Punk: caught between protest music and poetry

October 23, 2012 –
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It’s worth quoting Greil Marcus at length in this regard:

“[I]n the beginning, punk was indeed a sort of secret society, dedicated not to the guarding of a secret but to its pursuit, a society based on a blind conviction that there was a secret to be found. Was it that once the secret was seemingly discovered, once punk became an ideology of protest and self-expression – once people knew what to expect, once they understood just what they would get when they paid their money, or what they would do to earn it – the story was ready for its footnotes? In the United States, primitive enclaves had formed across the country (nightclubs, fanzines, record stores, a half-dozen high school students here, a trio of artists there, a girl locked in her room staring at her new haircut in the mirror) though perhaps less in response to the thrill of hearing $10 import copies of the banned ‘Anarchy in the UK’ single than to newspaper and TV features about London teenagers mutilating their faces with common household objects. Real discoveries were taking place, out of nothing (‘The original scene,’ said a founder of the Los Angeles punk milieu, ‘was made of people who were taking chances and operating on obscure fragments of information.’).” – Souciant

Punk was unformed but searching.

Then later, it became streamlined.

It struggled to escape its rock heritage as protest music, and reconnect with its inner poetry, which wanted more than what life offered.

Punk was initially an orgasmic, messy, uncategorizable cultural explosion of mutually contradictory tendencies. Visually, dayglo pinks and greens (X-Ray Spex) collided with fascist and communist imagery (Sex Pistols) and stark black military surplus (Crass) – or bondage — gear. Meanwhile, guitar-driven rock and roll (Ramones) mixed weirdly with androgynous, keyboard-driven experimentation (The Screamers;) and also, inflammatory and reactionary sentiments (Black Flag’s “White Minority,” or the original version of Siouxsie’s “Love in a Void”) were combined confusingly with Marxist and anti-capitalist motifs (The Dils’ “Class War” or anything by The Clash.) That was why punk was so genuinely scary to the public at large. It was a mess of conflicting imagery and sentiment, all of it intentionally provocative.

After punk died, metal carried on this spirit.

Instead of being confused, it went in a literary direction: aspire to the poetic and epic in life.

For this reason, it is less social, political and concrete, and more spaced out. Hobbits, aliens, zombies, knights and wizards.

It’s worth noting that now metal is trapped between the protest music (Gojira) and that which still aspires (Demoncy).

After Mayhem metal radio show

October 18, 2012 –

“Christian metal,” Led Zeppelin the person, lack of good tour packages, and Benjie’s top 10 EPs. We talk about upcoming possible interviews, lots of gas, and lonely old Benjie after Sawyer graduates. We talk giant bruises, phone attacks during the show, and our upcoming Halloween special. Enjoy this little nugget until we return on Oct. 27th. Keep it METAL!

Thevetat – Disease to Divide

October 13, 2012 –

Two of the most epic styles of death metal were the aggressive flood-of-noise NY style exemplified by Incantation, and the melodic style demonstrated by bands like Asphyx or Demigod which added a melodic superstructure to a series of vicious riffs. Without losing its distinctively New World character, Thevetat joins the abrasive and inhuman sounds of early Incantation with an occult melodic sound.

A mystical death metal experience results. While on the surface this music sounds like a train rushing past in a subway tunnel (preferably during total warfare) its underlying mood is that of hidden potential, arising from violence to show us not a structure within a structure, but a structure enclosing the visible structure we see. Its occult nature derives from this ability.

Guitars tend to follow the surging stream of power chords that defined Demoncy and Profanatica as much as Incantation, and the staccato muted-picking rhythms more like what Immolation or Revenant were using during the classic days of death metal. The result varies itself enough, between its raw side, its melodic elements, and its hookish rhythm riffing, to keep its consistency from being overwhelming.

What is impressive about its consistency is that these songs hold together and make sense, unlike post-modern style “death metal” which uses what’s essentially carnival or cartoon music that attempts to string together radically “different” riff styles to keep the groundlings amused, these different riffs flow together to show us an expanding vision of what the song is trying to communicate.

Personnel on this album played on Ceremonium (Thomas Pioli) and Immolation (Craig Smilowski) albums of the past, and not only does the competence show, but so does the influence. The earth-moving forward thrusting riffs and aggressive attack of Immolation are mated with the somber and emotional moods of Ceremonium, then shaped into something of its own direction with the overall personality of the band. While this three-song CD is just a start, expect good things from this new/old band.

1. Lifeless

2. Transmigration of Souls

3. Nihilistic Doctrine

“Nihilistic Doctrine” and the other two songs can be heard on the bandcamp page for this EP.

Buy the CD

You can acquire this pro-press CD EP from its distributor, Dark Descent, for a moderate $6.

Learn more about the band on Thevetat’s Facebook page.

Agonized – “Gods…” demo CD-R available

October 12, 2012 –
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Agonized’s 1991 demo, “Gods…”, has been restored at the local professional studio. Noise has been removed and worst odd tape anomalies filtered but the demo has not been remastered or has its sound changed in any other way. It sounds as muddy and bad and sinister it ever was in 1991.

Quick review: sounds like first album Sentenced combined with Belial, with vocals like Demilich (deep, burpish). For additional sound samples, see the band’s MySpace page.

This release is a CD-R copy of the demo on a JVC-Taiyo Yuden Premium branded CD. 5 euros+shipping. Contact directly for shipping details, payment information and/or other questions via Jari’s email.

1. Intro
2. Tortured

3. Long Live the New Flesh

4. Gods…

5. Devour the Saviour

Irony is the sign of the hipster and the death of metal

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What is the sign of the modern person? Cause and effect have become reversed: like buying products on a shelf, the modern person expects to see the effect he wants, purchase it, and have substituted that action for causing what he desires.

In music, you either stand for what you believe because you think the music embodies the cause of values you desire, or you choose music as an accessory or effect to make yourself look cool, and hope that by changing your appearance, you become cool.

This is why people who are reversed (confused cause and effect) are always ironic. For them, the music is an accessory to make themselves look good, and so when that fails, they backpedal. The best backpedaling is not to reverse your opinion — “Oh no, I don’t like that at all” — but to keep a foot in both worlds: “I just like that ironically.”

The ironists are ultimately a sad bunch, because they cannot enjoy what they claim to believe in. They believe in nothing, except themselves, and only then in a past tense and not a future tense, as in “I will achieve things.” They want to borrow cool from things they buy or know, but don’t actually like themselves.

In the 80’s music was quite tribalistic. Those who grew their hair long and listened to metal incurred the ridicule of those with spiky hair and synthesisers. It was a complete lifestyle and those who bought into it lived it 24/7.

Looking at all the guys in wigs and spandex, I was struck by how we now accept that you can buy into a lifestyle at whim, experiencing the external signifiers for a night, but not having any long term involvement. It’s all very ironic, and it is irony that now allows us to have an escape clause for just about anything. Rather than risk looking foolish we can just say the magic word ‘irony’. Is everything all about external signifiers and short term experience these days? – Sunsaria Music

They’re afraid of looking foolish, of believing in anything, of taking a stand. On the other hand, music that stands for what it believes attracts fans who feel the same way. These are the groups that invent everything. The ironists then recombine it, parrot it, vamp off it, but give nothing back.

If you want to know the difference between True MetalTM and ironist hipster metal, this is it: the ironists are afraid to stake a claim, stand up for an idea, and defend it. True MetalTM is composed of pure idea and a desire to make it real.

Churchburn – Kneel upon charred remnants

October 11, 2012 –
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Dave Suzuki (Vital Remains) launches his new effort.

Legion of Doom – The Summoning of Shadows

October 6, 2012 –
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Limited to 500 copies. Can be purchased direct from the label.

Desultory – Counting Our Scars

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The term “melodic death metal” has lost all meaning with the rise of its postmodern form, which is essentially heavy metal or power metal (speed metal + later heavy metal) with death vocals, played at twice normal speed and using tuning and mode to achieve a melodic sound. The genre often fails because in an effort to deliver lots of those sweet ripping melodic moments, it renders itself uniform and thus passes like sonic wallpaper.

The best of the genre either takes after early Dissection, which is essentially heavy metal, or early At the Gates, which is essentially death metal. In the middle, there are those who combine the two, making what sounds like a cross between early Dissection and early Necrophobic. In this area, bands like Unanimated, Sentenced, Cemetary and Sacramentum made their great works. Desultory fit into this picture as well but was always just a bit more predictable and catchy than those bands would admit into their own music.

Some call it obvious, but the history of art shows us that the person who makes the most evocative form of obvious basically states what everyone is too neurotic to think clearly, and becomes a winner. For that reason, it’s a terrible shame that this album has been overlooked since it is better than almost everything to come out in the genre recently. Opeth and BloodBath fans in particular might enjoy this album which is equal balanced parts beauty and virulent darkness.

Riffs are catchy and strike a good balance between melodic hook and infectious rhythm with some aggression to it, a form which is downplayed but provides a good internal counterpoint to the sweet spots (in contrast to most bands, who do this externally by playing the verses as grinding madness and the chorus as undistorted or sickeningly over-harmonized AOR riffs). In song structure, this album is more like older death metal of the melodic type, but its soul is pure heavy metal of the type that dominated the airwaves in the 1980s, just with twice the complexity and technicality.

In many ways, this album fulfills the promise of melodic metal. It’s like a cross between Iron Maiden Number of the Beast and Slayer Reign in Blood. This is a hard mix to get right, and it’s fair to note that there’s more hard rock in this than even in Iron Maiden, but the end result is very pleasant listening that maintains a sense of longing and beauty in its atmosphere, while simultaneously raging against the darkness.

Anata – Under a Stone with No Inscription

There is so much to appreciate about this album, starting with its technicality, but most prominently extended to its sense of a notched lock between a good rhythm and a good melody. The problem is that this release is infected with the post-modern-metal fascination for the carnival music style of intense variation, which ends up creating a lack of narrative, which must be substituted with primitive means like repetition and hook, pushing these out of place. The result is listenable but too busy; it turns everything up to 11 and as a result, almost nothing stands out, and its careful inventiveness in riff and variation becomes textural background. However, like Neuraxis — to which it is a close relative — this is at least a listenable form of metalcore-influenced late death metal.

Earache sale on classics this weekend only

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Tell Phil we sent you.