The quest for the origins of heavy metal and understanding it continues. To the mainstream, heavy metal is just edgy rebellion; to the academics, heavy metal is kids acting out as part of a maturation process; to industry, heavy metal is a brand that can be used to sell other products. What does it mean?No Comments
I want to say that I will start with the year 1984. Death metal had been around since 1984/1985 depending on who you ask. Mantas, Genocide, Deathstrike, Possessed, Slaughter and others had started years earlier and wanted to make music that made Slayer sound like Wham. “Black metal” had already started with Venom and Mercyful Fate. Then Bathory and Hellhammer came along. The term “death metal” was more widely used back then. Hell, there was even a compilation called “Death Metal” that had Running Wild and Helloween on it! Although I do dig both of those bands, they are hardly death metal! But the comp did have Hellhammer as well. So there was a back and forth there for a while. Even Sodom came along and called themselves “witching metal” to start off with! hahaha. But bands jumped back and forth and it was common for bands to be called both at times. Once Massacre, Repulsion, Death, and later Xecutioner, R.A.V.A.G.E., Morbid Angel and others started getting going with demo tapes flooding the underground, death metal was really starting to spawn. My comment about Slayer was a joke. Slayer upped the ante, so to speak, on playing faster and more aggressive. Slayer was influenced by D.R.I., Cryptic Slaughter and the fast hardcore punk that was coming out. Just like those hardcore bands became influenced by Slayer and other metal bands later on. So these death metal bands took the Slayer formula and made it even more aggressive and even faster and heavier than ever before. Black metal was kind of regulated to the same bands for a while. Possessed had the imagery of a black metal band, but were total death metal/thrash. Mercyful Fate broke up and Venom and Bathory started getting a little different in their musical direction.
Flash forward to 1989. I was already a couple years deep in the metal underground, but this is when I really got into the DEEP underground scene with the tape trading and fanzines and all of that. ALL KINDS of underground bands, that played different “styles” were all in the same fanzines and on the same compilation tapes. The black metal of Samael, Beherit and Blasphemy was featured right next to the death metal of Autopsy and Nihilist. The thrash of Merciless and Sindrome was right next to the grind of Agathocles and Anarchus. Everyone seemed to get along in one, big happy underground metal family! Then over the next few years, death metal then broke as a worldwide phenomenon. Everything either had a Swedish guitar sound or was recorded at Morrisound Studios with Scott Burns producing it. And had Dan Seagrave doing the artwork on the cover. Morbid Angel became mainstream, Carcass and Obituary started getting play on MTV more often. It seemed EVERYONE was familiar with “death metal”! But then weird stuff started happening with these bands. In Sweden and Finland, some of the old death metal bands started getting more rock or gothic (or both) with their music. Opeth and Katatonia followed suit with a progressive rock or gothic rock sound. Entombed did a horrible mix of death metal and rock and roll. Therion got weirder, then went all show-tunes. In Finland Abhorrence became Amorphis and ended up having more in common with classic rock. Disgrace went punk rock. Xysma went hippie. Convulse went “death and roll” (PUKE!) There was a disconnect that started and some bands and members of the scene felt slighted. But it was felt that death metal went cheesy as fuck. Some people grew tired of all of this, and decided to form a new thing. And the leader of this new movement was Euronymous of Mayhem.
Flamingly interesting post, on Metal Maniacs of all places.No Comments
This amusing list has been making the rounds:
One of the real delights of listening to truly great music is the capacity it has to continuously surprise an attentive listener. Great music makes itself known, in part, by the ways in which it yields up its secrets: slowly. In a sense, great music never “gets old” because each experience of it reveals new insight, allowing us to approach it as if for the first time.
The corollary to this, of course, is that while genius manifests itself in infinitely variable ways, all bad music is pretty much bad in the same predictable ways. Error was always thus: it cannot grow, it cannot meaningfully change, it can only, like a virus, reproduce itself in hosts who have not previously been exposed (which is why, to the experienced and attentive listener, each new iteration of bad music becomes more easily identified symptomatically while the inexperienced and/or stupid listener is likely to fall for FAILS that their more competent brethren spot from a mile away).
A Taxonomy of FAIL
Symptoms: Like a carny barker or a snake oil salesman, many bands try to distract listeners with novelty or wild stylistic gesticulations designed to steer attention away from the underlying emptiness of what is being offered. Often, this will take the form of superficially “innovative” gestures like adding flutes, “technicality,” exaggerated, cartoonishly executed additions from “surprising” outside influences, or maybe just really long songs.
Classic FAIL Archetypes: Opeth, Dimmu Borgir, Deathspell Omega, Necrophagist, Cynic, later Therion
Symptoms: Most often associated with black metal, this FAIL is typified by a failure to grasp the dramatic, narrative aspects of metal. As a result, these bands make music that is often pleasant, inoffensive and even impressive in its constituent parts, but devoid of meaning, spirit, passion or lucid organization. It may work as background music, but it cannot stand on its own merits when listeners pay close attention. Basically, when you find yourself hitting the snooze button four minutes in, you’ve stumbled on this brand of FAIL.
Classic FAIL Archetypes: Ulver, Drudkh, Negative Plane, pretty much anything involving Stephen O’Malley
Metal as Mainstream Pander
Symptoms: Most often spotted in the wild among established bands who have depleted their creative fire and genre tourists with no established connection to metal, this FAIL can be easily spotted by the way it apes mainstream music while superficially applying metal technique. Often includes elements of either Sonic Wallpaper, Carnival Music or both. Comes in both “high brow” and “low brow” versions.
Classic FAIL Archetypes: later Metallica, later Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room, post-Hell Bent For Leather Judas Priest
Angst for Autistics
Symptoms: FAILS of this sort reveal themselves by an emphasis on dumbed down rhythm to the near total exclusion of all other traits, usually accompanied by some sort of superficially “shocking” or simply mind-numbingly aggro lyrical content. Basically, they exist to mollify the angry impulses of speds, emotionally crippled jocks, JNCO-sporting malltwats, meathead bigots and assorted other human defectives.
Classic FAIL Archetypes: Pantera, Cannibal Corpse Origin, later Deicide, pretty much all metalcore, deathcore and NSBM
From a user named Dylar114.17 Comments
One of the most well known of the close-knit and virile New Zealand death/black scene, Kiwi act Diocletian‘s full length falls and fits clearly within the war metal sound as was pioneered by Blasphemy, and taken to a more nihilist, apocalyptic climax by fellow Canadians, Conqueror and their suceeding act, Revenge.
Structurally, the songs of Diocletian adhere to the musical formulas that define Canadian death/black metal hybrids, but the production whilst still raw, is not as lo-fi and has more streamlined engineering on the guitars and drums, with the bass guitar playing, an unlikely rarity in such high intensity music, thankfully audible. Barked, roaring vocals commonplace within this niche of metal predominate Doom Cult. The tonal quality of the guitars whilst not trebly are less bass-heavy than what you would expect from an Revenge or Sacramentary Abolishment record, is of enough clarity to possess a harmonic distinction that has a similar quality to a less Norse-influenced Demoncy, and even draws a parallel to the first full length by Profanatica. To add to this, a similarity that vaguely resembles the Cut Your Flesh And Worship Satan album by Antaeus is present, in that nuances of distortion and feedback, samples of a warlike nature are used to build and intensity the framework of the album.
Along with a savage execution and great understanding of the pattern language that informs this style of music, Diocletian put forth an excellent full length.
Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991) presents a retrospective of the early death metal scene, written by the bands themselves, and edited by Alan Moses (Buttface Zine) and Brian Pattison (Chainsaw Abortions Zine). If you want to see what the early bands were thinking, doing and how they helped invent death metal, this original book gives you a window into the past and future of death metal.
Here’s my original review of the book from August 6, 2010:
When Kontinual lent me his copy of this great book, I had no idea what I was in for. It’s not a retrospective and not so much a nostalgia swipe as an attempt to preserve the past of the death metal genre through the words of the musicians who created it.
Outside of an introduction by Laurent Ramadier, the book is entirely composed of short retrospectives written by the bands themselves. Some are apologetic and wistful, others charging ahead full of verve, and still others factual or like the odd literary piece by Revenant’s Henry Veggian, insights into the mentality of those days.
It doesn’t make sense to group this book in with other death metal books like Choosing Death or Lords of Chaos, which attempt to analyze and formulate a coherent single narrative for the evolution of the genre. Instead, this is primary research material, with each essay providing approximately a short interview’s worth of primary source material for the growth of the death metal underground.
Compiled by Alan Moses (BUTTFACE ‘zine) and Brian Pattison (CHAINSAW ABORTIONS ‘zine), this half-folio tome brings out the best in death metal, including introductions to a veritable treasure trove of early partial evolutions of death metal. If you want a shopping list for the most obscure neo-death out there, get a pad and paper before you read this.
Printed in an initial run of 150 copies, the book will be heading back for a reprint soon. In the meantime, here’s the list of bands who contributed material:
- Groovy Aardvark
- Prime Evil
- Master/Abomination/Death Strike
- Nuclear Death
- Malevolent Creation
- Cannibal Corpse
- Disharmonic Orchestra
- Unseen Terror
- Lethal Aggression
- Tirant Sin
- Morbid Angel
- Hideous Mangleus
- Dream Death
- Ripping Corpse
- Where’s The Pope?
- Napalm Death
It will be great to see this book hit the racks for the long term, because it’s chock full of raw material for anyone curious as to the birth of death metal, the underground, and the related genres that spawned from the raw ferment of metallic anguish in that era.
Someone finally explained heavy metal in terms simple enough for the nodding nobodies to comprehend:
Biff Byford, lead singer of 1980s heavy metal behemoths Saxon, is preaching to convert the non- ferrous among us to his cause. “Heavy metal is a tribal music and everyone is a member of the tribe,” he explains.
A wistful look passes across the features of a man memorably described by one critic as “the dray horse of heavy metal”. “The music’s not about love,” he adds, warming to his theme. “Our songs are more about Richard the Lionheart, steel trains and thunder. But when you do click with a big audience, it can be quite an experience, a massive connection… I suppose you could say it is a religious experience in a way.” – The Independent
As some people have been saying for years, metal is the one true alternative in pop culture — most of pop culture is about the individual and its desires, and the ethic of convenience that accompanies them. Don’t do the right thing — do what feels good! Ignore history, we’re inventing a new regime! One for the people, by the people, about the people. And when we gain power, and throw out those bad old fuddies with their social standards, everything will be totally awesome!
Heavy metal is the opposite. It minimizes the individual, and reduces you to the role of one in a tribe. It de-emphasizes the now, and replaces it with a broader view of history. It makes desires secondary to quests, goals and heroic struggles. It’s the anti-pop-culture, or the counter-counterculture. It’s a war against all of the illusions that allow our modern time to be corrupt. You can’t fight a corrupt society with flower power, pacifism and universal tolerance.
You can fight it by taking a look at reality for once, which is what heavy metal does. And because we’re the oddballs, we are the tribe of those who drop out of the “consensual reality” created by media, social pressures, advertising, government propaganda and what the crowd is talking about. We look at hard reality, fire and iron and blood, instead. While we may look like the other drop-outs, space-outs and individualists from the outside, we are in fact made of different stuff.No Comments