Gorement – The Ending Quest

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Gorement could send a thank-you letter to Amorphis and the funeral doom movement for popularizing its riffs over the years, since despite a large amount of raw promise this release was never going anywhere. The Ending Quest is like a book of ideas, raw riffs of great potential floating in a background of poor ideas and randomness.

Often reasons exist for why underground treasures never made it to the surface back in the day. In the case of The Ending Quest, the reason is that it is a boring and frustrating listen, for two reasons. The band does not know how to develop songs, and thus its greatest ideas either go nowhere or run somewhere pointless, and its songwriting duties seem divided between a genius at melodic riffs and a guy who likes to write chromatic skim fills to keep those riffs from getting ahead of themselves.

Only two years after this album came out, a band named Skepticism took this aesthetic and brought it to a better place: crashing glacial riffs, slow bass-intense vocals, and a melodic basis. They dropped the death metal influences that required those melodic riffs to move quickly, and the guitar solos, which meant that they made their music in more of an ambient capacity. Gorement instead try to make death metal and so they piece it together, two boring riffs for every melodic sweet spot, and a sense of rhythm that often disconnects the needs of the riff from the needs of the song.

Material of stunning insight, foresight and promise fills this disc. Many of these riffs are cognizable from the albums of bands that went on to more success, and some of these ideas far exceed the substitutes that came in their place. The unique low and slow bass-intense vocals were an innovation, as was the tendency — later exploited by bands like Amorphis, Dissection, Sentenced, Bolt Thrower and Sacramentum — to stitch a fast melodic lead over a vermicular riff and slow partial groove. Gorement also know how to create a dramatic transition through simultaneous tempo and riff shift. The problem is that so many of these riffs fall into predictable patterns, and so many of these songs fail to organize their elements into any expression, so we end up with the curse of all early death metal: the album of good riffs that goes nowhere.

Our ex-editor Kontinual, who died suddenly of AIDS in 2010, wrote fondly of this band. But this is ultimately where we differ: death metal is propelled by structure, with each song forming a kind of “riff-poem” in which emotion is derived from how the riffs fit together, not the particular key and mode in which they are written. Riff-poems fail when they stop making sense, or when there is blathering nonsense that should have been edited out inserted just after a phrase of great profundity. The Ending Quest inspired legions of bands and imitators, is partially responsible for the first “melodic doom” explosion that tried to make death metal for rock music fans with Tiamat and later Opeth, and clearly gave many bands a riff book to use in their own projects. But as a listening experience, it resembles a speech by a distracted professor: moments of brilliance, surrounded by confusion.

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Empire Auriga – Ascending the Solar Throne

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American ambient-metal band Empire Auriga’s second album Ascending the Solar Throne expands the style pioneered by Burzum through the “Decrepitude” I& II tracks from “anti-black metal” album Filosofem. Ascending the Solar Throne comprises songs that are cold, distant, and simplistic. These spacious compositions rely on the repetition of arpeggiated guitars providing a base for reverb-drenched and piercing treble guitars to shine through, along with an anguished yet faint vocal accompaniment. Although the band forgoes the use of percussion entirely, tempi are regular and recursive song segments are identifiable. Synths or heavy guitar effects lightly sprinkle the mix almost as decoration, enhancing the presentation of the album but not interfering with its texture.

Expressing the desolation of technological existence, Empire Auriga weaves a journey through an inner experience of an individual separated from the external world of perception through pain, before coming to rest in a more peaceful place. Gradually moving from aggressive and dissonant chords in the beginning towards a calmer and safer mild major key conclusion, Ascending the Solar Throne is unfortunately unable to complete the journey which is hinted at in the opening tracks. Instead of turning the nihilism present into existential achievement, the album instead retreats into the safe and vacuous womb which afflicts most post-modern music.

Rather than confronting the question of one’s existence directly, as Filosofem did so elegantly, the choice instead is made to ignore it. This disappointment aside, Ascending the Solar Throne is an interesting album which attempts something rare in contemporary music: an artistic voyage. For that reason, it deserves consideration and acknowledgment where it succeeds, but ultimately the listener will be left slightly hollow and bereft.

Ascending the Solar Throne will be released on August 19th via Moribund Records.

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Affirmed: Averse Sefira shows are worth attending

Averse Sefira
October 11th, 2008
Room 710
Austin, TX
$10

Setlist:
Vomitorium Angelis
Plagabraha
Heirophant Disgorging
Viral Kinesis
Serpent Recoil
A Shower of Idols
Detonation
Helix in Audience

While perusing the DLA review section, one will notice that there are already 10 live reviews for Averse Sefira. One begins to wonder why such favoritism is displayed for one band. Another very likely thought to emerge will be to question what more could be said about this band’s live performances.

Very little black metal of merit has come from the United States. Out of those bands, Averse Sefira is one of the few that still performs regularly. We in south Texas are very fortunate that they just happen to reside down here, so we are able to see them perform frequently. The only favoritism shown is that yes, we like Averse Sefira and will see them as often as possible. If other bands of quality played our area as often, you’d likely see just as many reviews here for them.

Despite residing in south Texas for some years, the October 11th show was this reviewer’s first time seeing Averse Sefira live. Anticipation was high. We arrived late, as the band preceding Averse Sefira was concluding their final song. After the standard intermission, Averse Sefira took the stage and proceeded to put on an excellent set of scathing, high energy music. They maintain a stage presence and technical ability few can match. Admittedly, the crowd was a bit sparse, but Texas metal shows are always a mixed bag. Small, loyal crowds are better than large, disinterested ones.

This review has been written as an affirmation that Averse Sefira continues to put on great shows and remains a band worth seeing live should they grace your locality. If you are looking to escape the tedium of the average death or black metal
bands, Averse Sefira is well worth your while. If you’re just looking for a good metal show, then you can’t go wrong Averse Sefira. You will get your money’s worth for this band alone, regardless of lineup.

by Lance Bateman

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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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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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With New Song, Dimmu Borgir Officially Becomes Nightwish

In an unexpected turn of events, Mortal-Kombat-tier Norwegian opera-metallers Dimmu Borgir have gone full on symphonic power metal in their new song.  Embracing the trending female fronted power/quest metal sound that has replaced metalcore as the newest wave of a strange phenomenon known as “girlfriend metal” (the metal your girlfriend puts on while she’s cleaning the house), Dimmu have essentially robbed the sound of Nightwish, Epica, and Within Temptation while yet retaining the Hollywood-orc vocals of Shagrath.  While moments resembling early Blind Guardian are in fact an improvement over a preceding album that was almost completely devoid of guitars, this is by no means quality power metal nor is it the hybrid of older Dimmu styles that the band has been mouthing off about the past few months.

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5 Slam Records that Won’t Insult Your Intelligence

Sometimes in between quests for the perfect transcendent meal, you wind up in the drive-thru.  There’s nothing wrong with that- not every action in life has to be one of self-discovery or grandiose vision- sometimes you just want to destroy yourself as a brief respite from analytical or introspective journeys, which actually provides a contrast that truly showcases the merit in the pursuit of depth but also gives an objective worth to consumables that are designed with much less substance in mind.  There is a place for what is now known as “slam” in the death metal pantheon, and as with any subgenre of course the progenitors are the best examples of it, as prior to its neanderthalic fall from grace it started as marriage of the percussive elements of Suffocation with the over-the-top imagery of gore-focused grind bands while limiting the use of humanistic elements like melody and cyclical structure.  This is a more than valid metal style as it does actually transcend a known formula through divorcing it from song archetypes and instead celebrates an ignorance that is mirrored perfectly in masochistic savagery. Given that is is more rhythmically focused than previous death metal styles is it natural that it would meet its downfall by travelling down an insultingly urban path that betrays the savagery it had once wielded, but it is still worth revisiting a few choice releases to analyze what may unfortunately be the last true movement in a dying genre at the turn of the century.

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Analysis of Death Metal Vocalists

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:
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Heavy Metal In Academia

The last two decades has witnessed an exponential growth of studies devoted to popular music, coupled with a re-evaluation of past theories and models for interpretation and analysis. This paradigm shift has sparked interest in music “at the fringes” which in turn has led to the unlikely emergence of “metal studies”: a multi-disciplinary field of research centered around all things related to metal music.

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