Kaeck‘s Stormkult, The Best Underground Metal Album of 2015, is coming to vinyl courtesy of Heathen Tribes. The vinyl LP will feature remastered sound with a little less mud and a tad more room overhead. The LP will come in gatefold packaging befitting the lyrical and compositional themes. It will be strictly limited to 200 copies. If you are a black metal analog fanatic and miss out, you will be sorry for sure.
Havukruunu, despite their Burzum like cover, worship Bathory‘s Blood Fire Death and 1980s synth pop on Kelle Surut Soi. Havukruunu attempt the folk choruses, epic atmosphere, and melodic solos as Quorthon did in his successful attempt at mixing black and speed metal. Unfortunately for my ears, Havukruunu are not so successful on Kelle Surut Soi.
Sepultura‘s Morbid Visions is my favorite thirty year old album. Released in Brazil on November 10th, 1986, Morbid Visions saw Sepultura slither past the primitive Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Sodom worship of their initial Bestial Devastation extended play (included as a bonus on almost all CD versions of Morbid Visions) and into ultraviolent, progressive but still primitive, death and black metal.
The mentally ill delude themselves into believing they’re something they’re not and expect the rest of the world to fall in line with their fantastical psychosis. The Death Metal Underground staff doesn’t.
Article (obviously) by David Rosales
Five years have elapsed since 2010, a year that seemed to mark a slight renewal in creative forces, a kind of premonition of a metal renaissance that came after 15 years of horrid decadence following the decease of black metal as a movement. By 2013 this force was still incipient but already showed potential for future development as acts with more refined views about composition grounded themselves in tradition, promising to build monuments to a past glory for future times. Musicians from the metal underground’s classical era also formed the bulk of this rebirth, either through perfection or purification of their own take on the art.
The last two years have seen a manner of steady output that is weakened in quantity of quality releases, little manifest presence to speak of, with a few exceptions. The same can be said of the years between 2010 and 2013. This seems to be in accordance with a 3-year pendulum swing as the small cycle of metal. The long one probably signaling stronger points of birth and decay – probably decades: 1970-birth, 1980-underground, 1990-golden era, 2000-dark ages, 2010-renaissance.
It was a different time, and when Slayer, Metallica and Iron Maiden were doing their thing at the beginning of the 1980s, metal was also at a mainstream high with many poopoo acts dominating the scene. When mainstream metal drowns in its filth at the end of the decade and the 90s leave them with unmetal metal like Pantera or Soundgarden is when the underground rears its head in greater numbers.This coincides a little with what is happening now, as nu-funderground and mainstream whoring like female-fronted so-called metal flourishes in numbers just as the shock rock and glam metal (hard rock) plague in the time of Slayer.
To make matters more complicated, we have the internet, along with other means of communication and technology that allow for pockets of both good and bad music to survive with less regard to overall trends. Metal is not yet at another apocalyptic end of an era like the one that saw the explosion of death metal, we may have to wait another decade for that, but there is rise not dissimilar to the rise of underground NWOBHM and soon after speed metal. The next ebbing of the tide is at hand, but not yet its climax. What changes is not the fact that there is or there isn’t more mainstream crap, but how much excellent underground music there is. The year 1990 was a very special time marker that signaled the advent of a climax low for the mainstream and climax high for the underground.
Now, that we posit the existence of such critical years does not mean that no excellent albums occur outside of them, but that there is a sort of genre-wide, or community-wide, perhaps, pulse that pushes general tendencies. Now, according to this idea, the next “big year” in the small cycle would be 2016. Below we give an overview of these so-called big years and some band releases we are looking forward to this year.
What are your expectations in metal releases in 2016?
A quick reference to distinguished metal works in the ‘pulse’ years. Not especially comprehensive.
- Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
1974: (Not really metal, Black Sabbath is WAY ahead)
- Deep Purple – Stormbringer
- Rush – Rush
- King Crimson – Red (Editor’s note: Probably closer in spirit to future metal than others)
- Judas Priest – Sin After Sin
- Motörhead – Motörhead
- Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
- Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell
- Angel Witch – Angel Witch
- Cirith Ungol – Cirith Ungol
- Metallica – Kill ‘Em All
- Slayer – Show No Mercy
- Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
- Mercyful Fate – Melissa
- Manilla Road – Crystal Logic
- Manowar – Into Glory Ride
- Slayer – Reign in Blood
- Metallica – Master of Puppets
- Kreator – Pleasure to Kill
- Morbid Angel – Abominations of Desolation
- Sepultura – Morbid Visions
- Fates Warning – Awaken the Guardian
- Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
- Sepultura – Beneath the Remains
- Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness
- Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos
- Voivod – Nothingface
- Helstar – Nosferatu
- Powermad – Absolute Power
- Rigor Mortis – Freaks
- Pestilence – Consuming Impulse
- Burzum – Burzum
- At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
- Demigod – Slumber of Sullen Eyes
- Morpheus Descends – Ritual of Infinity
- Therion – Beyond Sanctorum
- Sinister – Cross the Styx
- Amorphis – The Karelian Isthmus
- Deicide – Legion
- Incantation – Onward to Golgotha
- Atrocity – Longing for Death
- Autopsy – Mental Funeral
- Cadaver – …In Pains
- Asphyx – Last One on Earth
- Cenotaph – The Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows
- Darkthrone – A Blaze in the Northern Sky
- Emperor – Wrath of the Tyrant
- Graveland – In the Glare of Burning Churches
- Immortal – Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism
- Sacramentum – Finis Malorum
- Skepticism – Stormcrowfleet
- Suffocation – Pierced from Within
- Vader – De Profundis
- Gorgoroth – The Antichrist
- Graveland – Thousand Swords
- Summoning – Minas Morgul
- Deicide – Once Upon the Cross
- Sacramentum – Far Away from the Sun
- Immortal – Battles in the North
- Abigor – Nachthymmen (From the Twilight Kingdom)
- Funeral – Tragedies
- Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane
- Iced Earth – Burnt Offerings
- Gorguts – Obscura
- Vader – Black to the Blind
Incantation – Diabolical Conquest
- Dawn – Slaughtersun
- Sorcier des Glaces – Snowland
- Angelcorpse – Exterminate
- Blind Guardian – Nightfall in Middle-Earth
- Symphony X – Twilight of the Gods
- Rhapsody – Symphony of Enchanted Lands
- Suffocation – Despise the Sun
- Absurd – Asgardsrei
- Soulburn – Feeding on Angels
- Arghoslent – Galloping Through the Battle Ruins
- Master – Faith is in Season
- Skepticism – Lead and Aether
- Gorguts – From Wisdom to Hate
- Absu – Tara
- Martyr – Extracting the Core
- Lost Horizon – Awakening the World
- Deeds of Flesh – Mark of the Legion
- Averse Sefira – Battle’s Clarion
- Graveland – Raise Your Sword!
- Krieg – The Black Plague
- Avzhia – The Key of Throne
- Quo Vadis – Defiant Imagination
- Blotted Science – The Machinations of Dementia
- Avzhia – In My Domains
- Krieg – The Isolationist
- Burzum – Belus
- Divine Eve – Vengeful and Obstinate
- Atlantean Kodex – The Golden Bough
- Graveland – Cold Winter Blades
- Profanatica – Disgusting Blasphemies Against God
- Autopsy – The Tomb Within
- Overkill – Iron Bound
- Decrepitaph – Beyond the Cursed Tombs
- Black Sabbath – 13
- Condor – Nadia
- Graveland – Thunderbolts of the Gods
- Satan – Life Sentence
- Argus – Beyond the Martyrs
- Autopsy – Headless Ritual
- Profanatica – Thy Kingdom Cum
- Imprecation – Satanae Tenebris Infinita
- Deströyer 666? (Editor’s note: I have my doubts about this one’s possible… transcendence)
Furious melodic black metal band Sammath, who meld elegant melodies with unrelenting aggression in the style of Immortal Battles in the North, will release its most recent album Godless Arrogance on pro-tape in the USA through Sylvan Screams Analog. Starting next week, copies of this legendary black metal revivalist album will make their way into stores and mailboxes across the New World.
Comments Sammath mastermind Jan Kruitwagen: “Three months after the CD and vinyl release via Hammerheart and a few weeks after the European tape release, Sammath proudly anounces Godless Arrogance on tape in the USA via Sylvan Screams Analog.” For more information about Sammath, visit the Sammath website.
Sammath first battered its way into black metal with the 1999 album Strijd which immediately turned heads for its archly inhuman beauty and crashing violence. This album expanded upon demos from several years before which were slowly refined before release, leading to a fully mature first album, which Sammath followed with three more albums before perfecting the fusion of its progressive, melodic and primal aggressive elements in Godless Arrogance.
If the architecture of the great Gothic cathedral, with its upward arches, towering spires and cosmic domes laden with images of the suffering divinity on this earthly realm, had been constructed as a kind of sacral road sign to the eternal paradise beyond, then the music of Ras Algethi’s demo is a fitting soundtrack of cathartic expression, a release from the pain and misery of the mortal existence. Like the immortal Oneiricon – The White Hypnotic album to follow, ‘Oblita Divinitas’ relies heavily on the sounds of the mighty organ for it’s intensity as an imposing beacon of death, magnifying the mournful, melodic patterns that guide the listener through the distinct passages of these songs. Where the organ picks up on the general idea of a riff that’s introduced first, the guitars go on to elaborate this phrase in an almost improvisational, though highly restrained, story-telling manner. The bigger picture develops more gradually – far more slowly and funereal than the full-length – and the organs and percussion eventually give way to the austere logic of the main riff, with clever variations that manipulate this momentary freedom from time and space, or blissful acoustic passages that prolong and reflect in it (anticipating ‘When Fire is Father’, one of the most memorable songs on ‘Oneiricon’), before the other instruments return in an emphatic transition, taking the music to an even deeper level of suffering. Ras Algethi show a very mature compositional style from the onset, not just giving a vague sensation of sadness, but carefully detailing the journey with a reference point of possibly going beyond the world that causes it, re-addressing this emotion as a painful longing for release. –ObscuraHessian
Ghoulish, ethereal and enwrapped in a magnetic tape production reeking of ancient tombs and broken 4-trackers, Helheim’s vision of industrial black metal is far more elemental than the connotations of that description during the last decade. As with the primitivist throbbing drum machines of Mysticum and the ambient blankets of Sort Vokter, the aim is ritual-hypnotic music which does not try to spice up black metal in order to make it more comforting or exciting; instead, it challenges one’s concentration by looping, returning and rewiring little fragments and pieces of riff in powerful early Norwegian black metal language, conducted by the raging screams of the now-deceased vocalist Jon A. Bjerk. The svastika simulacrum depicted on the cover highlights the natural difference with the smoother approach of the other Helheim of the same era, famed mostly for the vagrant mythological epics of “Jormundgand” – this Helheim rather spits in the face of the observed tradition in order to bring forth the subconscious terror of life and death that has been embedded in the mythos of all ancient cultures and bring across a pertinent message to the civilization (macrocosmically) and the black metal of our time (microcosmically). –Devamitra
Remember how disappointed you were the last time you heard a new Varathron or Rotting Christ album? If the same lack of consistency and effort permeates other areas of Greek society, them having descended from the mythic glory of Athene into debts and poverty needs hardly the prophetic eye of Cassandra to fully explain. As in Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel “American Gods” the lost European deities are found prowling the Wisconsin backwoods, Chicago based Alioth’s mystical and sensual tribute to Hellenic black metal ca. 1993 is admirably not only a continuation of the electric technoid dynamo drumbeat and an application of the palm muted speed and doom riffs in esoteric underground context; it’s also a highly logically strung sequence of moods as if the physical organization of pain and pleasure in a Dionysian ritual theatre, succumbing with the heavy held back moments of “The Channeling” and “Apocryphal Dimensions” and rising through the interludial “Invocation” and “Invocation II” to softly expire orgasmic relaxation. So much could be created out of this basic concept that it’s a pity the full-length album has remained cloaked in the depths of the primal sea, while Wargoat Obscurum iterates far less subtle (and far less interesting) metal with Cult of Daath. –Devamitra
Goreaphobia’s debut album wouldn’t have been quite so eagerly anticipated without a strong back catalogue of minor releases such as the ‘Morbidious Pathology’ demo, which provides an unexpected listening experience if Mortal Repulsion is the only recording you’ve heard from the band. Where the full-length communicates visions from the abyss through the blank eyes of an old mystic locked in a lucid dreaming state, this demo is full of enough youthful energy to express the paranoia of a thousand souls trapped within the claustrophobic confines of their own mortality. Variations in riffs reflect these tightly packed structures, seeming to progress with not so much a linear logic than the re-arranging of parts of the whole, like limbs being removed from a body and sewn on to somewhere else entirely until the true grotesqueness of humanity is revealed. As with Mortal Repulsion, despite the physical connections to Incantation, there is a stronger similarity to the craftsmanship of Immolation and albums that would come in later years, such as the complex and disjointed but melodically evocative Here in After. The lead guitar work, though highly restrained, possesses a sense of neoclassical refinement that bridges some short-burst riffage with eloquent but totally disturbing solos. This demo shows the beginnings of an all too rare experiment in Death Metal where you can observe the maturation of a consistant idea as it goes through the turmoil of a tortured, temporal existence. –ObscuraHessian
It’s not difficult to understand the distaste that Darken has for the recordings commited to tape during Graveland’s infancy in the light of his recent catalogue of pristine, epic and Atlantaean creations. Some distance away from the expansive scenes of battlefields and expressions of Romantic nationalism, this ancient offering from the living master of Pagan Black Metal is totally shrouded in a necrotic production, like ghostly shadows moving through oaken forests, casting a spell within more cloistered and Druidic surroundings than the output of Graveland from the past 15 years. Alongside the visions that created the force of Scandinavian Black Metal in the early 90′s, this demo represents the reclusive and misanthropic esotericism of that era, especially the primality of the lowest fidelity cults, Beherit and Ildjarn. Sounding like the work of a punk ostracised by that increasingly over-socialised group for being too idealistic and inhuman, Darken conjures a lurid interpretation of hypnotic Bathorean riffing that develops through the echoing of majestic, synthesised voices that open this recording as though a prologue to ‘The Celtic Winter’. The experimentation with primitivism in ‘Drunemeton’ is so deconstructionist that the guitar technique becomes fragmented completely and subordinated to reveal gloomy ambient moods that amplify the silence of a forest at night before the dawn of battle. There’s a similarity to the Beherit song ‘Nuclear Girl’ in how the guitar is used more like a sample, reverberating it’s texture through the keyboards to emphasise a cloistered sensation, accompanied by monastic chants at other times. Culminating in the ambient classic, ‘The Forest of Nemeton’, this demo is the successful beginnings of Graveland’s exploration into unconventional and nihilistic territory beneath the folky phrasing of guitar-led melodic work, which would shape the dynamic of his entire discography to follow. –ObscuraHessian
Fifteen years ago, we were too proud and lofty to listen to it, our sensory devices soothed and inflamed by Panzerfaust, Battles in the North and Høstmørke, while the new generation of neo-progressive and mainstream black metal bands sought to enrapture even wider audiences with movie soundtrack influenced keyboards and angelic female voice conjured by fat-bottomed gothic tarts. For the atmospheric maniacs only, as it’s hard to argue for its musicality against the likes of Vikingligr Veldi; but the epic wanderlust and distorted pagan death ritual of this demo’s centerpiece, “Fimbulwinter”, unfolding like a flower at dawn or the psychedelic mandala of LSD invading brain receptors, is one of the pure innocent and mesmerizing gems of underground black metal in this sacred and forsaken era. The primal Isvind-esque melody dance like ripples of waves on a forest pond, the hissing tracker production complete with the macabre clack of a drum machine and the dampness of a Nordic bedroom cellar permeate the recording to such a thickness of adolescent black metal fury that it’s hardly palatable to generic audiences then and now. Barely a trace of the fast norsecore of the more familiar debut album Kill For Satan is noticeable here, the only similarity being the guitarist Draugluin’s technique of bricklike tremolo chord architecture where rhythm plays little importance. While primitive, this compositional method bears an intrinsic beauty which is worthy of recapitulation when the pure augustness of early Norwegian black metal has mostly become forgotten in favour of seemingly more rich and elaborate indie stylings. –Devamitra
Academic acceptance of metal accelerates through conferences dedicated to studying metal, professors teaching about heavy metal, investigations of links between heavy metal and religion, and the launch of an international journal for studying metal.
While the metal community may not have found a position on this change as of yet, the very fact of its existence is startling to those of us who experienced metal in the 1980s or 1990s, when society viewed us as outcasts of a likely deranged, intoxicated, criminal and Satanic nature. From the censorship battles of the 1980s, when the Parent’s Music Resource Center (PMRC) attempted to prevent younger people from acquiring metal in record stores and tried to legislate a requirement for lyrical content warning stickers on metal records, to the 1990s bourgeois bohemians wrinkling upper lips at the impolitic and feral nature of metal, society hasn’t liked us.
Luckily, academics don’t see it that way and have forged ahead with metal study, coinciding with a massive “hipness” of metal in the mainstream press and hipster underground. Metalheads might find this interesting because academic study can balance out what social pressures amplify.
We are fortunate to have Dr. Karl Spracklen, Professor of Leisure Studies at Leeds Beckett University, here to tell us more about his projects, the International Society for Metal Music Studies, its conference, and its journal.
Why study heavy metal?
Heavy metal is an important part of modern culture and everyday life, so studying heavy metal enables us to understand both of those things. For me, the interesting thing about heavy metal is the tension between metal’s strong sense of being part of a non-mainstream subculture, and metal’s place in the industry of modern pop and rock music. That’s because I’m essentially a sociologist. Other heavy metal scholars might be interested in the way the music is constructed, or the meaning behind song lyrics, or the history of the scene, or the use of heavy metal as a philosophy or ideology of life. Heavy metal is just a subject field, a lens, through which we can think about problems in other academic disciplines.
You’ve created Metal Music Studies to in part serve as “a bridge between the Academy and the wider genre of metal music writing.” What is the wider genre of metal music writing?
People like you — we want the journal to be read and used by journalists and writers who are fans and critics of heavy metal. We want people from outside the university system, non-academics, to read the academic papers but also get involved in writing articles for the journal themselves. There will be a separate section in the journal for shorter pieces that are not written in the standard, academic style: articles that are more polemical, or articles that respond to key issues in the metal scene,
Do you think academia has been hostile to metal in the past, or simply seen it as being part of the amorphous cloud of “rock” without an identity of its own?
I think there have been academics who have been very dismissive of heavy metal in the past, people who have seen the music as serving no good purpose in everyday life. I think for many of these critics, their own prejudices and tastes have got in the way: metal has always had that blue-collar association, and some cultural academics still can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the diversity and depth of the genre. There are also some academics who think heavy metal is a great evil, and we still see some papers written that claim metal fans are more likely to be criminals and so on. This is just bad science, but every time someone publishes these crude generalisations the press picks up the story. This journal is the journal of the International Society for Metal Music Studies. This learned society is partly for academics who have a professional interest in metal, but also those in the industry who want to be a part of Metal Music Studies, including musicians and journalists, and fans. You should join up. When you do, you will get a subscription to the journal. And all your readers should join! (Advert over.)
You’re taking an inter-disciplinary approach as opposed to a pure musicological one. What are the advantages of this approach, and does metal uniquely require them?
Inter-disciplinarity is the only way you can create a subject field such as metal music studies. If all you do is focus on one discipline you miss half the interest, half the story, and half the explanation. Just think about how and why death metal appeared on the scene in the 1980s. Part of it was technological, such as the practice of certain producers and studios; part of it was musicological, such as the evolution of certain vocal styles, riffs and beats; and part of it was social, a reaction by bands and fans against the mainstream metal of the day. Heavy metal is not unique in requiring inter-disciplinarity to explore it: sport and leisure are other possible subjects of this kind of work, and there are many others.
When you speak of the journal publishing “high-quality, world-class research, theory,” what do you mean by “theory”?
When we mention theory we are suggesting we will publish academic papers that develop new theories about heavy metal, or that use heavy metal to develop new theories in their parent disciplines. A lot of academic work is research (investigating stuff), but not all of it, and we’d like to see papers on theory as well as papers based on new research.
What sort of topics would one research in metal? Does this include statistical approaches?
There are hundreds of possible research topics in metal! In Metal Music Studies, we will be interested in research about the music itself, the industry, the fans, the spaces, the lyrics, the metal media, metal in wider society, metal in different countries, genres, philosophies, histories, ideologies, the politics of metal, metal events, metal and globalisation, just to list a few obvious research topics that come to mind. My own academic interest in heavy metal is the local extreme metal scene in the north of England, elitism in black metal and the ways in which the Norwegian BM scene of the early 1990s has been mythologised.
How important do you think it is to study the history of metal? Does this include the context in which these musicians formulated their music?
The history of metal is a crucial part of metal music studies — and yes, this is musicological history as well as social or cultural history.
Do you think it is appropriate to view metal as a form of deliberate and purposeful art, or more as an entertainment product which reflects community attitudes?
Heavy metal is both of those things, sometimes at the same time, but not always. That’s the reason why it is an interesting subject of study. People in the scene, musicians and fans, talk about heavy metal being something artistically important and culturally authentic, something that stands against everything we dislike about mainstream pop music. But so much of heavy metal is part of that mainstream, and even death and black metal are shaped by the forces of commerce.
What, in your view, is the dividing line between “metal” and “rock”?
Metal is one louder. Actually, there isn’t a clear dividing line, and for many people I think there is a smooth transition. For the purposes of the journal, we will allow histories of rock music as they shed light on metal’s evolution. We will probably also allow in scene studies where there is a connection between rock and metal fans, in the same way we will publish research on the intersections between metal and punk, or metal and goth music.
Do you personally listen to heavy metal? Does study of metal require enjoying metal, and/or does enjoying metal lend anything to the study?
Yes, I listen to a lot of heavy metal, mainly black metal and doom, and local bands from the north of England. I try to get out to gigs when something comes around worth travelling for: the last gig I was at was Enslaved in Manchester, England, with the mighty Winterfylleth in support. I think being a metalhead myself allows me to understand the nuances of the scene, its history and the music. I think that makes my research have a certain depth to it. But I do think it’s quite possible to do research on heavy metal and not personally like it.
Many people view metal fans as people who are social outcasts who are unlikely to pursue education. Why do you think metal fans are so alienated? Do you think your research will bridge this gulf as well?
I think that stereotype about the average metal fans is out-dated. I think metal fans tend to be very intelligent people, and that’s why they are drawn to the music. I’m hoping the journal and the International Society for Metal Music Studies will prove that there are metal fans who are able to articulate their passion for the music while remaining critical and measured.
Are there any sources in the metal community who are doing what you are doing?
None that I know about.
Who are your forebears in this field? What is the history of academic involvement in metal?
Robert Walser and Deena Weinstein were the key academics who first proved that heavy metal was worthy of serious academic study. Keith Kahn-Harris has been important in championing the field.
Prof. Martin Jacobsen is teaching an English class at WTAMU about metal lyrics, and Prof. Josef Hanson is teaching a metal musicological course at University of Rochester. Are you aware of these? How would this type of activity fit in with what you’re doing, and vice-versa?
I wasn’t aware of these, but I’m not surprised. I use metal in my own classes on the sociology of leisure.
Can you tell us more about the upcoming journal, including when it will be available, and what sorts of things to expect in it?
The new journal’s first issue will be out at the end of 2014. The content of the journal will demonstrate the range of metal music studies, so an ideal issue would include perhaps some of the following (these are just ideas, and this is not an actual list of contents):
- research published by a range of established names, early career researchers and those from parent disciplines;
- research on the performance and production of metal;
- research on the analysis of metal lyrics;
- research on new sub-genres and fandom;
- research on the evolution of heavy metal from rock music;
- ethnographic research on a metal scene in Kenya;
- research on the aesthetics of metal;
- research on the social psychology of death metal growling;
- and smaller pieces discussing whether black metal is dead or alive, written by a print journalist and a blogger.
- The bulk of the content will be original research and theory papers (6-10k size), alongside smaller articles/opinion pieces (1-3k) devoted to discussion of metal by ‘serious’ non-academics (journalists, fans and industry insiders).
- There will also be book reviews.
How does one join the ISMMS?
At the moment ISMMS does not have membership, as it is not yet set up officially and legally with the authorities in the States. Amber Clifford is the Treasurer so her email contact should be used for anyone who wants to join the Society. When the paperwork is finalised membership details will be confirmed via the ISMMS web-site, the Metpol mailing list, the ISMMS Facebook page and other channels.
Do you accept submissions from people who are not academics, merely metalheads or metal journalists?
The journal will accept submissions from independent scholars and non-academics, and the society will accept such people as members. There will be a separate section in the journal for shorter papers that will allow non-academics to contribute, but there is nothing to stop independent scholars submitting full papers – all full papers will be subject to peer review against the usual standards of academic writing. We want to encourage such contributions.
What can a metal band do to make it easier for them to be studied? Is there a place, for example, where well-known metal bands can sign up to be part of a study, or to put their stamp of approval on the project?
There isn’t a place where metal bands can sign up to be part of research studies — sounds like a great idea, actually! In terms of endorsements, we are hoping some high-profile musicians and band will sign up to the Society and support its aims, and maybe even write in the journal.
We’re all used to “black metal bands from North America” meaning something more hilarious than any hollywood sitcom, but a few bands have stood out over the years in their ability to keep with a task and develop their music according to a personal musical vision. From the sprawling concrete hell of the inland empire, bane shared a few moments with us to talk about their philosophy, music and methods of postmodern survival.
Bane founded right after the first rush of black metal, and you’ve waited out the last five years of stupid shit going on in the genre. What have you learned and how are you approaching your task differently?
Well we never really planned on waiting any time. We released the album when we were ready. I’m not really aware of many stupid things or many things having to do with the genre right now, other than the fact that during the last few years very few of the new or follow up releases from bands that I knew nothing of or admired greatly, have paled in comparison to work prior. It always seems that when we have moot that thought, about what’s going on, we always come to the conclusion that we all are very different people with different taste, for music, philosophy, ideology and instinct, and we are so out of the musical genre, subgenre, sub-subgenre loop. We all seem to live mentally recluse only to come together in a very interestingly creative symposium. DR
I personally didn’t care for the whole blackmetal/deathmetal battles we make brutal music for brutal people with hope to enlighten a few the whole pissing contest is stupid just fucking play brutal music. We didn’t wait on our release really it was all circumstantial, we released it when we were done and happy with the outcome of our album hell we would of released it in the middle of the whole black metal rush we didn’t care.-Necro
What inspires you when looking at a conceptual place to a start the formation of a song, during the songwriting process?
We all seem to draw inspiration through different means. Lyrically we have drawn inspiration through a lot of reading, philosophy, true crime, news, retrospective thought about experiences, social and mental anxiety and relief. Musically we have had moments of pure creative flow as a symposium, and at other times we have gathered the spark of creativity through deep introspection. It’s a really wide variable we all seem to have our own unique way of bringing ideas to the table. Reggie and I at times have shared ideas digitally only to realize that organically the ideas do not work and vice versa. DR
When it comes to creating music we don’t really have a set formula. Everytime we start its from a different angle. On the upside it makes the creating each song exceptional from the rest of the songs. Because we don’t dwell on making status queue music and repeat other formulas it leaves us with more room to play with different ideas. It’s not even a process its more of an explosion [that] we try to piece back together and we find that there is a different solution to the puzzle. As far as writing lyrics, it consumes every topic we can conjure. As far as music goes, that is even more complicated. BANE keeps changing and metamorphosing the ideas all the time. Shit, just when I think its set here comes another change but it always sounds better and keeps me on my toes. I feel that because everyone in BANE is a powerful contributor of ideas from different sides of the spectrum that it leads our music to be more different everytime and it is a growth not a decline. Necro-
Friedrich Nietzsche may/may not have been a racist. How do you feel about this? (I ask as you cited him in an earlier interview, and I always find this question intriguing)
I am of the explorer type, I don’t tend to lend my values to other peoples words, I search for interesting points of views, inspiring points of views I tend not to judge people by their color of creed so much as by their actions and thoughts. I’m not a racist nor do I really care whether Nietzche or Gobineau were. Racism is such a petty thing for people to base hatred upon. Leave the hate for religion…lol… DR
I think when it came to Nietzche’s writings people took the interpretation with what they already had in mind. You get a skinhead to read Nietzche he’ll tell you the superman was the Arian race, you take a dreamer to read the same thing he’ll tell you the superman was comic book hero. People are gonna take what’s already contaminating their heads and interpret Disney flicks metaphorical speaking of the SS Reich 2003. I agree with David that racism is a petty thing to base hate on [as] there are way more justifiable reasons to hate for instance stupidity. Necro-
Friedrich Nietzsche stated that liberalism, Christianity and Judaism were the greatest enemies of humankind. Do you agree?
I think that ignoramus thought(that’s one hell of an oxymoron), is our greatest social enemy, whether it stem from liberalism, christianity or judaism. DR
Ignorance is definitely a killer, but far worse when the truth is in front of you and you fail to see it or you see it, acknowledge it and then deny it. The one thing that’s more threatening to humanity than stupidity is stupidity with out the desire to learn. I don’t know I think bell bottoms are pretty threatening too, along with Mc Donalds food, it’s threatening, and lets not forget the evil and vile vegans; they threaten humanity don’t you think David? Necro-
What angers you the most about the church?
To be completely honest, religion really doesn’t really bother me so much anymore, it’s one of those things that we are just to small to do anything about. Religion to me has become that pesky little mold that clings to your shower tile crevices that you become accustomed to ignore. And when you do decide to muster up some will to scrub your little fanny off in attempt to wipe it all out one square at a time, you realize that it’s just going to come back it better to worry about the mold in your cheese, the little we consume. DR
I can make a list and I don’t want to bother doing it right now cause I may run out of material for lyrics lol. Buy the CD and read it, my answer will be there. I think those of us who seek a higher purpose and make our own paths rather than to serve a master and have the path chosen for you, already know what is disgusting about it and even the servants of the fictional icon know that it’s disgusting they are just afraid. Hell we all know. Necro-
When all emotional responses are done with, what is your logical response to Christianity/Judaism/liberalism/et al?
Like I said……..whatever…… DR
These topics are always gonna be never ending battles with everyone. With BANE, we all seek a higher purpose than the labels you have mentioned which comes to my answer to that which is fuck it those who seek to be awakened will realize that the -ism is just another idea and must seek your own. Necro-
What do you think are the primary differences between Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, and how do you see this affecting the use of these philosophies in the modern time?
Simple…Will to live, vs. will to power, will to create. I definitely take Nietzsche’s point of view in what his perception society should be. Nietzsche’s is more the artists’ philosophy here. In a sense there would be no art if people would not empower themselves to achieve(in full disregard that their achievement will have no real affect on the outcome of what is to become of the universe and/or modern time) rather than survive. I would rather write songs than sit around and make fire or hunt all day. Schopenhauer and Spinoza=platitude. DR
I would definitely be an artist rather than just a regular John Doe. Creators are gods in their own rite. BANE is a gathering of destroyers for a better creation. To always seek for a stronger evolution. Necro-
What kind of person, intellectually or in any other vector, do you see as being drawn to Bane’s music?
Hopefully other explorer types, someone who is looking deeper, or looking to look deeper other musical artists…..but probably just a bunch of aggressive types. DR
I’ve noticed that those who see BANE for the first time or just at face value will be the aggressive type. In our hopes it would be that they seek for more than just face value. The people who are more consistent with BANE are always looking for more depth; these people are few and far between we truly hope to see more of these people. But BANE is a brutal/deathmetal band so its expected to see those engulfed with chaos but it doesn’t mean they can’t be intellectuals. In the end it doesn’t matter we all attend shows, buy CD’s, buy shirts to support the scene, we take everything with it like I’ve said before may we hail a great victory. Necro-
It has been a long road for you guys to get to the first CD release party. What were some of the obstacles, and what are you going to do once the CD is cut, to celebrate?
We haven’t had a release party for our CD’s yet, but we are in the process of arranging one pretty soon. The obstacles we had to encounter were mainly how to finance and mass produce our CD’s for the first pressing. Other personal obstacles within the band(line up changes) we’re dealt with before we began pressing the CD’s. We celebrated as a band the same weekend we’ve received our CD’s. It wasn’t anything big, mainly with acquaintances and close friends. The CD release party show is in the works and we’re contacting bands to play for this occasion. Otherwise, we’ll let ya know how the celebration went afterwards! RG
It has been a long hard road we’ve encountered more bullshit than we expected. The obstacles were many, but I think we learned a lot from it (in a very brutal fashion) but were very happy with the outcome of the CD, the direction of the band, the growth and creativity we have with each other. As far as celebrating I think we’re not done yet lol we still go nuts over it, but think as major celebration we’ll work on the next album.-Necro
Do you think that black metal bands should sing in their native language and have ethnic/cultural associations? e.g. Norwegians singing in Norwegians, Chinese in Chinese, and bands like Melechesh attacking the roots of their own culture?
They can sing whatever they want. It’s none of our business to tell what they can and can’t sing. If they’re more comfortable singing in their own language, so be it. If they’re more comfortable singing certain topics/issue in their own language, then let them do it. Let them express themselves. On the other hand, it’s rather stupid, inexpressive and even hypocritical to label one’s music like “Swedish black metal from Oregon” or “Melodic Norwegian death from Orange County.” It doesn’t work that way but, whatever tickles their pickle…RG
This topic doesn’t interest me what-so-ever. I’m bored. I’ll go to the next question.-Necro
Do you think Zionism and liberalism are inseparable, as Nietzsche does?
I don’t know that’s a tough one, I guess they both involve a lot of expectations from the ruling powers involved. Who knows. DR
Ultimately, there is an order of rank among states of the soul, and the order of rank of problems accords with this. The highest problems repulse everyone mercilessly who dares approach them without being predestined for their solution by the heigh and power of his spirituality. What does it avail when nimble smarties or clumsy solid mechanics and empiricsts push near them, as is common today, trying with their plebeian ambition to enter the “court of courts.” Upon such carpets coarse feet may never step: the primeval law of things takes care of that; the doors remain closed to such obtrusiveness, even if they crash and crush their heads against them.
For every high world one must be born; or to speak more clearly, one must be cultivated for it: a right to philosophy – taking that word in its great sense – one has only by virtue of one’s origins; one’s ancestors, one’s “blood” (Geblüt) decide here, too. Many generations must have labored to prepare the origin of the philosopher; every one of his virtues must have been acquired, nurtured, inherited, and digested singly, and not only the bold, light, delicate gift and course of his thoughts but above all the readiness for great responsibilities, the loftiness of glances that dominate and look down, feeling separated from the crowd and its duties and virtues, the affable protection and defense of whatever is misunderstood, whether it be god or devil, the pleasure and exercise of the great justice, the art of command, the width of the will, the slow eye that rarely admires, rarely looks up, rarely loves
– F.W. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Pornography was also something you mentioned in another interview. Do you feel that iconography is dangerous, as Nietzsche did? If so, how do you feel about pornography — which pulls the sex process outside of the lives which normally would generate it — is affecting your own processing of events?
I see nothing wrong with pornography. I think in a sense pornography can be helpful. Pornography gives the facility of a third person perspective, one that may help you realize a spectrum of lovemaking that you had failed to see while in the act, just like how a sports team studies its opponent before a confrontation…well maybe not exactly like that but you know what I mean …right? right? DR
LOL! I think that pornography is great. I would not put anyone down for watching it or being open about it. I believe that people feel threatened by it because they are trained to believe that sex is dirty (if it’s not dirty it’s not done right), but even in a marital point of view why do you think people cheat on each other. Maybe if people were more open about there desires there would be less infidelity, and maybe that’s what’s affecting people’s processing of events. Take it for what its worth.-Necro
Please give brief commentary on the following: Buddhism, fuzzy logic and sine curves; for extra points, unite all three concepts in the analytical method of your choice.
Well…Buddhism a very interesting philosophy, in which aspirations are to be at one with nature, with the universe, based upon “virtuous”(that’s a whole other topic) living, fuzzy logic expresses the need for a sense of between when speaking of the binary world, when speaking of strict two sidedness, and well sine curves are a way of graphing the relativity of the size of an angle to its sine…And with all that said, in a sort of grope like way, I think they all lead access to a more holistic perception of what is truth, a wider spectrum, a wider scope of what reality is or can be, that is, for someone that chooses to or realizes that a wider spectrum of perception is what they want. DR
If you had absolute knowledge, how do you think you would view sex? Pornography? Christianity? The right wing in America?
From a high place. DR
Number one how would I view sex? I’d be having more sex than viewing!
Number two how would I view pornography? Go back to answer number one.
Number three how would I view Christianity? In a fucked up way!
And number four how would I view the right wing in America? Go back to number three.lol!
I know these answers were not what you wanted but I was amused for 2 seconds.-Necro
Do you believe in reincarnation? If you are a materialist like Nietzsche, do you see there being any possible connection between nothingness or infinity, or is the only transcendence possible purely in the ideal, and of a non-“real” nature?
My Idea of what is real and achievable is and infinite goal, a long reach towards potentiality, ascension through what may be nothing really but a quest toward self realization. A goal unattainable maybe but a goal worth aspiring towards. Musically as ideally. DR
Reincarnation is funny to me like recycling souls! What does a person whom believes in reincarnation hope for? A better life the next time around? What counts is what you do here without any speculations of what might be “the after life” I would rather keep my goals in the mind and body for it’s when you can indulge in them. I agree with David that is to aspire constantly and when the goal is met set another one. To always hunger never be satisfied. Nothing wrong with enjoying vanity and the material, I wouldn’t want to be consumed by it but rather keep looking further and deeper even if its antiquated and ugly. To put my ism in a stupid fashion I want to bliss without being ignorant.-Necro
When you hear that a lot of people think something is a good idea, you
a) suspect their motives
b) trust the something
c) scream “FUCKING SHEEP!” and leave the room
d) become wary of larger forces than the individual?
E. Violently moot everything that comes out of their mouths. DR
F. First off trust nothing. Inspect and dissect the something. Watch these sheep revel in this something, as I revel in that sheep aren’t individuals and come back and realize once again that the larger forces are only the status queue mutating with the new generation of the heard and walk against the heard in hopes of figuring out how to kill the something! Necro-
Do you like any of these bands? The Crystal Method, Orbital, Biosphere, Autechre, Kraftwerk, Das Ich?
I apologize for being ignorant and out of sync with the music world outside but who, who and who?!? RG
I know of das ich im ok with this band. Necro-
What black metal bands most influenced your music?
I don’t really see our music being heavily influenced by much black metal, subconsciously, all of our strong racist hate towards the Spanish races stem from the love of Graveland though, j/k I think. Heeheehee DR
I like some black metal but I really cant define them as being any of our influences and lately I feel more influenced by my chaotic life than any other music. Necro-
It seems to me that most of metal is philosophically ignorant, excepting a few leaders. Any comment?
Music seems to be a reflection of what is going on in our environment as well as what’s going on within the ego of the being at bay. Looking to add a few notches to the philosophical spectrum of metal. DR
I hope to influence more people into philosophy, just as I hope to see more metal bands do the same for me. I always keep my search for new wisdom and knowledge hopefully people will see the same in BANE someday. All in all I thank your for challenging us with this interview. May we hail a great victory!
Thank you S R P (the GOAT!)
David Renteria (DR): Guitar
Reggie Galang (RG): Guita
Arturo Cotero: Drums
Necrolover (Necro): Vocals
From the start, Christianity was, essentially and fundamentally, the embodiment of disgust and antipathy for life, merely disguised, concealed, got up as the belief in an ‘other’ or a ‘better’ life. Hatred of the ‘world’, the condemnation of the emotions, the fear of beauty and sensuality, a transcendental world invented the better to slander this one, basically a yearning for non-existence, for repose until the ‘sabbath of sabbaths’ – all of this, along with Christianity’s unconditional resolve to acknowledge only moral values, struck me as the most dangerous and sinister of all possible manifestations of a ‘will to decline,’ at the very least a sign of the most profound affliction, fatigue, sullennes, exhaustion, impoverishment of life. For in the face of morality (particularly Christian, unconditional morality), life must constantly and inevitably be in the wrong, because life is something essentially amoral – in the end, crushed beneath the weight of contempt and eternal denial, life must be felt to be undesirable, valueless in itself. Morality itself – might morality not be a ‘will to the denial of life’, a secret instinct of annihilation, a principle of decay, trivialization, slander, the beginning of the end? And hence, the danger to end all dangers?…So then, with this questionable book, my instinct, an affirmation instinct for life, turned against morality and invented a fundamentally opposite doctrine and valuation of life, purely artistic and anti-Christian. What should I call it? As a philologist and man of letters, I baptized it, not without a degree of license – for who konws the true name of the Antichrist?- with the name of a Greek god: I called it the Dionysiac
– F.W. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
Legion of Doom – The Horned Made Flesh
LEGION OF DOOM attempt to channel later ROTTING CHRIST by becoming melodic heavy metal with ranting black metal vocals on the faster verses, but preserve their original intent and consistency over the past few albums: they compose in similar ways, but their technique and knowledge of theory has been upgraded to allow more keyboard interaction, slicker riffs, and correct approximations of some of the riff structures they must have admired in the metal that influenced them. Song structures follow patterns established on past LEGION OF DOOM albums; they are still chasing certain poetic ideas, like the complex song that culminates in a simple three-chord riff, or the slow introduction out of which builds a structural study. That being said, LEGION OF DOOM is ahead of every other oldschool Greek band because they know how to vary tempi and riff styles and are concentrating on atmosphere, which they generate in a melange of BURZUM- and EMPEROR-influenced riffs. This is far better than average for black metal of this time, but many of the old schoolers may find the “soft” aesthetic distancing.
Intestine Baalism – Ultimate Instinct
I believe form follows function but that form can have a wide range of things comfortably expressed through it. For this reason, when a band like GENERAL SURGERY or PATHOLOGIST is wholly derivative of another band’s style but also really good, it’s hard to in any way condemn them. In that sense, INTESTINE BAALISM strike me as realists who took the voice of Swedish death metal and tried to give it another life. They did, in that they’ve created a B-level SWDM offering on par with maybe INSISION or UNCANNY, borrowing liberally from UNANIMATED, CARNAGE, ENTOMBED, SACRAMENTUM and DISMEMBER to create a sound for some death metal of relatively average structure with two exceptions: most songs introduce themselves and slowly mutate their introduction riff to become the first verse riff, and many songs have melodic transitional bridges in the same way stadium heavy metal bands used to do, some featuring really brilliant guitar work. Where this CD falls down is that it tries to throw too much of the newer melodic Swedish “death metal” into the mix, and since that stuff is basically a warmed over ACCEPT/MOTLEY CRUE hybrid, you end up in hard rock territory really fast with death and speed metal riffs zinging around the room like petrified sharts.
Botch – We are the Romans
Before Botch, there was music like this, which interpreted metal riffs as a kind of carnival of opposites designed to cycle around a rock song structure. They focus on the groove that you can achieve, as avant garde jazz did, by wrapping bizarre-sounding spidery phrases around a dissonant harmony that serves as entry point to implied and indirectly stated verse and chorus. In this view, however, the metal and punk technique used by this album becomes decoration to this underlying rock music, and so while it doesn’t appear to be rock music, on the level of design/structure it is, and is correspondingly empty once you get past the fast ripped scales and emo chords unraveling into their root notes. The bounding, two-hit drumming that pervades this album underlines this basic normalcy so, like a hipster, it dresses itself up as something unique and weird but at its essence, is the same old thing given a good dose of technique. I really liked the title. Like the Candiria, Mordred, and Kong of old, however, it creates an oil-on-water separation of metal/punk from rock, and so comes apart in your hands like a boiled squishy turd. Clearly the archetype for most albums of this nature to follow, it nonetheless misses what is unique about metal and in its neurotic desperation to hide its inner humdrum normalcy, succeeds in making a mess where one did not need to be.
Father Befouled – Profano Ad Regnum
These gents try very hard to be the reincarnation of Havohej, with generous doses of early Incantation and Obituary, and come very close. Many of these riffs are note-varied or rhythm-varied interpretations of classic Havohej/Profanatica riffs, and song structures use the same simplistic, almost serial circular advance of riffs to produce a similar sense of dread. Vocals are patterned more after Incantation, and dirge material builds itself harmonically and rhythmically like early Obituary. The result is gratifying to those who want the old school sound but needs to define itself; being on the outside looking in to Paul Ledney’s vision means that we are forever getting an interpretation of an interpretation, and reality is inching away from us. After making sure we know they are trademark NYEUM (New York Esoteric Underground Metal) in the INCANTATION, REVENANT and PROFANATICA style, FATHER BEFOULED develop their own voice. On the third track, an At the Gates-ish affinity for single-note lead melodies comes in, and then on track 5 there’s a reinterpretation of Celtic Frost, and the rest of the album battles for a melodic influence that with the HAVOHEJ admixture ends up sounding like SARCOFAGO mixed with HELLHAMMER using the better technique of early INCANTATION played by a black metal band. In this style, however, Father Befouled is the best yet and what they understand that other bands do not is that songs need to be coherent wholes, where changes in riff and rhythm gesture us the listeners along to some conclusion. For that any reviewer will be vastly thankful — this disc is not random riffs — but at some point honesty compels us to tell this band to innovate its own germinal material. Clearly they have the technical and imaginative ability, and understand the “spirit” of the underground, which makes them one of the few candidates who can do this.
Darkestrah – The Great Silk Road
People are familiar with archetypes. Once they understand one of those, they can modify it. Only the best of them are able to craft a language all their own and use it to express a truth to which it is adapted. Darkestrah have mastered two arts: the art of power metal, and the art of all the trappings of a Burzum-Gorgoroth-Drudkh hybrid. They take the former and dress it up in the latter, and do it so well it takes almost halfway through the album before the veneer fades away like melting frost and the simplistic, bouncing melodies stand revealed for what they are. In a way, it reminds me of early In Battle, but more tricked out with black metal guitars and keyboards. Instrumentally very competent; artistically adrift on a sea of sewage, drinking big gulps from a cup labelled PRICELESS CHARDONNAY.
Kreator – Hordes of Chaos
What an original concept — the elites rule the earth, and so the hordes of the people will rise up and destroy them through chaos and violence and confusion — and what an original style of music to use to express it! Kreator match their signature ominous riffs, about one per song, with a vomit spew of mixed power metal, hard rock and speed metal cliches. There’s a lot of dual guitar activity in the Iron Maiden style thrown right up against later Sepultura two-chord march riffs, then some of the flamboyant lead guitar of hard rock thrown in with power metal fretwalk riffs. Does it add up to much? The first song is compelling if you listen when you’re distracted, but after that the album further lapses into genericism. The hilarious mixed metaphors cover art adds to the sense that, when one lacks forward motion, you throw everything you’ve got left into a conglomeration and duct-tape it together. For all its furious activity, this album bespeaks drained souls and energyless but resentful lives. The result for the listener is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Deathevokation – The Chalice of Ages
Every old school death metal fan would give a left testicle to like this. Killer vocals – check. Awesome title – check. Dumb band name? Skip that for now. Good guitar playing – check. Old school style, from Asphyx to Zemial, memorized? Check. What’s wrong? What’s wrong is that you cannot throw a bunch of random stuff, even in tribute to one of the greatest eras of metal, into a lattice of convenience and coincidence and expect something good to come from it. The style is roughly that of early Amorphis hybridized with later Cemetary, in that it uses melodic lead overlays on top of rushing power chord riffs and builds up to a promenade riff that trots out the inner melodicity in explicit form. It’s like later Cemetary in that cheesy hard rock, death metal, speed metal and heavy metal all take turns bleeding out from the mess, like it’s a bagfull of hostages each fighting to be heard, and the result is so random that it sounds monotone.
Amebix – Risen! promo
All the best punk bands seem to want to become metal in their more mature offerings. The most notable feature of these new Amebix tracks is that they sound like Lemmy Kilmister vocalizing over mid-paced speed metal, like Prong fused with Slayer, which aims for the theatrical impact of the bigger NWOBHM bands. Galloping muted riffs, chromatic shifts to end each bar, and short bursts of lyrics achieve this goal, aided by periodic keyboards and slower, ballad-like choruses which evolve into progressive-ish transitions. In this, Amebix are continuing the state they reached with Monolith but fulfilling it more accurately with the kind of aggression found on “Right to Rise” (off Arise!) but they’re adding more precise drumming and Slayer-styled tight control of tremolo strum to encode multiple rhythms in a phrase. Most interesting is that these effects are applied to three older songs, making them eerie as familiar sounds coalesce from a more technical and dominating assault. Look for an interesting conclusion as Amebix retrofits itself in this style for their new tour.
I Shalt Become – In the Falling Snow
When I Shalt Become first hit the scene back in 1996, he/they were almost instant celebrities because no one in the United States had yet figured out how to clone the Burzum sound and achieve that trance of dreamlike suspension of reality. ISB has mastered the technique; on their first work, “Wanderings,” ISB made half-finished sounds that took us into a vision of beauty in darkness, but had nowhere to go after that. On their second effort, nothing has changed, although technique is even more refined. It’s exactly like the first, maybe a little better, but part of what made the first charming was its unevenness into which we could read possible hope. On this CD, it’s more repetitive and that is why response has been so light.
Devastation – A Creation of Ripping Death
This is everything I hated about 1980s metal. The very block-cut basic riffs, the very obvious song direction, the vocals synchronized in rhythm to the chords of the riff, creating a cadenced shout effect like being part of a mob about to start a pogrom against smart people. Basically, it’s a lot of Slayer rhythms and ideas simplified and made catchier and a billion times more repetitive. Against all science, this recording may lower your IQ.
Krisiun – Southern Storm
More children’s music. These very simple, very obvious melodies are used to interrupt what are some pretty cool speeding riffs that go nowhere because the riffs themselves are not epic enough to give a sense of mood, and because they’re assembled in a rhythmically convenient order that gives you no sense of significance in the change between riffs and tempi. Instrumentally, this is brutal death metal not different from a faster Internal Bleeding or Malevolent Creation, with some of the chanting rhythms that made later Sepultura so obvious the band started thinking of grunge as “a breath of fresh air.” The obvious factor to these compositions is crushing, but even worse is that the band cannot confine themselves to making obvious and simple tunes, but have to try to trick it out with extensive guitar soloing and use of Meshuggah-style(tm) interruption rhythms. Kill it with fire.
Svartthron – Bearer of the Crimson Flame
I’m realizing people will claim to like just about anything because they think liking something not everyone else likes makes them cool. Either that, or they’re trying to set up random combinations of CDs so they can claim to be unique. I know intelligent people like this CD and I respect their opinion. Mine is that it is well-executed drivel, like 99% of metal. The instrumentation is great. The CD itself confuses boredom with a somber mood, and uses that as its artistic guide, producing somnolent drone or dirge material that has no animating spark or cause or worldview that makes it in any way viable, much less unique. If you’re tr00 kvlt, go buy this.
Akimbo – Jersey Shores
This album takes a covertly aggressive punk hardcore approach to a rock/post-rock hybrid, with more space given to the music where hardcore normally dominates it in washing abrasion of distorted guitar. Instead, it packs away its riffs and brings them out from the obscurity like a punch — or, staying on topic, a shark attack. Its weakness is the howling vocals which seem completely unnecessary in that they’re too constant for an album that this ambitiously hopes to use the dynamic of surge rock.
Banishment – Cleansing the Infirm
Fast brutal death metal, like later Malevolent Creation fused with Deeds of Flesh, and not bad for that. Vocalist makes the unfortunate choice to have his voice too closely follow the root notes the guitar is playing, which makes it sound like the whole band is a guitar effect. Catchy, but not particularly enlightening.
Apotheosis – Farthest From the Sun
We’ll pose a little at being epic black metal, then drop you into a Pantera riff. It’s what happens when metal loses direction; everything gets all mixed together, from Def Leppard through Graveland, and thrown into something that ends up being so generic you can listen without realizing the music is on. Skip.
Zemial – In Monumentum
Opens with one of the dumbest hard rock riffs ever, which pauses right on the bounce expectation as if it were anticipating the ears of a retard. I almost drooled. The CD continues in this direction, tossing Motorhead in with Motley Crue and Morgoth, hoping we don’t notice, but really, why would anyone listen to this when there’s AC/DC? Led Zeppelin? Even “Shout at the Devil”? It tries for evil but manages Marilyn Manson, the garage version that the hip kids like and everyone else is like whatever yo. I get the impression they’re trying to be an updated Death SS but without distinction.
Depravity – Silence of the Centuries
Finnish mid-paced melodic death metal; imagine Demigod periodically zooming into mid-period Therion and you have this interesting fusion between heavy metal and death metal. Unfortunately, a lot like Edge of Sanity, it strays too far onto the rock side of things, not understanding the geometrical language of riffs that made death metal song structures so hard to do right. It’s more like later Dio with death metal technique applied.
Unburied – Slut Decapitator
Blockhead brutal gore with a penchant for blast mania, but no real direction to these songs. Bounce, bounce, breakdown, blast, bounce, bounce, breakdown, stop. I understand the title: If you decapitate yourself with a slut, you no longer can hear this noise.
Storming Darkness – Sin-thesis
This is so much better than most of what crosses my desk I had hope despite the silly album name. It’s good. But not good enough. Repetition of melodic metal themes and a type of subtle breakdown that occurs internally to a pounding bass-snare will not do it. Nor will even the harmonically more advanced, well-played chorus passages and transitions. This really isn’t bad; unfortunately, it’s also non-distinct and directionless.
Damnation – Rebel Souls
Similar to Betrayer and Vader, this Polish death metal band fuses a number of post-1991 death metal styles into a format that is very close to Morbid Angel, but in its more “two-step” riffs, a bit more like Terrorizer. By two-step riffs I mean that there’s a phrase, and a counterphrase, and then the riff repeats until the end of a bar, when a two-chord shift turns it around; the riffing is orthogonal, unlike the geometric offsets of Morbid Angel or the even numbered structures of early Vader. Within this, there’s a lot of speeding riffs in a style eternal from Destruction through Massacra, propelled by furious battery reminiscent of Kataklysm and, at times, Deicide. Edges of Suffocation-styled palm muted blast picked death metal and double-time speed metal like later Hypocrisy intervene, but the standard is straightforward ripping death metal. Songs integrate additional riffs but remain mostly verse-chorus with transposition of early patterns into promenade riffs leading to conclusions. Like most material of this type, the constant battering becomes tiring and not exciting over repeated listens. Although this is most well-known for having members of Behemoth in the band, this album can stand on its own but is not distinctive enough for metal history to notice.
Anal Vomit – Demoniac Flagellations
Love the titles, forgot the music already. Standard grind with frenetic death metal touches, like Angelcorpse recording hurriedly in a lean-to studio outside a jail.
Urizen – Autocratopolis
Being avantgarde is easy. Combine everything that’s not popular, and make it groovy, but always do what you think is unexpected. Problem: you’ve thought two levels deep, assuming that most people think one, in a world of infinite levels. As a result, your music comes across as a childish reaction, and bears this out by being an omelette of rejected metal styles thrown together around the lowest common denominator, which is annoying pop songs given an additional level of complexity by dividing verse/chorus structure so that it recombines in a circular fashion. And we had such high hopes from the name.
Dark Fury – Fortress of Eagles
Black metal ended like WWII: after the Americans left and Central Europeans were defeated, the Eastern Europeans surged in with something that looked sort of like the functional governments that went before. In black metal, it is the same. These musicians are talented, and clearly they know their black metal, but without understanding the transcendent goal that compelled early musicians to render their vision in scratchily distorted power chords, the new bands are always outsiders looking in and then making their version. Yet like an architect who knows only how to copy facades and put them on the same boxy Soviet-era architecture, Dark Fury churn through Burzum riffs, Venomish riffs, Darkthrone trudges, and so forth, but never pull the whole thing together because there is no core to the music. It is pure aesthetics and as a result, directionless in the same way good wallpaper is: you don’t want it distracting from the action in the room.
Diabolic – Chaos in Hell/Possessed by Death
Did the completely unoriginal title clue you in? Yep, it’s a tribute to past bands that were much better by hoarding their themes, tossing them in the washing machine for recombination, and then spitting them out with the subtlety of horse rape. Metal like this causes metalheads to listen to Katy Perry.
Mirrorthrone – Gangrene
Ulver, Borknagar and Therion combine in a Summoning-themed metal band. Unfortunately, between gentle keyboard descents like the windsculpted surfaces of sand dunes, the “carnival style” post-Cradle of Filth black metal rears its ugly head as elements are thrown together in a salad of distractions from which each piece returns to a few exactly repeated themes. As a result, there’s a lot going on, like riding a merry-go-round and seeing the world outside flash by in disorienting random order, but there’s no development of theme; it’s just a more complex version of verse/chorus. I really would like to like this but it is impossible. Production and keyboard composition are excellent.
Autumn Leaves – As Night Conquers Day
Years before it became trendy, this band invented the new wave of Swedish melodic “death metal,” which of course isn’t death metal as much as, following the success of DISSECTION and UNANIMATED, melodic heavy metal with death metal vocals. You get some lovely IRON MAIDEN style dual-guitar harmony leading into a DISSECTION-esque rising melodic riff, and then drop straight into PANTERA or MESHUGGAH for a muted strum, offbeat, bouncy aggressive riff over which someone rasps like AT THE GATES. Over time, the album develops more of its melodic side, but it likes to keep that to a few variations on a theme and a contrasting chorus that uses half of the same notes. Much as the first THE ABYSS album defined a pattern for mimicking black metal, this CD defined the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal — basically melodic heavy metal with speed metal technique and death metal vocals — that aped a hybrid of SENTENCED (specifically, Amok), UNANIMATED, DISSECTION, CEMETARY and SACRAMENTUM but in cheesy, crowd-friendly heavy metal form. Better than those which followed in this style, As Night Conquers Day is both exceedingly well-executed and, because it aims for a hybrid between things popular for their unchallenging nature, a lowest common denominator assault of so many catchy things that they all equalize and you get one big unmemorable stream of noise.
Cult of Luna – Eternal Kingdom
If you apply punk rhythms to two-note power chord riffing, then add indie rock fills and metal vocals, you have Cult of Luna. This band was more inspiring when they did wash of harmonizing noise like Burzum and My Bloody Valentine, but now it’s standard saccharine dramatic indie rock which like a hipster, does a good game of raising inch-deep mystique and then vanishes around the corner, leaving a hint of promise in the air that turns to a stench of disappointment. This is a very average album dressed up as something significant and, while it executes that vision well, it leaves no lasting power or vision of life beneath the obvious, trite and controlled.
Cold Northern Vengeance – Domination and Servitude
If Maudlin of the Well had been fascinated by the black metal aesthetic, and decided to combine the quirkiness of bands like Spear of Longinus with about every metal variation of genres that have influenced metal, you would get this atmospheric and technical take on black metal. Like projects from time immemorial that have tried to throw diverse influences together and get a clear voice, it never quite gels, but that keeps its space open. There’s some nice melodies on here and songs that like most technical music, do not aim to be conclusive so much as they hope to pull together an idea from disparate origins. Like Maudlin of the Well, this is probably not for everyday listening, but will garner the appreciation of musicians. What it achieves that is most impressive is breaking the jazz-omelette barrier and making a metal-like, dark and ancient mood within so much modern musicianship.
Ecnephias – Haereticus
More vamping pseudo-Gothic keyboard-infused bouncy black metal. It has no personality at all, other than a fusion of later Cemetary with Skepticism and Dimmu Borgir, a mixture which sounds ideal but in practice cannot find common ground except on the most basic stylistic similarities. Spirit? Idea? Drive? Musically, it’s great and sometimes reminds me of later Rotting Christ. The beats are very similar and the composition staged harmonically much like the more erudite rock. But as a sum total of art, or a listening experience, it delivers nothing.
War Cry – Trilogy of Terror
Cut from much the same mould as Saint Vitus, the heavy metal musicians in War Cry make surging punk-influenced music like Venom but at a slower pace with the galloping rhythms of early speed metal like Satan and Sabbat. Interestingly, the vocalist sounds a lot like James Hetfield in both timbre and delivery. In the ways these vocals dive across large intervals and then present a sudden bittersweet melody and abrupt rhythm the band resembles Angel Witch. The usual gaggle of influences on older metal music emerge, including Iron Maiden most notably, but here it’s channeled into a style of music that hovers in the mid-paced arena but projects a somber aura like a doom band, when they’re not busy rocking out, that is. History swallows up any knowledge of where they would have taken it, but for a demo of its time, this was a solid B+.
Walpurgisnacht – Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet
Whenever metal starts a new tributary from its river of heaviness, that rivulet runs for some time and then fragments as it explores. After that, some people realize it’s a great opportunity to make a synopsis of those different directions, an opportune compromise if you will, and then norm the structure of the music back to the verse-chorus pop music of your average radio candy band for teenage brats to enjoy before life harvests them as cubicle slaves (pwnt). Some bands are smart enough to add variations like double riffs for verses, adding transitional riffs and making the bridge into a series of riffs that fit together like a telescoping umbrella before dropping you into the predictable. But it’s only a matter of time before the classic heavy metal riffs come out, along with their rock music bounce and simple-minded distraction, and in this case the transition is from Gorgoroth/Gehenna-style dark riffing to Mayhem-influenced epic pentatonics and then with a shrug straight into archetypes out of 1976 heavy metal. Of the bands out there now, this band most resembles Sammath or Fluisterwoud. Despite those additions, which end up being riff-salady, Walpurgisnacht is about blatantly sentimental melodic hooks and recurrent invocation of riffs from black metal’s history. Unlike most of its contemporaries, Walpurgisnacht has a beautiful misfortune advantage: between melodic hooks, rhythmic hooks, and pure speed/violence thrills, it’s catchy as all hell. This bestows the ultimate curse in that it both isn’t bad and isn’t inspiring at all because it too glibly speaks the language of appearance of form without altering the intelligible structure beneath.
Vomit – Rot in Hell
Jump back to 1985 or so. Stereos are blistering with Ride the Lightning and Hell Awaits. There’s no internet and metal publications are few and far between, so you get your news by dubbing a couple tracks from each of your latest finds onto cassette for your friends across the world. You spend your few bucks on postage but get more music than you could ever find in a record store or the flaky, xerox-distorted catalogs of the primitive mail-order of the time. Sound romantic? Then sign up for this hybrid of speed metal, thrash and the early death metal without death metal vocals that was Slayer. Vocal rhythms are profoundly Slayer; song structures and half the riffs are Metallica; the rest of the riffs are a meshing of the ideas behind Slayer, Sodom, Venom, Sepultura and Destruction. It’s extremely engaging music, with lots of energy and the banging of the drums, but it is like the rationalism it finds reprehensible, very fucking linear. I like it but never want to listen to it again.
Vile – Stench of the Deceased
Some albums innovate on the inside of the genre, while others take its disparate aesthetic influences and standardize them. Vile really nailed the sonic appearance of post-Cannibal Corpse death metal, complete with squeals in the Incantation style, Malevolent Creation creeping thunderous choruses, Suffocation breakdowns and windups, Immolation’s riff salad and leaps between tempi. But… this is good, but the gestalt of it is not great: in fact, as the term gestalt implies, music should give off a spirit that like an MD5 checksum gives us a single representation or shape to its direction. Here that clarity is so muddied that what we remember is a cinematic procession of riffs like a nightmare dream movie, inscrutable to those who do not know the narrative passing through the minds of these musicians. Riffs are quality but never so above the board good that they’re memorable, and their arrangements rapidly lose integrity and become a series of techniques. This is an album you will love the idea of but be unable to return to as a classic for inspiration.
Venom – Hell
I’ll give this band credit: they mixed influences, but then knew how to pick selectively the parts that work together. The first track is a Slayer rhythm with a speed metal style infectious chorus, Prong-inspired industrial noises in the background, and a Pantera-ish jaunty riff with monotone vocal deadpan. At this point in their career, Venom as musicians are slick and know the archetypes of their genre, so they pull off a very believable album to the degree that you never think to question whether this is a big band — obviously, these guys arrived long ago, and have been taking music lessons ever since. While the quality of this music is good, by aiming for the simple-minded and catchy, it sort of takes itself out of the running for contemplative profundity and in doing so, shows why Venom was a first attempt at black metal that never succeeded: it couldn’t leave the heavy metal, rock ‘n roll mentality behind. Even Sarcofago, Hellhammer, and Bathory, who I’d consider the first generation of black metal, developed themselves into art with a sense of the sublime and subtle. Venom is just like Metallica and Exodus, barging in with loud declarations where we’re supposed to assume words equal their meanings, like a reshuffling of the hippie symbolism of rock. I respect it but there’s no way in hell I’d ever reach for this CD given the other great options out there, although it’s a vast improvement on Venom’s classics, musically.
Ved Buens Ende – Coiled in Obscurity
You know what else coils in obscurity? Poop. This CD, of live and instrumental rarities by this band, showcases both what they were trying to achieve and why they were ignored by many of us. First, they’re trying to achieve what the reckless yells and blatantly ambitious singing on this CD seems to gesture at; a soul unconnected from awareness of social consequences (this is what people want when they bloviate about “freedom”). Second, the underlying Mayhem-inspired gritty but monotonous riffing shows how they hoped to achieve it, which is the same method every punk band since the dawn of time has used. Huge parts of this are blatant Burzum ripoffs with the atmosphere replaced by a sense of ashen directionless chaos. Dissonant chords howl against the grain of riffs, drums batter out something ironically confrontational, and then the track redirects itself, like the point of a pen drifting across words on a book in another language. The repetition gets old and the CD goes nowhere.
Portal – Outre
This album sounds to me like airplanes zooming over battleships. Their distortion is intensely melodic and they tend to use diminished melodies and abrupt tempo changes, drones zooming into abrupt, jazz-style recursions. In many ways, it’s a lot like what Molested tried to do, except the songs go nowhere. They thrash between different patterns that are marginally related and create a dark atmosphere, but then it doesn’t change, and so what ends up happening is that songs become monolithic and uninspiring. It’s an interesting concept, the idea of removing dynamics from the music except as a rhythm, and inserting small themes within larger patterns, but when it does not reveal any clarity to its changes, the result is like driving around in a maze with the heater on.
Rotten Sound – Exit
People were telling me this was death metal, but in reality, it’s a punk album with blastbeat drums and modified d-beat. It’s not bad but it’s not distinct enough from later Impaled Nazarene or Disfear to really care. They keep the energy going as if they’re afraid to slow down and make sense of their songs, which are two or three riffs and sometimes a tempo change. This stuff is kind of neat but one dimensional, reminiscent of Driller Killer in the way it uses very similar beats and transitions, and so sounds like one continuous linear riffing party with a variation on Swedish d-beat essentials. It’s unclear to me why anyone with access to Discharge, the Exploited and Dead Infection would choose this lesser variation.
Wolves in the Throne Room – Malevolent Grain
Having been a fan of Two Hunters for some time, this reviewer was excited to download and un-RAR the latest from Wolves in the Throne Room, one of black metal’s more successful acts. Soaring drones lace themselves over bracketing drums, and female vocals and black metal rasps guide these songs through mostly extended verse-chorus patternings, with a few discursive flights of fancy leading away and then returning. This is not an album for people who like black metal; it’s an album for people who want black metal to be what they like. Specifically, it’s a studied combination of indie rock, emo punk, crustcore and doom metal, most notably borrowing from Skepticism and Satyricon. It makes itself obvious in the protest rock style of clearly identifying what it complains about — GM crops (author’s opinion on this issue is irrelevant; this is a music review) — and makes that topic safe by construing it in the same Good and Evil game that Christianity likes to play, where moral absolutes are used to control the masses so no one has to think. There are black metal technique additions, for sure, but the spirit is mournful and poignant in that simple way that rock music makes you see a “I love her, but can’t have her, because she’s no good for me, but the sex is great” dual binary complexity to life. Unlike great art, this album never creates the chiasmus, where the opposite pairs recombine and a truth is distilled. Like Velvet Caccoon, the last great Northwest black metal phenomenon, Wolves in the Throne Room carefully study their quarry and put together a compilation of what has worked for indie rock tinged black metal for the past decade, but in doing so, they somehow lose their soul, which is borne out in the music that wanders yet not only never arrives but never decides where to go — it wallows in its opposition, like a surly priest fulminating in frustration beneath a rotting church.