Scythian – Hubris in Excelsis (2015)

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Following the example of Kreator in Phantom Antichrist, Scythian unite riffing approaches from different metal subgenres under the banner of traditional heavy metal and growled or barked vocals, with a result along the lines of the so-called melodic death metal.  In contrast with the noteworthy release Thy Black Destiny, by Sacramentum, Hubris in Excelsis does not coalesce into a thing of its own but just floats around as the result of spare parts being put together to form an undefined, impersonal and disparate heavy metal record. In this, and its revolving around the vocals it is more akin to the Iron Maiden – inclined heavy metal which sets one foot on hard-rock land, using disconnected riffs only as rhythm and harmony to carry the voice.

We hear doom metal proceedings and textures typical of black metal, but these are usually encapsulated within sections. These sections are used in conventional rock-song functionality. What determines this rock versus metal approach? Basically, the total relationship of riffs and sections to voice and in between themselves. Rock (and hard rock after it) carries the music after the vocal lines (thus we can see the slight influence of hard rock over Slayer in South of Heaven even though it doesn’t fully give in to the tendency to disqualify it as a metal record). The key tell-tale sign after this is the lack or at least a downplay of motif-relation between parts of the song, the support for main melody or vocal line becoming the most important and prominent element. The effect of this often results in something similar but in the end different from metalcore: disparate parts tied loosely by a certain background consistency (usually harmony for rock and rhythms or motifs drowned in an ocean of contrasts for metalcore).

The plentiful references to many different genres extending all the way to cliche-ridden pagan black metal may throw off the attempts of most to nail down what Hubris in Excelsis actually is, what it consists of and what its essence ultimately is. Hubris in Excelsis is indeed a title that reflects this album beyond their intended concept. Hubris, an excess of self-confidence, often at the expense of prudence and seemliness, is placed in a position of glory, giving way to veiled expressions of ego that disregard any sense of coherence and little consistency beyond the most superficial.

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Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

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When future history is written, either on the scraps of a dead civilization or the new frontiers of a restored one, it may include a mention of Generation X as a precipice between old and new. In 1989, waves of thought were already concentrating on the idea Francis Fukuyama would express a few years later, which was that history was pretty much over and a final human form had been found. Now, the thought ran, we only had to figure out the parts of life that were not government or economics.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure dropped into this fertile climate like a bomb of pleasant discomfiture. Its ostensibly pleasant message resonated with a nation caught in indecision. The 1960s had legitimized every behavior, but lacking the comforting direction of the 1940s, it felt adrift. It was somewhat clear the Cold War was winding down and change would happen soon. It would arrive in a void of purpose that unsettled Americans. We had prosperity, relative peace and working social institutions, but life still echoed with a basic emptiness.

The plot involves two Southern California kids who, coming from unstable families, have decided to chuck everything and be in a hard rock band. Their challenge awaiting them is that, being disengaged from public reality entirely, they are about to fail history and with it, a year of high school, which will lead to their separation and the death of the band. With the help of a visitor from the future (George Carlin) the two set off to explore history in order to learn what school could not teach them.

Science-fiction nerds will note rather cruelly that this movie may have borrowed its basic plot device from a British series of the 1960s, Dr. Who. Where the Doctor ventured in a call box, American time travelers got a phone booth. Otherwise, the devices resemble each other to a great degree. The plot follows a simple course of introducing the dilemma, then a series of essentially short skits involving a mockery of different historical periods, followed by a somewhat complex confrontation between historical characters and the 1989 world and then a pleasant and satisfying conclusion.

It would be a mistake to write this movie off as shallow, however. Bill and Ted are two of the most wounded characters to occupy the screen during the 1980s. Both have shattered family origins, low self-esteem, and are perplexed by a world that seems like commercials projected onto screens behind which people wallow in insecurity, doubt and meaninglessness. As many did during the 1980s, they hide behind idiocy as a way of shielding themselves from expectations. They find adults hard to take seriously because adults are focused on methods and results, but not quality of experience. Bill and Ted delineate themselves as characters by their pursuit of something above what they know as life, starting with actually having purpose, even if they have no idea how to go about it.

They launch into their adventure with a jovial carefree attitude that dramatically contrasts the adults of the day. Where 1980s authority figures are rigid and demanding, Bill and Ted look to the value of a given experience in itself. As they go through history, this makes them able to adapt to many different circumstances from which they borrow historical personages. On being brought to the setting of the movie in San Dimas, CA, these figures interact with modern locals and quickly show themselves to be far more competent than your average citizen of the modern era. This movie makes contemporary people look like blockheads who depend on rules and rigid social order to keep themselves from drifting into oblivion, and quickly show a kinship between Bill, Ted and their historical counterparts: all of them dream not only bigger, but of something better, even when simply pursuing their own pleasures. In contrast to the spraypaint color and fake tans of Southern California, the historical humans are a flash of brightness like lightning.

Most of us will find the ending to this film somewhat cheesy, but there is no way to avoid it with a plot that completes itself with a finite achievement; emotional closure does not occur, so the filmmakers allow us a few moments of comedic absurdity with one exception. Look for psychoanalysis to make an appearance and underline a vital plot point in the final few minutes of the film. As always, this movie shows a clash between Baby Boomers, who grew up in a world with order and assume it still exists, and Bill and Ted — symbols for Generation X — who awoke in a world that made no sense, was vapid and had no sense of its own history.

In undertaking their journey through greatness of the past, Bill and Ted in many ways summarize their own time. It struggled with literal threats like the Wild West, political instability, invasions, religious wars and neurosis, but now returns back to its roots in the Socratic questions about the value in life itself. This alludes to what Fukuyama wrote about, which is the question before humanity: become mere materialists, or rise above? Bill and Ted answer with a resounding Be excellent to each other, a message that resonated with many back at the end of the Cold War in its transformative formula for a quantitative world to improve itself instead of stagnating.

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Excel – Split Image

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Now that our society has fallen apart further, the 1980s like simple and honest like the 1950s did to people exhausted of modern society in the 1980s. A better outlook might be that however our fallen time, it is a more fallen version of the 1980s, with the same pitfalls and failures. Those who lived through it can tell you how much a time of terror it was, with nuclear warfare and social collapse at every turn, and how this propelled some artists to put their most sacred hopes and fears into music. Excel was not one of them.

Excel created this “crossover thrash” back in the 1980s but really, this album belongs in with the Pantera/Biohazard school of bouncy hard rock in punk form with some added metal riffs. The problem with hard rock is that it relies on a simple mentality behind its riffs and that it aims to attract, so it is the equivalent of carnival music or a dinner theater side-show, which is really obvious music that gratifies really basic desires. That keeps the interest less than something articulated and involved like DRI, which offers its own riff style that obviously derives influence from many places, but does not parrot them. The only hidden influence here would be a more pronounced version of the Orange County surf-rock sound that incorporates novelty and party music into basic rock and projects it onto whatever genre can serve as canvas, in this case the basic punk of Excel. The tendency toward riffs based on playing a consistent trope, then interrupting it so the audience can get excited for it to return, while a technique to some degree in most music here becomes a staple in the most basic, drunk football fan throwing feces at the stage way.

The “crossover” part here consists of faster punk riffs that pick up after the chunky bounce-metal riffs and grandstanding hard rock riffs run out. Over this, a vocalist essentially speaks his lines and ends them on a melodic uptake, and although he deserves some note for periodically sounding like Snake from Voivod, these vocals bring out nothing in the music and mostly try to draw attention to themselves with the rest of the music as background atmosphere. Drums sound like a jogger trying to keep up with the vocals and far too often fall into the same syncopated beat that adds nothing but background noise, since the guitar and vocal hooks are nearly in unison and provide all the rhythm we need. While from a distance this album will appear to be no different than DRI, Cryptic Slaughter and Suicidal Tendencies, it lacks the fundamental spirit toward the expression itself as something distinct from and not pandering to the crowd. There is too much pander in Excel, and it dumbs down the music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbynRdNQ3vc

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The One – I, Master (2008)

Hailing from Rhodes, The One is a black metal project by the mastermind behind Macabre Omen, who, alongside Varathron, have been the most consistent artists in the Hellenic scene during the past few years. The One performs a style of black metal that draws from various influences such as Mayhem, Hellhammer and Bathory, yet it is filtered through the Hellenic prism of longer melodies and warm, ritual atmosphere.

This sound is shaped by multiple layers of guitars and distortion. The ensuing disorienting atmosphere resembles a maelstrom in the river Acheron, sucking the listener inside. Indeed, it feels like this was recorded in a cave; in the same way that subterranean noises can be distorted due to echo, the guitar parts are blended into each other, rendering the act of discerning riffs difficult at certain points. This is a great case-study in modern black metal production, because it helps the riffs hide on the first listen, in order to reappear on the next.

Following the title of the album, the senses are guided from freshly dug graveyard soil to the nebulous regions of the sky, so that through death and a confrontation with the violent forces that sleep in man, a feeling of mastery may be conveyed. The tools with which The One is trying to impose this effect upon the listener are chromatic riffs inspired by Hellhammer that provoke cyclopean headbanging and excellent vocal invocations to Mayhem. Truly, the vocals are resourceful and employ a wide pallete of techniques. The locomotive guitar parts taken from Mayhem lead to cryptic orientalist melancholic riffs in the style of Macabre Omen.

A natural mood pervades the compositions, in the sense that changes happen when they have to; nothing is rushed and there is room for the riffs to breath. They rarely outstay their welcome as they flow into the next riff. However, chromatics are used not to liberate the composer, but to evoke claustrophobia, thus there is not much harmonic movement going on, similarly to church and folk music. This fact interestingly tends to increase the value of such movements when they happen.

The listener has to meditate on the sonic violence, for things that hide and appear on the third listening session. Even the guitar solo which imitates Euronymous can be mistaken as a traditional pipe instrument for a few seconds because of the sound and bending technique employed. Proceeding from the Heracletian philosophical foundations that “All is One”, Byzantine chants, melodies and vocals are chocked in the midst of chaos and appear as a homogenous mixture that propels the song onwards. This atmosphere is very ritualistic and the compositions move with uniformity to reach the epilogue of the record.

For all the talent of its creators, I, Master might pose a few drawbacks on the more experienced listener. To begin with, due to the hiding of the riffs and all the finer details it appears that the album doesn’t want to be noticed. Verily, the hooks of the record are the noisier parts which rely on the listener’s curiosity, like a puzzle. Unlike Aosoth’s early work and other Greek bands, this release is more tempered and doesn’t aim for direct impact. This is not a drawback per se, as it is a really interesting approach to keep the uninitiated listeners away and is in alignment with the spirit of black metal.

The second danger, is that this record belongs to the tradition of occult black metal, which is often dominated by monotonous attempts to resemble a liturgy and subsequently the release flirts with wallpaper aesthetics. However, The One manages to navigate through those reefs by channeling quality melodies and intriguing vocal performances into the mixture, thus keeping the attention of the listener throughout the record.

Therefore, the degree to which The One falls on the above trappings is subjective and depends on the attention span of the listener. An equal case can be drawn for experimental doom rock band Universe 217, which creates a parallel cosmic vibe which escapes post-rock monotony through possessed Janis Joplin vocals and intricate 12-chord riffs that channel emotion so that the composition can move somewhere else. In general, when monotony may infiltrate a composition, a great riff and some fine details can save the day. As Ildjarn demonstrates, passionate performance stands above all and passionate performance stems from passionate composition, which in term depends on the artist’s intention. The One’s intention cannot be disputed.

In fact, the whole record has a personal dimension for many reasons; first of all, the “I” in the title; second, enigmatic whispers on the final track suggest the importance of “creating” for the artist; third, Macabre Omen has already taken a personal tragedy and projected it into historical events, in Gods of War. Therefore, there is a tendency of projecting the personal into the universal, which might account for some addictive elements in the record that assure its replay value. In addition, there is an emphasis on individualism, that can be also witnessed on the early days of the band.

To sum up, this album highlights:

  • How to create a dense cryptic atmosphere without becoming a sonic wallpaper.
  • How to use the asphyxiating production to hide messages, like a grimoire or an ancient artifact.
  • The importance of blood and/or culture, since The One is definitely inspired by the folklore, religion and traditional music of his country on the catchier passages, making those possibly unfitting influences sound honest, true and convincing, because they have been experienced.

However, the strongest part of the record is the translation of its philosophical underpinnings into music. A cosmic ambience resides on some tracks, a vibe of some greater universal force that drowns the individual and helps him reach his potential at the same time. An example where The One flirts with this ambience is on song V, which unleashes a Burzum interpretation of doomy ambience and contains a long melodic riff that covers “Temples in the Shape of the Sky” by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. This riff is the high point of the record and hints at a possible ascension, a sort of spiritual illumination.

What is tragic is that when this theosis is attained, there is no escape into the great beyond. The song falls back to the Earth, back into the previous slow stratospheric riff.

This is exactly where The One and good black metal in general differs from the so called ritualistic, occult or “Orthodox” varieties: spirituality is acknowledged yet it complements the Earth and cannot be conceived without the Earth. After all, metal is not about escaping, it is about consecrating reality. The return to this previous riff may feel sad and definitely makes one hunger for more. However, it also creates a feeling of strength over reality, strength gained through experience and understanding. The listener was dominated by the music throughout, but now a sense of mastery is communicated. Albeit tragic, this can feel beautiful and the aim of The One is achieved.

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Analysis of Suffocation’s “Catatonia”

By the time “Despise The Sun” was released, Suffocation were on top of the Death metal world and had at this point already influenced the rising slam and brutal Death metal styles that would inundate and signal the downfall of the whole genre as the technicality and the percussive nature of the music would be the focal point rather than the incredible songwriting present. This short EP would prove to be the band’s final charge as they would soon break up only to reform a few years later but without Doug Cerrito, the band drifted off into mediocrity and tired attempts at pleasing the deathcore crowd. Catatonia was initially on the Human Waste EP and showed a band that was composing music far beyond the maturity of the individual band members. In the same way as heroes Morbid Angel, Suffocation took songs from the initial recorded output and expanded on it for later works. Both versions of the song are nearly identical and vary only in performance and production.

Introduction and initial motif

A drum intro quickly introduces a simple descending chromatic riff that focuses on pounding the root note on the first beat of every bar as the fast-picked notes rush towards the root note. The drums crash around until finding stability as Frank Mullen’s harsh guttural roar enters and the riff soon leaves for another minimalist power chord sequence that eschews the root note to create an almost atonal melody that resolves first on a minor third then on a major third and quickly finds the root note before evolving into a stream of single notes. These single notes move the composition to a twisted sense of stability as they utilize a consonant leap in octaves but moving through the diminished fifth to form a chromatic ascent. The melody relies on two octave chords but through the added use of dissonant notes it avoids complacency in familiar territory and seeks to explore the possibilities that are now open. In typical Suffocation fashion the melody is moved up a major third as it progresses before ending on the composition’s main motif. The main motif starts with a flow of simple palm muted power chords half a tone higher than the root note which Morbid Angel popularized so that the static progression still creates tension by refusing to return to a place of comfort and stubbornly maintaining its place. This motif is then followed by the ending of the previous section but moved down a whole tone. This returns the composition to stability and allows the band to play with all those previously introduced. A second ending to the riff appears and is almost chromatic but resides within Suffocation’s vicious sense of melody.

Force fed immobilization
Man made liquid controlling my limbs
I want to die, no reason for living
Dealing with complications life brings
A corpse with no thoughts
No feelings or perceptions of life
The pleasures of death I foresee
Nightmares and day mares combining
To torture my being – This torture inhibits my life

Here the lyrics present a victim that has been held in total captivity with no control over his body as he forced to remain in a state of artificial nothingness. The narrator has nothing binding him to life as his psyche is destroyed, and he seeks to attain death as he is burdened by this form of torture. The harsh rhythms combined with the oppressing sense of melody evoke flawlessly how the narrator has been beaten down mercilessly into nothing. The previous single note melody appears in its entirety and this time allows us to delve further into the narrator’s mind.

The world is a graveyard of fools left to cope
With the torment and regret of man now deceased
Ghouls are released to destroy the race
Which we call human beings

Development(1:30)

Humanity has sealed its fate with its actions and there is nothing left to do nor to mourn as mankind is about to be destroyed. The C# root note is suddenly established in this section that appears suddenly with a riff comprised of a speed metal gallop that uses various tremolo melodies as a tail. The whole passage uses no chromatic tones or anything deviating from the natural minor scale allowing a new set of motifs to take dominance in the composition as the previous slow parts had achieved their maximum potential. The first part of the melody consists of a three-note progression played in staccato while dispersed by the endless charge of the low string and uses the major third which has always been an undervalued foundation upon which Suffocation rely on. The major third is the base for Suffocation’s twisted sense of melody and disappeared from the band when Doug Cerrito left and the motifs became much less interesting. The tremolo picked sections of this riff are descending minor thirds arpeggios hinting towards the narrator’s sadness.

Existence is torn from my soul
Perdition is what is believed to be seen
Suffering from the inside
Nefarious is the way
You choose to be – Left with no will to live
My intestinal wall begins to cave in
Trapped as they say
I begin to rot here as I lay

Let us note Frank Mullen’s maturity when comparing this vocal section on both versions on the song. In the Human Waste version, the voice is not yet fully developed and he struggles to maintain a consistent tone and output whereas on the “Despise the Sun” his gruff deep throaty aesthetic is pushed to the extreme and the fast hip hop cadence does not deter the consistency in both volume and tone. A truly remarkable development from an already great singer. Those who would emulate his deep vocals forgot to add the power that conveys the hatred he expresses and sought to reproduce the low tones through pig squeals and inhaled vocals and would sound like a parody of Mullen’s trademark growl. The protagonist is detached from reality as his body can no longer withstand the pain and accepts the end as there is no will to fight. There is no anger conveyed, just misery with no hope of redemption as the narrator awaits his death.
A tremolo picked section appears as the tension continues to increase. The melody is long and very similar to what the Norwegian bands were doing as it is extensively in the minor scale but uses adjacent tones between the more consonant ones to increase anticipation for a resolution. A slight break of half a second shifts the root note again down a whole tone as another speed metal rhythm similar to the last one is introduced. This time we are treated to two different tails as one is a fast almost chromatic power chord assault and the other is a chromatic ascent of two major thirds showing how much mileage and variation Suffocation can create through one simple technique and a strong understanding of composition. The narrator continues his attack in this passage as Mullen emphasizes the stronger beats in the phrase adding more power to the overall part.

Time to take a look
At what has begun to pass before me
Die a slow death
It now begins to take its toll

The narrator has finally closed the chapter on how humanity and himself ended in this situation and now seeks to look towards what is going
to happen in the present. Though the pain of his torture is starting to break his will.

Climax (2:26)

The initial motif as “Catatonia” is growled enters again, and though it may be the exact same riff  used in the beginning, the context is completely different as this is a passing passage that like a catapult transfers all the energy from the built-up tension to an incredibly satisfying climax that engages in all out combat as the song reaches a level that the great majority of metal bands can only imagine. The melody as excellent as it is, is nothing that hasn’t been heard at this stage of Death metal’s maturity but the context and the little rhythmic embellishments are what allows this melody to unleash more than its own potential. The first power chord which works in triggering the rest of the phrase like a set of falling dominoes, is played slightly after the beat causing the listener to lower their guard before being taken by surprise. On the other side the phrase finishes slightly early making the listener crave more. Both tools utilized during the climax make this simple melody incredibly powerful. The melody is caveman like in how it consists of a stream of alternating minor and major thirds two note arpeggios in rapid succession as they then move up and down a fourth. The legato playing which to the uninitiated means smooth and in the case of the case with minimal input from the picking hand allows the notes to be expressed cleanly without the attack of the string modifying the nature of the tone.

Scared as I lay here dead
From this infectious disease
I want to rise from here
To recover what is mine

Now in a complete twist of fate our hero through a combination of fear and the primal urgency decides to deny his fate and to what he has previously expected to happen. Though his body is destroyed and is no longer living there is an unfathomable will to atone the errors of the past and is the essence of what Suffocation conveys. Through hardships and unrelenting trials of this cold heartless world we have created, the human will is the only thing that can redeem of us and not through reason or calculated thought but by the most basic of instincts can we achieve joy in life.

Conclusion (3:02)

A solo erupts as the band turns to a more consonant melody consisting of a variation of minor third, diminished fifth, major third and ending away from the root note progression that the band had now cemented into the listener’s mind. Cryptopsy would base their classic works on the concept of a solo played on top of a consonant tremolo picked melody. The solo sees Hobbs go through a variety of techniques while confining himself in the realm of previously established motifs not to express horror but a rebirth of life or an ascendance to a higher state that signifies the protagonist’s change after the previous outburst and is optimistic of what they final outcome may be. A new riff emerges that is rebellious and defiant while summarizing succinctly the relationship between the chromaticism of the piece and the motifs taken from natural minor scale. A chromatic base that uses the chromatic ending from a previous motif while combining that with the final motif the band introduces here which is just an elemental minor scale ascent that stabilizes the insanity shown here from a musical perspective.

Abdicate your position in life
Now that you lie deceased
Rising from the tomb you own
To take what is rightfully yours

The lyrics urge the listener to give up on past glories and failures and to take control of one’s current situation and all that stops them from reaching their full potential and from that point to retrieve and regain all that belongs to them and what they deserve. Through showing a bleak world that is empty and nihilistic rather than one full of evil, Suffocation perfectly demonstrate their understanding of the real evils of our world and not through mundane examples but through a febrile imagination that is at the very heart of their music. Soon after previous climax returns in full force again showing that the battle is not won once but by attrition and that the will can only be tested by time. As the vocals end and this grandiose composition ends on the climax but with this time chromatic power chords and the right hand in full action as the band conveys one last time that other evils await our hero through the ominous effect created by the frustration of not having a resolution during a short chromatic sequence.

Suffocation create an entirely unique universe within a small set of rules that allows them to find new unexplored paths through those rules where as a lack of these rules may have tempted Suffocation to try the simpler paths that have already been treaded on. The redemption trope has been used endlessly and superficially throughout the existence of pop culture but can any musical artist claim coming this close to create such a horrifying world that truly evokes our own existence and then to find redemption and victory when there is none to be found. For that Suffocation stand on top of the Death metal pantheon with a few other select musicians and  the band represents the ultimate objective in metal. Triumph in the face of this existence that is brought upon us.

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Constantine Charagma and Erica Frevel The Deplorable Word (2016)

Very few works that presume to connect human beings with energies or entities come across as applicable. More often than not, a lack of honesty would appear to be disguised behind impractical demands that defeat the purpose of a magical working as a shortcut. Despite what detractors have had to say on the matter, Martinent Press has excelled in its publishing of books that the reader can take as they come. A reader can survey a relatively cheap copy of any of the titles and judge the contents therein by what they propose, the author’s revealed character in words and style, and whatever insights they are revealing. Interestingly, Martinet Press leaves it to the public to do their own sifting, allowing no-nonsense heavy-weights like Tempel ov Blood Liber 333 lie on a bookshelf beside the more compilatory and derivative works like A.A. Morain Scithain. In the case of the present booklet,  keywords that come to mind upon ‘meeting’ the writer(s)’ character on paper are sincere and honest, energetic and powerful, juvenile and wasteful, obsessive and unstable. But this is only a sympathetic, literary and psychological appreciation, of course, and nothing else.

We find that sincerity and directness is, in fact, at the forefront of the authors’ concerns here, the main concern being the quick leading of the interested individual to the right state of mind: towards at least an aural and psychic clarity regarding alien expectations. As is common within the grimoire tradition, The Deplorable World juxtaposes different literary genres without any transitioning device. The only criteria to the inclusion of each of these parts is what they may bring the reader in terms of an apprehension of the topic at hand. The progression from one section to the next shows a plan designed to implicitly (secretly) address diverse mental requirements in the minds of those seeking after content. However, those looking for fetish antiquary items or page after page of turgid and inconsequential “lore,” with no relevance or substance other than the mirage of words, will have to invest at least several hundred dollars more.

And so, the work opens up with a rather tepid work of light fiction the only value of which is providing a verbal illustration of the situations and atmosphere . Fortunately, the fiction is the first and the weakest section of this publication. The authors proceed from there to references of the Abyss in ancient lore, in a compact section with more substance and referential value than entire books by other, more prominent “occult authors.” Towards the middle, we are presented with plain and simple descriptions of the relevant cosmos and entities, doing away with poetics or any of the masturbatory word diarrhea that is the staple of prominent “occult publications.” Finally come the procedures themselves, starting from simple meditation techniques, advancing towards libations and communion, on to astral exploration and full-out, blood-sacrifice portal opening.

“Magically relevant or GTFO!”

Symbols and procedures lean towards stupor or frenzy, without necessarily naming them so. To those who would get discouraged by the rather unnecessary —even detrimental— opening work of fiction, the rest of the booklet provides concrete working after concrete working, the requirements of which are mainly the capacity for mental focus and a willingness to bend a conventional grasp of sanity in thought and action. The mental investment demanded demands energy, energy that is directed and consumed. Some may leer at the prospect, but they are also those who would not see beyond the intermittent purposelessness that plagues the path of any discipline which develops practical abilities before intellectual understanding or “knowledge.” In this way, we may see in The Deplorable World a potent handbook to develop a raw, focused connection to a cosmic darkness that is ultimately, despite our poetic allusions, beyond explainations.

There is here an unquestionable obsession with violence, that is at the same time juvenile and uninterested. In this, it at once complements and contrasts the involved insights that Georges Bataille derives from what he terms ‘sensuality’. And while this unthinking and ultimately self-defeating drive towards destruction, abandonment and forgetfulness constitutes the praxis, it could be argued that it will remain short of what an evolving human being can become psychologically, physiologically and psychically. For where it used to be a facilitator, there is a point where shock becomes a crutch. If instead of utilizing the capacity for self-shock and channeling towards increasingly potent and predictable results, the practitioner falls into a mindless and never-ending one-upmanship game of inner destruction beyond utility and for their own sake, these methods may instead become a glaring obstacle for the individual’s growth if not understood and assimilated. That such fixation with what the practitioner assumes to be the ultimate “preternatural” reality, and that such obsession with acts of cruelty and violence, can be experienced but transcended into a dynamic exploration and development of the totality of being, is perhaps a first key towards true attainment, or what some call adepthood.

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Old Wainds / Навь (Nav’) – We Are the North… Mean Cold War… (2003)

The early phenomenon of Old Wainds played an extremely condensed and straightforward style of black metal that represented the ultimate distillation of what the genre had to offer as a sequence of meaningful flows based on guitar riffs that form aggressively articulated phrases the pressure of which is carefully regulated. The project was a great exception to the reliable rule that says, from experience, that black metal (or metal music in general) from Slavic countries has nothing to offer musically. More often than not, what is called “slavic black metal” is anything but, and in the best of cases falls into what has been misleadingly and ironically called “flowing black metal” to describe a pointless, melodic meandering rock music that lacks significant changes in pacing and texture, and so never is never able to produce the necessary dynamics of tension and release. Alas, Old Wainds plays the exalted and unassuming post-1995 black metal form first seen in the condensed masterpiece of Uranium 235, crushing the heads of the genre as a whole, dividing the line between mundane scenester fanboys and solitary black mystics.

Навь (Nav’) was Old Wainds’ twin project, in which at least one of the band members differed. Musically, what distinguished the two was a the attempted emphasis of Nav’ on more fluid tendencies and softer contours, even if ever so slightly in comparison to Old Wainds. Nav’s distinct aim is arrived at in their first full-length, Чертоги смерти (2004), which basically was a pleasant but weak exposition of the melodic component already present in the best of Old Wainds’ music. While Old Wainds from the beginning has a very narrow style, in the sense of being impressively mature and well-formed, rather than incapacitatingly rigid, Nav’ expresses the riffing and melodic avenues that are left over from the former, but which still fall within this aggressive, dark music.

In time, both projects fell out of grace by their own hand, in a rather telling way that perhaps reveals who the artistic luminary was in both groups. While Kull only participates in the Nav’ demo that is reproduced in this split, along with the second Old Wainds demo, he participates in Old Wainds in every release until Oбжигающий холодныйScalding Coldness— (2005), a comparatively weakened but still recognizable expression of the project founded on proper black metal riff-flurry. After Kull leaves Old Wainds, the music changes drastically in to a completely uninspired imitation of itself, a sign that the departing element in the team was the author of the significant phrases at the center of the music. This is also true of Nav’, whose best work is found in their 1998 demo Гимн холодному безмолвию, reproduced in this split, and which sees the only apparition of Kull in the project.

Furthermore, after their first full length, Where the Snows are Never Gone (1997) —and with the exception of this split which uses material from the second demo from 1999— Old Wainds’ songwriting was suffering from debilitating notions ever since their second full-length album. We sense a lost grasp or connection to the powerful pulse that created a maelstrom around an inward-looking conversation between the riffs, which can only be described as a vortex of encircling energy. The energy in a void whence arises this power is said inner dialogue of the music, that can only be achieved by two necessary elements: the first is that each section must have a clear and significant fluxion [1] expressed; and the second, consequent of the first, is that these fluxions must achieve a certain dynamic flow in between each other. The interaction between the individual fluxions is most excellently demonstrated in Old Wainds’ debut, and consists in the sense achieved by the parts arranged in sequence, first of all, but also in how they match simultaneously. They who grasp the meaning of this lexic contradiction, but that is not a contradiction in the phenomenon described, may have a first key to unlocking the more effective value of this black metal to the more superfluous acts considered de rigueur.

Notes

[1] http://www.deathmetal.org/article/black-fluxions/

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Capharnaum – Reality Only Fantasized (1997)

Capharnaum were a short-lived “tech-death” band hailing from Connecticut but then after the release moved to Florida in the dying of the Floridian movement in an attempt to gain recognition for what is a technical Death metal album that genuinely has musical quality beyond mere feats of virtuosity. Influences range from bands like Monstrosity, Death and Iron Maiden with various Jazz techniques inserted. Though this formula has led to an infinitely long list of terrible tech Death bands, Capharnaum avoid these shortcomings by implementing these techniques within a genuine Death metal context and a true passion for genre not halted by technical acumen.
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Putrid Offal – Premature Necropsy (split w/ Exulceration) (1991)

At its most direct and well-calibrated, grindcore is a viciously effective medium for both emotional and corporal catharsis. But, as is often the case with experiential intensity, those equally delightful and terrifying moments seldom endure and will at best leave us grappling with a sensation of unresolved clarity. Whether or not this observation resonates with the reader, it may well be applied as an analogy for the grindcore phenomenon at large. Once a fortuitous offspring of hardcore punk and primordial death metal, early grindcore managed to tap into the deeper recesses of human discontent and paranoia and somehow channel this raw force into musical form. However, it didn’t take long before this short burst of essentially intuitive creativity gave in to rationalization and before anyone had realized it: game over.

The main point in case here would be Carcass. As have been previously chronicled on these pages, early Carcass lifted grindcore out of its self-inflicted musical and ideological circumscriptions with their debut Reek of Putrefaction (1988) —somewhat ironically, given its crude nature and presentation— before embarking on a steady slope into insignificance as the band got caught up with making music to please audiences. Since then, a veritable substyle has been founded upon Carcass’ earliest works reaching up to their third LP. Not surprisingly, the artistic results have been chiefly meagre because most successors have focused on mimicking style rather than the essential qualities of the music. Consider this in parallel to the poignantly limited musical palette of grindcore and a scenario takes form where novelty rather than substance is rewarded; because in a field where everything sound practically identical on the surface, the easiest way to gain notoriety is through aesthetic manipulation. Consequently, discovering worthy material quickly turns into a struggle of Sisyphosian proportions, as it requires extensive and often in-depth digging.

Unanimously forgotten by the metal world at large, Putrid Offal’s 1991 split LP with Exulceration comes across as a seemingly indistinctive affair at first glance. However, a deeper acquaintance with the material reveals this to be one of the more rewarding non-canonical works within the genre. Putrid Offal comfortably operates within a style somewhere between the first and second Carcass album if played with the intense rigidity of an early Napalm Death. Where the band excels is in a conjoinment of Reek of Putrefaction’s playful and frequently destabilizing nature with the more cogent and death metal-oriented riff sequencing witnessed on Symphonies of Sickness (1989). Riffs strive to expand beyond the simple chromatic patterns that has become a staple among grindcore acts. This allows the band not only to apply greater textural nuance to phrases, but also an opportunity to string riffs into sequences that defy binary modes of communication. While intensity remains as main focus throughout the playing time, both structure and riffology implies an undercurrent darker than what is usually expected of such a direct form of music.

Setting aside aspirations of petty “uniqueness”, Putrid Offal ironically enough belongs to the infinitesimal cadre of bands who’ve managed to expand upon the Carcass legacy.

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A first step: MMXVIII eh

A triumphant first month has just elapsed, and our current team has been able to capitalize on all the effort and work that Brock Dorsey put introducing and maintaining a more structured internal protocol. By now, besides reviews focused on excellence and constructive highlighting, we have designed different series of articles, with more technical and didactic material in the works to propagate the know-how and philosophy for a dark artistry, rather than musical entertainment or sportsmanship.
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