Don’t Break the Oath turns 31 today

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Mercyful Fate Don’t Break the Oath was released on September 7, 1984. Back then, you most likely purchased the album on vinyl or cassette. King Diamond, the vocalist of Mercyful Fate, expanded on the image that Kiss and Alice Cooper had adopted years earlier, but he backed it up with powerful speed/heavy metal with melodic vocals and lyrics informed by more than a passing acquaintance with the occult.

If you ask me, Don’t Break the Oath was the peak of his career. The band picked up on the speed metal techniques of rhythm and used them to expand heavy metal with more fluid tempo and riff styles, then built epic songs out of that which did not over-emphasize the vocals but let them aid the songs, much like on the second Iron Maiden album. In the 1980s, just about every metal band listened to this classic.

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Deiphago accused of violent assault

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Aggressive war metal band Deiphago are rumored to be violent in other ways, too: Curt Johnson’s (Iron Force, Mutant Supremacy) girlfriend Natalia alleges that Sidalpa of Deiphago punched her in the face when she went backstage to get a beer from the beers left there for the bands.

Johnson relates:

I wasn’t present at the time but I guess Natalia was backstage and went for a beer from one of the bins and sidalpa from deiphago punched her in the face and knocked her out. I was watching inquisition and came out right before they finished and saw her face, apparently they left right after the shit happened.

Some observers have noted that Natalia was not approved to go backstage, and the beers there may have been for the bands only and not girlfriends. The full story has yet to emerge, and apparently there is no police report.

The problem with situations like this — as we saw with the Duke Lacrosse case, the Columbia rape case, and other false accusations — is that jumping to conclusions and forming a lynch mob to destroy someone based solely on one person’s accusation is a terrible idea that will lead to misery. There is a reason we have police, courts and law and use those to objectively (as much as possible) determine guilt and innocence, instead of taking one person’s word as fact and using it to ruin the life of another.

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As you can see, the usual forces are ready to jump to conclusions and are getting excited for a righteous justification for destroying someone else. The revenge-instinct of the herd is strong in them. Sadly, others who should know better are making the same mistake (I was unfriended by this person shortly after the exchange you see here):

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This statement shows the mentality of the mob:

they are going to the police to try to press charges. if you’re the type who is going to defend a guy who punched a gal in the face for grabbing a beer, then fled the club…you need to unfriend me now

The technique used above is to attempt to say that demanding a fair trial before kicking off the lynch mob and defending the accused are the same thing, when in fact nothing in his defense was said. All that was said was: we should figure out the actual facts before firing up the lynch mob.

No proof has been established yet other than (1) a photo of a woman who could have received those injuries in any number of ways and (2) a story from Mr. Johnson. Those are not by themselves proof, and the lack of a police report is puzzling, since at least around here, the cops are pretty excited to investigate assaults. Pattison wants you to believe that anyone who demands a fair trial is in fact defending this guy against unproven accusations. By all means bring him to trial, if you have the evidence, but do not accuse me of “defending” him when what I am asking for is actual facts and not gossip, rumors and hearsay.

While apparently this kind of anti-factual commentary is the normal on the internet, it is also the norm among people who burn witches, lynch black people, stone heretics and bully non-conformists. It is the logic of the herd and the angry, defensive, spiteful and resentful animal inside of every human being. It is the low point of our species, not its moral height as these over-excited and angry people want you to believe.

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We’ll post more as the story develops, including the crucial questions: (1) are the facts true as reported by Natalia and those who claim to be witnesses? (2) are the injuries from the assault, or from impact with the floor or another object, and were they self-inflicted? (3) was a police report filed, since people with a strong case tend to file police reports, while people with weak cases tend to go to the internet for revenge as a means of hitting back at the other guy, not establishing justice?

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Cornell and Diehl – Engine #99

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If you like strong English blends like Dunhill Nightcap, the full English offering plus Burley and strong Nicotine named Engine #99 from Cornell & Diehl should appeal to you as well. Where your standard English pipe tobacco comprises Virginia, Latakia and Oriental/Turkish strains, the Americanized English will add Burley and/or Perique as happens here. The result blends many textures into an identifiable form, much like a shag carpet turns all colors into a motion blur of difference.

In the case of Engine #99, the magic arises from the ability to restrain the incense-like Latakia with the more vinegar bittersweet Oriental tobaccos, then add some sweet and peppery Perique to thrust that forward, all while cruising on the base power of a mix of Burley and Virginia tobaccos. Like most blenders, Cornell & Diehl specialize in making many tobaccos out of a few ingredients, and they blend Engine #99 from the components of two other tobaccos, Red Odessa and Pirate Kake. This creates a tobacco of greater strength than most English tobaccos, but also more internal balance than the worst of them, similar to Dunhill Nightcap even if the ingredients differ with the omission of Burley in the the latter. As a result Engine #99 offers a velveteen full flavor with the Latakia and Orientals but smooths it out with the Burley and lets the Virginia, both sweet and powerful, do its work behind the scenes. This creates a tobacco suitable for all-day smoking if necessary but generally so intense in flavor and strength that it serves best as a coda to an event, if even the day itself.

Like most Cornell & Diehl blends, this recipe shows multiple stages of blending and treating the tobacco to not just marry it but ensure no jagged edges, even if part of the appeal of this tobacco is its over-the-top intensity. The components do not war with one another as they do with poorly conceived English knockoffs but instead harmonize with their differences balancing one another. Engine #99 does not take the English tobacco style anywhere it was not already going, but expands one of its paths to make the English flavor even more powerful. For this reason, it has cultivated an audience of English-lovers who nonetheless want more fire in their smoke and less of the sweet piquant nothing that many English tobaccos, under the influence of popular opinion, have become.

Quality rating:

4/5

Purchase rating:

5/5

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David Ingram (Benediction, Bolt Thrower) has tantrum over defense of free speech

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Popular music is a hard gig. To maximize your chances, you quit doing everything else and it becomes your only option in life. Then if that turns out poorly, you have the choice of being a 40-year-old shelf stocker at the local grocery, or swallowing your pride and becoming a cheesy third-ring entertainment figure. For this reason, musicians — especially those who first bands did not make the final cut of election to “favorite” of the public — tend to pander, flatter and provoke the public whenever they can. The resulting drama is the only thing standing between them and putting those cans on the shelves.

And yet, drama finds us all. It started on Twitter. Drama often starts on Twitter:

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To clarify what is happening here: some armchair white knight decides that because some guy out there does not like homosexuals, there must be a social activity consisting of people gathering to hate on this guy. As usual, I point out the reality-based analysis which is that his opinion does not concern us; let him do his thing, and you do yours, and stop being a busybody nanny state jackbooted interloper simply because your life is boring and your society is failing and you want a scapegoat for all your problems. Grow up, in other words.

That set off a chain of nasty replies. According to David Ingram (Benediction, Bolt Thrower): if you defend free speech, you are on the side of “hate” and you are a very, very bad person. To him, defending the right of people to coexist is the same as endorsing the most extreme of their opinions, even though I never said anything in support of what the guy said, only his right to say it and the maturity of letting him enjoy that freedom over there without our action against him. Free speech works when the other guy says what he wants, and you say what you want, and you do not directly intervene in one another. Boycotts and mob attacks change that, even if non-violent, and we all suffer as a result.

Not wanting to let a good dialogue drop, I took it up with Ingram when one of his promotional spams hit our inbox:

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Again we see the formula: defend free speech and you are a Nazi.

Join the angry mob and you are “good.”

Interesting to see Mr. Ingram cave to this. I suspect he is just doing it to try to keep his (flagging) career alive, and I have sympathy for that. But one can never truly have sympathy for those who use bad logic and are motivated more by hatred (of anyone who disagrees with them) than a desire to do right.

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Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages (2015)

Cruciamentum - Charnel Passages (2015)
AKA Unholy Cult II. I suppose it would be unreasonable to ask Cruciamentum’s full length debut after several years of formative demos, EPs, and a brief period of disunion not to be instrumentally refined and polished as crystal clear as death metal allows; I reference Immolation’s 2002 effort not because Charnel Passages is a clear aesthetic match for it (although both are more melodic than the usual straight-ahead DM while not quite qualifying for the “melodic” buzzword), but the sense of rising formulas that could very well strangle any band.

What bugs me most about Charnel Passages is that Cruciamentum is competent. The members know how to construct lengthy, relatively varied death metal songs that avoid the worst excesses of the random and nonsensical. This puts them far ahead of most of the disorganized or simply flat acts out there. Presumably, their study of various greats in the genre has taught them how to construct riffs, drum patterns, song sections from their various influences and recombine them as desired. While they lean primarily on the percussive, rhythmically complex style of the old New York death metal scene, there are tinges of so many other contributors to death metal scattered throughout. These are minuscule at best and don’t draw much attention to their incongruities unless the listener is actively searching for them. Ultimately, it works in the band’s favor, and these incorporated influences showcase them as knowledgeable musicians passionate about their beloved death metal recordings and able to assemble new tracks with no major flaws in their construction.

However, Charnel Passages fails to rise beyond this level of stewardship. It is as if they are so devoted to imitating the great moments of the past that they are unable to build off them. In the process of listening to this album for review, I was constantly bombarded with moments where I found a transition slightly jarring, a breakdown slightly overblown, a blasting section more out of obligation than of narrative strength. Were I less attentive, I would probably not notice these, but they would still gradually push me away and towards proven classics. As a result, while it probably meets the average listener’s standards and will force its way onto many a best-of list of 2015, I expect it to be condemned to obscurity in the long run, popping up occasionally in internet discussions of “lost gems of the 2010s”. If it weren’t so close to being a good record, this wouldn’t be as much of a tragedy.

To be honest, it’s possible I may end up giving Cruciamentum the benefit of the doubt in the long run. Critics have been known to double back on their old opinions from time to time, and considering its level of quality, Charnel Souls seems like the sort of album I could change my position on very easily.

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Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Double Jack Double India Pale Ale

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My whole life has consisted of failure to appreciate the true depth of human stupidity. Most people are stupid, and they are both pretentious and unaware how transparent they are. Many of them spend time telling me “how it is” when they are so off-base that the disconnect from reality is onerous. But I digress: hipsters captured the beer industry and are posing at having knowledge while making bad beers.

Double Jack is one such bad beer. Monkey see, monkey do: hipsters realized that bitter beers with citrusy flavors were a signal our bloated and over-rated press corps was using to recognize quality, so they started making beers like Double Jack which signal all the right stuff but, because they are assembled of signals, have no internal structure or consistency and end up with the flavor of random junk. This beer immediately hits you with a strong grapefruit sensation, under which you will note a thin beer of anonymous flavor. The bitterness remains present, probably delivering rave reviews from idiots, but unlike a good beer, where all of the flavors work together toward some direction, it remains separate here. That may be a metaphor for this beer.

It is as if someone went through the reviews on Beer Advocate and highlighted all the key descriptive terms, then added those as features to an otherwise generic beer. None of the mild integration of yeast is here that you might find in a good beer, nor is there any overall flavor. Instead, there is bitterness, a yeasty backlash, a watery beer taste, then a slightly soapy beer flavor, and finally, the realization that this brew is surging with sugar and acid which means your post-party tacos are going to be a digestive challenge. It is not terrible like a mainstream American beer, but awful like lost potential: with someone who had a working brain, this could have been a great beer with these ingredients. Instead it is overpriced hype for hipsters to pass their time before smoking American Spirits among the ruins of their civilization. At 9.4% alcohol by volume, it at least allows a person to get decently tipsy on a bottle, but that does not make up for the wasted opportunity to not have drunk this beer, and to have purchased another one instead.

Quality rating:

1/5

Purchase rating:

0/5

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Mgła – Exercises in Futility (2015)

Mgła - Exercises in Futility (2015)

A recent discovery of mine, if far from a newcomer to metal music; Mgła plays a sort of streamlined melodic black metal on Exercises in Futility. There are no real divergences from this formula, even in their slightest form, and even any residual rock or traditional metal influence is assimilated deeply into the overall sound and form of the music. It’s easy to pass this album off as repetitive, dull, and pointless at first glance, but the constraints of this style have bred some much-needed creativity. Continued listening highlights the band’s ability to successfully vary their compositions in a narrower range than most of my recent reviews. This is a difficult skill to learn, and its payoff is often subtle to the point of inaudibility, but the band’s efforts paid off; they’ve secured this listener’s interest and showcased their potential prowess as songwriters.

In general, Mgła leans towards the consonant, the ambient, and (at moments of weakness) the predictable. Exercises in Futility is driven primarily by very simplistic riffs and sometimes even single chord drones, but frequently overlays melodic, treble heavy guitar lead counterpoint over the exceptionally basic chord patterns that serve as its foundation. The rhythm section is muted in comparison to the guitars, but it dutifully follows their acrobatics by offering up its own new patterns as the tracks evolve. While I rarely found my ears focusing in on the drums, I was pleased by how the drummer didn’t treat his subsidiary position as an excuse to mindlessly blast or simply keep time. This was more of a problem with the vocalist, who admittedly also handles guitar and bass. For how prominently the vocals are mixed, the unending sameness of their techniques and how unaffected they are by any other aspect of the recording is quite a setback. Still, the instrumentation tends better than the alternative (incompetence), and when every metal band with a budget can assume their performances will be studio quality, the ability to add nuance is quite important.

Exercises in Futility is still not a particularly diverse album, although it doesn’t necessarily need to be one to be worthy of attention. Its biggest weakness is most likely that its tracks don’t develop particularly well over their duration, although the songs at least have clear (if basic) structures, which suggests some non-trivial effort towards this end. Other problems with this recording are relatively trivial in comparison, as strength of narrative/communication is perhaps the one aspect this genre’s elites can safely say they share. To truly unlock their own potential, the band members will have to cut repetition and achieve a greater level of focus and precision when constructing their songs. They may very well be able to pull it off if they’re willing to put forth the effort.

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How SJWs manipulate your reality

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Your knowledge of the world around you is both informed and manipulated by the information sources you rely on. Media, gossip/friends, advertising, government and businesses are all trying to insert ideas into your mind that control how you see the world. So are small political groups like SJWs.

This manipulation extends to theoretically objective, unbiased and neutral sources like Wikipedia:

It might not be news to everyone that Wikipedia — especially in the EN version — has issues with editors using Wiki articles to spread political propaganda and libeling innocents, sometimes being bribed to do so. Most of Wikipedia readers should have noticed that articles related to anything controversial are heavily biased if not purely propagandistic. This puts shame on the rest of Wikipedia, and on the work of honest editors who spend their free time making unbiased articles.

…After this, they attacked the article on Cultural Marxism, first discrediting it as a conspiracy theory, then entirely removing it. Note that, as I often say, I did my thesis on Antonio Gramsci’s Cultural Hegemony (which is where Cultural Marxism was born), it is an historicall proven fact that it exists. To put it simple, Cultural Hegemony means creating an elite among the middle class that creates a narrative to herd the middle class and direct them how they want. I can see why editors creating false narratives to mislead people would want to censor this.

Who works on a source like Wikipedia or even Metal-Archives? Those with lots of time and some motivating force behind it, like a desire to change the perception of a large group of people. Since such sources reward casual readership, you will not find the thinkers and doers of the world reading them; you will see a vast number of people looking for a surface treatment. That is the easiest audience to manipulate, in the easiest frame of mind to twist, and this is why fanatics of the SJW sort flock to Wikipedia and other “crowd-sourced” sites: powerless in life, they can get a rise out of manipulating others and having the ability to tell them what they can and cannot think.

This happens a lot:

Mark Bernstein is one of several SJWs who is still butthurt that GamerGate successfully got several corrupt editors, including Ryulong, banned from Wikipedia. You can read an archived version of his grievances here.

If Mark Bernstein’s idiotic accusation wasn’t enough, blogger Matthew Hopkins has exposed a number of his conflicts of interest. Hopkins revealed the fact that Mark Bernstein had made significant edits to the Eastgate Systems and Tinderbox pages. Bernstein is the owner and Chief Scientist of Eastgate Systems and Tinderbox is an Eastgate product. If Bernstein wanted to avoid conflicts of interest, he could have suggested edits to those pages and let other editors come along and do so.

Wikipedia needs to take action against editors who have no regard for the rules.

Of course, Wikipedia will not enforce its own rules because then it would lose its crowd. People come there so they can change reality. They do not show up out of some benevolence toward humanity; they want power, and Wikipedia’s assumed status as reliable gives it to them. All one has to do is show up and edit a few pop culture pages and agree with the existing editor clique about certain social justice issues. Then that person becomes part of the approved group and can go on to do things like delete pages, remove facts, or anything else that conflicts with the agenda of the approved group. Why is this group so manipulative? It goes back to that lack of power in their lives. This is why there is a long history of Wikipedia corruption.

Even more, and of relevance to metal, journalists have gotten in on the game, taking money for positive reviews of video games. They even discuss this in secret mailing lists, much like journalists agreed to manipulate the news during the JournoList scandal. These are behaviors we see appearing in several areas consistently; is it too much to assume that they are part of the norm? By that token, it seems rational to realize that much of what we see on big metal sites is manipulated by similar groups of people.

#Metalgate showed us that groups of fanatics infiltrate media in order to manipulate minds; now, we see how much their influence crosses over between different sources that people rely on. It was for this reason that the underground was formed: mainstream media had a solid and unwavering opinion of heavy metal, which was that it should be a tame and non-threatening form of rock music, and so to escape that, metal bands and writers had to escape from the mainstream view entirely. That time has come again, because the same group of people who held metal down in the 1980s are now attacking from a different direction, and it will have the same consequences.

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Viranesir, banned from BandCamp, strikes back with new video

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You may have caught our previous story about experimental/improvisational black metal band Viranesir, who was banned from BandCamp for its deliberately provocative use of homosexual, anti-Muslim and racially incendiary imagery. An interview with Viranesir describes much of the theory and motivation behind the band, but now, the band has also released a video describing the banning and its context in the struggle for freedom from censorship:

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

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Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls (2015)

Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls (2015)
Iron Maiden’s main strength in their 1980s heyday was their ability to incorporate progressive rock tropes (and therefore useful techniques for song variation and extension) into what was otherwise a fairly standard, if well executed poppy heavy metal sound. Not the rarest trick in the book, but more than enough to turn the band into a commercial juggernaut whose influence can sometimes be heard even in the deepest dregs of the underground.

On first impression, The Book of Souls ages gracefully, offering an aesthetic mostly similar to the band’s earliest recordings with Bruce Dickinson if understandably and obviously brought up to modern production standards. Like the rest of the band’s latter day material however, it leans ever closer towards its prog-isms, resulting in several enormous tracks and inflating the content into a full-fledged double album. The unfortunate weakness of these epics is that they are replete with filler of questionable value to a track, and as the length of these albums and tracks grow ever longer, so does the tedium, as Iron Maiden’s ability to extend a track beyond 7-8 minutes or so has not advanced along with them. Tracks end up overwhelmed by moments stunningly reminiscent of old hooks and hit singles (for instance, the intro of “Shadows of the Valley” seems to channel “Wasted Years” from Somewhere In Time), and the true nature of the band’s recent weakness reveals itself.

Iron Maiden has become a band split between two souls that they are unable to effectively reconcile. Their urge to extend their songwriting and write metal epics is held back by their need to continuously sound like Iron Maiden and the corresponding need to push hit singles. Paring down some of the worst excesses would probably be the most profitable option, since the band has demonstrated many times through their career that they can handle some degree of extension. Even then, Iron Maiden is competing with their own past; a past that is more virile (if not as slickly produced or musically experienced) and still easily experienced at their live concerts. I expect this album to jump off the shelves of record shores for still being recognizably Iron Maiden, for having some memorable and well-written moments and for being a valid way to financially support the band, but as a work of music, I don’t expect it to retain much listener interest after its marketing blitz subsides.

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