Macabre Omen – Gods of War – At War (2015)

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During black metal’s most creatively fertile period in the early 1990s, a handful of Greek musicians forged an alternative musical path noticeably different from that of their Nordic peers. Their efforts would subsequently crystallize into the Hellenic black metal sound or style.

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Marko Laiho – Ambient RH020151A (2016)

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Death Metal Underground staffers Lance Viggiano and Corey M. reviewed Marko Laiho’s new ambient mix he created for Radio Helsinki.

Marko Laiho’s forays into electronic music can be described as anything but explorations of the myth of the machine. Though his aesthetic pallet draws from future invocations – anything we say of the future is always about the present – he blurs the line between the biological and mechanical unlike so much of the greater genre proper. For this mix, created for Radio Helsinki, the bohemian devil troubadour crafts an enveloping near-ambient journey using samples of original work and that of other artists as well. The success or failure of music in this mode is dependent entirely upon pacing over the course of an unbroken set which in this case does not falter. Broken into halves, the latter is more recessed while the former is more pronounced.

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Gorgoroth – Instinctus Bestialis (2015)

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Article by Anton Rudrick.

One clear sign that a band’s direction is compromised can be seen through unity of style. In this case, we see Gorgoroth lacking a clear voice of their own, in place of which Instinctus Bestialis offers three main ways of constructing sections and a rather pop-oriented way of building whole songs. The first is a bare bones neoclassical melodic method using two guitars, which is an interesting addition to traditionally more modal and harmonically chromatic genres such as death and black metal. Due to the foreign nature of these, the incorporation can be quite delicate and ought to be treated with the utmost care. The second is a collection of standard modern metal tropes ranging from the rhythmic intonations of deathcore with a low-string chug riff, probably inherited from the most prosaic speed metal. Last is the most important of the three in a rather unexpected choice in anthemic heavy metal, which happens to be the customary choice for commercial metal acts which have become barren of inspiration and direction.

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We Are Still Here (2015)

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Attempting to enter the bloated and mostly neurotic horror genre as it stands in 2016, We Are Still Here combines two genres: atmospheric horror and intense, violent supernatural horror. Expect a long buildup of an increasing sense of being unnerved, punctuated by moments of explosive terror, which ties into a simple storyline which pits humankind against its own worst impulses.

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Violent Opposition – Violently Enforced Poverty (2015)

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Violent Opposition presents a one-man grindcore assault that upstages the milquetoast nature of recent underground music. This one musician plays the Jesus out of each instrument with raw pure aggression. The bass and drums are punchy and give the recording a lot of energy and verve. His song names are realist and take a strong stand against empire and against state sponsored violence.

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Swords of Steel (2015)

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Article by Corey M.

Featuring several authors from many backgrounds including members of metal bands Manilla Road and Solstice, Swords of Steel is an exciting collection of short stories that are for the most part squarely rooted in the tradition of serialized weird fiction.

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Demonic Slaughter – Dark Paths to Catharsis (2015)

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Article by David Rosales.

Dark Paths to Catharsis an album clearly intended to be atmospheric black metal, perhaps even a little too intentionally. Its method is of the so-called ‘melodic’ type, describing long, simple melodies played with tremolo picking, a backing power chord guitar, supporting bass, and mid-paced double-bass drums. The vocals are not entirely screeches though, being more a sort of angry dad-rock that is only mildly raspy in style. There are two major problems with the orientation and the structure-building method in Dark Paths to Catharsis: first of all, it is style-oriented; second, it replaces order with feeling.

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Hooded Menace – Darkness Drips Forth (2015)

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Article by David Rosales.

When music is taken as communication, as a nurture of the soul, or even as a kind of magic then small details such as the name a band chooses for itself can forebode promise or ultimate triviality. The reason for this is that music, when taken as an integral enterprise, exudes the intention and capabilities of those who give birth to it. Hooded Menace’s name does not show much imagination but perhaps a rather superficial or commercial line of thinking. The title of their album, Darkness Drips Forth, isn’t much better. These suggest a lack of definition or the non-existence of a deeper wealth of thought.

In any case, the music comes first; prejudices must be set aside so that the stream of notes can dance unhindered. The structural approach of Hooded Menace’s doom metal is actually fairly convincing, and technically speaking, the composer-like qualities of whoever is writing the songs are sharp. The music is flowing, the passages never overstay or pass by too quickly, the dynamics of adjacent sections make sense together and their discourse feels natural enough. Individually, each section is tasteful though none is particularly original or distinctive. At first it may appear as if Hooded Menace may be the exception to the rule that one is supposedly bound to bump into sooner or later. Or are they?

Listening through this release and keeping in mind what has “happened” minutes before in the song, one starts to see that the content kept changing, but somehow hasn’t really gone anywhere. What is the problem then? Intuitive alarms such as this, when justified, must be grounded in concrete causes. The band had effectively avoided the carnival syndrome, it made use of motifs in linking sections — but only locally. This isn’t bad on its own, magnificent works based on the variations template have graced our ears in the past.

The problem is slightly different from song to song. The songs are not bound together by a common aura. They may go from a lethargic groove to a happy melody, but this is minimal. Some to flounder between a nondescript extreme metal counterpoint between the guitars to a Disturbed-like groove, only to return to something more characteristic of typical of doom metal. Far more detrimental to the aura is the relatively static sense of the harmony, constantly returning to the root and never, even for a second, leaving that tonal space  except for overt and obvious effect. This is predictable and even vulgar. When you put these two together — imprecise style and weakly phrased, boring harmony — you have a recipe for subversively monotonous and superficial music.

Autechre – AE_LIVE (2015)

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Article by Lance Viggiano

Autechre began their lifecycle inspired by Kraftwerk’s robot-pop composed of complex layers of simple motifs transformed into dialogues in which each layer of sound appeared to be communicating with each other, resulting in intricate music that often sounded emotionally distant yet alluring and rewarding. This approach has been refined through later work by removing the individuality of each motif, stripping it of meaning and self-purpose; and instead crafting living wholes out of simplistic cells. With the AE_LIVE release, Autechre present a novel concept that was originally released as a four-part series and since has been expanded to nine separate compositions averaging around an hour each. For the sake of sanity and brevity, this review will focus on the original four performances.

Each performance is procession of distinct tracks whose form and aesthetic are pre-composed. The basic structure and sonic palette unfold in a live setting through improvisation resulting in a collection of compositions which are distinct but unified. The thing-in-itself is inaccessible and can only be approached through a variety of perspectives. Autechre manifest the underlying urge of each track through indeterminate duration, rhythmic and harmonic variance. The compositions contain no narrative arcs which may frustrate the listener however life itself is equally devoid of historical arcs, shapes of time, purpose, and rationality. If we can abstract a theme out of each manifestation it is the inner and outer turmoil of living a human life. The subject-object relationship to this work is different between listeners, therefore the meaning of the art is subject to variety since we do not have access to the inner contents.

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Man’s primal, aggressive, and marauding nature is the subject of this composition. This experience is the most immediate of the original four and simplest to grasp for those used to musical tour de force. Exuberant synth erupttions are followed by moments of hesitation through cascading bass creating an abstract representation of threat, uncertainty, and sudden response. The rhythms often invoke a steady elevated heartbeat over which sharp patterns clash and dissolve. Autechre explore their early dialectic style in the compositions coda but instead of a conversational tone, invoke a confrontational quality. Elements compete with one another, increasingly at odds and less integrated as the whole piece winds down into an uncertain and exhausted conclusion.

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The most dance and groove oriented take is predominantly physical in nature. The focus is on the body and its motion. Autechre push the limits of danceable rhythm which in turn challenges the body to remain in step with the ever-shifting cadence of life.

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The most sparse and introspective variation. Track transitions are less abrupt while the whole retains more interdependence than the other pieces fitting for a contemplative journey. Autechre sort their mental contents in a relaxed meter. However, the character of the patterns are no less tumultuous and bombastic than the others.

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External and visceral. Washes of ambience linger in the background giving off an impression of a subject traversing a landscape. This contains the most abrupt and forced transitions. A lack of fluidity is reminiscent of the rush of chaotic and divided sensory imagery washes over listeners who find themselves in unfamiliar places, isolated, without familiarity or a rational center.

AE_LIVE may be purchased from the AE_STORE