Khimaat – Vos-X

Khimaat promo pictureBack in the days of DIY yore, cassettes flooded the underground within a network of die-hard metalists looking for the next innovative sound. The better was praised, and the lesser was cast aside (for the most part).

Khimaat clench to the same methods and self-released their demo EP Vos-X this year on cassette. Though, most will be baffled as to where they can obtain the cassette outside of the band’s inner-circle. There doesn’t appear to be anywhere online where one can obtain a copy, and this is the first article written about it.

Drawing influences from bands like Arkhon Infaustus, Khimaat contrive an assortment of unsettling atonal passages. The harsh production insinuates the cacophonous demeanor displayed in Vos-X and showcases a mélange of discordant textures. With anguish residing at the forefront, Khimaat move forward into parallels of torment and manage to unnerve the listener as the demo EP unfolds. Unsettling as much as it is gritty, the execution of Vos-X is a good effort for a first attempt.

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The “women in metal” debate is resolved

rachel_aspe-france_has_talent-death_metal_vocals

It’s a perpetual favorite of late-night bull sessions and internet forums alike: what do we think of women in metal? Growing up with Jo Bench blasting out basslines in Bolt Thrower, the ladies in Derketa/Mythic making grinding doom, and knowing dozens of women heading zines, labels, and so on, it never occurred to us old schoolers.

But now it’s caught between two extremes. On one side, there’s great pressure to conform to the herd vision of us all being the same and doing the same thing. On the other side, there’s great commercial pressure to make women sex objects in metal, which makes everyone a bit uneasy.

Luckily, Rachel Aspe has cleared the issue up for us by demonstrating — alas, with mainstream nu-metal — the power of simply being able to pull your own weight. This was on a show called “France Has Talent,” and the reaction is priceless.

H/t Noisecreep.

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Death Metal Underground Weekly Newsletter 11/18-11/24

Death Metal Underground
Weekly Newsletter 11/18-11/24
Because Metal Is Art

Five things every musician needs

Those of us who have had the fortune to hang around the music industry for a few decades tend to pick up a few ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

If you are trying to get your music out there, you’ll get a lot of advice from people with agendas. They want you to do x so that they get y. What follows is generic advice for putting your best foot forward.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/five-things-every-aspiring-musician-needs/

Demilich box details revealed

Back in 1993, Demilich released a killer album entitled Nespithe. The album innovated consciously in every way possible. It took the audience a decade to warm up to it, but by the time Demilich re-united in 2006 for a reunion tour, death metal had fully bonded with this inventive act.

Fast forward a few more years and Demilich is finally getting the recognition it deserves through re-releases of its classic material. These were originally planned in 2006, but got delayed a bit as the wheels of music justice ground. Demilich has just announced the release of a limited edition box set with a 44-page booklet, sticker and new cover art.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/demilich-box-set-details-released/

Black metal album titles illustrated like children’s books

These pictures were originally innocent illustrations for children’s books. They were drawn by well-known but now deceased Czech artist Helena Zmatlíková who illustrated numerous books for children.

At some time after that, they were creatively edited by a member of Umbrtka who also writes for Czech Maxim. The innocence drained away, replaced by the eternal darkness of the blackest of souls.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/black-metal-album-titles-illustrated-like-childrens-books/

Deicide – In the Minds of Evil

If you break any ground as a band, you will suffer from momentum inertia. Your initial direction will carry you quickly to its end, and after three albums, you will find yourself with a loss of direction.

This occurs because in your vision, substance and form were joined, and you made a language out of what you wished to express. For some visions, a lifetime of specifics can be created; for most, there are big picture things to do, and then emptiness.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/deicide-in-the-minds-of-evil/

Cryogen – Continuum

Two revelations before listening to this: first, when I first got into music I thought talent and ability were rare; now I realize they’re commonplace, but the ability to apply them in some non-inert interesting way is rare. Second, that metalcore — the mix of metal genres in the post-hardcore style of “contrast without continuity” riffing — borrows almost everything it has from 1980s speed metal.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/cryogen-continuum/

Micro-songs: the shortest songs in heavy metal

About a decade ago, the trend of flash fiction or micro-stories seized the literary world by storm. The reasoning was that as people did more of their reading via phones and portable computers, they would want shorter, harder-hitting fiction.

Of course, metal was there first.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/microsongs/

Pink Frothy AIDS frontman says metal fans are “close-minded”

Heavy metal music gets a bad rap, not just from people who dislike it, but from people who claim to like it. The problem is that criticism draws attention to the speaker, so there’s no better way to stand out than to stand up and say, “All of this is wrong!”

While some critics of the current way are motivated by a desire to create useful change, most people are motivated by self-interest and change for change’s sake, which lets them seize attention and/or power. Pink Frothy AIDS’s frontman Mikael “Mick” Åkerfeldt recently attempted such a power grab.

His statements, recorded in a Metal Hammer interview via Metal Injection, are harshly critical of metal but suffer a gigantic logical “plot hole” that makes them totally nonsense.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/Pink Frothy AIDS-frontman-says-metal-fans-are-closed-minded/

Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-24-13

What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? These reviews address the music itself, instead of the social impact of assembling a public persona out of bands you claim to like. Since almost all human endeavors are mostly mediocrity, there will be tender self-pity follow by rage. Come for the laughs, stay for the schadenfreude… and occasional quality metal.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/sadistic-metal-reviews-11-24-13/

DeathMetal.org is the net’s oldest and longest-running heavy metal resource center and home of The Heavy Metal FAQ. We treat heavy metal music as a form of art and culture, and we believe we should bring out the best in it. Our primary focus is death metal; but we remain open to new musical experiences, both within metal and without. To learn more, visit our information center at:
http://www.deathmetal.org/about

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http://www.deathmetal.org/mail/

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Profile: Robert Plante, author of Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos

robert_plante-demolition_the_encyclopedia_of_1980s_metal_demos

Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos will present an encyclopedic listing of the metal demos of the 1980s in handy book form as written by author Robert Plante. It will also review them. Most importantly, however, this is the first attempt to systematically chronicle the birth of not just a genre, but the underground itself through demos.

This is part of of a literary explosion on heavy metal topics and specifically, underground metal. Glorious Times explained the underground as a community and culture, and renewed interest in the opening frontier and cold northern breeze of discovery that this time period provided. Underground Never Dies! looks at the underground through zines and how they fostered the community, while Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011) presents a narrative of the time through analysis. Then of course there’s the 1996-era The Heavy Metal FAQ, which explains the birth of the various genres of metal much as Ian Christe’s Sounds of the Beast did later in print.

Where other books tend to either stitch together a story of the past, or let one emerge from the words of the participants, Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos aims to list the demos of the time and show through each one how the scene as a whole functioned. Through partnership and friendship between Plante and Bazillion Points label head Ian Christe, it is likely that Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos will be on that publishing label.

We were fortunate to grab a few words with author Robert Plante.

What made you decide to write a book, and then a book about metal, and finally a metal book about 1980s metal demos?

The flash of inspiration came from the back pages of the Swedish Death Metal book, where all the bands and zines are listed. The idea of a huge book documenting every known 1980s metal demo suddenly rushed into my head. I know I’d buy that book in a second, but who would write it? I was there in the 1980s underground metal community, and I felt it was important that someone who could provide the context of a direct participant write this book. There are websites that document the ’80s tape trading scene, but they’re either small in scope or sparse of information. I’m aiming for DemoLition to be exhaustive in the amount of bands covered and the depth and quality of that coverage.

How did you compile an exhaustive and complete list of all the 1980s demos? How huge of a task was this?

It’s a combination of internet sources and my huge archive of metal zines. I was a fiendish collector of fanzines of all types for years, but purged most of them by the 2000s. Luckily I kept all my metal zines, and I’m always finding more to fill in holes in the collection. They’re my primary source, along the band members themselves. It took me about two years of daily work just to finish the outline (the listing of bands to cover), and really that will never be finished, as I’m finding out about new bands all the time. At some point we’ll just have to set a deadline where we stop adding them, likely around the layout phase.

Were you a participant in the metal scene back then? What got you into metal?

I followed the typical progression of classic rock, then heavy metal like Maiden and Priest, then underground/thrash metal, then the earliest extreme metal bands. I was an artistic kid, and like many metalheads was an outsider in a lot of ways, and metal is the music of the outsider (or one of them, at least). It’s one of the reasons I love black metal so much, is that it keeps the flame of the outsider spirit burning, it’s averse to the “group think” sociology that even metal can fall victim to. But yeah, I was a big tape trader, and contributed logos and illustrations to many zines back then.

What was the role of a demo for a 1980s band? Was there any analogue in mainstream music?

Well, in the mainstream music business a demo (short for demonstration tape) was used by up and coming bands to try and land record contracts, or given to club bookers to get gigs, or shopped around by individual musicians to audition for bands. The underground metal scene developed in the late 1970s and early ’80s, inspired by classic demos like Iron Maiden’s “The Soundhouse Tapes” or Metallica’s “No Life Til Leather,” and taking a cue from the DIY ethos of the punk scene, and bands began using demos sent to zines and traded around the world as a way to get their names around. You could be a trio of poor schmucks from the middle of Forkdick, North Dakota with no metal club within 200 miles, but if you made a good tape word would get around and you could actually have a chance at a record deal. Never mind knowing in hindsight that only a tiny fraction of bands ever made enough to make a living at it, but the possibility and the dream were there.

What’s the book like? Is it a huge index, or do you write some history or narrative as well?

I look at it as an encyclopedia. Each band will have their own entry, with all 1980s tapes listed (and reviewed where possible), along with historical information and critical biographies. The entries will range from bare-bones for the most obscure bands to longer pieces for the important ones. Depending on how much room we have, there are some cool ideas for appendices and sidebars also. It will be nicely designed and heavily illustrated.

When does Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos come out, and when/where will we the fans be able to get it?

I’m still deep into writing and researching it, so it’s going to be at least a couple more years; we have no publication date yet. You’ll be able to grab it wherever finer publishers like Bazillion Points are sold. The best way to get news of the book is to watch the Facebook page, which is updated daily.

If relevant, can you tell us your background as a writer, and what you’ve done outside of the underground that helped you write this book?

I’ve written a little bit of music and film criticism here and there, but nothing out of the underground scene (I’m a graphic designer by trade). This is by far the largest writing project I’ve ever taken on. I did want to bring a more sophisticated and adult quality of writing to the project, while still maintaining the enthusiasm of a fan (we’ll see if I succeed). I think the music merits it, it was (and is) an amazing subculture that deserves a serious attempt at documentation.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-24-13

metal_is_for_fun_trends_mosh_and_core

What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? These reviews address the music itself, instead of the social impact of assembling a public persona out of bands you claim to like. Since almost all human endeavors are mostly mediocrity, there will be tender self-pity follow by rage. Come for the laughs, stay for the schadenfreude… and occasional quality metal.

dissect-swallow_swouming_massDissect – Swallow Swouming Mass

Another band that leaves an “I guess it’s OK” impression, Dissect is interchangeable early 90s death metal. The deep vocals, downtuned guitars, and atmosphere are all there, but it’s unnecessary in light of other bands doing this style better. Unless you’re curious as to what Gorefest’s Mindloss would sound like if dumbed down into commercial jingles for Benediction fans, it’s best to leave this one alone. Like most bands from the Netherlands, the music is mediocre, but at least the lyrics are unintentionally funny.

philip_h_anselmo_and_the_illegals-walk_through_exists_onlyPhilip H. Anselmo & the Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only

This has all the hallmarks of Anselmo. The bird squawking vocals, stupid lyrics, and the music sounds like a hip-hop parody of bluegrass given a RAWK makeover are all there, except taken to the EXTREME with blast beats and tremolo picked riffs. Who’s he fooling with this? It still sounds like Pantera with the addition of randomness. The soundtrack to wearing an Anthrax shirt and skipping bail in a pickup truck while smoking a lot of meth after beating up your wife and step kids while a Steve Wilkos marathon is playing in the background.

shitfucker-suck_cocks_in_hellShitfucker – Suck Cocks in Hell

This is basically a hardcore band, with some stylings of heavy metal and black metal. Thus, expect sawing droning high-energy riffs, but with the fills of an Americanized NWOBHM band and occasional black metal vocals or melodic sweep-riffs in the Gorgoroth/Emperor style. However, for the most part this is a middle period hardcore band, sounding like a more spacious version of the Dayglo Abortions. It’s not bad but not compelling.

rottrevore-hung_by_the_eyesocketsRottrevore – Hung by the Eyesockets

Some bands just shouldn’t reform, especially third rate death metal bands from the 90s. Rottrevore return, playing their Harmony Corruption with Craig Pillard vocals form of death metal, but has regressed to a point where there’s no consistency in these songs which randomly showcase “old school” cliches. The typical 90s death metal of these riffs are a placeholder for a “mosh” or “breakdown” part which suggests this band may have been influenced by Pantera and/or metalcore during their time off. Still, about the only thing this band has done that’s of any note is having a member temporarily join Incantation in the mid 90s.

wombbath-internal_caustic_tormentsWombbath – Internal Caustic Torments

This band creates old school death metal with the vocal rhythms and tempo changes of Hypocrisy, but the storming intensity of an American death metal band like Massacre hybridized with the more percussive riffing of the second album from Suffocation. It is too good to remain a local band; however, there’s a reason (besides the goofy name) why this band never rose above the level of second-tier with bands like Utumno, Uncanny and Obscurity. It is highly rhythmic but repetitive both in riff use and song structure without much melodic development, which makes the experience of listening to it about like listening to a wall. There is a verse/chorus loop which is broken up with riffs for texture, and some melodic lead riffing which bounces over the thundering chords, but beyond that the story doesn’t develop much. Some of the later songs show a greater appetite for adventure, but there’s too much of a reek of wanting to be like Entombed with the more basic and thunderous attack of Obscurity, which removed a lot of what made Swedish death metal exciting in the first place which was its use of melody and dynamics. I don’t mind listening to this, but I’m unlikely to pick it up except as a curio of the past.

equinox-of_blade_and_graalEquinox – Of Blade and Graal

This EP begins with a Graveland-cum-neofolk style chanted introduction over acoustic guitar and then launches into three tracks of savage black metal. This band shows a lot of promise, but has two major beginner’s thwarts standing in its way: first, it is unclear on what style it wants to be, ranging between Iron Maiden heavy metal and Graveland black metal and back again with some stoner doom and Danzigish riffs; second, it doesn’t complete songs. These aren’t journeys from A->B, but journeys from A-> to a conceptual space where we think about the many possibilities that might be B. As a result, much like on a GBK record, the listener gets the feeling of something started but losing momentum in indecision. The good with Equinox is that these riffs tend to be very creative and fairly technical in a way you don’t normally hear, which is that they have complexity of phrase and within that, of rhythm, more like a jazz band or a solo. Like many black metal albums, these three tracks cluster themes which are revisited across song boundaries, creating a sense of being caught in one longer song. The lack of landmarks and destinations confuses it however, as does the jumble of styles, including one riff lifted from the first COC album. However, this demo shows a great deal of promise and as the band contemplates it over time, may be the inception of greater things to follow.

hate_storm_annihilation-storm_of_flamesHate Storm Annihilation – Storm of Flames

Despite the rather war-metalish name, HSA is middle period death metal; think late 1990s Sinister crossed with Malevolent Creation from the same period. Good riff diversity and variety, and song structure that holds together while allowing an interplay between elements to emerge, distinguish this approach from the soulless one-dimensionality to follow. Stylistically, there is not much new here, but these guys have their own voice in the content of the song, which is a somewhat pensive approach like early Darkthrone or Infester with a bit more intensity thrown in out of verge. While this is only one song, and the band has a horrible low-IQ name, here’s hoping they’ll produce more in the future.

monastyr-never_dreamingMonastyr – Never Dreaming

Sub-par Polish chug death metal that reduces the NYDM style into being bouncy mosh fodder. The death/grind that Unique Leader would later popularize in the 2000s through Deprecated and Disgorge is found here sandwiched between Deicide style rhythms going into Massacre styled bouncy riffs. It’s like an over-produced and over-long death metal demo from 1994 which sounds like an aesthetically upgraded version of what bands like Benediction and Cancer were producing around this time. So, more vacuous “middle of the road” death metal that accomplishes nothing beyond being vacuous “brutal mosh metal” and as such, unnecessary beyond a one time use as background music.

convulse-reflectionsConvulse – Reflections

Convulse release an album that is arguably their most well-written, but it’s also aesthetically maladjusted and void of artistic merit. Leaving their Bolt Thrower meets Benediction rudimentary “mosh” death metal behind for the death n’ roll trend of Entombed and Xysma, Convulse make a fully functional rock album with great instrumentation and performances. The problem is the gimmickry. A whimsically folky intro does a poor job setting the stage for the album proper, which is a more sufficiently mainstream version of the Xysma and Amorphis albums from this period. Extreme vocals, drums, and happy jazzy riffs are tremolo picked and blasted through giving this the feeling of death metal musicians parodying radio music more than anything. Bluesy and psychedelic as well, it seems like Convulse’s talent for stealing their country mates ideas has culminated in an album that simultaneously does everything their peers strove for better but coming off more poor in making things work cohesively as a listening experience, revealing this to be more of a “quirky” sham born from a conformist outlook than anything honest.

dead_world-the_machineDead World – The Machine

Early “death industrial” band Dead World uses the Streetcleaner formula for aesthetics but is closer to monotonic and mechanical industrial music in their compositions than anything that could be called metal. Lyrics and the “broodingly moody” manner in which they’re delivered reflect the mentality that Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson would use when making pop-industrial themed Xanax accompaniments. The band does a good job of making the downtuned guitars, vocals, and drums work together into making a “hostile” soundscape, but it’s really monotonous stomping rhythms are only interrupted by discordant bridges that don’t build on any of the preceding and the music doesn’t unfold through layers of guitar tracks, making this a bite-sized version of the Godflesh style that is more in line with what mainstream industrial rock bands were shipping out at this time. Very obvious “misanthropic” heavy rock music that doesn’t offer anything over its clone target.

Daniel Rodriguez, Jon Wild, Max Bloodworth and Cory Van Der Pol contributed to this report.

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Opeth frontman says metal fans are “closed-minded”

notorious_metal_haters

Heavy metal music gets a bad rap, not just from people who dislike it, but from people who claim to like it. The problem is that criticism draws attention to the speaker, so there’s no better way to stand out than to stand up and say, “All of this is wrong!”

While some critics of the current way are motivated by a desire to create useful change, most people are motivated by self-interest and change for change’s sake, which lets them seize attention and/or power. Opeth’s frontman Mikael “Mick” Åkerfeldt recently attempted such a power grab.

His statements, recorded in a Metal Hammer interview via Metal Injection, are harshly critical of metal but suffer a gigantic logical “plot hole” that makes them totally nonsense.

First, here’s Mick’s statements:

In metal, evolution doesn’t seem to be that important. I think most metal fans just want their Happy Meals served to them. They don’t really want to know about what they’r getting.

For a while, I thought metal was a more open-minded thing but I was wrong. Maybe it’s different from country-to-country. Don’t get me wrong, I love metal, but I’m also open-minded.

I admire some bands that do the same record over and over again – I wonder how they don’t get bored! For us, and Anathema, it seems impossible for us to stay still.

Take a quick glance at that last paragraph. Therein is the point of this whole diatribe: he wants you to like his album. Summary: Our record is totally different and unique, everyone else is bad, buy our record.

Then let’s look at the first paragraph. He says something nasty, which is the “Happy Meals” comment. Happy Meals are not just soulless junk food, but they’re also for kids. He’s saying you’re being spoon-fed baby food.

Then Mick makes some accusations:

  • [Metal] “evolution doesn’t seem to be that important”
  • “They don’t really want to know about what they’re getting”
  • Metal is not “open-minded”
  • Other genres are “open-minded”
  • Metal is boring because the albums by the same band are similar

His assertion that metalheads “don’t really want to know about what they’re getting” seems to make zero sense in a world where people download albums before buying them, or at least hear them on YouTube or via label-sponsored streaming on SoundCloud. In fact, metalheads have always wanted to hear the album before buying, even when they had to do it with CD players and headphones in record stores (as in the 1990s). It seems as if metalheads are picking albums for reasons that Mick just doesn’t understand.

It’s good to ask ourselves if the words he’s using mean what he thinks they mean. For example, what does “open-minded” mean? Does it mean you listen to something, experiment with it and reject it? Or that you include it in the album? On one extreme, “open-minded” means you never throw out an idea if it’s unusual. That obviously makes no sense. On another extreme, “open-minded” can result in you making very similar music if you reject other stylings for logical reasons related to your intent in making that music. For example, if I’m writing an opera about the downfall of a dynasty, including a sudden burst of cheerful carnival music might be completely inappropriate and defeat my purpose in writing that music.

This leads us to the biggest point here, which is that Mick is playing definition games. Without similarity, a genre doesn’t exist. We can call things “heavy metal” because they’re more similar to each other than they are to other genres, or because they have certain central tenets that correspond to beliefs. For example, that dark angry music should be “heavy,” which usually means distortion, minor key, complexity, unusual twists and turns. Or that the genre should use riffs in ways unlike rock, blues, jazz, etc. Or that its riffs should have an internal dialogue, as death metal does, which cause the chromatic equivalent of melodic evolution.

Without that similarity, the genre doesn’t exist. This is proven by Mick’s own decision to incorporate other elements in his work. He has affirmed the genre by saying he wants to operate outside of it. This implies that he recognizes metal by its similarity, which makes his complaining about it seem ludicrous. Further, when he’s saying that metal is “closed-minded,” what he’s really saying is that it doesn’t include other genres in itself, at which point (somewhere) it would cease to be metal, as he has acknowledged his own next album will do. This is the gigantic logical “plot hole” in the midst of his statements.

We could turn his argument around on him and say that he is in fact the “closed-minded” one. If he has to turn to other genres, it’s because he can’t figure out a way to make variety in metal. In part, this may be because he has literally closed his mind to the possibility of there being variation in metal (and this usage of “closed minded” seems more accurate) and can’t understand it or perceive it and thus, can’t reproduce it. If he looks at metal and thinks that Demilich, Gorguts, Incantation, Suffocation, Asphyx and Varathron are all doing the same thing, of course he’ll have to turn to other genres. He can’t perceive vast musical variation within metal.

This perhaps explains a lot about Mick’s band, Opeth. I first heard Opeth while standing in the Wild Rags store when Richard C. put a copy of Orchid on the stereo. Against his subtle advice — “it’s OK, might not be your thing” — I bought it, and spent the next dozen years regretting it before I finally sold it off for book money. My perception of Orchid was that it was the work of a band that did not want to be a metal band, and that they had one primary technique, which was to play up the dynamic change between acoustic and distorted music. They were far from the first to discover this technique, which was later used by nu-metal bands in the same way Opeth used it, which was multiple times in a song to create a verse/chorus differentiation. Here’s Death using a more tasteful version of the technique:

I noticed some similarities between Opeth and the Swedish bands who went before (Opeth was formed in 1990 by guys who had previously been in second-string Swedish speed metal and heavy metal bands). Swedish death metal had experimented with softer sounds before and the use of acoustic instruments, but had used them to atmosphere effect, instead of relying on a simple binary contrast. For example, check out this track from Cemetary which came out a year after Opeth was formed:

Another band that deserves a comparison to Opeth is Tiamat (formerly Treblinka, before they realized how that name could be mis-interpreted). Tiamat also did not want to be a heavy metal band, but a blues-hard rock band with a softer vibe like the English Gothic pop that was in vogue some years before. They had a very pop vibe and used acoustic guitars to set up contrast for crashing distortion as well, and also liked to incorporate lots of other genres:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6gYOh3SZL0

Opeth got famous not on their “open-mindedness,” but rather on playing to the image they had for fans. The early Opeth propaganda coming out from the labels suggested they were progressive and that, while most metal fans wouldn’t understand the complex and nuanced work of Opeth, those who could understand it would love it. If you’re an underconfident teenager, this takes you from zero to “I know something you don’t know” in four seconds. It’s a win for marketing and you’ve probably already noticed that it’s exactly parallel to Mick’s statements about “closed-mindedness.” Summary: Other people don’t understand us, but if you like us then you’re presumed to understand us and thus, you must be both able to appreciate greater musical complexity and open-minded.

As you can see, this whole kerfuffle is based in marketing and not reality. Opeth doesn’t care about “closed-mindedness” in metal any more than I care about orphaned chinchillas in Williamsburg (no, I do… I really do). This is about selling you records by appealing to your damaged self-image and giving you a way of feeling better than other people. That’s the same reason Opeth sold themselves as a progressive band despite lacking the melodic complexity, variable song structures, epic symbolism equated to melodic development and other factors of the original 1970s progressive rock bands. Opeth isn’t progressive; this is progressive:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amBqI4t6JE0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjC1t2i5wm0

And if you’re actually “open-minded” and can see past the narrow expectations defined for you by other media and social forces, this is progressive death metal:

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Micro-songs: the shortest songs in heavy metal

no_time_for_pop_songsAbout a decade ago, the trend of flash fiction or micro-stories seized the literary world by storm. The reasoning was that as people did more of their reading via phones and portable computers, they would want shorter, harder-hitting fiction.

Of course, metal was there first.

Heavy metal has a long tradition of making short and fast songs that derive intensity by compressing an idea and then unleashing it like a jack-in-the-box with razor blades for teeth. This tradition spans multiple metal genres and decades.

Generally three and a half minutes is considered the ideal length for a pop song, give or take a half-minute. Many bands, especially in more “serious” genres like AOR, progressive rock, jazz and metal, tend to write five minute or longer songs. Micro-songs on the other hand clock in well under two minutes, often under one.

According to many bands, writing a short song is harder than writing a long one. When the song goes by quickly, song structure is more transparent. There aren’t comforting layers of conventions, like guitar solos and ballady choruses, that can be used to disguise an emptiness within.

It’s just the songwriter versus the void.

Here’s a (brief) run through of heavy metal (and hybrids) who made flash-audio or micro-songs.

  1. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI) – “Money Stinks” (0:46)
  2. Corrosion of Conformity (COC) – “Nothing’s Gonna Change” (1:07)
  3. Disharmonic Orchestra – “Interposition” (1:59)
  4. Napalm Death – “You Suffer” (0:02)
  5. Blood – “Sodomize the Weak” (1:38)
  6. Insect Warfare – “Oxygen Corrosion” (0:54)
  7. Gridlink – “Asuka” (0:35)
  8. Fallen Christ – “World of Darkness” (1:57)
  9. Carcass – “Genital Grinder” (1:32)
  10. Chronical Diarrhoea – “Attack of the Blur Demons” (0:55)
  11. Agathocles – “Well of Happiness” (1:10)
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Cryogen – Continuum

cryogen-continuumTwo revelations before listening to this: first, when I first got into music I thought talent and ability were rare; now I realize they’re commonplace, but the ability to apply them in some non-inert interesting way is rare. Second, that metalcore — the mix of metal genres in the post-hardcore style of “contrast without continuity” riffing — borrows almost everything it has from 1980s speed metal.

Cryogen offer us a highly musical take on metalcore with Continuum, which displays excellent playing abilities, clear songwriting aptitude, and even the rarer ability to present songs in such a way that they are not only emotionally engaging but create a sense of transition that is coherent and not just random emotional outbursts giving way to one another like the rants of officer workers on sitcoms.

What brought us metalcore? A fusion of Meshuggah and The Haunted. Both used speed metal as a basis, but broke down the metal structure of internal riff dialogue and replaced it with the post-hardcore notion that great contrast between riffs to the point of incoherence makes for a better song. What it does is emphasize deconstruction and isolation to the point where the listener’s attention span is destroyed, which makes it easier to compose this way since the requirements are much lower.

Cryogen is best when the speed metal peeks out, or even when the heavy metal parts emerge. With their technical skill, they could easily make a classic heavy metal album. Instead they insist on burdening themselves with surface complexity, which because it must cram in more diverse elements, requires the unifying elements of the song be simplified. The result is very basic chord progressions underlying a pile of textural depth and intensive variation, which means that when you drill down you find your father’s bouncy heavy metal riffs.

I wish this band would knock it off with trying to stay current, and just drift in the direction they clearly want to go, which is in the direction of the first Cynic album. Those songs actually held together, and the core of them was a complex sense of harmony leading to a flexibility in key transition that gave them elegance. Cryogen is sort of the opposite: a lot of styling that is ultimately held back by the musically simplistic core enforced on it by the burden of participating in the great metalcore trend.

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Disfigurement – Soul Rot

disfigurement-soul_rotSoul Rot shows Disfigurement melding a number of different styles with an attitude of keeping intensity at full speed like a raging death metal band in the Pentacle or Hail of Bullets style. On the surface, this is percussive blasting death metal, but underneath the skin are rich bluesy solos reminiscent of Metallica, melodic riffs off an Amon Amarth album, and varied death metal influences from the late 1990s.

However, at its core, this band hearkens back to the mid-1980s and the collision of speed metal with underground metal that occurred on Bathory’s Blood Fire Death. On that album, charging riffs led songs into full-speed development, then dropped them into rhythmic riffing that recalls the best of Exodus and Nuclear Assault. Here the influences are more from the death metal side, but the speed metal core emerges over time.

Guttural vocals and a strong sense of rhythm from the interaction between bass and drums drive Disfigurement to apex sonic terrorism. Where this band is weak is in the loss of dynamics caused by the constant high intensity riffing, but their strength is in riffcraft and knowing when to leave out extraneous threads. The result is hard-hitting and musically literate.

We are fortunate to have a chance to talk with Nate from Disfigurement, who wants to remind you that you can hear the title track from Soul Rot and other songs at Disfigurement’s bandcamp page.

What was the moment at which you decided to become Disfigurement? How did the band come together, and were there any influences on which you “bonded” that later shaped your music?

Cheers, thanks for interviewing us. We’re very forfunate that people are interested in what we’re doing, especially Deathmetal.org.

Disfigurement came together at the very beginning of 2011. Adam and I were hanging out a lot, and he told me about this project he had been wanting to start for a while, a straight-forward thrashy-death metal band. He had been talking to some people that he’d played in bands with before, and gotten Richard and Max together, I volunteered to try out for vocals.

Once we got Vaedis onboard with drums, we had a whole line-up and were playing shows by March. I remember Vader and Carcass being the main influences for Adam at the time, and Panzerchrist and Deicide being the main influences of mine. There were also many bands like Morbid Angel, Dissection and Sodom that were going to play a part in our sound. We played around with the vocal styling a bit, but from the beginning were pretty set on the sound that we have to this day.

Soul Rot seems to be influenced by old school death metal and melodic metal, perhaps even Swedish bands like Necrophobic. How do you balance these two extremes, the guttural blasting chromatic menace of old school death metal, and the more elegant melodic side?

I feel that it’s always come naturally to us. That’s not to say that its always easy. I also don’t really feel that OSDM and more melodic death metal are really extremes; I guess it depends on what exactly you consider old-school or melodic. I think that the techniques used to deliver certain riffs and ideas can change it from brutal to melodic even though the ideas are really very similar. Our music has always had a very strong melodic basis, even if it’s over straight blasting and guttural vocals.

What makes a good metal song for you, and how do you write one? Do you start with a riff, lyrics, an idea or something else?

Our writing process usually involves Adam writing a sort of thematic idea that the song is based off. Most to all of the muisic is written, which is what I write vocals over. The song’s idea has a lyrical concept, often one word. I take that theme and build an entire concept for the song around that. The lyrics are written following this idea. Often the idea that I have is somewhat different or more complex than the original notion, but it’s rooted at the core of the song, and likewise the album. There is always an emotion central to the song’s essence.

A good metal song to me is one that is impossible to listen to without having a gut-wrenching reaction to. It has to grab me from the inside: heavy, and dynamic, but always evocative.

The production on Soul Rot is quite clear despite a lot going on during the album. How did you record this one, and did you use any special instrumental techniques to slash out those riffs?

There’s really no tricks or thrills, we just focused on getting crushing tones, and building from there. There is really no room for error in what we play, but at the same time, it has to come across as human and alive. We took our time tracking and made sure everything was precise, but not mechanized and sterile.

Can you tell us what you hope for in the future, and what you’re working on now?

We hope to be playing some festivals in the near future, and getting the backing to support a tour. Right now we are just trying to promote Soul Rot, which is what we’ve been working on for quite some time and really put ourselves into. We’re hoping Soul Rot will garner the support we need to continue.

Why did you choose old school metal styles over the newer options available? Do you think the fans will penalize you for this choice?

I don’t know that we decided consciously to start playing an old death metal style. A lot of the albums that we listen to that are very influential for us, such as Litany, Winds of Creation, M-16, Soul Collector, Gateways to Annihilation, and Serpents of the Light all came out in 2000, or the very late 90s. I suppose that’s still a much older style than much of the more modern bands’ stuff, but we’ve never been interested in anything like that. We just play in a way that conveys our message. It seems that old school death metal is the proper medium to express our feelings of nihilism and aggression. As far as the fans, it seems that many have been waiting for an album such as this to come out in recent years; as far as those who don’t like the style, there’s plenty else to chose from.

I appreciate the effort required by these questions and look forward to the end result.

Once again, thanks for the interview. We’re glad there is an interest in what we’re doing. We couldn’t do it without Sleyja over at Boris Records, please check out the other stuff that he’s doing as well and support our rising wave of bands that are putting out killer material.

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Deicide – In the Minds of Evil

deicide-in_the_minds_of_evilIf you break any ground as a band, you will suffer from momentum inertia. Your initial direction will carry you quickly to its end, and after three albums, you will find yourself with a loss of direction.

This occurs because in your vision, substance and form were joined, and you made a language out of what you wished to express. For some visions, a lifetime of specifics can be created; for most, there are big picture things to do, and then emptiness.

Deicide hit that point after its groundbreaking Legion. They put everything they had, worth about what ten bands do in their lifetimes, into that album. They wisely made a followup that simplified their approach but made it harder hitting.

After that, however, the band has been searching for a direction. Serpents of the Light adopted some of the black metal conventions of the time, but ended up too sing-song; their efforts after that have been varieties of heavy metal and death metal that never quite grasped a direction.

On In the Minds of Evil, Deicide return to the roots of death metal and make an album along the lines of Entombed’s Clandestine: bluesy leads, tremolo picked choruses, divergent riffs for textural variation. It doesn’t have the grandeur of the Entombed variant, but it achieves the 1992 death metal feel very successfully and is much more internally consistent than previous Deicide works after Serpents of the Light.

Vocal rhythms often recall the more intense moments of Legion and Once Upon the Cross and these, while repetitive, are not offensively so. Riffing ranges from old-school death metal to melodic heavy metal, but mostly stays within the zone of influence picked by the first wave of American and European (including a Carnage riff) death metal bands.

With that change, Deicide is actually making a form of music that came after their initial work, which while it used death metal vocals, like all forms of percussive death metal was at least half speed metal. On Deicide and Legion, the primary influences are Slayer Reign in Blood and Sepultura Beneath the Remains structurally, but the riffing style is more like Exodus crossed with Possessed with the complexity and intensity turned up to eleven.

In the Minds of Evil shows Deicide moving past its original speed-death hybrid and into pure death metal, but retaining a huge amount of heavy metal influence. The victory of this album is its consistency. Quality-wise, it’s on par with Serpents of the Light but with some of the intensity of Once Upon the Cross. The result is somewhat blander than their original albums but more consistent and with more substance their intermediate works.

Deicide may never return to the days of Legion, mainly because it’s an impossible act to follow. After years of wandering in darkness (or, in their case, light) Deicide have found a voice again, and they can only succeed as they expand upon this method of uniting content with exterior.

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