Nuclear Assault – Game Over

Taking the NWOBHM informed song structures that defined speed metal and the muted, percussive power chord led riffs that were the pattern language of the speed metal underground, Nuclear Assault incorporated elements of crossover punk and thrash into their music. Guitars have a sharp, grating and garage like-tone amidst the clear sounding and well thought out bass guitar lines of Dan Lilker. John Connelly’s punk falsetto is excellent, a gravelly yet apocalyptic wail that amuses yet inspires.

Lyrically this takes the satire one could associate with crossover acts such as Adrenalin O.D. and Fearless Iranians From Hell, and rather than solely attempting to amuse us, makes for relevant social commentaries that reflected and mocked the issues that were heavy on the American subconscious, amongst mildly apocalyptic themes that still were embedded in the Cold War’s late phase, warning of post-nuclear desolation.

Short, humoured and abrupt songs such as ‘Hang The Pope’ and ‘My America’ resemble a more aggressive take on the thrashings of DRI and Millions Of Dead Cops, whilst ‘Sin’, ‘Stranded In Hell’ and ‘Brain Death’ are richly melodic and have a brilliant sense of irony, and almost reminds of Iron Maiden stripping themselves of romanticism in the wake of an uncertain, primitive future.

This is commonly also available with the follow-up EP ‘The Plague’ on CD format and compliments the excellence of their full-length. In addition, this is a timeless and influential metal album that summed up the hopes, dreams and fears of 1980’s America in less than an hours worth of material, and is absolutely essential.

-Pearson-

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Interview: Dan Lilker (Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth)

Dan Lilker has been involved with heavy metal for many years. Whether you spotted him in his first “real” band nuclear assault, or followed his career from NYC speed metal band Anthrax to his work in Brutal Truth, you probably recognize something he’s touched in the past decade and a half. We caught up with Dan after spotting him goofing off on the internet, and he was kind enough to answer some quick and obscure questions.

Some people would accuse you of trend-jumping in that you’ve covered the spectrum of genres from speed metal to grindcore to black metal and now to whatever the ravenous is.

Let’s do a quick overview of my history in metal. Formed Anthrax, got tossed ‘cos Neil Turbin was a prick. Formed N.A. (’84). Played faster, more hardcore-tinged thrash than Anthrax. So far, no trend-jumping, lol. Was invited to do S.O.D., accepted.

Side note: All this time I still treasured my Hellhammer and Fate collection!

OK, after 8 years of N.A., I grew tired of thrash and wanted to play much more extreme shit, hence B.T. Was that trend jumping, or merely doing what I really wanted to do, rather than stagnating and not enjoying myself? Hmmmm…

In ’96 I also joined Hemlock, ‘cos I enjoyed a lot of 90’s b.m. and I still held the old bands close to my heart. Perhaps some cynically-minded people might see that as bandwagon-jumping, but I was just enjoying myself…

Almost done! B.T. broke up for personal reasons in ’98, not ‘cos I was tired of not playing “popular” music, hehe.

In early 2000 I received a call inviting me to jam with Chris fuckin’ Reifert, whaddaya THINK I’m gonna say to that???

Are you saying people talk a lot of shit about metal musicians in public? Thanks for the history of your involvement with metal.

Consider this: When I talk shit and get aggressive, well, everyone knows who I am , right, and they could find me at a Metalfest and get in my face, but I have no idea what all those other people look like…

Nuclear Assault… let’s talk more about this, if possible. What were your influences then? Who wrote most of the material? Why the switch to longer song formats almost exclusively (excepting great stuff like F# wake up) after the first two eps?

We were into a lot of HC and thrash metal, I guess, Celtic Frost, Adrenalin O.D., etc.John and I were the main songwriters. Longer songs? Well, the first release we ever put out, Braindeath, had a 9-minute title track! I guess we “matured”, I don’t know…

And for kicks: who came up with Mr Softee theme? I’ve driven away neighbors with that one. ICE CREAM!

Ha! John always played that dumb riff at rehearsal, and it blossomed from there!

SOD came after the DRI/MDC expansion perhaps, but seemed like an extension of what Anthrax and Agnostic Front were doing rolled into one.

Well, you’ll notice that I never said we created crossover, I just said we made it trendy, lol! But it’s true. Metal kids started getting more into HC after “Speak…” came out, no doubt about it.

I thought Brutal Truth was one of the hopeful lights for the grindcore genre since the rest of it just seemed to slide into fucking turd… I don’t blame you for jumping out of the grindcore style when you did whether people call it trend hopping or not.

Well, it’s the semantics of trend jumping that bothers me, as it would seem to connote someone making a conscious and deliberate effort to play whatever’s popular at the time, regardless of whether that person really likes the genre in question. And that has NEVER EVER been the case with me, but I can’t help it if people come to their own conclusions. I just do what I wanna do, play what I wanna play, and that’s it, end of story.

Interesting. Black Metal seems like hardcore an ideologically-based genre (of some sort) so people take its boundaries more seriously. So far we’re at four genres in which you’ve participated, and I can see why others might see that as bandwagon jumping, but my opinion is neutral as of now. Who started hemlock and what 90s BM do you enjoy? Or rather, since you put that in the past tense, what 90s BM did you enjoy?

I have always noticed that HC and b.m. have the same type of narrow-minded, snobby, (un)holier than thou attitude. And it always seems that the people who have got into it the most recently talk the most shit, lol! Hemlock was started by Lino (D777). I still enjoy 90’s b.m. like Nazxul, Darkthrone, Immortal, blah,blah,blah.

Although it always sucks when a useful band breaks up, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Besides, Brutal Truth was one of the top acts on relapse, right?

Yeah, we were definitely a big priority for Relapse and they were crushed when we split up, but there was no other way, so, oh well!

Pretty cool that for a dude over 30 you’re able to keep up the lifestyle. Speaking of which, mind a few more questions? Bongs or pipes? Hashish or vegetable matter? Constant or intensity ingestion? Most profound statement of relevance of THC to your lifestyle and ideas?

Pipes. I’m too lazy to keep re-loading! Just stuff that fucker and smoke! I enjoy hash and herb equally, but hash is a nice treat since it’s rarer here. In March, me and my wife are going to London and AMSTERDAM for our first anniversary, so……….yeah.

Grindcore is by nature an ideological genre, but once you’re in the general area of protest music style lyrics, most of which are what we could call “leftist” or “anarchist,” you’re part of the club. It seems to me that to many musicians, lyrics are mostly irrelevant. How does this fit into your worldview?

Well, Brutal Truth had socially conscious lyrics, but it would certainly be a stretch to say we were anarchists or anything. Our lyrics were not really outright political as opposed to your DRI’s and COC’s. Once Kevin took over singing in ’91 all the lyrics got really interpretive and indirect anyway. As for me, I am a bassist and musician first; lyrics will always be secondary to music to me. That doesn’t mean I would play songs like “Kill The Niggers” or “Vegan For Life”, hehe. My worldview? I’m basically a laid-back, tolerant person, and I don’t really attempt to inject these views into the music I play.

When you were making music with Brutal Truth, there is a shift in style on Need to Control that marks a departure toward depth in harmony and texture in music that on the first album was direct, straight ahead blasting chaotic grind. What inspired this shift? If you could do it again, would you still?

Drugs. Or, specifically, marijuana. Well, that’s generalizing. Our first drummer, Scott, who didn’t get high, left the band ‘cos he was sick of playing drums and touring, he really just wanted to sprawl on the couch with remote in hand. So, we got Rich, a big pothead, like us, and it made the music a lot more in-depth. It also had to do with the fact that a lot of the songs from the first one were written solely by me, where as NTC was more of a group effort.

Need to Control is one of my favorite grindcore albums. Was it intended as a whole, or was it collected songs? Where and when was most of it written, and how much embellishment occurred in the studio?

With hindsight I dislike the production, but the songs are good. I wouldn’t say it was written as a whole, although we wrote them all in a house by the lake in New Hampshire in the dead of winter, which (to me) gives all the songs a unifying theme. The noise songs were tracked there on my old analog Tascam 8-track cassette board (RIP). I wasn’t there for the mix, Earache wouldn’t pay for all 4 band members to chill in Liverpool where itwas mixed, so I couldn’t tell you much about any embellishment, but let’s say it didn’t sound incredibly different than the raw tracks.

Did Nuclear Assault ever get in any flack from censoring or album stickering problems in the 1980s and 1990s?

Nah. I don’t think we attained the level of popularity where those assholes noticed us.

Are there any current bands to which you listen?

Terror Of The Trees.

What are your responses to the following: Burzum, Beherit, Sarcofago, Krieg, Kult ov Azazel, Averse Sefira, Slayer, Repulsion, Napalm Death, Carcass, Graveland, Antaeus, Demoncy?

Burzum: Great music from an idiot. Beherit: All Beherit is cool by me, from that pile of crap (Oath) to the electronica shit. Sarcofago: Beautiful raw primitive. Krieg: My homeboy Imperial. Krieg is good shit and this guy always supported Hemlock. Kult ov Azazel: I haven’t heard them, but Black Witchery says they’re good. Averse Sefira: Haven’t heard them either. Saw one of them fighting with D77 from Hemlock on the FMP board, much to my amusement. Slayer: They ain’t what they used to be, but still great live. Repulsion: Ah yes, classic and revolutionary death-grind. Napalm Death: Love all the old shit. Carcass: Ditto. Graveland: I certainly don’t agree with Darken’s views… and their drummer is so crap that their music isn’t very good either. Antaeus: Never heard ’em, but I’ve heard good things. Demoncy: Played with ’em in NYC. Cool guys, good band.

You’re married. Is your lady a metal woman?

Oh yeah! We met at the 2000 March Metal Meltdown, as a matter of fact. You should see our apartment!

What do you like most about living in New York?

Convenience.

What do you dislike most about living in the USA?

Knowing that most Europeans think we’re all fat, loud, know-it-alls.

Have you had any ideological conflicts with black metal?

Only with what’s commonly known as NSBM. Call me a purist, but I think bm should not be diluted with social commentary. Not to mention that talking shit about blacks and Jews, etc., puts these people in the same category of thinking as diehard God-fearing Christians like the KKK, for instance. Anybody who has anything in common with those dirtbags should not be playing a genre of music that rejects commonplace religious views.

I understand you are recovering from a childhood in a middle eastern religion (all major Western religions originate in the Middle East). Can you explain what factors have helped and hindered your recovery, and what started you on the path away from Judeo-Christianity?

Heh heh. I was never a religious person, religion has never meant anything to me, I’ve been as atheist as long as I remember, ever since I was old enough to understand the concept of deities. My parents never attempted to coerce me to embrace religion ‘cos they are not that religious themselves. I suppose the fact that I simply never bought into the concept of the existence of a God in the first place started me down the path… But it wasn’t until Sabbath and Venom that it had a focus.

Do you prefer indica or sativa? What is your favorite strain of sinsemilla?

Oh please, I’m not some High Times-style aficianado. I prefer strong, skunky weed to regs but I’ll smoke whatever does the trick! I enjoy smoking in quantity, or should I say always having a fat bag nearby, so I’m not gonna regularly drop $50 for something that’ll last 2 days.

What instruments besides bass do you play?

Guitar, keyboard, and half-assed drums.

You were one of the first bassists to embrace playing with distortion. What engendered this decision?

Discharge, I think. Specifically the “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing” LP. I had a Peaver Mark4 bass head that distorted if you tweaked it and that was it. I never went back.

What other musicians have influenced your technique, and what is your opinion on technique playing?

To be honest I don’t really seek inspiration from anyone nowadays, I was never one of those bassists who practiced constantly or anything. My original inspirations way back when were people like the guys from Cream, Zeppelin, Sabbath, and then later Steve Harris from Maiden. Fancy technical playing isn’t my thing, however, I certainly wouldn’t bash people who do that shit.

When you played that show at the anti-club in Los Angeles that I saw years ago, with Brutal Truth, your response after the cover of “Lord of This World” was to give a middle finger to the heavens. How do you feel about God? You clearly make the distinction between tolerating religious beliefs of others, and insisting on those freedoms (in lyrics of some bands), but also having a personal stance on religion. How do you feel about everyday religions and how they differ from, say, the beliefs of the church of the creator or the KKK?

I was probably just drunk’n’stoned and being silly. As far as everyday religions go, I pretty much ignore them. If people need that kind of spiritual structure in their lives, that’s on them. I think the extremists are actually more honest in their outright hatred. I don’t need any of that shit.

It seems to me black metal was founded on these beliefs, and on a renaissance retro-fascination with classical and european culture. Do you think there’s room for people with more leftist and tolerant beliefs, like yours, in black metal or do you think it would be like a nazi grindcore band, an anomaly?

I disagree with you. Black metal originally had no political leanings. All this fascination with cultural origins, etc., came about in the 90’s.

This is an interesting line of questioning for me, as the USA is about to go under police state precautions while engaging in a Christian activity to save a Jewish state and ally in the Middle East. How do you feel about this entire chaotic terrorist situation, and do you see it as odd that leftists are encouraging what many would call “fascist” reforms? I’m speaking of the justification of women’s freedom and music and freedom of speech in Afghanistan, and other rhetoric from President Bush in this war against an “axis of evil.” Do you see this situation as positive, negative or of mixed qualities?

Oh, it’s all a big fucking mess. I would agree that the Israelis are no better than all the other scumbags out there, with the notable exception that when they retaliate, they don’t kill innocents in marketplaces. It’s very hard to say what’s right or wrong in that part of the world, some people see the USA as imperialistic meddlers, others see the Middle East as a huge shitpit full of psychotic fundamentalists. Me? I say that not all Muslims are terrorists, but the reverse DOES seem to apply…

If you could play in a band with one other metal musician of note, who would it be and why?

It would be interesting to jam with Trey Azagthoth, he seems to be a very focused, intense musician. I already jam with Reifert!

What the Gospels make instinctive is precisely the reverse of all heroic struggle, of all taste for conflict: the very incapacity for resistance is here converted into something moral: (“resist not evil !”–the most profound sentence in the Gospels, perhaps the true key to them), to wit, the blessedness of peace, of gentleness, the inability to be an enemy. What is the meaning of “glad tidings”?–The true life, the life eternal has been found–it is not merely promised, it is here, it is in you; it is the life that lies in love free from all retreats and exclusions, from all keeping of distances. Every one is the child of God–Jesus claims nothing for himself alone–as the child of God each man is the equal of every other man. . . .Imagine making Jesus a hero!

– F.W. Nietzsche, The Antichrist

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PROCREATION set release date for new NUCLEAR WAR NOW! collection‏

Procreation - Incantations of Demonic Lust for Corpses of the Fallen (2015) - Cover art

These contemporaries of seminal Canadian act Blasphemy are seeing another release of their demos. Incantations of Demonic Lust for Corpses of the Fallen contains both their original demos (1990’s “Rebirth Into Evil” and 1991’s “Coming of Hate”) and was initially released in 2004. This re-release promises improved sound quality and will most likely be of interest to anyone who seeks to explore the Vancouver scene, or simply fans of early “primitive” death metal.

The record label offered this statement:

In the years since its inception in the late 1980s, the cryptically-named Ross Bay Cult has earned a degree of reverence and mystique that is arguably unequaled by other scenes in death/black metal history in terms of its contributions of both music and legend. While the band most commonly referenced as the face of this British Columbian horde is undoubtedly the notorious Blasphemy, others such as Witches Hammer and Procreation shared members and/or stages with them and made significant impacts of their own. Procreation’s morbid tenure in this cult dated from 1989 until 1993, and although they suffered some defections in their ranks over the years, they maintained a steady nucleus throughout and played numerous live shows in the Vancouver area with the likes of Blasphemy, Tumult, Armoros, Nuclear Assault, Anvil, and Forced Entry.

Although Procreation did not survive long enough to unleash upon the masses a full-length album that demonstrated the primitive amalgam of death metal that pervaded their live rituals, they did leave in their wake two demos that were professionally recorded at the same Fiasco Brothers Studio also desecrated by Blasphemy. Both of these recordings, Rebirth into Evil and Coming of Hate (from 1990 and 1991, respectively), provide evidence that the Vancouver metal scene of the time was anything but one-dimensional. In contrast to the speed metal attack of Witches Hammer and the bestial black metal of Blasphemy, Procreation’s demos can best be characterized as a purposefully non-technical, mid-paced death metal that at times resembles a record cut to vinyl at 45 RPM that is being played at 33 RPM, perhaps mistakenly, but to greater effect. With all songs clocking in between the two- to four-minute range and with a dearth of gratuitous guitar leads, Procreation ignored the perceived need that many bands felt to build as much complexity into death metal as possible. Instead, they relied on a simple and straightforward but successful prescription of steady rhythms and riffs that prove their worth by gradually dismembering the listener, piece by piece.

Set for international release on October 1st via Nuclear War Now! Productions, the CD version of Incantations of Demonic Lust for Corpses of the Fallen includes both of Procreation’s demos in their entirety. For this second pressing, the audio has been remastered by James Plotkin to improve sound quality, while still succeeding to maintain the raw integrity of the original recordings. Additionally, this release once again features the demonic artwork of Wes Gauley, which serves as a fitting visual complement to the possessed nature of the sound that once stalked the Vancouver area and will continue to fester undead with the circulation of this compilation. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Procreation’s Incantations of Demonic Lust for Corpses of the Fallen
1. Intro
2. Morbid Reality
3. Caking Blood
4. Afterlife
5. Darkest Force
6. Tomb of Assyria
7. Darkest Force
8. Rebirth into Evil
9. The Coming of Hate
10. Tomb of Assyria

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Interview: Nuclear Cath (Leather N’ Spikes)

I laughed when I saw the editor of Leather N’ Spikes magazine described somewhere as “metal hottie Nuklear Cath.” She’s a lot more than that: she runs one of the magazines which meets metal ideal in spirit and aesthetic, which idolizes the stuff with potential and doesn’t notice the bands that normal people seem to like. Those people who can’t step outside of their own heads and into the world of metal which supercedes the norm will hate it, but to the rest of us it’s a form of journalism unique to metal itself. After a busy day of piling up the corpses of her victims near a temporarily memorial area, Nuklear Cath was good enough to grant us an interview on the eve of the launch of the new Leather’n’Spikes website.

When you reference the container “metal music” in your head, do you think first of a concept or of sounds?

It’s a hard question, I would say it is in a way a concept, it’s about something, the subjects are always related to the same things, which makes what metal music is. Or each band has its own concept within the metal concept?!

Your zine has been long known for its amazing picture layouts.How do you research the visual components to articles?

My goal is always to translate the band’s music into something visual. So I try to respect styles. If a band uses certain fonts in their booklets and promotion, I will use them to layout the interview. Same for the pictures, the kind of drawings, the kind of atmosphere (the band can be extremely serious or sarcastic, into pagan subjects and nature or into nuclear war). So I try to respect the whole concept on each band featured.

How long have you been listening to metal? What did you enjoy hearing before that? Is this a consequence of musical education (self and/or formal) or a process that converged on that growth as well?

There have always been music in the house, I was not a fan of anything but I was initiated to music (rock, mainly) and slowly I started to search for a genre that would suit my endless need for heavy music. It ended up being metal, and then I “studied” the 20 years of metal that had passed before me. I might have been born too late, but I’ve done my homework!

In many ways, your writing appears to obliterate the line between ideology and lifestyle by suggesting a viewpoint where life takes on artlike, and nihilistic, qualities. What enabled you to reach such a view, if it is at all correct?

I didn’t “reach” that view I think, it’s just how I am, or maybe the one idea of an old pile of rare metal vinyls, tenth generation tapes, jean jackets with patches, empty beer bottles on the dirty floor of a rehearsal room and loud music simply leads us to that point. But it isn’t completely nihilistic, or then what would it give for me to do all this, to make that fanzine, to write letters, to spread flyers, it would be pointless. I give myself goals and challenges.

What do you think of the writings of Antonin Artaud? Georges Bataille? Theodor Adorno? Friedrich Nietzsche? Jacques Lyotard?

If this is about philosophy, I don’t read a lot, I don’t take the time to do it. One of my favorite, if not my favorite philosopher remains Nietzsche. The rest you named I haven’t studied.

What do you think is the conceptual link between death and art in the symbolic vocabulary of humanity, even subconscious thoughts?

Maybe both are mysteries. Or they provoke the same kind of fascination. Or they are both abstract things, or concepts in themselves. Or both can provoke the same deep feelings, either of fear, terror, panic or pleasure in a way. Or maybe death is a form of art, expressed with the body and usually not voluntarily. It’s hard to tell what push people to link those two things.

Are you aware of any circumstances under which humans reach a state of free and autonomous thought? Does this occur to all, or to some?

Maybe in their dreams, or when they create. I think both can be related together: you try to reach a certain state where you a free from all the other people’s influences and judgment and you create without any boundaries, moral limitations. Freedom in inspiration and creativity. That’s all I can see right now.

The visual constructions used to anchor the layout of each page in the zine is eccentric and striking. When you conceive of a page, do your thoughts begin with symbols or a shape filling a space?

I never really stopped and thought about that. I think I always already have a very clear idea on how the pages will be, how big the logo will be, what graphics I will use and what kind of feeling it will have. I just then reproduce what I have in mind.

Periodically the zine features a photo involving yourself and bare flesh that causes blood pressure increases across the globe. Do you see sexuality as a tool, for war or art, or do you have a depoliticized view of sexual iconography?

Yeah, maybe sex is art. Unfortunately too many people took advantage of it, so I got bored. But I do use myself for ‘artistic purposes’ and experimentation / creation, in photography for example, or experimental movies. As for blood pressure increases, it’s their problem, hehehe…

When you interview bands, how do you mentally prepare for the interaction?

I think it’s part of the game to expect surprises, violent reactions, insults, totally different answers that I had expected, or yes, sometimes deceptions. That’s the thrill – you work hard on researching on the band and trying to make your questions in the most original way possible, and you wait to see what kind of answers and ideas they will bring up! That’s why all the interviews are different and interesting; people put their personality in them! My concept of the interview is to do like if I was meeting the band in person, in the world of their music (even if it’s snail mail interview). Some bands embarked in the game, it was really cool.

What publications do you read, metal or other?

I like underground extreme metal fanzines, I also read a few comic books because I’m working on one, and I read mags and books related to my work (graphic design, illustration or desing in general). Almost no novels or anything like that, no time anymore.

Which do you consider to be the most important bands from Canada at this time? And Québec, over the history of metal?

OK from Québec I would say Voivod, Soothsayer, Yog-Sothot, Vensor… I should have mentioned brutal death metal bands, but it has been too exploited here. From Canada – Blasphemy, Voor, Infernal Majesty, Slaughter, Razor, Disciples of Power and maybe a few more I can’t think of at this moment!

Some characterize the metal movement “as a whole” in terms that describe its cathartic nature for angry youth, while others see it as a revolution against the social for youth who later, metalhead or no, carry these ideas into society. Still others see metal as an endorsement for hedonism, relativism and a good time. Among these how does your own judgment fall?

Well I tend to only think for myself and not analyzing the impact on the society and how it is perceived by it. So it’s hard to tell. Sometimes a metal genre will start as a rebellion but then go into an independent genre not fighting anymore for a cause but just producing music. Music can be done just for a specific purpose – fighting against a religion, a race, a trend – and then end up giving birth to bands who aren’t fighting but simply being influenced by the musical side.

If you could interview any musician in history, who would it be?

Lemmy! But I wouldn’t know what to say.

Can you list five bands that you feel contributed the most to black metal as an evolving genre?

Well the first that come to mind is (old) Mayhem. Also Venom with all their satanic imagery, Bathory, Hellhammer and… well Sarcofago, Blasphemy, Beherit, aarrgh it’s going over five…

“Image” has a bad name to many in the underground, yet visual presentation of concept is an important piece to any communication. What are your views on this?

There are contradictions in this scene and I think that’s why in the first place metal became sportsuits, short hair, baggy pants and white socks and that’s why a guy like Euronymous got sick of that and tried to get back the real metal look – spikes, patches, leather, long hair, black band tshirts etc… It is important to have a metal image, but the contradiction is in the fact that ‘poseurs’ (whoever you consider them to be) will try to look the most metal possible – so then image is more important than their dedication. Same for corpsepaint, it’s starting to be too much revisited, without any meaning anymore. So what I say is, the dedication comes first but the image should have a certain importance as well, as long as there is a reason remaining behind that.

You manage to extract the ironic humor underlying many of even the most extreme human outlooks. Do you see this humor as inherent characteristic to the process of self-actualization?

I just think that there is a kind of humor that have its place in this nuclear metal scene – and it’s sarcasm, black humor. The result is sometimes violent reactions, or people don’t understand, or they take themselves so seriously that even the smallest smile is forbidden.

Many of us consider Texas to be a separate nation from the Judeo Christian States of America (JCSA). Do you consider Québec a separate country from Canada as a whole? What does America appear to be, from your national and political perspective?

Yes Québec is a completely different country, another world. I don’t feel being part of Canada too much, just like most of the people here. 2 languages = 2 cultures, 2 ways of thinking, 2 different people. America? That is from the Southern countries to the North Pole right? If you were talking about USA, well I think this country is taking too much place here and in the world unfortunately.

What is your ideal solution to human overpopulation?

Hehehe I don’t know, or else I don’t dare saying it.

Hypothetically, you are given a corporation to run with funding from an alien government to initiate world destruction plans. How would you approach this real world scenario?

Well I would approach it in a highly creative way. No problems for the funds, right? Well then let’s have fun. I’m working on a comic book with a story a little bit related to that, so all I’ll do is re-create the devastated landscapes and junkie people of my story, and then draw them as models for my comic book. And maybe make a movie. Ah, my own story come true, what an honor!

Some define art as the end product, others define it as the communicative process between artist and audience. Which do you think is closer to the truth?

And if there is no truth in this world? My own truth is, art is like alchemy. You work on it very hard, and your skills get developed, but you evolve as well besides that, in your mind, as a person. Whatever people might think, even though they don’t like what you do, you know that what you do is ok, and people being shocked by your art might be a good sign.

Are you of any mystical belief?

You mean occultism, satanism and things like that? Yes, I do have my own thoughts about it.

If so, does your mystical belief involve entities and processes beyond this world, or within it?

I don’t really know. It’s something very complicated.

What importance do you place upon the conceptual process in the artist before making work, including ideological, mystical and philosophical beliefs? (when I say philosophical here, I mean the existential and valuative processes of cognition)

The artist puts himself into his art, even though he might be trying not to. His art is his blood. So it reflects his mind, personal thoughts and beliefs. It is nothing objective. Someone looking at the artwork of an artist will therefore look into this artist’s mind and personal life.

If going into combat under idealized circumstances, from which era would your weapons come? (are you a medievalist, or a modernist? regarding weaponry)

I’m not as fascinated as some people I know, but it seems war and battle was an art in the ancient times. The weapons of those eras – dark age and medieval – are definitely nice pieces of art, and the honor and the idea of dedicating your life to war is quite different from today’s red-button pushing countries. Fighting man to man, with or even without weapons, in honor, is something that seemed quite more appealing. And the different weapons, some sacred, with runes carved, some unique and rare, forged by those people themselves…

Are there any generalized opinions you have of metal journalism, and where other zines differ from Leather N’ Spikes?

We all have our own ways of making a fanzine. I might think that my ways are the best, criticizing others for doing this and not doing that, but anyway that makes a diversity in the fanzine world; but the editor needs to be serious and dedicated, and to make ‘information’ is first priority.

If you had to pick a metaphor for the individual in modern society, would you choose “the castaway” or “the fortuneteller” – and why? Do you see the individual as important, philosophically or politically, and what is your opinion of democracy?

It’s a tough question. I don’t know if ‘the individual’ is important, it should unless it starts building McDonald’s and churches and gives away Pepsi bottles and make propaganda for the arrival of Jesus or something. In general the individual should have the right to say what he wants to say but some people often should shut up. As for the metaphor, hard to tell. I don’t really think about it.

Is cruelty essential to humanity?

I think people tend to deny that side of their being, I don’t know if it is essential but it is remaining there as a manifestation of what we are – not always cruel but every once in a while (or more for certain people!) with a tendency to that.

Leather N’ Spikes has garnered praise from across the underground. Do you consider metal to be a “sub-culture” to mainstream or “alternative” or “counter-” culture?

A counter-culture is against the mainstream I guess, so it should be called this way I think. But there are some bands playing a trendy style or an ordinary style but they don’t have any success so they remain “underground” – as they aren’t against the mainstream I would not put them in the counter-culture category at all.

Most people deny that they are beasts. Is this really true?

I would say yes, they deny their own human nature of being animals and having instincts and an animal nature, which includes other animals as daily food, sex, violence and certain primitive instincts etc. A nice example of something against the human nature is catholicism.

How do you, as every thinking individual must, conceptualize your own death?

I kind of saw it when I was younger and it was terrible, so I’m trying to avoid that kind of death. Now I just don’t think about how I will die, but how I want to live instead.

Some thinkers reduce philosophy to a conflict between the eschatological and the existential. Is this logical, in your opinion, and if so, on which side does your greatest sympathy stand?

Philosophy, just like politics, is not something I care for as much as I care for art, for example. There are people that are better than me for this.

If I left anything out, or there is something of useful clarification you wish to state, please say what is needed here.

OK well back to the zine, I just re-designed the whole website (with a huge art section, excerpts, reviews etc!!) which should be online by the end of August. It will be announced on my old website, see address below. Around the same time, issue #7 will be out with Blasphemy, Summoning, Desaster, Destruction, Crucifier, Grand Belial’s Key, Canadian Assault zine, Goatvomit, Abominator, Canadian scene report 1982-1993, etc. Write for prices, info, wholesale prices etc!!
Still available are #4 (4$US), #5 (4$US) and #6 (5$US), check out the contents and excerpts of each issue on the website.s
Ask for the wholesale prices and don’t hesitate to write or send promos!!

Catherine Lachance
35 Brousseau
Loretteville QC
G2A 2R2 CANADA
catherinel@globetrotter.net

So monstrous a mode of valuation stands inscribed in the history of mankind not as an exception and curiosity, but as one of the most widespread and enduring of all phenomena. Read from a distant star, the majuscule script of our earthly existence would perhaps lead to the conclusions that the earth was the distinctively ascetic planet, a nook of disgruntled, arrogant, and offensive creatures filled with a profound disgust at themselves, the earth, at all life, who inflict as much pain on themselves as they possbily can out of pleasure in inflicting pain — which is probably their only pleasure.

– F.W. Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

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Obscure Oracle – In Death We Trust

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Sometimes, the 1980s seeks you out. Sounding like a cross between old Nuclear Assault and Forbidden, with hints of Iron Maiden, Obscure Oracle bash out In Death We Trust by using death metal tremolo riffing in a mid-paced speed metal band with melodic accents to its riffs and noisy guitar fireworks. Borrowing from the riff forms that picked up speed coming out of the NWOBHM years, Obscure Oracle fall into the comfortable pacing of later speed metal, and crown it with high-pitched but tense vocals that could come from Bruce Dickenson on a Monday morning. Songs fit together well, keeping a dominant rhythmic figure that can induce nodding and foot-tapping in even the most hardened audience. While the result could send the Tardis back to 1987 at a distance of fifty paces, this band keeps their own sound and lets their enthusiasm for the material carry this future-to-past melange to new heights.

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Neurosis Confirms Performance At Heavy Montréal This August

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Today, Neurosis confirms the band’s invitation to perform at this year’s upcoming installment of the massive Heavy Montréal Festival, in Montréal, Quebec.

Neurosis is one of the latest acts to be confirmed for Heavy Montréal, having just been announced alongside the likes of The Devin Townsend Project, Sanctuary, Obscura, Cattle Decapitation, Revocation and more, joining the roster of artists already confirmed to play at this year’s event, including Slipnot, Faith No More, Korn, Lamb Of God, Iggy Pop, NOFX, Mastodon, Meshuggah, Testament, Nuclear Assault and countless others. The open air Heavy Montréal gala will overthrow Quebec’s largest metropolis on August 7th – 9th, and Neurosis will take the stage on the opening night, Friday, August 7th.

Prior to their Heavy Montréal debut, Neurosis will make their return to the brutalizing Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend. Running from May 21st through 24th, the band’s Neurot Recordings kin Yob and Ufomammut will perform the opening night of the event, while Neurosis is set to play the final evening, headlining the Edison Lot A stage, following performances from Skepticism, Winter, Goatsnake and Tombs on the same stage.

Additional Neurosis live actions will be announced in the very near future.

Neurosis Tour Dates:

5/24/2015 Edison Lot – Baltimore Maryland @ Maryland Deathfest

Parc Jean Drapeau – Montréal, QC @ Heavy Montréal

 

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The Best Underground Metal of 2014

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William Burroughs often wrote about the “edge,” or the liminal threshold between states. The last real edge year for underground metal was 2009 when strong contenders and new voices united to defend extreme metal against the onslaught of imitators making Potemkin village metal from hipster flair and lite-jazz fireworks but underneath it, nothing but disorganized songwriting and an absence of something to express. As the underground has come back with a vengeance, it has begun to displace the imitators because their music simply does not measure up. This has created a backlash as the hipsters defend their territory with guilt, ostentation, pretense and surface-level novelty. On the other hand, the underground has produced some strong contenders. And so we move forward through the past to the future, remembering that what is true is eternal, and trends, novelties, fads, hipsters and other transient moments pass quickly away…

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Blaspherian – Demos (Compilation of Death)

Compilation of Death Records has re-issued the a classic demo and rehearsal from a band of recent vintage but oldschool origins, Blaspherian. Their thunderous death metal sounds like Incantation and Obituary covering Deicide but has a voice of its own and unique perspective. It also carries forward the old school sensibility of building intensity and contrast in a morbid mood that is not self-echoing and redundant. Songwriter Wes Weaver (Imprecation, Infernal Dominion) avoids solos and other adornments to focus on tunneling riffs that are distinctive and create interplay with others in each song to give every song a unique feel within the lexicon of symbol and emotion that death metal addresses. Like the bands that inspire it, Blaspherian aims to create an immersive atmosphere of doom and morbidity in which it can bring forth other emotions in layers, such that the “mixed emotions” feel common to much music is not something achieved at the peak of a song, but is a constant in which the emotions mixed vary like a texture, revealing new combinations under the shifting striations of darkness.

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Blood Urn – …of Gory Sorcery and Death (Terrorghoul)

Death metal of the classic style fascinates this young band who write music much like the early years of death metal but with more of an emphasis on melodic bridging material, avoiding the pitfall of using melody as essentially a production technique and instead causing it to highlight songs that come alive with a ferment of conflicting riffs. Vocals use the old-school method of shadowing riffs and the salad of phrases itself fits together and creates a deepening mood. While on the heavier and slower side of death metal, this demo is varied enough to touch on all areas of the genre, assembling rich textures as a means to develop depth to the emotions in each part of the song. Unlike many newer bands, Blood Urn decided not to follow a single identifiable influence but instead sound like a study of European and American death metal rendered by someone approaching it with a fresh vision.

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Cenotaph – Riding Our Black Oceans (Chaos, re-issue)

A re-issue of this album restores it to its rightful place in the death metal canon. After the immensely powerful Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows, the thunderous Mexican death metal band Cenotaph changed their style to an airier and more intense high-speed melodic death metal sound. Unlike contemporary “melodic death metal” this style embraced the vigor of death metal by expressing it through sequences of tones that added melody without obscuring structure and darker moods, and Cenotaph displayed its customary acumen for songwriting by keeping each track centered around an idea that came forth not only in the whole but in the shape of its riffs. In the years following Sentenced North From Here and At the Gates The Red in the Sky is Ours, many bands attempted this newer style but few made it as vicious and uncompromising as Cenotaph.

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Conquering Dystopia – Conquering Dystopia

Conquering Dystopia creates instrumental mental that hybridizes death metal styles with progressive heavy metal and some of the newer progressive styles like that of At War With Self. The result often sounds a lot like Joe Satriani’s older works in that clear theme is expressed and highly repeated, but varied with other instrumental detours which strengthen it as the song progresses and all the pieces fit together more an in interrupted linear way than the geometries of pure death metal. While this is like most commercial rock indulgently emotional, the underlying music is good and the technique interesting without leaving service to what each song needs, which keeps it not only topical but interesting.

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Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall (Martyrdoom)

Although this band gets mentioned as the foremost in the “Incantclone” series of bands inspired by streaming columnar detuned tremolo underground metal in the style of Incantation, Demoncy and Havohej, Dead Congregation draws influence as well from the subtler structuring of older Immolation in its use of melody to underscore is otherwise a thunderous series of chromatic rhythm riffs needing a center. Although songs vary in completeness throughout the album, generally these storming high-intensity dirges fit together well and produce an encompassing atmosphere which both crushes and awes the listener. If anything, this band could let up on the classic technique and float more of their own aesthetic ideas now that they are established.

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Demilich – 20th Adversary of Emptiness (Svart, re-issue)

Back when death metal was viewed by just about everyone as an incompetent genre of malcontent losers who would go nowhere and who were complaining about our new consumer+hippie paradise, a few bands emerged who saw the emerging genre not as a style but as an artistic voice with unlimited possibilities. One of these, Finland’s Demilich, created an album so circuitous and bizarre that the metal press basically dropped it and ran in fear, as did many fans. For those who discovered it however, Nespithe presented unlimited potential as to how death metal could adopt technicality and yet not be mastered by it and forced into the type of generic jazz-blues-rock theory that served to actually limit what musicians could conceive of and execute. With its twisted passages and seemingly erratic rhythms, Nespithe resembled a strange machine risen from the bowels of earth to conquer humankind. Instead, it inspired generations of fans and musicians to visualize death metal as a broader language than many wanted it to be. This re-issue pairs up older works with a handful of newer songs to make for a complete experience of this distinct voice and its concept.

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Desecresy – Chasmic Transcendence (Xtreem)

Desecresy combine Swedish death metal, doom-death metal and atmospheric influences from black metal to create towerlike scenes of dark moods in collision. With Chasmic Transcendence, the band update the formula with more easily separable rhythms to riffs and use of melodic transitions to intensify the building sense of doom. It builds grinding tension and discharges it in lengthy melodic passages which expand beyond their origins into new landscapes. Add to this a tendency to use lead melodic rhythm guitars over its power chord riffs and this makes for a haunting listen that resembles a descent into the underworld. With this third album, the band shows not only its staying power but the depths of the well of its creativity in not just re-inventing older styles but finding a new combination of them and using that to express a perspective which elaborates upon the basics of the genre and gives them new elegance and power.

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Enthroned – Sovereigns (Agonia)

Famed for their high-speed melodic black metal, Enthroned take the populist approach of middle-period Dimmu Borgir — before it went into its final stage as warmed-over hard rock — and craft it with greater urgency and the instrumental approach of older black metal. The result more resembles the later Bathory albums where heavy metal, proto-black metal and post-Slayer death metal influences merged to create a potent ferment. Sovereigns does not achieve the vast contrasts and epic sense of loss of earlier black metal, but upholds a battle-spirit and pushes it into song with strong melodies that do not lapse into the cloying saccharine world of “feelings” — personal observations based on personal perspective — but instead appeal to emotions, or the shared sense of importance and value to certain things which might be eternal. This album breaks up the formula slightly with slower songs as the album expands, in the style of Hypocrisy Penetralia.

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Entrench – Violent Procreation (War Anthem)

Following in the steps of Merciless, who could be seen as the stylistic ancestor of this band, Entrench craft speed/death metal with melodic underpinnings and a frantic but strident voice which guides riffs much in the way Dio narrated his own songs. To the Merciless formula of adroit ripping riffs concluding in both ambiguity and alignment, Entrench adds a Kreator style of finality to both vocal and guitar phrase, making these songs less emotional but more solidly violent. While speed/death hybridization usually ends badly, here the essence is speed metal riffs played as if by a death metal band in the context of a rhythm more like that of death metal. The result is satisfyingly impact-oriented but for it to take the next step to where Merciless is, it will have to coordinate its melodies and cultivate ambiguity both for it to resolve and preserve to keep the dark sensation produced by the riff-style of death metal, minor key melodies and mentalities outside those of the herd.

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Heresiarch – Wælwulf (EP, Dark Descent)

Attempting to forge a niche for itself in the Incantation/Blasphemy inspired style that has become a de facto underground currency during the past few years, Heresiarch create a muddier and more obscure version of their previous works, focusing less on tunneling riffs and more on simple two-chord riffs introducing songs that expand to greater degrees of structure with the slightest hints of melody. The band, in hoping to take war metal to the next dimension, probably consider their work to be unstudied and arising on impulse, but these songs show a clear pattern of development from the grinding to the structural and as a result, take the listeners with them on a journey of finding beauty in darkness and coherence in chaos. The violent slamming intensity remains but by lessening its consistency the band achieves a greater sense of contrast, like raising a sacred object higher above the marble floor to ensure that when it shatters the pieces are irreducible.

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Kever – Eon of Cycling Death (Dark Descent)

Perhaps one of the most inspiring releases this year, Eon of Cycling Death wears its old school influences in Suffocation and Morbid Angel on its sleeve but without imitating them in pale imprint of their technique without understanding their essence. Instead this band forges on with a kind of fantasy death metal that shows them living an alternative and parallel timeline to these bands, developing the basics they innovated with a voice specific to these individuals regardless of what time they are born into. Percussive riffs give way to an ensemble of death metal styles united by rhythm and space which convincingly outline the ideas of each song and then give them depth through internal dialogue. On top of it, an abrupt and croaking vocal gives new life to a very familiar technique with its guttural but carefully sculpted sonic enunciation.

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Massacra – Enjoy the Violence (Century Media, re-issue)

One of the great classics of death metal, long passed-over for more dramatic acts, gained new life with this re-issue. Massacra created their early music in the style which stretches from Slayer through Morbid Angel and emphasizes fast strumming of rapidly-colliding riffs which emphasize ambiguity and openness over the kind of certainty that works well with more percussive styles. Enjoy the Violence is like a rollercoaster between extremes where all things lead back to the same point, but the experience is changing enough that it is almost unrecognizable as the same. With the remaster, some of the weaker sound from the earlier recording is corrected and bonus tracks are added, giving new life to this under-recognized classic of the genre that was more highly influential among musicians than fans, and took on new life in the bands it influenced.

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Massacra – Final Holocaust (Century Media, re-issue)

This foundational album of death metal by Massacra has been re-issued by Century Media with bonus tracks and a booklet rich in information. That provides a good introduction to this view of the death metal style, which instead of attempting to be “heavy” aimed for shock and awe with fast riffs and convoluted songs that somehow emerged into an almost peaceful calm after chaos and combat. Massacra derive their strength from the ability to write fast-fingered riffs that capture the thrill and terror of being alive into a single moment and use this to make basic clashes within life into a mythology of trying to conquer empty spaces with the will and sensibility of a warrior wandering a dystopian wasteland. While this album was forgotten in the day mostly due to its mids-heavy (in contrast to bass-heavy) production and relative availability through distribution contracts more circuitous than its riffs, it rides again in new form.

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Massacra – Day of the Massacra (Century Media)

Century Media compiled several early Massacra demos into a single disc, paired it with extensive liner notes and pictures, and remastered everything for an insight into the rise of the Massacra sound while it was recognizable as what would emerge on the first two and most influential Massacra albums. These recordings show the band merging its early influences into a style and then finding its own voice within that beast, allowing it to compose distinctive and evocative songs immediately including several pre-album tracks with some duct tape still visible. While this might appeal most to Massacra maniacs, it also serves as a useful introduction to new fans who may appreciate the heavier production and more aggressive primitive approach here as a means of transitioning to the albums that follow, which focused not so much on slamming impact as a kind of sky architecture of riffery.

CD Booklet

Nausea – Condemned to the System (Willowtip)

Straddling the line between grindcore, crust and old-fashioned hardcore — which are inches apart as it is — Nausea return with this recording of older and newer tracks alike. Carefully pared down to incorporate only necessary elements and keep energy high, Condemned to the System demonstrates the simpler style of punk composition with all of the riff power of early grindcore, including several tracks (and pieces thereof) that later made it to the first Terrorizer album, World Downfall. The listener who can forget that heritage however will discover merely a crushing, efficient and streamlined album of enjoyable but hard-hitting punkish music that will not win awards for extremity or technicality, but shows care applied to songwriting so that a listener does not feel lost in a sea of riffs or drone, but can isolate each song in the mind and appreciate its individual attack.

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Nunslaughter – Angelic Dread (Hells Headbangers)

While some may be tempted to categorize Nunslaughter as dinosaurs, the fact remains that this band takes the raw ingredients of power metal, speed metal and most death metal and makes a stripped-down, hardcore-punk style ripping version of this that remains highly listenable even if not particularly distinguishable on a song-to-song basis. Like other collections of many short songs, such as Dead Infection or Carcass, Angelic Dread operates like many small insights into roughly the same idea. Somehow, what this band creates never gets old, in part because they understand their riffs as a language from the same basic source, and in part because like a thrash band their song format carefully fits the particular clash of the two riffs (with a few budget transitions, and sometimes rhythmic variations, Nunslaughter uses two riffs per song on average) and the need of presenting them in the best light. The result is compelling and enjoyable and upholds the best tradition of riffcraft and expressive violence in underground music.

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Oppression – Sociopathie & Gloire (Preposterous Creations)

Merging Oi!-style punk with some enhancements from black metal, tracks are short (2-3 minute) affairs. Melodies are catchy, yet wistful lines grounded in simple guitar and bass riffs, with vocal alternating between manic shrieks and an idiosyncratic, youthful attempt at melodic singing. Using the more linear style composition of punk, as opposed to the riff-stacking song construction used by much of black metal, each song contributes a sense of motion that builds the album up over successive tracks. Production values are what one would expect for this style of music; clear enough to make out each instrument, but raw enough to preserve low-budget ethos. This is a release that is not attempting to invent a new genre, but rather one which seeks to renew genres that had collapsed under their own entropy. The strange aesthetics may be off-putting to some, but if those can be sublimated into the spirit of this album, a refreshingly honest work will open itself for enjoyment.

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Personal Device – Microorganismos del Mal

First there was the faux 80s crossover thrash revival with party retro-thrash bands like Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste, then bands like Birth A.D. bounced back with actual thrash and reformed the genre. Now Personal Device take it a step both further and in a different direction by being a classic hardcore band that informs itself with early speed metal like the first Metallica and Nuclear Assault albums. The result is bouncy fast and precise punk like Ratos de Porao or even middle-period Bad Brains that is thoroughly enjoyable with riff breaks that resemble “The Four Horsemen” or maybe even “Live, Suffer, Die.” Their guitars are remarkably precise which creates an unusual sound for punk that by making it mechanistic makes it seem more inexorable than like protest music, and the result is a more testosterone-fueled and warlike approach. Mix that with the surging chord changes of speed metal and the fast repetitive chanted choruses from thrash, and you have a high-energy band. Its flaws are that experienced listeners may find this a bit too transparent, and that many of its rhythms are similar, but the band has administered its style with an editor’s red pen handy, cutting out any lesser parts, which gives it more staying power than all but a few albums in this stylistic range.

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Ripper – Raising the Corpse (Underground Defenders)

Much like Merciless, Ripper know to invoke a melodic hook with a rhythmic hook and gradually bring a song into unity, at which point they hammer home the infectious chorus until the audience is ready to carve it into their own flesh. While some may point out that little new occurs here stylistically, and many of these riff forms can be traced back to Slayer or Destruction, what Ripper does well is keep this music high-intensity without falling into sameness and to streamline into an effective delivery mechanism that outgrows the confused collision of styles that was the mid to late 1980s. This approach fits within the early speed metal model that formed the basis of great hook-laden German bands like Destruction and Sodom, and this tradition continues with Ripper. Where Ripper succeeds is in removing extraneous material and cutting to the core of its music, eliminating some of the distraction and randomness that blighted later work from the German bands.

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Sorcier Des Glaces – Ritual Of The End (Obscure Abhorrence)

Flowing dark melodic forest black metal band Sorcier des Glaces burst onto the scene as any appreciation for this style of Graveland and Immortal influenced black metal fully waned as the initial loss of momentum in the genre caught up with its inertia. Since that time, the band has continued its path of making naturalistic long-melody black metal with the distinctive wandering tempo and phrasal development that many of the French bands also explored. With Ritual of the End, Sorcier des Glaces present their vision in a more focused style that nonetheless preserves the inconclusive nature of their earlier music, becoming like a vision of the woods at twilight equal parts promise and ambiguity, revealing the continuous nature of life through its inability to achieve finite endpoints. When metal mistakenly went toward faster/more extreme variants of the past, it lost the majestic beauty which inspired imagination as well as aggression, and Sorcier des Glaces return it.

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Varathron – Untrodden Corridors Of Hades (Agonia)

One of the original Greek black metal bands, Varathron returns with higher speed and more dominant melody in a style that approximates what Borknagar and other later black metal bands tried to do, with some nods to music since but fundamentally a sensibility closer to Rotting Christ Thy Mighty Contract. Keeping energy high with frequent changes but return to theme and focus on a melody or progression at the heart of each song, Varathron expand their repertoie and craft an album that speaks enough of a contemporary language to dominate that style with the vocabulary of the older era, invoking both a return to and a continuation of the past. While the influence of the present time makes itself known, it remains under control of the guiding forces behind this band that seek to open the imagination instead of gratify self-image, and as a result more possibility emerges here than in other contemporary works.

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Witchblood – Hail to Lyderhorn (Aurora Australis)

Attempting to uphold the values of classic black metal while introducing to them some of the more recent developments in tradfolk-inspired music, Witchblood combines the catchy attack of Venom with riff technique from mid-90s black metal and adds its own voice, which consists of equal part narrative bardic style and an idiosyncratic ability to make memory-haunting tunes. The result features a range of techniques from the history of metal, including NWOBHM-inspired riffing right alongside streaming tremolo picked melodic riffs, but this band makes it work by keeping focus on an essential melody in each song paired to a vocal rhythm designed to deliver a foot-tapping chorus, as bands like Sodom or Destruction did years ago. The result takes the Venom school of metal, upgrades it with black metal, and restores it to a 1980s delivery that is both clear and dark and then infuses that with the type of ancestral identity and epic sensation of purpose that arises from folk music. Through this, Witchblood creates its own form of metal that shows clear roots in much older traditions.

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Woodtemple – Forgotten Pride (Sacrilege)

Showing more of an influence from Following the Voice of Blood era Graveland, Woodtemple return with a more focused version of their flowing black metal. In the past, the music more resembled flowing hills in a landscape of vast breadth, but now greater internal contrast makes what is portrayed closer to a mountain range with ragged crags over deep valleys. The addition of floating female vocals and gentle keyboards allow the band to put more aggression into guitars and bass, keeping vocals semi-backgrounded which produces the effect of reducing the “human” feel to the music. As a result, songs come together with more focus, making this the clearest statement from Woodtemple yet made. Like most metal in this style, Forgotten Pride creates an effect of distance from the human world, isolation and a focus on the larger picture through a lens of large leaps in time, but now creates another hypnotic effect in a distancing from humanity itself. This band, while not a Graveland side project, features Graveland composer Rob Darken on bass.

Album of the Year 2014

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Sammath – Godless Arrogance (Hammerheart)

Godless Arrogance features nearly constant high-intensity rhythmic riffing and finally has a production to match which emphasizes internal harmony but projects vocals and guitars to the forefront, creating an enveloping wall of sound. Drumming is violent martial battery without the happy kickbeat tendencies of overly rock-trained drummer; percussion here is more like punk, hard-driving intensity to channel the guitars, which alternate between abrupt chromatic confrontation in the Demoncy style to gentle unfolding melodies much like were found on Strijd. Bass folds into the guitar, and vocals are the high-volume bluster that reduces distorted vocals to a sound like a whisper spoken close to a microphone in high wind. The result is incessant and unrelenting but also has an inner life of melody that gives it depth and allows it to manipulate riff context like a death metal band while evoking ambient atmosphere in the best tradition of black metal. For resurrecting the black metal spirit of great beauty hidden within massive aggression and alienation, Godless Arrogance deserves to be seen as the best album of 2014.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 05-19-14

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What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? We enforce the reality the metal community runs in fear from: music can be judged objectively, but most people “prefer” junk. They want their music to make them look cool to their nitwit social groups, so they deliberately select moron music. Falses, don’t entry!

triptykon-melana_chasmataTriptykon – Melana Chasmata

You do not hire the Navy SEALs to remove your fire ant infestation. Similarly, there is no point telling Tom G. Warrior to “make an album like all those other ones.” It’s the wrong tool for the job. This album is atrocious because it relies on very familiar and predictable ideas with no density, and then Warrior tries to shoehorn some depth into it but achieves on oil on water effect, like someone trying to layer Beethoven over Pantera. The result just dumb and painful. Run like hell.


lacuna_coil-broken_crown_haloLacuna Coil – Broken Crown Halo

This isn’t even metal. It’s the same smarmy cheesy shit that they sing in lounges for drunk bluehairs in Vegas, but they shifted from open chords to power chords. There isn’t even any particular focus on riffs here, just some blithe chord progressions shifting in the background while the vocals take it. But even worse, the music is entirely predictable. This is different from being “basic” in that it’s not derived from simplicity, but a generic version of the same stuff everyone else does. But that “everyone else” aren’t metal bands, and these entryists are trying to sneak that moronic garbage in through the back door.


aborted-the_necrotic_manifestoAborted – The Necrotic Manifesto

People are not bands. Bands are (composed of) people, but are not people. Even a band with good people in it can end up making music as interesting as poured concrete. “Oooh, look how flat it is!” But that’s kind of the problem here: Aborted is flat. It’s straight-ahead pounding death metal/grind hybrid that tends to like one- and two-chord riffs that shape themselves around a basic rhythm. Songs tend toward straight-ahead structures as well. The whole thing feels mentally hasty, like they aimed for a simple goal and then did one take and called it good enough. The highly compressed production just makes it excruciating to hear.


kill_devil_hill-revolution_riseKill Devil Hill – Revolution Rise

Some bands you don’t want to be noticed listening to lest people think you’re an imbecile. Kill Devil Hill is warmed over 1980s Sunset Strip glam “metal” (i.e.: hard rock) with some alternative rock stylings and occasional Rob Zombie infusions. That’s it, and the style tells you the content. In addition to mind-numbing repetition, like all rock music this dunce material focuses on the vocalist and some imagined fantasy mystical “power” to very cheesy vocals emphasizing very obvious emotions. It’s like watching Shakespeare done by a troupe of brain injury patients. Even the attempts to be “edgy” by working in oddball found sounds and minor techno influences falls flat because the whole package is so blindingly obvious and equally as plainly designed for thumb-suckers.


blood_eagle-kill_your_tyrantsBlood Eagle – Kill Your Tyrants

At least this has some balls, but metal needs both a warlike outlook and an interesting musical development. The latter is where Blood Eagle falls down: too much downstrumming, repetitive riff forms, repetitive song forms and reliance and skull-shakingly basic rhythms that involve a slamming conclusion makes this music no fun to listen to. It is like hearing a constant pounding with Pantera-style angry ranting in a death metal vocal over the top, but the plot rarely changes. When the band gives itself a little room for melody, as in the end of “Serpent Thoughts,” we see how much better this could have been. Instead it sounds like road rage stuck on repeat on a forgotten late night TV channel.


eyehategod-eyehategodEyehategod – Eyehategod

The New Orleans hit factory just keeps cranking them out. WAIT — that’s not what you want to hear about underground metal. Could the writer be implying that this trivial drivel is actually just pop music? Yes, yes he is. Eyehategod started out with a slow punk/grind mix that was boring but kind of aggressive. Then they made it with great production for Dopesick, which was a mildly interesting record. Since then, they’ve gotten closer to the hipster zone. Eyehategod makes me feel like I’ve stepped back into the early 1980s. Punk had just lost direction and every band was recycling old ideas or trying to be “different” with tricks that amounted to little more than stunts. The emptiness was staring us in the face, and no one was talking about it. This album is stereotypical hollow man hardcore with a bit of southern fried bullshit and a couple metal riffs. Why not just go listen to the failed albums by burnt-out and aged punk bands, because they at least have more consistent. This is just an odds ‘n’ ends drawer with a high production budget. You can sniff out the hollowness by how many times they hit you over the head with their image, working in every southern trailer failure term they can, and then performing their party act of ranting vocals over hard rock riffs. It breathes staleness and marketing like a home remortgaging plan.


day_of_doom-the_gates_of_hellDay of Doom – The Gates of Hell

Metal bands should know by now to avoid the formula where the entire song is based around a vocal cadence, with guitars trying for a really basic pattern the vocals can play off of, and drums in perpetual fill mode. This means that the simplistic plodding patterns of vocals define everything else, which means everything else clusters around the lowest common denominator, and you end up with music whose sole (no pun intended) purposes is to make you tap your feet and wave your head to an undulating rhythm. This works great if you’re a sea anemone, but not so good for anything else. Day of Doom is one of those slow-strobing-strum bands that clearly intends for the whole audience to bounce at the same time in trope, but forgets that this is mindlessly boring when you’re not in a concert setting. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these guys, but what they’re trying to do is wrong (as in unrealistic and stupid).


on_top-top_to_bottomOn Top – Top to Bottom

Mixed hardrock/punk, On Top has a clever name but otherwise is exactly as predictable as you might imagine. Lots of bouncy riffs, melodic choruses, angry vocals that specialize in repetitive tropes. If you derive a lot of value from doing the same thing others are doing at the same time, this might be your thing. It’s super-catchy like Biohazard or Pantera were, with plenty of syncopation in vocal rhythms to give them some kick, and songs even develop one level past pure circularity. It basically sounds like something you would expect the rebellious character to listen to in a movie as he drinks his whisky and drives fast. Other than this one-dimensionality, this is one of the few things in this review batch with any musicality. It’s just applied in such a way that people who aren’t drunk and sixteen will rapidly tire of.

howls_of_ebb-vigils_of_the_3rd_eyeHowls of Ebb – Vigils of the 3rd Eye

Howls of Ebb adopt an interesting strategy, which is to hide a Maudlin of the Well style quasi-prog in the midst of a dirty modern heavy metal band. At its core, this is heavy metal of the late 1980s variety, but this is carefully concealed under fast death metal riffs and whispered vocals which expand into dissonant chording and riff salads of the post-jazz-fusion era. The catchiness of the basic heavy metal riffing and the tendency to use tempo changes which fit in that model remain, but the weirdness accentuates it. If you can image Powermad adopting a bit of grunge and progressive metal, then slowing down half of its parts in a melodic jazzy style reminiscent of Absu crossed with Maudlin of the Well, you have the basic idea. The result is not only not bad but stands up to repeated listens. It will probably stay B-ranked in that its compositions make sense on a musical level but convey little else, and often the riff salads meander off-course enough to leave an impression but not a clear one. Still, this is more thoughtful than almost all of the metal at this commercial level and while it’s not underground, it’s much preferred to the usual tripe.

personal_device-microorganismos_del_malPersonal Device – Microorganismos del Mal

First there was the faux 80s crossover thrash revival with party retro-thrash bands like Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste, then bands like Birth A.D. bounced back with actual thrash and reformed the genre. Now Personal Device take it a step both further and in a different direction by being a classic hardcore band that informs itself with early speed metal like the first Metallica and Nuclear Assault albums. The result is bouncy fast and precise punk like Ratos de Porao or even middle-period Bad Brains that is thoroughly enjoyable with riff breaks that resemble “The Four Horsemen” or maybe even “Live, Suffer, Die.” Their guitars are remarkably precise which creates an unusual sound for punk that by making it mechanistic makes it seem more inexorable than like protest music, and the result is a more testosterone-fueled and warlike approach. Mix that with the surging chord changes of speed metal and the fast repetitive chanted choruses from thrash, and you have a high-energy band. Its flaws are that experienced listeners may find this a bit too transparent, and that many of its rhythms are similar, but the band has administered its style with an editor’s red pen handy, cutting out any lesser parts, which gives it more staying power than all but a few albums in this stylistic range. This was a pleasant surprise to find in the review pile.

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Is all metal speed metal now?

pantera-cowboys_from_hell

Tom G. Warrior is a relentless innovator and amazing composer. As he details in his book Only Death is Real: An Illustrated History of Hellhammer he grew up in an abusive, uncertain environment within a broken home. He also grew up in “perfect” Switzerland, a place that has more rules than people. These events shaped his personality or rather, the limitations that are still imposed upon it.

What happened was that young Tom G’s ego was crushed and doubt was introduced into his mind. Doubt about the purpose of life, or even his own life. Doubt of self-worth. Fear that at any moment he might find himself without a justification for existing, and be truly discarded and alone. That’s a heavy load for a young person to carry, but the sequential success of Hellhammer and then Celtic Frost lifted Tom out of it. It also pushed aside a healing process.

When Celtic Frost evaporated, Tom launched on a series of attempts to find popularity again, but on his own terms. First, his highly inventive industrial music, and later, attempts to be contemporary. The latest two are below, and they are marked by a duality: a great underlying talent, desperately attempting to ingratiate itself with newer metal audiences. Like all things that do not take a clear direction, they are thus lost on both fronts.

This is not a hit piece on Tom G Warrior. Like many metalheads, I hold him in the highest regard. He is one of the great innovators and farseeing minds in metal. However, his tendency to try to adapt to what is current shows what is currently happening in metal: in a dearth of ideas, the genre is recombining past successes that represent the culmination of earlier genres, and is trying to recapture its lead by offering a buffet of different influences. But alas, like the music of Triptykon, these forays are lost causes.

Currently a morass of subgenre names exist. We can call it metalcore, or modern metal, or math metal, or tech-deth, or even djent, but all of it converges on a single goal: to make a form of that great 1980s speed metal — Metallica, Anthrax, Testament, Exodus, Nuclear Assault — that used choppy riffs made up of muted chords to encode complex rhythms into energetic songs. To that, the modern metal bands have added the carnival music tendency to pick entirely unrelated riffs to add variety, the grooves of later speed metal, and the vocals and chord voicings of late hardcore and its transition into emo.

What this represents is not a direction, but lack of one. By combining all known successes from late in these subgenres, modern metal is picking up where the past left off before death metal and black metal blew through and rewrote the book. The problem is that making music that is intense like those underground genres is difficult, and even more, unmarketable. It approaches the issues in life that most of us fear, like mortality and failure in the context of powerlessness and meaninglessness, and thus presents a dark and obscure sound that makes us uncertain about life itself. Like Tom G Warrior living through a shattered marriage of his parents and a society too concerned with order to notice its own boredom and misery, black metal and death metal shatter stability and replace it with alienated existential wandering.

On the other hand, late punk offered ideological certainty and heavy doses of emotion. Late speed metal, which Pantera cooked up out of heaping doses of Exhorder, Prong and Exodus, offers a groove and a sense of a party on the wild side. Inserting bits of death metal, especially its technical parts, and some of the frenetic riffing of Discordance Axis allows these bands to create a new kind of sound. But at its heart, this music is still speed metal. Where death metal played riff Jenga and put it all together in a sense that told a story, modern metal is based in variety and distraction. It exists to jar the mind, explore a thousand directions, and without coming to a conclusion ride out in the comforting emulation of the chaos of society around it.

But at its heart, these bands are speed metal. Like Triptykon who revitalize the E-string noodling and riff texture of more aggressive speed metal bands, with the bounce of Exodus and the groove of Pantera, these bands offer a smorgasbord combined into one. They mix in melodic metal, derived from what Sentenced and later Dissection made popular, to give it a popular edge. However, what they’re really doing is regressing to a mean. This has happened in metal before, when mid-1970s bands recombined Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath into rock-style metal, and in the mid-1980s when glam metal did the same thing but mixed in the gentler sounds of late 1970s guitar rock bands. When metal loses direction, it recombines and comes up with a mellower, less threatening version of itself.

All of this is well and good if we do one single but difficult thing: recognize that what we’re listening to now is a dressed-up version of what metal and punk were doing in the late 1980s. We’re walking backward in history, away from that scary underground death metal and black metal, and looking toward something less disturbing and more fun at parties. It seems no one has come out and said this, so I figured it must be said. Enjoy your weekend.

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