Brutal Art Records has announced the release of a split CD/LP between Fleshcrawl and Skinned Alive entitled Tales of Flesh and Skin to be released in January 2016. The limited release, which comes with custom guitar picks from each band, will occur in an issue of only 100 copies of the cassette, 50 of each in red and black. Afterwards, a digipak CD with 4-panel booklet will be issued in 300 copies.
The volatile mix of Fleshcrawl’s Swedish-influenced style of death metal and the one-man band Skinned Alive, which takes a more percussive approach, should provide interesting and may foreshadow longer releases from each of these bands. Brutal Art Records reveals the split will be out toward the middle or end of January, and will not be issued on vinyl.
From the cluster of San Antonio bands who have provided a steady stream of necrotic underground metal since the mid-1980s comes a new project, a Celtic Frost cover band named Morbid Tales, which plays live on Friday, October 11 in San Antonio.
Composed of Bjorn Haga (Necrovore, LaSanche, Hod, Thornspawn) on guitars, Art Espinoza (Deguello) and Rob Garcia on drums, Morbid Tales revives the roaring glory days of Celtic Frost as it re-invented metal to be a more primal and psychic assault.
One of the things that distinguished Norwegian black metal from what had preceded it was its emphasis on storytelling: inviting the listener to not just observe, but be an active participant in discovering the meaning behind the work. The elements of composition were not, in themselves, the end goal of a song, but rather were tools used to convey the artist’s intention.
By using heroic imagery coupled with atonal yet melodic music, it went beyond the violent deconstruction of death metal by showing not only that the supposed progress of the modern era has been a sham, it offered an alternative: a return to an earlier age, a time when survival depended upon more than earning enough money to purchase antidepressants and microwave dinners.
This core of black metal was something that was increasingly lost as the genre became more popular, as newer bands overlooked this when attempting to understand how to play this genre of music.
As one of these contemporary bands, Profane Prayer plays black metal in the later Darkthrone style with an old school heavy metal influence. Indicative of its generation, this track (taken from their upcoming album) at first glance has all the elements of black metal: screaming vocals, pounding blastbeats, dissonant tremolo picking, and anti-christian themes.
However, what is lacking is the artistic vision the presages its creation. Although all of the individual components may be sound, there is nothing linking them together. Sections of the song are easily recognizable and there is care in how they are ordered, but the song does not challenge the listener to discovery. Like most black metal of its age, it’s not awful, but not particularly good either. If this band could couple their musical talent with a deeper artistic spirit, they would assuredly have a worthwhile composition.
Tales of Vagrancy and Blasphemy will be released via No Colours Records the first week of May.
Many reissues of underground Metal CDs, especially onto the digipack format of packaging, have removed much of the experience of being immersed in the total artistic presentation that was part and parcel of the infernal sounds it contained on the disc. This is seemingly symptomatic of casual, background, mp3 listening, which feigns a disregard of anything external to the music itself, while at the same time a reduction of whatever’s being heard, to exactly that: ornament. There’s something to be said about the honest ritualism of setting time and space aside in this multi-tasking age of lifestreams and other such convergences of different faced distractions, in order to access deeper and darker worlds. Interesting cover art and a booklet complete with lyrics and liner notes all aid to this end. Peaceville records reissued a large selection of their early 90′s back catalogue several years ago, with some classic albums missing lyrics or important liner notes. Roadrunner records’ budget ‘Two from the Vault’ series were even less impressive, with their dual-offering reducing the content that once accompanied each album to something of infomercial ‘Best of Country Music’ standards. Peaceville, to their credit, did include some interesting bonus material on their digipacked CDs of the first four Darkthrone albums. This was a series of interviews conducted by the Black Metallers themselves, reflecting on the circumstances surrounding each album.
The reissue we’re concerned with has captured the best of both worlds, heeding the traditional benefit of drawing a listener into the experience of the album with detailed and faithfully imported contents, as well as providing bonus material in the form of a full-length documentary about the Death Metal classic that is Morbid Angel’s ‘Blessed are the Sick’. This commemoration of the great work features a fold-out design that replaces the pages of a booklet with new and old artwork appearing more vibrantly than it would on glossy paper. Delville’s depiction especially, of Satan ensnaring fallen humanity, has not looked more powerful on any previous pressing. Demanding almost childlike interactivity, the digipack is an enjoyable format to get lost in Vincent’s amoral and blasphemous sermons more so than in-sleeve booklets. Full liner notes are included, and like those of the previous album, they intimately reveal more about the intentions and the attitude of these artists, even dedicating the entire work to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
One unavoidable sacrifice to the presentation is the lack of art or logo on the CD itself, because it’s not technically a CD, but a dual-layered CD/DVD. This brings us to ‘Tales of the Sick’, an hour-length documentary about the making of the album, the subsequent touring of the new tracks and its lasting legacy. Conversations with Morbid Angel are limited to insights from David Vincent, whose articulation isn’t quite enough to compensate for the lack of ‘Blessed are the Sick’s lead song-writer and sonic shaman, Trey Azagthoth. And although he doesn’t quite resemble the same blonde-haired Hessian that upheld the Nietzschean spirit of Death Metal since it’s golden age, Vincent provides an interesting commentary on why the album sounds like it does and the obstacles the band faced to achieve this sound. Further to Azagthoth’s tribute in the liner notes, Vincent goes on to describe ‘Blessed are the Sick’ as an attempt to approach Mozart’s compositional style through the lens of Death Metal. Tom Morris of the reknowned Morrissound studios reveals the more technical challenges in engineering one of the most astoundingly crisp and clear sounding Death Metal albums, despite its speed and complexity. Other interviews feature the following generation of Death Metal musicians such as Nile’s Karl Sanders, and a lot of memories from the tours are shared by former managers and sound technicians. As an additional bonus, Earache have included the official music video for ‘Blessed are the Sick/Leading the Rats’, though in it’s original 4:3 aspect ratio. This is a great supplement to an highly influential album, and any real fan of Morbid Angel would do well to add this reissue to their collection.
It would certainly not be far from the mark to say that Fanisk are the crowning achievement of “NSBM.” The limits reached by Eldrig’s sublime compositions, tempered by the conceptual direction given by Vitholf, far exceeded anything that came either from the “NS” or the “US” camps, altogether escaping the cliched definitions of either. That is, as music, Fanisk fits neither of the pseudo sub-genres in quesion, and only belongs to either by dint of their ideological sponsoring and geographical location. (more…)
Alpha Hydrae is a rather recent metal outfit hailing from Monterrey, northern Mexico. Their only official release to date is their full-length Venomous Devotion – The Hematic Lust from 2013. Despite its misleading title, this is no symphonic metal, but rather old-style melodic black metal with a strong use of keyboards. It could be described as “gothic” as well, not in reference to the terrible metal subgenre of the same name (that swarm of early-Paradise Lost copycats), but according to its ambiance and obsession with tales of vampiric fantasies. (more…)
(Join DMU Legend Johan Pettersson for what may be the most expansive analysis of power metal ever presented in the first of a 3 part series. Listen to the accompanying suggested listening here)
Of all the subgenres and styles that fall within the metal spectrum (hence excluding unmitigated relapses into rock such as death’n’roll, stoner, nu- and indie metal), power metal most definitely counts as the one that has received the highest amount of scorn and ridicule from critics, fans and outsiders alike. (more…)
“Dude, their demos were so much better” is one of the most obnoxious cliches of underground metal. Usually a sign of virtue signaling used to mask one’s insecurities about their knowledge or taste, many lost souls of a nostalgia-obsessed age will use this one as a pale attempt to one up their brethren. However in many cases within metal’s sonic sphere, bands that were truly fantastic on their early demos left much to be desired and ultimately left listeners unfulfilled. Whether it be a record company’s influence, a change in heart or band members, or a touch of genius quickly fumbled away, may bands throughout the history of metal have never quite been able to match the quality of their demo recordings.
With death metal built on an entire sub culture of tape trading, demos were more than a proverbial foot-in-the-door to a potential record deal. For musicians of the genre’s early days, the demo was the equivalent to having your record in the store- it was being shipped all around the world to fans desperate for something they couldn’t find in shops and to musicians hungry for new ideas. Furthermore, a band’s demo was untainted by the direction and input of record labels who, in those days, quite often suppressed what was deemed “too weird” or “too extreme” as death metal was often determined by the suits of those days. Tape trading death metal demos was an underground of its own, and your band’s demo tape wasn’t just a pathway to commercialization or musical success- but a often the start of new friendships in a rapidly globalizing world. Given all of these unique factors, it’s no surprise death metal was full of bands who could never quite capture the magic of their demos.
To offer a complete list would be a dishonor and disservice to the legions of quality works that fall under this umbrella. Therefore in today’s editorial, I will briefly offer a handful of my personal favorite death metal demos from bands that could never quite capture the magic. Though I pay little mind to what happens in our comment sections, this will mark a special occurrence where I’d be delighted to know what DMU’s readers would have on this list.