Is Progressive Metal Progressive?

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I got thinking about this while reading through some of the stuff on The Gabriel Construct’s webpage. He said he wants to make progressive metal progressive again. After thinking about this, I realized that this really strikes a chord with me. It is probably one of the reasons I’ve felt so uninspired by the stuff I’ve been listening to.

Let’s take as a case study: HeavyBlog’s top 12 of 2013 so far list (restricting to 2013 will not influence this discussion at all, since the best prog of 2012 falls into the same tropes) and pull the albums that can be labelled as “prog.” I actually like a lot of prog metal. You should remember this, because it is going to sound like a post in which I slam prog metal. Instead, this should be read as a sadness that such a promising genre has hit a stasis.

This is going to get hairy with putting bands into certain boxes, but as I see it the list is Tesseract (should djent actually count as a form of prog?), Persefone (is symphonic metal a form of prog?), Coheed and Cambria, Intronaut, Extol (OK, I haven’t actually listened to this one, but the list says it’s prog), Leprous, and The Ocean.

What do these bands have in common that makes them prog? They tend to have technical playing with technique that derives from classical skills of fast arpeggios and scale patterns than more traditional metal/rock techniques. The chord progressions tend to be less straightforward. This can mean jazz influenced or excessive chromaticism. The time signatures tend to be less straightforward and can even involve alternating time signatures and metric modulations. Lastly, the songs tend to be longer and more thoroughly developed and tied together with a common theme.

So what’s the problem? Well, at one point in time doing these things within metal was a progressive thing to do. They weren’t being done. It was interesting and new. It was moving the genre forward. Now it seems that these things that define the genre have become tropes. You have to have x number of time changes, y number of chromatic patterns, and z number of songs over 8 minutes long. Oh yeah, and we’ll praise you mindlessly if you make these numbers without actually doing anything original.

Instead of being truly progressive and trying to bring in new influences to make interesting and new music, it all ends up sounding similar. Just because you came up with a way to arpeggiate faster, using a “new” pattern, and you do more chromatic steps doesn’t mean you’re “more progressive” or even more interesting. It is more of the same pretending to be different.

Maybe I’m reacting to an over-saturation of prog lately, and I won’t feel this way after a break from it, but sometimes when listening to prog it sounds like a joke. It sounds like the band is stringing together a bunch of tropes in mockery of how derivative it all has become. Scale the Summit is unfortunately going to get my wrath, but I can’t listen that new album. It has such high praise all over the place, but I’m so bored by it. I mean listen to this. It is pretty, and quite impressive technically at parts, but how many times have you heard this?

No offense to Scale the Summit, I could have picked something off literally any of the bands listed above and some of those albums might even make my top 10 of the year. It is just a feature of the current prog scene. It has become static. There are the occasional minor details that are new, but overall, it isn’t progressing.

Progressive metal can become progressive again. To some people it may seem shocking. What more do I want? They are already employing all of the complexity you would find in any fully trained classical composer. I’d reply, well, yes, any trained composer through the 19th century. But this stuff is more than a century old now. You could incorporate tons of modern developments. You don’t have to write atonally, but you can incorporate interesting post-tonal techniques to make something progressive without losing your band’s characteristic sound.

Other than tonality, there have been tons of other innovations from play style (stop with the incessant arpeggios, please), to modern electronic filtering of sound in new ways, to how your band layers together its pieces texturally, to instruments used (thank you Hybrid for showing us clarinet can be used in metal), to more original genre crossover, and on and on. You shouldn’t have to be an Animals as Leaders or Dream Theater clone to be prog. I bet I could write a fugue a la Hindemith that would sound really good by a metal band. How about someone tries that for originality?

I know there are actually lots of bands out there doing this, but they immediately get labelled as avant garde and pushed out of the prog scene. As I pointed out last time, this term should probably be reserved for the really, really out there stuff. Incorporating these techniques subtly into your standard prog sound should still count as prog metal. We should embrace more experimentation to finally get out of this stasis.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HKeuXQg5-Y

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Steve Wilson criticizes the glut of “progressive” metal bands

Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree recently conducted an interview with Metal Wani. In the linked second part, he suggested an aesthetic reason for the backlash against the swarm of “progressive” metal acts – according to him, there are too many progressive metal bands that are overusing the “metal guitar sound”, to the point that such loses its impact. In the mean time, Wilson is trying to explore dark and melancholic themes outside of metal, most notably in his collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt in Storm Corrosion. This is obviously a different perspective than our usual narrative here at DMU – if you ask us, your pseudo-progressive band failed not because metal guitar is a cliched sound (which doesn’t eliminate the possibility), but more likely because your songwriting either took the form of modern pop in disguise or incoherent nonsense.

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Progressive war metal

There’s a new style that’s rising which combines progressive metal with the True Metal styles that emphasize a warlike outlook.

While progressive metal has neat instrumentals and all, it’s generally caught in an effete urban altruism and disconnected from Machiavellian reality.

These progressive war metal bands are fixing that with epic, Nietzschean and complex compositions that challenge the status quo of “progressive” metal!

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Jeff Wagner – Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal

Human progress will forever be linked to those most primal memories of our species, wherein there emerged that intrepid curiosity that formed the crux on which history could be built. Moreso than the will to merely survive and subsist, it was the will to forsake the paradise of safety and pursue instead the harsh, untamed dusklands of the unknown, where intense tribulation could reveal the fiercest potentials of the few that could overcome. Within the realm of music — that most iconically Romantic of arts — this sentiment persists as a striving to expand the capacities of willful expression into an all-encompassing whole, swelling into symphonic full bloom during the 19th Century. But now, in the dreary modernity that constitutes post-World War II planet Earth, Metal music has proven to be an improbable successor to this upward-climbing composing ethos, and its 40-year history itself resembles less some linear development than it does the genealogy of a warrior race: evolving as one from troglodytic Rock origins, but then splintering into variegate subdivisions as established kingdoms become ever stiflingly overpopulated. If it is those most radical of subdivisions commanded by wildcat eccentrics, hermitic technicians, and sadistic savants that best define the nebulous label that is “progressive metal”, then ‘Mean Deviation‘ — the new and exotic pet project of Metal Maniacs veteran Jeff Wagner — is the one book ambitious enough to fasten a historical yoke around such a chaotically polymorphous Metal strain.

It’s a ridiculously exacting task to try and chronicle the entirety of a musical subgenre that isn’t really a subgenre, and whose content cannot be readily identified by formal analysis alone. And yet Wagner, being the dauntless historian that he is, enters the Nocturnus Time Machine® with naught but the earnest objective of highlighting whichever works were exceptionally bizarre, brainy, or both. Placing his starting coordinates in the late 1960′s when progressive rock and early ambient music had already begun to explore more neoclassical avenues, Wagner narrates the concomitant emergence of heavy metal, and oversees its unprecedentedly rapid appropriation of prog complexities. The most non-canonical, wildly erratic career choices of Black SabbathKing Crimson, and especially Rush receive extensive coverage, and upon this foundation of classic radio giants, Wagner uncovers many of the grandiose intellectual motivations that would plant the seeds of ambition in the burgeoning ’80s underground — an explosive era that Wagner veritably lived and breathed throughout.

From this point is of course where the bulk of the book begins and where divergent paths are most numerous and dramatic, starting with an initial divide between what is now commonly known as Progressive Metal proper — Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, Crimson Glory, and [must we mention them?] Dream Theater as examples — and the more abrasively progressive styles that were set in motion by speed metal aberrants WatchtowerVoivodCeltic FrostCoroner, and a small conglomerate of other leaders whose names consistently haunt the chapters further on. The subsequent outgrowth of extreme metal within the following decade then takes the spotlight for what seems like a third of the book, and the magnitude of its proliferation logically finds Wagner having to document deviance on a steady, region-by-region basis. But in this manner, he is as remarkably thorough in his examinations of familiar prog-extremists as he is with some of the more impossibly obscure names, reliably identifying which recordings showed noteworthy marks of ingenuity. A study of Finland, for instance, seizes Demilich by the tentacles and takes special interest in Beherit‘s darkwave transmogrification. Norway’s chapter highlights Mayhem‘s early adoration of Swedish prog band Änglagård and of course German synthpop and kosmische musik, and goes on to investigate the growth of Manes, Burzum, Enslaved, and Neptune Towers. Continental Europe reveals a constellation of luminaries ranging from Supuration to Atrocity, whilst the melting pot frontiers of the Americas yield regional anomalies as diverse as Gorguts and Obliveon up in Québec to Atheist and Hellwitch down in Florida. And, wherever possible, Wagner takes great efforts to cite any intellectual influences or achievements on the bands’ parts; tellingly, Classical and ambient music is a frequent subject here, as are academic degrees in a surprising array of fields.

It is surely impossible to write a “progressive metal” book that will be accepted in all circles of the culture, as controversy and even widespread disapprobation seem to be taken for granted in the music itself. But for the particular minority who identify themselves as hessians, it is certain that many will lose interest as the final hundred pages close in, simply because almost all of the so-called cutting edge Metal bands of the late ’90s and onwards fail to contribute anything significant to the genre; but in Wagner’s defense, there are many instances where he does bring attention to the growing problem of entropy. The more philosophical among us may further object to the very grounds for Wagner’s criteria for “progressive-ness” — that is, how much the work in question defies convention and expectations. To build from an early example, Wagner argues that Voivod’s ‘Angel Rat‘ — an album widely lambasted as a sell-out for its regression to verse-chorus, consonant indie stylings — is in fact a progressive step for the band because it was so utterly unlike any of the albums that preceded, or anything else in the scene at the time. But this is nothing if not the most prostrate kind of optimism, which accepts an undesirable antithesis — in this case, total artistic decline into meaninglessness — as a necessary part of a dubious process towards some ideal of absolute artistic freedom or whatever. It’s true that to speak of “progress” we need to postulate an objective or end of some sort to move towards, but externalities like novelty and individuality alone are insufficient; something more intrinsic to Metal’s being must be identified, otherwise you allow for a flood of the same self-obsessed, irrelevant music-as-product to garner the association simply because it’s clever enough to imitate the distorted aesthetic. Therefore it is best to assert as an axiom that for the subject to be Metal, it must have as its essence that visceral if rather elusive-to-define spirit of vir, whose amorally creative will to power is partially outlined in the introduction to this review. From here, determining progression in Metal is only a contextual (and decidedly more limited) matter of whether the subject meaningfully transmits its central motivation using methods previously unexplored, for any number of nuanced reasons ranging from technical breakthroughs to conceptual maturation to ingenious angles of arrangement; of course, the ironic consequence to progressive forms is that they are often seized upon by the majority and ossified into standard forms over time. So, based on these tenets, you would have to re-evaluate progressive-labelled, impostor Metal bands like Opeth as actually not effectively progressive as a band like Morbid Angel, who were significant not only for innovative technique, but for using their talents towards representing death metal philosophy with hitherto unheard-of imagination and perspicuity. Take this same critical hammer to the “progressive eras” of Enslaved, Amorphis, Death, and all related corrupted prodigies who allowed themselves to be domesticated into entertainers, and suddenly ‘Mean Deviation’ is chiseled down from a bloated tome to a slim pamphlet.

Now it’s apparent that ‘Mean Deviation’ surely has its points of contention, but then again the book’s stated aim isn’t to illustrate a concrete and ontologically-sound definition of what progressive metal is, nor is it out to namedrop every single band that may have garnered the label through whatever happenstances of popular delusion. Essentially, the book’s aim really is as simple as what its title conveys: to reevaluate the Metal timeline with a specific interest in whatever was outstandingly highbrow and/or shunned by the hypothetical average headbanger. It is a scholarly, well-referenced, yet personable inquiry of metallurgical innovation, which harbors aspirations towards objectivity and acceptance amongst society’s intellectual elite, but never mistakenly reduces the art to a mere science. Rest assured that trivia in abundance is here to tantalize the reader’s inner nerd; just remember to take it all in with a sizable grain of sodium chloride.

Written by Thanatotron

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Flavor of the Week Metal Pt 2: Death Metal

Last month we ran the first  of a two part series on flavor of the week metal subgenres, focusing soley on black metal. The plan was to release a second edition a week later, but the Tulio Baars DDOS attacks prevented that from happening. That is, until now…

Death metal has existed for over 30 years now but the storied genre may finally have seen the climax of its success. Along the way it has been riddled with ridiculous spinoffs that saw tons of low-IQ normies mark out only to promptly discard them into the trash once public consensus realized how outrageous it was. Featuring all kinds of ridiculousness ranging from sideways hat wearing wiggers to throat tatted white trash scene kids, the grand scope of death metal has seen some of the dumbest music ever recorded. Sometimes replicating nu metal and rap, other times mimicking Europeon dance pop, death metal has been degraded and molested in every possible way imaginable. When considering all the horrendous demonization of the genre it’s incredible to think it has survived for so long (despite not seeing may works of relevance since 1994).

It’s the article the basement dwelling Dreipfeil losers did not want you to see, the Sadistic Genre Reviews of death metal’s worst offenders.

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SOYBOY LEFTIES USE BOTNET TO TARGET DEATH METAL UNDERGROUND

A bunch of pussy beta male cucks have spent a ridiculous amount of money on a botnet to shut down Death Metal Underground, the free speech social network Gab, and a number of Alt Right websites such as Amerika, The Right Stuff, and American Resistance.  Why did they consider DMU “Alt Right” despite the fact that we’ve never written about race and have even expressed support for Israel emasculating their scumbag neighbors?  The answer is simple- DEATH METAL UNDERGROUND IS DANGEROUS AND FEARED BY LIFE’S LOSERS.

In an age where the terms “far right” “Alt Right” “fascist” “Nazi” and “racist” are all collectively lobbed at anyone who expresses social/political/cultural views that are not liberal (including centrists), depressed failures are dedicating much of their time and money to try and shutdown any school of thought outside of the pop culture group think of the moment.  This has spread to all forms of society, ranging from the mainstream normies to obscure music genres as niche as death metal.  With nothing to look forward to in their future, these neo-communists want to drag the entirety of society to their world of emptiness and sorrow.  A world where feelings supersede logic and nothing matters in the world outside of the individual’s comforts.

The war with the left must be waged in every space, on every front, by every rational human being in this nation.  Therefore Brock Dorsey, Brett Stevens, and the whole Death Metal Underground team will keep fighting until we are obliterated from cyberspace.  Fortunately, this fate will take a lot more than a lightweight botnet and a bunch of nu-male dweebs spending a ton of money to do little more than elevate our status to the stuff of legend.

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SAD! MetalSucks Flagrantly Plagiarizes Death Metal Underground

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but such is not true when it’s done by a fat, zit-faced loser with fedora tattoos who calls himself “Emperor Rhombus.”  Because right now, plastered on the MetalSucks front page at the time of this writing, is a ridiculously obvious rip off of an editorial I did just a month ago.  Seriously, the damn thing is worse than when Nile blatantly stole the melody from the Candlemass song “Well of Souls” in their “Unas Slayer of the Gods” mess of a track.  Hell, it’s even worse than that top hat wearing Dimmu Borgir keyboardist replicating the piano from Magnum’s “Sacred Hour” and using it as the intro for Stormblast. But I guess that when your life is regulated to creeping out young girls at Selena Gomez concerts with your virgin-tier Electric Wizard shirt, you’re bound to spend much of your days fantasizing about being a true alpha badass like Brock Dorsey.

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/smr/ Sadistic Metal Reviews – Post Black Metal Eulogy (Part 2)

In post black metal, we saw riffs being declared null and void in favor of atmosphere.  Gone were the melodic harmonies of Iron Maiden and Dissection, the savage atonal decimation of Morbid Angel and Blasphemy, and the memorable rhythm and lead guitarwork of Slayer and Death.  All this came in favor of completely forgettable riffs and songs in favor of an overall spacey “transcendental” experience.  Aesthetically, post metal was the reflection of progressive societal values of the 2010s- the emassculation of men (all musicians were Nu Males), artwork made by douche bag art degree scumbags that live in ghettos, and tame, timid, “spiritual but not religious” lyrics that had not a shred of aggression or danger.

It didn’t have to be like this.  There could have been ways for bands to experiment with post rock/shoegaze elements and still maintain the foundation of a metal presentation, maintain metal aesthetics, and have attitude or edge.  But not a single band- NOT A SINGLE ONE- was capable of doing so, proving that the accusations of these bands/musicians not being metal were to be fully valid and accurate.

This is the absolute end of post black metal before it circles the drain of a shit-stained toilet and is flushed to the bowels of irrelevancy.  A finally eulogy to a genre that never should have happened.  The musicians will bleed out their parents money and then become homeless, get aids from a bad batch of heroin, and die a miserable death in an alleyway gutter where they should have been left to rot at birth.

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Introduction to Power Metal, Part II: The First Wave of European Power Metal

[The epic continues!  Read part I of Johan’s journey here and listen for yourself via this playlist]

While working with what was intended to be the second part of a tripartite article series covering the history and general properties of the power metal subgenre, it soon became clear that a sufficiently thorough treatment of the subject would require more space and time than what was originally intended. This insight subsequently led to the conclusion that individual parts needed to be subdivided and portioned out in order to not grow out of proportion. The initial plan to present the material into three consecutive parts has thus been revised.

Another related issue that arose during “research” concerns the historical development of European power metal. As have been noted in previous articles on this site relating to the history of metal music, artistic “movements” or periods of development tend last about five years speaking in generalized terms. This phenomenon can be observed in European power metal as well. After having studied Euro-power metal as a composite phenomenon, a rough sketch outlining the developmental trajectory of said music began to take form:

1984-1989: The first wave of European power metal.

1990-1995: Intermediate period.

1996-2001: The second wave of European power metal.

While not a perfect model, this rough periodic division will be used as a framework for discussion in the articles to follow. The relatively lengthy timespan that has passed since the putatively defined second wave of European power metal will be left out for the moment, primarily (and regrettably) because there hasn’t really occurred much of a development in power metal since the early 2000s. If anyone sits on information that invalidates the above statement, feel free to chip in – this writer would be very pleased to be proven wrong on this front.

Accordingly, the second part of this article series will be mainly devoted to the development and characteristics of the first wave of European power metal and the intermediate period that followed in its wake. Instead of approaching the subject in thoroughly generalized manner, a ???-track compilation will be used as source material to make observations about the historical development and specific traits of first wave Euro-styled power metal. Please not that this collection of tracks is by no means intended as a “best of”-compilation but should rather be viewed of as a springboard for further discussion.

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Hipsters Discover That Black Metal Musicians Are Bad

Another scandal!  Yes folks, for the fourth time in the past two or three weeks, hipster journalists and fake metal fans are shocked and appalled that a black metal musician has done something immoral.  Despite black metal being a music genre for 30 years, smelly neckbeard losers and dreadlocked trust fund crusties are figuratively (though literally in some cases) throwing their own feces every time they catch a mid-tier black metal musician doing something not socially acceptable.  This time, the horrific act came from Marduk, whose purchasing of German World War II merchandise from a sketchy online retailer made them too evil for a fest called Stockholm Slaughter (who apparently think slaughter is cool, but just not when it pertains to 1940s Europe).

Because millennials are too dumb to learn any history that doesn’t involve student loans, let’s quickly look back and see if any criminal or immoral things were done by the original black metal bands.  Maybe there’s something that we can learn from  that fateful 1990s Norwegian scene:

Band                   Criminal/Immoral Act

Burzum                Murder, violating parole with a shitload of explosives, arson, Nazism, white supremacy

Dimmu Borgir    Using the N word in an interview/proclaiming the desire to genocide Africans

Emperor              Hate crime murder of a homosexual, arson

Gorgoroth           Rape, battery and torture, violation of Poland’s animal rights laws, homosexuality

Immortal             Arson

Mayhem              Murder, 2nd degree murder, arson, public mutilation, trashing hotels

Satyricon            Rape, arson, rape

Thorns                2nd degree murder

I’m sorry to break this to everyone living in a liberal bubble, but a painfully obvious truth exists:  black metal musicians are bad men.

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