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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The Most Popular Death Metal Bands- Who is #1?

Who is the most popular death metal band?

It’s one of those esoteric questions that wanders in and out of the mind without a quick Google search to offer a definite solution.  But today it dawned on me that if I don’t try to find an answer, it’s unlikely any one else will do a decent job at doing so.  And given the fact that deathmetal.org is the number one site that comes up when you Google “death metal news,” I believe we have a journalistic duty to present the world with this information.

Since where to draw the line on what’s “true” death metal or not is a matter of opinion moreso than concrete fact, I determined that anything labeled “death metal” would be fair game whether it truly was a pure death metal band or not.  Therefore I’d consider melodic death metal, black metal, and even deathcore in an effort to find who had conquered the greater sphere of death metal.

Unfortunately, the Nielsen record sale tracking data is not public and often does not identify how well an album has sold for many years after its release.  Thus, I determined that the most accurate metric for mining this data would be to measure by Facebook likes.  Yes, I know it’s not an exact science- many fans aren’t on Facebook, and many people click a band’s like button without really listening to them.  But still, it was as good as I would ever get to finding who the most popular band in the greater bounds of “death metal” truly was.

I expected to see the favorites of the 90’s metal press and MTVX dominate- Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Decide, Death, and probably In Flames take the number 1 spot.  Imagine my shock, that only one of these bands even cracked the top 5!  I had always heard about Morbid Angel and Deicide had the highest album sales, but it appears neither band has been able to conquer the internet age.

So again, this list was populated within very forgiving boundaries (bands loosely considered death metal, whether or not I believed them to be), and the best metric I could come up with.  Also, DO NOT FUCKING EVEN THINK OF CONFUSING THIS AS BEING A LIST OF THE BEST DEATH METAL- IT IS QUITE THE OPPOSITE!!!  And finally, if there are any bands you think I missed please let me know in the comments below and I will gladly do a live update and give you credit- maybe.

Without further ado, here is – for the first time in history – a list of the most popular bands that people considered to be death metal, and an explanation to why I would endure the immense visceral hatred for even considering them:

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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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The Musician’s Guide to SJW Values

Metal, like punk, once a lawless wild west where no attitude or ideology was unwelcome or too extreme.  But after hipsters unifed the masses of 90’s counter cultures into one mainstream culture, a far left ideology was adopted by and heavily policed within nearly every sub/counter cultural music genre (metal included).  Despite this being the exact opposite of what metal has been about for many decades, the desperation to fit in has left many of the aging neckbeard social outcast fake metalheads to adopt this heinous bastardization of music’s most honest genre and collectively enforce these new mainstream social rules.  And just like in the mainstream culture of today, breaking any of these rules (or having broken them in the past before these social norms were instituted) is designated with a swift lifetime band from showing yourself in public in the U.S.

Lately, a lot of metal bands have  been getting in trouble for doing things that progressive liberal culture finds unacceptable.  Many bands have been confused by the rules, as progressive liberal logic is absolutely nonsensical,  and therefore musicians struggle with the details behind this new social paradigm.  Having fought the left in our culture war for several years now and being often confronted with these nutcases, I determined it would be in the best interest of metal’s very badass musicians understand what crimes and behaviors are okay.  Please find below, a very thoroughly researched look into the disturbed mind of Social Justice Warriors:

Chart 1: Individual’s Morality

Crime/Behavior                                                                                  Acceptable?

MURDER                                                                                                      YES

ASSAULT (MALE VICTIM)                                                                      YES

ASSAULT (FEMALE VICTIM)                                                                 NO (Unless you’re signed to Profound Lore)

THEFT                                                                                                           YES

BESTIALITY                                                                                                 YES

PEDOPHILIA                                                                                               NO (Unless you write for MetalSucks)

GRAVE ROBBERY                                                                                      YES

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT MEN                                                 YES

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT WOMEN                                         NO (Unless you write for MetalSucks)

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT WHITES                                          YES

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT ANY OTHER RACE                     NO (Unless you’re signed to Profound Lore)

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT CHRISTIANS                                 YES

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT ANY OTHER RELIGION             NO

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT LGTBTQ                                          NO

 

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Metal Arsenal: Choice Software for Metal Warfare

Once upon a time, musicians needed to have a fat budget for a decent studio recording (and therefore, a record label to front the bill on the onset).  But even with one, many extreme metal recordings in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s still sounded like complete ass.  Even insanely popular death metal bands like Cryptopsy, who have sold over half a million records, have had albums with production so shitty that I can’t hear most of the riffs.  Aside from a few innovators, most audio engineers (back when it was possible to make a career out of it), simply did not know how to record and produce metal.

However the industry has changed mightily over the last 15 years or so, and in today’s music world the phrase “everybody’s an engineer” is deeply rooted in truth.  Whereas high end recording software was once closely guarded and outrageously priced, the freedom of file sharing as put many high end tools in the hands of the public at no cost and without the need for professional training to use.  No longer do you have to shell out $10,000 for an album that sounds like it was recorded in the prior decade, nor do you need take out a ludicrous college loan for audio engineering school. Instead, all you need to do is make a few quick downloads to successfully arm yourself for a quality recording (assuming, of course, you have done your homework in practicing your instruments and listening).

This change in landscape greatly benefits the type of music personalities we saw in Darkthrone, Burzum, and Graveland- top-tier musicians more concerned with their art and ideology than pandering to a room of idiots via live performances (yes, I know Graveland and Darkthrone both played live: it was only at microfractions of their careers).  And given that lefties are regulating and policing which bands are allowed to play live shows, there’s all the more reason for defiant metal musicians and bands to forgo live performances and focus their energies on quality studio recordings.  With narcissism, attention seeking, and fan expectations removed, the opportunity for quality recordings to flourish is undoubtedly more abundant.

It is an honor and privilege to present to you, the readers of this infamous site, the favorite battle-tested software and tools from a road-tested veteran who began a career in metal when freeware first became widespread some 15 years ago:

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/smr/ Sadistic Metal Reviews: Post Black Eulogy (Part 1)

[Join DMU editor Brock Dorsey on the first of a two part massacre of the soy metal sub genre that has bastaradized black metal beyond the belief!  Also, this image is an actual cover from an actual post black metal album- you can’t make this stuff up!]

Post black metal was an embarrassing sub genre of soy metal.  Built upon a foundation of either screamo, pop punk, metalcore, math rock, shoegaze, or avant-garde and fused with the most minimal touches of black metal, post black metal was a flavor of the week(/weak) trend that lasted from around 2009 to 2014.  The genre name is misleading, however, as most bands only claimed to be metal and incorporated only slight touches of metal characteristics before abandoning them completely in future releases.  As indicated by its core standard bearers being dropped by labels, performing terribly in sales and Facebook likes, and being forgotten by fans, post black metal has finally passed away.  As we lay it to rest with one final cremation in the SMR fashion, let us learn from its failings as the future looks to more traditional forms of heavy metal  to restore a once proud genre.

First, we must understand metal history to understand how such an abomination could happen, as Post-black metal followed a number of flavor of the week black metal trends and bands.  The first of these, symphonic black metal, sent many fans of the original (true) black metal genre into a frenzy with their incorporation of gothic influences.  What was to come would be much worse, however, as the soy metal bands marketed as black metal would prove to be far more embarrassing than the Victorian campiness of Cradle of Filth or the industrial meddling of …And Oceans.  The next flavor of the week black metal trend was cleverly concealed in a cloak of static, but the hipsterisms of “depressive black metal” would soon be known to the world.  Time was not kind to the legacy of Xasthur and Leviathan, both of whom are now widely panned against the metal community, as where the thousands of “bedroom black metal” clones who polluted Myspace.  With many short lived flavor of the week trends (such as “Norsecore” and “Cascadian black metal”) and bands (Kult ov Azazel, Inquisition) in between, the soy metal- black metal hybird that was post black metal was the next successful marketing scheme to deceive young and retarded metal fans alike.

Performed mostly by wealthy but useless trust fund kinds from liberal cities, post black metal was to metal as emo was to rock music: feminine, tame, and a complete and utter bastardazation.  Thus, post metal was eventually abandoned by its former fans, spat on by the metal community, dropped by metal/rock record labels, and remembered poorly by music lovers.  Much like how the rent some of its musicians was eventually cut off from their parent’s bank roll, post metal was eventually told to stop leaching off the metal community so that the genre may maintain a shred of dignity.

Brace yourselves for an infernal evisceration unlike aynthing you’ve ever seen before, because in this edition of SMR, we won’t just be sadistically reviewing albums…

 

 

we’ll be sadistically reviewing careers.

 

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Adramelech Reissuing Pure Blood Doom

Pure Blood Doom, the notoriously hard to find second album by elite Finnish death metal band Adramelech, has been scheduled for re-release on cd and limited vinyl courtesy of Nuclear Abominations Records. According to the press-release, hungry customers can expect “new, remastered sound and new, improved layout and cover by artist Turkka Rantanen who already drew the original art”.

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Pushback Against SJW Invasion Of Metal Begins With Anti-Metalsucks Campaign

Sometimes recognizing parasites becomes difficult. They sidle up to your genre, think that is fairly cool and they want a piece of that action, and then they morph themselves into clones of the fans of that genre. Then they shlurp their way inside of its cell walls, consume its vital energy, and inject their DNA into its core, replacing all that made it unique and meaningful. (more…)

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Xerion Nocturnal Misanthropia (2007)

I originally got this album as a promo when it first came out about ten years ago. I enjoyed it enough to purchase a copy and to look forward to future releases by the band. Xerion hails from Silesia in NW Spain, the same region that birthed General Francisco Franco. Xerion prefers simple, rugged, durable riffs and songs that assemble into a solid, functional album.

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