Texas Musicians Museum appoints Bruce Corbitt (Rigor Mortis, Warbeast) as “Heavy Metal Consultant”

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This may be the coolest job title ever: Heavy Metal Consultant. Vocalist Bruce Corbitt, of Rigor Mortis and Warbeast fame, has been appointed by the Texas Musicians Museum as its expert on all things heavy metal. The Museum, which is awaiting construction of its new facility at 222 E. Irving Blvd in Irving/Dallas metroplex, issued the following statement:

The Texas Musicians Museum is proud to announce that the talented Texas musician Bruce Corbitt will be assisting us as our Heavy Metal consultant.

Since the early/mid eighties, vocalist Bruce Corbitt has been in the midst of creating Texas Metal music that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. From his days in the legendary Rigor Mortis to his current band Warbeast, he has truly given us his all and made his mark on the history of Texas music. The self-titled debut Rigor Mortis album was inducted into the Decibel Magazine “Metal Album Hall Of Fame” in 2013. Both Warbeast full-length albums “Krush The Enemy” and “Destroy” have also received end-of-the-year honors by numerous metal magazines and metal news websites. Bruce also has the distinguished honor of being the only vocalist to win a Dallas Observer Award in the category for “Best Metal Band” with two different bands… twice with Rigor Mortis and once with Warbeast.

Corbitt sent out a request to all metal fans for Texas Metal Memorabilia and contact information as follows:

My first step is assembling my own panel of Texas Metal Legends and Gurus. To help me make sure we do this the way it should be done. I am very familiar with the history of Texas Metal since the beginning. But I obviously don’t know the entire history of every region as good as I do D/FW. So I have already reached out to many Texas Metal historians that I want to be part of this team/panel. Such as Jason McMaster, John Perez, Rick Perry, Rodney Dunsmore, Carcass John Fossum… and I will reach out to more for other areas. Between us all… we will brainstorm and come up with the best gameplan to do this the way it should be done.

The Museum itself will be 8,500 square feet and it will have an outdoor event area that can also have live music. Yes we will have some Texas Metal bands playing on some of these events too.

Ok… so obviously one of our main goals is to start collecting actual donations for the museum itself. So we will be starting a huge Texas Metal Memorabilia hunt for the bands and musicians that we want to include. I’m sure that I will be listing the bands as musicians soon enough that we want to induct into the museum… but it is common sense to many of you who some our legendary Texas Metal Bands are… but just to name a few Pantera, Rigor Mortis, Helstar, WatchTower, Devastation, Absu, Big Iron, Drowning Pool, The Sword, Gammacide, Deadhorse, Angkor Wat, Aska, Warlock, Militia, Solitude Aeturnus, Prophecy, Sedition, Devourment, Rotting Corpse and we are just getting started on the possibilities.

So for now… until we get further along and I make more announcements. If you have anything like historic Texas Metal memorabilia… or any ideas for bands or musicians you think should be included, or any other suggestions you think would be beneficial to our cause…
please contact me at brucecorbitt@yahoo.com

This now gives Texas two metal archives for the history and theory behind heavy metal and associated genres. The other, to which users of this site have been mailing metal artifacts for over eight years, is at the University of Texas at Austin:

Dr. David Hunter
Music Librarian and Curator, Historical Music Recordings Collection
Fine Arts Library (DFA 3.200)
University of Texas Libraries
1 University Station (S5437)
Austin, TX 78712

Office: (512) 495-4475
Fax: (512) 495-4490
Library: (512) 495-4481
david.hunter@mail.utexas.edu

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/

It is great to see metal ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and accepted by these independent but reputable authorities who are studying metal through its personalities and source documents like recordings, flyers, zines, letters and posters.

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Interview with Jerry Warden of the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame

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We last talked to Jerry Warden when he announced his intention to create a Heavy Metal Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas. He took a few moments to grant us an interview and reveal the plan, along with details about his past band Warlock and Texas metal.

You founded Warlock with your brother and two members of what would eventually be Rigor Mortis. What did Warlock sound like? Why do you think it achieved such legendary status in the Texas metal scene?

Originally, we were clueless kids/young men with a love for metal. We played cover songs of the NWOBHM bands and other heavy fare of the time. We didn’t write originals until Rick began to blossom as a song writer.

Recently, members of Warlock have restored the band and plan to release material from the demos. What can you tell us about this?

We played our reunion show at Diamond Jim’s Saloon in Arlington on Sat., Aug. 2 of this year and play on NYE at The Boiler Room in Deep Ellum. We combined the 1986 recording with one song from the 1985 recording and Kerry Crafton mastered the final product.

Do you think Warlock will write and release new material?

We have completed two new songs, “Rubber Bullets” and “Devil Dance” and will continue to write and rehearse for the foreseeable future. “Walking Plague” was recorded by Gammacide but was written by Warlock and we never recorded the song. We intend to record “Walking Plague” and several new songs next year for a 2015 release.

After Warlock, members went on to Rigor Mortis and Gammacide, which were bands from the newer style of metal at the time. How do you think these bands influenced Texas metal? Was their style a natural outgrowth of where Warlock had been heading?

“Walking Plague” and “Gutter Rats” were Warlock songs. Gammacide was a direct outgrowth of Warlock whereas Casey and Harden met Mike and he took them down a different metal path.

Do you think it’s possible to be a metalhead for your whole life and never get bored? Should metal be designed for people beyond their teenage and early 20s years?

Fortunately, I’m a simpleton, a meat and potatoes metalhead. Some mention the word shallow and I’ve been accused by more than one person of failing to “grow up” but I still love metal music. I listen to the hard rock of my youth to the current sounds of Ancient Instinct by Primordius and a whole helluva lot in the middle. I love the lifestyle, too. I get excited for the first cold night of each Fall to wear my leather jacket. Metal music has grown from a community to a family with many positive results. You see a growing number of benefit shows each year for different brothers and sisters but metal continues to provide an edge for the old and clueless as well as the young and clueless.

Your newest project is a “Heavy Metal Hall of Fame.” What gave you the idea for this? Why now?

The Heavy Metal Hall of Fame (MHOF) is overdue at this point. The idea originated from the lack of respect shown to metal music by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (RHOF) but, as our community or family evolves, we need a place of our own regardless of any outside factors including the RHOF.

How do you intend to get funding for the “Heavy Metal Hall of Fame”? Will it be a physical museum that charges admission? What are you going to put in the gift shop?

Our major form of funding will derive from grants. We will have a brick and mortar version of the Hall in Arlington, Texas. We should have the grant money in place to lease a building next year. Within 5 to 10 years, we should have the money to construct our own building.

What bands do you think were essential components of the Texas metal scene? Did they all get discovered and accepted, like Pantera and others did?

You’ve gotta begin at the beginning with Warlock, Pantera, Rigor Mortis, Helstar, Watchtower and Militia but gotta mention dead horse, Gammacide, Rotting Corpse, Arcane, Morbid Scream, Absu, Blaspherian, HOD, Shawn Whitaker, SA Slayer, Solitude, Aska, Primordius, etc. The list of bands who were and are essential components of the Texas metal scene should never end.

With Warlock returning and the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame, do you see yourself re-living your youth, or simply doing things you wanted to do the first time? Was there some moment in the past where things did not work out, that you’ve now managed to get past?

The Heavy Metal HOF is a natural progression for me in life. Rick Perry left Warbeast and asked me to reform Warlock with him. Rick Perry defined heavy guitar in the D/FW Metalplex as well as around Texas and the rest of the world. I am honored and very fortunate to share the same work space as Rick and very lucky to share a band with Clay McCarty & Randy Cooke.

Who do you feel is the audience for the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame, or the typical person you imagine will visit, and what do you think it will be like for them? How would it have felt to a 16 year old version of yourself?

I believe metal music transcends the generations and expect to see metalheads of all ages at the Hall. I believe we still have the same excitement within us as the 16 year old metalhead. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, as adults, we’ve learned to contain our excitement.

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Interview: Bruce Corbitt (Rigor Mortis)

Before labels for styles such as “death metal” caught on, there was in the late 1980s a ghastly combat in metal to see who could produce the most archetypally extreme metal band and thus exceed the boundaries set by Slayer and Venom. Into the fertile time rose the spectre of Rigor Mortis, a band renowned for their intricate fast fretwork and energetic, gruesome vocals that did not yet become deathy, but were still forceful and raw. We were fortunate to catch up with the generator of those pipings, Rigor Mortis vocalist Bruce Corbitt, as he was exiting a slaughterhouse zipping up his pants…

You are writing a book on your experiences, including rigor mortis. How does writing compare to music writing?

Besides the obvious things like the length of text and the amount of time it takes to write a book. When writing lyrics for a song you sometimes have to think about the number of lines and syllables in certain verses and choruses. With writing a book you don’t have to worry about anything like that and you can just let the words flow. My book is also a true story and my lyrics are usually fictitious ideas.

The funny part of it all is that one of my biggest weaknesses was my lack of ability to write a lot of lyrics and now I have just written a 400-page book. I mean I have no problems with hearing where I wanted to place the lyrics and how I want to sing them. But, just coming up with enough words to fill all the verses and chorus was usually a struggle for me. So for me to write lyrics for 10 new songs back then would have taken me forever.

On the other hand, Harden Harrison and Casey Orr were able to write lyrics with relative ease and they also blew my lyrics away. So after writing some lyrics for a few songs after I first joined the band, they began to write most of the lyrics from that point on. I didn’t object to it because I knew their lyrics were better than mine and I thought it was just the best thing for the band. I mean Bruce Dickinson didn’t write anything for the Number Of The Beast album… but, you don’t hear anyone complaining about that album because Bruce didn’t write all of the lyrics.

When you were starting out with Rigor Mortis, you must have experienced a good deal of personal doubt and uncertainty. What factors helped you overcome those?

I think the title of their third album pretty much sums up the attitude that the band had in the beginning and until the band’s end. Rigor Mortis Vs The Earth… that is really how it felt for us sometimes. Us against the fucking World! When I first joined the band they had shitty equipment, hardly any money or transportation and not even a place to practice. They were also taking a musical direction that obviously wasn’t going to be mainstream. Along with our rebellious attitudes… the odds of us having any kind of success was stacked against us from the very beginning. But, we didn’t give a fuck about anything like that. We just wanted to do it all our own way without any thought of compromising the music or the bands image in any way.

But, I did have some personal doubts when I first joined the band about just being accepted as the new member of the band. Because many people already liked Rigor Mortis at that time the way they were as a three-piece band. Not to mention that I had only been in one band before and we mainly had just done a lot of Black Sabbath songs. I had never taken any singing lessons and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my voice yet. But, I just wanted it so fucking badly and I also wanted to prove the doubters wrong. So, I put my life into it and I had to have this… “FUCK YOU, I am a bad motherfucker!!!”… attitude in my head to silence any uncertainty that I had for myself or that anyone else had for me.

The Texas metal scene seems to produce one or two excellent bands per generation with the rest being sub-par. What’s your view on this?

I believe that there have always been a lot of talented musicians in Texas. But, sometimes the talent is spread out too thin among too many bands. Very seldom will you see a band with every member of the band being a badass motherfucker. It’s like if you could take this drummer from one band and put him with the guitarist and bass player of this other band, and then take this singer from this band… then you could have an awesome band.

I also know that a lot of bands do not always want to do the hard work it takes to keep progressing. They want the benefits and the rewards of being in a band without wanting to keep busting their asses for it. They get enough songs down to be able to play at clubs… and record a demo or a CD. Then, they seem to go on cruise control as far as the amount of practice they do and the amount of new songs they write comes at a slower rate. But, they are doing great in their minds because they are able to play at clubs, they are now getting chicks easier and they get to be the cool guys playing on stage on weekends. When in fact they should be spending more time on just writing original songs. I mean if a band wants to survive for a long time, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

If you want to have 5 or 10 albums and be around for a while… hell, that means you need 50 to 100 originals. I see too many bands slowly stop progressing after they have 8 to 15 originals. They get too anxious and they want to start playing gigs. They gain a following and record a CD and things appear to be rolling. They hope they can get a deal with what they have and then they figure that everything will take off from there.

Of course I am talking from experience here and from some of my own mistakes. Because I also felt like the hardest part was over once we had signed with Capitol Records. But, looking back on it now… I can see that getting a deal even with a major label doesn’t mean shit. It’s what a band does if and when they do get a deal. I don’t think too many bands think past just trying to get signed and they don’t prepare for the longevity of it all by just simply writing as many originals as possible. That is the main reason why I feel this area only produces a few great bands for each generation.

Do you listen to any current metal?

I do listen to some of it through my friends that keep up with the newer bands more than I do now. I will never be a fan of any new bands like I was a fan of metal bands back when I was younger… but, I am behind the newer metal bands because they are keeping the torch burning. I also still like to get the local metal bands demos and CD’s to check out and just to support the underground.

Metal will always be in my blood and I am proud to say I never grew out of loving metal. I like other music of course… from 60s and 70s classic rock bands to punk bands. But, metal always got my adrenaline flowing more than any other type of music and it still does to this day. I know many people that loved metal and then they sort of grew out of it or something. They thought it wasn’t cool to like metal anymore, as they got older.

Even some musicians who were inspired and influenced to start playing because of metal bands and started out themselves in metal bands, became anti-metal after a while. It’s not their decision to evolve and change their musical taste over time that bothers me. I can understand that part and I respect that side of it. But, I never understood those that started slamming metal once they stopped liking it and went in a different direction. Especially when it’s the music that made them want to start jamming in the first place.

Would you do vocals for any current bands?

Absolutely! But, I don’t sit around and think about it or wish I were singing for any current bands. If the right situation and opportunity came along… I would go for it. As of right now, I am content with just starting or joining or forming a new band locally here in Dallas.

While most bands were getting “chunky” with muffled power chord riffing, it seems to me that only rigor mortis and slayer were taking the melodic approach. what inspired this direction?

Rigor Mortis was never the type of band that would go with the flow or do what all of the other bands were doing at the time. I think some of our influences like Slayer and Iron Maiden and maybe even some of Mike’s influences like Michael Schenker and Randy Rhoads might have had something to do with the melodic side of it. But, the main reason I think that Rigor Mortis didn’t sound like anyone else is simply that Mike, Harden and Casey each had their own unique style and technique in the way they played their instruments at that time. I really didn’t have anything to do with the musical direction that Rigor Mortis ventured into. They had already developed their own style of playing, they had those “fuck the world” attitudes and they were already singing about horror and gore before I was ever in the band.

Many metal fans consider the first Rigor Mortis album to be the best one that the band released Some even consider it to be a classic metal album now. Since the band didn’t have long lasting success and eventually disbanded, many metal fans that didn’t know the true history of the band, or they found out about Rigor Mortis after our breakup… many have this false misconception that I was somehow part of being the mastermind behind the first album, or that I was also part of being behind the style or image of Rigor Mortis.

When in fact all I did was join the band and I tried I fit in well with what they wanted to do at that time. Which was easy for me to do because I had already acquired a love for thrash and speed metal music by that time. Plus, I was always into horror movies and gore. I honestly always believed that the main reason many people consider the first album to be the best one is because it simply had the best material on it. Those songs had time to mature because we had played them live many times over the years. That is just my opinion and of course I am biased because I am not on the other two… lol!

If you were going to redo the Rigor Mortis experience, what changes would you make to style or content of your music?

I don’t think any of the changes would be anything too drastic. I do hear the vocal parts in certain lines in some songs that I know I would like to change. Hell, I think I could do my entire vocal parts better if I could do them now. I am sure all musicians hear their old recordings and think about how they would have done it differently if they could do it again. The sad part of it all is that because of the studio we picked to record our first album, the true definitive sound of the Rigor Mortis that I was a part of was never truly captured on a recording.

I guess other than that I think we should have added some rhythm guitar tracks over the guitar solo’s on the first album. I also think that because of the adrenaline rushes we got while we were on stage… the songs just kept getting faster and faster. It made some of the songs even better in most cases. But, in my opinion… the speed of the song Re-Animator on our demo tape was the right pace for that song. By, the time we recorded it for the first album we were playing it so much faster that I think it lost a lot of it’s intensity because of that.

Last but not least, I would now get my lazy ass in gear and contribute more to the writing process with the band. Like I was talking about back in your first question… I willingly let them start writing most of the lyrics after a while and I felt it was the best thing for the band at the time. But, now I see how I wasn’t putting enough effort into it and making myself just do it. It was the easy way out for me to let them write the lyrics and not do it myself. So, I now understand their disgust with the fact that I stopped contributing as much in the writing and ideas process after a while.

Many people, myself included, consider Rigor Mortis to be crossover music between speed metal and death metal. While I’m not here to talk about categories, I think it’s interesting how your music fits between generations. What do you see as the primary differences between what Rigor Mortis were doing and what the metal scene is putting out now?

Well, some obvious differences with some of today’s metal bands compared to back then is that they tune down their guitars and some are anti-lead solos etc. Nothing stays the same forever and so it’s natural for things to change… and that goes for metal too. I mean I often wondered back then as Rigor Mortis and bands like Slayer were taking metal to such furiously fast paced songs… how can it continue to just get heavier and faster than this before it’s just a blur and it’s not even comprehendible as a song anymore? I felt at the time that Rigor Mortis was already pushing the sound barrier to the limit.

Every Rigor Mortis song was fast at least somewhere during the song. But, if every metal band that came out played all their songs full speed… it wouldn’t give up enough variety like we have now. Metal can be fast and aggressive or slower and more powerful. It can be technical and difficult or it can be simple and lazy. The coolest thing about metal and why it will always survive even when many want to say it’s not cool to like metal these days is that we have so many different styles of metal to choose from. Black, death, speed, thrash or classic heavy metal bands ETC… take your choice.

Back when Rigor Mortis was producing records, there wasn’t as much of an underground. It’s amazing to me a band as metal as Rigor Mortis made it onto Capitol Records, but then again, it’s kind of rewarding. How do you think this appears to a generation raised on predominantly underground releases?

To some it might appear as if we were some corporately produced spoiled imitation metal band, or that we must have been sellouts to sign with a major label. For others it might be some kind of redemption that a band like us could was able to get total control of our music after signing with a big label. But, if anyone thinks we got rich and royal treatment because we signed with Capitol records… or that we sold out because we signed with a major label… think again.

The truth is that after getting some interest from many major and underground labels for a couple of years, Capitol was the first label to believe in us enough to actually tell us they wanted to officially sign us. It’s not like we turned down underground labels to sign with a major label. Once we knew that Capitol was going to give us 100% control of our music, it was a no-brainer for us to want to sign with them. It was a miracle how it all happened in the first place. So, I admit thinking at the time that by signing with a major label like Capitol Records that it was gonna increase our chances of getting more promotion and also our chances to succeed enough to survive as a band. It’s easy to try and blame Capitol for not promoting us like they could have. But, I think our biggest mistake was simply the wrong studio to record the first album.

Did you find having to be frontman for a band affected you personally, with stress or with positive changes, etc?

Being the singer for Rigor Mortis stirred up every type of emotion known to mankind. I had the stress of trying to be accepted when I first joined a band as I mentioned earlier, because many in the area already liked how they already were as a three-piece band with Casey doing the vocals. But, at the same time all kinds of positive changes started happening for me in my life as soon as I joined the band. I felt like I was somebody once I joined that band and I felt like I was part of something special. Rigor Mortis literally became my life 24 hrs a day and seven days a week. Of course I became more confident in myself as the band started having all kinds of cool things happening for us.

I mean going from such a positive highs one week after we got our deal with Capitol Records… to the very next week being stabbed in the back five times before a gig and fighting for my life. It truly was an emotional roller-coaster the entire time I was in the band.

We ask: what is there still to be dared that would be still more daring than Life, which is itself the daring venture, so that it would be more daring than the Being of beings? In every case and in every respect, what is dared must be such that it concerns every being inasmuch as it is a being. Of such a kind is Being, and in this way, that it is not one particular kind among others, but the mode of all beings as such.

If Being is what is unique to beings, by what can Being still be surpassed? Only by itself, only by its own, and indeed by expressly entering into its own.

– Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought

What other Texas metal bands do you consider great?

I would have to say Dead Horse, Sedition, Gammacide, Watchtower and Absu are the bands I have the most respect for. I think that all but Absu are now extinct.
Can you give us any timeline on a rigor mortis CD re-release? i know people out there will ask me this, so i’m asking you; sorry if it is a stressful question.
The question doesn’t bother me at all and I get asked about that all of the time. I just really have no clue myself since I have nothing to do with it. I just hope it still happens for those who still want it.

It seems that Rigor Mortis has influenced bands from diverse ranges of metal, from the most commercial to the most gnarly and underground. I hear a good deal of Mike Scaccia’s technique in Mayhem and other european lightning fast bands. Do you agree?

Yeah, I do hear it in some of those bands. I just don’t honestly know if they were really influenced or if they just have similar styles to Scaccia’s. I am kind of surprised that more guitar players haven’t picked up on Mike’s style of playing over the years… even though I do know of a few local Mike Scaccia clones. But, I don’t think Mike’s style of playing for Rigor Mortis was something that just any guitarist can do. He was born with a gift and his own style for playing the guitar. It was always natural for him and easier than it is for most who pick up a guitar. I am also certain that the rest of the guys from Rigor Mortis are also honored about any other bands or musicians that were influenced by the band in some way.

If you did form a metal band again, what kind of music would you make?

That would mainly depend on the musicians around me. I won’t know really myself until I hear it to tell you the truth. It would be old school metal for sure. I would never puss out and be in some wimpy metal band. But, I can’t tell you what it will sound like because I want to be in a band that doesn’t sound like anyone else. Rigor Mortis didn’t sound like anyone else… and I would never try to copy the Rigor sound with a new band even if it was possible. So, I just hope to find some guys that can also create a unique sound that my vocals, style and image can work with.

If Rigor Mortis were hypothetically to record another album, would it continue the stylistic progression of past or move to something of a different organization?

I think it would be like trying to do a sequel to some classic horror/gore/spatter movie for us to do another album together. Now do you want to make the sequel with more blood and twice as much killing? Do you want to go for a bigger audience and cut out all of the violent parts and make it not as brutal as the first movie? Or do you want to make the entire thing totally different than the original? Obviously we would go with being as brutal and gory as possible and we would keep the same style without copying the original sound.

We know what Rigor Mortis represents and stands for to the fans. We would never do anything that would disappoint anyone that ever liked Rigor Mortis. We all have hindsight on what we did back then and we are all a lot wiser now. But, it’s hard to recapture what you had back in early stages of a band. We were in our youth and the music was being written naturally without any thought. Because that was the music we all wanted to do at that time.

Since then the other guys have played many different styles of music in other bands. So it wouldn’t be easy to just pick up where we left off. I do however believe that our experience and wisdom on what we should and shouldn’t have done back then would prevail over anything else. I honestly feel that we would be able to create a horrifying metal masterpiece if we ever did make another Rigor Mortis album together.

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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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Vektor – Black Future

Were the year 1988/89, when Speed Metal was making it’s final, most definitive statements of dystopian frenzy and technical invention, the reverberations of this music would undoubtedly be traced back to places like Canada and Texas, detecting the names of Voivod, Obliveon, Watchtower and dead horse among others. Certainly not Arizona, where, in Vektor‘s case, these sounds have travelled to and eventually merged in an energetic experiment of nuclear fusion. To some, the last few years have been good times for Speed Metal and saw a resurgence of bands trying to capture the spirit of the 80′s. In reality, this was one of many niched exercises in nostalgia and the long out-of-date fruits of useless bands like Evile, Merciless Death, Lich King and Municipal Waste reflected the trivial trend with sounds of supreme tackiness. Vektor are among the very few in revitalising Speed Metal, creating more than just a retrospective and methodological account of that genre’s heyday. ‘Black Future’ is a work that honours the past enthusiasm for innovation and musical proficiency, thus having a mind of its own to render this music for present and future audiences.

Voivod is the most visibly emblazoned influence on this band’s aesthetic, touching everything from the logo to the trademarked discordance and the futuristic scenes of technocratic dissolution it portrays. The Obliveon influence is quite explicit also, as there’s a lot of complex and unconventional movement of individual notes that resembles some kind of robotic Pagannini-droid, disembodied from the more rhythmic sections to emphasise the Classical aspirations of this band where melody is concerned. The rhythmic sections also stress this connection via. Metallica and their revolutionary instrumentals such as ‘Call of Ktulu‘ and ‘Orion‘ (there’s even the odd riff-a-like worked into the otherwise unique and beautifully crafted compositions). These songs flow very well through the course of the album, arranged much like one would theoretically expect it to sound had the band announced that they’ve written a ‘concept album’. It progresses from scenes of human conflict, chaos and error to glimpses of dark matter and the expanses of space hitherto undiscovered, mutating the neoclassicism into crescendos of high-end, sci-fi movie score material. Vocals are piercing shrieks that sound like the most ultrasonic intonations of Destruction with a touch of Absu. The drumming is really skillful but, as with the guitar-work, is almost over-indulgent at times, bringing undue attention to staple techniques like galloping kick-drums and shredding, though these occasions are few and far between and in any case, it’s infinitely more enjoyable to hear such exponentiated energy where it really belongs.

This album took us by surprise as 2009 was drawing to a close, capping off a year filled with more quality albums than the discerning Metal listener of recent years is used to. Vektor’s grasp of their ancestry is profound and combined with an epic concept and insane and elegant musicianship, ‘Black Future’ plays out like some cosmic race towards entropy with mankind in the driver’s seat.

-ObscuraHessian-

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Unsilent Storms in the Texas Abyss

From the arid deserts infested with scorpions and snakes to the liberal cities and more conservative rural ranches, Texas carries the memory of the American frontier, the spirit of man against overwhelming odds; an age when harmony with nature determined survival. In the 80′s groundbreaking bands such as DRI, HelstarWatchtower, Ripper and Necrovore created both musical and aggressive anti-normal metal that gave foundations for genres such as progressive metal, thrash and death metal. In the 90′s, the sceptre was mostly carried by death metal influenced black metal bands Absu, Averse Sefira and Thornspawn. Just as the Texas scene seemed to have quieted down in keeping with the hipsterization of metal, the last two years have shown many new promising acts to arise: the occult metal of Dagon, the hyperactive metal/punk crossover of Birth A.D. and the demonic and subliminal Blaspherian. While all of these are formally very much crafted according to the rules of subgenres established by the previous degenerations, their no-nonsense attitude and direct, perceptual spirit in the creation of insistent, spontaneous and un-commercial metal artifacts deserves nothing but applause.

Reviews
Birth A.D. –  Stillbirth of a Nation
Blaspherian – Allegiance to the Will of Damnation

Written by Devamitra

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