Final album of Rigor Mortis released this summer

February 28, 2013 –

scacciaMike Scaccia and his mates in Rigor Mortis finished recording a full album before Scaccia passed away on December 22 last year. The day before, Scaccia and engineer Kerry Crafton did some initial work on mixing the album entitled Slaves to the Grave which will be the last from the band.

Of its quality Crafton says:

This record is amazing. Mike, Bruce Corbitt, Harden Harrison and Casey Orr all performed brilliantly in the recording and I believe they all did the best work of their lives. […] The depth and breadth of the material is really awesome.

While it’s difficult for the rest of us to estimate how well Rigor Mortis as a band hold up musically these days (the band’s last full-length was released more than two decades ago), Scaccia’s legacy has more than sentimental value.

Slaves to the Grave will be released sometime during summer 2013.

Dehumanized – Controlled Elite

dehumanized-controlled_eliteIt’s the rare band that improves with age. New York’s Dehumanized returns with a leaner and more complex sound in the style of percussive death metal, a lot like Suffocation or Malevolent Creation given lessons in being mean.

Although the band bill their as “slam death metal,” its roots are in the muted-strumming high-impact styles that extends from Exodus through Meshuggah, with stops in the middle for Morpheus Descends and Resurrection. It is a mathematics of complex impacts, like Shao-lin monks attacking with the precision of a supercomputer.

Dehumanized make their songs out of chromatic strips of chords arrayed in layers of riffs, alternating every third riff or so with a melodic counter-commentary similar to that used by newer percussive death bands like Deeds of Flesh. The result keeps interest throughout and gives you a break between pummeling skull-crushing material and abrupt tempo changes that leave a whiff of snapped necks in their path.

Vocals are chortled guttural rants that undulate through the guitar rhythms that dominate each song. Percussion follows with a flair for fills in the style of modern technical death metal, but rides a cadence like old school death. Songs are efficient, and listenable in that way that Napalm Death’s Fear, Emptiness, Despair is, meaning that they are catchy and minimal but not so repetitive that the brain filters them out.

Lite jazz musicians and metalcore enthusiasts will fear and loathe this album, but for those who like meaty and violent death metal, it is a treat that deserves more inspection. Birthed of the militaristic NYDM scene, Controlled Elite lives up to its reputation by being simultaneously ferocious and listenable.

Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance

February 27, 2013 –

Production: Static-free, slightly muddy guitar tone. Drums are clear and unremarkable.

darkthrone-the_underground_resistanceReview: Continuing Darkthrone‘s recent series of forcing anachronistic albums, all traces of black metal have been stripped from this album. Fenriz’ tracks consist of the same relentlessly bouncy riffs over which unbearably clean vocals are belted. Nocturno Culto’s are differentiated only by slightly heavier vocals.

Nothing on this album is unique; if you’ve listened to 70s and 80s metal to any extent, you will know these riffs. Devoid of originality, this album could have been recorded by any nameless metal band.

Whatever motivated these musicians to release such toweringly monumental works in their earlier careers has clearly been lost. At a certain point, the creative spark burns out and all that’s left is talent but no sense of urgency or spirit, which is how albums like this are created. Like junk food, at first glance it appears edible but afterwards leaves you feeling slightly nauseous and unfulfilled.

Frankenslayer tears up Australia

February 26, 2013 –

Slayer, performing with Jon Dette as Dave Lombardo and Gary Holt as Jeff Hanneman, has launched its new tour in Australia. This fan-filmed video shows how the new ‘Frankenslayer’ performs.

‘Frankenslayer’ refers to the two original members plus two hired hands that now forms the ‘Slayer’ you see on tour. Some have a problem with this, and rumors and doubt circle around the Slayer camp.

This is a complex issue. We are the biggest Slayer fans on earth around here, and some of the few people who have given them credit for their contributions to death metal (we’re also huge fans of Hellhammer and Bathory, the other .666 of the Unholy Triad of the origins of black and death metal).

However, we’d never want them to keep carrying on for the sake of carrying on. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Slayer’s output has been uncertain since South of Heaven, with some real dips in there as the band have tried to adapt to the new nu-metal landscape. If their hearts aren’t in it, we’d want them to do something they enjoyed more instead. It might not be appropriate to do it under the Slayer name, but having Slayer members in the band carries a great weight.

In addition, we know that the record industry burns out bands. Musicians should spend most of their time goofing off and playing their instruments. Instead, they’re spending most of their time on media relations, business, office-type stuff and negotiating with suits. In addition, most have families now so it’s an additional burden since they have less time. The result means that band practice is like a 4-hr-per-week job and whatever comes out of it gets chopped up like sausage into the “next album.” Concept, deliberation, inspiration and imagination take a back seat to the raw demands of the trade.

We’re hoping (of course) that Jeff Hanneman recovers, but that’s for the reason that he’s Jeff Hanneman and we hope he recovers. His choice about being in Slayer after that is his choice. Similarly, we hope that Dave Lombardo can work out his contract with Slayer to be part of the band again, but that’s because he’s Dave Lombardo. We don’t make any requests on Slayer itself. It will decide, as a group or as the singular identity that is more than the sum of its parts, to carry on.

In the meantime, ‘Frankenslayer’ is obviously putting on a heck of a performance. However, there is something about Lombardo’s accusations that rankles:

Last year, I discovered 90% of Slayer’s tour income was being deducted as expenses including the professional fees paid to management, costing the band millions of dollars and leaving 10% or less to split amongst the four of us. In my opinion, this is not the way a band’s business should operate. I tried rectifying it by letting my band mates know, and Tom and I hired auditors to figure out what happened, but I was denied access to detailed information and the necessary back up documents. – Dave Lombardo/Facebook

As others have pointed out, Lombardo has been out of the band for some time, and he’s now a hired gun. He doesn’t receive his split of the band’s profits for the tour because he’s not technically a member of the band. Instead, he gets paid like any hired drummer, although we hope perhaps gets paid a bit more for being Dave Lombardo.

The problem with this arrangement is that it’s the antithesis of what a band is. Fans are showing up to see Slayer as Slayer, meaning the guys who originally created this music in the first place. Instead, we get two members and a hired troupe of musicians who are basically putting money into the Slayer bank account without being Slayer.

It’s difficult for great music to emerge from a job-style relationship. Adequate, sure, but these guys can do “adequate” in their sleep. If something positive can come out of this debacle and the ‘Frankenslayer’ Australia tour, it’s that Slayer may need to recalibrate and if they’re going to continue, try doing it as a band in love with their own music instead of a band as a day job.

Interview with the fan who prefers to buy CDs

February 25, 2013 –

physical_cd_collectionIt’s no big news when someone who grew up two decades ago prefers to buy CDs. Back then, the shiny little discs represented a break from the cumbersome technology of the past and instead were a gateway to modernity.

Not so, now. People growing up in the last decade have emerged in a world where “buying music” increasingly means downloading a song from an iTunes or Amazon account. The idea of buying physical CDs is as odd to them as buying a player-piano scroll.

However, there are always those who don’t go with the flow. We found a user named Evisceratorium at large on the internet who is willing to tell us about the decision as a new listener to go back to buying physical music instead of digital.

I understand that you’ve grown up with the digital download generation, but have switched back to buying CDs. What were your reasons for doing this?

I decided that the overall experience of buying physical music was more interesting and fun than simply pulling up a downloading website and clicking a button. It simply started as an alternate way to own music, I guess — I didn’t consider one way of doing things to be superior to any other. If I was at the record store in the mall and I saw an album that I was interested in checking out, I’d buy the CD there instead of getting it off iTunes, if only for immediate gratification and convenience.

Do you think there’s a value in having a tangible product? Do you have your collection on display, or use it as conversation pieces?

I think there’s a lot of value in owning the tangible product, especially for musical formats. It’s not just a sign of devotion to me, it’s a token piece that I get to keep and look at whenever I’d like. I’ll admit that, contrary to most somewhat similar opinions I’ve heard, I don’t buy music to support artists I enjoy. If I enjoy them, that’s fine; but frankly I usually expect to receive some item in return for my money and support, rather than something intangible. I do have my collection on display — Discogs.org says I have 280 items on some format or another as of right now – and yes, I do enjoy talking about it to other people. I like going through other people’s collections and comparing their albums to my own, too, so I appreciate it when other people talk about their finds as well!

But to be entirely fair, I don’t have this same sort of attachment to physical formats of other media like movies or books. I don’t feel like people should be obligated to acquire every single thing they want in physical form, because even I don’t really do that for things that aren’t musical; but if you’re truly passionate about something, you should seriously consider having pieces of your passion there for you to touch and observe, because it really is a great feeling.

Do you know of any others who have made the same decision?

The same general principle, yes, but I don’t personally know anyone who mirrors my personal philosophy verbatim. Most illegally download most or all of their music, or they physically buy most of it but download when the item in question is rare or out-of-print. I’ve never done that: if an album I want is out-of-print then I wait for it to become available for sale, if it’s brutally expensive I save up and then get it, or if it’s not available I don’t acquire it period. It doesn’t mean I want it any less than anybody else, but I don’t see why I can’t wait to own it like everyone else did. I think a lot of the people who download work mostly off the concept of instant gratification, which I think hampers the excitement of music quite a bit.

Besides, anyone reading this is already utilising the giant resource that is the Internet, and with a bit of digging on the buyer’s end, I would argue that (excluding most demos from decades-old bands, I’ll admit that these tend to be unattainable) most “rare” or “out-of-print” albums are a lot easier to find than most people would like to think. Expensive? Well, of course, you’re trying to get a product that came out 15-20 years ago and has been spread throughout the world since, or a product that was limited to 50 or fewer copies and is only now being relinquished by one of the fans who originally acquired one. But if you want it, it’s definitely there. Even Bathory’s infamous “yellow goat” LPs are a couple of clicks away from being yours, according to Discogs. For nearly $1,000, yeah, but if you really want it that bad, it’s there. The whole “downloading old stuff is okay because it’s not there” comes off to me as a side effect of the Internet age: a combination of impatience and a retrospective sense of entitlement. In other words, the Internet is attempting to transcend the limits that were originally set by the record labels in question and I don’t appreciate that. But I’m starting to digress from the point. Basically, no, I don’t know anyone who embraces physical formats as adamantly as I have, though most of my friends buy physical copies of albums to some extent.

Other than the reasons for which you initially started buying physical copies of music, have you discovered any other advantages?

Quite a few, actually. Physical albums are much more likely than digital files to contain vital information about the album which one might be interested in. I’ve seen tons of posts on forums where people asked about the lyrics to certain songs and the answer was right there, plain as day, in the booklets of the albums in question. More subjectively, I think they’re a lot nicer to look at, the variety between stuff like digipaks, cassettes, box sets, and LPs is nice and gives each item a more unique identity, and for me they make me develop a closer relationship to the album than if it were only a bunch of files. (You can see this in terms of interpersonal relationships, too – proximity breeds intimacy amongst people, and I’d argue that the same can be said of people and objects.) They’re something to look at when I’m bored, admire as an aspect of myself when I feel upset, and as I mentioned earlier, they’re fun to talk about.

Another important thing is that I think buying physical items, or paying for music in general, forces people to be a bit more patient with their music, which is always good. I see so many people talking about hyper-downloading all thirteen of a band’s albums, at which point I assume those albums probably either fester on those people’s hard drives or get listened to once and subsequently forgotten. I’ll admit to having terrible self-restraint, so physical albums help me to limit myself and pay a bit more attention to everything. Put a wager of your own money into the game, and you’ll be much more likely to take things slower, appreciate nuances that you might miss on a cursory listen and be able to say more about what you listen to, instead of only being able to say “oh well duh I heard that album once, I think it’s good”. I haven’t heard that much music by quantity (there are still plenty of big-name bands where I either haven’t heard them, or I’ve only heard an album or two of theirs), but I feel like I could say a lot more about what I have heard than most other people could. Life is short, but not short enough to where you should feel the need to rush everything. Art should be given ample time and appreciation for it to sink in properly, lest we run the risk of bypassing things that we’d grow to love with a bit of patience.

This doesn’t really fit into any of the questions you’ve posed, but I’d like to briefly add that I don’t see anything wrong with people “taste-testing” music. I’ve checked out numerous bands and albums via YouTube and I don’t see anything wrong with doing so. And occasionally when I review albums I don’t own, I’ll download them, listen to them for reviewing purposes and then delete them. Free streaming and downloading are unquestionably useful tools. (Though they’re not always my preference…seriously, once you have around $20 or so, go to some underground black metal distro and buy five $4 cassettes by bands you’ve never heard, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds!) It’s when people start abusing these tools to acquire anything and everything at will that I’d say they’re starting to be abused beyond their original purposes. And yes, I’m aware that metalheads are not the most opulent subculture, but I refuse to believe that most people are so hard-pressed for money after the bare necessities of groceries, clothing, education and utilities that they are rendered completely financially unable to buy a $12 CD or a $4 cassette. This may be the naivete of youth speaking, but I get the feeling that most people who don’t have the money to waste on “inessential items” such as CDs are instead just using it on equally inessential things like food that isn’t rice, bread, or ramen noodles. When you boil down to it, music is just the same as any other luxury: you’re not entitled to it whatsoever.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background in metal, what sort of metal you like, and how you balance your metalness with a normal lifestyle?

I just turned 16 a month or so ago, so I guess most people would say I’m pretty young to be talking about something like this. I live in an area of the United States (read: Bible Belt) where metal music is essentially nonexistent, so that in combination with my status as a minor means I can’t really go to metal shows. I’d like to think I give back to the metal scene at least a bit, though: besides my insistence on buying albums, I post on forums a lot, and I have an account on the Metal Archives (as MutantClannfear) where I’ve posted about 130 reviews, mostly of brutal death metal or deathcore albums.

I got into metal via “the ’00s nu-metal kid’s way”. I hear lots of people talking about how they started with Iron Maiden and Metallica and trickled up through power metal and thrash up to extreme metal, but I took a much more direct route. I was aware of Metallica from earlier in my life, but my real impetus for getting into metal was Slipknot. I think I first heard them in 2008 via Guitar Hero III, and that game later led me to Rock Band. The downloadable content of Rock Band led me to Cannibal Corpse, Job for a Cowboy, Lamb of God, and Whitechapel in late 2009, and that was basically where my journey began.

I’d consider myself pretty well-rounded when it comes to metal, though my favourite genres are probably brutal death metal and the more airy, atmospheric sides of black metal. But my list of favourite bands would include stuff like Dark Angel and Black Sabbath, as well, and my favourite band of all time would be Lykathea Aflame. I never really shed my roots as I still listen to nu-metal and deathcore, and even find both styles growing on me a bit the more time passes. I don’t feel like I need to “balance” my metalness out with the rest of my life, per se. I’d consider myself more of a general music fan than a metalhead, and though metal is my favourite genre of the bunch, I feel like I enjoy a bit of everything (though my tastes have primarily been modern pop music lately). Outside of the shirts I wear, I don’t try to be ostentatious about my tastes in music unless people ask. And yes, I give non-metal genres the same attitude towards purchasing physical music: in fact, the last two CDs I bought were by Ellie Goulding and Ke$ha, oops.

Sorry if this rambles a bit, but I’m a bit tired and I feel like I had a lot to say. All in all, I think the physical side of music is a thing that goes greatly overlooked now that people can effectively bypass it, and I’m damn proud to see the metal scene in particular fighting to keep it alive for as long as it has. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this interview!

And there you have it. Start buying CDs, because it’s a great way to experience music. Or vinyl, if your tastes run to that. Thanks Evisceratorium for a great interview!

Is metal “too nihilistic”?

February 24, 2013 –
Comments Off

fenrizA non-Hessian friend once pointed out to me that metal music is essentially avoidance. With its nihilistic outlook it seemed to him to be just shuffling meaning around, never really reaching a conclusion or be able to produce a complete artwork.

Faustian? Pah! It may enjoy details of the world’s harsh realities, the death and gore and decay, but only because the transient nature of death allows for constant change, consequently avoiding all meaning. Which means we may contently pull back in some basement, still fearing reality as a whole. That’s what you get with bands obsessed with death.

Classical? Pfft! How could it be? Metal is too sensuous, delving in creepy subjects and gritty riffs without any sense of spirit or abstract idea.

Unsurprisingly, I think this is writing it off too quickly.

Metal is certainly content with the world, but does that make it materialistic? It does not like society perhaps; metal loathes its stale “bourgeois” mentality, yelling “Fake! Fake!”, and it loves the hedonistic.

But metal nevertheless hungers for the epic, a “heavy” greatness and seems to enjoy the game that nature is playing. Metal found that society was materially flourishing, but also found decay in the souls of the bored everyday man, echoing the troubled mind of Fenriz of Darkthrone who loves art that comes from “the exhaustion of easy life”.

To awaken us, metal explored natural decay. But not as a materialist act: needless to say, with their obscure imagery, dark riffs and haunting vocals, metal bands created a mysterious world that seemed more honest, more real than the life in any Western metropolis. Lauren Wise writes:

Heavy metal seemed just like classical music to me: It was ritualistic, accepting of death and change, questioned authority and normalcy, and satisfied that need for an overture or reconsideration. It was as if classical and metal both quenched my need to understand the positive strength and ultimately horrific nature of the world. Metal may be less refined, but it still seeks to express that philosophical assumption about life.

Metal found life in death – initially as a warning, later as full-on Romanticist nature worship – and that beautiful paradox sums up my answer to my friend: Metal seeks essence, it does not avoid it – but it takes no prisoners.

Is all metal “Christian metal”?

god_listens_to_slayer

Around and around again the argument goes. Some people advocate for Christian “metal,” and others like myself find something wrong with it. It’s like school-approved metal or eat-your-vegetables metal.

It just feels wrong. We need one genre devoted to doing something other than what the herd does. The herd, it seems, is cool with anything as long as it enforces the principle that we need them.

That need is based on the guarantee that each person is important. If everyone agrees, see, then we’re all protected and can do whatever we want. But the price is that you have to tolerate the delusions of others.

However, metal seems built on the opposite principle. In the world of metal, epic wars sweep away all these bright and promising individuals. Truth is more important than what people think. The present tense is lesser than the past.

And so the drama goes around again. All the brave individualists say that Christian “metal” is OK and should be accepted; the rest of us wrinkle lips and think there’s just something not right with that.

One Christian writer advances a reason why the distinction might not be so important, but by approaching the question from the other angle — is any metal not Christian?

Even the most banal, goat-sacrificing, wannabe Satanic metal participates in the Christian reality by stringing three notes together and calling it a melody. Their songs contain order, and order is the province of God. Their songs contain harmony — however overdriven — and thus amount to pitiful attempts at Beauty, and Beauty is God. Sure, these bands intentionally miss the mark, miss the point, preach vice, fall short of writing anything good enough to last, and waste time indulging the petty, Dionysian emotions, but even their failure is Christian. Failure to be Good, True and Beautiful, can only exist in reference to the Good, True and Beautiful. If their music is bad, it is bad because it fails to be good, and thus in its very badness it gives testimony to that-which-it-fails-to-be, namely Good, who is God. Purely evil music would not be music, because evil is Nothing. If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert. – “5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music,” by Marc Barnes, Patheos

Barnes writes eloquently for reasons to not have Christian music at all, namely that it reduces Christianity to a flavor of the same mainstream junk everyone else is listening to.

He makes a point, since this is probably the same reason metal does not want to be Christian, but from the other direction. Metal needs to be metal. It should not be “flavored” by anything else.

It’s also pathetic to pander to special interest groups. What’s next, homeschooler metal? Vegan metal? BBQ metal? Swinger metal? Please leave your freaky needs at the door and just be metal.

In fact, this is part of what makes metal great. It is a devotional experience of its own. You go to shows, join in a great swirling pit, be united by intense music, affirm reality, and then go home where your parents, friends, neighbors and coworkers can yell at you for not using the blue covers on your TPS reports.

For metal to be what it is, or in Barnes’ words to be an affirmation of “the good, the beautiful and the true,” it needs to be its lawless, amoral and occult self. That’s what metal should be, and without it, metal fails to live up to its role in the drama.

Much like John Milton wrote lovingly of Satan in Paradise Lost, or Romantic poets praised the Pagan gods, or even William Blake revealed a demonology beneath everyday life, writing about the darkness is essential for both darkness and light to know themselves.

And as the ancient Greeks would say, “gnōthi seauton” or “know thyself” is the root of all knowledge. Including that which wears bullet belts, hails Satan and raises the (inverted) cross in blasphemy.

Pasadena Napalm Division (PND) releasing debut album

February 23, 2013 –

pasadena_napalm_division_PNDThe wording above says releasing, not releases. There’s apparently a bit of label-shopping and confusion as to when this interesting work will actually land. The good news is that when the new Pasadena Napalm Division (P.N.D.) full-length lands it will probably crush your spine.

P.N.D. is a thrash band formed of D.R.I. vocalist Kurt Brecht and Dead Horse guitarists Greg Martin and Scott Sevall, joined by drummer Ronnie Guyote. Formed in 2008, the band released an EP in 2010 which was greeted by enthusiasm from the fans.

Since this is a project band for Brecht, its schedule is unsteady and depends in part on when he’s not busy with his main act D.R.I.. As explained in a recent article, much of P.N.D’s output arose from times when D.R.I. was out of commission due to guitarist Spike Cassidy‘s health woes.

The album will be released on SF-based Minus Head Records, but the exact date is uncertain but likely April or later of this year. Since the band waited over a year to release the album while label-shopping, this means we’re finally getting a glimpse into their 2011 output. Maybe this will spur them on to do even more.

Sadistic Metal Reviews – “Fuck Nostalgia” Edition

February 22, 2013 –

This world is composed of snares that waste your time. Their job is to reach out, grab you, and destroy your chances of doing anything more impressive with those moments. One snare is nostalgia. It’s Pavlovian. A scent, a sound or a shape reaches out to your senses and before you know it, a chain has formed in your mind. You’ve linked this new thing to a happy older memory and by sheer impulse, since memory is more idealized and thus sweeter than present tense, you just leap into enjoying it. It’s only later that you realize it’s empty.

obliteration-nekropsalmsObliteration – Nekropsalms

Borrowing the aesthetic of nocturnal death and grind from Carbonized through Cadaver, Obliteration make a type of doom-death with heavy metal underpinnings that is very easy to listen to. Indeed, hours can pass while you listen. It may in fact be like being dead. There’s nothing wrong with this sort of pleasant withdrawal from active participation in life. However, although it doesn’t have any negatives, it also doesn’t add any positives. This is basically riff practice shaped by tempo into songs, sort of like those “modern art” sculptures made from whatever the artist had at hand. “So then I welded the dildo the engine block, wrapped the condoms around it, dumped paint on it and put a doll’s head on top.” Songs catchy and you’ll have a few favorite parts. Over time you will start hearing the lifts from Slayer, Deicide, Mayhem and others. Eventually this will leave you feeling empty. You will realize that these are riffs and nostalgia and nothing more. Total time elapsed: two weeks.

sarcofagus-cycle_of_lifeSarcofagus – Cycle of Life

As I go through life, it amazes me how many people know so much and yet can do nothing with it. They are able to memorize the outward details and even excel at that, but their understanding of the structure beneath is lacking so what they produce sounds like an imitation. This band, who are painfully awful and remind me of everything that makes metal loathsome, are an Angel Witch clone who through in more of the moddish blues and rock influences of the late 1960s and early 1970s to try to differentiate themselves. I don’t mean to be cruel; this is just painfully bad. It is not cliches, but rather slight modifications of known riff archetypes jazzed up with a little bit of well-studied technique, thrown together randomly. These aren’t songs; they sound like songs. They are imitation from the outward in, a student emulating the masters without grasping what motivated them. Turn it off… this is cringeworthy.

chtheilist-amechthntaasmrriachthChtheilist – Amechthntaasmrriachth

Gosh, we all remember the day we first heard Demilich like we remember the day we first “got it” with many iconic metal bands. That day is gone and will never be back. If you try to bring that day back, it’s like believing that a gold-plated aluminum idol is a god. You can’t restore that day by imitating it. Just like it wasn’t the beer, the temperature, the cycle of the moon, etc. that defined the day you remember as “the best day of my life,” it isn’t the outward characteristics that make Demilich. It was a vision in the minds and souls of its creator that was became the freaky music you know because that ecclectic combination was the only means to express what needed to be said. Imagine “It’s Raining Men” sung by heterosexuals; it just doesn’t deliver. Demilich isn’t its own style. Demilich is whatever motivated those artists to see the world a certain way and then express it. That being said, this Ctheilist album is an attempt to imitate Demilich and Timeghoul but because it’s outward-in emulation, it ends up being all technique. Underneath this is a very basic death metal album that uses relatively normal chromatic and minor key progressions, riffs and stylings. It resembles a collision between Nocturnus and Broken Hope. It’s quite good for that zone, but it’s not Demilich and while the tribute is touching, it doesn’t make this relatively ordinary music any more interesting.

ofermod-tiamtuOfermod – Tiamtu

It’s hard to dislike this band aesthetically because it imitates the best era of Mayhem, the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas year(s). Makes you want to kick back, open a beer and a light up a church, right? However, all things that are aesthetic without soul are pointless. Soul means a principle of organization that the artists want to express and communicate. It may be a feeling, a shape or a memory. But it is being expressed, or rather described, as the song takes you from a place of ignorance to a place of doubt to knowledge of the whole thing. When bands have no soul, it is because they are imitating the aesthetic of something. They are like OJ Simpson’s defense lawyers. However, there is no highest principle of organization because it is a checklist of things that imitate the past with no core, no center, no idea behind them. This album sounds like Mayhem’s Wolves Lair Abyss done in the style of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, since it cycles like circus music and goes nowhere. Beware nostalgia, it is a death grip on your soul.

entrails-tales_from_the_morgueEntrails – Tails from the Morgue

Swedish death metal is the sleeper hit of the last 21 summers. Even babies and dolphins love Swedish death metal. Combine the crunchiest distortion possible with simple melodies and aggressive tempo changes, not to mention the characteristic use of textured strumming to give each piece an internal rhythm, and you have pure win as far as metal style goes. It’s like the phrase “do it for the children” in a political speech. But what made the greats great as opposed to footnotes like everyone to follow is more nuanced. At the end of the day, it’s two things: songwriting, and having something to write about. The best Swedish bands had about three good albums in them while they unleashed their perceptions as shaped charges of emotion mated to careful realism. The result was a shuddering cascade of layered sensations of total alienation that conveyed how intelligent people saw the yawning abyss of post-1980s modern society. And then there are those who imitate this, and like a costume ball or a carnival, it must be “fun” because it has no content. The immaculate production on this record is like a doctor’s rubber mallet tapping the knee, because the reflex jerks… and that’s about it. The lack of any further depth and the insistence on using the antiquated hard rock cliches of the 1980s makes this dubious, but the real absence is anything to tie these songs together and make them anything but jam-room projects. Might as well write “NOT Left Hand Path” on the cover to warn people.

sargeist-let_the_devil_inSargeist – Let the Devil In

Post-1996 black metal is out of ideas. For example, how many times can you imitate “Bergtrollets Hevn” and “Måneskyggens Slave” (Gorgoroth) before you truly admit you’re using Silly Putty to life an image from a newspaper, then pretending it’s the real thing? The vocals on this album surge so consistently that it sounds like someone riding a merry-go-round while screaming at the top of his lungs. Despite an obviously intensive and thorough study of older black metal (probably with note cards and those little colored tab things in a binder) Sargeist has none of what makes the songs good. Like Ancient, it tends to like to use melodic minor scale patterns and then drift into more cheerful whole intervals, creating a sense of lifting out of darkness. Unlike Ancient, this band has no idea how to structure songs; these don’t go anywhere, but cycle around until you’ve heard all the good parts, and then evaporate. It’s tempting to want to like this because it’s catchy, sounds like old black metal from a distance, and isn’t all wimpified like more recent black metal. But it’s missing that core, the substance and the unique beauty that black metal found in darkness.

Remember, nostalgia is a way of thinking that says your best days are behind you. You might as well write VICTIM on your forehead (remember to do it backwards if you use a mirror). The best days are ahead. They may not look like the old days, but that’s what life is all about: structure, not appearances. Celebrate the best of the past, and redouble your efforts toward a better future. There’s no reason you can’t do it at any age; Milton wrote Paradise Lost in his 80s, Raymond Chandler got published in his 50s for the first time, and Brahms was in his mid-40s before his first symphonies saw a performance. Take heart! Charge forward! Take no prisoners (and if you do, sodomize them)! Kill! Fight! Win!

Khand – The Fires of Celestial Ardour released

February 21, 2013 –

khand-the_fires_of_celestial_ardourPart of being metal is to be un-metal and to follow projects in a related spirit that do not necessarily use screaming guitars, blasting drums, howling guttural vocals and lyrics about doom.

Some in fact are more ambient. Take for example New England’s Khand, a project band from members of well-known right coast black metal bands, which works in the dark ambient genre but with its own twist that more resembles the classics of psychedelic and cosmic ambient music.

The Fires of Celestial Ardour, released via Hi.Arc.Tow as a GPL-licensed free download, is “all over the place stylistically, but it’s all done with a fantasy/sci-fi mindset,” according to Khand creator Arillius.

Touting itself as music for fans of Tangerine Dream, RPG music, Dead Can Dance, Mortiis, Vangelis, Lord Wind, Winglord and related epic dark ambient projects, Khand is more playful than the norm but creates an atmosphere not of darkness, but of great possibility in which darkness and light are not destinations but means to an end.

“I keep this project all low-fi and try not to use any keyboards, samples or programs that came out post-2000,” said Arillius, who is famed in north eastern black metal circles for his unusual lifestyle. He lives and records in a houseboat without windows anchored offshore, and much of his music reflects the motion of waves, the call of seagulls, and the occasional bloated corpse brushing up against the hull. Often he goes for months without human contact except to post misanthropic screeds on his Facebook Page.

For those who like ambient, but like it dark, and like dark ambient, but like it to have a range of emotions beyond “alone in my dark room with a sword,” Khand provides a perfect listening experience that is also free of charge.