Underground Never Dies! by Andrés Padilla

underground_never_dies-andres_padilla-cover

This review includes a 3-page sample of the book, and streaming audio of the tracks on Side A of the accompanying LP of underground metal rarities. Side B follows with the continuation of this review.

Underground Never Dies! fills a void in the literature about metal so far, which is the “why” behind the underground. We know the facts from other sources, but facts are deceiving because they take on a life of their own. Underground Never Dies! knits the facts together with a narrative of the reasons people expressed for joining the underground.

Angling toward its topic matter from a zine-based perspective, Underground Never Dies! describes the informal network of fans, bands, labels and writers who stayed connected through postal mail and xeroxed 50-page fanzines. This substituted for the huge media network and financial power of the major labels, who soon found themselves wishing they had an underground also.

The reason for this is that, as any advertiser can tell you, the most effective force in marketing is word of mouth. It takes ten TV ads about how awesome Altars of Madness is to be equal — possibly — to one friend telling you about “the most intense album ever.” Zines were a personal connection by people who threw out the false objectivity of mainstream media, and instead focused on presenting what they found meaningful.

Underground Never Dies! unites several threads while explaining this phenomenon. On one hand, this book is an incredible treasure trove of images and words from the past, reproduced exactly as they appeared in the original zines, flyers and letters. Looking more deeply, it’s an exploration of what it means to have the underground mentality through the words of those who participated and distinguished themselves, including luminaries like Fenriz of Darkthrone and musicians from At the Gates.

What makes this book exceptional is that it takes the same approach a zine would, which makes sense seeing how the author Andrés Padilla is editor of Chilean zine Grinder Magazine. Using his practiced approach, he goes for a metal version of Hunter S. Thompson’s “gonzo journalism” and discards the pretense of objectivity, instead looking at the scene as a personal experience with shared objective components between a select group who actually did notable things back in the day.

Parts of this book will take your breath away as you realize you are looking at historical objects reproduced as if in a museum, and that these objects represent the time and place where movements that are with us to this day were launched. From demo covers of bands that were later genre-defining to classic interviews where bands explained their motivation, even extending to lost promotional photos of bands 30 years ago, Underground Never Dies! is like an inverted periscope into the deep and murky world of underground extreme metal.

What makes this book more than a souvenir is its intense exploration of the why, however. Personal statements from notable scene personalities, including Alan Moses of Glorious Times fame, as well as clear articulations from zines in the day about what motivated the participants, line these pages and show us how the underground wasn’t just a musical movement, but a social movement, if not a separate society entirely.

The first 500 copies of the book come with a LP recording of unreleased classic metal tracks from back in the day. You can peruse the tracklist here, or listen to the live soundstream that follows this article. The CD/LP will be sold separately in addition to the book, but it’s hard to imagine wanting one without the other since both are essentially archives of rare information.

Interested fans may wish to seek our initial report on Underground Never Dies!, or our announcement of the book’s impending release. Of interest also is our interview with Underground Never Dies! and Grinder Magazine author Andrés Padilla (which you can also read in Spanish). For background, you might also enjoy reading The Heavy Metal FAQ and our public domain metal zines archive.

3-page PDF sampler of Underground Never Dies!

Streaming MP3s of Underground Never Dies! LP/CD – Side A

1. Incubus – “Engulfed in Unspeakable Horrors” (5:19)

2. Slaughter Lord – “Taste Of Blood” (3:13)

3. Mutilated – “Hysterical Corpse Dislocation” (3:05)

4. Dr. Shrinker – “Cerebral Seizure” (3:06)

5. Aftermath – “When You Will Die” (3:52)

6. Exmortis – “Beyond The Realm Of Madness” (3:24)

Side B will follow with the second part of this review.

Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011) book details underground metal

extreme_metal-30_years_of_darkness_1981-2011As the years have churned by, interest in underground metal has grown as metal fans have become more experienced and come to want more complete assessments of the music of their youth, and as outsiders and new fans discover this field. To support this, a fleet of books have been launched to cover it.

A recent addition is Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011), by Salva Rubio, a writer in Spain. Rubio holds a degree in art history and works as a screenwriter and writer in his native Spain. Right now, the book is only available in Spanish, but it’s possible that a translation to English and other languages will follow.

According to the website for Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011), the book “includes essays about the ethical and aesthetic nature of Extreme Metal, a formal account of what distinguishes each style and how they are meant to be played, a chronological, style-by-style story of how each kind of Extreme Metal evolved.”

The book has a Facebook site in an effort to build some community behind the release.

Interview: Wan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Swedish band Wan recently released Enjoy the Filth on Carnal Records, creating an album that’s most similar to 1998-faire like Impaled Nazarene Latex Cult and Disfear Soul Scars.

As Wan is trying to break in to the post-modern metal scene, where outside genres often get disguised as metal for the sake of riding the coattails of black metal’s 1990s notoriety, they are emphasizing their metal nature and associating with black metal.

We were fortunate to be able to catch a few words with Wan, who write to us from the darkened winter wilderness of Sweden.

When did Wan form, and what influenced you at the time?

As the song “Day of Reckoning” suggests, we formed in July 2009 with the aim to celebrate the oldschool metal scene. The influences are as obvious as they are filthy. Bands like Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost have a deep impact in our minds and in our tunes.

Are the members of Wan metalheads of long standing, or is this a recent discovery?

We are four old bastards who have been breathing, eating and crapping metal for ages!

What other types of music do you or have you in the past listened to?

Some of us emerged from the early punk I guess. Personally I enjoyed different types of music as a youngster. Depeche Mode was a band that I liked a lot, and I still think some of their earlier stuff is great.

Coming from Sweden, which is a tiny country from which many important metal bands come, it seems it might be difficult to get known, like the bar is higher. How do you hope to overcome this?

As you say, there’s a lot of quality bands hailing from our dark regions. To be honest there’s even more shitty bands as well that, in my opinion, never should have been! So yeah, there’s quite a competition in the scene, but we’re not going to do anything other than to let our music speak for itself. Some people will enjoy our filth, some will be ignorant bastards.

Were the members of Wan active in other bands or artistic activities before Wan? Can you tell us about these?

We have all been in numerous bands and acts throughout the years. The list would be long and bore your readers out of their minds! It has been various styles anyway, but always metal or dark music in one way or another. Also at the present time we keep ourselves busy by playing in other bands. Not gonna ramble any names though… If you’re interested you’ll find out.

This is an awkward question, but I must ask: why do you classify Enjoy the Filth as black metal when it sounds more like late-period hardcore? Do you know of any other black metal releases that sound
like this, and how do you separate them from hardcore bands like Driller Killer, Disfear, etc?

Hmm… we obviously don’t share the same musical references. There’s a lot of punk influences within our music, but all in all I’d say that we sound a whole lot like Venom, classic Bathory and Darkthrone. Rock ‘n’ roll blackmetal that fuck bands like those you mention in the ass!

Enjoy the Filth inspired me because it seems very deliberate; there are no random riffs or bits out of place. How do you write songs, and what’s your “quality control” process?

The songwriting is more like a beerswinging metal process. We just meet up and create our songs more or less spontaneously. This is who we are and the kind of filth we have inside of us, so it comes rather naturally.

How does Enjoy the Filth differ from your earlier release, Wolves of the North?

It differs in the sense of production and that the drum-machine thankfully got a knee in the crotch, and Dimman did one hell of a job! Music and lyricwise it don’t alter that much.

Do you think as a practical matter that a black metal scene still exists, or has it been absorbed by other forms of music?

The underground scene as it once was doesn’t exist today. Still there’s a big metal scene in Sweden even if the focus lies elsewhere these days. The genuine music and minds involved will never be absorbed or replaced by any other forms, and will forever stand strong!

What’s next for Wan? Will you tour on Enjoy the Filth, and/or write more music?

We sure hope and aim to go out on some live performances. A few organizers has showed interest. And perhaps we’ll get together and spit out some new material in the inspiration of the approaching dark cold winter.

If someone wanted to understand Wan, what bands and albums would you recommend they understand first?

Early Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost as mentioned before. If you would prefer some more “up to date” bands, I’d recommend you to torture your ears with acts like Aura Noir and Styggelse.

Death Melodies Series: Johannes Brahms

The Death Melodies Series (DMS) continues with Romantic composer Johannes Brahms.

BrahmshomepicBorn in Hamburg, Germany in 1833, Brahms exhibited virtuosic abilities as a child. Much of his childhood was spent playing around the local scene including dance clubs (by his own account, “brothels”). As a result, some have concluded that Brahms suffered sexual trauma as a child, but there’s no evidence.

Brahms received a formal education in composition and toured around Germany with violinist Joseph Joachim. The result of the endeavor proved to be beneficial for Brahms’ career. He was invited to play for Liszt, though Brahms’ nerves were at a fever pitch and he couldn’t perform. Liszt then decided to play Brahms’ Scherzo, Op. 4 by sight, which he in turn simultaneously critiqued while he played.

Shortly after, Brahms became acquainted with the Schumanns. The first time Robert Schumann saw him play, he claimed that Brahms was a genius in his diary. Later, Robert Schumann jumped into a river while trying to kill himself. He survived and was put into an asylum. Brahms decided to keep Robert Schumann’s wife, Clara, company and help around the house. Though tensions were high with Robert being in an asylum and diminishing in health, Brahms started to write his first symphony. Clara aided him and they loved being around each other. She advised Brahms that his symphony that he was working on would be better suited as a piano concerto (below). Robert Schumann eventually starved himself to death in the asylum. Out of respect for the deceased composer, Brahms concluded that he wouldn’t “get together” with Clara, and he left.

Brahms spent most of his career in Vienna. He donated much of his money to charities and friends, and he wore the same worn patched-up clothes. Brahms was also known as a prankster. He had a trick rocking chair that he would get people to sit in. They’d either end up falling completely backwards or falling forward on their knees, and Brahms would just laugh at them. He was also keen on walks in nature.

Musically, Brahms was one of the dominant composers of the Romantic Period. When he was younger he was intimidated by Beethoven, but he eventually overcame his personal hurdles and wrote some very remarkable works. His first symphony is commonly referred to as Beethoven’s tenth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wzHj0CylLs

Sadistic Metal Reviews: Alien Invasion

sadistic_metal_reviews

If you want something done right, do it yourself. That also applies to being yourself. Metal has a commodity that the markets and social groups want, which is that it is untamed. Rebellious. Disobedient.

That type of rebellion, if domesticated and made harmless, could mean a lot of money. Your hum-drum product could now be an “edgy lifestyle choice.” Your boring minivans could seem like party wagons. Your corporate brand could get some spiff back in its step and be dangerous again, with a little heavy metal(tm) brand rebellion.

And yet, metal resists. To be used by others for their own purposes is to be conquered, and to be conquered is to be assimilated. For metal that would mean being another flavor of rock, which is the music we turned to metal to escape. In other words, total failure.

Not everyone got the memo. There are a number of bands, both successful and obscure, trying to make a name for themselves by helping with the assimilation. It’s time to mock them sadistically and take vengeance upon their self-image.

drudkh-eternal_turn_of_the_wheelDrudkh – Eternal Turn of the Wheel

A fantastic example of how modernity twists the heart of black metal beyond recognition, this album is fruity symphonic rock masquerading as metal through the vocals and guitar tone. Songs start with nothing and go nowhere, though still manage to take up an inordinate amount of time. Entirely derivative of what came before it, there is nothing on this disc to make it distinguishable from the other bands in this style; though at least the groove is catchy.

zarach_baal_tharaghZarach ‘Baal’ Tharagh – Eternal Darkness

With over a hundred releases, you would think this one man band would stumble upon a consistent formula or develop some song writing ability. Wrong. This uses the overblown “recorded through a trashcan on a boombox” aesthetic to fool the unwary into thinking it’s black metal, but it’s just ineptly performed 3 chord garage rock played with marginally faster tempos and over processed vocals that make Xasthur sound like The Three Tenors. Occasionally, early Satyricon/Ulver styled weepy riffs are played, but the inclusion of a Stooges cover confirms this guy should just quit poisoning the world of metal with his toxic, vapid nonsense and play in a pub band.

altar_of_plagues-teethed_glory_and_injuryAltar of Plagues – Teethed Glory and Injury

“Artistic” performance dancers music video and “moody” image aside, Altar of Plagues attempt legitimacy with metalcore fans/Facebook headbangers by playing the “we heard Deathspell Omega” card. Gone are the weepy and whiny one dimensional Slowdive songs for clinical depressives, and here is The Dillinger Escape Plan attempting to intonate their guitars during a meth binge. All the faux-intellectual interviews about Björk having more artististry than “that stupid death metal nonsense with the blastbeats” doesn’t change this simple fact of life: screaming over random dissonance while stop-start “hitting a trash can” noises are played over it is not “high art.”

the_meads_of_asphodel-the_murder_of_jesus_the_jewThe Meads of Asphodel – The Murder of Jesus the Jew

Another example of mashing rock together with black metal, this one goes for the carnival of progressive and “space” rock being the focus of songs, together with riffs somewhat reminiscent of black metal if it were made by hearing-impaired children with Down’s Syndrome. Combined with ANGRY MAN vocals and lyrics so profound even your local metalcore band would be in awe, this band truly has it all for the devoted hipster. Functional people need not apply.

book_of_sand-destruction_not_reformationBook of Sand – Destruction, Not Reformation

Stupid protest rock by indie slam poets who play black metal ironically to get people to donate to AIDS research and “spread awareness” about other “social concerns” while rebelling from the safety of their Minnesota suburb. This is not black metal in the same way bands like Liturgy and Deafheaven aren’t. It’s a bunch of weepy, bittersweet screamo chords strummed really fast in a constant cycle while a violin wanders about aimlessly over the whole dreck to drum up some claim towards being “avant-garde.” Mundane crowd-friendly themes are pushed to the forefront to create a “safe, friendly and social” version of “black metal” that soccer moms with bowlcuts can listen to while on their way to the Deepak Chopra book club meeting in their “food not bombs” sticker adorned SUVs.

wan-wolves_of_the_northWan – Wolves of the North

Here we go again. What are they calling it these days anyway? Black n’ roll? This is no different than a poppy Oi punk band occasionally lapsing toward Venom-dom while flaunting Bathory and Hellhammer patches for “forum cred”. “EXTREMEE!!!!!” moments occur in a third rate NWN Blasphemy ripoff moment here or there, but it lapses into what sounds like happy 3-chord rock n roll all over again. This is the “black metal” version of Nirvana’s Bleach LP.

veil_of_maya-eclipseVeil of Maya – Eclipse

Is metalcore the final frontier for stupidity? Claiming to be a “progressive and technical death metal”, you can be assured from the band photo of college hipsters that this is not. “Djent” rhythm noodling, tough guy grunting, and a “beetle rattling around in a plastic bin” drum performance are just sideshow elements of what this band truly is: Spawn of Possession playing their favorite moments from Underoath and Thrice songs in double speed. This platter is so weepy and weak despite it’s speed and down tuning that this band might as well drop the whole “metal” act and just become Paramore already.

cynic-carbon_based_anatomyCynic – Carbon Based Anatomy

After seeing how pop music in disguise can be construed as something “unique” after touring with Animals As Leaders and discovering Sumerian Records, Cynic further desecrate their name by hiring the same PR firm that Opeth and Ulver consult with when writing their testosterone sapping abominations. The end result: Coldplay with ADHD. The only element retained from their past are their Holdsworth-esque lead noodlings, but there is no metal to be found here. Even the vocoder was dropped for choir boy whining and multi-tracked prepubescent crying, taking the forefront in songs that emotionally peak in a way that give them the feel of one of those “deep” Adele songs that go viral on Facebook.

fen-dustwalkerFen – Dustwalker

Wolves in the Throne Room was pretentious and bad, but this… Most of the tracks flounder about lifelessly with no purpose in a manner similar to Slowdive or Spiritualized while an “agonized” vocal track whines in a manner similar to Anathema and then, wait for it, the innovation occurs! Remember when people heard black metal to hear black metal? BORING. Now we have been graced with Fen’s contribution to the world of underground music: throwing out the vocal track to later day Katatonia songs and replacing them with raspy vocals. Like the other shoegaze black metal infiltrators, this band’s extreme riffs sound as heavy as a Type O Negative single and they will stop at nothing into forcing you to give up on life and retire to a frivolous existence of buying Deepak Chopra books and talking about the latest Walking Dead episode while in line at a Starbucks.

and_oceans-amgod…and Oceans – A.M.G.O.D.

Everyone knows underground metal from Finland is often “quirky”, but …and Oceans have no character or idea to express beyond radio rock song craft with In Flames video game muzak underpinnings. So how do they draw attention? Covering it up with a “strange” band image, stupid name, tons of samples, and electronica interludes. This album makes post-1994 Amorphis look consistent by comparison. All of the “avant-garde” gimmickry this band employed doesn’t change the fact that this is Rob Zombie with swede-AIDS.

dodheimsgard-666_internationalDødheimsgard – 666 International

If this isn’t a joke… Going from Dimmu Borgir “extreme” blast section to a mash up between Voivod and Marilyn Manson before culminating in Queen styled stadium rock in one song, this band is about as “black metal” as Cradle of Filth at this point in their career. Like other sham artists Aborym and Ved Buens Ende, Dødheimsgard seem to think making a melange of the goofiest and most obnoxious sounds in juxtaposition to “harsh” metal moments is an evolutionary step forward. The androgynous band image suggests this band is making an attempt to draw in the Dimmu mall-goth crowd. In a perfect world, these clowns would drop the guitars and rasps out of their music, delete the extraneous elements, and just become VNV Nation or Apoptygma Berserk.

epicardiectomy-abhorrent_stench_of_posthumous_gastorectal_desecrationEpicardiectomy – Abhorrent Stench of Posthumous Gastrorectal Desecration

Maybe people were right in criticizing Obituary for wearing jogging shorts and touring with Madball and Agnostic Front during their The End Complete era. What we have here is pure, unadulterated idiocy. Nothing about this is metal at all. Growled out rap verses over chugging rhythms that demonstrate all the redundant noise one can possibly churn out of the first 2 frets on a drop tuned 7-string does not change this from being anything other than being hip-hop on guitars. “Liege of Inveracity has a slam riff” they say… True, but Effigy of the Forgotten didn’t sound like the Wu-Tang Clan either.

hacktivist-hacktivistHacktivist – Hacktivist

Djent with rapping vocals. Let that settle in for a moment. A conspiracy theory website lyrics slant for an image of “social awareness” to flaunt “importance”. What does this all mean? The abomination known as Hacktivist. With bands like Periphery and Animals As Leaders infiltrating the metal underground with their “deep” nu-metal for the impressionable, it’s no surprise that someone would attempt to “legitimize” this genre by force feeding the masses what is effectively Limp Bizkit after some guitar lessons. For all the “dissing” aimed toward the New World Order, this album reeks of a product that only modernity and globalization can produce.

baroness-yellow_and_greenBaroness – Yellow & Green

It’s no surprise this band got so big. Utilize the hipster rock slant Clutch uses for “street cred” with trucker hat sporting “stoners”, but then add the radio rock of The White Stripes into the mix, and you have even more inoffensive teen rock that sounds like Weezer. This band’s music is so painfully banal that it would be no surprise if one of their tracks has been licensed for use in a 16 and Pregnant episode.

mastodon_feist-feistodonMastodon/Feist – Feistodon

Somewhere out there, someone in a Sonic Youth t-shirt smoking a cigarette wedged between his pinky and ring finger came in his pants. By teaming up with singer-songwriter Feist, Mastodon have released their most hipster pandering product yet. Covering each others songs reveals the true ethos behind these abominations – weepy garage rock. You can throw down-tuned instruments and “loud” drumming at this thing all you want, but this is just Weezer covering an Alanis Morrissette song from both sides. Similar to other flavor of the month sham peddlers Boris, Mastodon is all ironic posturing first, band second.

lustre-they_awoke_to_the_scent_of_springLustre – They Awoke to the Sound of Spring

If you thought nobody would ever bother make an album consisting only of distorted guitar arpeggios and linear synth lines, you would be wrong. How this gets filed under black metal is a mystery, as this album is not even metal to begin with. This is hipster lullaby music, an album perfect for listening after consuming just a few too many frappuccinos. In fact, Starbucks should play this in their advertisements. They’d probably make a fortune.

Wolfpack 44 releases “Rituale Romanum”

wolfpack_44_logoA new occultist extreme music entity composed of members of Electric Hellfire Club and Kult ov Azazel, Wolfpack44 has begun to record and release material, starting with the professional “Rituale Romanum.”

This song combines the heavy metal stylings of Dissection with raw black metal and pounding industrial, creating an entity that cycles between different moods like an initiate traversing different rooms in an ancient temple. It moves from elegant acoustics to blanching punk hardcore/black metal/industrial hybrid verses that sound like the ranting of the propaganda of hell, and then finds mediate ground in black metal riffs with heavy metal flourishes.

Probably destined to be known as much for its members’ thoughtful and practical approach to the occult, Wolfpack44 nevertheless makes good on the disorganized underground by taking a middle path, and then upgrading it to higher levels of professionalism. This song fits together tightly and leaves a lasting impression, which is more than we can say for the flood of black metal generics.

Further, this style shows a better way to incorporate the melodic side of black metal, best exhibited in Dissection who were primarily an Iron Maiden-styled heavy metal band, than by making the entire song melodic. Instead, melody is used as one more technique in a palette and thus gains intensity where otherwise it wears out its welcome.

“Rituale Romanum” is from upcoming Wolfpack 44 album The Scourge which is being recorded by Ricktor Ravensbruck, guitarist for Electric Hellfire Club, Wolfen Society and Acheron, along with Julian Xes of Kult ov Azazel, with guest appearances by Jinx Dawson (Coven), Reverend Thomas Thorn (Electric Hellfire Club), Dana Duffey (Demonic Christ) and members of Dark Funeral.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7xTHpO1pFg&feature=youtu.be

Codex Obscurum Issue 3

codex_obscurum-issue_3The third issue of Codex Obscurum zine is going to print and will be shipping in mid-November.

Currently, Codex Obscurum issue #3 is ready for order. All zines will come with a free sticker. You may remember our interview with the editor and our review of issue #2 of Codex Obscurum.

As zines return to importance because the internet has overburdened us with facts and options, but depleted our share of sensible opinions about them, more people are returning to reading zines and buying CDs and vinyl as opposed to a download-happy culture that floods their lives with mediocre music and leaves them with few lasting impressions. Codex Obscurum is part of the wave re-vitalizing the metal zine community.

$3 plus shipping

Pestilence – Obsideo

CANDLE419CD_BOOKLET.inddPestilence avoids controversy poorly. After the legendary Consvming Impvlse, the band went on to produce a series of albums culminating in the synth-sounding jazz-heavy Spheres, which remains one of metal’s most divisive albums: people either love it or hate it, with few in the middle gray areas.

Then after years apart, Pestilence returned in 2009 with Resurrection Macabre followed two years later by Doctrine. These albums showed Pestilence trying more for a contemporary style of modern technical metalcore (sometimes called “tek-deth”) without as much of the crazy instrumental embellishment of past albums. Now, possibly from a better state of balance within the band, Pestilence unleash Obsideo.

Obsideo returns to a long-running controversy in this band which is not metal-versus-jazz as many would think, but among two types of metal. Specifically, the album Malleus Maleficarum showed Pestilence reining back the death metal of their later demos, and trying for a death metal infused with American-style speed metal. Think Kreator covered Megadeth and you have roughly the same style, although in Pestilence’s case this revealing a longstanding tendency with the band: eschewing the phrase-based riffs of death metal for more rhythmic variations on chord progressions in the speed metal style, then filling in the space with leads.

But if we were to extrapolate Malleus Maleficarum into the present, updating its 1980s speed metal on the cusp of death metal with the metalcore-inspired insistence on variety and riffs that ride a vocal rhythm on the nose, we might find the blueprint for Obsideo. It’s more repetitive and confrontational, simpler and less nuanced, and reflects more of the industrial and hardcore influence into metal of the late 1990s. In addition, songs have fewer fireworks in terms of song structure, but more in lead guitar, which is often used as transitional material in song or for kinds of extended fills to denote layering in riff motif.

Fortunately the space-age jazz-fusion guitar of Spheres has returned in the lead guitar department. While not every lead is quite as distant from normalcy as those, these are more confident, both proficient and playful, showing these musicians at a point where they’ve absorbed the changes in their own ability and can put them to better use. Often a song will snowball with power chord riffs but flesh out its mood with leads, and then fade out into the use of similar themes in the lead to take over the direction of the song.

Production sounds like a chunkier, bassier version of Spheres but doesn’t have the compressed and blasted feel of the two comeback albums. This album shows metal at an interesting place as it tries to recap the thirty years of growth since heavy metal transitioned to speed metal, but on the whole, Pestilence have done a good job of it. This is more listenable than their last two, seems more compelling and personal, but also brings musicianship back into the mix in a way that coincides with these musicians’ instrumental focus.

Oblivion Called to Rise live stream and interview

oblivion-called_to_riseOf all the newer school bands out there, Oblivion struck us here at deathmetal HQ as one of the more imaginative ones.

It is clearly of the modern metal model, following the “great contrast” approach in riffing rather than the integrative nature of the old school, but it displays intense creativity and technical mastery. In addition, Oblivion seem to know how to make a song out of a musical idea and not devolve into randomness like so many of their contemporaries.

Other aspects of Called to Rise impressed us as well. There’s experimentation with sound on these tracks, a willingness to corrupt the metalcore “great contrast” riffing with some integrative ideas, and an adoption of classical forms, songs and approaches that pushes this album over the top.

Oblivion is a modern metal metal band to watch, and Call to Rise is an album that will surely stimulate some depth of discussion. We are thus fortunate here at DeathMetal.org to be able to both stream this album live, and present our interview with Oblivion’s Nick Vasallo:

What got you into metal?

I resisted Metal as long as I could. I was more of a punk rocker as a teenager, but I realized the awesomeness of Metallica’s “One” when it came out. During the double bass, palm-muted, open-E breakdown I was a secret admirer of metal. Seeing a band from Oakland called Eldopa (1332) sealed the deal. Then my good friend at the time (Ben Orum, who is now in Oblivion), turned me onto Death Metal. For this reason I still think Cannibal Corpse’s The Bleeding and Deicide’s Legion are the best albums from this genre.

As you grew into metal, what brought you to your current form? How did you all come together, and what types of music and ideas were influencing you at the time?

I formed Antagony with Ben, our best friend Carlos Saldana, and our late friend Jody Handy. We just wanted to create the heaviest, darkest music possible. We ended up creating something that was, in hindsight, very influential to other bands that came after us. I stepped away from music for a while, but had the urge to come back and write music that was more technically demanding on the musician and listener.

You’ve outlined a clear relationship between classical music and metal on this CD, with three string orchestra pieces and a cover of “Canon in E Minor.” What inspired you to write and cover these pieces?

I wanted listeners to hear that there is a direct parallel between these two musics. For instance, when the song “Multiverse” is initially presented it is a metal song because it is played by a metal band. In context we are stuck to this association. But when the song is reprised it is performed by a strong orchestra and we perceive it differently. Perhaps the complexities emerge because we now listen to it and look at it through a different lens.

Do you think metal and classical share anything in common?

YES, they do. I have written about this subject extensively and I hope it is okay that I direct readers to my writings here: http://nickvasallo.com/#!papers/ccca

Where did you guys get your technical chops? Are you professionally trained musicians?

I don’t like the term “professionally” trained. There are some musicians I know that have never taken up formal music training, but can play better than someone that has been trained since they were a toddler. Every musician picks up something from another. That is how music was taught originally. But to answer the question, yes – Luis and I have been trained academically. Everyone else has either taken guitar lessons with a talented musician and/or learned in from playing with a multitude of other talented musicians.

Can you tell us how you got the distortion on your guitars? Are you using pedals, processors, virtual amps, amplifier settings or a combination of the above?

We use tube amps with distortion. Ted is sponsored by Rhodes, Ben by ENGL.

Do you think metal is evolving? Where do you think it’s going?

Yes, Metal is evolving. And it better evolve or it will stagnate and die! Most bands stagnate and eventually die. Movement is necessary to encourage growth and progress. I don’t know where Metal is going. If it follows the same pattern, it will continue to find avenues of transgression. Only to revert back to its fundamentals one day, searching for truth.

What’s next for Oblivion? Will you be touring, and/or writing new material?

Begin writing our second album.

If you could ask fans to do one thing in order to understand your music, what would it be?

Put your phone away, put your internet away, and give your undivided attention. Listen carefully…

Do you think metal fans are open-minded or closed-minded or somewhere in between?

A paradox of open minded close-mindedness.

Now that you’ve completed this massive work of complex metal, what’s the next challenge for you as songwriters?

Evolving.

Immortal Pure Holocaust is 20 today

immortal-pure_holocaustIf you bought Immortal’s Pure Holocaust the day it was released, and conceived a child in the ensuing fury, that child would be entering college age today.

Our review, written in the year of this CD’s release, captures much of what makes this album great. There are two levels to its greatness, stylistic and content, and while related they cannot be made equivalent.

Stylistically, Immortal on their second album saw the ambient and atmospheric tendencies of black metal and developed them. First, they used lightning fast chaotic drumming that quickly reduced the drums to a background timekeeper, allowing riffs to change phrase freely without being trapped by a specific rhythmic pattern. Second, they upgraded the speed of their guitars and level of reverbed distortion to create a sonic tunnel of sound that from a distance, sounds more like a synthesizer with heavy sustain than a guitar.

In content, Immortal focused what it was to be black metal: naturalism. Like the creatures of nature, or its mercurial winds and storms, black metal is not “rational” and “moral” in the human way, but practical in a way that humans — even non-Christian ones — are often afraid to understand. However, it is a method that a forest creature or great tree would understand, a cross between Zen buddhism and the feral antagonism of a wandering predator. Incorporating previous themes of occultism, tribalism, cosmicism and warfare, Immortal fused the ideas of black metal into a singular concept. As such, this album defies all categories of logic or music, at least the human ones. To a wolf or jaguar, it would make perfect sense.

The result was a blaze of noise and musical terror that swept black metal into its second age. Pure Holocaust, along with Transilvanian Hunger (Darkthrone) the following year, moved black metal beyond the framework established by its 1980s origins in Bathory and Celtic Frost. Now it was something new, something emotional without being self-pitying, some cold and element floating above the clouds. Something that could not be tamed.

While most popular entertainment fades away after only a few years, and with good reason, Pure Holocaust remains strong two decades later. Without having heard it, or any black metal, a music listener can take this off the rack and throw it on the player — even if that means double-clicking — and be lost in an entirely different world, and inspired to try to create that here on modern earth.