Steve Cefala Interviewed by Doom-metal.com

Occasional Death Metal Underground contributor and Dawning and Pale Existence mastermind Steve Cefala was interviewed by Doom-metal.com about his No God Only Pain project. Want to read Steve discussing his influences, the corporate metal of Bob Rock and Scott Burns, survivalism, Hillary Clinton, and how the world is moving into a new dark age of uncertainty following the collapse of neoliberalism? Let’s find out!

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Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom (2016)

dead-congregation-sombre-doom

Sombre Doom is the new EP from Dead Congregation. The riffing is in the same Immolation and Incantation style with simple but effective variations as on their past releases while the production is a less compresssed version of Dead Congregation’s prior album, Promulgation of the Fall, some of The Best Underground Metal of 2014. Thankfully gone are the cheesy Kerry King style leads and guitarists AV and TK have markedly improved the song structure.

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Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom Out October 20th

dead-congregation-sombre-doom-announcement

Dead Congregation‘s Sombre Doom EP is coming out October 20nd on CD from the band’s own Martyrdoom Productions label. The EP will be available for purchase on their upcoming European tour. From Dead Congregation’s Funbook page:

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Question – Doomed Passages (2014)

question-doomed_passages

This review was contributed to Death Metal Underground by Neil Sigmundsson.

The best albums are greater than the sum of their parts and provide the capability for listener immersion due to their length and integration but the song is still generally the most important and most fundamental compositional unit in death metal. Paying too much attention to atmosphere, musicianship, individual riffs, or other aesthetical and shallow (though important) qualities of an album can lead to overlooking compositional shortcomings, especially after the mind starts to fatigue or when listening to dense material. This is the case with Doomed Passages, which feels convincing – and in some aspects it is – but suffers from a number of flaws that might be missed during casual listening. That being said, even though the music of Question is imperfect, it is modest and sincere and at its best moments overflows with contagious vigor and energy that leaps fearlessly towards the abyss, a mark of the upper echelons of death metal artists.

First, praise is due to some of the mechanical and aesthetical elements of this album. The roaring, expressive vocals, replete with various single-syllable exclamations and grunts, are highly enjoyable and benefit from a cavernous quality due to studio-induced reverb. The drums are commendable in their creativity and in demonstrating a subtle understanding of the level of activity that best complements any given situation. Rumbling double bass creates a “rolling” sensation of high momentum at certain tempi. The production is deep and clear, and has a bit of cushion, but more separation between the instruments might have been beneficial.

There are two truly excellent songs on Doomed Passages: the second and fifth tracks. “Nefarious Conclusion” is the most structurally rigorous composition on the album, being basically linear but still having a clear exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action. This results in a rewarding experience. 0:00-0:50 is an example of creating variation, exploration, and motion out of a single phrase. The drum build-up to the invigorating climactic riff is genius; it sounds like transitioning from walking to running. The transitions at 1:15 and 4:34 are somewhat rough, but not enough to harm the composition. “Universal Path of Disgrace” has one of the most memorable riffs on the album, a sprawling eight bar tremolo-picked cycle. After the second occurrence of this riff and its accomplice, the song heads logically into a strange middle section that sounds like being in an unstable, slightly psychedelic limbo. A climax and resolution emerge from there. This song offers an interesting journey but it is slightly less satisfying than “Nefarious Conclusion.”

Aside from these two tracks, the remainder of the material on Doomed Passages shows promise and has shining moments but suffers from various problems. Some of these issues are abrupt transitions (“Mournful Stench” at 3:35), weak conclusions (“Devoured from Within”), and segments that overstay their welcome (the introduction of “…Bitter Gleam of Inexistence”). However, the major recurring problem and the biggest downfall of Question, though it is not immediately apparent due to the large number of riffs (many of which sound similar), is the purposeless, wandering song structures. In their template, Question take a single riff or a small group of riffs that act as an “anchor,” and they dance a bunch of ideas around that anchor before departing in an uncertain, random direction. This resembles a very relaxed version of what Slayer pioneered on tracks like “At Dawn They Sleep,” which completes two verse-chorus cycles and then departs radically from pop structure. The difference – and it’s a significant difference – is that Slayer maintained a strong narrative and a sense of purpose and tension throughout the entirety of their songs, whereas Question is usually content with wandering aimlessly. That Question can string a huge number of riffs together without the result sounding like patchwork is impressive (see “Grey Sorrow”), but cohesion alone does not make death metal of lasting quality, and as a result an appreciable amount of this material feels pointless and is frustrating to endure.

As hinted at above, there are simply too many riffs on Doomed Passages, a large proportion of which are interchangeable and forgettable, appear only once, and serve no vital function. Question demonstrate that they know how to overcome this problem in multiple ways (developing phrases, relating riffs through common or similar phrases, writing highly memorable riffs, returning to previous ideas in different contexts, etc.), but they need to apply these habits more diligently. There are focused passages, and there are highly memorable riffs, but ideally all of the passages should be focused and all of the riffs memorable and necessary. Thus, whereas many death metal bands have simplified their song structures to the detriment of the music, Question can actually benefit from being somewhat more repetitive in order to remove the forgettable and less evocative riffs and develop only their best and darkest ideas. This can be done while retaining the narrative, exploratory song structures. It will occurs more  naturally and easily when the music is written and played with specific purpose and direction. More dynamics might also help in stressing important sections, as the sound sometimes blends into a monotonous stream. The digital, compressed production is of no help.

Another lesser issue with Doomed Passages is that consonance sometimes feels out of place when it appears in the midst of the generally dissonant and chromatic music. The interlude “Through the Vacuous River” is the most blatant offender, though the riff at 5:28 of “Universal Path of Disgrace” is questionable as well. While consonance is not vital for this music to express something meaningful, there is potential in its skillful application, as demonstrated by 3:00-3:35 of “Mournful Stench,” a section that arises at an appropriate time but is unfortunately not fully developed. The acoustic final track also works fairly well in context. If Question would hone their skills at incorporating consonance into their musical language, the wider range of expression will provide them with more tools for communication.

The standout songs on this album prove that Question is capable of writing intense and adventurous narrative death metal of the highest caliber. All of the tracks have redeemable and enjoyable qualities and marks of skilled craftsmanship, but most are hampered by the flaws discussed above. To further improve their already above average music, Question need to at least  scrap the forgettable riffs and instead develop more extensively their best ideas while taking  the reins and writing more directed and focused compositions. The second change can be realized either by forcing the songs to move toward clear climaxes and satisfying conclusions or by finding some wisdom and inspiration that can be represented in and communicated through the music. These young musicians are certainly technically proficient but need to write more coherent compositions if they want to inspirit their music instead of joining the ranks of so many other failed techdeath endeavors.

Readers may listen to Doomed Passages on Chaos Record’s Bandcamp page.

The little doom factory – Interview with FUCK YOGA Records

Ivan Kocev
Interview by Gent Mehmeti

A small distro portraying Skopje’s (Macedonia) gloominess and fucked up street reality through records and gigs since the early 2000s, FUCK YOGA has since grown into a label that makes obscure hardcore and metal gems somehow available to the few heterodox freaks roaming this city. Its presence has grown during the years. Today, it is home to some of the more obscure acts that seem to have acquired a cult following in the margins of hardcore and slow-paced metal. California’s Noothgrush and even Boston doomsters Grief have gone through FUCK YOGA.

We’ll dive inside and try to dissect everything up in an interview with Ivan Kocev, the man behind this freakish abomination.

1. Ivan, you seem to be heavily attached to gruesome acts of human abhorrence. Well, at least one’s first impression is similar, whilst viewing Fuck Yoga through the lenses of conventional societal pattern.

I accept it as part of nature’s condition, hidden behind the veil of social conventions. It is important to familiarize oneself with all aspects of existence in order to gain more knowledge and bring more truthful judgments further in life.

2. What’s up with you and yoga anyway? Why all the hate dude?

When we were plastering posters for shows, they were often being covered by a yoga class. What also contributed to choosing the name was the “instant enlightenment” vibe that radiated from these people… I also read that the purpose of yoga was “becoming one with the great power that you were never actually apart from” or something like that, which I found bullshit at that time. So over 10 years later, the name remained- it’s not something I actively live by.

Festival poster

3. You pretty much nailed it with a few issues lately. Apartment 213, Noothgrush, Grief…some pretty cult stuff right there. How did you manage lurking them into your lair? Isn’t there a shitload of labels, some highly reputable I might add, in these guys’ states?

I’m a big fan of the mid-90’s mutant hardcore. It might as well have been the final progressive effort of sonic alchemy in it’s respective genre- acknowledging the past, yet branching out into unorthodox forms. Of course-with varying degrees of success, but the general feeling of actual creation and boldness was highly inspiring to my younger self. The bands you mentioned would have no trouble finding a “bigger” label then FUCK YOGA to release their records, but standard scaling doesn’t necessarily apply in this world anyway. They might be considered “cult” nowadays, albeit most of their records were issued on labels strongly rooted in the underground. I cultivate the DIY spirit while providing a very decent representation of their body of work. I salute staying underground by choice, not by necessity.

4. I guess you’re exposed to much of the sensibility of this genre. You collaborate, tour and run a label. You’ve grown to understand the scene from within. Do you think it is an all inclusive club that has built itself upon an egalitarian belief of indisputable equality? Or has this been the distorted image that we have been served by potential pests? My question seeks to disclose if ubermen who breed elite ideas are still present within these circles.

It is up to the individual to choose on which of the many conflicting attributes it pays attention to. You don’t have to look hard to come upon hypocrisy and shallowness in the underground- why would it would be devoid of? I encourage self-sufficiency, yet it’s funny how the bigger picture you see, roles start morphing. It is important to learn from experience and stay alert.

5. What are some of the shittiest bands out there that have been bringing a lot heat lately? I’m all obsessed with negative lists and would really want to hear your opinion.

I am not following “the heat” really. As time becomes more precious for me, I have to spread it out as productive as possible.

6. How do we kill this whole revival trend that has been busting our balls? Resurrection is cool sometimes, but if every idiot is given the opportunity to bring stuff back to life, pretty soon we might even see Christian metal bands or some fucked up shit like that rocking the scene.

Simply judge for yourself instead being told what’s good for you. Easier said than done, I know… If your acceptance filter can handle a copy of a copy of a copy- who cares? I try not to focus on what I dislike, rather use my effort in directions that excite me. The underground will always survive through mutation- some will lose sight, interest or power- but it implodes forever.

7. Are you a fan of population reduction? I am. Who do you think is doing the job well in aiding the process?

It’s difficult to imagine oneself as a 1/7 billionth part of a system. I try not to get too global, it feels depowering. I believe in eye-to-eye centrifugal action, as a real change needs a strong core. Much more efficient then just poking all over the place.

8. What’s on your schedule with Fuck Yoga?

Any day now (late November `15) I’m releasing a new batch of records; GRIEF s/t 12” and “dismal” LP/CD, MOSS “sinister history vol.1” (the first in the series of several records spanning the early, obscure years of the band), DESPISE YOU “west side horizons” LP, and BILLY BAO “communisation” LP. Next would be a NEW WORLD 3”/4” record, SETE STAR SEPT “vinyl collection” CD and HERPES “medellin” 7” repress. 2016 will see records by BASTARD NOISE, DAZD, GOLI DECA…

9. Do you think we’re battling an inside war against our own when facing the fury of SJWs who are censoring us with their PC crap? Fucking hipster pieces of trash!

I will have to disappoint you again with my detachment from cliques. I do not practice any organized political belief- It takes a lot of skill and practice to become independent. I can’t completely deny my social presence, and I am continually learning how to minimize compromise in favor of saving energy for the long run.

10. Briefly explain everything I missed out due to this interview being conducted by me in my utmost hung-over state. I didn’t ask you anything about Fuck Yoga’s roots, plans, presence etc. Neither did I ask you about the 3-4 bands you’re currently in (there’s at least one of them that I dig). Hell, you run a bizarre label somewhere in Southeastern Europe, where such things are true rarities and I didn’t ask you anything the domestic situation – that’s pretty lame of me; I bet it’s fun to hear some bone chilling stories of Balkan underground. Plus you’re organizing this festival in December and I totally skipped that. Preach the gospel!

Here’s what bands I’m currently involved in: GOLI DECA – the music is slow, but not “doom”- it’s devoid of the traditional rock/metal attributes- along the lines of what SWANS were doing on the first few records. VKOZUREN is musically comparable to early BURZUM- primitive and escapist.

The longest running, yet still unnamed band is somewhat a continuation of my previous band, POTOP- only more feral and surreal. I have used musical influences from WINTER, DISEMBOWELMENT, (early) MORBID ANGEL, EARTH 2, (early) DEAD CAN DANCE. Another unnamed, featuring Oleg Chunihin also of the band above and GOLI DECA, is trance-like bass-driven micro-compositions- think HELLHAMMER, BARATHRUM… There are a couple of rehearsal clips online, studio recordings and eventual releases are planned for 2016. MILITANT ZAZA is the name of the mini-fest we’re organizing for the first time this year, with exclusive performances by VERMAPYRE (nightmarish horror soundtracks), REGLER (the new project of BRAINBOMBS/ BILLY BAO personnel), PROPOVED (amazing ancient heavy doom from Serbia) and GOLI DECA. The idea was to organize an event covering different points of the extreme music specter, focusing on the fringes. Thank you for your interest and effort, it’s much appreciated.

Festival poster for MILITANT ZAZA

Doom and the normalization of metal

Main menu from Doom (1993)

The year was 1993, and Western society’s appetite for ultraviolence was steadily growing, as perhaps evidenced by our knowledge of the period’s death metal. Besides the music industry, other forms of entertainment embraced this, including Id Software, which at the time was a small but successful video game developer who increasingly specialized in first person shooters. Doom used much of the same technology as Id’s previous games in the genre, but due to better technology and marketing, it sold enormously more copies and understandably exerted more influence on game culture. Particularly interesting to us at DMU was Id’s decision to incorporate metal music into Doom. This wasn’t the first video game to showcase a straight up heavy metal soundtrack; that honor most likely goes to Rock’n’Roll Racing on the Super Nintendo, six months before the release of Doom. Rock’n’Roll Racing used synthesized covers of several popular heavy metal and hard rock tunes, but Doom arguably went a step further by using nominally original music. Robert Prince’s compositions for the game (and its immediate sequel, Doom II) are split between these ‘metal’ tracks and more ambient, downtempo tracks.

The music of Doom is definitely inspired by contemporary popular metal works to the point of near plagiarism; Prince mentions on the fan site Doomworld that Id initially asked him to do a contemporary metal soundtrack. Other sources mention that Prince relied primarily on the game’s design documents to inform his efforts and had limited contact with Id’s employees during the process. Regardless, tracks here are often just a few notes off from literally being rehashed Slayer or Metallica or one of the other popular bands that inspired this music. Song structures and everything else is understandably simplified, as video game music generally has to loop and can’t afford to be too prominent or obnoxious lest it be muted by an irritated player. It is still a reasonably appropriate backdrop to Doom‘s mixture of gun combat and labyrinthine exploration, although some players here will just use their death metal collections instead.

While streamed, sampled audio was common in video games by 1993, Doom initially used sequenced music, presumably to save on storage space and to avoid locking out potential buyers without access to a CD-ROM drive. The soundtrack was originally composed for General MIDI-compatible devices like Prince’s synthesizers, but on the average computer of the time, it’s most likely the soundtrack’s metal simulacra would play through one of Yamaha’s FM synthesis chips. The main problem with the OPL3 version of this soundtrack is a hardware one – while capable of producing a wide variety of sounds, the OPL3 suffers from severe anemia, particularly because of its weak percussion abilities, and therefore this version belies the music’s instrumentation.

Doom was, however, quickly ported to many other computers and consoles in light of its commercial success, where it would run into all sorts of technical limitations. Everyone involved in the ports handled the soundtrack differently, ranging from the complete omission of music on the Atari Jaguar, to rearrangements of various quality, including the infamously bad Sega 32X version, and even the Playstation port, notable as its main composer (Aubrey Hodges) contributed his own, original soundtrack of dark ambient music instead of using Prince’s work. The most “authentic” way to experience the soundtrack is probably Prince’s Doom Music compilation, which showcases much of the music performed on its original synthesizers; any additions are at least intended by the original author, although I still find the ability of mid-90’s electronics to mimic a distorted guitar underwhelming at best.

I doubt Id was specifically planning to popularize metal music when they released Doom, but they probably did a great deal in that regard, even though by 1993, mainstream metal was on the verge of commercial collapse and/or Pantera. The correspondence between common metal imagery, and the game’s demon-slaughtering violence and hellscapes is too obvious to ignore, though. Doom presumably sold more copies for pushing computers to their limit and being graphically violent, but the soundtrack’s decisions definitely paved the way for more and better-known works to feature metal as a soundtrack. In the process, it’s won such fans as Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel, who even made his own content for the game (although unfortunately, he didn’t bother to include his band’s music).

 

Cianide – Death, Doom and Destruction (2015)

cianide - death doom cover

Earlier in the Coffins review, it was mentioned how that band was little more than a superficial imitator of bands like Cianide, and that apart from imitating the same types of riffs, achieved little in the way of communication. This has everything to do with how a piece of music is organized. It is is not in the riff itself but the relationship between riffs and in how, in relation to each other, they sketch a landscape. Cianide understands this, Coffins and the multitudes of third-rate imitators do not.

While the tag of “doom” is attached to Cianide, it is only right to call them death metal. Period. A death metal band that sometimes plays in relatively slow tempos using completely diatonic schemes. This is strongly reminiscent of Black Sabbath, which were dubbed “doom” only in hindsight after later acts like Saint Vitus or Witchfinder General. Both of these bands just play simple heavy metal in a style that emphasizes the weight of riffs. Being the talented musicians they are, their song-construction is fluent and their parts inter-related. This goes without saying when it comes to good metal. The term “doom” only makes sense as a genre tags for acts such as Skepticism, Worship or Thergothon which definitely do not follow a death metal or a heavy metal template but operate on entirely different “ideological” (so to speak, but not politically, rather, artistically) premises.

In Death, Doom and Destruction, Cianide bring a more mobile conception of their particular style that emphasizes the dynamics afforded by their mid-paced trudging that allows them to waiver between heavy-trudging riffs ala Celtic Frost and faster tremolo-picked passages. Compared to their early work, this newer album is slightly simplified at the riff-level, although the construction has suffered little deterioration that this listener can perceive. The songwriting skills that allow them channel the rhythmic and harmonic impulse of one section onto the next and to trace a roller-coaster-like curve in the course of these musical pieces is stronger than ever. If anything, I would call this a condensed Cianide.

Blasphemy – Fallen Angel of Doom (1990, 2015)

blasphemy cover

Bringing together the grindcore of Napalm Death and the primitive black metal of Bathory and Sarcófago into a death metal way of thinking, Blasphemy gave the world a solid although juvenile Fallen Angel of Doom. Racing in consisting grinding expression while going beyond the riff and into an atmosphere-inducing state as a result of the progression of riffs that is fitting of that primitive black metal, the songs in this album open a portal through which disturbing visions come to alienate us, inducing a feeling of aloneness, doom and  fear.

That strong evocation is accomplished from the fusion of these two genres, in my opinion, because they are not just smashed together but rather assembled in a different mold, that of death metal and made into one language. The other thing is that you do not hear interleaving riffs in different styles, although we do hear a good deal of flexibility in riff type in terms of rhythm, texture and note length. The riffs themselves are both completely fitting for grindcore, but it is the duration of their repetition and the effect of their arrangement that results in a similarity with primitive black metal. In order to achieve a stronger result coming from goal-oriented development, the structural-minded songwriting of death metal comes to round off and concentrate the raw energy of the other two genres.