Analysis of Darkthrone’s “Neptune Towers”

“Neptune Towers” is a song from Darkthrone’s death metal album, Soulside Journey. In this song the artist’s goal is to paint an alien landscape and tell a story, by intertwining riffs and lyrics until they reach an eldritch keyboard climax, which leaves the listener with a sense of awe for the unknown.

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Analysis of Suffocation’s “Catatonia”

By the time “Despise The Sun” was released, Suffocation were on top of the Death metal world and had at this point already influenced the rising slam and brutal Death metal styles that would inundate and signal the downfall of the whole genre as the technicality and the percussive nature of the music would be the focal point rather than the incredible songwriting present. This short EP would prove to be the band’s final charge as they would soon break up only to reform a few years later but without Doug Cerrito, the band drifted off into mediocrity and tired attempts at pleasing the deathcore crowd. Catatonia was initially on the Human Waste EP and showed a band that was composing music far beyond the maturity of the individual band members. In the same way as heroes Morbid Angel, Suffocation took songs from the initial recorded output and expanded on it for later works. Both versions of the song are nearly identical and vary only in performance and production.

Introduction and initial motif

A drum intro quickly introduces a simple descending chromatic riff that focuses on pounding the root note on the first beat of every bar as the fast-picked notes rush towards the root note. The drums crash around until finding stability as Frank Mullen’s harsh guttural roar enters and the riff soon leaves for another minimalist power chord sequence that eschews the root note to create an almost atonal melody that resolves first on a minor third then on a major third and quickly finds the root note before evolving into a stream of single notes. These single notes move the composition to a twisted sense of stability as they utilize a consonant leap in octaves but moving through the diminished fifth to form a chromatic ascent. The melody relies on two octave chords but through the added use of dissonant notes it avoids complacency in familiar territory and seeks to explore the possibilities that are now open. In typical Suffocation fashion the melody is moved up a major third as it progresses before ending on the composition’s main motif. The main motif starts with a flow of simple palm muted power chords half a tone higher than the root note which Morbid Angel popularized so that the static progression still creates tension by refusing to return to a place of comfort and stubbornly maintaining its place. This motif is then followed by the ending of the previous section but moved down a whole tone. This returns the composition to stability and allows the band to play with all those previously introduced. A second ending to the riff appears and is almost chromatic but resides within Suffocation’s vicious sense of melody.

Force fed immobilization
Man made liquid controlling my limbs
I want to die, no reason for living
Dealing with complications life brings
A corpse with no thoughts
No feelings or perceptions of life
The pleasures of death I foresee
Nightmares and day mares combining
To torture my being – This torture inhibits my life

Here the lyrics present a victim that has been held in total captivity with no control over his body as he forced to remain in a state of artificial nothingness. The narrator has nothing binding him to life as his psyche is destroyed, and he seeks to attain death as he is burdened by this form of torture. The harsh rhythms combined with the oppressing sense of melody evoke flawlessly how the narrator has been beaten down mercilessly into nothing. The previous single note melody appears in its entirety and this time allows us to delve further into the narrator’s mind.

The world is a graveyard of fools left to cope
With the torment and regret of man now deceased
Ghouls are released to destroy the race
Which we call human beings

Development(1:30)

Humanity has sealed its fate with its actions and there is nothing left to do nor to mourn as mankind is about to be destroyed. The C# root note is suddenly established in this section that appears suddenly with a riff comprised of a speed metal gallop that uses various tremolo melodies as a tail. The whole passage uses no chromatic tones or anything deviating from the natural minor scale allowing a new set of motifs to take dominance in the composition as the previous slow parts had achieved their maximum potential. The first part of the melody consists of a three-note progression played in staccato while dispersed by the endless charge of the low string and uses the major third which has always been an undervalued foundation upon which Suffocation rely on. The major third is the base for Suffocation’s twisted sense of melody and disappeared from the band when Doug Cerrito left and the motifs became much less interesting. The tremolo picked sections of this riff are descending minor thirds arpeggios hinting towards the narrator’s sadness.

Existence is torn from my soul
Perdition is what is believed to be seen
Suffering from the inside
Nefarious is the way
You choose to be – Left with no will to live
My intestinal wall begins to cave in
Trapped as they say
I begin to rot here as I lay

Let us note Frank Mullen’s maturity when comparing this vocal section on both versions on the song. In the Human Waste version, the voice is not yet fully developed and he struggles to maintain a consistent tone and output whereas on the “Despise the Sun” his gruff deep throaty aesthetic is pushed to the extreme and the fast hip hop cadence does not deter the consistency in both volume and tone. A truly remarkable development from an already great singer. Those who would emulate his deep vocals forgot to add the power that conveys the hatred he expresses and sought to reproduce the low tones through pig squeals and inhaled vocals and would sound like a parody of Mullen’s trademark growl. The protagonist is detached from reality as his body can no longer withstand the pain and accepts the end as there is no will to fight. There is no anger conveyed, just misery with no hope of redemption as the narrator awaits his death.
A tremolo picked section appears as the tension continues to increase. The melody is long and very similar to what the Norwegian bands were doing as it is extensively in the minor scale but uses adjacent tones between the more consonant ones to increase anticipation for a resolution. A slight break of half a second shifts the root note again down a whole tone as another speed metal rhythm similar to the last one is introduced. This time we are treated to two different tails as one is a fast almost chromatic power chord assault and the other is a chromatic ascent of two major thirds showing how much mileage and variation Suffocation can create through one simple technique and a strong understanding of composition. The narrator continues his attack in this passage as Mullen emphasizes the stronger beats in the phrase adding more power to the overall part.

Time to take a look
At what has begun to pass before me
Die a slow death
It now begins to take its toll

The narrator has finally closed the chapter on how humanity and himself ended in this situation and now seeks to look towards what is going
to happen in the present. Though the pain of his torture is starting to break his will.

Climax (2:26)

The initial motif as “Catatonia” is growled enters again, and though it may be the exact same riff  used in the beginning, the context is completely different as this is a passing passage that like a catapult transfers all the energy from the built-up tension to an incredibly satisfying climax that engages in all out combat as the song reaches a level that the great majority of metal bands can only imagine. The melody as excellent as it is, is nothing that hasn’t been heard at this stage of Death metal’s maturity but the context and the little rhythmic embellishments are what allows this melody to unleash more than its own potential. The first power chord which works in triggering the rest of the phrase like a set of falling dominoes, is played slightly after the beat causing the listener to lower their guard before being taken by surprise. On the other side the phrase finishes slightly early making the listener crave more. Both tools utilized during the climax make this simple melody incredibly powerful. The melody is caveman like in how it consists of a stream of alternating minor and major thirds two note arpeggios in rapid succession as they then move up and down a fourth. The legato playing which to the uninitiated means smooth and in the case of the case with minimal input from the picking hand allows the notes to be expressed cleanly without the attack of the string modifying the nature of the tone.

Scared as I lay here dead
From this infectious disease
I want to rise from here
To recover what is mine

Now in a complete twist of fate our hero through a combination of fear and the primal urgency decides to deny his fate and to what he has previously expected to happen. Though his body is destroyed and is no longer living there is an unfathomable will to atone the errors of the past and is the essence of what Suffocation conveys. Through hardships and unrelenting trials of this cold heartless world we have created, the human will is the only thing that can redeem of us and not through reason or calculated thought but by the most basic of instincts can we achieve joy in life.

Conclusion (3:02)

A solo erupts as the band turns to a more consonant melody consisting of a variation of minor third, diminished fifth, major third and ending away from the root note progression that the band had now cemented into the listener’s mind. Cryptopsy would base their classic works on the concept of a solo played on top of a consonant tremolo picked melody. The solo sees Hobbs go through a variety of techniques while confining himself in the realm of previously established motifs not to express horror but a rebirth of life or an ascendance to a higher state that signifies the protagonist’s change after the previous outburst and is optimistic of what they final outcome may be. A new riff emerges that is rebellious and defiant while summarizing succinctly the relationship between the chromaticism of the piece and the motifs taken from natural minor scale. A chromatic base that uses the chromatic ending from a previous motif while combining that with the final motif the band introduces here which is just an elemental minor scale ascent that stabilizes the insanity shown here from a musical perspective.

Abdicate your position in life
Now that you lie deceased
Rising from the tomb you own
To take what is rightfully yours

The lyrics urge the listener to give up on past glories and failures and to take control of one’s current situation and all that stops them from reaching their full potential and from that point to retrieve and regain all that belongs to them and what they deserve. Through showing a bleak world that is empty and nihilistic rather than one full of evil, Suffocation perfectly demonstrate their understanding of the real evils of our world and not through mundane examples but through a febrile imagination that is at the very heart of their music. Soon after previous climax returns in full force again showing that the battle is not won once but by attrition and that the will can only be tested by time. As the vocals end and this grandiose composition ends on the climax but with this time chromatic power chords and the right hand in full action as the band conveys one last time that other evils await our hero through the ominous effect created by the frustration of not having a resolution during a short chromatic sequence.

Suffocation create an entirely unique universe within a small set of rules that allows them to find new unexplored paths through those rules where as a lack of these rules may have tempted Suffocation to try the simpler paths that have already been treaded on. The redemption trope has been used endlessly and superficially throughout the existence of pop culture but can any musical artist claim coming this close to create such a horrifying world that truly evokes our own existence and then to find redemption and victory when there is none to be found. For that Suffocation stand on top of the Death metal pantheon with a few other select musicians and  the band represents the ultimate objective in metal. Triumph in the face of this existence that is brought upon us.

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Old Wainds / Навь (Nav’) – We Are the North… Mean Cold War… (2003)

The early phenomenon of Old Wainds played an extremely condensed and straightforward style of black metal that represented the ultimate distillation of what the genre had to offer as a sequence of meaningful flows based on guitar riffs that form aggressively articulated phrases the pressure of which is carefully regulated. The project was a great exception to the reliable rule that says, from experience, that black metal (or metal music in general) from Slavic countries has nothing to offer musically. More often than not, what is called “slavic black metal” is anything but, and in the best of cases falls into what has been misleadingly and ironically called “flowing black metal” to describe a pointless, melodic meandering rock music that lacks significant changes in pacing and texture, and so never is never able to produce the necessary dynamics of tension and release. Alas, Old Wainds plays the exalted and unassuming post-1995 black metal form first seen in the condensed masterpiece of Uranium 235, crushing the heads of the genre as a whole, dividing the line between mundane scenester fanboys and solitary black mystics.

Навь (Nav’) was Old Wainds’ twin project, in which at least one of the band members differed. Musically, what distinguished the two was a the attempted emphasis of Nav’ on more fluid tendencies and softer contours, even if ever so slightly in comparison to Old Wainds. Nav’s distinct aim is arrived at in their first full-length, Чертоги смерти (2004), which basically was a pleasant but weak exposition of the melodic component already present in the best of Old Wainds’ music. While Old Wainds from the beginning has a very narrow style, in the sense of being impressively mature and well-formed, rather than incapacitatingly rigid, Nav’ expresses the riffing and melodic avenues that are left over from the former, but which still fall within this aggressive, dark music.

In time, both projects fell out of grace by their own hand, in a rather telling way that perhaps reveals who the artistic luminary was in both groups. While Kull only participates in the Nav’ demo that is reproduced in this split, along with the second Old Wainds demo, he participates in Old Wainds in every release until Oбжигающий холодныйScalding Coldness— (2005), a comparatively weakened but still recognizable expression of the project founded on proper black metal riff-flurry. After Kull leaves Old Wainds, the music changes drastically in to a completely uninspired imitation of itself, a sign that the departing element in the team was the author of the significant phrases at the center of the music. This is also true of Nav’, whose best work is found in their 1998 demo Гимн холодному безмолвию, reproduced in this split, and which sees the only apparition of Kull in the project.

Furthermore, after their first full length, Where the Snows are Never Gone (1997) —and with the exception of this split which uses material from the second demo from 1999— Old Wainds’ songwriting was suffering from debilitating notions ever since their second full-length album. We sense a lost grasp or connection to the powerful pulse that created a maelstrom around an inward-looking conversation between the riffs, which can only be described as a vortex of encircling energy. The energy in a void whence arises this power is said inner dialogue of the music, that can only be achieved by two necessary elements: the first is that each section must have a clear and significant fluxion [1] expressed; and the second, consequent of the first, is that these fluxions must achieve a certain dynamic flow in between each other. The interaction between the individual fluxions is most excellently demonstrated in Old Wainds’ debut, and consists in the sense achieved by the parts arranged in sequence, first of all, but also in how they match simultaneously. They who grasp the meaning of this lexic contradiction, but that is not a contradiction in the phenomenon described, may have a first key to unlocking the more effective value of this black metal to the more superfluous acts considered de rigueur.

Notes

[1] http://www.deathmetal.org/article/black-fluxions/

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Blood Stained Dusk – Dirge of Death’s Silence (2001)

Upon listening to this album, the listener familiar with the classic Norwegian black metal albums from the first half of the ninetiess will undoubtedly be reminded of Emperor In the Nightside Eclipse (1994). But apart from the way in which the keyboards are used for effect, the first Blood Stained Dusk is quite distinct in songwriting approach and in the crafting of individual sections. And while less clear and profficient in expression than Emperor, relegating the present release to a lower tier, Dirge of Death’s Silence is still a highly suggestive and imaginative work of black metal.
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Satan’s Host

Satan’s Host was formed by USPM vocalist Harry Conklin of Jag Panzer fame. Where many bands transition from Death/Black Metal to Power Metal, Satan’s Host sought to reverse the stereotype by transitioning to Black Metal with vocalist Elixir. Eventually Conklin would return and they would attempt to find balance between modern Extreme Metal and NWOBHM in the style of Angel Witch. Though the mindset of an old dog attempting to learn new tricks is admirable, Satan’s Host never seemed to quite understand the source material that would inspire the majority of their long career.
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Incantation – Intro Riff to ‘Golgotha’

The first riff off “Golgotha” is a fitting introduction to the madness of the early composition of Incantation. It is abrasively confrontational yet more detailed than what its immediacy initially hints at- although the listener is confronted with the familiarity of power chord accents and tremolo picked notes, the arrangement presents an inversion of death metal tropes that echoes the blasphemous lyrical content of the band. (more…)

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A Metalhead’s Journey to the Light

By Cullen Toner

Many have expressed emotions of extreme shock and awe after discovering the explicitly Christian lyrics and aesthetics of my newest album, Deus Vult. How could I, the former singer/songwriter of New Jersey’s most popular Satanic band, find God and religion after 15 years of playing in bands with misanthropic, anti-Christian themes? What would cause a complete 180 degree change in lifestyle, a complete about-face in world view? And why would I recklessly proclaim such a change in heart to a world of black and death metal that would so surely respond in confusion, mockery, and utter malice?

To even consider the answers requires a great deal of courage and intellect, as most in the world of extreme metal have extensively conditioned themselves to the idea that metal, in all of its rebelliousness, is the antithesis to Christianity. But since the spirit of metal is one that has historically challenged authority and convention in a quest for deeper truth, those who truly understand its foundation will not cower from the mere suggestion of radical thought. And to those to I can assure that a long quest for logic and wisdom has unexpectedly led me at the foot of the upright cross. Not only did this provide happiness and fulfillment for the first time, but the foundation for meaning and purpose that many metalheads are currently in a vast search for.

In an attempt to explain as objectively as I can, this is how I came to embrace Christianity as my faith, and what it meant for my relationship with metal music.

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Brett Stevens: “We’re a Threat to the Narrative”

In his first interview since the annoying DDOS attacks of sad vandalist loser Tulio Baars, alpha badass DMU founder Brett Stevens sits down with Identity Rising Podcast to discuss why his sites became the most dangerous on the internet.  Also discussed is the evolution and future of the dissident right, the Detroiting of society, and a newfound quest of the Alt Right to restore Western civilization.  The pair briefly touch on the miserable leftists who hired Tulio and their odd decision to go after Death Metal Underground instead of, I don’t know, actual hate sites?

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