Death Metal

Death metal uses tremolo strummed power chords in phrasal riffs, creating an internal dialogue of melody to project a narrative which takes us from a starting point through internal conflict to an ending radically removed from the start. This often complex music relies heavily on chromatic scales and solos that resemble sonic sculpture more than a reliance on scales or harmony, and use “modal stripes” or repeated interval patterns (such as a half interval followed by a whole) to maintain a mood. Inherently structuralist, death metal can be recognized by its “post-human” perspective, seeing the world through biology, history, warfare and mythology instead of the “I/me/mine” viewpoint of a modern society.

House recommendations: Morbid Angel, Slayer, Monstrosity, Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Therion and Vader.

BEST EVER

1. Massacra – Final Holocaust
2. Deicide – Legion
3. Morbid Angel – Blessed Are the Sick
4. Therion – Beyond Sanctorum
5. Sepultura – Morbid Visions
6. Incantation – Onward to Golgotha
7. Morpheus Descends – Ritual of Infinity
8. Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence
9. Obituary – Cause of Death
10. Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten
11. Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
12. Dismember – Like an Ever-Flowing Stream
13. Amorphis – The Karelian Isthmus
14. At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
15. Demilich – Nespithe
16. Asphyx – The Rack

COMPILATIONS

Projections of a Stained Mind (C.B.R. Records)
Harmony Dies Vol. 1 (Slayer Magazine)
Pantalgia (MBR Records)
Live Death: Vol 1 (Restless)
Sampler Volume I (JL America)
Deterioration of the Senses (Morbid Metal)
Book I: Induction (Hits Underground)

Reviews have mp3 sound samples for each album, coverscan, tracklist and label contact information.

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Black Metal

Black metal took the lawless extremity of death metal and added a greater use of melody, creating swelling surges of sound that sweep the listener away with raw emotion and then arrive in a wasteland devoid of inherent value. Songs fashioned from primitive elements end up telling complex tales, embarking on a journey where the greatest human fears — meaninglessness, predation and violence — end up being salvation from the frustrating world of entropy-bound stagnation. Thematically black metal represents an assault on the pillars of modernity, namely egalitarianism, consumerism and tolerance.

House recommendations: Burzum, Emperor, Ildjarn, Graveland, Summoning and Sacramentum.

BEST EVER

1. Burzum – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
2. Immortal – Pure Holocaust
3. Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse
4. Darkthrone – Transylvanian Hunger
5. Graveland – The Celtic Winter
6. Bathory – Blood, Fire, Death
7. Ildjarn – Det Frysende Nordariket
8. Summoning – Dol Guldur
9. Gorgoroth – Antichrist
10. Beherit – Electric Doom Synthesis
11. Enslaved – Vikinglgr Veldi
12. Havohej – Dethrone the Son of God
13. Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
14. Sacramentum – Far Away From the Sun
15. Mutiilation – Remains of a Dead, Ruined, Cursed Soul

COMPILATIONS

Under the Pagan Moon (Cyclonic Productions)
Nordic Metal Compilation (Necropolis)
Firestarter Compilation (Century Media)

Abruptum
Absu
Absurd
Abyss, the
Ancient
Angelcorpse
Antaeus
Arcturus
Auzhia
Avenger
Averse Sefira
Axis of Advance
Bathory
Behemoth
Beherit
Belial
Black Goat
Blasphemy
Blazemth
Blood
Burzum
Celtic Frost
Conqueror
Cultus Sanguine
Dark Funeral
DarkThrone
Dark Tranquility
Dawn
Deinonychius
Demonic
Demoncy
Dimmu Borgir
Dissection
Emperor

Enslaved
Eucharist
Frozen Shadows
Gehenna
Gorgoroth
Gotmoor
Graveland
Grotesque
Havohej
Hades
Hellhammer
Ildjarn
Immortal
Impaled Nazarene
Infernum
Inquisition
I Shalt Become
Katatonia
Krieg
Kvist
Lord Wind
Manes
Marduk
Mayhem
Merciless
Mortiis
Mütiilation
Mysticum
Necromantia
Niden Div 187
NME
Ophthalamia
Pentagram
Pervertum
Profanatica
Resuscitator
Rotting Christ
Sacramentum
Samael
Sammath
Sarcofago
Septic Flesh
Setherial
Sodom
Sorcier des Glaces
Sort Vokter
Summon
Summoning
Swordmaster
Tha-norr
Thorns
Tartaros
Throne of Ahaz
Ulver
Ungod
Urgrund
Usurper
Varathron
Vilkates
Von
Watain
Xibalba
Yamatu
Zyklon-B

Reviews have mp3 sound samples for each album, coverscan, tracklist and label contact information.

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Heavy Metal

Heavy metal started when Black Sabbath merged heavy guitar rock with the soundtracks from horror films. They did they by exclusively using power chords, which because they do not contain the notes that mark them as major or minor chords, lend themselves to moving in streams, like a melody played in chords. The result is that Black Sabbath structured their songs around the interplay of these melodies, instead of focusing on a transition between points of fixed harmony like rock music, and invented a new style of music that took nearly thirty years to grow into the musical ideal first suggested back in 1970. Lyrically, Black Sabbath rejected the flower love delusion of the hippies and replaced it with hard knowledge: the obliviousness of individuals creates a mythological form of evil that manipulates and destroys us.

House recommendations: Cathedral and Helstar.

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The hipster takeover of metal

Whenever NPR gets involved, you know you’re listening to state-sponsored propaganda. They also tend to favor any topic that humbles the strong and caters to the weak of spirit.

NPR’s favorite “metal” albums of 2011

Other than a few honorable mentions, there are no metal albums here. Only the indie, post-rock, punk, sludge, emo and shoegaze mixture that is popularly infused with a few metallish riffs to become the non-mainstream form of nu-metal.

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Sadistic Tidbits

Absu – Abzu

Starting with Emperor’s Reverence EP, this is the kind of music that ruined black metal: salad. It’s mixed riffs and influences with no coordination except repetition, and it adopts the “carnival music” style of variety show riffs, meaning that nothing makes sense as anything other than a grab bag of random stuff designed to distract you. As a result, this has zero staying power and while your favorite metal heroes will be hyping it today, they will from that day forward only put it on to do laundry. Get it? As background noise. It’s less organized than the noise from your air conditioner as and a result is mostly spam for your brain, just as pop music is. The cynicism behind releasing this and calling it “black metal” suggests a massive scorn for all metal fans. “These idiots can’t tell the difference, throw some guitar practice at them, then we’ll sample an elevator and let the press release talk about our ‘industrial influences.'” Metal pundits should be ashamed for pushing this as a continuation of the old school, or even as being good; I would use the first few Absu albums to show my friends that metal is talented, but I wouldn’t push this sophomoric dog’s breakfast on anyone. In fact I’d hide it, lest they think metalheads are cretins who think random catchy off-time riffs make a band talented. I realize it’s heresy to not cheerlead for Absu because the Absu guys are such nice fellows and all, but that has nothing to do with musical quality. This sucks. It’s annoying. And dumb. Really stupid. You have to live in a plastic world to think this is good. 0/10

Asphyx – Deathhammer

I had high hopes for this, but an unsettling feeling with Wannes Gubbels having left the band. During the Wannes years, Asphyx went from trying to make two riff songs that carried themselves on pure rhythm, and instead tried to make mood shifting experiences that used melody and harmony as well as greater texture to create a sense of having gone somewhere. This new song is entirely circular. It goes nowhere; its precepts equal its conclusions. Instead, you get a horrifically catchy song that is pure rhythm and uses melody only as a hook but then drops it, leaving you in grinding chromatic land as your brain atrophies. They cannot possibly say “deathhammer” one more time can — oh. Oh. And again. Again. Oh. It keeps on going. This song is only 2:30 or so, but it feels like The War of the Roses. As one forum poster noted, this may be a Hail of Bullets song more than an Asphyx song. Gone is the old school heavy mood. It has been replaced by dressed-up pop. It’s as repetitive as Justin Bieber, and that isn’t lightened by the fact that these guys howl about the joy of endless war instead of teeny sugar pop training-bra romances. Asphyx has completely lost direction and forgotten what made them great, which was not “smashing riffs” but “smashing riffs in epic songs.” Even the riffs are dumbed down, like the recent Pestilence output. I have zero incentive to buy the album or even download it.

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