Possessed by the Moon

full moon norway

Article by David Rosales.

A legendary time and place for underground metal, the Norway of 1993 is an esoteric landmark (1994 being the exoteric) in time and space in black metal history. It saw the rise of a mythology of its own, the mythology of black metal, and an eventual catastrophic demise worthy of a saga of its own.

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Possessed and Sadistic Intent in Austin, Texas

Possessed and Sadistic Intent
June 29, 2008
Red 7
622 E. 7th Street
Austin, Texas 78701

Sadistic Intent played their first-ever show in Austin last night, which was ostensibly more auspicious in that they were also serving as Jeff Becerra’s backing band in the current incarnation of Possessed. The band came out to a well-attended room and delivered a set of now time-worn but authentic tracks taken from the series of EPs they released in the mid-90’s. A distinct sense of “Abominations of Desolation” permeated the set in their favor, as few bands of the current era are able to draw upon their predecessors in such a convincing manner. Momentum was lost as one of the two guitarists suddenly had string problems and appeared to be unable to resolve it without consultation from both of his axe-mates. The unit left the stage after three songs but then returned to complete the set about ten minutes later. The audience reacted appropriately with multiple phalanxes of whirling hair and horns held high, and ultimately Sadistic Intent proved why their name continues to endure despite a spare discography.

Following another more prolonged intermission, the band retook the stage again with Jeff Becerra in tow. There was much curiosity leading up to this performance because save for the notorious vocalist this was effectively a Possessed cover band. Compounding this was Becerra’s confinement to a wheelchair since 1989 after being shot in a drug deal gone bad (these circumstances have since been obscured through revisionism and the fact that the event occurred before the advent of the internet), so expectations among the assembled faithful were punctuated with question marks and guarded commentary.

It takes courage to carry on after such a devastating blow to one’s health and mobility, and if Becerra had presented with conviction and dignity he would have easily overcome his perceived limitations. In this venue, unfortunately, he wore his handicap and a still-apparent substance abuse problem around his neck like an anvil and proceeded to turn the event into a spectacle. The man is admittedly scary in a way that transcends metal; mad-eyed and clearly unstable, he wheeled around the stage and spent most of the time crowding or hitting the dutiful members of his backing band or gesticulating to his handlers for more beer (which, once received, he continuously poured over his head). Sadistic Intent, to their massive credit, lashed convincingly through a set of tunes comprised of the proto-death classic “Seven Churches”, and seemed they focused on working as a unit in spite of the dubious situation. It was no surprise that they seemed divorced from the vocalist, given his complete lack of poise. Becerra rasped and yelled his way through the songs in a fashion that made it seem more like he was interrupting rather than contributing. There were a few glimmers of the hellish voice that made him famous, but it was hardly a showing that would have resurrected any former glories. The set’s highlight was the modern classic, “The Exorcist”, which led to several subsequent injuries in the pit and further acquitted the band’s efforts. The end of the show was marked by Becerra’s leap from the stage, wheelchair and all, face-first into the middle of the floor. For a moment it looked as though he had managed to finish himself off but his attendants managed to scrape him up and carry him past many bemused onlookers.

In this reviewer’s opinion, the legacy of Possessed is in terrible danger of being further maligned and invalidated through appearances such as this. It was an experience to be sure, but more befitting of a rodeo or a circus than the revival of a seminal metal act. Even a top-flight backing band cannot account for the psychotic and counterproductive behavior of its frontman, and ultimately it is Mr. Becerra whose reputation is at stake. For now it seems like he is a full-time resident of a truly dark and painful place, and if he does not find a way to surface then he will likely consumed by the very demons he invoked on his albums so many years ago.

– Written by David Anzalone

Bands:
Possessed
Sadistic Intent

Promoters:
Red 7

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The One – I, Master (2008)

Hailing from Rhodes, The One is a black metal project by the mastermind behind Macabre Omen, who, alongside Varathron, have been the most consistent artists in the Hellenic scene during the past few years. The One performs a style of black metal that draws from various influences such as Mayhem, Hellhammer and Bathory, yet it is filtered through the Hellenic prism of longer melodies and warm, ritual atmosphere.

This sound is shaped by multiple layers of guitars and distortion. The ensuing disorienting atmosphere resembles a maelstrom in the river Acheron, sucking the listener inside. Indeed, it feels like this was recorded in a cave; in the same way that subterranean noises can be distorted due to echo, the guitar parts are blended into each other, rendering the act of discerning riffs difficult at certain points. This is a great case-study in modern black metal production, because it helps the riffs hide on the first listen, in order to reappear on the next.

Following the title of the album, the senses are guided from freshly dug graveyard soil to the nebulous regions of the sky, so that through death and a confrontation with the violent forces that sleep in man, a feeling of mastery may be conveyed. The tools with which The One is trying to impose this effect upon the listener are chromatic riffs inspired by Hellhammer that provoke cyclopean headbanging and excellent vocal invocations to Mayhem. Truly, the vocals are resourceful and employ a wide pallete of techniques. The locomotive guitar parts taken from Mayhem lead to cryptic orientalist melancholic riffs in the style of Macabre Omen.

A natural mood pervades the compositions, in the sense that changes happen when they have to; nothing is rushed and there is room for the riffs to breath. They rarely outstay their welcome as they flow into the next riff. However, chromatics are used not to liberate the composer, but to evoke claustrophobia, thus there is not much harmonic movement going on, similarly to church and folk music. This fact interestingly tends to increase the value of such movements when they happen.

The listener has to meditate on the sonic violence, for things that hide and appear on the third listening session. Even the guitar solo which imitates Euronymous can be mistaken as a traditional pipe instrument for a few seconds because of the sound and bending technique employed. Proceeding from the Heracletian philosophical foundations that “All is One”, Byzantine chants, melodies and vocals are chocked in the midst of chaos and appear as a homogenous mixture that propels the song onwards. This atmosphere is very ritualistic and the compositions move with uniformity to reach the epilogue of the record.

For all the talent of its creators, I, Master might pose a few drawbacks on the more experienced listener. To begin with, due to the hiding of the riffs and all the finer details it appears that the album doesn’t want to be noticed. Verily, the hooks of the record are the noisier parts which rely on the listener’s curiosity, like a puzzle. Unlike Aosoth’s early work and other Greek bands, this release is more tempered and doesn’t aim for direct impact. This is not a drawback per se, as it is a really interesting approach to keep the uninitiated listeners away and is in alignment with the spirit of black metal.

The second danger, is that this record belongs to the tradition of occult black metal, which is often dominated by monotonous attempts to resemble a liturgy and subsequently the release flirts with wallpaper aesthetics. However, The One manages to navigate through those reefs by channeling quality melodies and intriguing vocal performances into the mixture, thus keeping the attention of the listener throughout the record.

Therefore, the degree to which The One falls on the above trappings is subjective and depends on the attention span of the listener. An equal case can be drawn for experimental doom rock band Universe 217, which creates a parallel cosmic vibe which escapes post-rock monotony through possessed Janis Joplin vocals and intricate 12-chord riffs that channel emotion so that the composition can move somewhere else. In general, when monotony may infiltrate a composition, a great riff and some fine details can save the day. As Ildjarn demonstrates, passionate performance stands above all and passionate performance stems from passionate composition, which in term depends on the artist’s intention. The One’s intention cannot be disputed.

In fact, the whole record has a personal dimension for many reasons; first of all, the “I” in the title; second, enigmatic whispers on the final track suggest the importance of “creating” for the artist; third, Macabre Omen has already taken a personal tragedy and projected it into historical events, in Gods of War. Therefore, there is a tendency of projecting the personal into the universal, which might account for some addictive elements in the record that assure its replay value. In addition, there is an emphasis on individualism, that can be also witnessed on the early days of the band.

To sum up, this album highlights:

  • How to create a dense cryptic atmosphere without becoming a sonic wallpaper.
  • How to use the asphyxiating production to hide messages, like a grimoire or an ancient artifact.
  • The importance of blood and/or culture, since The One is definitely inspired by the folklore, religion and traditional music of his country on the catchier passages, making those possibly unfitting influences sound honest, true and convincing, because they have been experienced.

However, the strongest part of the record is the translation of its philosophical underpinnings into music. A cosmic ambience resides on some tracks, a vibe of some greater universal force that drowns the individual and helps him reach his potential at the same time. An example where The One flirts with this ambience is on song V, which unleashes a Burzum interpretation of doomy ambience and contains a long melodic riff that covers “Temples in the Shape of the Sky” by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. This riff is the high point of the record and hints at a possible ascension, a sort of spiritual illumination.

What is tragic is that when this theosis is attained, there is no escape into the great beyond. The song falls back to the Earth, back into the previous slow stratospheric riff.

This is exactly where The One and good black metal in general differs from the so called ritualistic, occult or “Orthodox” varieties: spirituality is acknowledged yet it complements the Earth and cannot be conceived without the Earth. After all, metal is not about escaping, it is about consecrating reality. The return to this previous riff may feel sad and definitely makes one hunger for more. However, it also creates a feeling of strength over reality, strength gained through experience and understanding. The listener was dominated by the music throughout, but now a sense of mastery is communicated. Albeit tragic, this can feel beautiful and the aim of The One is achieved.

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Satan’s Host

Satan’s Host was formed by USPM vocalist Harry Conklin of Jag Panzer fame. Where many bands transition from Death/Black Metal to Power Metal, Satan’s Host sought to reverse the stereotype by transitioning to Black Metal with vocalist Elixir. Eventually Conklin would return and they would attempt to find balance between modern Extreme Metal and NWOBHM in the style of Angel Witch. Though the mindset of an old dog attempting to learn new tricks is admirable, Satan’s Host never seemed to quite understand the source material that would inspire the majority of their long career.
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Transitions MMXVIII

Death Metal Underground wishes to announce a constructive change in editorship, in which the present author comes to complement rather than replace the current leadership. We have a great team of writers, ever too few but still dedicated and talented enough that the last few months have seen a non-stop inflow of high quality and insightful content on a variety of metal-related topics. (more…)

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Analysis of Immolation’s “Christ’s Cage”

Immolation are legends in Death metal and rightfully so, though their heydays were after the initial burst that characterized the NYDM scene and have cemented their place with the likes of Cryptopsy and Immortal for prolonging the lifespan of that classic period of metal. Longevity seems to be the forte of the band’s centerpieces Dolan and Vigna and while they released a few decent albums, none of them quite hold up to Here in After. Black Sabbath and Slayer stretched the palette for what was possible in metal and introduced endless possibilities whereas Immolation took one closed approach and pushed it to its limit on this album. Though Close To A World Below took experimentation further, the whole was not as cohesive or powerful. Let us look as the closing track which truly concludes the album.

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SUFFOCATION’S BASTARD CHILDREN

Some bands perfectly encapsulate a sound and an era through the appropriation and development of an existing idea. Van Halen fascinated the mainstream with his take on tapping and his twist on virtuosity which had existed for centuries on various string instruments. Iron maiden took the harmonies from Thin Lizzy and adapted them for their long narrative epics. Suffocation took the slow thrash metal staccato riff and completely changed its use by using them as breakdowns. While those three bands are heavily associated with their respective techniques that have been used by all sorts of bands, Suffocation has spawned multiple subgenres that are all terrible and are completely eluded by the original intention.

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Endless War : The Similarities Between Metal and Wrestling

 

Wrestling is the oldest sport in existence. One can find it in any culture on earth, Egyptian hieroglyphs depict various techniques, Islam recognizes it as one of the main sports for preparation in combat and European knights trained extensively as a lot of armored fights quickly become tests of who could pin who to be able to deal a finishing blow with a dagger through the gaps in the plate armor. Throughout the years wrestling has proven to be the best art for all forms of combat as every region in the world has at least one form of indigenous wrestling.

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