Listenable Records reissues Immolation – Dawn of Possession

immolation dop

Article by Daniel Maarat

Immolation’s debut has recently been reissued with the original CD mastering intact for the first time since 1995. Closer to conventional speed metal and lacking the complex polyrhythms and syncopation of their prime material (including the masterful Close to a World Below), the album nevertheless remains an accessible must-listen. That this classic was out of print for over twenty years with even the Polish mafia, probably bootleg slammed remaster going for inflated prices on the secondary market shows just how much the Warner Music Group owned, formerly independent Roadrunner Records has been neglecting their back catalog in favor of pushing nu-metal and Nickelback to a lowest common denominator audience. Hopefully more licensed-out, quality digital reissues will follow as Metal Blade was permitted to handle the recent Mercyful Fate and Sepultura vinyl pressings.

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Black Vul Destruktor – Beyond Time and Portals of Death (2013)

black vul destruktor
The Argentinian (Patagonian) city of Neuquén is an important regional industrial and agricultural center, but it’s still in a relatively remote part of the world and probably analogous in some ways to living in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada. If this compilation by Black Vul Destruktor is to be believed, knowledge of extreme metal has made its way to the region. The material on Beyond Time and Portals of Death seemingly takes more after the proto-underground; its mixture of stereotypical black and death metal technique marks it as a descendant of the Bestial Devastation school of metal, but more often not trading pure chaos and insanity for some level of refinement.

Since Beyond Time and Portals of Death compiles both the band’s Bestial Obscure Metal Kaos demo (from 2012) and an older demo from 2008, there’s a clear split in sound, but not necessarily in composition. The old material is understandably much rougher in production and mixing (although it’s still intelligible), but it shares much of its DNA with the new material. Both recordings showcase Black Vul Destruktor writing loosely structured and performed songs composed of fluent chromatic tremolo riffs over initially sloppy and later more coherent drumming. Everything’s a bit amorphous at the best of times, but this extremely stripped down method leaves enough wiggle room for the band to experiment with structure a bit. The material seems to generally work better on the more primitive demo, although Bestial Obscure Metal Kaos does achieve a higher level of satisfying rhythmic prowess. Everything feels a bit more charismatic on the earlier material, at least in that ineffable early Blasphemy/Beherit/Sarcofago/good “war metal” way; especially in its vocals, which have little regard for meter or prosody. It’s nearly the exact antithesis of how I compose, but the style admittedly has its value.

The end product is far from original, but it showcases some careful study of what made the simpler, more hardcore-inflected black metal work, and it occasionally throws in some threshold-expanding ideas of its own (see the goofy melodic outro of “Slaves”, or the constant variety of tempo and texture on the later material). It is very much of its scene, showcasing a great deal of techniques and stereotypes I’d associate with the South American underground, but what it does, it does well, even seemingly responding to the common criticism of underground metal (that it’s limited to mere worship and aping of the great classics) by pushing for some innovation within its adopted framework.

This album can be streamed and purchased from Bandcamp thanks to the services of Blood Harvest Records.

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Rhapsody of Fire unveils new album – Into The Legend

into the legend
The consistently bombastic and melodramatic (except when splitting into two bands) Rhapsody of Fire has revealed the cover art and tracklisting for Into The Legend. Intended for release on January 15th, 2016, Into the Legend will likely continue the band’s signature style, although word on the street is that its predecessor (Dark Wings of Steel) was a partial departure from such. Without a promotional single, there’s not a great deal of information we can work with. On the other hand, expect the media to compare this to Luca Turilli’s competing and recent Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus, and perhaps for the bigger symphonic power metal fans to insist that it either does or does not live up to whatever standard some of the other bands in the genre have set with their recent material.

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At The Gates releases music video for “The Night Eternal”

Someone’s brain at Century Media wasn’t firing on all of its cylinders, because this music video didn’t quite make it out in time for the 20th anniversary of Slaughter of the Soul. “The Night Eternal” is the final track of At the Gates’ 2014 comeback, At War With Reality. We didn’t give the album a great deal of consideration when it released, except to say that it wasn’t quite as offensive and simplistic as the band had been in 1995. Instead, it took after the band’s mid-period for whatever reason, showcasing some efforts towards musical depth without really reaching the career and genre peak of The Red In The Sky Is Ours. The video showcases little to dispel that belief and is likely only really worth your time if you’re into the 2D graphics manipulation visuals it showcases… and if you are into that sort of thing, you should really learn 68000 assembly and write a scenedemo for the Commodore Amiga.

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The Unbearable Boredom – On The Irrelevance of Ares Kingdom’s Music

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Article by David Rosales (read the original by Dan McCormick here)

Ares Kingdom has brought yet another stillborn child into this world. It has all the ingredients, but somehow it is not alive. It possesses such an unbearable need to be metal that it becomes so self-consciously metal that it could be considered tongue in cheek, but it isn’t. This makes it painfully embarrassing to listen to, the annoyance it causes being staved off by a feeling of uncomfortable pity. While this will entertain and even have the superficial effect of caffeine on the young metalhead, it will translate into a sure headache for anyone expecting the music to say something besides “I am so cool”.

The Unburiable Dead is the sort of album that a band with a lot of metal in its “system” but altogether too few neurons could put together in about a month or so. It suffers from a reliance on rhythmic riffs completely divorced from strong themes that it is borderline nu metal. As it replaces concrete content with emotion, this music is a huge mess. In order to counter the effects of its own unfocused babbling, Ares Kingdom resorts to the simplest means of keeping the music on some sort of track, namely, bringing the song back to early riffs and verse-chorus appendages within the incongruous mass of wacky solos completely out of context running over riffs with little to none motific connection most of the time.

The previous review on this site placed the album squarely in an ultra-musical context to better appreciate it. This is very appropriate and we could argue that it is the best way to appreciate music. Music nonetheless must deliver powerfully, especially from within its intended context and mentality! If it fails to exploit the ground from which it grows, expanding from the idea to musical moods concretely and coherently expressed, then it simply has failed as music, no matter how interesting the original idea was. Rather than a metaphysical reflection of the world thrown into chaos, I get a picture of a drunken brawler swinging an axe at imagined foes in the middle of a forest. Perhaps this picture is also an accurate representation of civilization’s thin veneer, after all. Perhaps Ares Kingdom has succeeded in portraying the self-deceiving nonsense and purposeless chaos they criticize in civilization through the literal mediocrity of their music.

While at first one could be tempted to say that Ares Kingdom speaks a language of its own, that it has stylistic coherence, the microscope reveals something different. Their music, not only on this last fiasco but throughout the band’s play discography, is namely an extremely distracted riff salad in which the individual riffs can be brought in from sources as different as galloping power metal to thrashy death metal to alternative nu and groove “metal”. This is headbang-core for beer metallers and other social metalheads (those who listen to metal in social contexts only and are not actually addicted to it).

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No God Only Pain emits patches, new direction

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California doom/punk band No God Only Pain has published its latest round of stickers featuring artwork inspired by the Hellraiser films combined with grim realism from life experience. In addition, the band has announced that it will change direction from its fusion of black metal, doom metal, punk and classic metal to “roadhouse dark metal,” embracing all that is in feral atavistic realist rock from The Doors through Motorhead as well as its own influences.

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Another perspective on Satan’s Atom by Atom

The cover of Satan's latest album flipped vertically
Review by David Rosales (read the original by Gabe here)

First things first – let’s get the obvious clear and out of the way. Satan is a band of not only competent instrumentalists, but songwriters with an ear for balance, color and dynamics. The previous review written for DMU on this album emphasized and praised this point as much as the band deserves. As it remarks, the attention to structure in the composition throughout the record and its faithfulness to its chosen style is worthy of praise. The only thing being suggested here is going one step further in our observations.

Sure, from the point of view of a purely academic critique, this is an outstanding work as it plays within its own style with dexterous flexibility, maintaining a certain cohesion and strong sense of flow throughout as colors and transformations are shown and removed. But metal goes beyond the formalities of technical music. Metal is about the the essence, hence it is about the ritual that directs a focus in the listener towards a certain attitude. But with Atom by Atom it sounds like we are gaily riding at full speed to the circus. At this point, we may question whether we are not making the mistake of placing something else besides or outside the music before the music itself. The answer is no; this is still about the content of the music, however non-objective it may seem, and is of the utmost important to a genre that claims to be more than fireworks and self-gratification (both on the artist’s and the listener’s sides).

We could go about explaining this with a loose inductive argument. Humans all tend to hear unisons and fifths as being more in repose and in balance than minor seconds or sevenths. This is because these correspond to very different and constant relations between sound waves at different frequencies, and their effect on the human brain on the physical level is, then, also constant. The way the appreciation of these changes and is trained through the exposure to different types of biases is a different matter, although equally important. Suffice it to say, that at the end it is a matter of the relation between the objective characteristics of sound and the conditioning by the environment of the subject.

Different systems around the world base their music on different philosophies, parting from these facts, even though they may not identify with exact things such as what Western music calls “perfect” or “imperfect” intervals. In the case of metal, it arises from the system of traditional Western tonality of the 19th century with a tendency towards terraced dynamics similar to those of Baroque music. The emphasis on content and delivery over flare that distinguishes metal from rock music also brings it closer to minimalism and one could even say, to early European music.

These are systems based on premises that are not just there as illusions, and serve as the objective sense on which this tonality is built. Certain intervals and progressions, certain melodies contrasted or complemented by the underlying chords, as well as the different rhythmic patterns (predominance of longer notes followed by shorter ones in bars and riffs) all possess distinct auras and characters. And although these cannot be pin-pointed with words, which would then obviate the need for music, we can generally define nebulous areas which range from what we know as human feelings to mental images and even divine morality (hence we have music that is predominantly described as ‘pure’, and music that sounds ‘evil’).

In the case of Satan’s 2015 opus, it’s as if the band had disregarded all sense of meaning in tonality and the character that the interaction between rhythm and melody projects onto the listener. In bouts of pure excitement and fanciful excess, Satan colors this album as a circus clown’s gala suit. Vocals are as emotional as in the first album, except that in here they seem even more disconnected from the music as the music veers into some sort of progressive speed metal akin to Helstar’s.

Although not as degradingly vulgar as Surgical Steel, Satan Atom by Atom results in a pretty tacky affair. This is an album that can serve as study case for guitar players when it comes to technical details in arrangement but falls short of a purposeful metal work. Its lack of heavy theme (from which the term heavy metal comes from) or any particular topic the musical level except the fun-funny carnival mood places it squarely outside any consideration for outstanding albums.

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Firespawn – Shadow Realms (2015)

Firespawn - Shadow Realms (2015)
As I suspected in September, this is a patronizingly stupid work of deathpop (reminder: straight up pop rock/metal with death metal aesthetics and instrumentation) of such simplicity that it will probably worsen the quality of discourse here at DMU for a few days by virtue of having been released. This sort of thing should probably been relegated to the level of Sadistic Metal Reviews, but part of having greater volume on this site is going into depth on why the chaff is chaff, as opposed to the cream of the crop. Shadow Realms is the type of album that could very easily be commercially successful if it got the right marketing push, but I don’t think that’s actually going to happen, and no amount of sales is going to secure this album a place in your mind for very long.

All the stereotypical elements of a deathpop album are here in full force. The instrumentation and production is “perfect” in the sense that everything here is appropriate to the 50% Stockholm/50% Gothenburg mixture that was used in this album’s construction. Shadow Realms is slightly melodic, not particularly Bossy, and generally built from fast, somewhat technical instrumental performances, but the end result is that each musician is playing something solely because if they didn’t, there would be no album. Some songs might slightly, almost imperceptibly bend towards other substyles at times, but the actual songwriting is as formulaic and rudimentary as it can be. L.G Petrov’s extremely simplistic and almost sing-song vocal performance continues to be the main emphasis on this album. Everything else is subordinate to the point that it severely inhibits the rest of the band’s ability to contribute anything beyond the banal and overdone.

By slamming together a roster of musicians with so much experience, Century Media has ensured that Shadow Realms sounds like death metal, even to those who give it more than the most superficial of listens. It’s still unfortunate that the musicians don’t have anything interesting to perform. All of the bands mentioned in Firespawn’s promotional materials have released better material than this, although not necessarily in a similar style. Stylistic specifics, though, do not take precedence over quality and coherence of output, and thusly listening to Shadow Realms is a complete waste of your time.

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Blackhearts documentary seeks crowdfunding

Promotional image for the Blackhearts Indiegogo campaign
When we last checked in on Blackhearts, the upcoming documentary was halfway through filming, and the creators were optimistic about a 2015 release. The filming is done, and they have started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with the hopes of paying for the costs of post-production and marketing. As of this writing, interested backers have 31 days to contribute funds. A wide variety of rewards are being included, ranging from early access to the finished film, to memorabilia from various famous black metal musicians, to (amusingly enough) one of the producers selling shares of his immortal soul. Let’s hope that doesn’t backfire on him.

Blackhearts purports to offer a new perspective on modern black metal, as it follows three fans from around the world (Iran, Colombia, Greece) instead of merely rehashing the scene’s founding myths. In the words of its crowdfunding campaign, “It explores how a music scene develops across religious, cultural and political lines, and provides comic relief on the things humans say, think and do when hijacked by passion.”

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Annheiser-Busch – King Cobra (2015)

annheiser-busch_-_king_cobra_premium_malt_liquor

Malt liquor receives the same media treatment as the gangsta culture with which it is associated, which is equal parts fear and awe. It is portrayed as a demonic drink that lures one into evil wickedness, but, sotto voce, that this can be a lot of fun.

The reality is far more mundane: Malt liquors occur when major beer companies double-brew their seconds, or the stuff that wasn’t quite up to snuff for the first round. Every company has seconds and the tendency to upcycle them is not just good business, but avoiding waste. Even wino wine is seconds — “Mad Dog” 20/20 is seconds from the Mogen David factories that make Jewish ceremonial wine. King Cobra is the strengthened seconds of the Annheiser-Busch brewing company, who bring you the infamous Budweiser, which is the Big Mac of beers because it is sweet and consistent.

King Cobra not surprisingly takes a similar path. There is some flat bitterness in the taste, but generally this beer is simply sweet. It has a grainy taste with a slight influence of hops, but mostly like a rice beer, stays within the sugar spectrum with beer overtones. It goes down smoothly despite a slightly bracing initial taste and uninspiring mouthfeel and yet, at 6% ABV, this problem does not last for very long. Soon it tastes merely like Budweiser: a warm, sugary, slightly urea-tinged beer with a faint metallic taste in the background. This beer has a thicker taste, more toward oatmeal than flour if you take my metaphor, but it is not mystically different. The real problem is that it is a blast of sugar like most mass-culture products, which means that the hangover is brutal because your liver deals with the dual assault of beer-flavored Shasta and the alcohol they add to keep it real. If you pound down this stuff, you should do as we did when we were kids drinking Schlitz “The Blue Bull” (which, from memory, tasted more like beer than the King Cobra) and drink a full glass of water and then some PowerAde to reconstitute your body after the equivalent of eating a half-dozen donuts.

I once went on a brewery tour at Annheiser-Busch and when we came to the “free beer room” at the end, I noted to the guy asking for our beer orders that there was no King Cobra. He was a gentle fellow and went to a secret tap in back to get me some. Apparently, Annheiser-Busch isn’t exactly promoting this beer except by marking it $3.64 and slapping it on the shelves at the far end where winos, college students and Republican presidential candidates go. This is not bad beer. It is too sugary for me, and some of the awkward tastes — a bitterness, a flat metallic undertone, even a yeasty taste that seems like the yeast aged wrong — make it something I will probably never reach for again. But it needs demystifying; this is nothing but fortified Budweiser and it’s not bad at all.

Quality rating: 1/5
Purchase rating: 2/5

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