It has been over a month since we have launched the song contest here at DMU. Our suspicions that very few people would enter the contest due to our reputation for honest yet harsh reviews were confirmed. This was probably why only two contestants presented themselves in any capacity. Consequently, no winner shall be appointed nor will awards be handed out: two entries do not constitute a contest.
Dissection was one of the last bands to be associated with violence and action in metal. Jon Nodveidt, a true Hessian who rejected the modern world, committed various acts that most will consider morally reprehensible yet they embodied his personal philosophy and the ideology of his music. Barring the third album, Dissection display a penchant for ambitious composition within a framework of heavy/death and black metal. The second outing reached too far and ended up sounding almost confused from the virtuosity of the musicians and the wide number of techniques at their disposal without the vision to streamline all these ideas. The Somberlain is a lot more focused in its inspirations by sticking closer to the source material and more structured arrangements.
A Land Forlorn impressively bridges multiple approaches to metal.
Immolation are legends in Death metal and rightfully so, though their heydays were after the initial burst that characterized the NYDM scene and have cemented their place with the likes of Cryptopsy and Immortal for prolonging the lifespan of that classic period of metal. Longevity seems to be the forte of the band’s centerpieces Dolan and Vigna and while they released a few decent albums, none of them quite hold up to Here in After. Black Sabbath and Slayer stretched the palette for what was possible in metal and introduced endless possibilities whereas Immolation took one closed approach and pushed it to its limit on this album. Though Close To A World Below took experimentation further, the whole was not as cohesive or powerful. Let us look as the closing track which truly concludes the album.
While working with what was intended to be the second part of a tripartite article series covering the history and general properties of the power metal subgenre, it soon became clear that a sufficiently thorough treatment of the subject would require more space and time than what was originally intended. This insight subsequently led to the conclusion that individual parts needed to be subdivided and portioned out in order to not grow out of proportion. The initial plan to present the material into three consecutive parts has thus been revised. (more…)
At first glance, this album boasts a cool cover and impressively long song lengths, making a strong first impression. Then I hit play. It didn’t take long to realize this is really, really bad live album. It is not tightly played at all. The two guitars are not in sync and neither are the drums. You have to suffer through really bad lyrics like: “Onward to the sun” and “Destiny is calling!”. Everything is really bad waltzy Sabbath imitation but really boring. I can fairly say that this album qualifies as epic German cheese. So of course it will be popular. The singer sounds like the guy who sang those Budweiser ads Real Men of Genius. (more…)
Never has there been a word in metal as misunderstood as atonal, allowing all kinds of ridiculous claims since most individuals confuse atonality with dissonance and chromatism.
There are two ways to define atonality, one being the complete lack of tonal character and being reduced to noise like some of Kerry King’s solos or the works of Merzbow. The other definition that interests us here is the complete lack of functional harmony. In simpler terms that implies not having the root note that commands a certain melody. Without a root note, the notes in an atonal melody are not connected by scales, modes or chords.
In addition to its notoriously contradictive definitional nature, doom metal remains something of an enigma in terms of its enduring popularity. Whether or not one chooses to view it as a distinctive subgenre, style or even technique, doom metal must bear one of the most in-proportionate quotas within metal music when it comes to quantity over quality. If attempting to depict doom metal from the perspective of enduring releases, the list of canonical works would become surprisingly short. It seems plausible that part of the explanation to this sad state is embedded in the very characteristics of the style. Doom bands have generally prioritized development of exceptionally powerful tools for conveying sonic heaviness at the expense of other aspects of the music. It might even be so that the techniques in themselves has forced artists into a particular way of writing music. Either way, there appears to be a widespread discrepancy between the means of expression and what is actually being expressed in doom metal; which in turn provides clues as to what makes for a genuinely satisfying doom-offering. With the above discussion in mind, today’s written offering presents the Australian death/doom act Paramaecium – one of few bands bearing the doom-tag that has managed to write compositions to match the sonic gravitas associated with said style. (more…)
Strangle Wire are a northern Irish four piece band that follow the Slipknot tradition of naming each other numerically. The band claims to play psychological death metal with influences from Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus and Sinister. However, none of Sinister’s music appears here and this is typical Nu-Death metal.
Listen to a track from the upcoming Hadeon from longstanding Dutch band Pestilence, one is immediately struck by the similarity to late-1990s Morbid Angel: the riffs are there, albeit a bit impatient and tightly circular, but the whole experience is not. What is missing? To understand this, we must go to the core of what made death metal what it is.
If you wanted to explain to a normal person what death metal is, looking at the core of its spirit, you might haul out Slayer Hell Awaits, Hellhammer Apocalyptic Raids, and Bathory The Return… because these influenced the techniques, composition, and spirit of death metal. From Hellhammer and Slayer, it got its song structure and aesthetics; from Bathory its themes and riff technique.
Death metal took the original idea of metal, formed when Black Sabbath and others began using power chords to make phrasal riffs instead of harmony-oriented open chord riffs, and developed it further. This is different than doing something “new” or “progressing” because it means undertaking the much harder task of developing an idea further at a structural level instead of just changing aesthetics.
With the rise of underground metal, death metal adopted chromatic riffing and made the interplay between riffs form a narrative to each song. This abolished typical rock song structure and, because the guitar served as a melodic instrument instead of a harmonic one, forced vocals, bass and drums into a background role. How well the riffs fit together and portrayed an atmosphere, idea, or sensation defined the quality of the music.
Pestilence came from a solid death metal background with Consuming Impulse but showed a speed metal styled approach on Malleus Maleficarum, and this tension has stayed with the band for its entire career. The speed metal style of verse and chorus built on a singular theme that is present in the music is easier to jam on and use harmony to complement, where death metal rarely explicitly states its theme, only silhouetting it in the interaction between its many riffs. With speed metal, bands can set up a chord progression and develop it in layers of internal commentary like jazz, and this puts vocals back in position number one among the lead instruments.
“Non-Physical Existent” is a two-riff song with both based on the same note progression. It creates its intensity through the clash between a ripping circular high speed riff and a slower chromatic riff that uses odd harmony to distinguish notes in an otherwise linear theme. The song breaks into a solo section over one of the riffs, and has a type of turnaround the drops into the faster riff as a return. But there is no real interplay nor any narrative.
From the riffs themselves, this is a good song, but unfortunately, it is not death metal. Nor will it last because essentially it is a closed-circuit video of itself, a riff commented on by another, without resembling any particular experience or emotion, therefore being a null journey, more like stasis in space while riffs loop. It is better than not bad, but still not of real interest to the death metal fan.
Having recently dissected what comprises the riff structuring of the current incarnation of Gorguts in the Pleiades’ Dust review, I decided to revisit what I deem to be their most truly progressive material in The Erosion of Sanity to pinpoint what the band used to do successfully in comparison. The most bewildering track on it, “Condemned to Obscurity,” perplexed me when I had first heard it about twenty years ago and still has an esoteric nature to its structure and aesthetic today. But unlike current Gorguts which borrows from indie and noise rock techniques to create dissonance, Gorguts on this particular song managed to do so utilizing purely metal tropes in a way that was entirely unique for its time. In the following I will attempt to break down what comprises the very first riff of the song and detail what it meant for the band at the time and how it served as a window into what they eventually evolved into, for better or worse.