Jason Netherton (Dying Fetus) releases Extremity Retained: Notes from the Death Metal Underground

extremity_retained_notes_from_the_death_metal_underground-jason_netherton

Former Dying Fetus member Jason Netherton, now proprietor Send Back My Stamps!, releases his latest creation in the form of a 480-page book of interview with figures in the death metal underground called Extremity Retained: Notes from the Death Metal Underground. The product of over 100 interviews over a three-year period, the book is comprised entirely of first-hand stories, anecdotes, memories and opinions.

The book attempts to “explore the scene through the voices of those who helped create it” and thus focuses its questions on zines, tape-trading and other rituals of the underground. These lengthy narratives are complemented by original cover and section art by Matt “Putrid Gore” Carr, incidental art by Gary Ronaldson, with design and typography from Tilmann Benninghaus, and title page by Timo Ketola.

Contributors to Extremity Retained: Notes from the Death Metal Underground include (but are not limited to): Luc Lemay (Gorguts), Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), King Fowley (Deceased), Stephan Gebidi (Thanatos, Hail of Bullets), Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity), Doug Cerrito (Suffocation), John McEntee (Incantation, Funerus), Marc Grewe (Morgoth), Ola Lindgren (Grave), Paul Ryan (Origin), Kam Lee (ex-Massacre, ex-Death), Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, Lock Up), Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation), Robert Vigna and Ross Dolan (Immolation), Jacob Schmidt (Defeated Sanity), Esa Linden (Demigod), Dan Seagrave (Artist), Rick Rozz (ex-Death, Massacre), Steve Asheim (Deicide), Jim Morris (Morrisound Studios), Terry Butler (Obituary, Massacre, ex-Death), Mitch Harris (Napalm Death, Righteous Pigs), Scott Hull (Pig Destroyer), John Gallagher (Dying Fetus), Robin Mazen (Derketa, Demonomacy), George Fisher (Cannibal Corpse), Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail of Bullets), Rob Barrett (Cannibal Corpse, ex-Solstice), Donald Tardy (Obituary), Moyses Kolesne (Krisiun), Takaaki Ohkuma (Necrophile), Paul Speckmann (Master, Abomination), Anders Jacobson (Nasum, Necrony), Carl Fulli (Epidemic), Matt Harvey (Exhumed), Steve Goldberg (Cephalic Carnage), Ben Falgoust (Soilent Green, Goatwhore), Phil Fasciana (Malevolent Creation), Tony Laureno (ex-Nile, ex-Angelcorpse), Alan Averill (Primordial, Twilight of the Gods), Jason Fuller (Blood Duster), Alex Okendo (Masacre), Dave Witte (Municipal Waste, Human Remains), Lee Harrison (Monstrosity) and many more

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Codex Obscurum zine issue #2

codexobscurum2New England based old-school print zine Codex Obscurum has just announced that their second issue is available for order. For $2 (plus shipping) you can obtain a well-versed printed zine that encompasses many elements of Hessian culture.

Bands covered in issue #2 include Defeated Sanity, Incantation, Forteresse, Morpheus Descends, The Hookers, Ringworm, Goatcraft, October Tide, Morticia and a multitude of others.

Ordering information is located here.

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“Fortress Europe: The Big Shiny Prison Volume II”

fortress_europe_the_big_shiny_prison_volume_2-ryan_bartekFORTRESS EUROPE (The Big Shiny Prison Vol II)’ is the sequel to 2009’s ‘THE BIG SHINY PRISON (Volume One)’ and chronicles the authors journey through the European Counterculture in 2011.

This is a nonfiction road book/music journalism expose which defies all conventions, existing in the territory of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road,’ Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’ and Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas.’ This modern version of such writing follows author Ryan Bartek as he reveals a postmodern, dystopian vision of the European counterculture while interviewing a number of living legends face to face and drudging through the gutters of society.

‘FORTRESS EUROPE (The Big Shiny Prison Vol. II)’ covers all forms of extreme metal, punk rock, industrial, experimental, rock & electronic and features appearances/interviews with members of Brutal Truth, Master, Agathocles, Wolfbrigade, Rotting Christ, Killing Joke, Funeral Winds, Nahemah, Enochian Crescent, Moonsorrow, LAIBACH, Defeated Sanity, First Blood, Hello Bastards, Abortion, Panthiest, Arkangel, HATE, Repulsione, Dehuman, General Surgery, Corpus Christii, Fides Inversa, Excavated, Primordial, Splitter, Pyramido, Black Breath, Ingurgitating Oblivion, El Schlong, Spacemen 3 & legendary Detroit writer/60’s radical John Sinclair and more.

FREE DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Interview with the author on Berlin TV:

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Interview: Marlon Friday (Abhorrent)

Guitarist Marlon Friday of demo band Abhorrent was kind enough to lend us his ears and voice for a brief interview on the state of death metal, and the direction this new act — which is challenging the stagnation of a genre too molded by its interpretation of fan expectations to be anything but stagnant — takes as it tackles the question of 21st century death metal.

When did you form Abhorrent, what were your previous projects, what’s the state of the band and who’s in it, and what is your status now?

Abhorrent was formed mid-2007 after some of our previous projects either didn’t go anywhere, or weren’t taken seriously. Previous projects were Erzebet and Misogyny, the latter, not taken too seriously, obviously. Abhorrent is Marlon Friday on guitar(s) and Lyle Cooper on Drums. We are currently looking for new members to fill in the vacant duties of the band. Also, we are looking to finish mixing and mastering our 3 song promo, and hoping to send it out to certain interested labels.

What are your goals in forming Abhorrent? Are there extra-musical goals (chicks, ideology, tour the world) as well as musical goals?

Music consumes both of our lives, and without it, we wouldn’t be who we are today. Abhorrent is an outlet of both emotion and ideology, which will be more present in the lyrical matter.

Add to the reckoning all whom thou hast known, one after another. One man after burying another has been laid out dead, and another buries him: and all this in a short time. To conclude, always observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a little mucus to-morrow will be a mummy or ashes. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Do you think a genre of unpopular “popular music” like death metal and/or black metal can be a form of art?

Of course, absolutely. It not only can be a form of art, but, in my mind it is and will always be an artistic expression.

What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

Well, in the context of music, I believe their is a certain overlapping of the two. Creating the music is the art form, while playing it live is the entertainment side… similar to art galleries, having people show up and look at the selection of art pieces in the exhibit is a form of entertainment.

Do you think heavy metal has a distinctive worldview different from that of “normal” people? Is worldview a grounding to an ideology, and can art have either? Do you think the worldviews and or ideologies of artists shape the kind of music they produce?

Yes, I do believe that heavy metal retains a certain world view that differs from the main populace. The worldview is a foundation for ideology and I believe wholeheartedly that can have both. Ideologies can shape the music in the creative process, and I believe it does a lot to define the type of sound the artist is going for. Be it abrasive or easy on the ears, or what have you.

Do you think death metal musicians converge on the genre because it sounds like thoughts or worldviews, and if so, does this produce any compatibility between views?

I think death metal musicians share, to an extent, certain views and feelings and that is a big reason that the “scene” started and evolved into what it is or isn’t today. There is definitely a compatibility between views, but that isn’t always the case.

If sound is like paint, and we use different techniques and portray different things in our paintings, what does it say when a genre sounds similar and has similar topic matter and imagery? can the genre be said to have a philosophy or culture of its own?

Varying genres of music can definitely have a unified ideology/philosophy, which helps bring artists and listeners alike to a more unified ground.

Rumor has it that Abhorrent is considering being the first all-instrumental death metal band. what are the additional burdens on songwriters of writing songs without vocals?

Not sure if we would be the first, but, yes, this is a possibility. To have an all instrumental band, the music has to have an extra quality to it, a certain appeal that will be able to grab the audience and keep them listening. Since there would be no lyrics, it would be up to us to create an atmosphere and keep from diverting the listeners attention.

How do you conceive of a song: do you start with a riff, an abstract idea, an emotion, or a structure?

It all depends on the time and place. I might have a riff in my head, or a drumbeat or just be in a certain mood.

What are your influences, and are these shared among band members, and if not wholly, what other influences do they have?

When writing the music we don’t try and think … “Okay, these 3 bands influenced this song so let’s write something like it.” We just let the music flow and morph it as we go along. Although, you could probably tell some of my favourite bands (Gorguts) have leaked a bit into the riffs that I write.

Of the last ten years of metal, what are the standouts to you? what about other genres — what were the most influential and best works?

Gorguts – Obscura and From Wisdom To Hate
Adramelech – Pure Blood Doom
Immolation – Close To A World Below
Spawn of Possession – Cabinet and Noctambulant (to a lesser extent)
Martyr – Feeding The Abscess
Augury – Concealed
Anata – Under A Stone With No Inscription
Psycroptic – The Scepter Of The Ancients
Defeated Sanity – Prelude To The Tragedy, Psalms of The Moribund
Deathspell Omega – Fas, Ite Maledicti In Ignem Aeternum, Si Monvmentvm Reqvires Circvmspicere, and Kenose are all beyond words as well.
Drudkh – Most of their work.
Negura Bunget – Omwww
Agalloch – All of their material.
Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, IX Equilibrium, Prometheus
Among tons of others.

Some have said that death metal and black metal use “narrative” composition, where a series of riffs are motifs that evolve toward a passage between states of mind for the listener. is this true, and if so, how is it reflected in your songwriting?

It can be said about a lot of bands, but when I write material for Abhorrent, there is no set formula, it just evolves and evolves from there.

Do not look around thee to discover other men’s ruling principles, but look straight to this, to what nature leads thee, both the universal nature through the things which happen to thee, and thy own nature through the acts which must be done by thee. But every being ought to do that which is according to its constitution; and all other things have been constituted for the sake of rational beings, just as among irrational things the inferior for the sake of the superior, but therational for the sake of one another.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

What brands/models of guitars/amplifiers do you use, and what equipment/software do you use to record?

For the promo we recently recorded, I used: Jackson DKMG
Engl Fireball head
Mesa Dual Rectifier Over-sized Cab
and a Bugera head for the other guitar track.
Lyle (drums) used:
Mapex 5 piece
Sabian and Zildjian Cymbals
DW 9000 pedals
To record we used a motu 12 pre for the drums, with an assortment of different mics, with Cubase. Guitars were recorded DI and reamped with the ENGL and Bugera.

We’ve gone through another period, like that of the late 1970s, where metal has lost direction and started to be absorbed by rock music. Is a change in style needed, or is change in direction expressed in another direction? What do you think the metal of next decade will look like?

There are so many different variations of “metal” that incorporate completely different types of music, some of them lose base with the “traditional” style, but others don’t stray too far from a defined line. In the next decade I can’t even imagine what new types of metal music there will be. Here’s to hoping the quality of music increases exponentially.

What is the best way for fans to contact you and hear your music?

You can email abhorrent@gmail.com to contact the band, and the best place to listen to our music, as of now, is at www.myspace.com/abhorrentdm.

Some people prefer a scene, others a community, still others like to strike out on their own. How effective are scenes and communities in concentrating listeners who can appreciate similar approaches to music, and how much do they simply raise the expectation of clone music and drag the community down to a lowest common denominator?

A “scene” can be both beneficial and detrimental to the quality of music that is produced. It does give an outlet to a group of unified individuals who have similar tastes in music, but also, on the downside… some bands may think they have to keep releasing the same type of albums over and over because “that’s what the scene expects”, thus, never evolving, and never doing anything new.

Then, I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already shown to be the greatest of all they must continue to ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended and seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now.

What do you mean?

I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not.

– Plato, Republic

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Interview with MetalGate Band founder Scott Vogler

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The anti-censorship movement known as #metalgate has become a permanent and ongoing event. Like the social justice worker (SJW) antics it combats, it is both activism and activity for those looking to have fun and bash back the insanity of a dying civilization.

If it has a Command and Coordination HQ, it is arguably Scott Vogler’s MetalGate Band group on Facebook. Here, the latest idiocy of SJWs and lapdog media are listed and mocked, with quality arguments against them arising almost instantly and spreading to the far corners of the internet.

We were lucky enough to get a few minutes of Mr. Vogler’s time as he was poring over transcripts of the Judas Priest backward masking trial at the Library of Congress…

What is metalgate and why is it important?

#Metalgate was inspired by the events which sparked #GamerGate. Metalgate serves both musicians and fans alike by standing up for both of their rights to express themselves as they see fit. Like GamerGate, Metalgate seeks to be a watchdog for the press and point out flaws, corruption, and calls for censorship. Metalgate does not exist to silence anyone; on the contrary, it exist to give voice to both sides of any given debate on the topic of heavy metal whether it be a social justice warrior, Heavy Metal Enthusiast, Religious Fundamentalist, Heavy Metal Musicians, or anyone else who has something to say.

You started a group, “MetalGate Band,” on Facebook that now seems like a command and control nexus for metalgate activities. What do you do with this group?

MetalGate Band is meant to attract metal heads, gamers, musicians, artist, and anyone else who would stand up to would be censors. It’s also open for those who disagree with the premise of #metalgate. This is not meant to be a hugbox of any sort.

I would like to live in a world where no one bans anything no matter how offensive it is.

The group appears to be the only lively community representing the hash tag and we are nearing 300 members. Which as of now is a small but passionate group who for the most part are totally on board with the idea of standing up to the censors who in this case are labeled social justice warriors. There are other areas of concern as well and we address a multitude of topics every day. It’s actually been really educational for me personally.

I want to use this group to create the idea that art itself should never be censored. If you have a favorite form of entertainment or art you should preemptively stand up for it along with anyone else who would stand with you. This is not freedom of speech without scrutiny as I leave the door wide open for debate, challenges, and other perspectives.

What would you hope the average person would learn from metalgate?

I would want them to learn some history about Heavy Metal and the challenges the genre has faced over the years. I would want them to see how often Heavy Metal has faced down and defeated the censors over ridiculous things like sexual lyrics, satanic messages, violent themes, and other contrary philosophies expressed through the lens of Heavy Metal.

Most of all I would hope they would learn that their feelings do not trump the individual’s right to express themselves how ever they see fit.

Why should your average metalhead care about metalgate, or anything beyond their own purchasing? Do ideas have consequences?

To answer the first part of the question let’s go back to 1985 and look at the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) hearings where a group lead by Tipper Gore challenged the entire music industry by introducing plans to outright censor artists and musicians from creating material deemed too offensive for the general population. If it weren’t for Dee Snider, Frank Zappa, and John Denver we might very well be living in a world where all of your favorite bands might not exist.

To answer the second half of the question I would hope a simple “yes” would suffice, but I know it won’t so I’ll share an event that happened recently. Just a little over a month ago a group of radical feminists demanded that a band named “Black Pussy” be exiled from playing music. Their belief in feminism led them to threaten a venue with vandalism and violence if it allowed Black Pussy to play there which in turn caused Black Pussy to cancel the show. Black Pussy stood up for their freedom of expression by pointing out how foolishly misguided this group of rad­fems (“radical feminists”) are, got the name of their band out there, recruited more fans, and have earned the support of MetalGate even though they aren’t a metal band. Good for Black Pussy. Bad for Radical Feminism.

So I hope you see that on both sides there are consequences. Depending on how you interact with society those can be good or bad consequences. So keep that in mind whether or not you decide to join the metalgate community.

When you talked to Shayne Mathis for his hipster podcast, he seemed to be trying to make the point that racially exclusive language can be coercive, while you were pointing out that socially exclusive language like the term “racist” can be coercive. Did you find middle ground on that part of the debate?

(Shayne, if you’re reading this I just want you to realize that I don’t hate you, nor do I totally disagree with you. I don’t think you’re a complete moron or a waste of people’s time or anything like that. To answer the question though I would have to tell you that I don’t feel like we really reached a middle ground.)

It was a good conversation. I agree with Shayne that racial slurs can be extremely ignorant and are coercive attempts to silence people, but want to point out that “anti-racist” shaming is also a coercive attempt to silence people.

We should resist coercive attempts to silence people; this falls under free speech. I don’t agree with being a racist at all but I think it’s worth actually listening to racists in order to know why they feel the way they feel. The idea that we should just avoid it at all cost seems rather dangerous to me. I think the biggest reason Shayne and I disagree on the topic is that he doesn’t feel anyone other than white people can be racist where as I feel the term itself can be applied to anyone from any part of the world or racial background.

I think it’s a dangerous precedent to set that only a certain group of people can be criticized for their racism while others get a free pass to be as racist as they want to be. The middle ground is pretty far away because of this disagreement and I would hope we could bridge that gap as all of this continues.

Do you think racism exists, and does the term “racist” have any meaning, or is it yet another politically manipulative term for someone who has noticed what our leaders would prefer they do not notice? (And if so, what is being noticed?)

Yes, I think racism exists and yes the term “racist” has a meaning but it also serves as a politically manipulative term, just as any word can take on that role over time.

Honestly, who knows what they’re really hiding? Maybe just the fact that they themselves have their own issues with bigotry and are projecting it on to others. Maybe there are more insidious things and skeletons people hide with that word and use it to shoo away those who know better but in that extreme it probably wouldn’t be quite so easy to stop someone from exposing you if they had real evidence. I think the term or any term for that matter can be used to socially condition a general response out of the masses.

We’ve seen this happen before through marketing, government propaganda, movies, songs, etc. I don’t think the lesson here is whether or not people use “name calling” to hide something and dismiss other perspectives. The lesson here is how you deal with such a turn of events. When someone calls you a really mean name for obvious political reasons don’t let the power of that word frighten you from standing for your principles. What they really want is for you to sit down, shut up, and capitulate. It’s a last ditch effort to silence an already pretty silent majority from pursuing any kind of “justice” that would come swiftly as a result of a big enough information leak.

Can you tell us a bit of your own background in metal? Are you also involved in gaming?

I recall hearing Metallica quite a lot in my early years I finally became a fan of heavy music (not heavy metal) the very first time I saw Tool’s video for their song “Sober.” It wasn’t until #metalgate though that I really took a dive into heavy metal and the history lesson that comes with it. It’s such a vast genre of music and have had to cram it all in by using Spotify and listen to as much as possible to and from work every day.

In just a matter of months I went from a prog­rock/prog­metal/desert­rock kind of guy to a mad man trying to listen to as much heavy metal as humanly possible spanning all the sub­genres, generations, and styles of metal and I’m still not even close to having a good grip on reality when it comes to “Heavy Metal” but it’s been well worth it to me and will continue to learn because I just fucking enjoy it!

As far as gaming goes my earliest memory is Super Mario Bros, Kid Nikki, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and others on NES. That was on my sister’s console however so I can’t really say I was into it as much as I would be later. My very first console was a Super SNES with Super Mario World, Starfox, Chrono Trigger, Zelda 3: A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy, etc, etc.

I currently still mostly play retro games; if not I turn on my Xbox 360. I am disappointed with the direction of the video games industry. For multiple reasons, one of which sparked #Gamergate and in turn #metalgate, but other reasons as well. I don’t like to feel like I’m just playing a movie. So many games today are just that. While it looks impressive it doesn’t feel anything like a “video game” to me. I fully support #GamerGate for these reasons. I hope it sparks developers to start being more innovative and play to the strengths of their audience rather than for mass appeal.

I guess this is a question I wish someone would answer, because no one addresses it. If we have many different groups in our society, of different types (religion, race, sexual orientation, etc), and each group is offended by at least one things ­­ usually where it disagrees with another group ­­ how do we unite these groups into a society?

I would like to live in a world where no one bans anything no matter how offensive it is. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a movement in this direction unfold over the last six months or so with things like #gamergate, #metalgate, and #comicsgate. It is not a conscious ideology so much as people just getting fed up with not being able to express themselves without some lunatic jumping down their throat with histrionic tirades. It has become a type of hobby to keep a watchful eye on the press, government, and radical groups and calling out bullshit as we see it hit the news. So for me right now the plan is to provide a platform for both sides of this argument to express their points.

I see this kind of attitude growing in light of the #gates spurring on people to stand up for the art and entertainment they love. I want to hear both sides but I am definitely in the camp that feel it’s important to take a firm stance against anyone demanding special rights, privileges, censorship, or other harmful precedents they propose. People do tend to self­segregate but it’s not something I find to be particularly harmful. If people want to be left alone they can create that situation for themselves. People of all stripes should live the way they see fit and if that means staying in a community of people who are like you then by all means go for it.

On the other hand we’re free to criticize any community or group of people we see fit and they should be willing to stand up for themselves in light of that. This whole idea of “safe spaces” and “censorship” to me is a thousand times more harmful than any harsh criticism, ignorant slurs, or bigotry that might come out. So while I support the right to remain silent I also see that it’s important to speak up at times and not run away from criticism.

What is an “SJW,” how do I recognize one, and what is the purpose of SJW’s?

A “Social Justice Warrior” (aka SJW) is someone who concerns themselves in meddling with the affairs of different groups. It is someone who has taken on an extremely left wing world view point and will often be just as over the top with their beliefs as a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim. You can recognize them by their most obvious attribute, histrionics. If you dare mention a word about something they take personally you will see a display unlike any other. I would go so far as to say they do even crazier things than religious people do because SJWs claim to be all about science, atheism, facts, and logic but act out in such ways that contradict this precept.

You can find SJW’s hanging out at the mall, coffee shops, book stores, open mic nights, and on the internet (especially Tumblr). If you still haven’t a clue on where to look for an SJW go look at the #Gamergate hashtag on Twitter. The people who are anti­gamergate are almost exclusively SJWs. Also visit Tumblr and just search the term Social Justice Warrior. There you will find them waxing dramatically about how oppressive everything is. I see SJWs as, for the most part, cattle for more intelligent people to take advantage of. I believe that the more prominent SJW figureheads are not as stupid as they appear and realize just how easily lead astray people are.

I would love to see [#metalgate] leave…a reinvigoration of the kind of unfettered desire to express oneself without apology or compromise.

To ask their purpose depends on which kind of SJW you’re talking about. Some of them exploit others, while others truly believe in their nonsense. Over all I think their purpose is to get away with as much of the same things they complain about all the time. They will criticize one person while running away from criticism themselves. This is a hallmark of social justice warriors. They want to manipulate society into guilt and shame and reap the rewards by coercing more and more power, influence, and money out of society all while having a free pass to be as bigoted as they want to be because they’re special.

David Draiman (vocalist of nu­metal band Disturbed) raised an interesting point the other day. He was disturbed that GamerGate opposes censorship, but hadn’t spoken out against anti­Semitism. Some said that gameragate should support free speech entirely, while others thought it should be against any “bad” speech like racism or anti­Semitism if it was legitimately so. What’s your take?

David brings up a good point. If you’re going to stand against “bad language” then you have to be willing to stand against all of it. I would say however that there should be unfettered free speech. This goes back to what I said about conflict avoidance and how it’s actually more detrimental than the initial slur. You can be against the slur without being for censorship of any kind.

No one ever has all the answers and groups like Gamergate have a huge and diverse crowd who seem, to me at least, to support this notion of unfettered free speech and a willingness to address these kinds of concerns in a logical way without demanding silence from detractors. To me this is a step in the right direction. The opposite view would be to either ignore the bigots and never address the issue, or try to censor them without considering what they are trying to say. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.

What’s next for metalgate? Do you hope it will leave lasting change, stay active as an ongoing concern, or get bigger, and lead to an ultimate showdown between SJWs and metalheads?

It’s truly difficult to say what’s next for #metalgate. I plan on continuing on with this by creating new content on YouTube, creating a WordPress site specifically for metalgate, and constantly signal boosting content creators on the Facebook page. Right now it’s all about cultivating a healthy, driven, and passionate community.

I would love to see it leave a lasting change in the landscape of heavy metal. I see that change not so much as a “change” but a reinvigoration of the kind of unfettered desire to express oneself without apology or compromise. I think the reason metalgate continues despite a slow growth and only a handful of passionate metal heads is because it represents something that’s always been a part of Metal: the desire to express yourself how ever you see fit and encouraging others to do the same even if you flat out disagree with them.

If we’re talking about real wishes, someday I’d like to put on a music festival. At this giant three-day event, there would be a showdown between the different forces competing for control of metal. The two biggest contenders would be mainstream metal and underground metal, SJWs and Metalheads if you will. I would invite all of the mainstream metal bands, underground metal bands, Christian bands and others to try to outperform one another. Imagine the lengths at which some artists would go to in order to leave the impression that what they are playing is METAL and what others are playing is merely rock and roll. That is the sort of attitude and competition that made early British bands, thrash bands, and black metal bands famous. The will to push the envelope of society in order to be the heaviest, most brutal, most technically gifted, most worshiped metal acts in the world.

I believe this has the potential to reinvigorate heavy metal if the right voices are lent to it and the right minds come together to make this leave a lasting impression on the history of heavy metal. Until then, I will just continue managing the Facebook group and welcome all comers to throw their name in the hat. Finally, I’m just an average guy on the internet with a full time job and starting out a family. If you are in the metal industry and you feel the way I and others do about this please give your voice, resources, and talent to it and shake things up. You could be the one to take this from an internet argument to the headlines as you make waves in the music industry by redefining heavy metal.

Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to do this somewhat prolonged and specific interview.

Scott and Jim “Kamikaze” Thompson have started a talk radio style podcast-ish video series in which they analyze the issues of the day according to #metalgate and #gamergate. Session One begins below.

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Identity Construction and Class Demonstration in Modern Black Metal

1. Introduction
2. The End of the Millennium: The Collapse of the Integrity of the “Scene”
3. Priests of Black Metal: The Surrealist Medievalist Reformation
4. Warriors of Black Metal: The Militant Romanticist Reformation
5. Evil Pseudo-art and the Rise of the Hipster: Revolution or Death?

Introduction

Art must excite the imagination. This is a condition of aesthetic effect, and therefore a fundamental law of all the fine arts. But it follows from this that not everything can be given directly to the senses through the work of art, but only as much as is required to lead the imagination on to the right path. Something, and indeed the final thing, must always be left over for it to do.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Inner Nature of Art

Black metal music is one of these great arts. There is no religion mixed with Black metal! When religions are mixed to music it result feeble feelings, pseudo-art.

– Wlad Drakkheim (Vlad Tepes)

Histories of early black metal are dime a dozen nowadays and by now you probably know how Mayhem and Burzum came about, if you are interested, and have figured out why the churches were burnt, if you are intelligent. However, what happened after 1995 is rarely put under reasonable scrutiny because as in politics, recent events contain too much unexposed lies and hidden agendas to bear daylight.

This article intends to take the bull by the horns and explain through an eyewitness’s observation the development of the philosophy of black metal from the first divide (the cultist vs. the crowdist) that occurred around 1996 to the second divide (the realist vs. the hipster) that occurred approximately ten years later.

The End of the Millennium: The Collapse of the Integrity of the “Scene”

When the blaze in the northern sky had died out and the geniuses of the previous generation were either rotting in a jail or in a pub, a new generation sought to rediscover the meaning of black metal as a lifestyle and as a Weltanschauung. The masses, representatives of mediocrity, had already found their way into black metal when most of the original acts had betrayed the ancestral trust by developing into a theatre of gothic makeups, glam rock attitudes and weak synth-based pseudo-heroic anthems.

The Internet grew into a unifying, though disputed and hated, medium for the black metal underground to bicker about trivialities, form projects and spread news and gossip. Forums and websites contained information about hundreds of new bands, far from the old realm of tape traders and fanatics who kept meticulous contact with friends abroad through letters and phone calls. Also, the beloved underground zine, responsible for establishing the mystique around the early 90s black metal scene, was relegated to minor status as an upholder of the cursed movement.

Because the crowds present were in no way contributing to the development of black metal, as opposed to practically everyone in the beginning of 90s who was interested, the scene started to show the same fissures that had obliterated punk, hardcore and a whole lot of other once-radical artistic movements to relic status. The scene grew introverted because the outside did not seem to be interested in participating in the original barbaric-Faustian quest for freedom in darkness, even if hoarding information and releases. The scene rotated around people who, despite their intelligence, were reluctant to break genre barriers because their attitude was commitment, not innovation.

Purity of intent became mangled in a scene setting; the desire to bring power and authenticity back, to solidify black metal fans into a commando force for opposing the democratic spinelessness of modern life, was mostly a disguise. The greatest psychological motivation was the worship of one’s own personality and identity and it’s separateness from others by self-aggrandizement, by wallowing in ideas such that one is extreme, unique and important. They were like the proud fallen angels but only in the surface aspects; the core was a youth subculture among many others who share exactly the same kind of attitudes and personality types.

The black metal underground adopted more and more extreme stances to make them impenetrable to the masses that were threatening to turn black metal into a parody and a freakshow. One of these positions was the National Socialist black metal, which had been already perpetrated in the early 90s by Absurd and Lord of Evil but failed to become a widespread movement until the end of the decade when the Allgermanische Heidnische Front and the Pagan Front along with, intentionally or not, Moynihan’s and Søderlund’s book Lords of Chaos promoted the mixture of national traditionalism and romantic black metal, to the disgust of the part of the scene retaining the leftist influence from grindcore.

For another segment of the underground, the message chosen was as corrupted, cryptic and vile as possible. Inspired by the first incarnation of black metal and of everything that was filthy and anti-social in the underground, satanic nihilists waged war on everything, as exemplified by the album titles Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan (Antaeus) and Kill Yourself or Someone You Love (Krieg). The actual message was hidden under the surface, for it utilized spewed vitriol for an introverted self-study, which was concealed as an attack. The Satanists and nihilists considered worldly things as folly, a curse imposed by God or nature upon the Faustian soul – all attachment and love in fleshly things was false figments of illusion, much like the Gnostic Christians believed.

Priests of Black Metal: The Surrealist Medievalist Reformation

The heirs of the nihilist black metal culture became known as the religious black metal scene, because in the original sense of the word religare, the artists sought to strip the world of its importance by detachment, perversion, self-flagellation and insanity to reach the transcendental quietude of the noumenalworld, perceived as a spiritual death. The ideal was modelled on characters like Dead and Euronymous of Mayhem, who were seen as the original martyrs of black metal.

The aesthetic defined by Mayhem on the classic De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, an amalgamation of the theological and the heretical, a re-interpretation of the sacred writings of Christianity, was given a full treatment by bands that musically attempted to find a balance between the creation of “experimental” black metal and “true” black metal (essentially two trends that had been around since new black metal became mostly home recorded and free of quality expectations).

The audience who felt more kinship with pagan ideals, heroism and warfare grew over the years to hate the depressive Satan-worshipping bands, not because they would oppose the best of their music, but because the scene concentrated into seeking whatever seemed most radical and hateful in the limited perspective of a Scandinavian middle class young man from an atheistic family. It was a very limited world and while some occultists were able to discuss their way around this problem, the limitation culminated artistically in satanic black metal bands going by hordes to the modern equivalent of Sunlight studios, the Necromorbus, to create endless similar sounding clones, many of which were pleasing listens but historically nothing more than footnotes.

The prime motivation to create this new style of theistic black metal was that newly found emphasis on production and melody that gave them a chance to try out their hand on professional musicianship combined with literate Satanism, and thus escape the falsely assumed impression of the last decade that you were either a capable musician or an extremist, not both.

The target audience, which was mostly composed of young, sensitive, intelligent and fragmented personalities with an emotional attachment to the mystique of Satan and Christianity, mostly liked it since the music was tried and true melodic black metal not far from that of the eternal crowd favorites Marduk and Dissection, with updated imagery and lyrics. It was also suitable to the retro-purist tendency to reject political developments in black metal on the grounds that such were not originally a part of it, despite the fact that they themselves introduced many aspects such as the Bible quotations and theological analysis which belonged to it even less.

Warriors of Black Metal: The Militant Romanticist Reformation

The pagan warriors fared a little better on the quest for Romantic, neo-classical black metal art. The core bands of nationalist pagan black metal, such as Totenburg, Heldentum and Eisenwinter, realized a synthesis of the street punks’ (through Oi and RAC) music with folk and heavy metal and some of the naturalistic black metal instinct of Ildjarn and Burzum. These bands steered clean from pleasing the public with melodic death metal influences or digital production standards, while many others such as Temnozor, Kroda, later Forest and Graveland, led their epics by vocal and folk instrument melodies, influences from symphonic soundtracks and recurring Hammerheart–era Bathory riffs, mostly in rock format.

Despite the extreme horror incited in some countries and scenes by the open admiration of the principles of Hitler and the SS, part of its power in the mind of the participants was also that it was positive: encouraging respect for ancient tradition, working for society and appreciating love and friendship.

Norway’s black metal had played ruthlessly upon a reputation of morbid obsession and criminal darkness, preying upon the minds of weak-willed individuals who were seeking a chance to submit to the will towards death. NS influences in black metal had been a natural development for many key practitioners from Darkthrone to Impaled Nazarene regardless of whether or not they ever admitted to anything more than a slight inspiration and a shock statement. It gave a chance to balance the darkness of witch-cults with the light of European virtue.

An esoteric nationalism, inspired by traditionalists Evola and Guénon and by philosophers Nietzsche and Bergson, also emerged, and was more sophisticated than the crude hedonism of LaVey or the superstitions of Elizabethan Devil worshippers. But when presented to the working class it meant believing that the sickness of the world is a manifestation of the plots of other races, particularly the Jews, for the subversion of the higher culture of the White Aryan.

In fact, only a small part of the fans of NSBM ever were devotees of pure National Socialism. The movement of nationalist pagan black metal was united by the opposition of globalization, multiculturalism, crime and vice perceived by them to be the import of African and Semitic races to Europe: drugs, rape, apathy and disrespect for the local authority, which a regular Scandinavian tends to trust implicitly. Additionally, communism and anarchism were seen as anti-national and anti-cultural forces that have the power to assume control in the media under various guises.

While many of the aesthetic ideals of NSBM, such as respect, healthiness, personal integrity, constructive activity and diligence in work, were close to being acceptable in mainstream European societies, in general the involved characters were dedicated individuals facing hatred and opposition in all directions and actively treating life as a battle-like challenge. The movement could act as a representation of the tradition and
will of any social class in Europe, so that both those with lower and higher education could find their own ways to see the core ideal: an agreement of a very common sense rooted resistance to multiculturalism, runes and the metaphysics of Wiligut and Heidegger.

The ideology did not encourage escapism through occult and religious experience, or delving deep into the decadent side of modern society. Nor did it deny any of the basic wishes and instincts of man such as having a constructive job, raising a family or having a good time with friends and warriors. But the stigma — and in some countries, criminality — of the symbology forced the adherents to always be careful, prepare for confrontation and face all the consequences of the living the worst possible implications of his ideal.

The youth took this by the face value and were excited about the chance to do something on the streets, be it simply dressing in camo pants and Dr. Martens or actually joining local skinheads or political organizations. Many of them were of the opinion that the virtue of the message and imparted “Aryan” aesthetics, and the right attitude (underground, intolerant, street credible) behind it are what makes black metal worthwhile, not intellectual satisfaction or beauty.

Evil Pseudo-art and the Rise of the Hipster: Revolution or Death?

The emphasis on action and practical message differentiated “Aryan” black metal from what has been the crux of the satanic black metal of the new millennium, which in the spirit of Emperor and particularly Dissection has been creating requiems and sonatas to Him from a more learned and encyclopedic background, quoting the likes of Dali, thus creating hipster-friendly amalgamations of styles that suggest intelligence and taste but only little activity and spirit, or in the words of Vlad Tepes, “pseudo-art”.

In nihilist, depressive and theistic black metal rhetoric, the most vile and offensive threats were brought upon mankind and society in praise of the Devil while concepts such as rape, abuse and suicide were glorified. In some circles it became a game of how low one can sink into the medievalist approach to Satanism, inspired by nothing so much as a Euronymous statement taken out of context: “We are but slaves of the one with horns.” But since the masquerade was obvious, satanic black metallers never seemed like criminals to society except in cases where the adherents actively sought participation in drugs and assaults.

It was one of the most two-faced cults seen in metal – extremely powerful symbolism and literature was abused by people who constantly admitted to failure and self-defeated feelings in the guise of a reborn Gnostic/Jesuit theology that denies the world having anything of value. Artists and philosophers gave long and explanatory answers in interviews that were too difficult for the majority to understand and thus ended up taken out of context. Many, though, considered this the natural way of “evil”: the weak and the stupid deserve to be corrupted, driven into suicide, fear and madness by the power of Lucifer’s light.

What seemed to make Devil worshipping black metal dangerous and potent was its mercurial nature; unlike in the nationalist pagan scene, one’s class and education completely determined the understanding of the given compulsory Bible, Bataille and Sitra Ahra quotations. A son of a religious family with no higher education would see the Devil worshippers’ theology in a totally different perspective from a university student of comparative religion or literature.

Especially through the down-to-earth, joyless Protestantism of Scandinavia, faith and belief in gods and the supernatural are approached with mania, neuroses and fetishism and the resulting phenomenon glorified anyone who committed atrocities in the name of primitive Devil worship. The educated middle and upper classes both loathed and envied the non-educated and thus “untamed” madman because he seemed more capable of spontaneous action and breaking free of the foulest captor of the middle class: the desire for comfort and to avoid suffering.

The will to join the masquerade, to choose for oneself the identity of a “pagan warrior” or “a Devil worshipper” has fed the black metal market for the last decade. Despite some achievements and innovations in philosophical and musical expression, it has contributed to the downfall of black metal in that it has been all too easy for the crowd to gather under the banners, to create redundant projects that copy the originals without understanding the message and to buy everything that conforms exactly to the imagery one wishes to associate oneself with.

If one is allowed to bluntly generalize, one tends to see on message boards nationalists expressing themselves with a crude, uneducated language reminiscent of trailer park fascism, yet having a solid idea worthy of being developed further, a meaning behind the words. On the other hand a Theistic Satanist can easily lecture you on the Blavatskyan concept of Ego as Lucifer, or on the problems of empirical science, but one is left quite unsure why it is important.

The best black metal of the decade has not been revolutionary in any sense, rather interesting explorations on encoding message into either a rediscovered sense of classical melody or the soothing but barbaric minimalism of ambient. A minority still tries to seek out the best amongst the piles of waste created by the attention seekers; many from the original scene have lost interest in practically all black metal created since ‘95.

Master purveyors of black metal have sought to describe a world of fallen souls and unremembered voices, as if they have brought to life the curses of our ancestors who scream in the Abyss their indictment of the world of man, which has failed to uphold ancient, heroic and traditional laws and to pay the proper respect to the spirits of death and of darkness.

If we could catch for an instant a glimpse of the might and terror of the pure universe, unfettered by the shackles of human perception, our paths would be revealed as singular paths of light amidst infinite space, strands weaving patterns of complexity and beauty, constantly changing nature through an evolution borne by the battle waged by opposing principles.

Written by Devamitra

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 2-9-09

Legion of Doom – The Horned Made Flesh

LEGION OF DOOM attempt to channel later ROTTING CHRIST by becoming melodic heavy metal with ranting black metal vocals on the faster verses, but preserve their original intent and consistency over the past few albums: they compose in similar ways, but their technique and knowledge of theory has been upgraded to allow more keyboard interaction, slicker riffs, and correct approximations of some of the riff structures they must have admired in the metal that influenced them. Song structures follow patterns established on past LEGION OF DOOM albums; they are still chasing certain poetic ideas, like the complex song that culminates in a simple three-chord riff, or the slow introduction out of which builds a structural study. That being said, LEGION OF DOOM is ahead of every other oldschool Greek band because they know how to vary tempi and riff styles and are concentrating on atmosphere, which they generate in a melange of BURZUM- and EMPEROR-influenced riffs. This is far better than average for black metal of this time, but many of the old schoolers may find the “soft” aesthetic distancing.

Intestine Baalism – Ultimate Instinct

I believe form follows function but that form can have a wide range of things comfortably expressed through it. For this reason, when a band like GENERAL SURGERY or PATHOLOGIST is wholly derivative of another band’s style but also really good, it’s hard to in any way condemn them. In that sense, INTESTINE BAALISM strike me as realists who took the voice of Swedish death metal and tried to give it another life. They did, in that they’ve created a B-level SWDM offering on par with maybe INSISION or UNCANNY, borrowing liberally from UNANIMATED, CARNAGE, ENTOMBED, SACRAMENTUM and DISMEMBER to create a sound for some death metal of relatively average structure with two exceptions: most songs introduce themselves and slowly mutate their introduction riff to become the first verse riff, and many songs have melodic transitional bridges in the same way stadium heavy metal bands used to do, some featuring really brilliant guitar work. Where this CD falls down is that it tries to throw too much of the newer melodic Swedish “death metal” into the mix, and since that stuff is basically a warmed over ACCEPT/MOTLEY CRUE hybrid, you end up in hard rock territory really fast with death and speed metal riffs zinging around the room like petrified sharts.

Botch – We are the Romans

Before Botch, there was music like this, which interpreted metal riffs as a kind of carnival of opposites designed to cycle around a rock song structure. They focus on the groove that you can achieve, as avant garde jazz did, by wrapping bizarre-sounding spidery phrases around a dissonant harmony that serves as entry point to implied and indirectly stated verse and chorus. In this view, however, the metal and punk technique used by this album becomes decoration to this underlying rock music, and so while it doesn’t appear to be rock music, on the level of design/structure it is, and is correspondingly empty once you get past the fast ripped scales and emo chords unraveling into their root notes. The bounding, two-hit drumming that pervades this album underlines this basic normalcy so, like a hipster, it dresses itself up as something unique and weird but at its essence, is the same old thing given a good dose of technique. I really liked the title. Like the Candiria, Mordred, and Kong of old, however, it creates an oil-on-water separation of metal/punk from rock, and so comes apart in your hands like a boiled squishy turd. Clearly the archetype for most albums of this nature to follow, it nonetheless misses what is unique about metal and in its neurotic desperation to hide its inner humdrum normalcy, succeeds in making a mess where one did not need to be.

Father Befouled – Profano Ad Regnum

These gents try very hard to be the reincarnation of Havohej, with generous doses of early Incantation and Obituary, and come very close. Many of these riffs are note-varied or rhythm-varied interpretations of classic Havohej/Profanatica riffs, and song structures use the same simplistic, almost serial circular advance of riffs to produce a similar sense of dread. Vocals are patterned more after Incantation, and dirge material builds itself harmonically and rhythmically like early Obituary. The result is gratifying to those who want the old school sound but needs to define itself; being on the outside looking in to Paul Ledney’s vision means that we are forever getting an interpretation of an interpretation, and reality is inching away from us. After making sure we know they are trademark NYEUM (New York Esoteric Underground Metal) in the INCANTATION, REVENANT and PROFANATICA style, FATHER BEFOULED develop their own voice. On the third track, an At the Gates-ish affinity for single-note lead melodies comes in, and then on track 5 there’s a reinterpretation of Celtic Frost, and the rest of the album battles for a melodic influence that with the HAVOHEJ admixture ends up sounding like SARCOFAGO mixed with HELLHAMMER using the better technique of early INCANTATION played by a black metal band. In this style, however, Father Befouled is the best yet and what they understand that other bands do not is that songs need to be coherent wholes, where changes in riff and rhythm gesture us the listeners along to some conclusion. For that any reviewer will be vastly thankful — this disc is not random riffs — but at some point honesty compels us to tell this band to innovate its own germinal material. Clearly they have the technical and imaginative ability, and understand the “spirit” of the underground, which makes them one of the few candidates who can do this.

Darkestrah – The Great Silk Road

People are familiar with archetypes. Once they understand one of those, they can modify it. Only the best of them are able to craft a language all their own and use it to express a truth to which it is adapted. Darkestrah have mastered two arts: the art of power metal, and the art of all the trappings of a Burzum-Gorgoroth-Drudkh hybrid. They take the former and dress it up in the latter, and do it so well it takes almost halfway through the album before the veneer fades away like melting frost and the simplistic, bouncing melodies stand revealed for what they are. In a way, it reminds me of early In Battle, but more tricked out with black metal guitars and keyboards. Instrumentally very competent; artistically adrift on a sea of sewage, drinking big gulps from a cup labelled PRICELESS CHARDONNAY.

Kreator – Hordes of Chaos

What an original concept — the elites rule the earth, and so the hordes of the people will rise up and destroy them through chaos and violence and confusion — and what an original style of music to use to express it! Kreator match their signature ominous riffs, about one per song, with a vomit spew of mixed power metal, hard rock and speed metal cliches. There’s a lot of dual guitar activity in the Iron Maiden style thrown right up against later Sepultura two-chord march riffs, then some of the flamboyant lead guitar of hard rock thrown in with power metal fretwalk riffs. Does it add up to much? The first song is compelling if you listen when you’re distracted, but after that the album further lapses into genericism. The hilarious mixed metaphors cover art adds to the sense that, when one lacks forward motion, you throw everything you’ve got left into a conglomeration and duct-tape it together. For all its furious activity, this album bespeaks drained souls and energyless but resentful lives. The result for the listener is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Deathevokation – The Chalice of Ages

Every old school death metal fan would give a left testicle to like this. Killer vocals – check. Awesome title – check. Dumb band name? Skip that for now. Good guitar playing – check. Old school style, from Asphyx to Zemial, memorized? Check. What’s wrong? What’s wrong is that you cannot throw a bunch of random stuff, even in tribute to one of the greatest eras of metal, into a lattice of convenience and coincidence and expect something good to come from it. The style is roughly that of early Amorphis hybridized with later Cemetary, in that it uses melodic lead overlays on top of rushing power chord riffs and builds up to a promenade riff that trots out the inner melodicity in explicit form. It’s like later Cemetary in that cheesy hard rock, death metal, speed metal and heavy metal all take turns bleeding out from the mess, like it’s a bagfull of hostages each fighting to be heard, and the result is so random that it sounds monotone.

Amebix – Risen! promo

All the best punk bands seem to want to become metal in their more mature offerings. The most notable feature of these new Amebix tracks is that they sound like Lemmy Kilmister vocalizing over mid-paced speed metal, like Prong fused with Slayer, which aims for the theatrical impact of the bigger NWOBHM bands. Galloping muted riffs, chromatic shifts to end each bar, and short bursts of lyrics achieve this goal, aided by periodic keyboards and slower, ballad-like choruses which evolve into progressive-ish transitions. In this, Amebix are continuing the state they reached with Monolith but fulfilling it more accurately with the kind of aggression found on “Right to Rise” (off Arise!) but they’re adding more precise drumming and Slayer-styled tight control of tremolo strum to encode multiple rhythms in a phrase. Most interesting is that these effects are applied to three older songs, making them eerie as familiar sounds coalesce from a more technical and dominating assault. Look for an interesting conclusion as Amebix retrofits itself in this style for their new tour.

I Shalt Become – In the Falling Snow

When I Shalt Become first hit the scene back in 1996, he/they were almost instant celebrities because no one in the United States had yet figured out how to clone the Burzum sound and achieve that trance of dreamlike suspension of reality. ISB has mastered the technique; on their first work, “Wanderings,” ISB made half-finished sounds that took us into a vision of beauty in darkness, but had nowhere to go after that. On their second effort, nothing has changed, although technique is even more refined. It’s exactly like the first, maybe a little better, but part of what made the first charming was its unevenness into which we could read possible hope. On this CD, it’s more repetitive and that is why response has been so light.

Devastation – A Creation of Ripping Death

This is everything I hated about 1980s metal. The very block-cut basic riffs, the very obvious song direction, the vocals synchronized in rhythm to the chords of the riff, creating a cadenced shout effect like being part of a mob about to start a pogrom against smart people. Basically, it’s a lot of Slayer rhythms and ideas simplified and made catchier and a billion times more repetitive. Against all science, this recording may lower your IQ.

Krisiun – Southern Storm

More children’s music. These very simple, very obvious melodies are used to interrupt what are some pretty cool speeding riffs that go nowhere because the riffs themselves are not epic enough to give a sense of mood, and because they’re assembled in a rhythmically convenient order that gives you no sense of significance in the change between riffs and tempi. Instrumentally, this is brutal death metal not different from a faster Internal Bleeding or Malevolent Creation, with some of the chanting rhythms that made later Sepultura so obvious the band started thinking of grunge as “a breath of fresh air.” The obvious factor to these compositions is crushing, but even worse is that the band cannot confine themselves to making obvious and simple tunes, but have to try to trick it out with extensive guitar soloing and use of Meshuggah-style(tm) interruption rhythms. Kill it with fire.

Svartthron – Bearer of the Crimson Flame

I’m realizing people will claim to like just about anything because they think liking something not everyone else likes makes them cool. Either that, or they’re trying to set up random combinations of CDs so they can claim to be unique. I know intelligent people like this CD and I respect their opinion. Mine is that it is well-executed drivel, like 99% of metal. The instrumentation is great. The CD itself confuses boredom with a somber mood, and uses that as its artistic guide, producing somnolent drone or dirge material that has no animating spark or cause or worldview that makes it in any way viable, much less unique. If you’re tr00 kvlt, go buy this.

Akimbo – Jersey Shores

This album takes a covertly aggressive punk hardcore approach to a rock/post-rock hybrid, with more space given to the music where hardcore normally dominates it in washing abrasion of distorted guitar. Instead, it packs away its riffs and brings them out from the obscurity like a punch — or, staying on topic, a shark attack. Its weakness is the howling vocals which seem completely unnecessary in that they’re too constant for an album that this ambitiously hopes to use the dynamic of surge rock.

Banishment – Cleansing the Infirm

Fast brutal death metal, like later Malevolent Creation fused with Deeds of Flesh, and not bad for that. Vocalist makes the unfortunate choice to have his voice too closely follow the root notes the guitar is playing, which makes it sound like the whole band is a guitar effect. Catchy, but not particularly enlightening.

Apotheosis – Farthest From the Sun

We’ll pose a little at being epic black metal, then drop you into a Pantera riff. It’s what happens when metal loses direction; everything gets all mixed together, from Def Leppard through Graveland, and thrown into something that ends up being so generic you can listen without realizing the music is on. Skip.

Zemial – In Monumentum

Opens with one of the dumbest hard rock riffs ever, which pauses right on the bounce expectation as if it were anticipating the ears of a retard. I almost drooled. The CD continues in this direction, tossing Motorhead in with Motley Crue and Morgoth, hoping we don’t notice, but really, why would anyone listen to this when there’s AC/DC? Led Zeppelin? Even “Shout at the Devil”? It tries for evil but manages Marilyn Manson, the garage version that the hip kids like and everyone else is like whatever yo. I get the impression they’re trying to be an updated Death SS but without distinction.

Depravity – Silence of the Centuries

Finnish mid-paced melodic death metal; imagine Demigod periodically zooming into mid-period Therion and you have this interesting fusion between heavy metal and death metal. Unfortunately, a lot like Edge of Sanity, it strays too far onto the rock side of things, not understanding the geometrical language of riffs that made death metal song structures so hard to do right. It’s more like later Dio with death metal technique applied.

Unburied – Slut Decapitator

Blockhead brutal gore with a penchant for blast mania, but no real direction to these songs. Bounce, bounce, breakdown, blast, bounce, bounce, breakdown, stop. I understand the title: If you decapitate yourself with a slut, you no longer can hear this noise.

Storming Darkness – Sin-thesis

This is so much better than most of what crosses my desk I had hope despite the silly album name. It’s good. But not good enough. Repetition of melodic metal themes and a type of subtle breakdown that occurs internally to a pounding bass-snare will not do it. Nor will even the harmonically more advanced, well-played chorus passages and transitions. This really isn’t bad; unfortunately, it’s also non-distinct and directionless.

Damnation – Rebel Souls

Similar to Betrayer and Vader, this Polish death metal band fuses a number of post-1991 death metal styles into a format that is very close to Morbid Angel, but in its more “two-step” riffs, a bit more like Terrorizer. By two-step riffs I mean that there’s a phrase, and a counterphrase, and then the riff repeats until the end of a bar, when a two-chord shift turns it around; the riffing is orthogonal, unlike the geometric offsets of Morbid Angel or the even numbered structures of early Vader. Within this, there’s a lot of speeding riffs in a style eternal from Destruction through Massacra, propelled by furious battery reminiscent of Kataklysm and, at times, Deicide. Edges of Suffocation-styled palm muted blast picked death metal and double-time speed metal like later Hypocrisy intervene, but the standard is straightforward ripping death metal. Songs integrate additional riffs but remain mostly verse-chorus with transposition of early patterns into promenade riffs leading to conclusions. Like most material of this type, the constant battering becomes tiring and not exciting over repeated listens. Although this is most well-known for having members of Behemoth in the band, this album can stand on its own but is not distinctive enough for metal history to notice.

Anal Vomit – Demoniac Flagellations

Love the titles, forgot the music already. Standard grind with frenetic death metal touches, like Angelcorpse recording hurriedly in a lean-to studio outside a jail.

Urizen – Autocratopolis

Being avantgarde is easy. Combine everything that’s not popular, and make it groovy, but always do what you think is unexpected. Problem: you’ve thought two levels deep, assuming that most people think one, in a world of infinite levels. As a result, your music comes across as a childish reaction, and bears this out by being an omelette of rejected metal styles thrown together around the lowest common denominator, which is annoying pop songs given an additional level of complexity by dividing verse/chorus structure so that it recombines in a circular fashion. And we had such high hopes from the name.

Dark Fury – Fortress of Eagles

Black metal ended like WWII: after the Americans left and Central Europeans were defeated, the Eastern Europeans surged in with something that looked sort of like the functional governments that went before. In black metal, it is the same. These musicians are talented, and clearly they know their black metal, but without understanding the transcendent goal that compelled early musicians to render their vision in scratchily distorted power chords, the new bands are always outsiders looking in and then making their version. Yet like an architect who knows only how to copy facades and put them on the same boxy Soviet-era architecture, Dark Fury churn through Burzum riffs, Venomish riffs, Darkthrone trudges, and so forth, but never pull the whole thing together because there is no core to the music. It is pure aesthetics and as a result, directionless in the same way good wallpaper is: you don’t want it distracting from the action in the room.

Diabolic – Chaos in Hell/Possessed by Death

Did the completely unoriginal title clue you in? Yep, it’s a tribute to past bands that were much better by hoarding their themes, tossing them in the washing machine for recombination, and then spitting them out with the subtlety of horse rape. Metal like this causes metalheads to listen to Katy Perry.

Mirrorthrone – Gangrene

Ulver, Borknagar and Therion combine in a Summoning-themed metal band. Unfortunately, between gentle keyboard descents like the windsculpted surfaces of sand dunes, the “carnival style” post-Cradle of Filth black metal rears its ugly head as elements are thrown together in a salad of distractions from which each piece returns to a few exactly repeated themes. As a result, there’s a lot going on, like riding a merry-go-round and seeing the world outside flash by in disorienting random order, but there’s no development of theme; it’s just a more complex version of verse/chorus. I really would like to like this but it is impossible. Production and keyboard composition are excellent.

Autumn Leaves – As Night Conquers Day

Years before it became trendy, this band invented the new wave of Swedish melodic “death metal,” which of course isn’t death metal as much as, following the success of DISSECTION and UNANIMATED, melodic heavy metal with death metal vocals. You get some lovely IRON MAIDEN style dual-guitar harmony leading into a DISSECTION-esque rising melodic riff, and then drop straight into PANTERA or MESHUGGAH for a muted strum, offbeat, bouncy aggressive riff over which someone rasps like AT THE GATES. Over time, the album develops more of its melodic side, but it likes to keep that to a few variations on a theme and a contrasting chorus that uses half of the same notes. Much as the first THE ABYSS album defined a pattern for mimicking black metal, this CD defined the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal — basically melodic heavy metal with speed metal technique and death metal vocals — that aped a hybrid of SENTENCED (specifically, Amok), UNANIMATED, DISSECTION, CEMETARY and SACRAMENTUM but in cheesy, crowd-friendly heavy metal form. Better than those which followed in this style, As Night Conquers Day is both exceedingly well-executed and, because it aims for a hybrid between things popular for their unchallenging nature, a lowest common denominator assault of so many catchy things that they all equalize and you get one big unmemorable stream of noise.

Cult of Luna – Eternal Kingdom

If you apply punk rhythms to two-note power chord riffing, then add indie rock fills and metal vocals, you have Cult of Luna. This band was more inspiring when they did wash of harmonizing noise like Burzum and My Bloody Valentine, but now it’s standard saccharine dramatic indie rock which like a hipster, does a good game of raising inch-deep mystique and then vanishes around the corner, leaving a hint of promise in the air that turns to a stench of disappointment. This is a very average album dressed up as something significant and, while it executes that vision well, it leaves no lasting power or vision of life beneath the obvious, trite and controlled.

Cold Northern Vengeance – Domination and Servitude

If Maudlin of the Well had been fascinated by the black metal aesthetic, and decided to combine the quirkiness of bands like Spear of Longinus with about every metal variation of genres that have influenced metal, you would get this atmospheric and technical take on black metal. Like projects from time immemorial that have tried to throw diverse influences together and get a clear voice, it never quite gels, but that keeps its space open. There’s some nice melodies on here and songs that like most technical music, do not aim to be conclusive so much as they hope to pull together an idea from disparate origins. Like Maudlin of the Well, this is probably not for everyday listening, but will garner the appreciation of musicians. What it achieves that is most impressive is breaking the jazz-omelette barrier and making a metal-like, dark and ancient mood within so much modern musicianship.

Ecnephias – Haereticus

More vamping pseudo-Gothic keyboard-infused bouncy black metal. It has no personality at all, other than a fusion of later Cemetary with Skepticism and Dimmu Borgir, a mixture which sounds ideal but in practice cannot find common ground except on the most basic stylistic similarities. Spirit? Idea? Drive? Musically, it’s great and sometimes reminds me of later Rotting Christ. The beats are very similar and the composition staged harmonically much like the more erudite rock. But as a sum total of art, or a listening experience, it delivers nothing.

War Cry – Trilogy of Terror

Cut from much the same mould as Saint Vitus, the heavy metal musicians in War Cry make surging punk-influenced music like Venom but at a slower pace with the galloping rhythms of early speed metal like Satan and Sabbat. Interestingly, the vocalist sounds a lot like James Hetfield in both timbre and delivery. In the ways these vocals dive across large intervals and then present a sudden bittersweet melody and abrupt rhythm the band resembles Angel Witch. The usual gaggle of influences on older metal music emerge, including Iron Maiden most notably, but here it’s channeled into a style of music that hovers in the mid-paced arena but projects a somber aura like a doom band, when they’re not busy rocking out, that is. History swallows up any knowledge of where they would have taken it, but for a demo of its time, this was a solid B+.

Walpurgisnacht – Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet

Whenever metal starts a new tributary from its river of heaviness, that rivulet runs for some time and then fragments as it explores. After that, some people realize it’s a great opportunity to make a synopsis of those different directions, an opportune compromise if you will, and then norm the structure of the music back to the verse-chorus pop music of your average radio candy band for teenage brats to enjoy before life harvests them as cubicle slaves (pwnt). Some bands are smart enough to add variations like double riffs for verses, adding transitional riffs and making the bridge into a series of riffs that fit together like a telescoping umbrella before dropping you into the predictable. But it’s only a matter of time before the classic heavy metal riffs come out, along with their rock music bounce and simple-minded distraction, and in this case the transition is from Gorgoroth/Gehenna-style dark riffing to Mayhem-influenced epic pentatonics and then with a shrug straight into archetypes out of 1976 heavy metal. Of the bands out there now, this band most resembles Sammath or Fluisterwoud. Despite those additions, which end up being riff-salady, Walpurgisnacht is about blatantly sentimental melodic hooks and recurrent invocation of riffs from black metal’s history. Unlike most of its contemporaries, Walpurgisnacht has a beautiful misfortune advantage: between melodic hooks, rhythmic hooks, and pure speed/violence thrills, it’s catchy as all hell. This bestows the ultimate curse in that it both isn’t bad and isn’t inspiring at all because it too glibly speaks the language of appearance of form without altering the intelligible structure beneath.

Vomit – Rot in Hell

Jump back to 1985 or so. Stereos are blistering with Ride the Lightning and Hell Awaits. There’s no internet and metal publications are few and far between, so you get your news by dubbing a couple tracks from each of your latest finds onto cassette for your friends across the world. You spend your few bucks on postage but get more music than you could ever find in a record store or the flaky, xerox-distorted catalogs of the primitive mail-order of the time. Sound romantic? Then sign up for this hybrid of speed metal, thrash and the early death metal without death metal vocals that was Slayer. Vocal rhythms are profoundly Slayer; song structures and half the riffs are Metallica; the rest of the riffs are a meshing of the ideas behind Slayer, Sodom, Venom, Sepultura and Destruction. It’s extremely engaging music, with lots of energy and the banging of the drums, but it is like the rationalism it finds reprehensible, very fucking linear. I like it but never want to listen to it again.

Vile – Stench of the Deceased

Some albums innovate on the inside of the genre, while others take its disparate aesthetic influences and standardize them. Vile really nailed the sonic appearance of post-Cannibal Corpse death metal, complete with squeals in the Incantation style, Malevolent Creation creeping thunderous choruses, Suffocation breakdowns and windups, Immolation’s riff salad and leaps between tempi. But… this is good, but the gestalt of it is not great: in fact, as the term gestalt implies, music should give off a spirit that like an MD5 checksum gives us a single representation or shape to its direction. Here that clarity is so muddied that what we remember is a cinematic procession of riffs like a nightmare dream movie, inscrutable to those who do not know the narrative passing through the minds of these musicians. Riffs are quality but never so above the board good that they’re memorable, and their arrangements rapidly lose integrity and become a series of techniques. This is an album you will love the idea of but be unable to return to as a classic for inspiration.

Venom – Hell

I’ll give this band credit: they mixed influences, but then knew how to pick selectively the parts that work together. The first track is a Slayer rhythm with a speed metal style infectious chorus, Prong-inspired industrial noises in the background, and a Pantera-ish jaunty riff with monotone vocal deadpan. At this point in their career, Venom as musicians are slick and know the archetypes of their genre, so they pull off a very believable album to the degree that you never think to question whether this is a big band — obviously, these guys arrived long ago, and have been taking music lessons ever since. While the quality of this music is good, by aiming for the simple-minded and catchy, it sort of takes itself out of the running for contemplative profundity and in doing so, shows why Venom was a first attempt at black metal that never succeeded: it couldn’t leave the heavy metal, rock ‘n roll mentality behind. Even Sarcofago, Hellhammer, and Bathory, who I’d consider the first generation of black metal, developed themselves into art with a sense of the sublime and subtle. Venom is just like Metallica and Exodus, barging in with loud declarations where we’re supposed to assume words equal their meanings, like a reshuffling of the hippie symbolism of rock. I respect it but there’s no way in hell I’d ever reach for this CD given the other great options out there, although it’s a vast improvement on Venom’s classics, musically.

Ved Buens Ende – Coiled in Obscurity

You know what else coils in obscurity? Poop. This CD, of live and instrumental rarities by this band, showcases both what they were trying to achieve and why they were ignored by many of us. First, they’re trying to achieve what the reckless yells and blatantly ambitious singing on this CD seems to gesture at; a soul unconnected from awareness of social consequences (this is what people want when they bloviate about “freedom”). Second, the underlying Mayhem-inspired gritty but monotonous riffing shows how they hoped to achieve it, which is the same method every punk band since the dawn of time has used. Huge parts of this are blatant Burzum ripoffs with the atmosphere replaced by a sense of ashen directionless chaos. Dissonant chords howl against the grain of riffs, drums batter out something ironically confrontational, and then the track redirects itself, like the point of a pen drifting across words on a book in another language. The repetition gets old and the CD goes nowhere.

Portal – Outre

This album sounds to me like airplanes zooming over battleships. Their distortion is intensely melodic and they tend to use diminished melodies and abrupt tempo changes, drones zooming into abrupt, jazz-style recursions. In many ways, it’s a lot like what Molested tried to do, except the songs go nowhere. They thrash between different patterns that are marginally related and create a dark atmosphere, but then it doesn’t change, and so what ends up happening is that songs become monolithic and uninspiring. It’s an interesting concept, the idea of removing dynamics from the music except as a rhythm, and inserting small themes within larger patterns, but when it does not reveal any clarity to its changes, the result is like driving around in a maze with the heater on.

Rotten Sound – Exit

People were telling me this was death metal, but in reality, it’s a punk album with blastbeat drums and modified d-beat. It’s not bad but it’s not distinct enough from later Impaled Nazarene or Disfear to really care. They keep the energy going as if they’re afraid to slow down and make sense of their songs, which are two or three riffs and sometimes a tempo change. This stuff is kind of neat but one dimensional, reminiscent of Driller Killer in the way it uses very similar beats and transitions, and so sounds like one continuous linear riffing party with a variation on Swedish d-beat essentials. It’s unclear to me why anyone with access to Discharge, the Exploited and Dead Infection would choose this lesser variation.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Malevolent Grain

Having been a fan of Two Hunters for some time, this reviewer was excited to download and un-RAR the latest from Wolves in the Throne Room, one of black metal’s more successful acts. Soaring drones lace themselves over bracketing drums, and female vocals and black metal rasps guide these songs through mostly extended verse-chorus patternings, with a few discursive flights of fancy leading away and then returning. This is not an album for people who like black metal; it’s an album for people who want black metal to be what they like. Specifically, it’s a studied combination of indie rock, emo punk, crustcore and doom metal, most notably borrowing from Skepticism and Satyricon. It makes itself obvious in the protest rock style of clearly identifying what it complains about — GM crops (author’s opinion on this issue is irrelevant; this is a music review) — and makes that topic safe by construing it in the same Good and Evil game that Christianity likes to play, where moral absolutes are used to control the masses so no one has to think. There are black metal technique additions, for sure, but the spirit is mournful and poignant in that simple way that rock music makes you see a “I love her, but can’t have her, because she’s no good for me, but the sex is great” dual binary complexity to life. Unlike great art, this album never creates the chiasmus, where the opposite pairs recombine and a truth is distilled. Like Velvet Caccoon, the last great Northwest black metal phenomenon, Wolves in the Throne Room carefully study their quarry and put together a compilation of what has worked for indie rock tinged black metal for the past decade, but in doing so, they somehow lose their soul, which is borne out in the music that wanders yet not only never arrives but never decides where to go — it wallows in its opposition, like a surly priest fulminating in frustration beneath a rotting church.

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