Hidden Metal In Plain Sight

Underground occult metal blog Praefuscus Ferrum recently posted a piece entitled “Underground turned Funderground, and the Obscurantist Elite” proposing that what killed underground metal was widespress consumer access to new technologies such as the internet. These and the increased exposure to fans led artistically successful underground metal bands to pursue raw consumerism at the expense of writing transcendent music. D.A.R.G. points out that “the truest artists purposefully hide away from the profane eye” as the communication mediums the underground metal utilized (physical mail, tape trading, and BBSes) have been usurped by ones more accessible to laymen. He states the underground became the “funderground” in the blink of an eye as mainstream rock and pop fans who felt adventurous wanted rock and pop music with “black” and “death” “metal” production aesthetics, not actual death, black, or even heavy metal. Now the musicians actually writing novel underground metal compositions hide unbeknownst to the typical beer metaller in plain sight.

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Leviathan – Scar Sighted (2015)

Leviathan - Scar Sighted (2015)
Review by Corey M

USBM (United States Black Metal) as a term encompasses such varying sounds as the primal war chants of Von, the uncompromisingly precise assault of Averse Sefira, and the operatic mewling of Weakling. Scar Sighted, Leviathan’s newest release, is still USBM but typically is categorized by fans as “depressive suicidal black metal,” along the stylistic lines of Sweden’s Shining and fellow American Xasthur.

Unlike the epic and powerful surge of teeth-clenching energy that one feels from black metal ne plus ultra like Sacramentum, Immortal, or Darkthrone, Leviathan’s music is more about… who knows? Something relatively vague but generally negative, self-loathing, and frankly boring. Take this line of lyric; “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” This line seems assertive and confident; you may wonder what meaning this cryptic passage may hold. And wonder you shall, forever, because placing it in the context of the rest of the song does not reveal any clearer meaning. There is no point other than the expression of narrow-sighted negativity. This is the unifying theme of Scar Sighted; a gross misdirection of self-contempt projected toward any and all things outside the self, with uninformed “occultic” references mixed in for good measure.

My contention with Scar Sighted is not just with the lyrics, though. The composition of each song reflects the fragmentation apparent in the lyrics, throwing out one cool-sounding line after another, but leaving the observant listener with a stark sense of having witnessed a slide show of barely-related images. Melodies come and go with nary a whimper as the listener gets deeper into each song. Certainly, a lot of blustery riffs throughout the album got me excited and interested in hearing where the music would lead me next. But that makes the album all the more disappointing, as one song can throw a series of two or three engaging riffs at you and then switch tracks completely and strand you amidst a wash of dissonant non-melody that, rather than moving the song forward, just wallows within its own two-or-three chord cycle that doesn’t relate to any other part of the song.

To Wrest’s credit, a lot of the riffs are very cool, and he has a refined sense of how long a riff can be exploited before it becomes too boring for repetition. Sometimes, he makes the right choice and heads into a complimentary riff to accentuate the previous one. However, more often than not, the last riff is shrugged off and a whole new feeling is admitted, complete with a disparate drum beat, a new scale, and, too often, a new vocal style. Wrest has a very intense low-end growl that synergizes with the grimy, slimy, bass-heavy sound that is wonderfully mixed on this album. Wrest is clearly a craftsman that takes his work seriously and not a lazy writer. However, the result of his work is an incoherent collection of songs, some of which sound like they could come from a post-hardcore band on Level Plane in the early 2000s. With that in mind, Scar Sighted wouldn’t be a bad album by any means if it weren’t marketed as black metal. But when contrasted with the standards of black metal and the techniques employed by the best bands, we find that the intensely personally-focused introspective meanderings of Leviathan fall apart.

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Paradise Lost releases “No Hope In Sight” from The Plague Within

paradise_lost_-_the_plague_within_-_cover

Seminal heavy metal/doom metal band Paradise Lost will release The Plague Within on June 1, 2015 in Europe (June 2 in USA) through Century Media Records. During the early 1990s, this band inspired death metal and black metal bands to experiment with layered melodic lead rhythm guitar over distorted power chords, and to this day holds a position both close to popular music and using underground technique.

Paradise Lost comments: “Check out the first track from our new album ‘The Plague Within’. ‘No Hope In Sight’ was one of the first tracks we wrote and it reflects a blend of styles. From death metal to gothic to classic rock. It’s like all eras of PL wrapped up into one track. We hope you all like it!”

“No Hope in Sight” follows a familiar format, which is as much Iron Maiden as Black Sabbath, using melodic hooks contrasted by slow bass-heavy chord progressions in an extended pop song format that made its debut back in the early days of MTV. The result is infectious and on the lighter side, but dark enough in spirit to attract Gothic and metal fans alike who enjoy well-composed straightforward music.

PARADISE LOST live:
29/05/2015 – Rockavaria – Munich – Germany
30/05/2015 – Rock im Revier – Gelsenkirchen – Germany
18/07/2015 – Castle Party Festival – Bolkow – Poland
15/08/2015 – Summer Breeze – Dinkelsbuhl – Germany

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Atomic Aggressor – Sights of Suffering

atomic_aggressor-sights_of_suffering

Calling a band “technical” — not to be confused with musicianship as popular circles frequently do — creates general indifference among those accustomed to seeing this term used as a selling point. The industry generally uses the term for bands that cannot compose meaningful songs and so encrust them in adornments of musical acrobatics, creating artistic Potemkin villages which offer a cornucopia of musical fireworks on the surface but emptiness beneath. Many believe that musicality is only valid if the artist consciously intended to give the music a certain technical quality. This could not be further from the truth.

The best music has often comes from technically competent artists, but this does not mean that their music is guided by a handbook of rules, but the other way around: they use technical flair to elaborate on the ideas that motivate their music. When an musician has a superior talent for organizing notes into melodies, aligning melodies into harmonies and building sections that flow and speak to one another as seemingly essential parts of a whole, this process can be reverse-engineered by a clever and knowledgeable analyst. But like software reverse engineering itself, we only arrive at technical explanations about the originating commands that give the result its nature, not the programmer’s feelings, train of thought or the content they hope to communicate through their art.

Morbid Angel Altars of Madness is lauded as as a young genius’ masterpiece born out of raging emotion and unprecedented innovation in the then-young genre of death metal. Only new or superficial fans of the genre are oblivious to the achievements of this album that go well beyond mere historical relevance. Whether or not Trey Azagthoth planned each twist with the implied theoretical knowledge behind them is not important, although we can assume he may not have because such fervor as these pieces present is only possible coming from the deepest well of human emotion. Yet scrutinizing of them at several levels reveal logical explanations for the impact, drive and fluid development that they showcase.

As a short example we may take a look at “Chapel of Ghouls”. The song itself can be explained as using E major as its main or home key. As in classical music it ventures into the parallel minor and uses off-key passing tones for color. The most important of this is the fact that the guitars in the recording are tuned in E-flat standard tuning, which means that the repetitive muted strumming of the open low string consists of strumming the D (enharmonic equivalent of E flat) note, the seventh in the scale of E major. This gives the chugs a malevolent and dissonant feel. Another thing that should be mentioned is that the first two riff clusters in Chapel of Ghouls are quite unstable, each being in period form (antecedent and consequent phrases which mirror each other, but only the second one resolving). These riffs do not resolve convincingly (they do not land on either the tonic or the dominant when the consequent cadences), giving these both a satisfying feel and a need to continue and be completely resolved which appears to the listener as a will forward instead of a complete thought. This resolution is achieved on the third riff which finally leads to the tonic, but does not rest there, avoiding the typical full-stop feeling by switching into the relative minor (thereby using a flattened third and sixth which sound like off-key passing tones in the context of the major setting) and syncopating the rhythm while an atonal solo blazes above. And so the song is carried on with the mark of genius that cannot be now denied even by those who do not share a personal preference for the song. The songs in this album are not even remotely atonal or even overall dissonant; they make heavy use of the latter with striking effect while the atonality is reserved for solos which mark peaks and tornadoes of raw emotion that are never out of place here and which seem to be born out of the depths of this music.

Atomic Aggressor Sights of Suffering presents us with something that would be best described as a tribute to Altars of Madness-era Morbid Angel. But unlike Morbid Angel, Atomic Aggressor’s songs do not show Azagthoth’s structural cleverness and talent for directing and channeling emotion unavoidably towards strategic points in the song where powerful emotion surges. In fact, it is because this band is bent on sounding like early Morbid Angel that they are completely oblivious to the subtlety of the original composition and thus just manage to place riff after riff which sound like a more retro (sounding a little on the speed metal side at times) version of who they are trying to imitate. The vocals make this intention to imitate even more palpable not only in terms of the style of the growls but the way certain passages are emphasized or rounded off by grunts which in this far weaker music only manage to sound comical, especially if one is familiar with the original band. There is not much to say about this album because it is no more and no less than a bland, third-rate imitation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_Lq2WEqj1o

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Some Thoughts on Nature

I enjoy camping. Solitude. Enjoying primitive conditions. Witnessing the power and beauty of nature. It helps one keep a good Hessian frame of mind. I try to go as often as is possible and there is one location near me that I frequent rather often. After a bit of a drive over old logging roads through the hills I stop and pull my car off the side of the road and put on my pack and get my rifle at port arms. To get to my favoured camping area it is a 5 mile hike that for a short while follows an abandoned narrow-gauge railroad that some logging company built to expedite the extraction of resources from the area many years back. The place I like to set up camp is a tiny, elevated clearing in the pine trees next to a small creek from which I can get water. The area is a temperate rain forest of sorts, so there are 3-6 foot tall ferns everywhere, and in old-growth areas that have not fallen prey to logging, you can see the triple-canopy growth that is common to all rain forests. However, most of the forests around have been logged at some point so this sight is rare. I use a small shovel or a machete to clear out the ferns so I have a nice place to build a camp fire and an area to lay out my sleeping bag. The chopped down ferns double as a nice mattress.

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Introduction to Power Metal, Part II: The First Wave of European Power Metal

[The epic continues!  Read part I of Johan’s journey here and listen for yourself via this playlist]

While working with what was intended to be the second part of a tripartite article series covering the history and general properties of the power metal subgenre, it soon became clear that a sufficiently thorough treatment of the subject would require more space and time than what was originally intended. This insight subsequently led to the conclusion that individual parts needed to be subdivided and portioned out in order to not grow out of proportion. The initial plan to present the material into three consecutive parts has thus been revised.

Another related issue that arose during “research” concerns the historical development of European power metal. As have been noted in previous articles on this site relating to the history of metal music, artistic “movements” or periods of development tend last about five years speaking in generalized terms. This phenomenon can be observed in European power metal as well. After having studied Euro-power metal as a composite phenomenon, a rough sketch outlining the developmental trajectory of said music began to take form:

1984-1989: The first wave of European power metal.

1990-1995: Intermediate period.

1996-2001: The second wave of European power metal.

While not a perfect model, this rough periodic division will be used as a framework for discussion in the articles to follow. The relatively lengthy timespan that has passed since the putatively defined second wave of European power metal will be left out for the moment, primarily (and regrettably) because there hasn’t really occurred much of a development in power metal since the early 2000s. If anyone sits on information that invalidates the above statement, feel free to chip in – this writer would be very pleased to be proven wrong on this front.

Accordingly, the second part of this article series will be mainly devoted to the development and characteristics of the first wave of European power metal and the intermediate period that followed in its wake. Instead of approaching the subject in thoroughly generalized manner, a ???-track compilation will be used as source material to make observations about the historical development and specific traits of first wave Euro-styled power metal. Please not that this collection of tracks is by no means intended as a “best of”-compilation but should rather be viewed of as a springboard for further discussion.

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Polarized Metal Genres Must Unite Against The Funderground

Metal is facing a decisive moment in time. As a genre and an entire sub culture, it’s threatened with a massive flux of outsider interest into what was once an isolated community forged in passion. Metal was a cause for tight bonds among like minded disillusioned youth that wanted nothing to do with the status quo, a lawless free for all where no ideology or point of view was too extreme. Thus grew a voice to rally against the farce of mainstream politics, social acceptability, resolute contentment with mundane lifestyles and herd mentality. Though acts like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden were to find great success within the public large, they laid the groundwork for that rebel yell that gave the disgruntled youth the foundations for connecting with others so disconnected. And with such a ground roots movement that metal was, true artists and musicians who may have never have been given an opportunity to rise otherwise were now rising and exponentially so. Quickly NWOBHM became speed metal became death metal became black metal. Then, as with all great explosive cultural movements, metal began losing its traction and sight of its original goals of fighting against the mainstream culture of quantity over quality. But it is now that we see its greatest threat in its acceptance by the masses. Now it is being taken for a boutique exotic exploration into what most really don’t want to explore: cold unforgiving reality.

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Soymetal Dies As True Metal Rises

As predicted here, the takeover of underground metal by late hardcore tinged substitutes has failed. This music, which we might call “soymetal” because it appeals more to the emo hardcore audience than the feral and realistic traditional metal one, took over because after the underground fizzled in the hands of NWN/FMP impersonators, labels found a new audience in whiny millennial SJWs. (more…)

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Have You Droned Anyone Recently?

There is something delicious about a drone. Maneuver the joystick, trip the flaps, train the camera, identify the subject. With a deep sigh, avoid contemplating all that is ahead, then click confirm on your control screen. Watch the brief flash and distortion on your video feed as the missile falls free and ignites. Zoom in on the target. Seconds later, a gout of flame and fountain of body parts.

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Metal Works: AR-15 Build

A proper Hessian knows his metal music intimately. He understands the moving parts and how they fit together to form a functioning whole. Just as a Hessian understands his music, he will also understand his weapons. What better way to understand our weapons than to build one ourselves? AKs are rather easy to build, but require some more expensive specialized equipment. ARs are also quite easy to build, and because of their ingenious modular design, one can either build a complete AR or one can build half an AR for use with already extant other halves. Because building an AR lower is somewhat more complicated and requires some more expensive equipment, today we will focus on building your own AR upper. You will see from the crappy pictures, taken with my old flip phone, that one needs no specialized facilities to do any of this – I did it in my spare bedroom in about 45 minutes. Recommended listening while building: Immortal’s “Battles in the North.”
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