Longstanding Italian death metal band Sadist, famous for incorporating Pestilence/Atheist style progressive and jazz influences into their work in the early 1990s, have returned from retirement with a new album. This one features more bouncy and spacious speed metal rhythms, such as on Voivod Dimension Hatross or Anacrusis Screams and Whispers, but stays true to their habit of interweaving different styles and narratives with metal riffing.
Bizarrely, perhaps in some transposition of Nietzschean ideas, the album and band seem to be using the visual theme of hyenas against prey animals. While this is not the goofiest thing in death metal, it seems a bit ill-advised because of the general view of hyenas, which forgets what vicious predators — on par with wolves but more energetically violent — hyenas are. See for yourself what you think of this odd campaign and the music that supports it on the album teaser.
Guttural vocals are the only true vocal innovation in metal as other singing styles are derived from other genres. The growed vocal technique is a combination of multiple frequencies and is harmonically too rich to be treated in the same way as more tonal styles. Since they are different to all that came before them they must be analyzed differently. And as metal continues to be penetrated by the mainstream it is important to understand what should be expected from a vocalist and what each one brings to the table since as humans we are inclined to judge vocals first.
In the spirit of understanding the wide variety that the technique has to offer, take a look at some of the more interesting and/or well known vocalists that death metal has given us throughout the years: (more…)
Listen to a track from the upcoming Hadeon from longstanding Dutch band Pestilence, one is immediately struck by the similarity to late-1990s Morbid Angel: the riffs are there, albeit a bit impatient and tightly circular, but the whole experience is not. What is missing? To understand this, we must go to the core of what made death metal what it is.
If you wanted to explain to a normal person what death metal is, looking at the core of its spirit, you might haul out Slayer Hell Awaits, Hellhammer Apocalyptic Raids, and Bathory The Return… because these influenced the techniques, composition, and spirit of death metal. From Hellhammer and Slayer, it got its song structure and aesthetics; from Bathory its themes and riff technique.
Death metal took the original idea of metal, formed when Black Sabbath and others began using power chords to make phrasal riffs instead of harmony-oriented open chord riffs, and developed it further. This is different than doing something “new” or “progressing” because it means undertaking the much harder task of developing an idea further at a structural level instead of just changing aesthetics.
With the rise of underground metal, death metal adopted chromatic riffing and made the interplay between riffs form a narrative to each song. This abolished typical rock song structure and, because the guitar served as a melodic instrument instead of a harmonic one, forced vocals, bass and drums into a background role. How well the riffs fit together and portrayed an atmosphere, idea, or sensation defined the quality of the music.
Pestilence came from a solid death metal background with Consuming Impulse but showed a speed metal styled approach on Malleus Maleficarum, and this tension has stayed with the band for its entire career. The speed metal style of verse and chorus built on a singular theme that is present in the music is easier to jam on and use harmony to complement, where death metal rarely explicitly states its theme, only silhouetting it in the interaction between its many riffs. With speed metal, bands can set up a chord progression and develop it in layers of internal commentary like jazz, and this puts vocals back in position number one among the lead instruments.
“Non-Physical Existent” is a two-riff song with both based on the same note progression. It creates its intensity through the clash between a ripping circular high speed riff and a slower chromatic riff that uses odd harmony to distinguish notes in an otherwise linear theme. The song breaks into a solo section over one of the riffs, and has a type of turnaround the drops into the faster riff as a return. But there is no real interplay nor any narrative.
From the riffs themselves, this is a good song, but unfortunately, it is not death metal. Nor will it last because essentially it is a closed-circuit video of itself, a riff commented on by another, without resembling any particular experience or emotion, therefore being a null journey, more like stasis in space while riffs loop. It is better than not bad, but still not of real interest to the death metal fan.
Since progressive rock first arose out of British and North American psychedelia, it has crossed every boundary that it could identify, which makes it like metal more a question of a spirit than a concrete set of musical or extra-musical traits. We can identify a few aspects of this spirit: a desire to make unique song forms which fit the shifting demands of their content, a passion for exploring melody and harmony, an obsession with the unconventional, and a chameleon-like ability to explore other styles and adopt them as its own.
To be a writer, if you are any good, is to be a blasphemer. Humanity is an entropy engine because each person decides on what view of the world makes them look the best, and so the constant weight pushing down on us is that of the herd, of a group of individuals united only by selfishness, come together into a mob for the purpose of asserting their right to be different and unique, constantly leading away from an understanding of the world around us and any meaning that can be found in it.
Autarcie could be easily dismissed for being assembled from the elements we expect from narcissistic yet generic post-black metal or “modern metal.” Instead, it presents to us a transition between black metal and either assimilation or a new form which is organic and local, and yet while the band does more with the elements of modern metal than that genre, its failure to conquer the modern mindset within precludes it from achieving the ancient sensibility and sensation of black metal, leaving it as identifiably “post-metal” in spirit but second-wave black metal in form.
Earlier this week the publishing catalog of metal mega-label Century Media has been pawned off for an undisclosed sum to Reservoir Media, a publishing boutique holding the royalty rights to songs by a variety of pop artists ranging from Drake to Lady Gaga. In investment terms, a boutique is defined as a financial firm that deals with a specific market, so picture Reservoir as a wealthy Wolf of Wall Street-like conglomerate recklessly gambling with the royalties of musicians. This is common in the modern music market, where suits are making bets on the evolving payout methods streaming services, but the surrender of Century Media’s entire catalog of albums (Death, Paradise Lost, In Flames) to a finance firm playing with house money goes to show how desperate the corporate metal labels of yesteryear have become.