Jazz, Jazz-metal and the future of a hybrid

Our society is fascinated by outsiderness. This neurosis comes from the fact that we exist by the support of a civilization we see as going down a bad path, if we think about things at all. Our outsiders look more askance at this society than we who must maintain it, but they also do so from within it, so they are both critical of and dependent upon it. This creates a need for not a new civilization, but a new psychology of civilization, and it is mostly commonly engendered by song: poetry, jazz, prose or violence.

Jazz is “America’s music.” A hybrid of the blues and public-school training in European classical harmony, it nonetheless is not unique, because it has existed on every continent at some time in their growths. It is a universal language, the free and open jam, and appeals less to theory — despite being heavy on theory — than it does to an impulse of the soul which wants to start playing first, and then figure out how to cram the symbolism of emotions into song. Even so, when we speak of jazz we speak of the American variety.

Because jazz is extreme compared to pop music, and both in its day and today an outsider music, and because it went through a ring cycle from innocent complex pop music to nearly total psychoacoustic noise with the extremes of free jazz, we see it is parallel to heavy metal and hardcore punk. Both of those as well are falling from grace, exiling themselves from a comfortable modern existence to be extremes. Both of those totally reject society. Where jazz is cool alienation, and an attempt to find itself through degrees of emotion, metal and punk are a rejection of human emotion and a hot alienation that points to the hard, cold historical record — the abstract. Jazz is earth and metal is sky.

As metal expanded through its own cycle of growth and decay, its growth mirrored the process jazz underwent. At first, metal was just a heavier form of rock with more phrasal composition as evidenced by the long melodic riffs of Black Sabbath, but then it became a “serious” art form with speed metal, after the 70s stadium metal wrecked its credibility but good. When that “serious” social consciousness art wasn’t enough, it became crypto-symbolic art with death metal, with an extensive philosophical interpretation required to get from “only death is real” to a philosophy of abstraction to rival Plato.

When death metal got itself established after a painful birth from fragments of thrash/hardcore punk and speed metal, it found itself as an art form embracing simplicity and yet structure, shying away from mainstream consonance or even harmonic structure. Its structure came entirely from worship of the riff, or rather the way death metal bands would string together seemingly unconnected riffs that made sense as the piece culminated, like poetry unifying disparate symbolism. Death metal was unlike the harmonies of heavy metal, or the rhythmic culmination of speed metal, but it was pure structure in arrangement of complex riffs, and the distinct phrasing that made each one both evocative and complementary to others.

Because these riffs operated independently of scalar or chordal structures, death metal was compared to free jazz by the savvier elements of the music press. Much of this comparison occurred before death metal was fully defined, when the more jam-friendly elements in hardcore (Black Flag’s “The Process of Weeding Out” most notably) and more dissonant, theoretically detached elements of grindcore (Napalm Death’s opus of microsong disrhythmic chaos, “Scum”) were noticed by bored, underpaid and desperate writers looking for a story. Death metal being half-hardcore, half-heavy metal, the genre rotated to face jazz for a golden period of about five years.

The first real salvo in this battle was fired by Atheist on their first and second albums, “Piece of Time” and “Unquestionable Presence.” The increasing mixture of jazz crept outward from the rhythm section to the point where the second album embraced much of the aesthetic of jazz, especially the fusion-tinged variety that used intense dynamic variation to resemble a soundtrack, more like Al DiMeola’s “Cielo E Terra.” Atheist embraced the same jazz direction, but added to jazz what punk and hardcore had, what made them “hot” and not “cool”: that inhuman, abstract, theoretical structure that allowed them to stitch riffs together on the basis of phrasing and melody alone, leaving behind the artifacts of tonal context needed by most people to orient themselves in the composition.

If emotional is cool, abstract is hot, and it fits better with the raw anger of death metal, because rage without some idea of how it might manifest itself to soothe its source of irritation becomes impotent and self-serving. What makes jazz cool is its acqueous descent into pure organic emotion, a casting aside of all structure that lets the psyche move with total freedom, given a few rules to keep its motion consonant — like a morality of sound, it throws out conceptions of hierarchy and shared goals and lets the individual freestyle it, but imposes some rigid rules. What makes metal hot is that it throws out that coolness, and imposes an order that transcends human limitations, giving rise to speculation about the motion of empires and epic ideas in collision, like a heavenly war of symbols.

Atheist fused these two outlooks, and in doing so, unleashed a revolution in metal. First, the clones came, but since metal is hot and not cool we pay no attention to them. Next, other bands picked up on this revolution and put it to good use. The two remaining explicitly jazzy death metal albums came from the Netherlands and Florida, respectively, and further advanced the science of jazz-metal. Longstanding death metal/speed metal hybrid legends Pestilence had been growing increasingly toward a greater display of musical skill, including conventional means such as harmony, and after going halfway on their third album created a jazz/metal fusion for their fourth, “Spheres.”

Spheres split a room full of metalheads into people who hated it, and people who loved it. With guitars plugged into MIDI samplers outputting in a range of voices, and offtime tempos marching past with unpredictable variations, Spheres was difficult to grasp as a listening experience much less a piece of art, but many did enjoy it so much that fifteen years after its release, it has been re-released with new live tracks. Metalheads at the time were fascinated that one of their own, from a genre so alienated it was not listed on any mainstream music reporting or labels, could go toe-to-toe with the progressive and jazz bands of its day. Others were appalled at what they saw as an attempt to reduce what made metal unique, and make it more like the conformist music of the mainstream.

Cynic’s “Focus” came out the following year and further divided the community. It did not enwrap its guitars in synthetic sounds, but chose to do that for the vocals, creating an otherworldly but rarely forceful effect that jarred with the assertive psychology of death metal. That coupled with Buddhist-influenced positive lyrics, a tendency toward light interludes, and lush keyboards backing guitars made the album rejectable by most metalheads. Riffs resembled those of the first Atheist album, making many jazz-metal diehards wonder if it was an evolution in artform or production.

While these four albums were the most evident manifestations of the jazz aesthetic, jazz influences abounded in works from other bands. Morbid Angel, known for their otherwordly seizure of souls through intense music, showed a familiarity with jazz technique especially in percussion, but without being jazzy. Demilich created a monstrosity of lead-picked intricate riffs that resembled the most avantgarde of jazz fusion, but with the subtler rhythmic introductions of death metal. Gorguts showed more of a classical influence, but balanced with lessons from avantgarde jazz.

As the death metal experiment with jazz ended, many reflected on the similarities and impossibilities of the two genres. Jazz and metal are both outsider music; both reflect a perception of persecution by society at large, it being supposed to be ignorant of some principle, and offer up radically different solutions. Jazz, it might be said, is a nurturer; death metal, it might be said, is a reality check. While the two overlap somewhat, ultimately they don’t overlap in ideas, and this carries over to aesthetic. Death metal sounds abstract; jazz sounds emotional. Death metal builds a tension for dynamic release through structuring of phrase, where jazz develops phrase to emphasize an underlying harmonic pattern.

Much as Ornette Coleman rebelled against jazz and created free jazz, metal (through hardcore, most notably Discharge) rebelled against the structure of pop songs and created through its new freedom of abstraction a language of expression. Ultimately, its rebellion was that in a world of humans singing about individual fascinations and neurosis, it would be an expression of the structures of the whole. A pattern language of ideas and consequences, death metal is intensely structured music in the way classical is, using narrative composition to unite disparate elements in a storyline, like a poem. Jazz is more like the visual arts, showing exactly what occurs and winding details together in an anti-narrative.

Since the death metal flirtation with jazz, two paths have been taken to resolve this paradox. The first recognizes that death metal’s structure is closer to progressive rock, and incorporates jazz into progressive rock with death metal riffing, as Gordian Knot (featuring Cynic members) or grindcore-influenced acts like Dillinger Escape Plan have done. The second recognizes that jazz’s rhythm can be used to wrap heavy metal-styled riffs into the jaunty, bouncy aesthetic of jazz/funk based music, and this has exploded forth in bands from Candiria to Mordred to The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The problem with both of these approaches is that they must distill death metal to rock in order to proceed.

It may be that a fusion never happens because the genres are too different. Jazz is inherently aesthetic-heavy, because it lacks structure to differentiate its songs; metal exclusively differentiates its songs through structure, and is uniform in aesthetic. Where metal is structured music, jazz is unstructured to permit wide-open jams, but the result is that sets tend to run together and, outside of aesthetic innovations like switching instruments or making the musical elements more bizarre, it has nowhere to evolve, where metal as an inherently storytelling format still has room to expand. But by the same token, metal is pulled downward by its attachment to an audience shared with rock, who will often try to make it into something more like the mainstream even as its most intelligent creators pull in the opposite direction.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Zyklon B For Bandcamp

Hipster and poseur blood must be shed!

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Mellow Destruction of Inferior Semi-Technical Trivialities

These random, gimped releases are held in high regard by high-pitched “metal” critics and core pogo stickers. The Death Metal Underground staff takes it upon themselves to scorn and defile them in the name of all that is good in the metal genre.

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Metal Will Never Die

Online music magazine Perfect Sound Forever (nice job stealing the 1980s advertising slogan for the then new CD format) recently posted a piece entitled “Metal For the New Millennium” by an idiotic hipster named Cam Netland who said that metal was a limited music genre as result of being a “as an offset of rock music”. Netland claims that metal became “more hardcore” as a result of the “radicalization” of other genres in this period citing staid examples such as Bad Brains (softened hardcore punk for idiotic affirmative action multi-culturalists) and Public Enemy (rap made into pop music with tough street gang lyrics to make suburban white jocks feel good about their short penises). He goes onto claim that metal is divided into many “micro-genres” and that the new millennium has seen the rise of many new ones such as what Neton terms Babymetal‘s grass-eater Japanese pop music, djent (random post-hardcore jazz fusion) Deafheaven‘s “blackgaze” (screamo pretending to be tough that is neither black metal nor shoegaze), and Vektor‘s random techno speed metal idiocy. Netland cites such turd non-metal albums as MastodonLeviathan (alternative rock), Converge – Jane Doe (post-hardcore math rock), and System of a Down – Toxicity (nu-“metal” which is in actuality of course rap rock).

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Martire – Martire (1991)

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As the continent was before Britannic penal colonization, Australian black and death metal scene was and is still mostly an undeveloped desert of unexceptional crossover thrash posturing as “war metal”, blackened cheeseball beer metal, AC/DC clones with unclean vocals, and experimental technical deaf metal/post-hardcore/jazz fusion hybrids. Martire rode forth from obscurity to restore fruit and flower to the wasteland, fertilizing the barren bush wielding fire and sword.

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Gorguts preview new Pleiades’ Dust EP

gorguts ep

Article by Daniel Maarat

Gorguts have previewed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDyn5lkVNlo) their upcoming EP to be released on Season of Mist. “Wandering Times” is the first track of Pleiades’ Dust sole, thirty three minute long composition. Listeners can expect Luc Lemay’s LP length EP to continue in the technical life muzak style of Coloured Sands: Random dissonant verses clashing with jazz fusion interspersed with ambient interludes incongruent as a whole to all but music theory majors. The commissioned cover and lyrical theme of the Islamic Golden Age suggests this release will persist in trying to irrumate headbangers with vaguely oriental spiritualism. Lemay seems to be appealing more to coffee shop guitarists wanting salvation from their poor life choices.

Werner Herzog made a documentary (Wheel of Time) about fifteen years ago on the same sand mandalas as Coloured Sands. Here are his views on yoga to spare you from Lemay’s orientalism:

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Obscura – Akroasis (2016)

Akroasis

Akroasis stands proud as a representative of cracked out incoherent sugar high penguin of doom random technical “death” metal, and even has a cover that looks like various forms of congealed sugar melting together into a nutrition-free whole. It is truly the perfect product – a deceptively simplistic and potentially addictive recording with little in the way of more rewarding development. Obscura’s efforts on this album alternate between either random gibberish or surprisingly basic song constructions that don’t quite fit the apparent intent and would be shockingly obvious were they not surrounded by thousands of rapid fire notes like a swarm of flies around rotting meat.

One thing that makes reviewing Akroasis particularly easier is how the first track (“Sermon of the Seven Suns”) encapsulates so much of what Obscura is attempting to do. Much has been made of what this band takes from Death, particularly from their later traditional/death fusion works, but the most patronizing is the circular song structures. “Sermon of the Seven Suns” doesn’t have a lot of content, and after an intro arguably inspired by Cynic, it awkwardly rotates between its two major sections of rapidfire blasting and slow jazz fusion jams. The band uses some basic modulation techniques to disguise the repetition, particularly in the first section, but the overall structure does little more than hide the excessively basic structure. While the band’s apparent devotion to this on this track is vaguely admirable for how holistic it is (extending even to the lyrics), it doesn’t make for particularly compelling listening once the shock factor of Obscura’s instrumental proficiency wears off. At best, they’re slightly more creative than Chuck Schuldiner was with song structures – as an FYI, pretty much everything Death put out went main section -> bridge -> repetition of main section -> who needs a coda anyways?

The rest of Akroasis is more densely packed with content, but instead of employing the care and diligence required to shape these into anything coherent, it just falls into all of the typical metalcore traps, so it sounds less like an album and more like a checklist of errors. Besides what I’ve already mentioned in dissecting the first track, Obscura’s songwriting is full of aesthetic novelties (vocoders, non-metal instruments for no apparent reason) and they even incorporate a goofy breakdown in “The Monist” because apparently, metalcore musicians just can’t resist the temptation. Obscura would be a much better band if they could resist their vices, but were they to try and succeed, they would probably become completely unrecognizable to their fans. Why would they bother? The disorganized candy coated tech-death approach seems to be netting them enough fans.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews- Mendacious Stork Edition (End of 2015 Series)

loosestool

One list of albums dictated by the masses of sheeple apparently does not provide enough self-indulgence and emotional masturbation for the hordes of mental weaklings that yearn to be called metalheads in order to disguise their lack of direction or ideals. Hence, here we are, clubbing away at one of these sorry piles of shit for the amusement of hessians. However, we also hope that the attentive unawakened reader may start to see a glimpse of the truth through outright disrespect for the inherently contemptible. (We have skipped some items in the original list as to not incur in much unnecessary repetition of releases, thus the odd numbering of the items herein.)

swallow the sun

2. Swallow the Sun – Songs From The North I, II & III

The term “doom metal” is again used to justify slow-coming boredom and lack of originality. Swallow the Sun compile alternative metal slow and simple grooves with the alternation of growls and the clear vocals typical of post-cuckolded Amorphis Scandinavian gay ‘hard’ (ha!) rock. There is an obvious pseudo-progressive intent here as discreet radio moments pass us by in a series of haphazardly-stitched, disingenuous grimaces. Radio emotional pandering for the pretentious.

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3. Draconian – Sovran

Apparently radio gay doom is popular at MS’ website. Only here we have a much more straightforward, perhaps more honest, attempt at the same run-of-the-mill pop rock opera. Draconian switches between male and female vocals, with duet episodes, themselves interrupted by long harmonized guitar lines reminiscent, at least superficially, of Funeral’s early work. However, Tragedies did not fall into popisms and rather took a more traditional popular music approach to vocals and applied it to a quasi classical level which may make one think of European early music. Draconian, on the other hand, stink of Barbie sex.

Shape-of-Despair_Monotony-Fields

4. Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields

Mediocre and dull ‘doom metal’ seems to be extremely popular. It may be that since the average music listener is a terrible one, and that they seek these sounds as stimulus for a purely sensual experience and so can only identify with very simple-minded works, however contorted their outward forms may be. Shape of Despair provide the pop listener with the ‘doom metal’ experience in the same way that Cannibal Corpse provides him the ‘death metal’ experience. Of course, this is the sort of listener that “listens to all kinds of music”. All is imbecility.

galneryus

5. Galneryus – Under the Force of Courage

One day little guitar Syu wanted to find a place for his neoclassical wanking and so created the power metal band Galneryus. Galneryus released a couple of comically-endearing and childish albums until the inevitable sellout moment came. After trying their hand at pandering to a more mainstream audience and wisely switching to writing lyrics in Japanese (realizing, perhaps that their main market was inside Japan after all, and that foreign fans would always be attracted to the sound of a strange and unique language), the band took a wide turn back to a firmly European style inspired on the likes of Manowar-inspired streamlined power metal with augmented structures that balance a manner of unpredictability without ever feeling unsafe and, of course, always remaining singable. Clever and winky, empty as fanservice-crammed anime.

8. Leprous – The Congregation

Groovy, syncopated, modulations disguising poorly-presented repetition, weird clean vocals, just enough electronic noodling and laid-back but ‘cool’ drums. This is the recipe par excellence for the multiculturalist wet dream presenting all forms and nothing but insecurity and hollowness at its center. Here is where the worst overproduced radio pop is peppered with jazz fusion gimmicks. Metal? Music or public obscenity?

moonspell extinct

9. Moonspell – Extinct

A horrible blend of modern industrial tropes and a sissy euro-rock basis, accompanied vocals angsty enough to seem edgy but just safe enough as to not scare away the wimps who listen to this garbage. The high school poser solos do not really redeam this first-world, spoiled-kid, macho pretension.

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14. Enshine – Singularity

Basically, the sonic representation of the sparkly, clean-shaven assholes of fans of these music ready to be sodomized by real metal music. Lacking in all natural self-assertion or distinct personality, this is music for the bottom who craves to be dominated. In other words, music for social justice warriors.

anthropocene extinction

15. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction

This is as ridiculous as pseudo-progressive core pandering can get. What is worse, this band is playing a dangerous game in which they may lose all of their audiences, or perhaps score with New York hipsters. Crammed in under two minutes you may find explicit deathcore and alternative rock passages, power metal leads, nu-black metal runs lead by duets of inhaled low growls and Chester Bennington’s evil twin brother’s whining, without excluding the use of high squeals. Basically, a puddle of diarrhea that clearly gives away the cause of ailment. Unbearably disquieting in its stupidity.

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Horrendous – Anareta (2015)

Horrendous - Anareta (2015)
Horrendous is evolving. They’re not content to merely be one of our masochistic metal victims, so they’ve been gradually and haphazardly incorporating more jazz fusion and djent influences into what was previously a Heartwork inflected sound, and what continues to partially stink of it. What entertains me so much about Anareta is how neatly compartmentalized these two styles are and therefore how little they interact, making for perhaps two EPs stitched together and all sorts of increasingly implausible hypotheses about the band’s songwriting and tracking process that distract from the main issue at hand. Neither half of Anareta is exactly a sterling example of what already are difficult styles to pull off well in a metal context.

The “progressive” side of Horrendous leads off the album and appears to occupy significantly more of its runtime. This part of the recording emphasizes its internal rhythms – it is midpaced, replete with offbeats and odd time signatures, and it showcases some complicated interplay with the local guitarwork. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the band is at least trying to make something interesting and complicated, but there are a couple of problems with their approach. One admittedly trivial (but strangely attention-grabbing) flaw is that they have no idea how to write introductions to their tracks; therefore, many of Anareta‘s tracks begin with a minute or so of pseudo-random gassing. More importantly, the emphasis on surface rhythmic complexity isn’t matched by a willingness to expand the percussive textures that underlie it. Furthermore, the guitar tracks above this, while benefiting from the rhythmic prowess of the band, rarely allow their actual riff content to escape from the traditional metal and rock tropes that hold the band back. At the very least, Horrendous will need to severely edit their tracks and develop a better sense of narrative composition in order to master this substyle.

While it’s pointless to judge whether vaguely “progressive” metal is better or worse than generic melodeath and Stockholm syndrome, the gradual shift in emphasis towards the former over the band’s career suggests that if they keep going, they might have a genuinely good album on their hands in a few years. Anareta definitely hasn’t reached that point yet, being too haphazard and scatterbrained in its ambitions to really hit home, while still occasionally lapsing into straight up generic guitar pop.

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