Black Witchery/Revenge – Holocaustic Death March to Humanity’s Doom

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War metal bands Black Witchery and Revenge issued their new release on tax day, April 15, with each band recording three new songs of their trademark sound, which their biography eagerly informs us is inspired by Blasphemy and Sarcofago. With excellent and intriguing cover art, and raw but clear production, this release should appeal to fans of the genre.

Black Witchery tear into their three tracks with a studied recklessness and noisy attack. These shorter songs use the standard circular structure with a final detour, but the band inserts rhythmic breaks throughout — the war metal equivalent of a breakdown in deathcore — to build intensity. Most riffs follow the rock/grindcore paradigm of a static chord, possibly with a chromatic offset, establishing a rhythm to which a fill is added. These riffs resemble faster version of punk hardcore riffs in minor key with lower tuning and faster, more precise playing. This shows a heritage with more in common with Napalm Death than Immortal and a lack of the atmosphere and uniquely shaped songs that made the Blasphemy proto-black metal grindcore hybrid work well, as well as an absence of the melodic structuring of the Black Witchery demo. The relentless aggression of these songs will make them popular but they will not be as memorable as Blasphemy or Sarcofago. If this band wishes to improve, their first step will be to worry less about being intense enough and worry more about shaping that intensity so that at the end of each track, a profound shifting of mood and idea leaves the listener in awe. This was the standard Blasphemy achieved on the best moments of Fallen Angel of Doom and the direction Sarcofago indicated their material should take with songs like “The Black Vomit.” Of these three tracks, “Curse of Malignancy” is my favorite for its directed power that forcibly enacts a concise regimen that achieves the feeling of warfare at least in concept.

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Revenge takes a different approach to war metal through riffs longer in duration which use the same surging technique but depend on active drums to break pattern with accents and spur the riff on to change. This technique can rally the attention of the listener and is often used in marching bands. It however creates a reliance on the drums, which although it makes the surge tremolo riff technique less important, also relegates guitars to a secondary role and creates a type of static riffing that resembles doom metal sped up to grindcore paces. Much like Black Witchery, this music is almost exclusively chromatic, which gives it the primitive and violent feel prized by fans. Revenge also tackle Bathory “Equimanthorn,” but in imposing their own rhythmic standards they enhance the jerky and sing-song nature of this tune (comparable to Mayhem “Deathcrush”) and add nothing to the original, so it stands out barely. This band has always been one of the more technically proficient voices in war metal and while their music is enjoyable in a single listen, the songs are too similar in approach, topic and technique for prolonged listening. “Revenge” rounds out this three-song EP and may be my favorite track on this side for its compact, solidly focused assault.

Cathedral’s Creeping Death

Death metal had been well established for years by the early 90s. The genre was rapidly becoming an arms race of technicality with many bands attempting to use studio trickery to make records far beyond their musical ability in attempt to compete with their best contemporaries, e.g. Morbid Angel. Many brought in hired shredder studio musicians like James Murphy with drum tracks copy and pasted together onto tape from drum samples and “played” live with triggers activating those same pre-recorded samples at the slightest touch. At the same time, good grindcore bands were turning into second-rate death metal ones or worse, lame “melodic hardcore” which turned hardcore punk aesthetics into slit your wrists whine pop.

Lee Dorrian, vocalist of Napalm Death on the b-side of Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration, was disgusted by Napalm Death writing material incorporating the worst, bouncy hit people aspects of death metal in an attempt to reach a wider audience and quit the band in 1989. He soon formed Cathedral with Gaz Jennings and Mark Griffiths over a shared love of older heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Candlemass, and Witchfinder General. Demos and an album on Dorrian’s old label Earache quickly followed.

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Watain – Reaping Death (2016)

Article by David Rosales.

I. Where is the music?

It is very rare to find a general fan of black metal today who has not at least heard of the name of Watain. The kind of fame it has attained, however, is the kind that is mostly based on peripheral affairs rather than the art which Watain is supposed to dedicate itself to. Watain is the kind of ‘entity’ (as most of these bands are now given to call themselves) that is surrounded by a nebulous aura which may at first, if one is inclined to be generous in providing the benefit of the doubt, seem like an hint of something truly profound going on. Now, whether that is the case in regards to the real, transcendent or philosophical knowledge or experience of the people behind Watain is not for the writer to say. On the other hand, the music itself does not seem to display any of the more-than-human qualities it should if one is to believe all the hype. In fact, it reveals itself as a very mundane affair when one is given to delve into a holistic examination of the music in itself, and even more so when seen in relation to the extra-musical portions of the ‘entity’.

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Immolation Announce More Death Pop

Immolation announced a new album in their recent style of taking their own material and simplifying or parodying it down into pop rock for a beer swilling speed metal audience who eat up every new Metallica and Sodom record of randomly rehashed tunes. Atonement is the story of Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie’s (James McAvoy) life turning to hell when Briony, Cecilia’s bratty little sister, falsely accuses James McAvoy of rape. Cecilia and Robbie die horribly but Briony becomes a successful novelist. Ross Dolan insists that Keira Knightley did a great job wearing that green dress in Immolation’s best sounding release to date despite the fact that Dawn of Possession still exists and was recently reissued:

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Write-in Campaign: Swedish Death Metal Belongs In IKEA

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The leading representative of Swedish industry around the world, Ikea, sells furniture of styles from a dozen nations. It has a housewares section, a full-service cafeteria, a donut shop and a grocery store. You can pick up electric lights, tools, houseplants and home decor there.

But conspicuously absent are the most important items from Sweden in recent memory: Swedish death metal and black metal.

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Human Mediocrity and the Rise of Artificial Intelligence

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Article by David Rosales

As technology progresses, machines are increasingly able to replace humans when it comes to menial jobs such as those that take place inside factories, where often repetitive movements are better done by untiring mechanical arms that do not tire. But the progress of machine work is not limited to mere rote, and now includes not only machines that can make calculations many times faster than any human being, but also any other function that a programmer can reduce to a set of instructions in an algorithm. This spells bad news for almost everyone, even those who work high-level jobs: once computer scientists and mathematicians decode your decision process and reduce it to an algorithm, you are done.

Many think that the last bastion for human endeavor in the future, then, will be the arts, since a machine may be faster, more precise and more enduring than any human being, but it may never reflect the feelings that man possesses. There is this intuition, this unconscious level at which our kind operates that we do not finish understanding. This precisely is that nebulous area which Immanuel Kant defined as particularly problematic since we are not equipped to produce answers to questions which our very nature seems to insist on pushing questions for.

While I am in agreement with such a concept, there is a considerable gap with respect to how the average citizen seems to understand this. The issue is not whether or not machines may replace creative human activity in the creation of art. In music specifically, programs have already been written which can compose scores on the spot that fill out the aesthetic requirements of a Mozart symphony (Editor’s note: These have, in fact, been around for decades. The earliest example I can think of is CPU Bach, released in 1994 for the 3DO). In fact, such a program is not limited to a particular style and has been written such that when given a collection of pieces, the program will determine the style to be used by the approximate differences between the pieces given. This spells very bad news for all those brainless clone bands out there who have no vision between “the riff” or “the feeling”.

What are the limitations of this kind of style-replicating program? Perhaps the most important is that even though it might be possible to redirect it so that it produces a new style if given a seed for random variation, it cannot actually replicate human originality, at least in the sense that humans create art from the unique way in which they perceive the world and manifest it through music and particular expression. The sort of results arising from this human originality may be “objectively” indistinguishable from what the machine produces given X reference styles and a random factor, but there will be no way for the machine to supplant the former, at least until it can also emulate a great deal of the higher brain functions humans use for creativity, which is admittedly a far more difficult task.

So, in a future (present?) world where computer programs produce commercial jingles and pop tunes for big garbage music companies, all those mediocre soundtrack composers will be out of a job. Furthermore, modernist idiocy would be quickly replaced by machines exhausting all the possibilities of that most unnatural “music”. This result is quite interesting, because in trying to get rid of tradition, modernists ran away from what keeps music in touch with our humanity. In the end, the advent of music made by artificial intelligence will not represent a stamping out of human creativity, but an exalting of those who survive the onslaught. I for one hail our machine overlords.

Relapse Records streaming remastered edition of Death’s Leprosy

It’s not the Chris Reifert enhanced Scream Bloody Gore, or the technically proficient (if structurally and aesthetically hollow) Human, but Relapse Records has remastered Leprosy and made it available on YouTube. Whether or not this digital remaster does the album any justice, it’s still a boost in visibility for what’s arguably the strongest era of Death’s career. Leprosy doesn’t bring the structural improvements that would’ve kept “Chuck Schuldiner was a Christian who died of AIDS” from becoming a favorite slogan on the old DLA, but its good production and apparent lack of pretensions towards being high art (compare to Death post-1991) make it difficult to hate. I feel the same way about Spiritual Healing, which is mostly cut from the same cloth and also receives a similar instrumental skill boost from James Murphy.