Mordor – “Csejthe” (1992)

Medievalism with disdain towards life, punishingly tardive and yet theatrical, this is epitaphial death metal with an aim. This aim is to reframe a life of industrial decay by the droning transcendental funeral of the God in man. This is the soundtrack of living in Mordor.

The vision of the band unfolds as a film score through ambitious compositions – the opening track drones at about 19:25 minutes – which combine doom metal in the vein of Cathedral with gothic aesthetics like Paradise Lost drunk on absinthe. The long structures and unique nature of the music serves as testament to the burning philodoxy of the band. Sadly, they take their ambient aspirations to the limit, thus often drowning the metal soul into sewers of darkness, a fact that leaves the metal listener disappointed.

From a pragmatic standpoint, this is but a demo, so failures are to be expected. Apart from its shortcomings, the malice contained therein as well as the array of innovations, can provide ideas for artists who want to emulate a dark atmosphere or want to assimilate dark ambient elements into their music.

Masterful use of technique creates an enjoyable sound. The Keyboards carve Landscapes void of life in the manner of Ildjarn and often emulate folkish music and psalmodies by exhibiting playful leads or long fifths. Riffs sound vicious, precise and teutonic like early Samael, but they are slow and droning. They often use very unusual quartal chords that suffocate sighs of industrial machinery, building the image of an infernal majesty emerging from the throne of degeneration. Lead guitars lament through their monotonous harmonic chanting and often screech in harmonics, adding brush-strokes of pain on the sonic canvas. However, by forming chords on the high strings, glory is evoked to complement the previous emotions, since this sound is often unconsciously associated with trumpets. In addition, the drums decorate the composition with hammering industrial sounds of arduous crucifixion.

This art reaches its apex with the slow, dreary and hateful In Search for the Pure Negation, which sounds like Morgoth – not the band – thus the musicians gain more than they bargained for with their name.

Gothic aesthetics are communicated by female and other varying vocal timbres that complement the growls, a gothic trope, however its scarce use and atonality creates an immersive effect instead of an operatic one. An example will be in the aforementioned track, where the harsh vocals aphorize and denounce and the clean atonal vocals define what is denounced, the latter representing the weakness of human nature and the first a call from beyond. Also, growls are used in Bloody Comtess to build a climax towards the end, to proclaim the tragically demonic nature of the protagonist.

Unfortunately, the band is too immature to emerge unscathed from a 20 minute song, and drowns in its own ambition at points, as the listener struggles to pay attention. To their defense, the composition is highly relistenable due to the aforementioned reasons and to the strongest advantage of this record, namely immersion into more primitive modes of being. Other songs might become too repetitive and although remaining enjoyable should have been shortened and further sculptured, since they might seem amateurish.

For example, Last Demoniac Invocation makes the listener expect a story about a failed invocation, where the magician was ravaged by the spirit called. Yet, the song is not even metal at this point, it is floating in ambience, which can be appreciated as a background to a Dungeons and Dragons session, or as relaxation music for pretentious or depressive people, however it is boring in the long run, and unfit for metal consumption. If it was an interlude, it should have been shorter. If it was a proper song, it could have exhibited a faster part towards the middle, similar to Hand of Doom by Black Sabbath, but this is merely a subjective vision of the song. It can be appreciated for what it is though, not what it should be.

To compare this demo to other approaches, first, contrast Mordor’s understanding of the Dark Age with that of Satyricon in Dark Medieval Times, the latter being a rather naïve and unconvincing interpretation. In addition, from a genre fusion standpoint, this is the direction that Triptykon should have strived to pursue, but alas, their creativity has misled them to imitate their inferior offspring. And to be more genre specific – although Mordor are a metal generation that defied conventions – Skepticism call forth a sense of majesty and extremity that cannot be rivaled through fewer, better and more lyrical riffs per song and Thergothon do not need gothic finesse to build their inhuman sonic temples of death. Nevertheless, the above does not dismiss the approach of the band, but rather highlights its uniqueness.

Although those are crude and perhaps unfair comparisons, life is not fair with musicians to begin with; yet, she is fair from the perspective that most talented people who implicate themselves in black metal, have a chance of writing good music, regardless of their production budget, age, education and cultural background. And Mordor are definitely talented individuals.

Finally, the evocation of medieval experience and lifestyle is the strongest offering of this piece. This is accomplished by tuning the brain of the listener to the rhythms of living away from the human hive, structured by the low tempos and the sparse use of silence. Thus, with the aid of the theatrical vocals, the listener feels that he is a part of the record, acting alongside the characters of the play, for he is dragged inside through psychological projection by the human element of the cleaner vocals and the music is spacious enough to fit him.

To the above one must add the use of silence and quieting that mesmerize the listener and make him vibrate in tune with the lengthy, repetitive soundscapes that build the impression of monasteries and dungeons in vast woodlands. At the same time, the songs merge with infinity through a religious lens, on moments where the woe of the guitars retreats to reveal the naked synth, as hatred retreats on a moment of clearance, so that the listener can behold a vision of sorrow: the predatory reality from which we try to escape, yet in the end she always triumphs.

A wretched and spiteful power lurks inside this record, like a feral spirit among the rats inhabiting the modern city. This music communicates reality in a modern language: through hell, dirtiness and degeneration that surrounds most of us in the now, hate rises in the soul, a hate that wants to purge the perversions in which it was conceived, to open the skies of flesh and let a rain of blood gush forth and leave behind a silent, olden and darkly beautiful world. This philosophy moves from the depths of degeneration of Countess Bathory through the ascension of the spiritual Mountain and decorates this demo with an iron crown. Disregarding the faults of youth, this is an enjoyable listen indeed.

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J.C. Newman – Tampa Trolleys

Every review site in the world likes to review fine, nuanced cigars, but this is a metal site, so let us look at cigars with the subtlety of an axe murder on a subway car. J.C. Newman named the Tampa Trolleys after the railcars that workers would take to the last American cigar-making plant in Tampa, Florida which was known as “Cigar City USA.” Coming from one of the birthplaces of death metal, these cigars aim for a similar brutality on the smoker but have lessons to teach.

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Profanatica – Altar of the Virgin Whore (2018)

Following the peak of John Gelso’s manic laughter melodic sensibility on Thy Kingdom Cum, Profanatica entered artistic decline by releasing the excuse-to-tour Curling Flame of Blasphemy where the riffs were merely those of Disgusting Blasphemy Against God in a lull given a slight boost in populist consonance for the purpose of pleasing crowds. The G.G. Allin of black metal Paul Ledney sounded tired and uninspired which was reflected by the shark-jumping biker bar promotional pictures which were included in the booklet of the album. With Altar of the Virgin Whore we find Profanatica once again selling an excuse to tour only this time it is said plainly.

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Children Of Doom by Eduardo Vitolo (2018)

In the early 1990s, once it seemed that death metal had fired off its initial salvo and lost momentum by late 1992, the record labels immediately turned to what they had next in line to keep the kids occupied, doom metal. This followed years of gradual increase in interest based on the sound that Saint Vitus and Candlemass carried on from Black Sabbath, and tried to jump over recent hardcore- and prog-rock-influenced history to return metal to its heavy rock roots.

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The Craft of Metal #3 : Dethrone the Son of God

When Profanatica could not finish their unreleased album, the genius and creator of the band Paul Ledney took time away from the noise of other musicians to fully realize his vision in composing a short album that took the best of his influences from all over the underground into creating something that would show the world the extent of the musical genius that this man possessed and that he was much more than an alumnus of a few great bands. In this final piece in the Craft of Metal series, we look at one album that managed to open new branches for what was to remain of the underground as the Death metal movement had just began to explode with bands getting signed by big labels all over the place and leaving the most repulsive bands to grow far from the spotlight.

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Inverloch – Distance | Collapsed (2016)

Inverloch are an Australian death/doom four piece mostly known for being composed of half of the members of Disembowelment and for being considered their rightful heir. With projects like these there is a fine line between upholding the heritage of a previous project and reiterating past works in hope of achieving former glory. Inverloch straddle that thin line but also manage to find influence in much more recent branches of death metal and the funeral doom subgenre and overall create an enjoyable piece of work that may push the listener towards the greater releases in the genre, especially Transcendence into the Peripheral.

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Mountains

Climbing a mountain is a noble struggle and it is metal as hell. It contains ebb and flow, within and without; without, one finds conflict and peace in nature, in the rocks, in the animal kingdom, everywhere. Within, one has to battle against oneself, tiredness, thoughts, injury, and disease; yet all those things make the achievement of reaching the summit real and worthy. They fill life with meaning.

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The One – I, Master (2008)

Hailing from Rhodes, black metal project The One comes to us from the mastermind behind Macabre Omen, who alongside Varathron have been the most consistent artists in the Hellenic scene during the past few years. The One performs a style of black metal that draws from various influences such as Mayhem, Hellhammer, and Bathory, yet it is filtered through the Hellenic prism of longer melodies and warm, ritual atmosphere.

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