Relapse Records reissues Incubus/Opprobrium’s Serpent Temptation

Not to be confused with the Incubus that Mike Browning played in between his tenures in Morbid Angel and Nocturnus; this Incubus (who changed their name to Opprobrium almost a decade later) was formed by Brazilian immigrants to the USA and fits well with the plethora of bands halfway between extreme speed metal and early death metal in the late 1980s. They’re probably most notorious these days for their pro-Christian, almost crusade oriented lyrical themes; as far as I know they were one of the first to bring such into extreme metal. Historical trivia aside, Relapse’s reissue showcases some remastering work that generally makes the album sound sharper and treblier and appears to be based on the original, as opposed to the 1996 edition with rerecorded vocals.

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Incubus – Incubus re-issued by Vic Records

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In the mid-late 80s death metal was still a vital force in which the standards of the genre were established. The new genre differentiated itself from speed metal several years before, but techniques common to both genres still overlapped without seeming artificial as they would when re-introduced later to make death metal more audience-friendly. This period gave rise to many bands which command universal respect today, but there were also a number of smaller projects which nevertheless imparted the same artistic drive and skill.

Recently reissued Incubus self-titled EP Incubus takes a short three-track voyage through the hinterlands of death metal’s darker yet constructive twisting of prior genre forms. Taking the work of Slayer, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, and other proto-death metal bands, and moving it into more extreme directions, this is the same trajectory from which Morbid Angel spawned an entire lineage within the genre.

Adept at tempo shifts, in addition to a layering of guitar tones ranging from the subterranean to the celestial, in only three tracks Incubus wrangles a distinctive creation with the trademark frenetic energy of death metal and the more hookish speed metal. Artistically coherent in a way that is rarely if ever seen today, this reminder of genuine purpose married to cultivated skill is very much worth hearing again, or particularly for the first time. Incubus will be released on June 16th via Vic Records.

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Deadhead #6 Zine Reprinted

Schattenmann Publishings has reprinted the sixth issue of the Deadhead Fanzine featuring interviews with Mike Browning and Richard Brunelle from Morbid Angel about the band’s earliest days when they wrote their best material. The original pressing sold out quickly so get yours while it is still available. Schattenmann is planning to recreate and republish other back issues of the Deadhead zine in the future too.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-27-2016

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Thanksgiving is a merry time of the year but the bender has to end with more Sadistic Metal Reviews!

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Speed Metal Sodomy!

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Beer metal exists on the weekends for bored western, white collar office workers wanting a safespace where they can shoot the shit with their flanneled friends and show off their tattoos three times a month. Self-aggrandizing social metal must be impaled on an iron spike.

 

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Incubus (Opprobrium) – Serpent Temptation (1988, 2016)

Everything old is getting repressed, even horrible Jesus metal that doesn’t deserve it. Jesus wept when he saw Relapse repressed this “lost gem”. All of Jesus’s favorite eighties speed metal that he got wine drunk to with his apostles in Joseph’s garage was sodomized like an altar boy. His favorite riffs were simplified so drunk Brazilians who crucify themselves as they don’t understand Catholic theology could play them. Metallica, Sodom, Kreator, Bathory, Destruction, Slayer, and Sepultura all were held down, bent over, stripped, and had their riffs forcibly tossed into salads. Jesus couldn’t think of anyone else that wasn’t defiled by Incubus in his name. “Why do they always have to break before they start blasting like Sarcofago?” wondered Jesus, pondering Incubus’s instrumental inadequacy as he hung upon the cross. Jesus wished he had approved of abortion so these Brazilians with microcephaly would never have been born. The pain and horror to his eardrums were much worse than his shoulders screaming in pain. Why hadn’t he just listened to Cogumelo’s Warfare Noise compilations again? Incubus were two additional nails in his ears. Jesus would torture all the straight-edge hardcore kids and their youth pastors who wanted to channel their passionate slam dancing onto their penises for all eternity in the lake of fire. He would sear the flesh from their faces and force them to consume their fellow sinners. As the majestic pantocrator sitting on the throne of the former sky-father Jupiter Optimus Maximus, it was he who cursed Brazil with favelas, mosquitos, and raw sewage for Incubus’s cargo-cult copying.

 

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Kreator – Coma of Souls (1990)
Frank Blackfire was the only fumes keeping Kreator going by the nineties. Jumping shit from Sodom, his riffs and leads “enlightened” Kreator from their Extreme Aggression manifested as Teutonic speed metal to a toned-down, NWOBHM made “technical” approach. This emasculation reveals every song as a verse-chorus-verse riff salad composed of riffs that can sometimes be considered clever and catchy alone by themselves but together don’t come close to anything resembling coherency. Three tracks in and you’re fucking bored and wish that annoying Mille Petroza would go back to his pizza parlor and stick his head in the oven. This proto-Heartwork polished turd is the origin of melodeaf: Euro speed metal meets whiny, post-hardcore randomnessComa of Souls has as much Pleasure to Kill left in it as Bob Dole’s limp, Viagra-less penis.

 

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Malokarpatan – Stridžie dni (2016)
There’s not a lot to do in Slovakia except drink beer and listen to Bathory. Malokarpatan get shitfaced on Golden Pheasant every day. You know the ten-thousand hour rule? These guys definitely listened to ten-thousand hours of eighties metal while drinking. Being a hard rock band at heart, they rape Batlord in every song , constantly breaking into something Kansas could have written. Malokarpatan probably couldn’t find a good singer so they went faux black metal with the folksy Slovak schtick to appeal to hiking hipsters. Those Mercyful Fate leads are there as Malokarpatan were supposed to be djing at the metal pub. Note that the album was recorded in the cellar keg storage room with the landlord’s fish tank. Malokarpatan even pestered the barmaid into doing female voices to ape Absu and Goatlord Darkthrone! Stridžie dni is pilsner metal complete with farmer’s tan cutoffs and aviator shades in black metal bar rituals.

 

Malokarpatan promo pic

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Interview with Mike Browning 05-30-15

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As mentioned in our first article on the topic, the “first album” from Morbid Angel remains a vague category because the band recorded two first albums, each given a name starting with the letter A which fits into the alphabetical sequence to which their albums have conformed to this day. We took a few moments to speak to original drummer/vocalist Mike Browning (Nocturnus, After Death) about Abominations of Desolation versus Altars of Madness as the true first album of this essential band…

You were one of the original players on Morbid Angel’s Abominations of Desolation (referred to as AOD), which was released before most of the publicly acknowledged death metal classics. What was the band lineup for AOD? How does it feel to have participated in such a historic and musically intense recording?

The line-­up on the AOD album was:

  • Mike Browning -­‐ drums and vocals
  • Trey Azagthoth -­‐ guitar
  • Richard Brunelle -­‐ guitar
  • John Ortega -­‐ bass

At the time back in 1986 everything was just still called metal and it didn’t matter if you were more on the death or power metal side, it was still all considered Metal and the Metal crowd was unified and everyone got along for the most part, so to us back then we were just recording another new metal album and we weren’t concerned with being the fastest or the heaviest, we just did our own thing and kept it as original as possible. Back then the main thing was to be real and not fake in what we were doing.

Was it intended to be the first Morbid Angel album? How do you know? Was this fact …inconvenient… for anyone?

It still amazes me that this is even questionable, but here is the thing, we were offered a RECORD CONTRACT to record an ALBUM under the name MORBID ANGEL by Goreque Records, a label owned by  David Vincent and his partner Mark Anderson. We signed the contract and Bill Metoyer of Metal Blade  producer/engineer that recorded and mixed more albums than I can even think of, was hired to  engineer the album.

So Goreque Records rented us a UHaul truck and we packed up our gear and went  to a studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were furnished with hotel rooms and I met David Vincent and Mark Anderson for the first time face to face and the next day we started to record the album, after  about 5 or 6 days there we were finished with the recording and David Vincent sent all of us but Trey back to Tampa and kept Trey there by himself for the mixdown, little did the rest of us know that the whole time David Vincent was really brainwashing Trey and telling him how bad the album was and that  he should quit the band and come join his band. When Trey came back from the mixing, he acted like a  completely different person and everything went downhill from there.

What was the reaction to its release at the time (1986) and five years later in 1991?

Well that is the thing, the album never got released because I ended up catching Trey with my girlfriend and I beat him up for it and that was the end of me being in Morbid Angel because Trey and Richard moved from Tampa to Charlotte and did get in a band with David and his drummer Wayne Hartsell. I know that John Ortega had a copy of a rough mix that we had at the point that we all left to go back to Tampa, so when Trey got back he said that David Vincent told him that the bass playing was so bad on the album that we had to fire John Ortega if we wanted the album to still come out on his label and replace him with Sterling Scarborough, we didn’t even know who Sterling was, but again it was David’s idea for us to replace Johnny with Sterling, so Trey did it and the band only lasted a couple months once this happened.

When [AOD] came out in 1991 I think it confused a lot of people as to what it was because there was no information or pictures as to who was actually playing on the album, except for a couple of  lines in the front right corner of the cover that said it was AN ALBUM that was recorded in 1986, but never released, so even on the Earache version it says that it was an unreleased album, not a demo, it just also didn’t give any info on who was on it!

When did Morbid Angel decide to record Altars of Madness (referred to as AOM), and what were the changes between songs on that album and AOD?

I guess about two years later, so they had two years to actually work on most of those same songs and make them tighter and faster, they only changed a few words here and there to most of them and a lot of the drum parts were similar only faster.

When Earache released AOD, did they make any changes to the original recording?

I really don’t think they did, of course it never really got released back in 1986, so there is nothing to compare it to except the rough mix that John Ortega had and released as a bootleg.

Who is Sterling von Scarborough?

John Sterling Scarborough was his real name, but he went by Sterling Von Scarborough. He was a bass player from Atlanta that had a band called Incubus and David Vincent knew him and told Trey that we had to replace John Ortega, so he recommended Sterling and so Sterling came to Tampa and tried out for us and became our bass player. He was never on the AOD recording and he joined the band after we recorded the AOD album. We only did one live show with him at a place called The Volley Club in 1986 and Ammon (now Deicide) opened for us that night. Unfortunately that show was never recorded and it was the last show I ever played with Morbid Angel as well.

Why do you think Earache released AOD in 1991, five years after it was originally recorded? Why do you think they chose to claim AOM as the first album instead of AOD?

From what I heard was that they released AOD in 1991 to stop all the bootleg versions of it that were being made, from that one tape that Ortega had, all the bootlegs of it were made from that, so generation after generation they got sounding worse and worse. Earache and David and Trey made a deal to release the AOD album because David had the master reels, so he sold them to Earache and they gave Trey some money as well and they released it to stop the bootlegging.

Funny thing was I was on Earache Records at the time in Nocturnus and they never even told me that they were putting it out, I didn’t even find out about it until after it was already out and in the stores. That album has, guitar, bass, drums and vocals and I am doing 2 of those 4 things and I was never even told that it was gonna be released!

Did Morbid Angel take a different  compositional (choice of notes, not production or vocals) direction with AOM versus AOD? Why did they do that? What did the original direction offer that the new one did not?

Well it was a couple years later that they had quite a bit of time to work on those songs and a few more and with everything but the guitar being new, of course it was going to have a new and different sound, especially when you change vocalists. And if you notice, David tries to sing a lot more like me, but he gave that up and went for a completely different style on Blessed Are The Sick. They also had a big budget and recorded the album in Morrisound which is a studio known for Metal, that studio that we recorded AOD in was actually some kind of a country music recording studio, so the guys that ran that place had never even had any type of metal band even in there before, so of course you are gonna have a huge difference in the production because of those things alone.

Rumor has it that you formed a band named “Ice” with Trey Azagthoth, pre-­Morbid Angel. Wow… a moment in death metal history! What did you want to do with that band, and what was inspiring you at that moment?

Trey and I met in high school back in 1981 and I even remember his mom buying him his first guitar, a wood colored Gibson SG and we started jamming together in my mom’s back room of my house, so we put a little high school band together and even played the high school talent show. It was literally the beginning of what would become Morbid Angel.

I find that musical “inspiration” extends beyond other albums, but includes them. Were there any non‐musical experiences, books, ideas, plays, movies, thoughts, etc. that influenced you, and how did they parallel what you found in the music that influenced you?

Both Trey and I were into the occult, so when he moved into my area of Tampa and started going to school at my school and we met and started talking about what we were both into and we both were musicians that liked the occult and most especially we were both into a book called The Necronomicon and we really believed every bit of that book was true and real, so we decide to put a band together that was based on music that would please these Sumerian Gods that were in The Necronomicon. We were totally serious about what we were doing and the whole purpose of the band was to make music that would bring forth these Ancient Ones back to the Earth.

Did you and other members of Morbid Angel meet in high school, as is the rumor? Where was that? What was it like (hell?) and how did that help you bond?

It was only Trey and I as far as that ended up in Morbid Angel that knew each other in high school. Morbid Angel itself started around 1984 with me, Trey and Dallas Ward on bass.

The High School we went to was called HB Plant High school and it still is in South Tampa, there was an area where all the cool cigarette smokers and hippy type people hung out at the high school called The Alley and everyone would hang out there before school and at lunch and we met there and would always talk about music and The Necronomicon.

As “Ice,” what kind of material did you play? What songs did you cover? How did they mold your style? What was your practice schedule like? Did this influence how Morbid Angel did things later?

We really only played cover songs at first, like Judas Priest and Scorpions and Black Sabbath, because there was no Slayer or Celtic Frost or even Hellhammer yet back then. We did start messing around with some original stuff, but when I graduated from high school, Trey moved again at that time to the North end of Tampa, so for probably a good 6 months I didn’t even see him, so I started jamming with some other guys playing metal covers and Trey met Dallas and Charles, a singer and they had a drummer that was older than all of them and he lived in another town north of Tampa and he only came into town on some weekends to jam with them, so when I started talking to Trey again I decided to quit the cover band and start playing with Trey and these new guys Dallas and Charles and they already had a name for the band and it was called Death Watch. The singer got arrested and went to jail, so that is when we became a three-piece and Dallas was singing and we called the band Heretic, but we quickly found out that there was already another Heretic, so that’s when we finally became Morbid Angel.

How do you conceptualize death metal? Was progressive rock an influence? What about classical or  jazz?

I don’t really think most of the music I have done was only considered to be death metal, because it had a lot of different elements to it, especially with Nocturnus. But I would say that death metal is a very heavy, fast and aggressive type of music with lyrics mainly focused on death, gore and a lot of anti-Christian themes. For me progressive rock has always been an influence, I really liked Rush when I was in high school and they were about as progressive as you could get back then. I also liked classical because I had been in the school band, from grades 6-­‐10 playing percussion, so I learned to play all kinds of percussion like tympanis and bells playing classical and marching band music. I never really got into the jazz style of music, although I wish I had now, because jazz has some of the most amazing drummers and really off timing drum parts.

Your musical style is both highly proficient and idiosyncratic. How did you learn to play? What deepened your understanding of music? How important was the rising death metal scene in changing how you understood music?

It started even before that though because my mom had a 70s rock band that she sang for and they used to practice in the same back room that Trey and I ended up practicing in and I was only about 9 or 10, so I used to sit back there and watch them rehearse and I always liked watching the drummer play the most, so when they offered band when I got in 6th grade I wanted to take the drums of course!

Playing that style of music like marching band and classical stuff and also seeing my mom play in a band really gave me the early understanding of what it was like to play music and be in a band. I was into bands like Led Zeppelin and Styx when I first started and then I got into heavier stuff like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and then Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and from there I discovered Slayer, Venom Mercyful Fate, Hellhammer and I wanted to be in a band like that, but I also wanted to be different, I have never been into copying anyones style and being like someone else, so I guess why even today I still kind of just do my own thing whether it makes money or not has never been a concern to me, I only play music because I get enjoyment out of it and if other people like what I do, then that is awesome to me!

How was AOD recorded? It sounds rough but preserves the texture of the instruments, instead of trading detail for loudness and polished sound like AOM. What made you choose to record it this way?

Back when we recorded AOD in 1986, we really didn’t know much about recording or what equipment was best for recording, so even though we went into a real professional 24 track studio, we still weren’t that prepared to do a well polished album. I had only been singing a couple months and some of the songs were just put together and we were also under a time constraint because we were in another state recording in an unfamiliar place and we only had so much studio time to get it all done.

If we had better equipment and more knowledge on recording, it probably would have sounded much better, but we were just a bunch of crazy kids with a record contract! I was also never included in the mixdown of the music, so all I got to hear was pretty much the raw unmixed tracks until Trey came back with the album mixed and finished. At least the album has a certain energy to it that was still able to come through, even with all the problems that we did have.

Can you tell us about your current projects, such as (but not limited to!) Afer Death 666? How are these efforts different from typical death metal, AOD and AOM? If people want to find out more about what you’re up to these days, where should they go?

Right now I have 2 bands with the same members in both bands, one is Nocturnus AD, which is a continuation of what I wanted to do with Nocturnus after we recorded The Key in 1990, it is much more technical sci-­fi stuff than what is on AOD and it has keyboards and it is tuned in E-flat which is what Nocturnus was tuned in back in 1987­‐1992 and the other band is just called After Death and as I mentioned it does have the same members, but After Death is a little heavier on the occult side of things and the music is less technical and more atmospheric and tuned in D.

The thing I keep up with most is my Facebook page, which is just under Mike Browning and it has the most up to date info on it, but we also have Facebook pages for Nocturnus AD and After Death and we also have a website www.afterdeath666.com , which has info for both bands on the site.

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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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Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-27-13

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What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? We write about the artistic and musical side of metal, not how many teenyboppers or bloated old guys think it’s “fresh.” In the holiday spirit, we call metal’s turkeys what they are. Expect delicious outrage and denial, with the (occasional) quality release.

massemord-stay_fucking_necroMessemord – Stay Fucking Necro

Black metal is among the hardest genres to master within metal, which is why so few people have managed to do it well. Beyond the mechanical characteristics of the genre, there exists a need for personal integrity and semi-spiritual fervor driving the musicians onward towards higher realms of art. That is not present in this release.

On their questionably-titled album, Stay Fucking Necro, Messemord perform a style of “black” metal that has much in common with post-millennial Satyricon or Gorgoroth. “Black & Roll” cliches are abundant as well as influences from “melodic” black metal, rendered here as irritating arpeggios that push tracks closer to lighter melodies, which are not at all helped by the bouncy drum patterns. Tracks are thrown-together collections of riffs that have been overused for at least a decade, and they don’t become more inspiring hearing them again…although the Transilvanian Hunger ripoff riff is listenable.

There is nothing here to interest anybody who has beyond a surface interest in the genre. Actually, I don’t know why anybody would be interested in this. This band seems to be yet another example of an “underground” band that’s underground only because it’s terrible.

benediction-the_dreams_you_dreadBenediction – The Dreams You Dread

I remember calling this album a sellout, but the truth is it’s probably Benediction’s defining moment. By removing all the extraneous elements that Benediction once utilized like slow doom riffs and a “morbid” feeling on some numbers, the band play up their hardcore/punk influence to seem “rebellious” as was the trend of the time and making their B-grade Massacre songs sound more like something you might hear on a Marauder album. If you can imagine Harmony Corruption-era Napalm Death covering Sepultura’s “Biotech is Godzilla” backwards eleven different ways while lapsing into blockheaded Pantera or later Sacred Reich grooves, you know how this will sound. Generic and mediocre death metal is thrown out the window, making room for the groove infatuated vapidity “with a punk attitude” that this band always had in its heart.

grave_miasma-odori_sepulcrorumGrave Miasma – Odori Sepulcrorum

The verdict is in: Cruciamentum is more interesting than Grave Miasma. Alhough the bands share musicians, Grave Miasma contrive dull and uninspired Incantoclone riffs that are randomly stitched together. There are two decent songs that kept my attention, but the same droning “atmospheric” chords are present in every moment of Odor[i] Sepulcrorum. It’s like they implemented texture for the sake of implementing texture without using it to move anywhere interesting. Perhaps this should be marketed as a sleeping aid instead of a death metal album. The main problem with this release is that it sounds like the songwriter/s ran out of ideas before they even started writing it. This is disappointing since their prior EPs were much better efforts. I’m tired of writing about it and in fact, I need a place to lie down. To sleep, perchance to not hear this thing ever again.

darkane-the_sinister_supremacyDarkane – The Sinister Supremacy

This is basically the middle of the road millennium metal that has replaced the 90s groove trend and 80s Metalli-clones. Slaughter of the Soul-styled mellow-deaf riffs are thrown next to mechanical groove riffs, with songs that go from “angry” verses to “melodic” choruses in simple Wacken metal format. Solos run the gamut from bluesy “rebellious” fodder to ultra pretentious Malmsteen mimicry and vocals are “harsh” but sung with inflection to be melodic. There is no reason to listen to this album or for this band to exist. If you want another version of the same crap Nuclear Blast and Century Media release on a weekly basis, you’ll find more interchangeable extreme pop-metal fare here with nothing to distinguish it from any of the others.

autumnblaze-every_sun_is_fragileAutumblaze – Every Sun is Fragile

Another emo album. There’s no point disguising that this is an indie-rock/punk-rock hybrid from the late 1980s. It sounds exactly like the bands that became popular then and into the early 1990s, just with better production. Even the topics and moods are the same. Even worse, every song is musically very similar, aiming for that moment of double parallax when multiple contrasting directions emerge. Artistically, however, this i vapid, like being lost at a mall and feeling sorry for yourself… for four hours. Every now and then a quasi-metal riff comes on, and gets replaced by a crooner with the indulgent lyrics of a snake oil salesman. How did this end up in the metal queue? Any attempt to insult this insincere, derivative dreck is an insult to some group that in contrast is honorable, like idiots, fools, droolers and lichen rapists.

the_haunted-unseenThe Haunted – Unseen

If metal bands had FDA labels this one would read “100% feces.” The Haunted hang the towel on their crowd-pandering metalcore to make room for the musical ornamentation and forms that bands utilize when they want to make it to the mainstream. “Emotional” vocals more befitting screamo and alt-rock bands croon and drone over listless nu-groove metal. While the albums before sounded like commercial Wacken pandering, this album sounds like something that Roadrunner would have released in the late 90s. With so many people using Slaughter of the Soul as a template for manufacturing artistically-void muzak, something different but just as stupid needed to be tested within the crucible over at Century Media’s headquarters. The result is more worthless music that sounds like it could be Linkin Park, Incubus, or any of those other MTV bands you hear on the radio. It’s hard to believe the man who wrote Kingdom Gone is responsible for much of this rap-rock/emo oriented fare but, then again, we’ve already seen the depths this bunch had fallen since 1993.

arsis-unwelcomeArsis – Unwelcome

“EXTREME” Wacken metal. Aside from proficient performances, this is what death metal would sound like if performed by Bon Jovi. “Hard rocking” blasting verse riffs show you that these guys are “ANGRY”, but don’t fear! The stadium rock melodic chorus that sounds like something Stryper or Europe would play comes in to rationalize the “aggression” with feelings of “bitter sweetness”. Vocals that sound carbon copied from Jeff Walker further makes this album sound no different to the recent Carcass disaster, making this seem all the more vapid. If this band had any common sense, they would look at the European metal fest lineups, realize they still haven’t made it to “the big time”, and retire to being guitar teachers as opposed to clogging the airwaves with more AOR mellow-deaf. The “ironically uncharacteristic for death metal” music video to this album’s closing track further suggests this band is the musical equivalent to watching an Adult Swim cartoon. Worthless music.

ephel_duath-hemmed_by_light_shaped_by_darknessEphel Duath – Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness

When you wander among the teenage social wastelands of the earth, you will encounter many sophomoric characters and each one will have his own catchphrase explaining why he knows something, when he does not. One example is the “I like a little bit of everything” guy who picks music based on it having a great deal of variety. He’s concerned that music might be too much the same if it were consistent, so he likes quirk. This is another form of the mentality that causes people to order variety plates in restaurants; they don’t know what they want, because they don’t know what they like, mainly because they have no idea who they are. Ephel Duath is a band for that segment of the world. It is putatively some form of black metal, but compositionally is heavy metal with additions of all sorts of odd sounds and different riff types. Then if you missed the memo, they’re going to screech at you full volume and have cheesy dramatic song structure changes to emphasize that Something Is Happening Here, when in fact nothing is. As the song ends, you’ll note that it came back to the exact same place where it started. Not a restatement of theme in a new context, but literally, the same stuff after a distracting middle. It’s like window shopping; see the world without having to adapt at all. And correspondingly, it’s both hollow and annoying.

finnrs_cane-a_portrait_painted_by_the_sunFinnr’s Cane – A Portrait Painted by the Sun

This is a nice little emo album, but as this isn’t a punk site (although we support hardcore punk, which is a different genre from generic radio punk a/k/a “punk rock”) there’s no interest. It’s time to drop labels like shoegaze and blackdrift and call this what it is, which is late-1980s and early-1990s style emo. The same dissonant chord progressions, rhythms, vocal inflections, atmospheres, even song topics and naming conventions persist, with nothing new added. There’s a little aesthetic tweaking, but not enough to conceal what’s here. There is zero metal, and zero black metal, in this release. Other than that, it’s OK, I guess, but all these bands sound the same. What, how can you say that, that’s intolerant! you spit. Yes, but the fact is that there’s just not much musical variation between songs by the same band or bands that share this genre (emo). That’s why emo is so popular with record labels and unemployed musicians alike. If you master a few techniques, it’s really easy to do and you’ll sound about like your heroes. That is, before you get a job at a management consulting firm, take out the piercings and hide the tattoos and get on with your self-pitying prole-drone cubicle-bound life as an average citizen of the modern state.

manii-kollapsManii – Kollaps

Utterly boring “depressive-suicidal” black metal from the original Manes personel. While the unsettling open-string dissonance and vocal performance is the same, the music remains in one fixed tempo throughout what could be variations on one song. Aside from the aesthetic reversion towards this band’s original sound, the music is more in line with the commercial nature of the later electronica/alt-rock Manes in spirit. As a result, this could be a Xasthur or Shining album and no one would tell the difference. The mystique is gone, replaced by the saccharine emotion one would expect from a depressive Marilyn Manson song.

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Underground Never Dies! by Andrés Padilla

underground_never_dies-andres_padilla-cover

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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