On Chapel of Ghouls and the sonata form

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Chapel of Ghouls is a very interesting metal song to start with for several reasons. First of all, it is the epitome of the traditional death metal song and displays the marks of excellent composition by way of being balanced and maintaining perfect mood. Second and related to this mood evocation is the fact that this is a song written for guitars tuned to E-flat standard tuning and uses the open low string often but is not in the key of E-flat, giving the low-chug a very distinctive aura that comes from the sharpened leading tone being emphasized so much that is not the comforting home tonic we hear in commonplace metal. In general, this song also gives us a very special opportunity to see how attention to the use of scale degrees in the right places lends a very specific purpose to different passages with a very powerful effect.

My exposition and analysis of Chapel of Ghouls parts from the a posteriori premise that the key in which it is written is E minor. While making frequent use of chromatism, this piece is undeniably tonal and by that very nature it has a tonal center. It is up to the analyst to unearth just what that center is. The next most important assumption which applies to a lot of metal, is that the playing of fifths is decorative, making use of the sonorous effect this interval has when played on the distorted electric guitar. We do not consider this as an important element of functional harmony and we should only consider the main bass note as pertinent to our discussion of motifs and patterns.

We may observe that if we take riff-groups as sections and we ignore the variations in number of repetitions, the general structure of the song can be summarized in the following manner:

A-A’-B-C A-A’-B-C | D-E D-E | F | B-C-A

We can see the artistic abstraction and application of Classical-era concepts in Morbid Angel’s use of chromaticism for emotional effect within a clearly tonal framework. Even more telling and importantly, Chapel of Ghouls’ structure reveals an adapted classical sonata form. The sonata form is characterized by being divided into three sections: an exposition, a development and a recapitulation. An exposition generally presented the main materials that would be used to develop the piece. These were usually stated and then repeated once with small variations. The development traditionally implied a modulation into a different key and a development of the ideas into more foreign territory. After a flourish in the development section called a retransition that would bring the song back to the tonic area, the recapitulation was a restatement in an abridged way, of the main ideas stated in the exposition. Chapel of Ghouls fills all these requirements to the letter:

  1. Exposition: A-A’-B-C presents the main ideas, and is repeated again with a small divergence in the number of repetitions of the riff. The second time around it is played, it is repeated more times, a simple and primitive way to echo an expansion.
  2. Development: While part “D” is still in the same key, it starts a shift in the importance of the notes which can be considered a modulation. When we reach E, the song is in a different key than the rest of the song, and a different theme defines this section as well, even though we can hear an affinity with the motif of part “B”. Ironically, we call this type of development monothematic, although it may have more than one theme of its own (as this one demonstrably does).
  3. Retransition: part “F”, a slowed down section treading the same some of of the tones (degrees 2 and 3, specifically) that have been used again and again in succession in this song, only to round it off by clearly stating the main motif and theme of the song decorated with an octave doubling rather than with the typical fifth used elsewhere in the song.
  4. Recapitulation: re-use of “A”, “B” and “C” in different order and condensed number of repetitions. The final use of A incurs in a variation that heavily emphasizes the main theme as its final phrase.

Furthermore, the way solos run over more stable rhythm sections and moments when the rest of the music is quiet resembles the tutti-solo-tutti exchanges typical of works from the Classical era. The piece displays an adept of use of pauses and brief silences to enhance expectation and stress unstable tones at inflection points to promote forward movement.

Another little trick that is worth highlighting is that when they make tempo changes either to a faster or a slower, Morbid Angel will shorten or stretch average note length in order to counter the change (if we change to a faster tempo, the notes become longer, and the opposite in the same manner). This helps make transitions much more smooth sounding, pulling the length of the notes towards an central average despite the difference in tempos in different sections.

Lastly, every one of the riffs/parts we defined above with letters of the alphabet are written in period form. A period contains an antecedent and a consequent. The second one of these is a repetition of the first with variations in the end goal, the harmony or anything else that does not destroy the identity of the original idea. Traditionally, the antecedent ends in the dominant or a transition to the dominant and the consequent ends in the tonic, coming back to stability. In the case of Morbid Angel’s Chapel of Ghouls, all the periods’ antecedents, except those that make up parts “D” and “E”, finish on tones that are not part of the E-minor scale, while the consequents all end on in-scale tones. In the case of the exceptions just mentioned, this is inverted and D# is tonicized, effectively constituting a modulation to a different key.

Trey Azagthoth’s early infatuation with Mozart is often taken lightly even by fans of Morbid Angel but Chapel of Ghouls is a clear example of how this claimed influence went deep and affected the way motif, theme and development were handled. Trey did not just copy the classical style of Mozart, but adapted methods perfected by the late master to the needs of the budding death metal genre Morbid Angel helped define.

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War Master – Chapel of Apocalypse (demo 2009)

War Master – Demo 2009 “Chapel of the Apocalypse”

For any career metalhead, it’s impossible to hear the name War Master without thinking of the classic Bolt Thrower album of the same name. Like that album, this demo is primitive and powerful grinding material; unlike the Bolt Thrower album, this material is less grindcore than old school death metal that grinds, and if you listen long enough, you can hear other classic death metal influences creeping in.

War Master takes the patterns of later Bolt Thrower, like For Victory… and IVth Crusade, and renders them in the simpler, messier and more rhythmic style of the first two Bolt Thrower releases. With three riffs per song on average, this music moves like a fighter and the riffs complement each other to make sense as a whole, which is the science of death metal. It borrows the best grind from Bolt Thrower and re-shapes it into metal songs like early Deicide or Morgoth.

Vocals are also more distinctively from a newer genre, influenced clearly by classic death metal as well as the newer *core styles, but they imitate the rhythms of old school Bolt Thrower. It’s gratifying and powerful, but these three songs give us only a glimpse. If War Master further develop their own style in which Bolt Thrower is an influence, and not the largest chunk of their template, their talent for creating rhythmically compelling music will take them far.

You can get this album from Torture Garden Picture Company distro for $4.

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Whitechapel – This is Exile

Whitechapel – This is Exile

Whitechapel - This is Exile

I had a flashback to the early days of 1993. Death metal had just about peaked, and many people were looking for the next big thing — in terms of style. Brutality was the catchphrase, and since millions of American kids had just rediscovered early Napalm Death thanks to a desperate search for the roots of underground metal, new bands were popping up that promised to be more brutal than before, usually by playing much faster and eliminating all melody. This flashback was prompted by hearing the hype about Whitechapel in one ear, and the reality played in the other.

Cycles repeat because there are usually relatively few different options in life, but infinite ways to pull off the winning option. After death metal croaked and black metal blew itself out, the usual retro cycle came in, where the remnants of the last decade are swept into a dustpan, recombined, and out comes the “new” solution. What has happened in the merging of metal and emo, pop punk, alternative and new hardcore is a lot like what happened in 1983 when the first thrash bands formed: metal riffs in punk song structures. But punk has grown up, gotten more technical, and in order to justify its dystopian nature, has taken the aesthetic from 1960s protest songs — jarring, slightly dissonant, poignant bittersweet, etc — and blended it with technicality, creating what I refer to as The Cinema of Discontinuous Image. Much of this is the influence of MTV, which specialized in videos in which rapid cutaways from radically different imagery were seen as desirable; these later influenced how Hollywood films dialogue, so it’s not inconceivable they influenced metal. The new hardcore is technical, melodic, and like carnival music in that it moves between ludicrous extremes without building continuity, because being deconstructive is its political fashion.

Whitechapel isn’t alone in being part of this new genre — let’s call it metalcore — that embraces many variants, some as “death metal” as the recent Behemoth CDs, and others as punk as Fugazi but obviously more mile-a-minute. Do people ever get tired of hearing the next most extreme thing? They should, since this stuff isn’t extreme; it’s sped up, and not in any meaningful way from the first Morbid Angel album. It’s like shredders showing off without knowing how to write songs, and since its basic concept of being protest deconstructive is fundamentally opposed to the ideas of songwriting anyway, this music ends up being a random pile of stuff that’s hard to play mixed in with stuff that, like Meshuggah, sounds hard to play until you realize it’s rhythm noodling on a chord. Whitechapel lives by this variation, where fast scalar single note playing is followed by five-position power chord shred riffs, and then the song collapses into some percussive geometries from the E chord, then repeats with keyboards added, this time. Songs build up to a peak frenzy, and then just end. Nothing is learned, nothing is created, but it has political authenticity — comrade Stalin is pleased! — because it is deconstructive protest music that emphasizes the following tenets: life is terrible, there’s nothing we can do, give up now, wail and whine instead of doing anything, it’s not my fault, it’s not your fault.

The synthesized faux death vocals don’t help either. I can see how this CD would impress someone new to the genre because it tries to “break barriers,” but these are all stylistic. It has nothing to say except perhaps to add on to The Brat Manifesto, which is a giant scroll containing all of the justifications created by the human species for doing nothing about its problems, personal or collective. Whitechapel screams out a kind of fetishism with child abuse, poverty, self-destruction and failure, because these excuse the heavy weight of having to take on life. Hint to Whitechapel: all of the great bands became great because they took on that heavy weight like a charging bull and found a way to convert it into positive enemy, like inverse aikido where the attack ends up converting his own momentum into a throw of his hapless prey. You, on the other hand, have run from it, and that is why you are this season’s trend and tomorrow’s ash on the wind.

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Poverty is the Price for Metal Stardom

The Talk:

Every metal musician needs to have “The Talk” at some point or another and for some of you, this will be that moment.  In the world of metal, “The Talk” is the soul crashing, dream obliterating conversation where one learns the valuable lesson that you can’t get rich playing extreme metal.  It’s heartbreaking and defeating but better learned sooner than later.  And since a young ambitious musician isn’t necessarily considering the logistics, lifestyle goals, etc. of their future before they drill on that pentagram neck tattoo, I want to make sure readers of DMU are abundantly clear on what to expect on the financial front when engaging in life as a touring musician.
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Trendkillers #2: Blast Beats Must Die!

The blast beat has had a very unlikely journey through its relatively young lifespan in music.  Rooted in a jazz technique of an alternating bass drum/hi-hat and snare 16th note pattern (though played at much slower tempo in jazz music), it found a unique identity in the early 1980s when underground hardcore punk bands like Siege and Asocial began using it at aggressive speeds to enhance their violent bursts of rebellion.  This made it a close friend of metal when the middle of the decade saw a fledgling death metal movement getting its hands dirty with hardcore punk speed and sound in an effort to push its own extremity.  Over the next 15 years, several drummers would rise to prominence with their clever use of the blast beat to either push these combinations to extreme speeds or to utilize them enduringly for an effect similar to trance music.  Suddenly, every metal band that wanted to play fast or play simplistically HAD to play blast beats, and we eventually reached a point where blast beats were the most dominant part of every death and black metal song’s drum composition.

For the future of death and black metal to establish themselves distinctively, they must abandon what has become routine and keep only what is necessary to preserve their underlying spirit.  And with this understanding comes an unfortunate truth- the beloved blast beat must be laid to rest, so that new life in metal can grow.
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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Chevy Chase Chainsaw Massacre

Twas the 5th day before Christmas, and all through the house, the creatures stared concerned and suddenly in need of psychiatric therapy.  My wife said I have that crazy look in my eye, as my boss had jipped me on my Christmas bonus- the holiest thing of the American middle class baby boomer.  The urge to kill left me trembling, barely able to stand, and I frantically raced to the garage and grabbed my chainsaw and son’s hockey mask.  As the voices got louder, I found myself speaking in tongues- vocalizing a string of obscenities as if possessed by otherworldly entities.  In an attempt to quiet the deafening commands to kill, I remembered that death metal was an outlet that had saved me years before.  But it was 2017, and I did not know what the new death metal sounded like.  But I had heard that Bandcamp were going to save the world with their social justice, so I thought I would listen to the top selling death metal bands on the first page of Bandcamp.  Surely they had the most sales, and therefore were the most trustworthy, and true to the old death metal sound.  I decided to download all 8 albums and burn to CD to listen to on my Walkman CD player.  But when I heard…. when I heard… when I heard…

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Tom Warrior Censored on Upcoming Celtic Frost Reissues

In a recent blog post, Celtic Frost vocalist/guitarist Tom G. Warrior has publicly disowned BMG’s upcoming double CD reissues of his band’s best output, Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion, and the more pandering and spotty Into the Pandemonium and Vanity / Nemesis. The embarrassing Cold Lake was omitted at Warrior’s request. While initially on board with the reissues and involved with the creative process, Tom Warrior has abandoned ship because the commercial mega-label BMG refused to print his linear notes as he intended. This blatant censorship was a means of preserving the integrity of the Noise Records liquid assets purchased by the label but had inadvertently overwhelmed the Cold Laker with a plethora of painful flashbacks of the corporate influence that plagued Celtic Frost throughout its existence.

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Incantation Tour Europe and Return to Finland

incantation summer 2016 tour

Incantation are in the midst of a European tour right now with Morgoth and are coming back to the continent in July. The Finnish festival date should be special for Hessians as Depravity is opening. Incantation also have a new album coming out later this year on Relapse Records and recently released a 25th anniversary compilation. From the band’s website:

Pennsylvania deathmongers INCANTATION have just kicked off a run of European dates with Morgoth, Darkrise, Methedras and Omophagia, which will see the band demolishing venues in Europe, the UK, and Russia this April. In celebration of the band’s 25th anniversary, INCANTATION has just announced a second leg of European dates this coming summer – the death metal veterans will be laying waste to Europe for two weeks this coming July alongside Brazil’s Nervochaos. INCANTATION has also been confirmed for a number of festival appearances this summer, including Obscene Extreme Festival in the Czech Republic, MetalDays Fest in Slovenia, and the third annual Hell’s Headbash in Cleveland, OH. A complete listing of dates is included below.

INCANTATION Live:
***All dates with Morgoth, Darkrise, Methedras, and Omophagia***
Apr 14 Ostrava, CZ Barrak Club
Apr 15 Erfurt, DE Club From Hell
Apr 16 Rheine, DE Hypothalamus
Apr 17 Drachten, NL Iduna
Apr 18 Rotterdam, NL Baroeg
Apr 19 Chapelle-lez HT, BE Maison Du Peuple
Apr 20 London, UK Nambucca
Apr 21 Glasgow, UK Audio
Apr 22 Southampton, UK Bristol Bierkeller
Apr 23 Oberhausen, DE Helvete
Apr 24 Villa de Barrosales, PT SWR BarroselasMetalfest XIX
Apr 26 Vilnius, LT Propaganda
Apr 28 Minsk, BL Brugge
Apr 29 St. Petersburg, RU Opera Concert Hall
Apr 30 Moscow, RU Monaclub

June US Dates:
Jun 24 Columbus, OH O’Shecky’s*
Jun 25 Crest Hill, IL Bada Brew*
Jun 26 Lansing, MI Mac’s Bar*

***All Dates with Nervochaos***
Jul 14 Obscene Extreme Festival – Trutnov (CZE)
Jul 15 Neudegg Alm Abtenau – Salzburg (AUT)
Jul 16 Elyon Club – Milan (ITA)
Jul 17 Le Korigan – Luynes (FRA)
Jul 18 Tba (FRA)
Jul 19 Tba (FRA)
Jul 20 Le Klub – Paris (FRA)
Jul 21 Muziekcafe Elpee – Deinze (BEL)
Jul 22 Little Devil – Tilburg (NLD)
Jul 23 Chaos Decends Festival – Crispendorf (GER) *Incantation Only
Jul 24 Viper Room – Vienna (AUT)
Jul 25 Akc Attack – Zagreb (HRV)
Jul 26 Metal Days Festival – Tolmin (SVN)

More US Shows Announced:
Sept 2 – 4 Cleveland, OH Hell’s Headbash 3

Most of Incantation’s back catalog can be checked out on their Bandcamp page.

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Metal Blade Records re-releasing early Slayer albums on vinyl

Cover art to the "Live Undead" EP
The title probably needs a few instances of “again” sprinkled throughout, but whatever. Metal Blade is presumably in the very early stages of putting out new vinyl presses of early Slayer recordings, as evidenced by their decision to announce this through one of our competitors. This rerelease focuses on Slayer’s earliest releases – their first two studio albums, as well as the Live Undead and Haunting the Chapel EPs. Like many of these vinyl reprints, it seems to be fairly limited in scale – only about 1200-1500 of each album is going to be pressed, and any collector who misses these is going to have to wait for a new pressing or content themselves with one of the many older versions. The actual musical content of these records is worth your time, anyways, which is something you can’t say about every record released.

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SJWs want you to feel guilt for not having problems

blake_dodge_-_unc_chapel_hill

Blake Dodge, a student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, did something many students do: write what your professors and peers like to hear about, but give it a new emotional spin. It is a good way to gain favor with the people above you and possibly get their recommendations and other favors students need in the future.

There’s only one problem: she is spreading a dangerous guilt-based ideology that punishes people for not having problems. Blake Dodge, originally from Beaufort, NC, wrote the following op-ed which is clearly designed to feature in her future CV or résumé:

I have the utmost empathy for my male peers. But for every “pretty and smart” comment I get (and for the ones that aren’t even that flattering), for every patronizing inflection and for every inadvertent power grab at my expense, you add a grain of sand to the increasingly heavy load we women carry. You perpetuate sexism in environments where it absolutely cannot belong.

Astute observers will note that we have only her word that these incidents occurred, and they fit very nicely into her thesis. Considering that she spent the first half of the article talking about how unattractive she is, it makes sense to discard at least half of the article. But her message resounds, because her professors and administrators will nod and smile knowingly, thinking how brave she is and how profound and altruistic they all look for standing up for the little guy… er, woman. She is kissing ass in the oldest way possible, which is preaching from an angle of victimhood because none can oppose her or they will be accused of being in league with the victimizer.

Inquisitor: This woman is a witch!

Citizen: There is no evidence of that.

Inquisitor: Oh, so you are a friend of witches? That is the only reason you could oppose this trial.

Citizen: No, I stand up for the freedom of all to —

Inquisitor: — be witches. You are in league with the Devil! To the ducking pond, immediately.

Blake Dodge thinks she is just sucking up to some powerful people in her life so she can get on to the next stage, perhaps an internship or law school. She has pressed all the right buttons, made all the appropriate noises, and has an instant group of champions among those who are professionally miserable. But her real message shines through clearly: I am victim, how dare you not be victim, and especially how dare you be male. These comments are innocuous. Her toxic, passive-aggressive response is far from it.

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