trolls like Ziltoid. – MetalSucks.net

Well, it’s nice to have someone understand us. There’s two basic takes on life, music and everything: either there’s one reality and so there’s some standard of behavior, or everything is arbitrary and hey whatever you want is cool, man.

We’re from the “objective reality exists” camp, which Vince Neilstein alludes to with “my taste is scientifically provable as ‘good’ music.” Some music is just dumb; if you respect yourself, you owe something better to yourself. Your time is valuable.

It’s not a matter of intellekshual cogitation, either. Music is experienced at the level of the nerves, and plays directly with our emotions. But like anything in our world, we can analyze it and realize that if it’s vapid, we’re conditioning our brains to be stupider.

But here’s our basic review format for bands we don’t like, since Vince’s take was a little bit off:

Band X offers nothing unique stylistically or in content. In fact, it’s a derivation of known successes, but dumbed down so that more people will think they like it, not knowing better. Like good advertising, or the sermons of televangelist, it preaches to your weakness and not your strength. Feeling bad about yourself, you’ll comfort yourself with this insipid music, which appeals to a certain demographic which has weakness Y. If you listen to this, you’re going to make your life more miserable under the guise of enjoying it.

Let’s look at that for the favorite target around here, which is ARE YOU TALKIN TO ME? — sorry, I meant “Pantera”:

Pantera rips off the aesthetic style of Exhorder, Exodus, and Prong, and mixes it into the same Metallica-derivative crap they put out with Cowboys From Hell. That in itself would be bad, except this is music that dumbs down life into a few emotions: self-pity, righteous anger, and a desire to get loaded. Like a commercial for watery beer, it’s there to convince you that if your life sucks, a few cold ones and some tits swingin’ by in the breeze will make everything alright. Never mind that when you sober up, your life still sucks. But this album is basically Lady Gaga with guitars. It’s catchy, songs go nowhere, and it leaves you right where you started. People like it because it appeals to the psychology that says “Life has done me wrong and I want to be angry about it, but not really fix it.” As a result, this band mainly appeals to AOR fans with frustrating lives who want to claim they let loose on the weekends.

It’s not as far-fetched as Vince might think that what music we like is determined by our needs. If you respect yourself, and take yourself seriously, you’re going to want the most high-intensity stuff you can find. If you hate yourself, you’re going to want music that panders to you like a prostitute, tells you it’s not your fault, and lets you vent some very simple emotions before returning you to work the next day.

We intellectualize music here because we’re geeks — we love to read, program computers, climb mountains, build stuff, shoot guns and talk about philosophy. That’s our medium for understanding music and everything else. But we like any music that’s good, meaning it has a presence and something to communicate; we don’t like music that panders to our weaknesses under the guise of empowering us.

I do agree with this guy’s assessment of Sunn O))), however, so there’s that.

Good man. We think Sunn O))) is hollow plastic trash disguised as profundity so that people can get elitist and tell their friends, “You’re still listening to that low-brow death metal shit? Well I’ve moved up in the world into avant-garde, like this band that uses orchestras and mathematical theories and shit to be all cool. You’re still down there, but I’m up here. I’m fucking profound!”

And this is from people who like Stephen O’Malley and his other projects.

In the meantime, his arch nemesis (or animus?) Ziltoid says this:

As to the ANUS article (ha…”anus”), frankly, it’s not as wrong as you may think. The criticisms of In Flames (especially In Flames…), CoF, Cannibal Corpse, and Necrophagist are spot on and not worded nearly as badly as you make them out to sound. – Ziltoid

At this site, you’ll find lots of praise for At the Gates and Demilich, but also bands that the experts are gonna poo-poo for their simplicity and violence, like Ildjarn, Cianide, Master and Profanatica. We’re not elitists by format or instrumentation, but by the quality of the end product.

And if you’re reading this, I can guarantee that you already believe there’s an objective standard to music. Everyone hates something, whether it’s rap or noise or pop, and will base that opinion in some reason, such as “it’s not music” or “nothing happens.” If you disagreed, you’d be as happy listening to blower noise as the most fantastic metal band ever. Something to think about ;)

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Divine Eve – Vengeful and Obstinate

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Divine Eve‘s Vengeful and Obstinate is a three-way cross between Entombed, Motorhead and Cathedral. More technically adept than most doom metal, it alternates between two-chord riffs that are pure surging rhythm and longer, plodding, doom riffs that reduce your soul to ash. On top of the thunderous doom melodic guitar leads both echo and play with the melodies of those long riffs, opening up the sonic space of the album to more possibility.

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Satan – Court in the Act

Hailing from Newcastle, the same turf as fellow Geordies Venom, Satan’s debut album offers a more finely executed and grandiose vision of the NWOBHM, and on Court In The Act they deliver a masterwork that arguably represents the peak of the style. Each composition is defined by intricate rhythm and lead guitar work, and a pacy ryththm section that has all the momentum of an up-tempo take on Stained Class by Judas Priest. A very well tamed vocal retains a mostly mid-range croon throughout songs, unleashing semi-operatic falsettos wherever necessary to give greater punctuality to the conclusions of riff cycles. On repeat listens Court In The Act can bring about various comparisons, with the proto-speed metal gallop of Judas Priest, the melodic noodling of Iron Maiden and an anthemic niche shared by Angel Witch. Witchfinder General also comes to mind, albeit lacking the Black Sabbath influence that informed said act.

Melody and song structure here is flawless, and unlike many albums of the NWOBHM there is no real incohesion or disruption halting the flow of compositional prowess. Quite an archaic use of notation that makes great use of pentatonics, yet moderates the restraints of blues and R&B music, has something more in common with European music of centuries past. If one were to imagine listening and removing the aesthetics of the modern band-set up, and replacing the electrical distortions of the guitars with perhaps harpsichord or sole acoustic guitar in it’s place a bridge can more or less be established as an imaginative transition to a modern form of music. One of the absolute best releases of traditional metal, this is highly overlooked and highly recommended.

Pearson-

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Selling out or selling in

People like to throw terms around and require very simple definitions to use them correctly.

One term that shows up in metal is “selling out,” or changing your music in such a way that you know it will appeal to a broader audience, which by definition has a lowest common denominator taste that is of a very simplistic nature. First, the more people you get involved, the lower the lowest common denominator is, because individuals are so different that you have to really stretch to find something in common; second, when you include the vast masses of asses, you get idiocy because most of them like pre-chewed music and stupid, sentimental memes.

But there’s another form of selling out, which is preaching to the choir. Since dear readers you require very simple definitions, I’m not going to group it under selling out as I have in the past, but instead will give it its own name: selling in. Selling in happens when you change your music to appeal to a captive audience by hitting all the things they love. While selling out happens when bands add groove, dumbed-down riffs, ballads, etc. to make their music more like the majority rock ‘n’ roll, selling in occurs when bands deliberately play up their metal-ness, and make the music more abrasive and less populist so that they can please the metal audience.

A band that mixes country music and hip-hop into its heavy metal and then tells you that its newest album is “unique” and is for “open-minded headbangers only” is speaking in code. They’re selling out. Translation: we added more of what makes other albums succeed with a wide audience, because we want money. So have this simplified dishonest crap that panders to you so you can buy it and we can retire.

A band that suddenly starts wearing bullet belts, xeroxing their black and white covers, and singing adoringly of Satan and suicide while proclaiming “allegiance to true metal” or the “the true kvlt spirit” is speaking in code. All retro bands and ultra-elite occult weirdness fits under this banner. They’re selling in. Translation: we know that all of you who like metal tend to like these surface attributes, so we’ve prepared a hollow course that contains these surface elements so that the broadest segment of this captive audience, being clueless and probably congenitally dumb, will buy it. So have this simplified dishonest crap that panders to you so you can buy it and we can retire.

Selling in really is a subset of selling out. In each case, you know what the audience likes and so you deliver a surface treatment of those techniques, as if selling music by the pound. Gone is the ambiguity, the challenge, the journey between point A and point B that we’re not sure we’ll survive, in which we learn and change inside as we adapt to what we’ve learned. Instead you get music where the starting point equals the ending point. It’s like a television commercial, telling you what you already know so you feel comfortable around it and might buy the product. Needless to say, sold in music is just as bad as sold out music in end result: vapid, depthless, pandering sonic mulch.

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