More Sadistic Metal Reviews? Yes, yes, yes!
We get this poop in the mail. We don’t trash it unlike our readership, we use it for target practice with our AR-15s!
I had high hopes for The Accuser… of a sort. I was expecting an ungainly, melodramatic symphonic black metal ala Dimmu Borgir. Unfortunately, Dimmu Borgir hasn’t released an album for Abigail Williams to ape in over five years! Cue the necessary stylistic shift, and the dashing of my admittedly dubious hopes, founded on information about this band that was similarly out of date. The Accuser is one of those indie-darling post-black metal albums, and while it’s usually not as blatant about its weepy, depressive influences as Deafheaven or Myrkur (whom I always seem to mention in pairs), it’s still a pretty flat and bland experience.
Abigail Williams’ latest actually pulls on a fairly wide mixture of post-black approaches, although they are generally united by a consistent production. The production team decided to portray this band as just fuzzy and indistinct enough to possibly pass as ‘true’ for a moment, but not enough that the intended audience would complain about a garbled aesthetic. There’s also the occasional awkward high pitched scream strewn in the mix, but it’s an otherwise standard sound. Within this, Abigail Williams explores such things as jangling consonant guitar leads, lengthy drone sections, start-stop riffing, and so forth. Now, there is nothing innately anything about musical techniques, and this is especially the case on this album, where the songwriting is haphazard at best. The difficulty that you often run into with this sort of musical language is that it’s difficult to build off these ideas in any way, whether it be the standard theme and development shtick we advocate around here, a more ambient approach, or much of anything, really. In general, Abigail Williams has a serious problem gluing things together and seemingly tries to hide it with minor stylistic shifts within and between tracks; regardless of their intent they don’t manage to pull off such subterfuge.
For whatever small reasons, I don’t find this album quite as annoying as many of its genre contemporaries. It still is, however, a boring listen that does little of interest with the hand of tricks it’s taken.
Around here, Dark Funeral is probably best known for being one of David Parland’s (Necrophobic et al, RIP) projects that later took on a life of its own as a relatively mainstream sort of black metal act, similar in streamlining, commercializing effect to bands like Dimmu Borgir or Marduk. The band’s recently announced a new studio album for 2016 through their various social media presences, although not much information about the album and its approach have been revealed yet. It’s probably going to not only be more of the same (which is typical for aging bands that don’t go for major style shifts), but also even more of the same, given that the band is commonly criticized for a lack of diversity. For a good primer on the band’s overall approach, see their 1994 debut EP, which has been reissued several times over the years with varying quantities of supplementary Bathory covers.
Guest post by William Pilgrim
A reader recently posted a comment asking my opinion on modern extreme metal bands like Teitanblood and Ascension. We often take it as an article of faith that modern metal is a fallen genre that parted ways from the aspects that made the heyday of this music so glorious; indeed, it is almost a guarantee that any random second or third tier album from the early years of the genre will compare favourably with the current wave of practitioners.
But why should this be so? Forget about the intangibles for just now; elan vital, vir, passion, and spirit, as much stock as one puts in them, are ultimately amorphous, unquantifiable entities. But to the discerning ear, the very manner in which this music is played contributes greatly to the nurture and propagation of these ideas. But let’s not leave it at that even; the manner in which music is played is the result of an outlook on life and the world around us, a perspective that originates inside the mind with very distinct inspirations and goals assigned for itself. At least it should be so for the genuine musician who is willing to pay tribute to something greater than himself rather than be just another among the flock vying for whatever holds his fancy in the moment. When looked at from this angle, song writing and the musical techniques involved therein become offshoots of a state of mind. The difference between old and new then becomes the difference between states of mind that are separated by time, culture, and upbringing.
On the surface – and this is a broad generalization but it holds for the most part – new extreme metal bands lack definition and detail in riffs. Consider the most recent Teitanblood album Death and contrast it with something as universally unheralded – deservedly so in many quarters – as Krabathor’s debut Only Our Death from 1992. Teitanblood, hugely influenced as they are by the war metal of Blasphemy, attempt to paint broad swathes of atmosphere through repetition as opposed to the many-toothed, serrated approach to songwriting that Krabathor and others from that pocket of time display. The former lulls the unsuspecting listener into a trance-like state by concealing its lack of songwriting virtue through synthetic extremeness, but the second approach usually contains more thought, effort, and dynamics, and mimics the constant upturning and redressal of values that great death metal strives towards.
Borrowing terms from the schools of art and retrospectively applying them to metal, we can then say that old death metal is a curious but potent blend of romanticism and a nihilistic expressionism, on more or less equal footing: romantic in self-awareness, expressionist in revealing the horrors of the mind, and nihilistic in rejecting established values in favour of new belief systems. A band like Teitanblood, on the other hand, can be said to belong to an impressionist state of mind, the word impressionist signifying in no way any relation between Teitanblood and purveyors of that stream of thought in the arts. Instead, impressionism is used here merely to suggest the preeminence of mood over content, and the blurring of the music’s outer edges to the point of dissociation.
One might say that even undisputed classics like Darkthrone and Burzum used the repetition mentioned above to make their point, but the important thing to remember in those bands’ cases is that repetition was used as a story telling device to travel between distinctly realized book ends. Many modern bands seem to lack the roughest notion of what it means for a song to have a beginning and an end, and how islands spread across the length of the song can be used as “hooks” to hop from one spot to another, but always with the ultimate aim in mind: the song is God and everything else superfluous. Hear the song posted below from Ascension, a band many supposedly educated fans claim to be the second coming of the genre. Then contrast it with the Kvist song that immediately follows. Hear them back to back so that the dissonance stands out in stark relief.
Hear how the entire body of ‘Vettenetter’ is geared towards safeguarding the primacy of a greater idea, an idea that is directed outwards as opposed to the redundant, self-absorbed mannerisms of the Ascension track. The feelings Kvist induce in the listener can be classified as “romantic” in the truest sense of the word, a mixture of awe, beauty, human insignificance, yes, but also the perpetual struggle to understand and realize a greater meaning to our place in the world. As opposed to Kvist’s romanticism, however, bands like Ascension are entirely hedonistic, which by association implies a pathetic solipsism. The self is greater than the whole, the moment is greater than eternity, live now while you can, however you can, for who knows what tomorrow will bring?
This isn’t just abstract wool gathering; Ascension’s solipsism manifests itself in the carelessly strewn-about rock star solos, in the abrupt shifts in tone, in the complete absence of a unifying theme, and ultimately in the absurd, conceited belief that what they’re doing is in any way or form of artistic merit. Where Kvist intentionally dwarf themselves in humble tribute to the magnificent life-giving forces of nature, Ascension are like ghosts trapped between worlds, with no sense of who they are or what purpose they presently serve. Their concoction is cynically designed to appeal to Everyman, meaning the lowest common denominator in listener intelligence. A little of this, a little of that, take a potluck lunch home and you’re bound to find a bone to gnaw on. World Terror Committee, indeed.
Which of the two is the greater evil? Teitanblood’s impressionism, cheap and disoriented as it is, can be understood on some level as a honest effort from poor students of the metal genre. That is not to give it more credence than it deserves nor does it mean that it shouldn’t be called out for its many weaknesses or for its fans’ sheep-like mentality. But it’s only a matter of time before these bands are consigned to the dustbin of obscurity because of their self-devouring approach to music.
Bands like Ascension, however, work on the principle of fast-food equality, but through mechanisms subtler than what Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir employed twenty years ago. On the surface, they appear intoxicating to simpler tastes, shiny exterior, ersatz evil and all. They even go some distance in mimicking the sound of their elders, only to douse jaded listeners with buckets of icy cold water. Most listeners don’t care, however, and these pathetic tidbits are enough to guarantee the Ascensions of the world a name in the “new underground” for the foreseeable future.
The greater tragedy, however, is that these bands signify the death of the mind, and this is evidenced in the class of discussion that occurs around them and their music. To sensitive ears and minds, there is no higher emotion that a plastic, cookie-cutter band like Ascension is capable of eliciting, but by their subversive nature and by being infiltration points into this music for all the wrong elements, bands like these present the greatest danger to metal. That should no longer be considered an exaggeration, because for every new kid that discovers old treasures, ten more will flock to an Ascension and will eventually use the same strategies when they come to make music of their own, not knowing any better. After all, noise when amplified enough will always drown out quality.
More unworthy garbage keeps coming our way, the splatter pattern created after all the filth has hit the surface behind us is put into words in our Sadistic Metal Reviews.
Reverie – Bliss (2015)
With a band name like Reverie and a seemingly ironic album title like Bliss you might have expected postmodern post-indie shoegaze hipster black metal to roar and pounce at you like an enraged kitten, but luckily, we are met with something at the very least resembling a lion here; pity this one just so happens to not be the king of the jungle.
In homage to the oldest Bathory-tradition, we find Reverie struggling to bring hardcore punk and ominous metal harmonics into a vileful matrimony. Where Reverie, like most other modern exploits of this scheme fail, is in the insistence on very low-brow hooks and plodding “anti-cosmic” disharmonics which only further leads the listener astray from whatever good basic riff the song was initially edified around. Acoustic interludes and vapid diversity in riffs can’t overshadow the monotony that all songs eventually end up in – Imagine a less successful and inspired newer Autopsy, and you’d be close to what the songwriting sounds like for the most part.
There are shining, spirited moments, but if this band is to evolve beyond the hordes of Katharsis-clones, they still have years of sadistic refinement to come.
Arvas – Black Satanic Mysticism (2015)
If there’s something the modern black metal scene likes to fawn over, it’s music with empty calories -Excellent riffs, delectably prepared into a concoction without any lasting impressions. Black Metal has at this point made it into the realms of nostalgia, and genre-pandering releases such as this one clearly proves this. The music found here clearly harkens back to the glory days of the Norwegian early 90’s, but are so firmly entrenched in their own sentimentality that they miss the original explorative spirit of the genre.
Nothing on here is offensive, as background-music it is highly soothing and comforting for anyone already introduced into the genre, since it is so highly conscious not to disrupt its conventions. If you’re the kind of person that likes Choco Puffs for breakfast rather than a swordfight with your mortal enemy to the death, then this release might just be the one for you.
Dystopia Nå! – Dweller on the Threshold (2015)
What else does the modern underground cherish? High-functioning blenders. The ingredients aren’t all that important, as long as the blend is interesting and “unique”. Once we taste the results after the blend, we’ll go into denial over its real flavours, and instead gaze at the moon as it reflects our own ego shining bright ëíIím the only one who understands this! This is the new wave!íí
What is Dystopia Nå!? It’s Screamo and Nu-metal of the 2000’s with instrumentation and lacing from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Ironic, depressive quotes rumble through the wall of sound and powerless anguished screams echo through chuggy deathcore breakdowns, but neither of these elements hold any gravitas whatsoever, even for the most unscrupulous of hipsters. Like all other depressive black metal/rock, this is professional duping of young indie girls into the new “edgy” trend. No soothing ëartfulí piano-interludes or post-rock guitars could save this abomination. Avoid.
Harrow – Fallow Fields (2015)
Some bands don’t even know how to be subtle and mask their blatant source-material. Harrow is a pure rip-off of more successful atmospheric/post-rock black metal bands, and it becomes obvious from the very first seconds of the first track.
If you have heard Agalloch, Kroda and Drudkh, you have heard the instrumental ingredients of this release, but never before has someone managed to achieve this level of tedium in the faux-ambient genre. Pass this one up, and you’ll get some extra time to listen to Hvis Lyset Tar Oss instead.
Vardan – Between the Fog and Shadows (2015
Droning minor chords for minutes on end, replete with “catchy” piano and synth-“bloops” akin to a new-wave pop band. The dominant theory in our contemporary music scene is that this drivel was conjured up by the evocative gloom of Burzum, but there we must vehemently disagree. This is a spawn of the same old ego that spawned Grateful Dead, Opeth and Liturgy, this time merely slapped unto a production that they think would sell with the lower echelon of the black metal hordes; incapable of distinguishing a duck from an ostrich. It worked ten years ago, and we’re still seeing bands such as Vardan cashing in on the plastic underground credibility to this day.
Trials – This Ruined World (2015)
The instrumental performance of Pantera amalgamated with metalcore production and composition, sprinkled with the most basic uninspired Metallica-worship gallop and Sepultura breakdown. What do we get? Imagine a cake concocted by a skilled chemist lacking any taste buds. Technically, it’s proficient, but the emperor wears no clothes, and even the most passing glance at this record might confirm this. I’m sure these fellows think their murky, crusty chugs mixed with catchy melodic death metal riffs and pop choruses was a top notch idea to get all the chicks on the beach, but I assure them that for this atrocity they’ll receive only personal embarrassment in the future.
SoulLine – Welcome My Sun (2015)
At some point in the mid-to-late 90’s, the term melodic death metal, once the moniker used for bands using the death metal labyrinth-riff through leitmotifs of recognizable melodies more so than percussive grounding, became usurped by the most twee of electro-pop bands, grunge-rejects and the burgeoning modern screamo and post-hardcore genres.
The band might define itself as a melodic death metal band, but one would be hard-pressed to find any differences in this material from your typical screamo/crunkcore-band. A band like Attack Attack will have the same moronic, oversimplified Pantera-grooves, monotone, emotionless vocals, random disco drums and pop structures with a slaphappy yet indignant “mad-at-father” choruses. The only differing elements are the chunkier metal production and the fact that there are a few more listless harmonies in the breakdowns. Melodic death metal is a sham, it has nothing to do with death metal, and just about anything labelled this after 1995 is a marketing ploy to get both the listless Cannibal Corpse-fans who will gobble up anything death metal-related for the “br00tal” street cred and the emo kids who’ve had enough of the bullying at school into bands like this in this putrid, yawn-inducing horror of a genre.
Shrapnel Storm – Mother War (2015)
Looking at this record superficially we see the image of a forsaken mother clutching a decayed baby as though it was all that was left for her in her life. The Apocalypse is raging all around in an urban environment and the future is bleak. This imagery has a striking resemblance to what crust punk constantly portrayed.
This is no accident. One of the bases for the Swedish death metal sound which this Finnish band pursues was this Discharge/Amebix-influence. The Stockholm HM-2 Boss guitar sound was the natural evolution of the bass-driven, gritty rasp that could be heard on Amebix releases as early as 1983’s Winter. Shrapnel Storm’s idea on how to elaborate on this legacy is to strip back the evolution of Swedish Death Metal one step further into the lost realm of Crust-bleakness where monotony and desolation rules. This is a valid endeavour and the result does predictably come off similar to a modernized, groovier version of what Deviated Instinct and Bolt Thrower did in the late 80’s.
There’s only one vital flaw: The music isn’t very engaging and hearkens back to Wolverine Blues and Welcome to the Orgy more than it does Left Hand Path and Arise!. Rather than exploring the ambiance that could be found in both of these genres when played with expertise, in actual content, Shrapnel Storm for the most part makes this seem like just another mediocre death-n-roll record rather than the potential their sound actually might possess.
If they drop the simple bluesy riffs, focus on the monotone but engaging crusty riffs, play around with song structures more you might actually find a worthwhile record from these guys sometime in the future, but for now, it’s not salvageable and we’re left with dull and mediocre riffs that go nowhere but straight into the bin.
Nihilosaur – Icebreaker Hope (2014)
Reminiscent of the overtly artsy post-death metal bands in Finland after the countries initial boom of creativity died out, this band tries to take death metal in an interesting direction, but ends up sounding like a mediocre Sludge Metal band with no clear direction on how to escape the forest of their own design.
Loud, buzzing bass-distortion and peculiar, sometimes Godflesh-like guitar-notes screech in the distance. But no one will listen, except for their mothers who assure that they’re as special and unique as ever. The main differing factor between Godflesh or other quirky but successful bands like Carbonized and this is ultimately the fact that Nihilosaur merely know how to take you on an obscure journey through industrial film noir-visuals, but then leave they leave you with no satisfying conclusion. It starts and ends with a vortex of randomness where listlessness is king.
This is the Mulholland Drive of death metal, it wishes it was Voivod or other narrative bands, but for this fairytale, the narrator has long been asleep at the wheel, never to be found again. Good riddance.
Minority Sound – Drowner’s Dance (2015)
Did you ever want Marilyn Manson with a bit more EBM, injected with leftover riffs from Megadeth Risk album to then be spiced with movie soundtrack electronic orchestras, desperately trying to inject some novelty into the tween-metal? No? You elitist bigot!
The band is definitely more instrumentally competent than most in the industrial metal genre but like other novel bands like Babymetal the music is pop music on steroids, disguised as an ironic, competent “new” take on metal. If the fair is too expensive for you but you still want that roaring deluge of incomprehensible, meaningless sounds and images to barrage before your senses and this might be just right for you.
Lothlöryen – Principles of a Past Tomorrow (2015)
The trouble with the modern power metal genre is its overwhelming mediocrity, where the bulk of the music sounds like pop music on speed conjured up by the high from their own auto-effluvial sniffings. It is truly a rare gift to see anything even resembling what Iron Maiden could achieve with the beginnings of this sound in the mid-80ís. But that’s Is a story for another time.
This isn’t utterly horrific by modern power metal standards, it’s just so average that it could be any tired Blind Guardian-influenced attire shuffling through the fog for an original approach to songwriting that isn’t copy-pasted from an early Helloween album. The occasional EBM interlude and gimmicky parody of a Celtic major-driven song-and-dance isn’t doing this already stillborn record any favours – the only favour I can ask of the band members to do for themselves would be to stop wasting valuable plastic on this insipid tripe. That, or move to Finland, join a Polka-troupe and finally kill themselves.
Crown – Natron (2015)
Indie rock will always find new aesthetic means to plague us and infest any worthwhile medium of creative composition. They will perpetuate Shakespeare’s legacy as if it were Comic Sans in their vain vision of art.
What does this new incarnation bring us? Well, the black rider in the night wears the robes of sludge/doom metal of the lowest caliber, laced with post-rock and industrial clichès. If you’re a fan of pseudo-prog of the last decade but would like it artsier, “spiritually deeper”, more Agalloch-infused and Rammstein-attuned, then this might be for you. Mind you, you would have had to have lost your taste buds ages ago if you find that sounding remotely palatable, so I’m sure you’ll gobble it up like a any fine happy meal from the garbage bin.
Locrian – Infinite Dissolution (2015)
As the album initiates its sonic onslaught, we are at first greeted with something resembling early Godflesh, but with a more derivative, flaccid production. Where will this lead us? I’ll tell you where, to post-rock and Wolves In the Throne Room-tedium. The industrial aesthetic attempt to hide the fact that this is the same tired quasi-ambient formula where emotionless “emotional” sounds roll unto the listener until a barrage of harmonic, almost Liturgy-like random melodic throwaways strikes as if it is the only path for the music to take, until it dies a tragic death in reflection of its own hubris.
This pattern is repeated throughout the entire record. It’s clear that they want to be Drudkh 2.0 and some of the slower melodies hold some meagre musical merit, but the approach and composition is botched with no saving grace to be found. Avoid or fall into oblivion, as is the fate of this album.
Credit where credit is due: The album title perfectly describes how focused the composition is on the record.
Sonick Plague – Street Wars (2015)
An 80’s speed metal band, forgotten by time and space, decide to make a new record almost 30 years after being out of business. One can wonder if anyone ever found their output special to begin with, as what we find here is something akin to early Megadeth without any substantial riff variation and a latter-day groove metal influence, pedalling in these similar motifs that don’t go much further than tying themselves up in a nice enough fashion. This is the barcode for mediocre, it might get them some high fives from their friends at the pub that they haven’t met since the late 80’s, but to the general public this is as forgettable as they come.
Funebria – In Dominus Blasfemical Est… Ad Noctum Sathania (2015)
Some bands are only after the lipstick and aesthetics. Funebria is a Venezuelan black metal band that despite their best efforts, come off as a modern melodic death metal/metalcore act with dynamics borrowed from Marduk and Cradle of Filth. They try their best to disguise this under raw, simplistic war metal lyrics and scene pandering, but for the discerning ear this is as vapid as the latest Dimmu Borgir albums, unfortunately for this album however, they lack even the instrumental proficiency of the latter. Let this abortion sink into the depths that their doted Ea might give them a final mercy kill so we might never hear such belligerently tedious music ever again.
Note: Oddly, this sounds like “Fun”+ “ebria” (drunk in Spanish).
Superficially repacking the old into the new for a younger, naiver generation is an abhorrent commercial practice of both record labels and Hollywood studios. These five independent artists have bravely submitted their failures in doing so to the Death Metal Underground. May our objective criticism prove constructive to their suicides.
Archemoron – Sulfur and Fire (2015)
Archemoron. Yes, Archemoron. Yes, this band named themselves Archemoron. Yes Archemoron were not joking; Archemoron are serious. When not ripping off Slayer, Archemoron play melodic black and death metal riffs arranged into rock dirges. Many of Archemoron’s own “riffs” are pinch harmonics repeated for two minutes. Archemoron’s tracks are five to seven minutes too long. Archemoron invoke Hieronymus Bosch about as much as Dark Funeral taking their pants off and whacking each others’ dicks with pool noodles for an hour before running a train on the ass of the one in the gimp chains invokes heterosexuality. Archemoron are arch morons.
Deathwhite – Solitary Martyr (2015)
Hoobastank is back with a new EP. What remains of Roadrunner has surprisingly not signed them yet. I am watching a group of shaved-ape Russians fishhook a fat hooker with their dicks. The mascara is running as they pound her face and ass. The asshole stretches to accommodate more Poles. Time for the money shot. So this is a creampie scene? Damn they are ejaculating in her ass one by one. That’s nasty. She’s squeezing it out now. Mother of god that is not watery semen; this is a group piss enema into a prolapsed rectum. That bloody red, inside-out Russian rectal meat is wet with piss and shit flakes. Only Relapse Records could masturbate to this.
Enthring – The Art of Chaos (2015)
Is this Hells Headbangers Motorheadcore? Slayer? Slayer doesn’t have keyboards. Chanting? Why? Enthring want the lyrics to be important in these rock songs so why are they detracting from what I can’t understand with a melotron? Motorhead didn’t need keyboards in the 70s, Motorhead doesn’t need keyboards added in now. Stop remixing music you cannot comprehend into carnival music metalcore with breakdowns. This is the Transsexual Serbian Orchestra of metalcore soggy biscuiting that Fleshlight Apocalypse that came in Nuclear Blast’s die hard edition.
Goat Torment – Sermons to Death (2015)
Goat Torment attempt to preach to Death himself by prying open fans’ assholes with Sodom and Slayer. While many experienced heshers can instantly see through such a ruse, many of today’s trve metal warriors only listen to bands that their chill core bros designate as “bestial.” This audience is unaware nor cares of the thrash rehash cash-in. The martyred Euronymous himself was fond of cutoff Sodom belly shirts and dildo prostrate massages so Pitchfork will say that Goat Tormentor having a daisy chain finished by using Tom Angelripper’s visage on the back of their shirts as a cum target is a socially acceptable sexual practice. Sermons to Death is an Outbreak of AIDS.
Kyy – Travesty of Light (2015)
Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir pandered “black metal” to Hot Topic tweens. Kyy attempt the same by sticking random minor key tremolo riffs in their nu metalcore. Twenty eight year olds with Vatnett Viskar backpatches, sleaveless jean jackets, and questionable sexual preferences won’t lap this up like they do teenage goth ass. Travesty of Light lacks the catchy screeched vocal hooks and emotional choruses to be distributed by Century Media. Only more randomness grounded by catchier vocal dichotomies may grant Kyy the hairy hipster fudge.
Getting into underground metal styles has never been a straightforward thing for anyone. The exception might be the Cannibal Corpse crowd that approach this music as fix for a certain mood, but see little beyond the most sensual appeal of the music. For those actually trying to appreciate the music anywhere beyond the surface either in a technical manner, it’s significance or the experience it provides beyond simple monochromatic sensual indulgence, the path consists of several steps in not one path but a multitude of paths that conform to the singular state and journey of each listener.
The present list does not attempt to give a template that will fit all as that is impossible. It is simplistic in its attempt to generalize and exemplify. The most important starting assumption is that the listener is at least fond of traditional heavy metal or hard rock in the worse case. I tried to avoid using of overtly offensive gateway bands like Craddle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir or Arch Enemy but these should not be completely discarded as possibilities to enable a smooth and pleasant transition into death and black metal.
For this example of a road map towards understanding and appreciation of death metal I have distinguished five different steps with suitable albums as follows:
I. Easy-going quasi death metal
- Carcass – Heartwork
- Entombed – Left Hand Path
II. Welcoming and easy-to-understand simple death metal that is only complex on a local level and so can inspire a sense of technical wonder in the listener while maintaining mood.
- Death – Spiritual Healing
- Adramelech – Psychostasia
- Demigod – Slumber of Sullen Eyes
III. Excellent, but mostly on a technical level, with raw power and refinement in style, solid and well-produced albums that do not transcend their technical aspects
- Morbid Angel – Covenant
- Cryptopsy – None so Vile
- Vader – Litany
IV. Authentic, representative of the core of the death metal spirit while being original
- Demilich – Nespithe
- Deicide – Legion
- Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten
V. Completely past appearances and technical infatuation, almost on the spiritual level of true and good black metal
- At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
- Immolation – Unholy Cult
- Gorguts – Obscura
We all seek a claim that our lives are worth living. For some, this comes from money; for others, being right or at least being cool. In order to achieve either or both, one must emit product, and far too often this product tries to flatter and pander to its audience rather than grow some balls and make a point. You could write an album about cooking an omelette with more passion than most bands approach topics like war, death, genocide, evil and emptiness. When the surface takes over from the core, the cart has come before the horse and all is lost, which is why we savor the sobbing tears of poseurs, tryhards and scenesters with Sadistic Metal Reviews…
Like a Storm – Awaken the Fire
In a flashback to the bad parts of the 90s, this album opens with a digeridoo before breaking into predictable hard rock riffs with heavier production and more basic rhythms. Then some guy starts singing in his best lounge lizard voice, building up to a pop chorus that could be straight off an Eagles album if they sped it up and did not worry about how truly incongruous the whole package would be. If you like speed metal trudge riffs paired with AOR favorite techniques and Coldplay-style vocals, this album might be for you. But the question remains: why even bother to release this as a metal album? Clearly it would be happier as country, pop, rock or even blues if they truncated the scenery-chewing vocals. It seems the music industry has found an update for nu-metal which is to channel it into this rock/metal hybrid which takes the angry parts of Pantera and pairs them with the smarmiest parts of overproduced, excessively pandering fraternity rock. These guys have a Titty Bingo sticker on their van. The scary thing is that the “inspirational” rock stylings here are a kissing cousin to much of what has infested power metal. But this takes it a step further to the point where what comes out of the speakers resembles the worst of corporate rock from the 90s and 00s to the point that heavier guitars cannot disguise the essential frat party rock tendency of this flaming turd. This goes well with a pukka shell necklace and lots of hair gel, with a NO FEAR sticker on the overly polished ‘stang next to the keg of Natty Light.
Abominator – Evil Proclaimed
Angelcorpse invoked a revelation in death metal, but not entirely a good one. The basic idea was to accelerate the rhythmic fill to the level of riff, such that the composer could use one or two chords in a charging rhythm much like war metal or hardcore punk, but then work in elaborate brachiated chord phrases to avoid the riff concluding in the stunningly obvious chord progression that otherwise must result. Add a bunch of these together in constant rhythm and the essence of that style shines forth. Abominator attempts to break up the constant charging and give songs more shape, as well as use actual fills which complement the riffs, but despite this effort and some inventive songwriting, the blockhead forward charging — like Cannibal Corpse working on the longer Bathory riff outtake that opened the first Angelcorpse album — continues and ruins any atmosphere except a constant tension that starts to resemble an eyestrain headache after a few songs. Speaking of songs, these are nearly indistinguishable, written at similar tempos with similar riff forms and while not random pairing of riffs, reliance on phrasal similarity to the point that songs sound like one giant charging riff with some textural flickering within. To Abominator’s credit, Evil Proclaims is a lot better than the other Angelcorpse tributes out there. Unfortunately, that’s about all that this album remains as and a few moments of power notwithstanding, remains mired in a sea of formless raging metal which never reaches a point.
Venom – “Long Haired Punks” (from From the Very Depths)
Venom are NWOBHM, not black metal; this fact flies in the face of what you will be told in 99% of the metal propaganda out there. The band themselves have never denied it. On this track however, Venom throws us a twist by sounding exactly like Motorhead except with more sudden stops at the end of each phrase where Motorhead would have kept a methamphetamine groove going. “Long Haired Punks” features punkish riffing combined with Venom’s archetypal primitive, broad leaps of tone and nearly chromatic fills. A bluesy solo that seems designed to be slightly abusive to key and chaotic accompanies this as do the purely Lemmy-styled vocals in what is essentially a verse-chorus two riff song with a bridge. The sudden pauses grow tedious within the passage of the song to newer listeners but then again, those grew up after metal assimilated Discharge, Amebix and The Exploited. For someone from 1979, this would seem like a slicker version of Venom with more emphasis on carefully picked chords and less onrushing punk energy, which makes the title ironic. It is well-composed within the limited style that Venom has preferred all these years, but attempts to update the NWOBHM stylings plus Motorhead of Venom have failed and should either be rolled back or the original style entirely discarded. This band is halfway between trying to be what it was, but in a post-1983 sound, and what it could be, which probably would resemble nothing like the original except for the raw “gut instinct” energy which unfortunately, attempts to modernize have limited. While I am not the world’s biggest Venom fan, it is hard to deny (1) their catchy punk/Motorhead/NWOBHM pop power and (2) their aesthetic influence on much but not all of underground metal, and it would be great to see this band develop into all it can be. From “Long Haired Punks,” it seems in doubt that From the Very Depths will be that evolution.
Unrest – Grindcore
The title proclaims this release as grindcore but a better description might be later punk styled as grindcore with a nod toward pop punk. These songs fit together nicely, but rely on two unfortunate things that doom them: repetition of classic punk and grindcore tropes as if they established something in themselves, and use of very much pop rhythmic hooks and song transitions. The vocals are great, the instrumentation fantastic for this genre, the melodies adequate and the rhythms good, but the meaning is not there. The recent Nausea album achieved a great deal more with less by focusing on having each song present an idea and then developing a basic, albeit circular looping context. Grindcore attempts instead the infamous “outward-in” composition of tribute bands everywhere where the need to include the tropes on the surface pushes out the need for internal structure based around a coherent thought, so songs end up being technique only, which is somewhat ironic in such a theoretically anti-technique genre. Most of these result in that “feel” of classic punk and hardcore but add to it the heavy technique of grindcore, which only serves to reveal how disorganized these tracks are. By the time they fall into imitating classic punk open chord picking and stop/start conventions halfway through the album, it has already been long clear that this is a highly competent tribute band but nothing more. To the credit of the label, production is flawless and clear without sounding too slick and the vocals are perfectly mixed. That cannot save Grindcore, nor can its periodically great guitar work, from being reliant on the crutch of imitating the past in lieu of writing songs. Maybe all the great hardcore and grindcore that could be written was long ago.
Archgoat – The Apocalyptic Triumphator
Much like the late days of hardcore, underground metal is standardizing into a war metal/death metal hybrid that emphasizes fast slamming rhythm without the obvious rock, jazz and blues breakdowns that make it clear that music belongs to the peace, love and happiness side of metal. Archgoat, by applying the structure of Scandinavian metal to the raw onslaught of Blasphemy/Sarcofago styled proto-black metal, stands as an innovator to this sub-genre which tends to combine Onward to Golgotha, Fallen Angel of Doom and Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz into a single style that like the bands which combined The Exploited, Black Flag and the Cro-Mags into a single voice, standardizes itself and becomes just about interchangeable. The sad fact of The Apocalyptic Triumphator is that a lot of good songwriting went into this album and some quality riff-writing, but this band remains literally imprisoned by the style in which they choose to create. About half of this album, preying on all of us who wish there were somewhere undiscovered in a vault another four hours of Drawing Down the Moon, borrows rhythms and arrangement patterns from that highly-esteemed work, as well as developing known riff types from the above influences. None of this is bad; however, it does not add up to enough to be compelling, like previous Archgoat works. This album represents the most professional work from this band so far and clearly exceeds any previous efforts, but the genericism of its riffs make songs indistinguishable both from one another and in terms of structure, creating the musical equivalent of listening to a flood sewer. For every good riff, four “standard” ones borrowed from the war metal/Blasphemy-tribute/Incantoclone group crowd them out. Periodic moments of greatness are balanced by a double frequency of moments of staggering obviousness which make it hard to get behind hearing this one on a regular basis. What I want to know is: what do these musicians actually idealize in music, outside of this style? Their work in such an artistically liberated medium might unleash the creativity that this narrow style suppresses.
Heaving Earth – Denouncing the Holy Throne
- Disruption metal. In business, the idea of disruption is that some new entrant into the market disturbs it to the point of throwing everything else out. This should simply be thrown out. Trudging riffs, squeals, chortled vocals, mind-numbing rhythms and melodic fills that sound more like video game noises than metal. An album of this would be excruciating, doubly so if you listened to it.
Ancient Wind – The Chosen Slain
- Style over substance defines this release: built on a base of melodeath, Ancient Wind regurgitates several different influences but predominantly Sodom and Wintersun. The result is a sampler plate of styles that never comes together but, because it has no topic other than the need to record something for a half hour or so, the lack of style damages nothing nor salvages anything. You are left with the typical experience of hearing something disorganized, then seeing a fat woman eat ice cream, and suddenly being unable to recall if the music had been on earlier. In one ear and out the other, if you’re lucky.
Sacrilegium – Wicher
- 1996, out of Poland. Like Graveland? A more conventional version of Graveland: less scary, more uptempo, more musically predictable. Sounds a lot like there was a Dimmu Borgir influence. While it’s tempting to like the style, the lack of substance suggests this album should have stayed in 1996 with the other proto-tryhards.
Battle Beast – Unholy Savior
- An album’s worth of that one song your junkie ex-girlfriend is really into. For Lady Gaga listeners who like the sound of electric guitars. Halestorm meets fantasy. Daddy-issues metal. I’m out of jokes, just don’t listen to this.