Avoiding the pitfalls of repetition that normally afflict later punk-derived albums, A Holocaust in Your Head is a fire spitting, unhinged, high speed high intensity crust album. That is, if you ignore the first and last tracks, which are a political statement not a song and an insult track to the band S.O.D., respectively.
Extreme Noise Terror rip thourgh hardcore punk and primordial death metal riffs with reckless abandon. Dual singers give some variety to the vocal patterns. Though the political rhetoric in the lyrics can be tiring on some tracks, the music speaks for itself, portraying something quite like the album title suggests: a droning of madness with explosive texture within suggesting a writhing, disturbed and out of control chain reaction just under the surface.
Admittedly none of the musicians here demonstrate great instrumental prowess, but the sheer force of the music and performance makes this entirely irrelevant. It’s as if these fellows channeled their entire frustrated essences into this album; most punk albums get boring half way through, but by sheer energy alone A Holocaust in Your Head remains intense throughout. For the most part this album uses simple song constructions, but interestingly enough there is deviation from verse-chorus-verse format in some songs, which is rare for punk music.
Bands following and contemporary to this group were heavily influenced by Extreme Noise Terror’s hyper speed crust, which became a primordial influence on the rising grindcore movement. Even years after that genre branching and the death of hardcore, A Holocaust in Your Head remains not just essential listening from a historical perspective, but a thoroughly enjoyable musical experience that reveals a world of insanity lurking all around us still.
A reader recently posted a comment asking my opinion on modern extreme metal bands like Teitanblood and Ascension. We often take it as an article of faith that modern metal is a fallen genre that parted ways from the aspects that made the heyday of this music so glorious; indeed, it is almost a guarantee that any random second or third tier album from the early years of the genre will compare favourably with the current wave of practitioners.
But why should this be so? Forget about the intangibles for just now; elan vital, vir, passion, and spirit, as much stock as one puts in them, are ultimately amorphous, unquantifiable entities. But to the discerning ear, the very manner in which this music is played contributes greatly to the nurture and propagation of these ideas. But let’s not leave it at that even; the manner in which music is played is the result of an outlook on life and the world around us, a perspective that originates inside the mind with very distinct inspirations and goals assigned for itself. At least it should be so for the genuine musician who is willing to pay tribute to something greater than himself rather than be just another among the flock vying for whatever holds his fancy in the moment. When looked at from this angle, song writing and the musical techniques involved therein become offshoots of a state of mind. The difference between old and new then becomes the difference between states of mind that are separated by time, culture, and upbringing.
On the surface – and this is a broad generalization but it holds for the most part – new extreme metal bands lack definition and detail in riffs. Consider the most recent Teitanblood album Death and contrast it with something as universally unheralded – deservedly so in many quarters – as Krabathor’s debut Only Our Death from 1992. Teitanblood, hugely influenced as they are by the war metal of Blasphemy, attempt to paint broad swathes of atmosphere through repetition as opposed to the many-toothed, serrated approach to songwriting that Krabathor and others from that pocket of time display. The former lulls the unsuspecting listener into a trance-like state by concealing its lack of songwriting virtue through synthetic extremeness, but the second approach usually contains more thought, effort, and dynamics, and mimics the constant upturning and redressal of values that great death metal strives towards.
Old death metal as a combination of romanticism…
Bands like Teitanblood prioritize mood over content and coherence
Borrowing terms from the schools of art and retrospectively applying them to metal, we can then say that old death metal is a curious but potent blend of romanticism and a nihilistic expressionism, on more or less equal footing: romantic in self-awareness, expressionist in revealing the horrors of the mind, and nihilistic in rejecting established values in favour of new belief systems. A band like Teitanblood, on the other hand, can be said to belong to an impressionist state of mind, the word impressionist signifying in no way any relation between Teitanblood and purveyors of that stream of thought in the arts. Instead, impressionism is used here merely to suggest the preeminence of mood over content, and the blurring of the music’s outer edges to the point of dissociation.
One might say that even undisputed classics like Darkthrone and Burzum used the repetition mentioned above to make their point, but the important thing to remember in those bands’ cases is that repetition was used as a story telling device to travel between distinctly realized book ends. Many modern bands seem to lack the roughest notion of what it means for a song to have a beginning and an end, and how islands spread across the length of the song can be used as “hooks” to hop from one spot to another, but always with the ultimate aim in mind: the song is God and everything else superfluous. Hear the song posted below from Ascension, a band many supposedly educated fans claim to be the second coming of the genre. Then contrast it with the Kvist song that immediately follows. Hear them back to back so that the dissonance stands out in stark relief.
Hear how the entire body of ‘Vettenetter’ is geared towards safeguarding the primacy of a greater idea, an idea that is directed outwards as opposed to the redundant, self-absorbed mannerisms of the Ascension track. The feelings Kvist induce in the listener can be classified as “romantic” in the truest sense of the word, a mixture of awe, beauty, human insignificance, yes, but also the perpetual struggle to understand and realize a greater meaning to our place in the world. As opposed to Kvist’s romanticism, however, bands like Ascension are entirely hedonistic, which by association implies a pathetic solipsism. The self is greater than the whole, the moment is greater than eternity, live now while you can, however you can, for who knows what tomorrow will bring?
This isn’t just abstract wool gathering; Ascension’s solipsism manifests itself in the carelessly strewn-about rock star solos, in the abrupt shifts in tone, in the complete absence of a unifying theme, and ultimately in the absurd, conceited belief that what they’re doing is in any way or form of artistic merit. Where Kvist intentionally dwarf themselves in humble tribute to the magnificent life-giving forces of nature, Ascension are like ghosts trapped between worlds, with no sense of who they are or what purpose they presently serve. Their concoction is cynically designed to appeal to Everyman, meaning the lowest common denominator in listener intelligence. A little of this, a little of that, take a potluck lunch home and you’re bound to find a bone to gnaw on. World Terror Committee, indeed.
Which of the two is the greater evil? Teitanblood’s impressionism, cheap and disoriented as it is, can be understood on some level as a honest effort from poor students of the metal genre. That is not to give it more credence than it deserves nor does it mean that it shouldn’t be called out for its many weaknesses or for its fans’ sheep-like mentality. But it’s only a matter of time before these bands are consigned to the dustbin of obscurity because of their self-devouring approach to music.
Bands like Ascension, however, work on the principle of fast-food equality, but through mechanisms subtler than what Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir employed twenty years ago. On the surface, they appear intoxicating to simpler tastes, shiny exterior, ersatz evil and all. They even go some distance in mimicking the sound of their elders, only to douse jaded listeners with buckets of icy cold water. Most listeners don’t care, however, and these pathetic tidbits are enough to guarantee the Ascensions of the world a name in the “new underground” for the foreseeable future.
The greater tragedy, however, is that these bands signify the death of the mind, and this is evidenced in the class of discussion that occurs around them and their music. To sensitive ears and minds, there is no higher emotion that a plastic, cookie-cutter band like Ascension is capable of eliciting, but by their subversive nature and by being infiltration points into this music for all the wrong elements, bands like these present the greatest danger to metal. That should no longer be considered an exaggeration, because for every new kid that discovers old treasures, ten more will flock to an Ascension and will eventually use the same strategies when they come to make music of their own, not knowing any better. After all, noise when amplified enough will always drown out quality.
In rock ‘n’ roll, it’s better to die young. Even that is a cliche, but so is rock itself. Formed when corporate investors found a way to combine blues, country, folk and pop into a single product, rock has no real soul and so it pretends. The result is a parade of cliches and you hope that if you change the order enough, you become the next Jim Morrison or Morrisey. The sad truth is that rock bands come in two types: the ones who have three albums worth of good ideas and then burn out, and the ones who make the same song over and over again when they run out of energy. If a teenage version of yourself ever walked into a record store and spotted the guy with thinning hair, faded tattoos, and a bunch of stories and even more excuses but no accomplishments, you know what the new Napalm Death is. This is the sound of exhaustion pretending it has vitality for long enough to sell the slop to the kids and move on. The songs are built around the same tired chord progressions, which are barely even progressions in any sense except chromatic patterns at convenient places on the fretboard. The rhythms and riff ideas come from past Napalm Death albums, with a few influences borrowed from older death metal scattered throughout. On top of this, the aged suit-wearing corporate rock Napalm Death throws a single “outside” nuance per song. One tries to imitate the noise/avant-jazz of the early 1990s. Another is halfway to being a Rite of Spring tune. Still another apes the blur-core aesthetic of the new style of grindcore. Others try to return to the bouncy glory days of Fear, Emptiness, Despair or Utopia Banished. Underneath the skin however there is a total lack of ideas or even the guts to just go ahead with something that feels right. This is a cynical, manipulative album hiding a plastic soul which just wants your cash. In aging into oblivion instead of dying young as rock heroes, Napalm Death have made a mockery of everything they stood for. By wrapping this in a trendy surface and trying to pull the works of classic death metal over them like a camouflage mantle, Napalm Death have created a gateway into this genre from the soulless and burnt-out. You have made us all hipsters. Avoid this horrible album.
Terrorizer – Hordes of Zombies
Melba toast has a crunchy exterior, yet turns soft in your mouth. Lightly toasted, it is sweet upon contact with saliva, and will never upset your digestion. In fact, it is like baby food, except that it is crunchy. The new Terrorizer is baby food, true, but it’s awesome baby food. The band have focused not on innovation, not on a nifty surface, and definitely not on topic, since they’re beating the dead couch of the zombie album. What they did do was make something that’s easy to digest but unlike almost all metal released at this time, it’s coherent. Riffs fit together and make sense, even if a kind of pidgin. Rhythms mate effortlessly yet have enough variation to give depth to the compositions. Much of this is pure chromatic, but it captures the momentum of a good riot or fistfight. As a result, it’s easy to listen to and yet maintains its intensity throughout. If you can get over expecting something of emotional profundity like World Downfall, and instead look for the Terrorizer equivalent of Napalm Death’s Fear, Emptiness, Despair (or even Aura Noir’s Black Thrash Attack), you will find in this album a guilty pleasure. It throbs with aggression and yet by not attempting anything too complex, always manages to deliver. There is no attempt here other than to make an energetic, fun, musically-competent grindcore album and Hordes of Zombies rages supreme in this area. Oddly the only new influences seem to be a later Swedish death metal melodic tendency, and a study of riffs from the recent post-death metal era in which the punk riff and the recycled speed metal riff have crept back in. Wisely however Terrorizer keep their music extremely basic, along the lines of the first Brutal Truth album, but give it compelling rhythms and an underlying furor that makes us tune in to see how such violence can also be so much fun to listen to.
Candlelight re-issues two great titles from Discharge next week!
Characterized by a heavy, distorted, grinding guitar-driven sound, England’s Discharge are reknown for their raw, shouted vocals and insightful lyrics. It made them an immediate favorite on anarcho lists. The original line-up reunited in in 2000, allowing another generation of new bands to be influenced by their sounds. Disensitise and War Is Hell both feature bonus material not available on the original/earlier release. Coming September 27 another killer reissue – Extreme Noise Terror’s awesome Holocaust In My Head!
You can’t say those words in a room without dividing the audience. Some love you, and some want to feed you to the gators.
St. Louis’ Harkonin is the musical project of Clayton Gore, formerly of early 1990s Tampa death metal “best kept secret in the underground” Eulogy. Where Eulogy straddled the dead middle of the old school, Harkonin is modern metal of the death-metal-influenced style of later Kataklysm, Ion Dissonance and others. In other words, it’s technical metalcore with death metal leanings.
As someone who strives to be honest, I’ll admit that when modern metal gets mentioned at a party, I’m back in the cocktail line before you can say “fist Jesus.” The reasons for this are not important, but while it doesn’t limit my objectivity, it does limit my desire to listen to modern metal and thus, to write about it.
However, I’m a longtime Clayton Gore fan and, as someone who strives to be honest, haven’t hidden the fact that me and modern metal are incompatible. I don’t think that should be used as an excuse to ignore a talented musician and his output, so instead of talking about modern metal, I asked Clayton some non-trivial questions so you, our readers, can see why we at the Dark Legions Archive listen avidly to this man. Without further ado, here he is!
Eulogy – Consecration of Fools
What’s the difference between “modern metal” (2000s) and “underground metal” (1990s)?
Not just metal but music in general is necessarily different. Newer music is generally more well-polished and processed whereas music from two decades ago was generally more raw. This is not law – one can find examples of both in both eras. But generally speaking, this is what I observe. Metal back then was breaking new ground constantly. With each new album that came out, I remember being curious to hear what “new” had been done. Each new album had the potential to redefine and shape the genre.
In contemporary metal, rarely do I hear something that feels “new” to me. It seems most metal bands attempt to find “newness” in production values or post-processing sounds and frequencies. This can lead to a high degree of sterility. Now, what would have been a very advanced professional studio twenty years ago is essentially available to everyone with a computer and some knowledge and/or patience.
This is both good and bad. Like any tool, it can be easily misused or abused. Used correctly, it can enable a person to express themselves in ways they may never have been able to previously. Again, both good and bad.
Is the idea of an “underground” still viable, or necessary?
A term like “underground” implies some sort of unity or feeling of kinship between like-minded people, and I think that is long gone. When metal was really first starting, it felt largely positive. The subset of people to whom such music spoke would seek each other out to trade or just correspond about the music. Reviews would rarely be largely negative. Even if a reviewer didn’t particularly care for the album, they would generally try to find something positive to say about it. There was a feeling of being a part of something big, of something larger than one album or band, and each was at bare minimum a piece of a larger foundation. There was a “collective-good” mindset.
There are many factors that have brought about great change in this attitude since the early days. The early thoughts of nurturing and fostering a greater metal scene have caused complacency in some bands and relative newcomers, a perception that since innovation is difficult it is okay to stand on the shoulders of giants and mimic the movements. A proliferation of also-rans and knock-offs lead the parade to mediocrity. The underground was something special – a person had to take time, to go out of their way to write a letter, to produce flyers, to create tapes, to make a trip to post a package, etc. It felt like there were few of us and we should stick together.
The Internet has given everyone a voice. There is no journey of exploration which leads to knowledge – it’s all available at your fingertips at all times. Following the journey of Bathory from heavy metal fan to black metal innovator to Viking metal pioneer took a decade, with years between each album to study and absorb it. Now it takes minutes. Context is lost.
Forgive the digression… to answer more directly, there is no “underground” any more.
Every band – from bedroom metallers with their digital desktop studio and drum machine to the most skilled at their craft – all have equal voice and opportunity courtesy of the Internet. Word of mouth can spread faster than I can type this response. Everyone is a critic, quick to dissect and dismiss the stack of music they received this week alone if the first ten seconds of each song do not make sounds like they expected to hear.
As much as such a web of connection could be a great tool for a true collective “underground” in the spirit of the old days, it is just not so. Everyone is an island and is quick to judge. As such it’s very difficult for there to be anything “new” of value.
Also, the music industry as a whole seemed to realize in the mid-late ’90’s that metal has the potential to be commercially viable and has proceeded to milk the lowest common denominator to death, shoving it down the throat of the populace at large. I could walk into the nearest shopping mall and buy a Darkthrone shirt in a store. By no means am I suggesting that Darkthrone represents the lowest form of metal, not at all – I love Darkthrone – just using such marketing tactics as an example of the creation of “hipster metallers” or “mall metallers”. Marketers use brand recognition that bands have worked hard at creating over a few decades to sell the idea of metal. Such dilution is common when a power feels threatened – divide and conquer.
Metal isn’t “threatening” any more. The mysticism that once empowered the music and brought like-minded individuals together is gone. Now it is a perpetual seeking of the next trendy band or sound. Very little time is spent digesting what is in your speakers now or searching for quality among the masses.
Do punk and metal have an ongoing relationship and if so, what is it? How did it affect modern metal?
Absolutely. Look at some of the earlier “cross-over” albums (a term which doesn’t really exist anymore) from bands like Cryptic Slaughter, COC, Die Kreuzen, Life Sentence, DRI, Crumbsuckers, etc. Punk pre-dates metal and as such plays a role in the evolution of anti-popular music, music that is at odds with society in general. There are many common threads – the anger and aggression, neo-political and/or anti-establishment, anti-religion lyrics, etc. Any societal more that seeks to bind, limit or brainwash people was fair game to be attacked. It was/is an outlet for the unheard few.
There was also an element of “street”, “urban” or poverty in some punk. It was an expression spawned from life experiences at their basest, not just anger or “anti” for their own sake. It was true and pure, as was the earlier metal. But all innovators were eventually bastardized by those who were physically capable of mimicking the movements and sounds but who lacked the life experience or hunger to create meaningful art. Both genres saw a dilution.
Metal saw a fork where the music and ideology went more toward mythos and fantasy/fiction for some while others retained a foot firmly in the reality of “now”. This is where punk begot grindcore, with bands like Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror and Doom leading the way. Without punk bands like Discharge, there would be no Napalm Death I think. Musically there were other bands that had played such speeds prior, but I think the UK kept the punk spirit and ethos alive in grindcore. Some poetic justice for punk there, some geographical truth.
I think Slayer’s “Undisputed Attitude” album illustrates the relationship pretty well.
Is metal rock music? Is death metal? Is hardcore (punk)?
Insofar as we are cavemen, yes.
Music evolves but its lineage can easily be traced. Foundational rock featured the guitar and was guitar-driven with easy-to-understand song structures. From there you can pretty easily trace a direct route to punk rock to metal to hardcore to death metal to… ad infinitum. If one took, for example, an Immolation record back to the late 1950’s and played it for someone, would they see the similarities? Probably not, but we have the benefit of time and perspective with which to view the musical timeline. Lyrically, the themes are clearly different, but we have no way of knowing how much of that is influenced by external factors and how much is evolution of thought.
Do you think metal has a future at all? Some think it reached its apex, did all it could, and now we’re all living in its shadow. Others think the good days are just beginning.
I am not sure how to answer that question. I mean, take Lemmy as an example. He has been doing the same thing for decades and is more popular now than he has ever been. Same for Iron Maiden, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, plenty of others. Not citing any of these as the pinnacle of artistic contribution to the romantic idea of metal, just pointing out that the appetite for metal remains strong. I do understand how some take this as a sign of critical mass and predict that metal will implode in the same way as grunge, but what some overlook – particularly newcomers – is that metal is not a “fad” or “trend”. Just because the major labels decided to really push it within the last ten years doesn’t mean it didn’t exist for decades prior.
I think there will always be the “wow” factor – metal is more often than not a very difficult genre to play and requires a relatively high degree of proficiency and mastery of one’s instrument, and this is almost always appreciated even by the casual listener. I also think there will always be an audience for hard, angry, aggressive, meaningful music.
There may be a feeling that there are just far too many inferior, lesser bands out there in the metal world. I can see that – look on the internet, there are thousands upon thousands of bands releasing self-produced albums and demos every day. I’m sure some of them are quite good, but the signal-to-noise ratio is far too high to ever hear them. I don’t think this is a new phenomenon by any means, I just think that the lens of the Internet makes it seem so.
Anyone who was around in what many now consider the high point for death metal can tell you that this has always been the case. Even in Tampa, the “death metal capital of the world” in the early ’90’s, there were a small handful of bands that were really good but there were also tens upon tens of other metal bands that were copycat bands. These are the bands that would play venues on off-nights to help keep the lights on and cut their teeth. They would come and go usually without much notice. But now with the Internet, those same types of bands have the ability to flood the market with demos or what have you, spam mailing lists screaming their existence to the world, etc. Simply because we hear of so many bands these days does not mean that this has not always been the case.
I do think, however, that what we’ve been witnessing the past few years could be another fork in the path of metal. As certain flavors of metal become more mainstream and accepted, there will be the other end of the spectrum that goes back beneath the surface and proceeds in counter-balance to what is popular. There will be a certain degree of “You think that’s metal?? I’ll show you true metal…” feeling. Maybe this will lead to a new type of “underground”, a new banding together of like-minded fans of metal that refuse to just let it die away when it feels like so much has been left unsaid and undone.
Did the audience for metal change between 1995 and today?
Certainly the audience changed. Some people who were fans back then “grew out of their metal phase”, others are still fans and still come to shows. But looking out from the stage it seems to me the core audience is still the same demographic – 15-35 year-old males are a majority with females of the same age group making up the rest. People that come out to shows still demonstrate the same passion for metal as fans did 20 years ago.
Shows are just as chaotic and unpredictable now as they were then. I will say that it seems metal fans are a much more discerning bunch as a whole, demanding a certain level of quality now whereas 20 years ago anything resembling other metal might have been acceptable. If you want people to surrender their hard-earned money to come see a show these days, there had better be some quality on the bill.
What for you defines a band or song being “metal,” and how is it important artistically?
It’s difficult to come up with some sort of qualitative description about what makes certain music “metal” without using very subjective terms. Not only because it is inherently difficult to describe such a thing – something akin to explaining the color blue to someone who was born blind – but because there are so many different kinds and types of metal.
I have an extensive music collection and I struggle with this all the time when filing. It’s something you immediately know upon hearing. It’s the feeling the music elicits from you when you listen. It’s the passion so obviously put into the creation of the music. Loud. Distorted stringed instruments. Bombastic drums. Dissonant, minor chord progressions. Angry, aggressive vocals. Many ingredients make up the stew that is metal, and each adds a unique flavor. Not all ingredients are always present, but it can’t be metal without at least one of those things.
Of course, taking any one or more of these ingredients and applying it to other types of music doesn’t necessarily make that other music suddenly “metal”. Many popular bands in recent years have adapted and integrated some of the elements of “metal” for various reasons and to varying degrees of success. None of this bastardization necessarily makes these other bands “metal”. To me it usually seems like a contrived attempt to reach a more broad audience or to make them seem somehow more “dangerous” or “rebellious”.
There are exceptions where I think the melding has succeeded, but the by and large it seems shallow. This further complicates defining “metal” to a newcomer, or explaining what I do to someone.
Metal was really guitar-driven when it started but over the last decade or so it seems to have moved to being more drum-driven, which is a shame. To me that perpetuates the idea that there isn’t a lot of true songwriting to be found in metal, that metal is largely just a collection of riffs. Metal can be about speed, yes, but the idea that it’s a constant competition to see who can be the fastest is asinine. I’d much prefer “interesting” or “moving” music to simply “fast” music or technical wankery.
And there you have it: food for thought from Clayton Gore. Thank you for being with us today, Clayton, and let’s let the videos roll so our audience can decide for themselves what they think of Harkonin and through it, modern metal. You never know… you might redeem the genre.
Harkonin – Cult Of Sin (Ghanima)
Harkonin – Lost Cause (Ghanima)
Harkonin – Exhauster of Souls (live)
Harkonin – In The Shadow Of The Horns (Darkthrone cover)
Scanning around the web for death metal-related information (a favorite passtime) I found some Christian folks who seemed rather irate about death metal. Although I started life as a radical Christian hater, I now view Christianity as one means through which philosophies can be expressed. Specifically, if we express Romanticism — transcendental naturalistic idealism with vir as its underlying heroic principle — in any form, that form becomes Romanticism and becomes very useful for any society that wants to rise above being posted on FAILBLOG.
When I think of this kind of Christian, I see how these are the utter minority, like metalheads are in American society at least, and they usually get persecuted by the rest. Guys like Johannes Eckhart, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Paul Woodruff and Arthur Schopenhauer come to mind. I would want to live in a society they ran; the other kind of Christian, the kind that treats “God” as a product-welfare-media-icon-sports-team, need to have zero political power — they’re unstable people in fear of death and looking for a schizoid, externalized, easy solution.
The good kind of Christian are “deists”: basically atheists who believe that “God” is a handy way to describe nature, and that meditation on this God will free us from obsession with ourselves, with material comfort, with status and other things that do us no good (metalcore). They’re inherently transcendentalists, which makes them very black metal, and they tended to — like ancient Hindus — disregard human life in favor of the accomplishment of ideals, which makes them very death metal.
Here’s the letter:
I came upon your article about death metal, and wanted to offer some alternate viewpoints. I think you will find after reading this that death metal has more in common with your viewpoint than in conflict with it, despite appearances.
I am not sure death metal should be considered rock music. It is composed differently. While rock music is about repeating rhythmic chord playing over a changing beat, death metal uses “power chords” to make melodic phrases that change in a narrative structure like classical music.
Further, I would suggest that “the blues” itself has its roots in Anglo-Germanic folk music, later called “country” in the USA, and that this music is basically what rock is — rock music just had more marketing behind it, and a few aesthetic changes like more aggressive drumming.
While I do not suggest that death metal is not obsessed with the occult, I think its approach mirrors this statement:
“God is dead, and we have killed him.” – Friedrich W. Nietzsche
His point is that a lack of ability to believe in anything other than (a) the individual and (b) externalized knowledge has killed the personal process of coming to know God or gods through mythic imagination. Death metal, like black metal, restores mythic imagination.
If there is blasphemy in death metal, I believe its ultimate goal is strengthening the bond of mythic imagination, and therefore creating more religiosity in an increasingly leftist, socialist, self-centered, “scientic,” atheistic population.
You may want to separate grindcore (punk derived, all leftist) bands like Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror, and Carcass, from death metal bands (structuralist, Romanticist, some right-wing) like Obituary, Unleashed, Entombed, Dismember, Morbid Angel and Deicide. It is also useful to separate black metal (Romanticism, naturalist, all right-wing) bands such as Darkthrone and Burzum from these other two genres.
I am a writer for the death metal website The Dark Legions Archive, which supports any form of transcendental idealism including the positive Christianity of Arthur Schopenhauer, Johannes Eckhart and Ralph Waldo Emerson. We would like to interview you by email about you relationship to popular music, and beliefs, especially as touch on what death metal has wrought.
Thank you for reading,
With luck, he or she will respond and let us set up an interview to talk about death metal, because there’s nothing better in life than death metal, if you ask me.
Bill and Ted found themselves wandering through the middle east, somewhere. The time machine had finally shorted out when Ted connected it to his iPad, causing a brief detour through 1968 Christopher Street in New York and a Royal Navy frigate in 1780 at rum ration time before crashing somewhere into this Semitic wonderland.
Everything you love is eventually butchered, emulsified, digested, and squeezed out by lesser life forms ranging from head hunters to bacterium to mediocre metal bands. Here are some Sadistic Metal Reviews for our readers’ pleasure:
While the new last.fm redesign seems to me another exercise in pointless self-justification by middle management, the ability to see statistics on my listening has entirely changed how I view the music held closest to my heart. Seeing the numbers has shown me how it is one thing to list a band as a favorite or recommendation, and one far different animal to listen to it on a monthly basis. One is assessment alone, as if listening were your sole task, and the other utility, showing that this piece of music has a place in your life of many tasks and goals.
This assessment filters among the upper level of the highest echelon of metal. The assessment itself filters out the nonsense, all of which suffers from a single sin — disorganization — which takes many different forms but reveals a lack of will, purpose and principle in constructing art and always red-flags a directionless listen. But among those bands who have escaped the madness, there is no equality in listening. Some have risen and some have fallen over 20 years of pounding out metal from my speakers as I work or relax at home. In most cases, the reaction was first shock and then realization that the seeds of this knowledge were there all along. Let us look at a few pairs where listening habits elevated one album over a similar one…
Blasphemy Fallen Angel of Doomvs.Blood Impulse to Destroy
Over the years metal has frequently benefited from punk influences because metal, as befits its partially progressive rock heritage, has a tendency to create layers of abstraction and complex musical discourse where punk cuts to the chase. This is both a strength and weakness for each genre; metal is abstract, which makes imitators very obvious but can get lost in muddle-headed musical wanderings, and punk is concrete, which makes it effective but imitation easy. Blasphemy introduced a punk-based genre, grindcore, into black metal. It adopted the aesthetic approach of Sarcofago but underneath applied the percussive lower-five-frets texture musik of grindcore. The result is very effective, and easy to listen to, but also — if you have many other options — kind of boring. In fact, many of these riff patterns are the same ones, albeit simplified, that speed metal bands tried and failed to use to revitalize that genre. As raw motivational material, the music is fantastic, but over time, it fades a bit as one realizes that its strength as low-complexity high impact music also means that its content is one-dimensional. Over the past 20 years, I have thrown this record on five times and apparently terminated it early each time.
I chose Impulse to Destroy because Germany’s Blood also occupies the narrow space of grindcore bands who think like black metal or death metal bands. Grindcore generally self-reduces to extreme minimums and must, like junk food, reintroduce sugar and salt at the surface to spice up the otherwise one-dimensional utilitarian approach. Death metal on the other hand is not utilitarian, while it is consequentialist (“only death is real” being the ultimate statement of that belief) and yet also has a highly aesthetically-motivated but not aesthetically-expressed transcendental outlook. At its best, grindcore overcomes its utilitarian tendencies for a ludic or playful view of the collapsing world, and from that some of the best material emerges. Blood for example creates a dark and morbid absurdism which brings to light all that our society suppresses with itself, and like Blasphemy, creates it through patterning cut from the chromatic strips of the lower registers of guitar. In this case, however, the textures take on a life of their own, like a three-dimensional house made from flat punch-out cards. Different riffs interact with one another and dramatic pauses and collisions give rise to interesting song structures. Like Disharmonic Orchestra Expositions Prophylaxe, Impulse to Destroy provides a wealth of riff archetypes applied with enough personality and purpose to create unique compositions which may be enjoyed for decades or longer despite their simplicity.
Napalm Death Scumvs.Carbonized For the Security
This is one of those albums that most people get for the sake of novelty. “But check these guys out, they’ve got one second songs and stuff, it’s just about noise…” — rock music does not get more ironic than that. And ultimately, that was the power of grindcore. Like punk a decade before, it removed all the pretense of rock and boiled it down to simple songs. It then sometimes added in new flourishes of song structure which made those songs more interesting than radio pop, which had been studied by MBAs and PhDs and reduced to a simple formula distinguished only (barely) by rhythm, production, instrumentation and vocals. But once the money men and white lab coats were able to look at rock as a product like any other, they saw that to please enough people in the audience to make it a hit, they did not have to innovate at all. They only needed a new skin for the same basic patterns and they could produce it over and over again with high margins (well, until digital piracy hit). Like the punk rock and then hardcore punk, grindcore stripped away illusion and replaced it with innovation. The problem here is that these songs are very similar themselves because they rely on dramatic confrontation within each song, which like all things “turned up to 11” becomes expected and thus a sort of background noise. Every time I have listened to this album it has made itself into sonic wallpaper before the halfway point.
Some of the albums which were considered “also-rans” back in the 1990s had more to them than people initially considered. This one has been a favorite for me, along with the second album from Carbonized but not the third, for two decades. I listen to it regularly, finish the whole thing, and sometimes start it over. Record labels tried to shoehorn Carbonized into the “death metal” model despite some clear warning signs, and consequently bungled — the root of all evils is incompetence at some level, starting with the ability to be honest — the career of this promising band, but for those of us who lumped this in with aggressive grindcore like Terrorizer and Repulsion, the similarities outweighed the differences. For the Security expresses paranoia, existential insecurity, melancholic doubt of the future and a desire to explore all that life offers in depth, all within and as part of the same outlook. This is the music of a brighter-than-average teenager who perceives the world honestly and rejects the foolishness but wants to look deeper into the interesting stuff that, because it does not affirm the dominant lie, is rejected by the herd. Chunky riffs alternate with broader rhythms derived from punk and yet are dominated by a desire to make song structure vary with content inherited through metal from progressive rock. Each song forms a sonic sigil to the topic at hand and the response of the artist, making each bursting with personality and reality portrayed in finely-observed ways at the same time. This is a masterful album which will never bore.
As you can see, Dear Reader, these albums are both quite similar on the surface — and quite different underneath. That bands can do so much with a handful of power chords, and have such different outcomes, is endlessly fascinating. Yet not every metal-influenced album is, even among A-listers like these. It may be time for all of us to go back through our listening, search ourselves honestly, and see what has actually stood the test of time.