Scalpel releases Sorrow and Skin on September 3

scalpel-sorrow_and_skinBoston death metal band Scalpel release their debut full-length, Sorrow and Skin, tomorrow (September 3rd) via Sevared Records. To mark the occasion, SCALPEL teamed up with DeathMetal.org for the premiere of album track “The Black Juices.” Stream the tune at this location.

Creating brutal percussive death metal in the style pioneered by Suffocation, Scalpel integrate West Coast influences (Deeds of Flesh) with their traditional East Coast approach and mix in dissonant melody and more frenetic song structures. To hear more of their music, watch videos on the Scalpel official YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/scalpelofficial.

To celebrate the release of Sorrow and Skin, Scalpel will perform with the mighty GORGUTS on September 8th at The Palladium in Worcester, Mass.. The band will follow that gig with another blockbuster opening for MORBID ANGEL on November 10th at The Middle East in Cambridge, Mass. To order your copy of Sorrow and Skin, visit the band’s store at www.scalpel.bigcartel.com.

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Empyrium Into the Pantheon DVD and documentary to be released on September 24, 2013

empyrium-into_the_pantheonCult doom metal/goth band Empyrium plan to release their new DVD, Into the Pantheon, on September 24, 2013 through Prophecy Productions. At the same time, the band will release a documentary on the making of Into the Pantheon.

Following in the footsteps of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride but at a pace more familiar to funeral doom fans, Empyrium have gained a cult following through their melodic doom metal that uses tropes from Gothic music as well as extensive clean vocals and orchestral instruments like violin and cello.

On Into the Pantheon, you will see the band present an hour and a half of live material featuring live musicians playing those orchestral instruments alongside guitars, keyboards, bass, vocals and drums in the traditional metal style. While this is slower-paced and more elegant than much of metal, it preserves the doom metal atmosphere of melancholic and bereft moribund moods.

In addition, the band will release an hour-long documentary about the making of the live show and the band and its attitudes toward life, death and everything in-between, which will answer many of the questions of the die-hard fan. This band is highly secretive, and does not give interviews, so even a concert was a rare event. This DVD chronicles the band’s first live concert ever.

Some have described Empyrium as taking a power metal attitude to doom metal, and much of what you see here will fit that description. Musicianship is excellent, professional standards are upheld, and the music while emotional and dark is also quite accessible. For more information, see the label page.

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Master – The Witchhunt

master-the_witchhuntUntil you succeed, you face a threat from competition. Once you succeed, you may face a worse threat, which is competition from yourself.

The history of Master may be divided into roughly two parts, those albums before …And On the Seventh Day God Created and after it. Before, Master was a proto-death metal with a punk and old school rock vibe; after, it was tight and rigid high intensity death metal.

The Witchhunt picks up on that style and adds a bit more melody and riffcraft, but returns to the classic punk-style open percussion that Master used on its earlier albums, but sped up. As a result, there’s less stop-start and more raging fast lead-picked riffs.

Other than that, not much has changed. Speckmann is still the primary songwriter and builds songs around a vocal rhythm and bassline, which his band cohorts fill with guitar riffs and drum patterns. The current lineup seems to have effected positive change in his sense of tempo and change.

Intensely consistent, Master sound like themselves on this album and thanks to some modernization of sound are competitive with the more intense bands out there. What might be great is if they expanded to use more riffing and less verse-chorus construction such that the band fully moved into the death metal era.

Speckmann’s vocals are both strained and emotional and gruff and functional at the same time, creating a type of voice of authority which channels the music between its extremities and coherence. Percussion is reminiscent of early Vader or Sinister.

While some will argue that this album offers nothing more than what Master has done in the past, The Witchhunt may surprise them. Songs are more distinctive in rhythm, riff and aesthetics, and the uptempo change has forced more efficiency in songwriting.

In other words, this is not “just another Master album,” but a steady improvement that is consistent both with the second era of Master and the general direction of the first. This makes it a complement to the near present and distant past.

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Ancient Modernism: An Exhibition of Letter Art and Illustration in Heavy Metal and Beyond

ancient_modernismNoted black metal logo designer Christophe Szpajdel is featured in an upcoming exhibit in New Zealand of metal and other illustrators and the logos and embellishments they create.

The exhibit will run simultaneously in Auckland at Nature: Art + Design and in Wellington at The Rogue & Vagabond from September 28 – October 15, 2013, and will feature Szpajdel as well as four New Zealand-based designers.

As underground metal expands its reach and influence, events like Ancient Modernism: An Exhibition of Letter Art and Illustration in Heavy Metal and Beyond will contribute further to understanding the meaning beneath the menacing imagery and sonically terrorizing music.

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Heavy metal saved my life

rabbi_darby_leigh-heavy_metalHow many of you feel that metal music saved your life?

When I was suffering through high school — boring assignments, ludicrously uptight authority figures, absurdly judgmental peers, and crushing ignorance about the world and myself — heavy metal indeed saved my life.

It had several methods that saved me. The first was that it let me escape into a mood that was bigger than my everyday concerns. This helped me establish values, center myself and see day by day stuff in context. The second was that it gave me a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself, which both freed me from the judgments of others and my own tendencies toward self-obsession. Finally, it was a gateway into history and literature, philosophy and art. It was a more exciting entry point to those disciplines than the rote ancient material taught in school.

From others I have heard similar stories. When your parents are dysfunctional, heavy metal is like a window into a much wider world beyond where things can make sense even if they don’t right now. When instability is all around you, “metal never bends” or “true metal it is, or no metal at all” are not just comforting ideas but mission statements.

To some, however, heavy metal has a different mission: it states it’s OK to be different. Witness the words of this heavy metal Rabbi:

Growing up as a Jewish teen in Manhattan, he was drawn to listening to heavy metal bands. Leigh’s body found joy in the chords and musical vibration that emanated from the emphasis on bass and percussion. He also found community and faith when he attended concerts.

“I found God in a mosh pit,” said Leigh, who attended his first concert, a Twisted Sister performance in New York, when he 14. “Heavy metal saved my life. The experience of growing up deaf in the hearing world means that you grow up as a minority. So many of us have the experience growing up where we feel like we don’t fit in, or we don’t fully belong.

“I found in heavy metal a music and a culture that supported individuality and rejection of the social norm. I found a culture that said, ‘you don’t have to be like that. You’re not. It’s OK to be different, it’s OK to be you. And guess what? There’s a whole army of metal heads out here like you, that are “freaks” and don’t fit into normal society.’ And the celebration of that and the outlet for anger and frustration as a teenage adolescent male just totally resonated with me.

Not surprisingly, Leigh has been known to write his sermons while listening to heavy metal.

That commotion you hear is our entire staff converting to Judaism. Leigh has an interesting view of metal, in that it is acceptance for those who don’t fit into society.

Others take it even farther, and see metal as a rejection of society itself. Or rather, the tendency of society to make rules to protect the herd, at the expense of those who actually know something.

If you let social forces predominate in any situation, you’ll get the usual feel-good stuff that we hear in most rock ‘n’ roll music. If you are antisocial and untamed like a metalhead, you get instead a different kind of morality, based on results and passion instead of obedience.

Recently, Erik Danielsson of Watain took some flak for his views on black metal:

If you want to be in a black metal band, you take yourself as an adversary of society, because that’s what black metal is.

An adversary of society. Society means both civilization, and people socialization with each other as a form of civilization order. It refers to the social groups set up that keep a society together.

Historically, black metal has opposed the socialization process. It stands against the “we can all get along” viewpoint, endorses enmity and Darwinistic predation, detests a morality of protecting the weaker and makes itself almost impossible to listen to with bad production and extreme elements. Black metal is antisocial because it sees socializing as an illness.

Traditionally, the genre has identified with the demonic to explain its rejection of social feelings:

Black metal music is music that, in essence, is diabolical and has diabolical energies…we’re talking about the wild, the untamed, ferocious, predatory aspect of it, the tribe within this music.

Perhaps it isn’t as simple as heavy metal validating non-conformity. Perhaps it does that and goes a step further by pointing out that conformity itself, as part of socializing, is what makes our society so unbearable.

Think about everything you know in this life. A new idea, band or place comes about. Few know about it and it’s great. Then others discover it. Soon it accommodates them, and it changes. What made it great is lost.

For all the time that people spend on politics, philosophy, religion and art, it’s possible that the key to the human problem is simpler than we thought. It could be in how we form societies itself, and this explains why no matter what we do we have the same problems.

Even more exciting is the possibility that heavy metal holds the answer: be less social, and less conformist, and more focused on the “wild, the untamed, ferocious, predatory aspect” of our nature instead of our civilized, let’s-all-get-along social training.

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Interview with Matt Harvey of Exhumed

matt_harvey-exhumedNorthern California’s Exhumed made themselves a name back in the late 1990s by fusing Carcass-style grindcore with energetic and melodic death metal of the Swedish style, injecting a lot of punk along the way.

Although this created more of a popular form of death metal than the original underground style, it introduced many new fans to the genre and created a framework for an integration of punk into the style. Its enduring popularity has provided Exhumed with a legion of fans.

We were fortunate to be able to talk to Matt Harvey, who has been “the voice of Exhumed” for almost two decades now. Most of our questions focused on Exhumed’s latest album, Necrocracy, and what the band’s been up to since.

I realize genre names aren’t all that popular, but what genre is Exhumed these days? Are you grindcore, or death metal, or did you invent something new?

I think we are what we’ve always been: Gore Fucking Metal. I don’t know that it’s something completely new, but it’s a combination of all the stuff we’ve always been influenced by, Death Metal, Grindcore, Thrash, NWOBHM, Powerviolence… All the good stuff, haha!

What is the ideal environment in which to enjoy an Exhumed album?

As long as there’s beer and lots of volume, then it’s good. I think that’s up to the individual. For me, I’d say you’d want a 12-pack of beer, some expendable furniture to smash, and a few friends would be the best accoutrements to a listening session.

Necrocracy is quite provocative. It seems to suggest that the world is not as peachy as my television tells me it is. Can you tell me more about the concept of this album?

Yeah, I’d say the world is not that peachy keen. The lyrics still revolve around death and gore, but they use those concepts as a metaphor to discuss a lot of the things going on in the current US political and socio-economic climate. The songs usually revolve around stuff like the destructive influence of corporate greed (Ravening), the gross inequalities inherent in the taxation / medical system (Coins Upon The Eyes), the meaningless pandering of the electoral system (Necrocracy), and the distorted perception that Americans have of their way of life and country’s role in the world (Dysmorphic).

You’re back after a hiatus. What made you personally and all of Exhumed decide to return?

It was one of those thing where it just made sense to do a new record. I had had enough of the break, and was just getting back into writing these kinds of riffs and songs and stuff. And it was one of those things that just kind of came together and took on a life of its own which was pretty awesome.

What are you most looking forward to on tour?

Free beer and seeing friends in different cities and states. Same as always! Plus I get a lot of reading done on tour, haha!

Do you think metal’s in bad shape? A lot of people seem to think it has become redundant. What do you think about modern metal, metalcore, etc?

I actually think metal is really healthy. There’s all kinds of niches and sub-genres all over the place, and every form of metal, from 70s proto-metal to the most modern math-rock stuff has an audience. If you think about it, the first Sabbath record came out over 40 years ago, and in order for the genre to move forward and stay viable, creatively and commercially, it has to change and evolve. Me personally, I’m really only into 70s / 80s / early 90s metal, but I’m in my late thirties. By the time my Dad was my age, I was thirteen, and it seems silly to think that a thirteen or fifteen year old kid is going to be into the same music as a guy that’s 37 years old. It’s easy to be nostalgic or think that one specific generation has “nailed it” and everything else is false – people into Blue Oyster Cult and Thin Lizzy thought “Kill ’em All” was just noise when it came out, people into Exodus and Slayer thought “Scum” was crap when it came out too. Things move forward. You don’t have to like it all, but you have to accept that it’s the way things work. While a lot of the modern stuff isn’t my personal cup of tea, it’s good that things keep moving forward and the genre stays viable.

How do you think Exhumed has grown and dare I say…… “progressed” ….over the years?

We’e always had the same kind of riffs and stuff, based our shit around the Repulsion / Terrorizer / Carcass / Napalm Death / Death / Autopsy template, but we’ve definitely gotten better at structuring songs, incorporating melody, using tasteful guitar solos and shit like that. It’s all been a very slow and gradual, so sometimes it seems to me like we haven’t progressed at all, but then I listen to some of our old stuff and I realize that we have come a bit of a ways through the years, which again, is a positive thing.

Are you planning to continue for another album or more, after Necrocracy?

We don’t have any plans of stopping, if that’s what you mean, haha! I have an idea for the next album title already, but we’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it, haha!

What do you think made death metal and grindcore what they were? Did it take a state of mind to make music like that? Can it return?

I don’t think it can ever “return” or be the way that it was, which is as it should be. At the same time, the same spirit of wanting to play more intense music, pushing the boundaries, it’s still alive, it just manifests itself differently because of the context of the times. There are still tons of great grind bands out there, Nails is awesome, Teething is great, and those bands are about as traditional grind as it gets. Same with Death Metal, there’s a resurgence of bands playing in the older style that’s awesome to see. There’s at least a nostalgia and a place for that kind of music that isn’t going away and that’s awesome and gratifying to see.

The song “Coins Upon The Eyes” is super-catchy and yet really abrasive. How do you write material like that? Do you just think up a riff, or sit down and design it?

We actually have a bunch of multi-colored balls that represent different riffs, then we throw the balls into a pool full of seals, and whatever order the seals flip the balls back to us is the order that we play the riffs in. It’s basically a foolproof hit factory!

Honestly we just think of things in terms of songs, not in terms of “brutality” or something ephemeral or subjective. With “Coins,” it’s almost like what we did with Waxwork, where you have one main riff (the chorus) and most of the other riffs build from the note choices and movement within the main theme. From there, the pre-chorus and the guitar solo parts serve as the contrast points, being in different keys with different rhythmic structures to build tension.

Of course, it’s not quite so scientific when you’re coming up with the riffs, there’s a fair amount of playing from the gut that kind of pulls you in the direction that the song wants to go. After you have something that works, you can analyze it, and that analysis will help you know what works next time around. I’m a big adherent to the pop songwriting philosophy and we try to always include some hooky choruses and catchy stuff in every song.

That’s really the ultimate goal, now that we know how to be heavy and brutal and all that stuff – whatever that means, haha!

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100% Metal Forum looking for metalheads, bands, labels and zines

dark_legions_archive_metal_hallMetal Hall, our 100% true metal forum, is looking for metal fans, bands, zines, labels, radio and promoters to post their news and events to the Metal sub-forum.

While you’re there, you might enjoy the metal-based conversation, or head over to Interzone for no-holds-barred and no-topic-required conversation and raging. Unlike the rest of the internet, we don’t pretend we’re anything but memetic anarchy and social chaos.

For kicks, check out our forum FAQ (which is a complement to The Heavy Metal FAQ) which explains some of what we’re about. Then dive on in and start raising the spirits of chaos in our forum.

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Codex Obscurum – Issue Number 2

codex_obscurum_zinePeople thought the golden age of metal zines was over. However, now that the internet has flooded the world with low quality information, including Garage Band musical projects, there’s a new need for zines: to find the good stuff and celebrate it.

When you think about it, almost everything you’re exposed to on a daily basis is a commercial message. Whether it’s some commercial on TV selling you Viagra, someone soliciting “likes” on Facebook, renting your apartment on AirBnB or even a news broadcast, money is changing hands.

How this works is that the person creating the information makes it about a topic on the surface, but in its inner structure, it’s about the sale. Some material works from the opposite direction, and makes its inner structure about the music itself. We call that media “underground.”

Codex Obscurum’s second issue has two dimensions to it. The first is how it looks, and the second in the quality of information inside. As someone who lived through the years of four-track production and grainy xeroxed zines, the former doesn’t influence me much. It’s in the information zone that Codex Obscurum thrives.

The staff behind this magazine have clearly put a lot of effort into acquiring interesting interviews, stories and relevant record reviews. What other zine do you know would contact Burzum mastermind and known church-burning neo-Nazi Varg Vikernes, and only ask him about his new role-playing game? Or would create a Slayer tribute that’s this personal?

In addition to the human interest stories, the bread and butter of this zine is its scene reporting. An interview with Incantation shows more of the band than we’ve seen in a long time, getting into the depths of its motivations and musicality. There’s a killer Morpheus Descends interview and a wad of record reviews that are not only coherent but insightful.

No zine will be perfect in form or content. Some of what goes into this issue of Codex Obscurum struck me as irrelevant to my personal pursuits but it’s hard to argue against inclusion of longstanding local scene veteran bands, and those interviews turned out to be interesting, so it’s a quibble at best.

In form, this zine could improve. Luckily, their error is that they are trying too hard. The editors created a number of different layouts, with different fonts and background colors, to try to liven up the layout. My advice is to stop doing this, and to go back to the whitespace backgrounds of bygone days, but use space more efficiently.

Codex Obscurum could fit in more content by modifying its layouts in this way. Similarly, for record reviews, just use a table grid. You don’t need to come up with something visually arresting in every case because if you’re using the space efficiently, it will be packed with information. Typerwriter font is fine because it copies well, unlike some of the Olde English and Stencil fonts used here.

That being said however I thoroughly enjoyed this zine and its writing style. Unlike the blog-influenced writing of the mainstream media, this zine does not take a few nuggets of information and drown them in a sea of happy social noises. It cuts to the chase, and starts dishing the vital knowledge without a lot of backstory and chatter.

Best of all, this zine understands the underground. Codex Obscurum is written from the perspective that the truth is out there and most people don’t want to see it and refuse to even take hints that it exists. Thus, that which wants to keep its integrity must stay underground, and requires dedicated zines to explain it to others.

$3 plus shipping

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Spike Cassidy from DRI needs donations for surgery costs

spike_cassidy-dirty_rotten_imbecilesThrash band DRI posted an update about the condition of Spike Cassidy, who has been their guitarist since DRI’s formative lineup in the early 1980s.

Many know that Cassidy has been battling health woes over the past decade. Last September, he needed to have emergency surgery. This surgery cost $57,000 and now he needs to pay it.

As a result, the band is selling whatever merchandise they can through eBay to make up the funds. If you want to help out, go to the Spike Cassidy/DRI medical fund page.

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Sammath Godless Arrogance to be released February 3, 2014

sammath-godless_arroganceHammerheart Records has set a release date for the fifth Sammath album, Godless Arrogance, which will see worldwide release by the Dutch label on February 3, 2014.

You can hear a sample track in high definition at the Hammerheart Records Sammath Godless Arrogance page for “Fear Upon Them”. This track showcases not only the songwriting of the new album but the production you’ll hear which improves upon past Sammath releases.

Creating music in the style of fast ripping death metal with the underlying melody and moodiness of black metal, Sammath deliver a blast of fury and beauty that resembles the second Immortal album crossed with Fallen Christ. Godless Arrogance may help renovate metal in 2014.

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