Goatcraft – Yersinia Pestis (2016)

goatcraft - yersinia pestis

Article by Lance Viggiano.

Arpeggiated minor chord melancholy culled from or composed during belligerent improvisational tirades given body by a sluggish left hand approximating power chords to provide the work a lattice to the traditions of metal. Yersinia Pestis abstains from its predecessor’s thematic coherence – an accident of writing what were essentially cover songs of a famous painter – to make marked but mishandled improvements in its individual presentations through tuneful reprisals of established Goatcraft trademarks. The dependence upon staccato and arpeggio retain the artist’s characteristic stiffness in execution which blemishes through its brutishness.

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On Goatcraft

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Lonegoat of necroclassical band Goatcraft issued the following statement today on, of all topics, Death Metal Underground itself. Read on for some clarification of the oddities of Goatcraft coverage for the past year or so, and the “no Goatcraft rule” implemented some time ago.

Brett Stevens is a controversial man. He’s made more armchair activists angry than anyone else on the internet. Founding the legendary Dark Legions Archive, as well as many other groups/websites/etc, his reviews were unmatched and were of the highest linguistic artistry. He created worlds in his reviews that paralleled the musical subjects better than anyone else who ever wrote about metal.

He’s been around since the nascent stage of the internet to this now populace, SJW Tumblr Tranny modern wankery that resembles dumpster diving more than anything else. It’s only suiting that he swapped to writing movie reviews.

For a while I aided Brett by helping out behind the scenes at Deathmetal.org. I wouldn’t really consider it “helping” as I’ve never been a writer nor cared to be one. Usually my contributions were drunken and juvenile. It was what it was.

In return for my contributions, Brett hosted this domain while I was in between jobs and had no spare money to pay for it. About a month after that we had a falling out over a mutual acquaintance and our stances regarding this person. Goatcraft.net was then nuked. Most of the Goatcraft material was pulled from Deathmetal.org at my request. There’s now a No-Goatcraft rule implemented at Deathmetal.org because of all of this.

About 8 months later Brett gave me the Goatcraft.net domain back.

I’m indifferent to what Deathmetal.org is nowadays. There are some good articles like the recent Abominations of Desolation controversy article, although he should’ve been more specific in the article instead of hiding its intent through multiple layers.

This should clear up any confusion regarding the friction between Deathmetal.org and Goatcraft.

Consider it a generous statement and a fair one, and wonder no more why our Goatcraft reviews went away. It is what it is.

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Catacomb – In the Maze of Kadath (1993)

CATACOMB-The-Lurker-at-the-Threshold-In-the-Maze-of-Kadath-CD

Article by David Rosales

Straight from the peak of the death metal movement comes the French band Catacomb and their 1993 demo / EP In the Maze of Kadath. The production is suitable and enhances the vibe that any death metal band would want, saved from overproduction by the limitations of its time and probably band finances. It is the sort of release that from the time period that has all the right examples of its betters so that it can produce an appropriate atmosphere, but its capacity to create something original and valuable of its own is shaky at best.

Songs are introduced by a monochromatic piano, not unlike that of Goatcraft on All for Naught. After a short passage, the band proceeds to pick motifs from it and move on to a very consciously “progressive” treatment of the music. As I have said before, all good death metal is progressive music, in the sense of the word’s original usage when describing classic and jazz inspired rock bands of the early seventies. Bands that sound more explicitly and intentionally progressive are usually trying something closer to through-composition. The dangers of through-composition, however, can be seen in how acts such as The Chasm meander into nothingness, or in the corners of Timeghoul’s longer explorations, which they barely keep together. Catacomb is an example of a band biting off more than it can chew. While not outright offensive, one gets the feeling that the songs’ storylines get lost, and part of this is because it’s difficult to tell if Catacomb has a clearly defined style or not. It is more like a collection of atmospheric death metal tropes combined with more conventional technique closer to a traditional/speed metal approach, although Catacomb tends to perform at middling tempos.

One strength of this band on In The Maze of Kadath is their haunting use of keyboard, its sound complementing the tone of the guitar as they play in unison. This is a subtlety lost on modern bands who fail to notice how a huge and devouring guitar sound eats up the space where a keyboard would spread to get that truly haunting feeling. Less admirable are the random guitar solos with very little staying power (a lack of correspondence with the music, with which it only shares tonal coherence) and often awkward-sounding arpeggiations. All in all, this is an enjoyable but unimpressive and forgettable work music. If you wanted the progressive ‘chops’ with the dark atmosphere, Timeghoul provides a much better delivery. If that proves too gnarly and the reader only wants that spacey, desolate sound, Thergothon’s Stream from the Heavens would be a far more compelling and potent choice. In the Maze of Kadath may please momentarily and entertain for its cult status, but musically, anything it has to offer has been realized more convincingly in the works of others.

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SJW is “selling out” for the 2010s

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On the heels of the recent kerfuffle involving Deiphago and SJWs hyping an incident into a politically-driven media event, Hells Headbangers Records has released a statement about the incident. It reads, in part:

In regards to the Deiphago incident, rest assured that Hells Headbangers, the Agora and everyone else involved in bringing you this event are very upset and disappointed. There is NO excuse to justify Sidapa’s action – he fucked up hard. An incident report was filed and the victim declined to press charges. Although the new Deiphago LP is due to arrive soon, this incident will undoubtedly have a negative impact on its’ sale and the bands reputation has permanently been scarred. Such a shame! Further ramifications will be dealt with internally.

Although the label was just trying to do what it thought was the right thing, this statement reveals the core of SJW: it is driven by commerce and designed to signal safety. Just like big corporations spend millions to show that their cars, vacuum cleaners and toxic foods are safe, metal bands, labels and media are trying to expand their reach beyond the “scary” realm of the underground by making it “safe.” This was the same thing that selling out did in the 1980s, which was to take all those dangerous violent heavy metal bands and channel them into glam metal, which was offensive but not dangerous. There was nothing there that would sidetrack your child from going to school, getting good grades and going on to a career. Sure, he might have a bit more sex, and the bands took tons of drugs, but there were no ideas there that fundamentally challenged the bourgeois view of the world.

In the 1990s, death metal and black metal were far from safe as well. They rejected the dominant ideology of their time, committed actual crimes and more importantly, embraced political and philosophical viewpoints that are incompatible with democratic society and bourgeois existence. Forget the petit rebels of hip-hop and heavy metal, black metal bands actually scared people, and by doing so they upped the ante for what a band had to do to actually rebel. In many ways all heavy music has been stagnant since that time because no one can figure out how to be more extreme, and so they sigh and content themselves with being merely outrageous. “Selling out” meant that process where a band stops trying to have authenticity in its music and outlook on the world, and instead settles for whatever brings in a consistent audience.

In our current time, SJW is the method of selling out. If you go SJW, you will offend no one. People feel comfortable around businesses who promise that they are motivated by ideology, not profit. This also seems to guarantee that everyone will be accepted. Of course it does none of those things, being like all public relations exercises a series of cheap promises whose compliance can never be verified, but people like to be told comforting things. It calms them down and then they feel complacently optimistic when shopping at that store. This is why companies — again with shades of SJW — will fire controversial employees, hire private security, put up spikes to drive away the homeless and put up happy signs talking about diversity and how the uranium they use to flavor their food is 100% organic. Safety sells, or rather, lack of safety precludes sales.

Just like glam metal in the 1980s was preferred to hardcore punk, thrash and early death metal by parents who were afraid it was unsafe for their precious snowflakes to hear, and might lead them to a life lived in a van down by the river, precious snowflakes now want to be safe in their music. They want to be rebels… well, no they don’t. They want to appear to be rebels and at the same time, incur as little actual risk as possible. That way they can talk it up at the water cooler at work about how wild they are, and still not have to pay the price for wildness, like endangering their easy transition into the middle classes. It is not surprising that as metal has sold out in the 2010s with SJW, quality has plummeted. Who can make good music about such insincere topics?

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Luckily a backlash has commenced. Using the tag line “Make Metal Great Again,” a small group of metal musicians have declared their intent to drive out SJWs by indirect methods, namely by demanding higher quality metal. Sell-out metal is poseur metal, which means that it is both fake and replaces real metal. Metal thrives when it replaces the fake with the real. That could in fact be metal’s mission statement. Poseur metal is fake because it is designed to signal “safety” instead of opening the can of worms of truth, realism, history, violence, disease, horror and existential doubt. Labels love poseur metal because it has high margins: cheap, without risk, and easy to clone, it returns on investment every time even if less than an out of the ballpark hit like a really great band can be. Magazines love poseur metal because they can re-type the same story every month. Web sites love it because no review is ever wrong when all the music is the same under the skin.

If you wonder why metalgate has hit such a nerve, it is that it has threatened the profit model of the entire industry. Metal ca. 2015 depends on a constant flow of mediocre poseur metal bands to make sure that all the journalists, label people, PR people, bands and studios get paid. The market has shifted from the smaller, more agile environment it was in the middle 1990s. Now metal is big business, and like Microsoft or Apple, it’s in middle age. It aims for conservative successes that do not alter the formula and will not take the risk on anything outside of the norm. Since the music is crap, the labels need some other way to sell it to people, and they came up with “safe rebellion”: it looks all leather and motorcycles, but in fact it is a PC nanny who will tell you that everything is fine so long as you keep buying SJW products and ignoring the obvious signs of impending social collapse.

There’s a lot of pushback out there against those who push against boundaries. This is to be expected, but you can tell who are the cowards in the room by the people who won’t call it what it is. It is resistance by those who are growing fat and lazy off of the easy money chain formed by mediocre metal. It is no wonder they get nasty. This is why David Ingram has a temper tantrum when other people commit the grave sin of failing to agree with him. It’s also why Viranesir, the band banned from BandCamp, found itself on the receiving end of quite a bit of vitriol:

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In theory, SJWs and the like would be above such behavior. But that is the key to understanding them: their political opinions are advertising, not something they actually believe, just like what businesses say in television commercials are things designed to make you buy the product, not truths. The advertisements lie and SJW is an advertisement. This is why SJWs are so hell-bent on controlling what others see, hear and think. It would be a corporate wet-dream to have mind control, but with SJWs, they have a type of advertising that simply takes over like a virus or plague. Is is to surprising that many SJWs have connections to racist and fascist groups? As authoritarians, they appear to have switched sides, but really what they have done is changed their justification from ideology to commerce, and are now getting paid to advertise for their new corporate masters.

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Khand – The Fires of Celestial Ardour released on tape

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The crossover between metal and keyboard music is vast and well-documented to the point that the well-dressed death metal site simply ignores instrumentation and picks the keyboard bands that sound as evil and nihilistic as death metal. Whether that’s works by Neptune Towers, Beherit, Jaaportit, Goatcraft, Burzum or Danzig, evil metal has crossed over to occult keyboards.

Another entry into this world is Khand, made by lifelong metalhead and now synthesizer jockey Arillius. Describing his music as “cosmic ambient,” which overlaps with black ambient and dark ambient and neoclassical, Arillius started Khand back in 1998. Influenced by medieval, space and fantasy themes, Khand’s demo “Interstellar Dominions” was released in 2006 and immediately attracted an unusual but dedicated audience. Seven years later, Khand released The Fires of Celestial Ardour which is now available on tape for those who wish to order it.

The Fires of Celestial Ardour shows Khand having refined its style and narrowed its focus, which enables the band to train its resources on a certain type of deep space exploration sound. For those who want to experiment, the album is available as a free download from hi.arc.tow records.

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The Best of Underground Metal of 2013

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I used to loathe end-of-year lists. They struck me as a pointless chance to advertise what should have been obvious before. Over the years they have risen in my estimation as a way not only to mark the year, but to bring up the gold that gets lost in the chaos of everyday life. And yes, they’re also shopping lists for the metalhead in your life.

This year our list is surprising even to hardened cynics. At a time when metal is bragging up and down the Williamsburg alleys about how “innovative” and “ground-breaking” it is, that novelty turns out to be the remnants of the 1980s: emo, pop punk, shoegaze and indie. The real innovation is as always underground, because to get out of the hive mind one must first remove oneself from participation in normalcy.

Thus what you will find here is not what you will see in either (a) the big-label-financed slick magazines and web sites or (b) the majority of small zines and websites out there. That is because the genre as a whole has shifted from creation towards an idea to emulation of the past, or reaction to the past by trying to adulterate it with outside influences. Neither approach succeeds.

When a reviewer chooses an album, he should pick one that will last in your collection. Your time is limited, as is your money. Thus we look only for works that you can purchase and enjoy over the years, and can return to with a sense of wonder and discovery as new angles and nuances emerge. This standard seems high, so they call us elitists. What we really are is people who love metal and want it to be strengthened by its best, not weakened by accepting its worst.

The following albums are those that merit such a standard:

argus-beyond_the_martyrsArgus – Beyond The Martyrs

Rejecting the notion of newness in itself, Argus returns to fundamental influences from the 1980s and makes a band that sounds like a fusion between Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden and Candlemass. Guitar riffery is designed to be inventive and interesting in its own right but is trimmed down to what fits the function of each song. As a result, these songs “sound like” the classics in more ways than one. They are thoughtful and deliberate, purposeful and driven. Classic heavy metal riffs merge with meandering leads that somehow pull it all together, under the mournful voice of a vocalist who clearly enjoys classic Candlemass both in vocal delivery and sense of melody. See full review / interview.

autopsy-the_headless_ritualAutopsy – The Headless Ritual

Autopsy are famous for their contributions to death metal which notably peaked in Mental Funeral where their chaotic tendencies got wrapped up in their sense of atmosphere and produced a dark ambling journey into the subconscious. Of their later works, The Headless Ritual gets close to such a balance although it aims for something more everyday. This is an album that wants to deliver classic death metal thrills, and it does so with moderately paced songs that balance melody and savage chromatic riffing. Chris Reifert’s drumming pirouttes and grapples through vicious tempo changes as riffs unlock a Lament Configuration that is equal parts nostalgia and invention.

birth_a_d-i_blame_youBirth A.D. – I Blame You

What happened to real thrash, like DRI and Cryptic Slaughter? In much the same vein as hardcore punk before it, thrash was so intense that it burned out after only four years of real presence. Birth A.D. wisely choose not to “bring it back” but rather to pick up as if thrash were a party and the next day, the hung over participants awaken among the ruins. They’ve sharpened its message, which merged the anarchy of punk with the search for societal purpose of metal, and given its riffs the S.O.D. speed metal infusion without unduly modernizing them. As a result, these two-minute songs hit hard and retreat into the jungle, leaving behind their sardonic lyrics mocking society for being so stupid. When the record stops playing, there is a sense of both having received too much information to process, and a sadness that there isn’t more. See full review.

black_sabbath-13Black Sabbath – 13

Realizing what Black Sabbath meant to fans not just as a named entity but as a phenomenon, Black Sabbath integrate the sounds of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne’s solo years into their later, more refined music, with citations to Master of Reality as well. The result is a powerful album that is more pop than their original works but, in a time when nu-metal rages on the radio, reclaims heavy metal as having a voice of its own. It also pushes controversy, affirming a presence of God in this world for good or ill at a time when most people want to get polemic one way or the other. A supporting cast of sprawling but hard-hitting songs make this a great immersive lesson and transition from regular rock to metal for new listeners. See full review.

blitzkrieg-back_from_hellBlitzkrieg – Back From Hell

This band shares members with Satan, who also re-entered the fray with an album of strong tunes. Like Satan, Blitzkrieg know how to simultaneously avoid “changing” for change’s sake (inevitably a lateral move to other contemporarily popular genres) and nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, making instead an album that fits into their catalogue but doesn’t deny the older, wiser status of its members. These are mostly straightforward songs with melodic choruses and driving, riff-centric verses, plus nimble-fingered and harmonically-aggressive soloing. See full review.

burzum-sol_austan_mani_vestanBurzum – Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan

People said they wanted old Burzum back. The spirit of old Burzum comes back in this ambient album. It’s a bit more hasty and less refined by fanatical attention to detail than his previous works, but it creates the same world, only zoomed forward in time. It is both a practical and imaginative album. In style, it resembles a cross between Tangerine Dream, William Orbit and the Scandinavian folk music of Grieg, Hedningarna or Wardruna. Strongly ritualized, it unfolds like a descent through mythical worlds and finds its own balance. One of the best offerings in this field. See full review / interview.

centurian-contra_rationemCenturian – Contra Rationem

For years many of us have wanted this Dutch band to catch a break. They have written several albums of relentlessly pounding, rhythmically intense riffing that somehow doesn’t add up. First, writing the whole album at high speed means that soon it backgrounds itself; second, there was always a lack of melody or song structure to hold it together. Centurian have improved on the latter two and toned down the former to a great degree, such that this is no longer trying to be Krisiun but more like a more Angelcorpse/Fallen Christ approach to Consuming Impulse. The result showcases this band’s dexterity with riffcraft and creates an intense atmosphere of violence. See full review.

condor-nadiaCóndor – Nadia

This entry album by a new band shows a lot of promise in tackling the power metal format and trying to give it the balls of death metal and funeral doom metal. This contemplative, mostly mid-paced album shows a sense of atmosphere as manipulated by riff, in the death metal sense, given a somewhat upward curve and heroic spin in the best tradition of power metal. Although it’s a new act, and still organizing itself, Cóndor shows that life remains in true metal that can be explored by revisiting its motivations. See full review / interview.

derogatory-above_all_elseDerogatory – Above All Else

In the tradition of Vader, Mortuary and other fast phrasal death metal bands, Derogatory invoke the classic death metal form with an album of nicely interlocking riffs that reveal a basic but distinctive structure beneath each song. This album is not self-consciously “retro” so much as it is using the voice of the older style, and while it doesn’t expand stylistically, it has found a voice of its own. See full review/interview.

empyrium-into_the_pantheon-coverEmpyrium – Into the Pantheon

Combining funeral doom metal with European folk music creates for Empyrium a fertile style that is showcased here in a retrospective of the best of their career presented in a rare live setting. Expect plenty of use of silence and resonance to build up these songs, which start slowly and then become engaging before evaporating into more esoteric conclusions. While most funeral doom aims to be dark, Empyrium creates an emotional contrast like a Gothic band, with beauty arising from chaos only to be strangled by inevitability and fall again. See full review / interview.

graveland-thunderbolts_of_the_godsGraveland – Thunderbolts of the Gods

Following up on 2012’s Lord Wind release, Polish/Italian artist Rob Darken unleashes a new work under his black metal brand Graveland. Like the band’s second career-defining Memory and Destiny, this release features Bathory Hammerheart-style guitars which mix speed metal and black metal to produce rhythmic riffing as a backdrop for keyboards and vocals, now featuring also human female vocals and violin. The result is a collision between heavy metal, neofolk and epic movie soundtracks that evokes the glory of the ancient past.

master-the_witchhuntMaster – The Witchhunt

Paul Speckmann is a metal institution who has stayed with death metal from its genesis in the early 1980s through the presence. His latest, The Witchhunt, showcases the stable lineup he has used for recent releases but tones down the overall intensity to focus on songwriting. Fast riffs blend together with touches of melody and the classic Speckmann vocal patterns which resemble the struggles of daily life turned up to eleven. Where previous Master works of recent vintage tended to blend together, on this one each song is distinct. See full review / interview.

profanatica-thy_kingdom_cumProfanatica – Thy Kingdom Cum

Taking a hint from Necrovore and intensifying it through technical prowess, Profanatica step back from the longer melodic riffs of Profanatitas de Domonatia and instead write short, cyclic phrases within compact rhythms in the style of the ancient Texas death metal cult. The result is like a primitive album with complexity embedded in it as melodies expand within fixed riff forms, uniting savagery and beauty in the service of blasphemy. As with all Profanatica works, this is experimental to the extreme, but Thy Kingdom Cum ranks among their most listenable releases. See full review /interview.

rudra-rtaRudra – RTA

The Singaporean maniacs return with an album that uses more traditional melodic death metal riffing but retains its rhythmic structure based on speed metal and possibly the Hindu rituals described in its lyrics. As with most Rudra releases, RTA does not aim for the pop song idea of hitting a sweet spot and luring in your ears. It is the construction of an experience, in this case a dark descent that forges a resolve to continue through warfare and a martial stilling of the reckless personality through militant silence of the soul.

satan-life_sentenceSatan – Life Sentence

The rougher edge of NWOBHM that was a kissing cousin to speed metal emerges again in this highly musical album from Satan. Like their groundbreaking early 1980s works which presaged the debut of Metallica and birth of speed metal, Life Sentence features inventive riffs in classic song format in which melodic development in the vocals harmonizes riffs to bring songs to a conclusion. Shy of speed metal mostly because it relies on relatively fixed song format which emphasizes verse-chorus riff pairs, this album nonetheless reveals both the greatness of NWOBHM and its continuing relevance in a time of tuneless songs and random song structure. See full review / interview.

summoning-old_mornings_dawnSummoning – Old Mornings Dawn

After black metal fully constituted itself in the early 1990s in Scandinavia, people looked for the next development along these lines. Some went to dark ambient, but others like Summoning and Graveland instead explored longer melodies and more drawn-out, atmospheric songs. Summoning take a medieval and Tolkien-inspired approach in contrast to the more martial outlook of other bands, and produce as a result immersive waves of melody that evoke a more organic society. With Old Mornings Dawn, these Austrian metal maniacs build on the emotion of Oath Bound but exploit it in more compact and separable songs, making one of the more intense metal statements of the year. See full review.

von-dark_gods_seven_billion_slavesVon – Dark Gods, Seven Billion Slaves

Following up on Von’s early career material like Satanic Blood is not easy; in fact, it’s impossible. A band would either have to re-create that minimalist style and risk irrelevance, or embark on a campaign to dress it up as something it is not. Von has opted for something else entirely which is to create a minimalistic core within a rock opera style of black metal, producing one of the more puzzling but satisfying releases in the underground metal world this year. See full review.

wardruna-runaljod-yggdrasilWardruna – Runaljod – Yggdrasil

Combining folk music, world music, droning found noises and the type of ritualistic dark ambient that emerged from the end days of black metal, Wardruna is a black metal side project that offers a different vision of music. While earlier works seemed detached from the end listener, Runaljod – Yggdrasil embeds the listener within a wave of ceremonial sound that aims not to be forebrain listening as Western rock is, but a mentally ambient experience that overwhelms by addressing all of the senses and channeling that experience toward a realization.

warmaster-blood_dawnWar Master – Blood Dawn

Underground death metal continuation act War Master released a four-track EP, Blood Dawn, amidst personnel changes and other upheavals this year. Like the previous Pyramid of the Necropolis, Blood Dawn focuses on futuristic and yet ancient concepts, almost like Voivod taking on Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs. From this vast concept come songs that both grind their way to nihilism and implement the death metal method of matching riffs into an internal dialogue from which a conclusion emerges, creating a pocket of mystery which is filled with wonder and violence.

Album of the year:

imprecation-satane_tenebris_infinitaImprecation – Satanae Tenebris Infinita

There is no completely fair way to pick an album of the year from a list with this many strong contenders, but Imprecation win this one on both substance and situation. For substance, this is a solid album that combines a black metal sense of ritualistic song development with the death metal tendency to make abstract riffs into an organic whole. For situation, Satanae Tenebris Infinita sees a band that started in 1991 and is famous for releasing its discography of demos in 1995 finally reach a stage where it can release a full-length album independent of any past influences. In addition, Satanae Tenebris Infinita hits hard and does not relent. Each element serves a purpose toward creating a transition in moods, like a perpetual parallax as continents shift. If death metal was waiting for a direction forward, Imprecation have opened that gate to a new occult science and art of subversive metal. See full review / interview.

The following were considered, and then not so much considered:

  • Morbosidad – Muerte De Cristo En Golgota. This is like Krisiun or Impiety rendered in the style of Mystifier, or like any of the war metal bands that imitated Blasphemy but with a dose of downtuned Sarcofago. It’s not bad, but aside from high intensity rhythm, it doesn’t have much to offer. Thus think of it as Satanic death techno performed on muddy guitars.
  • Fates Warning – Darkness in a Different Light. Bands: don’t try to roll with the trends. You were good at something else for a reason. This album has strong smary indie rock influences on its vocals and the result is embarrassing to be caught listening to. Riffs are reasonable, but don’t particularly develop, and emphasize space and consistency more than something with a personality.
  • Grave Upheaval – Untitled. Not bad; mostly rumbling noises, very true to form. Unfortunately, also doesn’t go anywhere. It’s an atmosphere piece of one dimension.
  • Warlord – The Holy Empire. Some sort of rock-metal hybrid from back in the day, this form of power metal uses mostly lead riffing anchored by static open chording. The dominant instrument is the voice, more like Rush or Asia than most metal. It’s pleasant but lullabye and too close to rock music.
  • Hell – Curse and Chapter. Do you know how far I would have run to get away from this back in the 1980s? It’s NWOBHM/early power metal without much melodic movement in the riff, so there’s a lot of chugging and shifting but not much actual motion. Nor will you have much actual motion as you listen to this… in fact, you might find yourself immobile and snoring.
  • Battlecross – War of Will. This is traditional metal affected by metalcore aesthetics. The vocals follow the surge pattern of later hardcore, and the melodic riffs use rhythmic “chasing” to accelerate patterns older than Chuck Berry. The result is so distracting the band can’t compose a song, but instead write a riff pair and then leap into a blast beat to transition.
  • Enforcer – Death by Fire. Here we have another band from Scandinavia creating highly musically-literate, catchy and otherwise perfect music. The problems are twofold: (1) it is a clone of 1970s styles that are liked for their innocent pop cheeze (2) while it is emotive, and aesthetically appealing, it is also empty.
  • Queensryche – Queensryche. Since the band went legal on each other, there’s now two Queensryches… this one sounds like Coldplay. The same posi-pop vibe and expansive chorus feel drives this work, and it has a similar outlook on the world, which is a sort of pathological compulsion to make things beautiful instead of finding beauty where it is rare. Unsettling.
  • Leprous – Coal. If this Queen-slash-bad-indie band gets anywhere in metal, it’s time to bury the genre under warm ruminant feces. Power metal mixed with dramatic English pop. The result is bracingly twee with metal riffs batting about in the background.
  • Iggy and the Stooges – Ready to Die. Almost all reviews of this album will waffle, because it is good, but it’s not distinctive. It all kind of flows together, as if the band paid more attention to the aesthetics of sounding like themselves than whatever’s driving them. But how do you “be punk” when you have a paid up retirement plan and health insurance?
  • Abyssal – Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius. This was the hip thing for a few weeks, but shows you that you cannot revive a genre by imitating it through outward form. These songs use all the right pieces, but in a random order, and thus create no mood except nostalgia. And I piss on nostalgia’s grave.
  • Tyrant’s Blood – Into the Kingdom of Graves. Great title, has a Blasphemy ex-member, can’t go wrong… right? There’s a lot to like about this, but it doesn’t hold together. It embraces the “hotel buffet” style of offering many different riff types in a single song that ends up distorting any coherence. Storming Perdition Temple-style fast metal explodes into melodic mid-paced riffs and then ends up chugging deathgrind, lost and adrift on the seas of making a point.
  • Cultes des Ghoules – Henbane. It’s ludicrous that so many in the underground were fooled by this comical album. It’s a lot of bad heavy metal riffs interrupted by “avantgarde” noise, samples, etc. — the usual cliches — so that you don’t notice it’s bog-standard. This is hipster incarnate.
  • Acerus – The Unreachable Salvation. Galloping uptempo yet mid-paced heavy metal with a lot of Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate. Not bad, but not particularly expansive to anything more than that aesthetic role.
  • Aosoth – IV: Arrow in Heart. This album, like Immolation, got credit because people expected it should. Its strong point is listenable songs with some technicality; its weakness is that they express nothing strong. It is Participation with an A+ for method and a B- for content.
  • Sodom – Epitome of Torture. This rather sentimental, somewhat modern-metal influenced take on a speed metal album is very catchy and represents Sodom’s most professional work, but also loses the unique perspective this band offered on the world around it. This is more like the heavy metal albums of their youths, heavy on emotion which makes their repetitive, chorus-heavy approach almost too saccharine.
  • Grave Miasma – Odori Sepulcorum. I have wallpaper. It’s named “It’s 1991 again and you can rediscover things you believed in once again.” It sounds like a mishmash of 1990s era death metal and yet, because it’s wallpaper, it never comes to a point. It just creates an atmosphere.
  • Týr – Valkyrja. Power metal of the newer stype seems to me it has a mystery ingredient, and that is devotional music. This sounds like church music, with sweeping choruses and whole-note cadences, and it has an admitted power, but it also loses much of what makes metal powerful: it’s not protest music, nor is it music that tries to cover ugliness with beauty, but music that finds beauty in what is considered ugly.
  • Onslaught – VI. Eager to effect a return to the music business, Onslaught speed up their punk/metal hybrid but adopt the vocal styles and constant driving mechanical rhythm of modern metal. The result is unrelenting but also disconnected and monolithic. The catchy choruses don’t help and seem almost to mock the rest of the music, which sounds like a pilotless threshing machine gone amok in a pumpkin patch…
  • Death Angel – The Dream Calls for Blood. In the 1980s, speed metal bands had a certain annoying rhythm where they tried to be as obnoxiously bouncy as possible while ranting as intensely as possible. With modern metal much of the internal rhythmic interplay has been eliminated, resulting in something that sounds like chanting Stalinist propaganda with guitars strobing in the background.
  • Bölzer – Aura. Like Oranssi Pazuzu, Bölzer experiment in disorganized slowed black/death/heavy metal with mixed-in weirdo alternative rock. Weirdo alternative rock has existed since early rock bands made a name for themselves by being odd. The problem is that it doesn’t connect to form an impression, only a sense of instrumentalism.
  • Coffins – The Fleshland. Doom-death with some quality riffing, Coffins nonetheless manage to inevitably get lost in each of their songs and fill the void with noodly pentatonic leads, distracted tributaries of non-essential riffs, and “atmospheric” repetition.
  • Metal Church – Generation Nothing. This shrill metal band has always struck me as more in the heavy metal camp than speed metal camp, and here it’s borne out. The riffs don’t have form like speed metal riffs do but are mostly static based on rhythmic repetition. Focus is on the voice, which wails. Not bad but annoying and kind of empty. Also, older guys trying to bond with the new generation is awkward when done this way.
  • Malthusian – MMXIII. Like many sonic experiments, this band relies on style to shape content because style is the substance of the experiment. The idea here is to combine the Incantation-clone death metal that is trendy with melodic progressive touches, including some sneakster modern metal influences. The result loses what could have been and fails to transition to what it wants to be.
  • Stratovarius – Nemesis. When did this band get so bad? The first track sounds like a rip of Heart’s “On My Own,” and the rest of the album proceeds in this fashion: combine classic metal riff archetype with classic 1980s vocal melody, add some flourishes and hope it’s good enough. I liked it better when this band was more speed metally and less pop.

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

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Interview with filmmaker Ryan Oliver

deathblow

Continuing our coverage about the corresponding nature of horror movies and metal, as well as our continuing content of the Housecore Horror Film Festival, we present an interview with metal enthusiast and filmmaker Ryan Oliver from Deathblow Productions.

What initiated your interest in making films?

It’s a long chain of events starting with me watching the Son of Svenghoulie (local horror host) as a little kid, then making some backyard movies with the neighbor kids to theatre studies in college. At around age 30, I was an actor/writer/FX artist who had moved from Chicago to LA, and become immediately disenchanted with acting. I hung it up and got a job in a film vault at Technicolor, FX freelance work, and I wrote a shit-ton of scripts. Eventually I landed back in my hometown and was determined to stay connected to the industry and adapt the ‘big fish/small pond’ attitude towards things. I decided to start directing my own material, never looked back.

How would you compare your work with mainstream Hollywood types of productions? Are mainstream movies too predictable? If so, how do you overcome this hurdle?

Yes, a great many of them are quite predictable. But I suppose that’s a symptom of having millions of dollars at stake, making ‘safe’ choices. I don’t have to deal with that, so I’m not the best one to ask. When it comes to Deathblow, I can pretty much do anything I want/afford to do. I have no one to answer to. So, I try to write to my instincts and from my gut while keeping things as interesting and unique as possible. As a director who’s still trying to fight his way into the club, I have my own unique set of obstacles. I think it’s wasteful of my time to consider what others have going for them where I should be focusing on my own future. I will say this, I got tired of complaining about movies when I hadn’t gone through the process myself. It’s fucking hard to make a movie and to have people want to watch it, it’s double hard. So many things can go wrong from the music, talent, edit, fx, to your own idea sucking. So now that I made one and people seem to dig it, I don’t feel like the fat guy yelling at athletes from the grandstands anymore.

Being that you were featured at the Housecore Horror Film Fest, which featured both metal and horror movies, how does metal correlate to your tastes in music? Which bands have stuck with you throughout the years?

It’s not the only genre I listen to, but it’s ahead by a land-mile. Since you brought up Housecore, I’ll start with all Phil Anselmo projects. He’s an incredible frontman and I’ve bought everything he’s put out since ‘Cowboys’ I like a lot of Doom- Yob,Electric Wizard type stuff. Naturally, I’m drawn to a lot of Chicago bands like Plague Bringer, Harpoon, Witchbanger, The Atlas Moth, Indian, Pelican, Wolvhammer, Lair of the Minotaur, Bongripper, Weekend Nachos, Sweet Cobra, etc. I seek out a lot of soundtrack/soundscape stuff that is great to write or create to- Karl Sanders’ (Nile) solo albums are terrific. If I have to pick an ultimate inspiration it’s The Misfits, I know they’re not metal, but I really latched onto them from the moment I heard them. I was obsessed with these songs, the lyrics were both brutal and poetically divine and I began to see their discography (77-83) was an audible blueprint of the way I felt about the horror genre in general. For me, it was magical to discover those songs.

Do you think it’s significant that Black Sabbath chose the name of a horror movie for their band? What about that their statement in the past that they saw people enjoyed horror movies, and figured they might enjoy music with the same mood?

Sounds pretty significant to me. I don’t want to question the series of fragile events that led to Black Sabbath’s ‘sound’. I’m just glad it worked out the way it did. They’re so overly associated for pioneering metal that it feels too obvious to even bring up at times. I guess it explains their absence from my response to the last question.

Has horror movie music influenced metal? In what ways? Are there any specific instances you can think of?

I’m not a musician. I can’t play a lick of anything, so I may be totally full of shit, but when I think of, I guess you could say, stereotypical horror movie music I think of brooding moments punctuated by ‘stingers’. You know, slow strings or piano keys before a jarring ‘startle’. I hear that in metal often, bands that utilize a ‘slow to fast’ structure. Organs are another one. When I hear a pipe organ I think of two things: Classic monster movies and King Diamond. It’s a tough question, I guess I feel clumsy answering it.

Are there any similar emotions between metal and horror movies?

You know what’s interesting to me is how tough it is to fit metal into a horror film without overdoing it. You’d think it’d be like peanut butter and jelly but I personally don’t think metal compliments horror that easily. For example, John Carpenter and Allan Howarth composed the music for those early films masterfully, but I didn’t care for the metal score/soundtrack in Ghosts of Mars or JC’s Vampires. I like Carpenter on the Casio Keyboard. All those riffs chewed up the scenery for me. Now, my favorite use of metal in a film is probably Sleep in “Gummo” when the young cat hunters are first introduced tearing ass down that hill on their Mongoose bikes. Gummo isn’t exactly horror…but pretty close!

What other similarities have you found between horror movies and metal?

I have found that, for the most part, the overlapping fan bases are a collective of intelligent, well-balanced people that enjoy their lives and are easy to get along with. At least the ones I hang out with are.

Which horror flicks would you claim have had the biggest impact on your creativity?

Lots of Carpenter, Cronenberg, Exorcist 1&3, Texas Chainsaw 1&2, Everything Argento, Early Romero, Hammer Films, Troma Films, Universal Monsters.

Outside of horror I’m crazy for The Dark Crystal, 70’s cinema, Kubrick, Westerns, lots of Kung Fu & Samuari, Mad Max Trilogy, Cohen Brothers, 50’s Sci Fi, & anything weird or bizarro.

Do you derive inspiration from creating a sort of puzzle, then have the pieces fall together as the story progresses? More than just gore, but something that will stick with the viewer long after they’ve watched?

You said it! Gore, in my opinion, is best used as punctuation to a scene. It shouldn’t be the core content. I mean, it can, but I don’t think that’s wholly effective or the most interesting choice all the time. Situations, story and characters should dictate the terror. The audience will always think of something more twisted than what you can show them. It’s been said a million times, but look at the blood content of Halloween and TCM -a spatter or two at best. But everyone swears they saw it! I subscribe to that, for me it works. Tell a compelling story first, then strategically place your gore. That being said, there are some real blood-bath movies that I’m crazy about, Dead Alive, for me, is the crown jewel.

Thank you for your time. What’s ahead in the near future for Deathblow Productions?

We are in post for a new mid-length film called, “Restoration”. It’s a car culture ghost story about the spirit of a little kid who gets relocated from the prairie to a custom car & motorcycle garage. The place is loud, dirty and not to her taste so she throws a temper-tantrum one night. If you want to see a little girl spree-kill a bunch of Rockabillys then this is the movie for you!

Check out Ryan’s film “Air Conditions”:

“Air Conditions” Full Film from Ryan Oliver on Vimeo.

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Warbeast to play Housecore Horror Film Festival on Friday, October 25

warbeast-texas

Those of you who have read our coverage of the Housecore Horror Film Festival know that it’s a music/movies event starting today in Austin, TX that will feature a number of prominent metal bands.

Among those, Warbeast stands out as a unique hybrid between past and future. Comprised of members from classic Texas speed/death metal bands like Rotting Corpse, Gammacide and Rigor Mortis, Warbeast presents a modernized version of the speed metal classics of the 1980s with faster tempo changes, more abrupt riffing and more chaotic transitions.

Frontman Bruce Corbitt is the guy everyone wanted to emulate back in 1989. While other bands were lumping their way through yet another tedious song about social justice and how you shouldn’t take drugs, Bruce tore up the stage casually singing about murder, occultism and terror: With five easy slices, you’re in six lovely pieces / Bodily dismemberment as passion increases.

In his current role with Warbeast, he’s revitalizing a new scene and will do it live in front of you at Emo’s in Austin just before 9pm this Friday night. In the meantime, Bruce gives us the rundown on Warbeast and how they came to play a horror movie and metal music festival.

Warbeast released a new album this year, entitled Destroy, which seems to have turned up the volume. What’s different on Destroy versus the first album?

It started with the writing… Scott Shelby wrote the majority of the music and I wrote the majority of the lyrics. Once he had the music part of the songs down with the rest of the musicians in the band… I would add the lyrics later. For some songs he would have a general idea for what he had in mind for what the lyrics should be about. For the other songs, I would get a feel for what the music reminded me of before I came up with the subject to write about. So we had a good system going when we were preparing these songs to record in the studio. Plus we already knew what it was like to work with Philip Anselmo as our Producer. So the chemistry was even better when we recorded this album.

On the first album we were still a relatively new band coming up with our first originals. Some of those songs came from material that was written before Warbeast. I guess what I’m saying is that by the time we started writing for Destroy… we were more aware of what we wanted the band to sound like. I’m proud of both albums and love the fact that they’re different… but they both sound like Warbeast.

How do you think Warbeast will develop in the future? Are you working on new material now?

We intend to keep progressing and improving as a band in all areas. If we can continue to top our last effort on each new album… I would be happy with that. Hopefully we can keep a busy tour schedule like we have in recent years. Yes, we’ve recently started the early stages of writing for a third full-length Warbeast album. So we plan to enter the studio and record it sometime in 2014.

You’ll be playing the Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin on October 24-27. What are you looking forward to with this performance?

I’m really honored and I feel very fortunate to just be part of this. This will hopefully become an annual event that fans of Horror and Metal will look forward to every year. So it’s really cool to play at the inaugural HHFF! This is one of those highlights from all these years in bands that I know I will be proud of for the rest of my life.

Just the fact that there is going to be such a huge gathering or Horror and Metal fans all assembled for one big weekend will make this a special show for Warbeast. So I’m sure we will be fired up and ready to have some fun when we perform on Friday night.

I understand you have a longstanding relationship with horror films. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It goes back to when I was a little kid. I always loved Halloween, Haunted Houses, monster movies etc. I loved TV shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family. As far as movies… at first it was the classic Universal Monsters (Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula etc) and also the Godzilla movies that I would try to catch on TV. Once I started going to see movies at the theaters… it was always the Horror Movies I wanted to see.

Then when VCRs came around in the 80s.. I was always in the Horror section when I went to rent or buy movies. Of course I started recording and collecting movies and my Horror Movie collection became immense. Then when I joined Rigor Mortis in 1986 and they already had the Horror and Gore image and theme going… I fit right in with that shit. It was cool to sing about some of our favorite Horror movies. Even on the upcoming Rigor Mortis album Slaves To The Grave and also on the Warbeast album Destroy I’m still singing songs about Horror movies or stories.

Finally, for those who are new to Warbeast, what should they expect at a Warbeast show, and why should they make sure to come see Warbeast if they’re at HHFF?

They should be prepared for an old-school dose of Texas Thrash Metal, a non-stop jolt of energy coming from every member of the band and an adrenaline rush that could wake up the dead. We want it to feel like Godzilla has entered the building! We want to get the crowd warmed up for Goblin and Down… so we will be ready, serious and focused to do just that…

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