Underground metal was rapidly dying by the mid nineties. The more musically successful death and black metal bands became disenchanted with their resulting limited financial success as the hordes of poseurs poured in through the gates of Byzantium, creating commercial rock that merely imitated the tones and texture of the monumental statues of the metal greats. The more popular death metal bands tried and failed at becoming rock stars while many of the more luminous minds in Norwegian black metal bands were dead or imprisoned.28 Comments
Spite Extreme Wing was an Italian black metal band with a vision rooted in their national culture or what they perceived as a manifestation of its innate transcendental aspect. On their older albums they are perhaps comparable to Sigrblot or Kaevum, either aesthetically, or by following similar approach to constructing identity of their art. (more…)5 Comments
Emperor are currently preparing to tour in celebration of the twentieth anniversary their second album, the third rate Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. While Emperor kept on wearing armor, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk saw Emperor simplify their trademark complex, almost symphonic Norwegian black metal sound down to two to three note speed metal influenced riffs with neo-classical wank leads in conventional verse-chorus-verse heavy metal songs to appeal to a wider, Wacken-going audience.15 Comments
Satan‘s Court in the Act exists in a unique space between the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and speed metal. As a wholly metal album that attempts no pandering to mainstream radio rock unlike seemingly every other NWOBHM band, Court in the Act is by far the strongest studio album of that sub-genre/movement and incredibly influential to American speed metal bands Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer.17 Comments
Ritual is the pinnacle of the Central European black metal style characterized by continuing the riffing tradition of traditional heavy metal and strict adherence to speed metal song structure; Hellhammer, Mercyful Fate, Slayer, and even Megadeth influences are easily heard along with Bartók’s folkishness and Chopin’s romanticism. While their compatriots Root presaged the Hellenic scene, Master’s Hammer’s operatic use of the mellotron inspired the divergent atmosphere Emperor employed on In the Nightside Eclipse.11 Comments
Modern death metal is a cesspool. Riffless atonal texture and rehashed generic riffs combine into a poppy carnival of random boring bullshit to feed the typical underground record label ponzi scheme. Rare was the new release anything worth the attention of any older fans even over a decade ago in 2005. Coming years after their heroes in Morbid Angel, Incantation, and Immolation stopped releasing worthy or even interesting material (but before they went “radikult”), Dead Congregation’s debut EP, Purifying Consecrated Ground, showed a powerful potential that awed many into submission.26 Comments
Tags: 2005, Black Metal, blackened death metal, Brutal Death Metal, dead congregation, death metal, EP, Martyrdoom Productions, nuclear war now! productions, Nuclear Winter Records, Purifying Consecrated Ground, review
Article by David Rosales
Exmortus is a speed metal band with leanings towards what is commonly called ‘power metal’, although the general public seems to lump them in the mixed bag that so-called melodic death metal is due to their use of angsty growled-barked vocals. Exmortus have built up quite a following in the young, mainstream metal community. Ride Forth is the exciting fourth album these youngsters and guitar enthusiasts have been awaiting. This album features ‘neo-classical’ metal gestures that were first introduced in very small quantities by NWOBHM bands in combination with pentatonic soloing. It took the likes of Malmsteen and Randy Rhodes to bring this aspect to the fore. Exmortus themselves highlight it to the point of making it more than just the center of the music; enlarging it to be all the relevant music to be found herein.
In Ride Forth, Exmortus wears their infatuation with Beethoven and outward classical aesthetics on their sleeves and include a metal cover of the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 (“Appasionata“). Their previous album also included a track based on the third movement of his Piano Sonata No. 14 (aka “Moonlight”). Compare this to other bands that have gone beyond mere adaptation and have used them to expand compositions that take the themes and scale runs of the original piece such as ‘Pathway To The Moon’, by Pathfinder, based on the same Beethoven. Right at the top of the list lie the adaptations done by the Italian band Rhapsody, who only use the themes themselves for arrangements of interludes within otherwise completely original compositions. ‘Heroes Of The Waterfall’s Kingdom” sees Rhapsody using the main theme from the 4th movement (“Prestissimo”) of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 1.
Exmortus Ride Forth can be vivisected for analysis in at least two ways. The first is in terms of the functions and performance of each of the three functional layers of metal; namely rhythm, leads and vocals. The second concerns the structuring of songs, the quality of the sequence of ideas exposed throughout the album. We may take a look at each of these individually and then at how they interact to produce a result.
The three layers are executed with metronomic precision, echoing the modern classical musician’s obsession with machine-like performance. The drums are standard and give no sign of humanity. The bass is functional but rigidly moves under the needs of the alto-soprano guitars. The guitars themselves have a clearly leading role. The whole instrumental texture is very reminiscent of C.P.E. Bach’s classical music, in which all layers are in the service of a main melody. The vocal department is not only out of place but also overdone, although this may have been somewhat enhanced and disfigured by a too clear-cut, synthetic production.
As a an aural story, Ride Forth shows the audience two faces. The first is what gives them what they think is their distinctive taste, their blatant and superficial imitation of classical music. The second is a mechanical speed metal without character that serves as neutral receptor for the former pretensions. The strongest contributor to the personality of the music on the side of metal is the vocalist. But just as Exmortus interpretation of classical music remains on the level of reflected shadows, their take on metal is that of a rebellious attitude that is closer to a child’s tantrum whose candy has been taken away than to a raiding viking.
The downplaying of the whole of instrumentation to emphasize guitar action along with the simplification on the metal side as mere bridge and support for pseudo-classical posturing give rise to the worst incarnation of Yingwie that one can imagine. In regards to the content, it has very poor communication value, as it takes music as pretty wallpaper noise. While these now cliched patterns were born out of the lingos of late 18th-century classical music and the incipient NWOBHM of the late 1970s, it is now presented as mere paper-mache for the fabrication of shiny toys; symbols without depth or reflection, enjoyed sensually in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
Here, we may insert a more general critique of the general ignorance the public suffers when it comes to genre significance and the importance of its ‘sub-cultural’ context for it to acquire meaning. We may assume that the reason why two genres are smashed carelessly in this way is because whatever gestures are native to each are considered mere adornments. However, we have reason to think that the particular tropes of different genres are very specific reflections of a very particular group’s intuitional understanding, so to speak, so that without understanding its proper setting, its depth is lost.
Exmortus’ guitarist obviously worships Ludwig van Beethoven, but instead of being inspired by the deeper aspects of the late master’s work, he seems content to masturbate to the angry German’s portrait while wearing a man-bikini made out of fur. The general metal ‘critic’ (haha…) will love this for its easy-going technically appeal and comical value, perhaps giving them the typical, meaningless high scores they hand out cheaply like condoms at a gay-fest. A more critical mind unmoved by gimmicks may see through the ruse and form a useful opinion. It is, therefore, that Death Metal Underground hereby assigns Ride Forth a score of 133/666 Bleeding Anuses.
For a short book that you can finish in an afternoon, Extreme Metal by Joel McIver packs a great density of information of unusual breadth into this deceptively simple volume. Comprised of brief introductions and then combination profile, history and review of the major works of each band, this book applies a flexible strategy to information and dishes out more on the more important bands but refuses to leave out essential minor ones.
McIver released two versions of this book: an original (2000) and this update (2005). With each edition, the book gains more factual information and the writing kicks it up a notch. I first read Extreme Metal I shortly after it came out in a bookstore and noted how some of the writing was boxy and distant, but how (thankfully) it did not drop into the hipster habit of insider lingo and extensive pointless imagery. In Extreme Metal II, McIver writes according to the journalistic standards of the broader media and skips over the conventions of music journalism and especially metal journalism which are less stringent. If there is an Extreme Metal III, the language will be even more streamlined and relaxed.
A good book on metal includes not only information but interpretations; all books filter by what their authors think is important, and one of the strengths of Extreme Metal is its ability to zoom in on not just the larger bands but a number of smaller ones that contributed to the growth of the genre. With each of these bands, McIver presents the information as relevant to a metal fan interested in learning the genre but also in hearing the best of its music. After an introduction by Mille Petrozza of Kreator, Extreme Metal launches into a brief history and afterward is essentially band profiles in alphabetical order. McIver includes all of the big names that one must include especially in any book that wishes to have commercial success, but devotes a fair amount of time to focus on the underground and the odd details that complete its story. He displays a canny instinct for rooting out the important, even if obscure, and relating it to the progress of the genre as a whole.
Written in a conversational but professional style, the book unloads a large amount of information with a low amount of stress and reads much like an extended magazine article covering the growth of the extreme metal genres. Depending on what sub-genres a listener enjoys, parts of the book will be skimmed, much as some Hessians glaze over whenever anything related to nu-metal emerges. McIver displays the instincts of a metal listener and refuses to sugar-coat his opinions, but does not drift into the trendy internet sweetness-and-acid diatribes that afflict those who rage at the excesses of the underground. Instead, the book assumes that its readers are open-minded enough to listen to any good heavy metal and tries to dig out the best of it, even if those standards need to expand when nu-metal or metalcore float by.
Massacra was a French ‘neo-classical death metal’ band and was formed in 1986. Three demos landed them a deal with Shark Records from Germany and later, the major label Phonogram. However, the band was put on hold in 1997 when a founding member, Fred Duval, died of skin cancer at only 29. Some members of the band formed an industrial band, Zero Tolerance, and released an album on the Active label.
Recommended Album: Final Holocaust (Shark, 1990)
Among the truckloads of paper published since Lords of Chaos convinced the industry that money could be made in books about underground metal, Extreme Metal distinguishes itself by being open-minded and yet straight to the point. Most books pass over perceived minor bands like Massacra, Autumn Leaves and Onslaught, but this book fits them into context and explains their relevance in a way that is both enjoyable and informative. While major bands like Metallica will always get more coverage, here McIver works to tie his write-ups of those bands in with traits of other bands who both helped make that success happen and carried it forward.
McIver has gone on to write other books including a best-seller about Metallica, a biography of Max Cavalera of Sepultura, retrospectives of Motorhead and Black Sabbath, a band history of Cannibal Corpse and most recently, a book about alternative band Rage Against the Machine. He demonstrates comfort at every level of above-ground and underground bands, but his instinct as a fan makes him a writer worth reading as he tears through metal, sorting the entropy from the growth. While one can write about underground metal to any depth, Extreme Metal strikes the right balance of information and expediency and produces an excellent first step for any fan or researcher looking into these sub-genres of heavy metal.1 Comment
Renowned post-metal band Wolves in the Throne Room have returned with a companion album to their 2011 release Celestial Lineage. Entitled Celestite, the new album shows the band moving the synth and acoustic components of the previous album to the foreground and thematically expanding upon them in a total divergence from metal instrumentation and structure. This release has less in common with Lord Wind or Burzum‘s prison albums, although some relationship could be established between Celestite and Ildjarn-Nidhogg’s synth work, in addition to Neptune Towers and perhaps various Beherit projects. Celestite primarily takes its inspiration from artists which are tangentially related to metal rather than derived from it, with Eno being the primary source.
Showing more heritage from avant-garde scoring than other ambient/neo-classical projects, Celestite reveals multi-dimensional composition winding its way from the beginning of a piece to its conclusion without a grounded climax or resolution. Microcosoms of intensity provide linking points to connect various melodic strands together, which along with blending recurring tones with expanding timbrel variance provides enough solidity to congeal central parts within the fluid nature of the album. Melodies are introspective and restrained, though the elongation of their motion increases the importance of each progression. When the album reaches its striving heights, sensation is heightened appreciably whilst still retaining a contemplative essence. Carefully considered, the contrast between the light synth aura which is the operative timbre of the album’s framework, the overlaying of organic winds and lighter keys, and the almost oppressive, technologically demonic and bass-heavy force that intrusively invades the melody and flattens it temporarily before returning, embodies a sonic portrayal of the struggle between the forest and the machine.
The artistic duality of nature versus mechanism constitutes itself again in our times in an art form which is dependent upon the modern and yet wary of it. Celestite may find a re-grounding point for Wolves in the Throne Room, and be an inspiring blueprint for all who seek to move beyond black metal in a backwards-looking yet inexorably-forwards direction – upwards, towards…43 Comments