Question – Doomed Passages (2014)

question-doomed_passages

This review was contributed to Death Metal Underground by Neil Sigmundsson.

The best albums are greater than the sum of their parts and provide the capability for listener immersion due to their length and integration but the song is still generally the most important and most fundamental compositional unit in death metal. Paying too much attention to atmosphere, musicianship, individual riffs, or other aesthetical and shallow (though important) qualities of an album can lead to overlooking compositional shortcomings, especially after the mind starts to fatigue or when listening to dense material. This is the case with Doomed Passages, which feels convincing – and in some aspects it is – but suffers from a number of flaws that might be missed during casual listening. That being said, even though the music of Question is imperfect, it is modest and sincere and at its best moments overflows with contagious vigor and energy that leaps fearlessly towards the abyss, a mark of the upper echelons of death metal artists.

First, praise is due to some of the mechanical and aesthetical elements of this album. The roaring, expressive vocals, replete with various single-syllable exclamations and grunts, are highly enjoyable and benefit from a cavernous quality due to studio-induced reverb. The drums are commendable in their creativity and in demonstrating a subtle understanding of the level of activity that best complements any given situation. Rumbling double bass creates a “rolling” sensation of high momentum at certain tempi. The production is deep and clear, and has a bit of cushion, but more separation between the instruments might have been beneficial.

There are two truly excellent songs on Doomed Passages: the second and fifth tracks. “Nefarious Conclusion” is the most structurally rigorous composition on the album, being basically linear but still having a clear exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action. This results in a rewarding experience. 0:00-0:50 is an example of creating variation, exploration, and motion out of a single phrase. The drum build-up to the invigorating climactic riff is genius; it sounds like transitioning from walking to running. The transitions at 1:15 and 4:34 are somewhat rough, but not enough to harm the composition. “Universal Path of Disgrace” has one of the most memorable riffs on the album, a sprawling eight bar tremolo-picked cycle. After the second occurrence of this riff and its accomplice, the song heads logically into a strange middle section that sounds like being in an unstable, slightly psychedelic limbo. A climax and resolution emerge from there. This song offers an interesting journey but it is slightly less satisfying than “Nefarious Conclusion.”

Aside from these two tracks, the remainder of the material on Doomed Passages shows promise and has shining moments but suffers from various problems. Some of these issues are abrupt transitions (“Mournful Stench” at 3:35), weak conclusions (“Devoured from Within”), and segments that overstay their welcome (the introduction of “…Bitter Gleam of Inexistence”). However, the major recurring problem and the biggest downfall of Question, though it is not immediately apparent due to the large number of riffs (many of which sound similar), is the purposeless, wandering song structures. In their template, Question take a single riff or a small group of riffs that act as an “anchor,” and they dance a bunch of ideas around that anchor before departing in an uncertain, random direction. This resembles a very relaxed version of what Slayer pioneered on tracks like “At Dawn They Sleep,” which completes two verse-chorus cycles and then departs radically from pop structure. The difference – and it’s a significant difference – is that Slayer maintained a strong narrative and a sense of purpose and tension throughout the entirety of their songs, whereas Question is usually content with wandering aimlessly. That Question can string a huge number of riffs together without the result sounding like patchwork is impressive (see “Grey Sorrow”), but cohesion alone does not make death metal of lasting quality, and as a result an appreciable amount of this material feels pointless and is frustrating to endure.

As hinted at above, there are simply too many riffs on Doomed Passages, a large proportion of which are interchangeable and forgettable, appear only once, and serve no vital function. Question demonstrate that they know how to overcome this problem in multiple ways (developing phrases, relating riffs through common or similar phrases, writing highly memorable riffs, returning to previous ideas in different contexts, etc.), but they need to apply these habits more diligently. There are focused passages, and there are highly memorable riffs, but ideally all of the passages should be focused and all of the riffs memorable and necessary. Thus, whereas many death metal bands have simplified their song structures to the detriment of the music, Question can actually benefit from being somewhat more repetitive in order to remove the forgettable and less evocative riffs and develop only their best and darkest ideas. This can be done while retaining the narrative, exploratory song structures. It will occurs more  naturally and easily when the music is written and played with specific purpose and direction. More dynamics might also help in stressing important sections, as the sound sometimes blends into a monotonous stream. The digital, compressed production is of no help.

Another lesser issue with Doomed Passages is that consonance sometimes feels out of place when it appears in the midst of the generally dissonant and chromatic music. The interlude “Through the Vacuous River” is the most blatant offender, though the riff at 5:28 of “Universal Path of Disgrace” is questionable as well. While consonance is not vital for this music to express something meaningful, there is potential in its skillful application, as demonstrated by 3:00-3:35 of “Mournful Stench,” a section that arises at an appropriate time but is unfortunately not fully developed. The acoustic final track also works fairly well in context. If Question would hone their skills at incorporating consonance into their musical language, the wider range of expression will provide them with more tools for communication.

The standout songs on this album prove that Question is capable of writing intense and adventurous narrative death metal of the highest caliber. All of the tracks have redeemable and enjoyable qualities and marks of skilled craftsmanship, but most are hampered by the flaws discussed above. To further improve their already above average music, Question need to at least  scrap the forgettable riffs and instead develop more extensively their best ideas while taking  the reins and writing more directed and focused compositions. The second change can be realized either by forcing the songs to move toward clear climaxes and satisfying conclusions or by finding some wisdom and inspiration that can be represented in and communicated through the music. These young musicians are certainly technically proficient but need to write more coherent compositions if they want to inspirit their music instead of joining the ranks of so many other failed techdeath endeavors.

Readers may listen to Doomed Passages on Chaos Record’s Bandcamp page.

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Interview: Question

question-band_photo

Question come from Querétaro, Mexico and create technical death metal in a combination of old school styles. Their debut album Doomed Passages saw release through Chaos Records in early June. Question deliver a very spacious style of death metal reminiscent of The Chasm with some Finnish touches. The guitarist, Rodrigo, agreed to talk to us about the band.

Question caught my eye as an unusual name for a death metal band. What made you choose this name?

“Question” is a name which is coherent with the philosophy of the band and the lyrics; it’s consistent with the context that we want to portray. A friend came with the idea and we thought it fit perfectly with the music that we were composing at the time. It’s not surprising that some think it is a weird or dumb name; you’ll always find people that keep looking for the most rude or evil names, but I think that has become a weak point with the past of the years in the metal scene.

I detect a strong Finnish death metal influence on Doomed Passages. Would I be correct?

Well, we are fans of some early Finnish death metal bands; also we listen to some contemporary bands that have been spreading rottenness lately. However, it’s more appropriate to say that we’re heavily influenced by obscure death metal in general; Mexico has a lot of obscure metal bands and some of them are big influences for us. Also, besides metal, we listen to a lot of punk, progressive rock, etc.

What drove you to create death metal?

Curiosity. In terms of composition death metal has a very vast spectrum of possibilities and we all are very into obscure, heavy and strange stuff, not just music, also books, films, so I guess it’s natural to feel a tendency to create and play this kind of tunes.

Is art separate from entertainment or are they one in the same?

I’m afraid I’ve never established a delimited frontier between these two concepts; any attempt to be objective will fail, however I can resume my thoughts with the following: many expressions of art can be entertaining, but entertainment mostly lacks art. Art is an intimate vision of an artist, and sometimes the vision is shared with some people. In contrast, entertainment is made for the masses, is a guided story that leads to a guided conclusion. Art is more subjective, it makes you think what you’ve experienced.

Tell me about the recording process of Doomed Passages.

We recorded the album in April 2013 at Oz Recording Studios in Mexico City. The process lasted five days and it was the first time for the actual lineup to record something. All went well, the studio is amazing, and we had a really good time, although the mixing and mastering process was more exhausting, as we couldn’t make a connection with Roberto Granados. I think the result is good.

What does the artwork on Doomed Passages signify and how does it tie into what is being expressed musically?

Hector and I wrote a couple of ideas for the artwork based on the lyrics and the band’s philosophy. We send this to Arturo Vargas and he came with this spectral vision that became the cover of our first album. The significance is relative; art should not be restricted to a single interpretation.

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Apostasy The Blade of Hell (2016)

Rising from the pit of late nineties underground speed metal, Chileans Apostasy revived during the last decade to bring back to life a pure demonstration of metal as it is. There is no need to claim to be progressive, harsh, technical or the milliard other epithets that bands and marketing agents have come up to single out bands which present only narrow facets of what the genre can be. We can hear traces of what came to be known as the ‘riff salad,’, but like later death metal outgrowths of the style, there is a sense of organic flow and revolving around a main riff-idea. (more…)

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Black Fluxions

In his quest for accuracy and rigour eventually leading to his contributions to Calculus, Sir Isaac Newton borrowed terminology from an area of classical mechanics called Kinematics[1]. The terms fluent and fluxion incorporated eventually came to be known as variable and derivative. Each set of terms has its advantages in describing the object in question, highlighting one or another aspect. Fluxion in particular is quite useful in poetically illustrating an ‘instantaneous rate of change,’ and may serve us outside the realm of pure mathematical abstraction to bring attention to such immediate movement at each point in time. So, while the change from a measure to the next, from an idea to the next are changes in fluents, there can be said to exist fluxions in music which describe movements across a separate dimension —that of the inner experience. But such a transposition into the realm of musical description is only metaphorical, if useful to expand perception, and should be taken as a flexible mental aid.
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Atrocity – Todessehnsucht (Longing for Death) (1992)

Most Death metal bands don’t age gracefully and tend to either become parodies of themselves or end up playing pop music. Atrocity after having conquered Death metal decided to experiment with various genres but each of those experiments has been abysmal failure. This band therefore destroyed its reputation in both underground and mainstream circles to the extent of being forgotten by all. But from 1985 to 1992, Atrocity were on the war path until the release of their Magnum Opus Todessehnsucht (Longing for Death). Five musicians with an obvious passion for classical music combined with Floridian Death metal and the Teutonic trio. More precisely their main influences seem to be Death, Destruction, Kreator, Morbid Angel and Richard Wagner.

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A Metalhead’s Journey to the Light

By Cullen Toner

Many have expressed emotions of extreme shock and awe after discovering the explicitly Christian lyrics and aesthetics of my newest album, Deus Vult. How could I, the former singer/songwriter of New Jersey’s most popular Satanic band, find God and religion after 15 years of playing in bands with misanthropic, anti-Christian themes? What would cause a complete 180 degree change in lifestyle, a complete about-face in world view? And why would I recklessly proclaim such a change in heart to a world of black and death metal that would so surely respond in confusion, mockery, and utter malice?

To even consider the answers requires a great deal of courage and intellect, as most in the world of extreme metal have extensively conditioned themselves to the idea that metal, in all of its rebelliousness, is the antithesis to Christianity. But since the spirit of metal is one that has historically challenged authority and convention in a quest for deeper truth, those who truly understand its foundation will not cower from the mere suggestion of radical thought. And to those to I can assure that a long quest for logic and wisdom has unexpectedly led me at the foot of the upright cross. Not only did this provide happiness and fulfillment for the first time, but the foundation for meaning and purpose that many metalheads are currently in a vast search for.

In an attempt to explain as objectively as I can, this is how I came to embrace Christianity as my faith, and what it meant for my relationship with metal music.

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Did Rock & Metal Engineer Societal Destruction?

What do Jonathan Davis, Corey Taylor, and Scott Weiland have in common?  Answering the question “90 Hard Rock singers” would not be incorrect, but there’s something darker beneath the surface – all three men are rape victims.  Davis even documents the experience in graphic detail in a platinum selling album from his band, and many of Taylors lyrics are riddled with sexual abuse.

Why were the executives of the murder industry so keen on pushing rape victims as the new face of rock n’ roll?  Furthermore, why were the most popular genres of rock and metal so lyrically obsessed with self destruction?  From Grunge “morality is useless and life is hopeless” to Nu Metal “I’m a freak and everyone hates me” to Emo and Screamo “I’m lonely and will never be loved” to indie (soy) metal and rock “We failed to be what we should have been” the message of mainstream rock and metal music has constantly be one of self destruction.  This trend is mirrored by a 25% increase in American suicides in American suicides since the 1990s:

Suicide rates increased by 25% across the United States over nearly two decades ending in 2016, according to research published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%, the government report finds.

More than half of those who died by suicide had not been diagnosed with a mental health condition, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC.

“These findings are disturbing. Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the US right now, and it’s one of three causes that is actually increasing recently, so we do consider it a public health problem — and something that is all around us,” Schuchat said. The other two top 10 causes of death that are on the rise are Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses, she noted.

With statistics like this, it’s absolutely time to panic: our society is being marred by growing influences- intentional or not – to destroy ourselves.  Let’s examine music’s relationship to this now obvious horror and see if we can determine why this is happening.

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International Day Of Slayer XIII (6-6-18)

Every June 6 we celebrate a day sacred to all Hessians: the International Day of Slayer on which all metalheads celebrate what it is to be a metalhead, as exemplified by the music of Slayer and the lives of its musicians, including Jeff Hanneman (1964-2013).

Slayer beats back the world of human intentions which tries to make life safe, inoffensive, commerce-friendly, popular, and full of unique precious snowflakes. Its music affirms reality, which operates through power and will, over emotions and social opinions. It denies the importance of humans.

No doubt you know how to celebrate this holiday for metal folk worldwide, but as a quick refresher:

On June 6th, Hessians worldwide come together to do something upon which we can all agree – listening to Slayer! Finally, one of the most dismissed cultural groups in the world has a holiday to call its own. Join us in our cause to stand unified in our celebration of metal music and let us prove to the rest of society that we too have a voice.

Who is Slayer

Slayer is a band from California. Their music has come to epitomize Satanic speed metal music in the latter half of the 20th century. Their 1986 album Reign in Blood ranks as one of the single most influential metal albums of all time, typified by the modern classic “Angel of Death.”

How to Celebrate

  • Listen to Slayer at full blast in your car.
  • Listen to Slayer at full blast in your home.
  • Listen to Slayer at full blast at your place of employment.
  • Listen to Slayer at full blast in any public place you prefer.

DO NOT use headphones! The objective of this day is for everyone within earshot to understand that it is the National Day of Slayer. National holidays in America aren’t just about celebrating; they’re about forcing it upon non-participants.

Taking that participation to a problematic level

  • Stage a “Slay-out.” Don’t go to work. Listen to Slayer.
  • Have a huge block party that clogs up a street in your neighborhood. Blast Slayer albums all evening. Get police cruisers and helicopters on the scene. Finish with a full-scale riot.
  • Spray paint Slayer logos on churches, synagogues, or cemeteries.
  • Play Slayer covers with your own band (since 99% of your riffs are stolen from Slayer anyway).
  • Kill the neighbor’s dog and blame it on Slayer.

In honor of Slayer, of metal music worldwide in all ages, and of the spirit of facing reality with eyes wide open and embracing the opportunity of challenge and fear, we intend to keep this website open and celebrate the International Day of Slayer every year on June 6. Join us… welcome back!

Join us in celebrating the International Day of Slayer for 2018! This year, we offer Live in Reseda, a bootleg (courtesy of Melonville HC) from the glory days of classic Slayer as they were just starting their quest for world domination.

Nuclear Blast Records invoked the celebration with a sale on classic Slayer material (check the vinyls) and a video commemorating the event:

If you are here by mistake and wondering why Slayer (you’re supposed to yell this each time you say it, like this: SLAYER!) is important, check out the Heavy Metal Frequently Asked Questions file to see how this band influenced the rise of death metal and, well, basically everything else. SLAYER!

To aid in your celebration, enjoy some links to classic Slayer releases:

Show No Mercy (1983)

Haunting the Chapel (1984)

Hell Awaits (1985)

Reign in Blood (1986)

South of Heaven (1988)

Also consider other Slayer bootlegs like Captor of Sin, Aggressive Perfector, and Obscure and Obscene to keep your eternally damned dark soul raging!

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A Case for Weakling’s – Dead as Dreams (2000)

Article Contributed by Salustiano Ferdinand

tl;dr: Despite controversy surrounding the indie pedigree of Weakling’s musicians and their musical descendants, Dead as Dreams remains, as described by none other than Fenriz, an “odd masterpiece” on its musical merits and should be a part of any serious underground metal fan’s collection.  The album, for a number of reasons, is currently something of a locus of blame for whatever particular sins people ascribe to west coast black metal. Some people point to Weakling as the origin point of indie creep into US black metal due to the supposed indie credibility of its members in particular as well as to a lesser extent the trend of questionable publicity stunts engaged in by mediocre bands from Velvet Cocoon to Ghost Bath (although in Weakling’s case this should be blamed on the label, not the band). As a result of these complaints, Dead As Dreams has over time become something of an Emmanuel Goldstein for black metal fans, and the album some people are critiquing when they say “Dead as Dreams” (such as the time DMU’s most alpha editor described it as “shoegaze black metal”) bears little resemblance to the actual album Dead As Dreams.

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