Pagan Altar Readies Room of Shadows

New Wave of British Heavy Metal Band are finally releasing their long in the words album, Room of Shadows. Room of Shadows consists of unreleased vocal tracks from deceased frontman Terry Jones that were supposed to be released as Never Quite Dead in 2014. Never Quite Dead was delayed, the instrumental tracks were rerecorded, and the album became Room of Shadows, which is to finally see release on Temple of Mystery Records on August 24, 2017.

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On writing negative reviews

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Back in the days of information scarcity when metal fans found bands through fifteen-generation tapes and xeroxes of pasted-together fanzines, I made the decision to focus on bands of quality. People needed more than anything else a shopping list when they wrote to Wild Rags or Relapse with an order form; as Relapse mailorder grew and essentially became the center of the underground mail order scene, the copywriting got more exuberant and people became even more confused. They needed solid information in the form of “reviews” that actually assessed the material and came up with solid reasons why it might be worth listening to for more than a few months. Looking down a list of of releases with two-line descriptions that ended with “it’ll tear your head off!” gave people nothing, and in the limited hours they had for finding new metal, they needed descriptive writing that could show them what stood out above the rest.

For that reason, I wrote positive reviews and ignored the bands that did not strike me as interesting enough to hear for repeated listens over the years. As Karl Marx reminds us, time is money and conversely, money is time, exchanged by working hours for what can then be spent. Money spent on the wrong bands damges fans. It also damages the health of the scene. Worse, it creates a Darwinistic negative effect where bands are rewarded for slapping out some haphazard or soulless material but getting a good cover, signing to the right label, or having solid promotion, and then getting rewarded for this mediocre content but good marketing. Quality reviews enforce natural selection on metal where the best rises.

Over time the market shifted. With the rise of big metal magazines which would cover the underground, and then the internet, there was no longer a shortage of information. The opposite problem presented itself: we were literally drowning in information. Magazines published thousands of reviews, most of which described some of the surface attributes of a band and then praised it as the next best thing. Internet websites emulated them and became cheerleaders more than critical voices. People now had so many options that they needed not only a list of things to look out for, but defenses against the hype and promotion. They needed solid reasons why some bands were just promotion and aesthetics with no content.

I wish that during this time I had written more critical reviews. I should have been shouting from the rooftops that the first Opeth was warmed-over hard rock made in a cryptic pseudo-progressive format to give basement dwellers some reason to think they were more “deep” than their friends. I should have screamed at the first Slayer to deviate from their unbroken quality, Divine Intervention, and pointed out that the band would have kept its old audience and new by not imitating the past, but keeping up the quality and compositional style of the past instead of going toward vocal-driven hard rock. I should have called out every band of the two types that make metal fail, the false-authentic “tryhard” bands that imitate the surface of past greats, and the “open minded” bands that borrow from old genres and call the hybrid a new thing. But I was stuck in the old mode of trying to find the good in a stream of so-so.

The problem with this approach became obvious over time: there were few gems, but a constant stream of news, and by dropping out of that news stream, I failed to comment on what people were seeing on their screens and pages. They needed guidance from experienced hands who could say, “Nope, seen this before — it’s Bruce Springsteen riffs tricked out as jazz rock with some metal flourishes.” Or, equally important, to ask why it was that a band sounded exactly like Celtic Frost or Blasphemy but the songs had none of the personality and variation of those bands. With the information overload, metal needed mean voices to provide counter-arguments to the excuses and trends offered in the promotions.

For this reason, in the latest incarnation of this site we launched the sadistic style of writing metal reviews. We take the highly-hyped and show why it is hollow, empty and meaningless. The point is not the band itself, but the series of tropes used by labels and magazines to sell this band. If they claim it is open-minded, we need to show how it is merely an imitation of the past in an older genre than metal. If they claim it is trve, its utter lack of ideas and simultaneous aping of the past needs to be revealed. People need mental weapons against the onslaught of advertising coming from both big media and thousands of little over-enthusiastic blogs.

Those of us who write do so — if we are good — to convey some kind of information, usually the type of learning one gains with experience. We can peer beneath the layers of production, marketing, trendy chatter and hype and get to the real question: is this music interesting enough to listen to for months and years, instead of another passing fad? This helps keep metal healthy by ensuring that the good releases get rewarded and the bad forgotten. For many years, I failed you all in this capacity, and I hope to rectify it with well-placed cruelty laying bare the essence of this music.

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Interview: Frank Stöver of Voices from the Darkside (2015)

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Many of you know Frank Stöver from his days editing the classic death metal fanzine Voices from the Darkside, but many more have come to know him through his website of the same time. Having read his material for years, this writer jumped on the chance to ask him a few questions about what he does and how he keeps putting out high-quality material after all these years…

What do you look for in a metal band that makes them appealing to you? How important is imagery, packaging and production?

First and foremost it’s of course the music that I will have to enjoy, but to me that sometimes goes hand in hand with the band’s imagery or packaging as well. I often experience that bands that are really dedicated to what they’re doing come up with a better visual side as well, because they really know how they would like to present themselves. But a band with a shitty xeroxed cover and a poor looking logo can of course also be killer musically.

Since I’ve been involved in the tape-trading era myself I’m still used to poor sounding rehearsal- and live-tapes, so production definitely isn’t that important in the first place to discover great bands. Just remember the early Mantas/Death recordings… But then again killer songs could be even more killer with a fitting and crushing production of course, as long as the production really fits the band.

When you prepare to interview a band, how do you prepare? How much of this is research? How much of it is listening to their demos/albums?

Since I only interview bands that I personally really like it’s almost exclusively research. I do read a lot of reviews and other interviews, check out their discography, member changes etc. I ask questions that I personally would like to get answers for and hope that the readers find that of interest as well.

In one of your past interviews, you mention a zine as being “narrowminded” in a positive way. Is it important to be narrow-minded? Or is that a term for being open-minded and then making your mind up? Does death metal risk infiltration by imitators, poseurs, fakers, etc.?

Good question… I wouldn’t say it’s important, it’s just a matter of your personal tastes. Even though I’m musically totally open-minded, I still prefer zines that stick to certain styles exclusively. Otherwise I could also pick up one of the colored major magazines that are being sold at shops and supermarkets every month. Same with music itself. I have a lot of respect for bands that try to break boundaries by mixing new elements into established styles.

I ask questions that I personally would like to get answers for and hope that the readers find that of interest as well.

But when I’m in the mood for some brutal Death Metal, I don’t wanna hear that combined with clean vocals, a funky bass or whatever. Considering the fact that there’s constantly so much new music out, it also makes it a bit easier to select releases / bands for a zine. You gotta draw a line somewhere, otherwise you would have to feature 4251166898089090 and more releases every month.

You were manager for Kreator and Destruction back in the day. Why do you think Germany led the world in their kind of speed/death hybrid, but was less participatory in death metal as a complete genre?

Well, I just helped out Kreator a little bit with merchandise and fan club activities, I never managed them… But to answer your actual question: I can only guess. Maybe it’s because all the younger bands in Germany at the time simply looked up to the bands that had already become bigger (Destruction, Sodom, Kreator, etc.) and felt musically inspired by them. And since all of them are rooted in thrash metal, it probably resulted in a pretty healthy thrash scene. If Morgoth would’ve been one of our first extreme bands in those days maybe everything would’ve developed in a different direction, who knows…

Why do you think 1980s bands were so varied, and bands now sound more similar? Is the “market” flooded? How can metal recover from this? Or is it just harder to come up with something new, because everything has “been done”? Or is style less important, and content what drives uniqueness in bands?

I think you pretty much answered this yourself already. The number of bands simply exploded over the years, and almost everything has already been done in one way or another, so there’s not much room left anymore for fresh, unique bands that still deliver brutal music.

Back in the day everything was still fresh and new, so whenever a new band appeared on the scene, it still sounded a little different to the already more established names. I think something like that is almost impossible nowadays. I hardly find enough time to listen to all the new releases I receive every week, so I’m glad that I don’t have to write music in a band that tries to make it.

Why did you switch from print to internet-only distribution of your writings? Are you able to reach the same audience? Did you gain more readers? What are the advantages from print that you miss, and what does online do better?

That’s an easy one: lack of time and money were the main reasons not to continue on with the printed version of the zine. The advantages are obvious: you can easily update a site on a daily base if you like, while a printed zine always takes a lot of time until it’s finished and distributed. It’s easier, because you don’t have to do layouts, ship the finished magazines, deal with printing companies and the postal service and as a result you also safe a lot of money, which you usually spend on postage and printing.

The number of readers has exploded ever since we went online. Our last issue (# 10) was printed in 1,000 copies; with our website we have approximately 2,000 – 2,500 visitors each day nowadays. But of course I miss the print era. I just love the cut and paste type old school layouts… and reading stuff where ever I like is probably the biggest plus (reading in front of a monitor screen is really annoying).

Is it hard to get volunteers to work with? Is apathy a problem in the metal community?

Never really had any problems in that department at all. But maybe it’s that easy because Voices From The Darkside is already an established name that people are aware of and respect. So, whoever I work with (or have worked with in the past) is first of all a fan of the music and the zine. I guess that makes it a lot easier.

How did fanzines help shape the metal underground? Did this change from your days in Horror Infernal to when you started Voices from the Darkside in 1993? Do you think fanzines played a role in shaping what people liked, and made some bands into “favorites”? If so, was this good or bad?

Without fanzines there probably would be no underground, at least not in the way we know it. I don’t think it changed in any way. Fanzines have been around for ages and I received some of them already back when I started out in the early 80s. I personally found out about a lot of amazing bands through fanzines, flyers and tape-trading.

If a band is honest in what they do and they don’t sell out or change in order to reach a bigger audience, they deserve to get noticed by bigger crowds for sure.

I suppose without this great network, I probably wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the bands this early. A good example is Metallica. I got a live show from 1982 on tape very early on, even before I got to hear their demos and that made me follow them right from the start, which was really exciting.

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Should underground metal stay underground? Is this even possible?

No, I don’t think so. If a band is honest in what they do and they don’t sell out or change in order to reach a bigger audience, they deserve to get noticed by bigger crowds for sure. Of course it’s always a bitter feeling for the fans of day one to see that all of a sudden people like “their” bands, who probably don’t know anything about them, their roots or anything. But that doesn’t mean the newer fans are less dedicated. Some of them often turn into total diehards as well, they just discovered the band later.

The German scene is fascinating to me. From thousands of kilometers away, it looks as if German fans are fans first of heavy metal as a whole, not specialized into death metal, black metal, etc. Does this have some benefits? What about downsides?

Yeah, Germany is really a cool place for metal and all its sub-genres. The scene is very healthy with lots of venues, bands, magazines, etc. That’s probably also one of the reasons why big festivals such as Wacken work out so well. Metal fans are often more open-minded than one might think. They don’t have a problem with having their Terrorizer record next to a Thin Lizzy record in their collection (at least I don’t have). I don’t think that has a downside to it at all.

I wrote about how hacking was a parallel community to underground metal found similarities between the two. Do you think the metal underground had a lot in common with other undergrounds? What made it “underground,” in the first place? Was it only lack of commercial acceptance, or also of social acceptance?

I often compare the metal underground with the early punk movement (before both scenes got commercialized by the industry). This whole DIY mentality with self-organized shows, flyers, cut and paste fanzines etc. most certainly had a big influence on the origin of the metal underground. Also this “fuck off” mentality and trying to rebel against parents, employers or the mainstream is pretty similar. But all this probably makes it scenes on their own. To me being underground means that you’re different to the mainstream in certain aspects and you most certainly have that in various other sub-genres as well.

It seems to me that with the rise of the internet, we have information overload. Meaning that there are too many bands, sites, labels, radio/podcasts, etc. to possibly keep track of. Do you think that zines and some websites can be helpful in reducing this overload? Is that a positive goal? Can websites achieve the same effect that zines did?

I totally agree… and to be perfectly honest with you: I really hate this overkill! I’m sick and tired of receiving a shitload of download links for new albums every fuckin’ day. I mean, who’s supposed to listen to all this, not to mention who shall buy all the records? Today there’s probably more labels than we had bands in the 80s and each one of them releases as many records as possible. From old poor sounding rehearsal tapes, to compilations, split releases, re-releases, EPs, live albums, full lengths etc.

Today there’s probably more labels than we had bands in the 80s and each one of them releases as many records as possible.

The industry always mentions that record sales are going down, but at the same time they are releasing more albums than ever before. Websites such as ours can indeed be helpful by being more selective in what they review and feature in general. And that leads us back to the “narrow-minded” question: if we would be less narrow-minded, Voices From The Darkside would quickly turn into a fulltime job for sure. But luckily most people still care about quality. So, no matter what it is: a record, a band, a label or even a website — if it’s of poor quality people will sooner or later search for something better. Since our website is already online for almost 15 years by now with a steady growing number of visitors, I suppose we’re doing something right.

You have mentioned in several past interviews that you do not collect rare discs, but are interested in having the complete recordings. Do you think the “collector’s mentality” was good for metal? Why do you avoid it, or is this just a practical/personal decision?

I think this “collector’s mentality” opened a lot of doors for the just mentioned release overkill. Many metal fans tend to buy their favorite records in every fuckin’ re-release format there is. If a label re-releases a record with only one single bonus track or a different packaging some diehards most certainly will spend their hard earned money on it again, no matter how often they already have it in their collection. I don’t like that, but somehow I’m infected by that as well.

If I like a band, I try to get their entire material in one way or another. But I don’t keep a record in various formats then. I replace the older version with the newer expanded edition. That’s equally stupid (if not more), but at least I don’t have to spend a shitload of many for rare first press releases, hahaha.

What are your plans for the future with Voices from the Darkside? Do you have any other projects brewing? Ever think of writing a book (of new text, not compilation of the older zines)? If people like your work, how should they stay updated on what you do?

The website already keeps me extremely busy since I take care of all the daily updates myself. Every single review and interview that ends up on the site is being formatted, proof-read etc. by yours truly. And I also compile all the news, tour dates and so on. All that takes a lot of time every single day, so no – I don’t have any other projects in the pipeline at the moment, I’m afraid. All I can offer at the moment can be found at www.voicesfromthedarkside.de. Thanks a lot Brett, for this highly interesting interview and your support! All the best!

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Codex Obscurum – Issue Six

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Underground metal zine Codex Obscurum gained an audience for its focus on music of an underground nature without the associated fetishism of image and product obsession that blights most zines no matter how underground. In that sense, it was a regression to the healthier times of the 1990s, when fanzines were fan-oriented instead of label-oriented, and both old and new audiences have delighted in it for five issues.

Contemplating Issue Six of this magazine shows how far it has come and how it has not lost any of the delight in the music that marks a good fanzine. Over the past several issues the focus of the magazine has shifted to interviews and reviews, and this shows in the much wider coverage that Codex Obscurum achieves with Issue Six. More bands see print in this issue and, through greater experience of interviewers, questions cover a wider range. The issue starts with an interview with War Master, whose albums regularly feature in our best-of lists around here. While this interview is short, it provides the vital news that this band is working on a second album and an EP, and talks about touring and general attitude of the band after switching vocalists. After this follows a thoughtful and probing interview with (the New) Mayhem guitarist Teloch, which contains mostly striking revelations about the black metal scene and its relationship to political correctness. For those of us more inclined to avoid newer versions of once-classic bands, this shows insight into the thought process behind the current “scene.” Further interviews with Anatomia, Lantern, Obliteration, Rottrevore, Symptom, Acid Witch, Castle Freak, Impaled Nazarene, Fister, Hecate Enthroned and Ritual Decay. The interviewers in all of these approach the subject with knowledge and tailor their questions to the subject’s personality, which brings out more of the people behind the bands.

One of the bigger changes since the last issue appears in the abundance of reviews that Issue Six has to offer. These take two forms: mid-length descriptive and personalitied reviews, and semi-dismissive Haiku form reviews that often tell more than a few pages of labored, assiduous writing. The descriptive reviews offer a practical assessment of how a metal listener might approach an album in a compact package. Witness the review of Cruxiter Cruxiter:

Cruxiter – S/T (2013 – PrismaticO Records)

Wow, what a surprise this album was. Cruxiter are not a well-known band, as this is their first full-length and they’ve only been around for a couple of years. But it sounds like they’ve been around since the ’80s. In fact, this whole album sounds like it’s from the ’80s. Cruxiter are traditional heavy metal from the wastelands of Texas and will not disappoint one bit. It’s as if early Mercyful Fate had a ménage à trois with Manilla Road and early Iron Maiden, all while listening to ’70s guitar-driven rock. The musicianship on this album is fantastic; each song is a classic metal anthem with soaring vocals and impressive guitar riffs. Miggy Ramirez’s vocals are high-pitched and remain steady throughout — he certainly pulls off the style perfectly. The highlight of the album is “The Devils of Heavy Metal” and is one of the best songs of this style I’ve heard in quite some time. The one thing that may dissuade some listeners (and it’s a shame, at that) is the production of the album. There are no crystal-clear sounds on this album, everything is produced in a way that makes sounds like it was recorded in 1984. It adds to the retro-feel of this album, and is part of what makes this album a great listen. The album is streaming on their bandcamp page, I’d highly recommend you check it out if traditional heavy metal is your thing. Keep an eye out for this band. — James Doyle

Ten pages of reviews of this type help inform the listener on the cutting edge of underground metal, skipping the numu/indie/post gibberish, and then detour into two pages of Haiku form reviews which cut to the core of each album from a listener’s standpoint. While these are more dismissive, oftentimes they utterly nail why an album is irrelevant or why we the audience should look past style and appreciate what makes it great. These offer a counterpoint to the desire for articulation that motivates the descriptive reviews, and give a quick synopsis where that is all that is needed. They are more motivational than merely reporting the facts; this style might be useful in dismissing some of the recent material that labels pump out which requires no more than a few minutes to recognize as an archetype of fail and dismiss.

As has been the trend with the last few issues of Codex Obscurum, the editors struggle to balance a gory old-school art-driven layout with a postmodern format that is easy to read in the age of computers, tablets and whatever “et cetera” will soon encompass. An abundance of great artwork appears throughout Issue Six, with more use of graphics inserted in the text stream or offset to one side. The Acid Witch, Fister and Ritual Decay interviews could fit in either a glossy pro-printed magazine or a contraband underground zine and show an optimization of this layout style. One thing that could improve is the differentiation between interviewer and interviewee, which is currently done with the industry standard of the speaker’s initials at the start of the line. An ideal layout of this format has proved elusive, with some zines bolding the comments by the interviewee, but this like most other solutions burns more page real estate. On this site, we put the interviewer’s comments in bold because that makes them easy to skip, but also requires more paragraph space which is at a premium in a zine that has to render itself to paper instead of the limitless scrolling of modern society’s replacement for daytime television, the internet. An ideal answer may conceal itself on this issue but it is the only area where this zine proved difficult to read at a glance, which is otherwise facilitated by its clean layout with clearly separated art and well-signaled interviews with band logo at the top of each.

Issue Six continues what seems to be becoming a section in Codex Obscurum, which is an unboxing and review of Dungeons & Dragons gaming sets and lines of books. While many in the metal community seek to isolate themselves from the inner nerd inherent to all metal, a more realistic assessment shows that many metalheads are in fact nerds “in the closet” who enjoy many activities which stimulate the imagination and analytical thought process simultaneously much as D&D does. This feature goes beyond the knowledge of the casual attendee at D&D games and could stand on its own in any lifestyle or technical magazine. Among the thoughtful interviews and carefully articulated reviews, the role-playing game material fits hand in glove, and adds to the feeling of this zine as well-rounded in the underground sense, covering music and lifestyle without drifting into the product fetishism that shears mainstream magazines off from the flow of what fulfills people both as metal fans and individuals. Looking forward to seeing this zine continue to grow and develop.

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Details on Compilation of Death issue three

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DMU reported recently that Compilation of Death zine has issue three back from the printers and ready to distribute. Like many of you probably were, I was intrigued by the use of the term “zine” to describe what looks like… a book.

In the grand spirit of investigative metal journalism, DMU reached out to Gabriel Andres Gatica Kretschmer, editor of the Compilation of Death. He answered our questions about the new issue and created anticipation of the new issue with his answers.

How many pages are in the new issue? Are all of them illustrated?

Aesthetically this new issue might be seen as a book because of its large number of pages, but this appearance was not premeditated. Independent of the size, we are and we have the essence of a fanzine: Compilation of Death is created by fans for fans. Our new issue has over 390 pages but keeps the spirit and outlook of a xeroxed ‘zine. And yes, all of the pages are illustrated!

What bands are in it?

  • Features
    • SADISTIC INTENT (in depth special)
    • Brutal Assassin
    • Decomposed (Usa)
    • SINDROME
    • DREAM DEATH
    • PHLEBOTOMIZED
    • Druid Lord
    • DR SHRINKER
    • VOID OF VOMITS
    • EARACHE RECORDS (Interview about the history of the label)
    • Necroccultus
    • HEXX
    • BLOODBATH (Serbia)
    • SORCERY (Sweden)
    • AUTOPSY (Fucking big interview)
    • Nephrite (Norway)
    • DISSECT
    • DIABOLIC/HORROR OF HORRORS/UNHOLY GHOST
    • ENTETY/COFFIN TEXT
    • AGRESSOR (Fra)
    • FATAL (Usa)
    • CIANIDE
    • THANATOPSIS (Usa)
    • OBLITERATION (Nor)
    • BLOODSPILL (Usa)
    • DEATH THREAT (Usa)
    • DECEASED
    • DEATH YELL
    • ETERNAL DARKNESS
    • NILE
    • ROTTREVORE
    • Embrional (Pol)
    • NECROWRETCH
    • ETERNAL SOLSTICE
    • PENTACLE (Studio Report-Live review by Costa Stoios)
    • PROFILES
    • MAGNUS (Pol)
    • Pages of pure fucking Damnation (Chat with old fanzine editors)
    • Aaaarrghh Magazine (NZ)
    • INVOCATOR/MACERATION
    • GOD VOMIT’ Zine
    • RATTLEHEAD ‘ZINE/BLOWING THRASH ZINE
    • DECIBEL OF DEATH ZINE
    • THE BOOK OF ARMAGGEDDON’ZINE/ RAGE RECORDS
    • RAM METAL SECTION (The section of LAURENT RAMADIER)
  • Interviews
    • Gino Marino & NOCTURNUS/INCUBUS
    • MUTILATED (Fra)
    • EXCRUCIATION (SWI)
    • INCANTATION
  • SOME DIE, OTHERS ARE BORN (New section with over 50 new bands)
  • DARK AWAKENING (Review Section)

Is this all-new content? (I assume so, just verifying)

All the content is new, from our own staff and some guests as collaborators in interviews. But we also have some reprints of old interviews from old fanzines.

How is this different from past COD issues?

I think the essence is the same, we just have more pages, therefore, more interviews and articles. We also add a new section with more than 50 upcoming bands where you may learn the basic and essential information about bands who have only been around for a few years and have few releases. We continue with an in-depth special about the history of a band; last issue this was IMMOLATION and in this new edition is been SADISTIC INTENT.

Where can people get this, and about how much will it cost?

HELLSHEADBANGERS from USA is our official distributor; they were responsible for printing our new issue. Some labels in Europe like APOCALYPTIC EMPIRE, IRON BONEHEAD, THE SINISTER FLAME, UNHOLY PROPHECY, TERROR FROM HELL, MEMENTO MORI, WITCHCRAFT ‘ZINE, etc. are distributing our new issue as well. All who are interested in distributing our new issue should contact HELLSHEADBANGERS Records directly and ask for wholesale pricing.

Can you tell us a bit about your background in metal, in writing and in zine publishing? What are you listening to now?

Previously I edited a fanzine called Brutal Passion in Chile, it was something generic, nothing new, you could find the same in other 100 fanzines. I’m a crazy fanzine collector and I decided to do something different and create Compilation of Death zine as a tribute to the old fanzines and focused on the development, history and continuity of a style like death metal and its closest branches.

I see Compilation of Death as a link between the forgotten and the present time… I listen to many things depending on my mood, but these days, the new album of ZEMIAL, OPHIS, DEAD CONGREGATION, DOMAINS, DROWNED, GORGUTS, HAEMOPHAGUS, RUDE, ATARAXY, DISMA, BEYOND, SHEOL, INCANTATION, RIPPER (CHILE), U. KULTEN, PROCESSION, etc… I listen to almost all styles of metal, especially a lot of death metal and heavy metal. My favorite band since I was a child is RUNNING WILD for example…

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Profile: Robert Plante, author of Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos

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Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos will present an encyclopedic listing of the metal demos of the 1980s in handy book form as written by author Robert Plante. It will also review them. Most importantly, however, this is the first attempt to systematically chronicle the birth of not just a genre, but the underground itself through demos.

This is part of of a literary explosion on heavy metal topics and specifically, underground metal. Glorious Times explained the underground as a community and culture, and renewed interest in the opening frontier and cold northern breeze of discovery that this time period provided. Underground Never Dies! looks at the underground through zines and how they fostered the community, while Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011) presents a narrative of the time through analysis. Then of course there’s the 1996-era The Heavy Metal FAQ, which explains the birth of the various genres of metal much as Ian Christe’s Sounds of the Beast did later in print.

Where other books tend to either stitch together a story of the past, or let one emerge from the words of the participants, Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos aims to list the demos of the time and show through each one how the scene as a whole functioned. Through partnership and friendship between Plante and Bazillion Points label head Ian Christe, it is likely that Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos will be on that publishing label.

We were fortunate to grab a few words with author Robert Plante.

What made you decide to write a book, and then a book about metal, and finally a metal book about 1980s metal demos?

The flash of inspiration came from the back pages of the Swedish Death Metal book, where all the bands and zines are listed. The idea of a huge book documenting every known 1980s metal demo suddenly rushed into my head. I know I’d buy that book in a second, but who would write it? I was there in the 1980s underground metal community, and I felt it was important that someone who could provide the context of a direct participant write this book. There are websites that document the ’80s tape trading scene, but they’re either small in scope or sparse of information. I’m aiming for DemoLition to be exhaustive in the amount of bands covered and the depth and quality of that coverage.

How did you compile an exhaustive and complete list of all the 1980s demos? How huge of a task was this?

It’s a combination of internet sources and my huge archive of metal zines. I was a fiendish collector of fanzines of all types for years, but purged most of them by the 2000s. Luckily I kept all my metal zines, and I’m always finding more to fill in holes in the collection. They’re my primary source, along the band members themselves. It took me about two years of daily work just to finish the outline (the listing of bands to cover), and really that will never be finished, as I’m finding out about new bands all the time. At some point we’ll just have to set a deadline where we stop adding them, likely around the layout phase.

Were you a participant in the metal scene back then? What got you into metal?

I followed the typical progression of classic rock, then heavy metal like Maiden and Priest, then underground/thrash metal, then the earliest extreme metal bands. I was an artistic kid, and like many metalheads was an outsider in a lot of ways, and metal is the music of the outsider (or one of them, at least). It’s one of the reasons I love black metal so much, is that it keeps the flame of the outsider spirit burning, it’s averse to the “group think” sociology that even metal can fall victim to. But yeah, I was a big tape trader, and contributed logos and illustrations to many zines back then.

What was the role of a demo for a 1980s band? Was there any analogue in mainstream music?

Well, in the mainstream music business a demo (short for demonstration tape) was used by up and coming bands to try and land record contracts, or given to club bookers to get gigs, or shopped around by individual musicians to audition for bands. The underground metal scene developed in the late 1970s and early ’80s, inspired by classic demos like Iron Maiden’s “The Soundhouse Tapes” or Metallica’s “No Life Til Leather,” and taking a cue from the DIY ethos of the punk scene, and bands began using demos sent to zines and traded around the world as a way to get their names around. You could be a trio of poor schmucks from the middle of Forkdick, North Dakota with no metal club within 200 miles, but if you made a good tape word would get around and you could actually have a chance at a record deal. Never mind knowing in hindsight that only a tiny fraction of bands ever made enough to make a living at it, but the possibility and the dream were there.

What’s the book like? Is it a huge index, or do you write some history or narrative as well?

I look at it as an encyclopedia. Each band will have their own entry, with all 1980s tapes listed (and reviewed where possible), along with historical information and critical biographies. The entries will range from bare-bones for the most obscure bands to longer pieces for the important ones. Depending on how much room we have, there are some cool ideas for appendices and sidebars also. It will be nicely designed and heavily illustrated.

When does Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos come out, and when/where will we the fans be able to get it?

I’m still deep into writing and researching it, so it’s going to be at least a couple more years; we have no publication date yet. You’ll be able to grab it wherever finer publishers like Bazillion Points are sold. The best way to get news of the book is to watch the Facebook page, which is updated daily.

If relevant, can you tell us your background as a writer, and what you’ve done outside of the underground that helped you write this book?

I’ve written a little bit of music and film criticism here and there, but nothing out of the underground scene (I’m a graphic designer by trade). This is by far the largest writing project I’ve ever taken on. I did want to bring a more sophisticated and adult quality of writing to the project, while still maintaining the enthusiasm of a fan (we’ll see if I succeed). I think the music merits it, it was (and is) an amazing subculture that deserves a serious attempt at documentation.

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Profile: Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins, filmmakers of Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay

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When we first heard about Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay, the upcoming documentary about industrial music and its origins, it struck us as relevant for a death metal site.

In the landscape of popular music, there are obvious “pop” genres on the surface next to accepted forms like jazz and classical, but underneath that are the surly and dangerous types of music that are underground because they don’t place nice with the contemporary mythos and ideology of our society.

That group includes metal, hardcore punk (not pop punk, which belongs under rock/pop) and industrial. These genres just refuse to play by the same rules as everyone else who wants mainstream acceptance, mainly because they flirt with or outright endorse ideas that the mainstream has decided are unpalatable.

We were fortunate to get a brief Q&A with Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins, filmmakers of Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay.

Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay as a title seems to suggest both a documentary on industrial music, and some sense of the motivations behind industrial artists. What made you choose this approach?

Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay is the first film to document the history of industrial music, featuring interviews from the genre’s most influential bands, artists, labels and fanzines.

I was motivated to make this documentary as I felt this genre and these artists deserve to be exposed to a broader audience. This film is about more than just industrial music, it also reflects on art, politics and social issues, post­industrialisation and urban decay.

Are you and your fellow filmmaker industrial fans? If so, what first got you into the genre?

Amélie: ­ I came across industrial music while directing my first documentary Paris/Berlin: 20 years of underground techno. I’ve always enjoyed the harsher and darker side of music. Throbbing Gristle’s song “Convincing People” is one of the first industrial songs I remember hearing. I was immediately attracted to Genesis’s monotonous British voice and the hypnotic repetitiveness of the song. This led me on a path to discovering more industrial, post punk and dark ambient, as well as beautiful crossovers bands like Coil or In The Nursery. As I dug deeper into the industrial genre, I realized that I shared a lot common influences and preoccupations with those artists, even though they were from a different generation. From a really young age I read books by Burroughs, Ballard etc and became interested in art movements like the dadaist or the futurists, so I felt an instant connection to this music.

Travis: Working in a record store from a young age, I discovered techno and experimental music and was immediately appealed by the rawness of this sound. While living in Perth, Western Australia I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Malinder on a radio program and had him DJ at a club night I hosted. Mal and I became friends over the years and he was the first industrial band I fell in love with. I also got into bands like Throbbing Gristle, Meat Beat Manifesto, Silver Apples, Renegade Soundwave and others through my favourite DJ at the time, Andrew Weatherall. I met Amélie while traveling Europe and we decided that this film needed to be made.

I am no expert, but it seems that metal, punk and industrial come from a similar root, which is a rejection of the social impulse of mutual tolerance. Why do you think this is, and how do you think it relates to social decay?

All bands and collaborations bring different influences to the music they make and the environment and social context of the musicians also plays an important role. Most of the early industrial bands we interviewed grew up in turbulent times, where unemployment, high­rise living and cultural oppression were all part of the decaying environment in which this music blossomed.

When the history of humanity is written, how do you think industrial music will be recorded? Do you consider it a historically ­important musical movement?

Industrial bands have been influential in many ways inspiring art forms, using tape loops and edits that pre dated sample music and these days you can hear noise and industrial elements in all forms of music from, electronic music, pop through to classical music.

Industrial musicians are educated, artistically minded and politically aware artists. They found inspiration in the avant­garde movements from the early 20th century like the Futurists, Dadaists or Surrealists, as well as contemporary writers William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. They were also influenced by early science fiction movies, Krautrock artists Kraftwerk, Can and Faust, The Velvet Underground and the DIY ethos of punk music. These artists rejected major labels, mass media and mainstream culture to invent a culture of their own.

When will Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay be released and how can people watch it?

We’re still editing the film, licensing music and applying for funding, but we’re hoping to release the film in 2014. You can follow the film’s progress on the Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay Facebook page.

It’s been a great experience working on this film. We look forward to sharing our work and hope people will enjoy it as much as we do!

Amélie Ravalec
Travis Collins

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Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay documentary explores origins of industrial music

industrial_soundtrack_for_the_urban_decayIndustrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay explores the history of industrial music, featuring interviews from the genre’s most influential bands, artists, labels and fanzines.

The documentary film by filmmakers Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins is currently in post-production. Its topic is industrial music, meaning the noise-based variety more than the post-EBM variety, defined as “an experimental music genre inspired by a wide spectrum of ideologies and interests” which “combines improvisation and performance with avant-garde, provocative, political and taboo themes alongside harsh noise and environmental sound recordings.”

According to the filmmakers, industrial was a DIY genre that rejected mainstream society — much like the original hardcore punk and metal — and “found inspiration in the avant-garde movements from the early 20th century like the Futurists, Dadaists or Surrealists, as well as contemporary writers William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. They were also influenced by early science fiction movies, Krautrock artists Kraftwerk, Can and Faust, The Velvet Underground and the DIY ethos of punk music.”

What follows is a list of the interviewees for this film:

  • Throbbing Gristle
  • Cabaret Voltaire
  • NON / Boyd Rice
  • SPK
  • Click Click
  • Test Dept
  • Clock DVA
  • Re/Search
  • Z’EV
  • Sordide Sentimental
  • Hula
  • In the Nursery
  • Hands Production
  • Klinik
  • Ant Zen
  • Orphx
  • Prima Linea

For more information, check out the group’s Facebook page.

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Underground Never Dies! by Andrés Padilla

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This review includes a 3-page sample of the book, and streaming audio of the tracks on Side A of the accompanying LP of underground metal rarities. Side B follows with the continuation of this review.

Underground Never Dies! fills a void in the literature about metal so far, which is the “why” behind the underground. We know the facts from other sources, but facts are deceiving because they take on a life of their own. Underground Never Dies! knits the facts together with a narrative of the reasons people expressed for joining the underground.

Angling toward its topic matter from a zine-based perspective, Underground Never Dies! describes the informal network of fans, bands, labels and writers who stayed connected through postal mail and xeroxed 50-page fanzines. This substituted for the huge media network and financial power of the major labels, who soon found themselves wishing they had an underground also.

The reason for this is that, as any advertiser can tell you, the most effective force in marketing is word of mouth. It takes ten TV ads about how awesome Altars of Madness is to be equal — possibly — to one friend telling you about “the most intense album ever.” Zines were a personal connection by people who threw out the false objectivity of mainstream media, and instead focused on presenting what they found meaningful.

Underground Never Dies! unites several threads while explaining this phenomenon. On one hand, this book is an incredible treasure trove of images and words from the past, reproduced exactly as they appeared in the original zines, flyers and letters. Looking more deeply, it’s an exploration of what it means to have the underground mentality through the words of those who participated and distinguished themselves, including luminaries like Fenriz of Darkthrone and musicians from At the Gates.

What makes this book exceptional is that it takes the same approach a zine would, which makes sense seeing how the author Andrés Padilla is editor of Chilean zine Grinder Magazine. Using his practiced approach, he goes for a metal version of Hunter S. Thompson’s “gonzo journalism” and discards the pretense of objectivity, instead looking at the scene as a personal experience with shared objective components between a select group who actually did notable things back in the day.

Parts of this book will take your breath away as you realize you are looking at historical objects reproduced as if in a museum, and that these objects represent the time and place where movements that are with us to this day were launched. From demo covers of bands that were later genre-defining to classic interviews where bands explained their motivation, even extending to lost promotional photos of bands 30 years ago, Underground Never Dies! is like an inverted periscope into the deep and murky world of underground extreme metal.

What makes this book more than a souvenir is its intense exploration of the why, however. Personal statements from notable scene personalities, including Alan Moses of Glorious Times fame, as well as clear articulations from zines in the day about what motivated the participants, line these pages and show us how the underground wasn’t just a musical movement, but a social movement, if not a separate society entirely.

The first 500 copies of the book come with a LP recording of unreleased classic metal tracks from back in the day. You can peruse the tracklist here, or listen to the live soundstream that follows this article. The CD/LP will be sold separately in addition to the book, but it’s hard to imagine wanting one without the other since both are essentially archives of rare information.

Interested fans may wish to seek our initial report on Underground Never Dies!, or our announcement of the book’s impending release. Of interest also is our interview with Underground Never Dies! and Grinder Magazine author Andrés Padilla (which you can also read in Spanish). For background, you might also enjoy reading The Heavy Metal FAQ and our public domain metal zines archive.

3-page PDF sampler of Underground Never Dies!

Streaming MP3s of Underground Never Dies! LP/CD – Side A

1. Incubus – “Engulfed in Unspeakable Horrors” (5:19)

2. Slaughter Lord – “Taste Of Blood” (3:13)

3. Mutilated – “Hysterical Corpse Dislocation” (3:05)

4. Dr. Shrinker – “Cerebral Seizure” (3:06)

5. Aftermath – “When You Will Die” (3:52)

6. Exmortis – “Beyond The Realm Of Madness” (3:24)

Side B will follow with the second part of this review.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Retro Metal: Swedish death metal edition

Sadistic Metal Reviews started sometime in the early 00s in tribute to the reviews of fanzines from earlier eras, in which a single sentence correctly categorized a band as the type of useless filler it was and dispatched it to the cut-out sale bins of history.

The grim fact is that as in nature, in heavy metal there are a few winners, and everyone else fails. This isn’t because they are fated to do so, but because they made the wrong choices. Usually, they have no actual artistic motivation, and so are imitating other successful acts for chicks, beer, prestige, an excuse for being stoned in the basement for a decade, whatever.

A band may have spent years learning its instruments, rehearsed for months, hired a good studio, taken all the right notes and had all the right parts, but something didn’t add up. This band had nothing to say, and so no one should listen.

The guiding principle of Sadistic Metal Reviews is that no amount of surface aesthetic can cover up a lack of conviction, content and motivation within. No one can paint-by-numbers imitate, or its cousin the recombining of known styles, and hope to get anything but a polite nod and “It’s OK, I guess, if you like that kind of thing.”

With this edition, SMR takes on the retro phenomenon. Every seven years like clockwork the great factory of wannabes runs out of “new” (usually basic math, like adding two genres together and getting a mystery) ideas and decides that ripping off the past is the safest path to fame and riches.

Hence these imitators are on the altar of sacrifice, awaiting our Sadistic Metal Writers for today’s edition of SMR, which tackles possibly the worst form of retro ever… the wannabe be 1991 Swedish death metal retro.

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Our writers, from left to right: Daniel Rodriguez, Cory van der Pol, Max Bloodworth and Jon Wild.

repugnant-epitome_of_darknessRepugnant – Epitome of Darkness

Despite being disguised in every “Swedish death metal” cliche known to man, Repugnant appears to be a retro-thrash band that re-purposes early Entombed lyrics for ironic comic book appeal. This vapid gimmickry with a glossy coat betrays the similarity between this band and Ghost, with whom it shares personnel. Why not try the same shallow stunt, but dress it up as old Entombed for extra clueless metal tourist nu-fan dollars?

entrails-tales_from_the_morgueEntrails – Raging Death

This album of Carnage riffs played backward between stolen Nihilist d-beats feels like a flowchart experiment in paint-by-numbers Swedish death metal cliches, with added groove so that even lobotomy patients can tap their feet to it. Entrails lay claim to the early Swe-death scene, but even a blatant clone band can be aim for higher than almost passable. If you take away the buzz-saw distortion, these are just old Saxon tunes sped up with more howling.

evocation-illusions_of_grandeurEvocation – Illusions of Grandeur

Why do bands constantly recreate Slaughter of the Soul? Perhaps because it’s so easy to do. Evocation make forgettable muzak by giving laundry detergent commercial jingles the mid-90s Swe-death post-Deliverance-style rape treatment. This pop muzak sounds every bit as bittersweet as a sad Blink 182 song but in disguise as mid 90s Scandinavian metal to allow Century Media to market it to metalcore kids on Youtube. More “another day at the office” unremarkable mellow-deaf who are given more legitimacy than the other bands for being around in the early 90s. It’s still butt rock with polka drumming and laryngitis vocals.

nominon-monumentombNominon – Monumentomb

What most people got out of Swedish death metal was a certain guitar tone and vocal delivery. Complex riff arrangements, time signatures, melodies? Over their heads. So why burden the little dears with something they can’t understand? Instead, take the same music that bad Exodus clones were making in 1987 and dress it up in a “Sexy Swedish Slut Death Metal” Halloween costume. The only people who fall asleep when listening are the smart ones, and we should probably shoot them anyway.

hail_of_bullets-on_divine_windsHail of Bullets – On Divine Winds

Classic death metal is hard. What’s easy? Metalcore, which is any variation of metal where you use hardcore songwriting with metal riffs. Don’t worry about making the riffs make sense, just have the song go from one ludicrous riff to the next as if they were connected. Then have a mosh part. Hail of Bullets is aggressive like old school death metal turned up to ten, but disorganized so you hear mostly noise.

kaamos-kaamosKaamos – Kaamos

Remember all those Swedish bands who were almost up there with Entombed, but then dropped out? They dropped out because “not good enough” doesn’t mean you missed good by a hair, but a mile. Kaamos is reconstituted from also-rans in the Swedish scene and it sounds like it. These two chord riffs have zero personality mainly because their creators are obsessed with sounding Swedish. If this band were honest, Samba music would come out of the speakers instead.

tribulation-the_horrorTribulation – The Horror

What happens if you dress up Def Leppard in Swedish buzz-saw distortion and death metal tempo? I don’t know, because this isn’t as good as Def Leppard. It is however candy heavy metal with every third riff an AOR melodic transition but put into typical Swe-deth(tm) packaging, including Sunlight Studios (Boss Heavy Metal pedal dimed) production, wacky energetic drumming, and barfing pit bull vocals. But once you look below the surface, it’s a power ballad.

bloodbath-the_fathomless_masteryBloodbath – The Fathomless Mastery

Bloodbath is just a bunch of jaded guys from whine rock bands (Katatonia and Opeth) making a parody out of death metal by throwing backwards Dismember riffs into a blender alongside Pantera groove metal riffs. For credibility they add the tremolo riff from Morbid Angel’s “Dawn of the Angry” to be a sufficiently quirky lifestyle product for people who ironically wear Entombed trucker hats and talk wistfully of the early 1990s, when they were four.

death_breath-stinking_up_the_nightDeath Breath – Stinking Up the Night

This all-star band with Scott Carlsson (Repulsion) and Nicke Andersson (Entombed) applies the Clandestine model of pairing up horror movie motifs on guitar with d-beats. Using a rhythmic approach that alternates between Repulsion’s high-intensity riding blast and a Motorhead-derived groove, this band is competent but formulaic. It escapes the rancor derived at its genre-mates for being what seems like something closer to an honest effort.

morbus_chron-sleepers_in_the_rfitMorbus Chron – Sleepers In The Rift

Morbus Chron suffers from flowchart death metal syndrome: play d-beat punk played on down-tuned guitars like the old school bands, toss in a stolen Sabbath riffs to remind people of the obligatory Autopsy influence, then maybe inject a zany Demilich/Cadaver “wacky sounding” riff to come off as “outside the box” and “original.” It feels like Entombed met up with a focus group who accidentally purchased a bunch of Oxycontin and tried to replicate Autopsy’s Acts of the Unspeakable.

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