A tentative list to get into death metal

TheSoundofDeathMetal

Getting into underground metal styles has never been a straightforward thing for anyone. The exception might be the Cannibal Corpse crowd that approach this music as fix for a certain mood, but see little beyond the most sensual appeal of the music. For those actually trying to appreciate the music anywhere beyond the surface either in a technical manner, it’s significance or the experience it provides beyond simple monochromatic sensual indulgence, the path consists of several steps in not one path but a multitude of paths that conform to the singular state and journey of each listener.

The present list does not attempt to give a template that will fit all as that is impossible. It is simplistic in its attempt to generalize and exemplify. The most important starting assumption is that the listener is at least fond of traditional heavy metal or hard rock in the worse case. I tried to avoid using of overtly offensive gateway bands like Craddle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir or Arch Enemy but these should not be completely discarded as possibilities to enable a smooth and pleasant transition into death and black metal.

For this example of a road map towards understanding and appreciation of death metal I have distinguished five different steps with suitable albums as follows:

I. Easy-going quasi death metal

  1. Carcass – Heartwork
  2. Entombed – Left Hand Path

II. Welcoming and easy-to-understand simple death metal that is only complex on a local level and so can inspire a sense of technical wonder in the listener while maintaining mood.

  1. Death – Spiritual Healing
  2. Adramelech – Psychostasia
  3. Demigod – Slumber of Sullen Eyes

III. Excellent, but mostly on a technical level, with raw power and refinement in style, solid and well-produced albums that do not transcend their technical aspects

  1. Morbid Angel – Covenant
  2. Cryptopsy – None so Vile 
  3. Vader – Litany 

IV. Authentic, representative of the core of the death metal spirit while being original

  1. Demilich – Nespithe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjutXYAwc_0
  2. Deicide – Legion
  3. Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten

V. Completely past appearances and technical infatuation, almost on the spiritual level of true and good black metal

  1. At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
  2. Immolation – Unholy Cult
  3. Gorguts – Obscura

 

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88 thoughts on “A tentative list to get into death metal”

  1. Felix says:

    Just wondering, couldn’t From Wisdom To Hate be there instead of Obscura?

    1. I personally prefer From Wisdom to Hate to Obscura, but I would place From Wisdom to Hate in between levels 3 and 4. It is too self-conscious for the 5th level.

      1. Felix says:

        Can I ask where would you put Timeghoul’s material? Besides, I think you need an article/essay to present your musical comprehension of death/black metal on both technical and transcendental aspects. This would help readers to understand the logic behind your reviews (and either agree or disagree with your vision) and could also be used as a personal guide for new and older metal listeners on how to critique this music, since it obviously can’t be the same way as other popular genres neither classical.

        1. This is why I wrote this one. Made more clear by the clever editing of Brett Stevens because I am a lousy organizer:
          http://www.deathmetal.org/news/chalice-of-blood-helig-helig-helig/

  2. discodjango says:

    Very good picks and well categorized. There are only two things I would change: I would list “De Profundis” instead of “Litany”, and “Left Hand Path” should be in category 2 because it is more death metal than “Heartwork”. I guess “Onward To Golgotha” would be in category 4 or 5.

    1. Onward to Golgotha! Right about that!

      About “Left Hand Path”, the more I’ve progressed in death metal, the more I am of the opinion that it isn’t really death metal. IT only sounds like death metal.

      1. discodjango says:

        Maybe you are right. There’s a lot of speed-death-hybrid-metal going on, and a lot of punk, too, but it has the aesthetics of death metal. I think the answer to this can be found in the early Nihilist demos: they switched to lower vocals and invented the ‘swedish sound’ on the second demo. Wether it is death metal or not: I do love the early Entombed/Nihilist stuff, especially “Morbid Devourment”.

        I listen to death metal for nearly 24 years now, but I am still trying to improve my understanding of it. So thanks for your thoughts, always appreciated!

        1. discodjango says:

          *whether

  3. burning hell says:

    I just got OUT of death metal; all metal for that matter. I feel like it’s all an empty expression now, vapid and meaningless and assimilated. I’ve literally been destroying things I own that used to be meaningful to me. The gluttonous masses devoured it’s soul now all that remains is an empty husk they wear as a shroud while socializing in LA and Brooklyn. Does anyone else feel this way? That it’s all become neutered and lobotomized and all the past expressions were not really what we thought (or hoped) they were to begin with?

    1. That’s why I’m not after “new acts” now. Consider exploring the vast depths of classics like Onward to Golgotha. It is really worth your time.

      1. burning hell says:

        With new acts it seems like metal in name only, just rock/indie garbage. I actually got called a “poser” online by a poseur for hating Deafheaven by a person with a connection to the band today (I impulse bought a woven Bathory patch, then a couple of weeks later found out it was produced by some tumblrina who’s somehow linked to the piglet looking guy with glasses from Deafheaven-so I stabbed the fucking patch and just tossed away the old denim; I see denims and band merch as ANTI-METAL now because they’ve just become a symbol of preening socialized parasites. I’m so fucking sick of impotent garage rock (Midnight) and whatever kind of screamo/gaze/indiecore/not-metal Deafheaven is; being called “metal” that I think actual metal needs a new name. Maybe burying the word “metal” Al Sharpton style or giving the word a Viking funeral is in order. NO ROCK. NO SHOWS. NO MERCH. NO POSE.

  4. Awful says:

    Do you even know how to website?

    1. not really :(
      Would you teach me?

  5. Ara says:

    Unholy Cult is probably the last good Immolation album, but I was surprised to see it over say Here in After or Dawn of Possession. Maybe I should revisit it.

    1. I think that in Unholy Cult they have moved beyond the “words” of music while still making a musically solid album. (that is to say, they did not move into trying to directly touch evocation which is the error of many war metal or modern black metal bands)
      In Here in After , its appreciation is mostly based on the admiration of the cleverness and uniqueness of singular sections. We move from picture to picture inside each song.
      Dawn of Possession cannot compare to either of those in any sense except, of course, competence.

      1. Ara says:

        Here in After is my personal favorite, and after Failures for Gods their sound to me became king of streamlined. I remember liking Unholy Cult, and it seems what you are getting at with level 5 is that the bands here exude character and message without effort, but while their music was more interesting and quirky on Here in After it also breathed disgust and blasphemy in a way I don’t feel with their other albums. What you seem to be saying about Here in After is that it paints too many moods for you to be a singularly impactful piece of art, which seems to be a theme of the site in that varied moods muddy communication of an album for writers here.

        1. I would not say monochromatic music is the only music that can be powerful. There is excellent music to be found that conveys a wide variety of moods and expression throughout their duration.
          For me the issue lies in balance, proportion and the ability to tie everything together. Wider range of expression and mood also introduces complexity.
          So from here we can reduce this argument to answer two common complaints made to this website. The first is the one you just mentioned, the second is the one that says that DMU prefers simple and direct music.

          It is not that direct and monochromatic music is inherently better. It is that a reduced scope is easier to bring under control so most excellent music is more limited. It takes a great deal of talent but even more importantly a great deal of WORK, practice and knowledge to bring greater complexity into a powerful and balanced music. Usually to a degree that the vast majority of metal (even true classics) do not possess. Therefore most true classics of metal are indeed monochromatic and limited. In that limitation they become more clear and accomplished.

          In terms of liking, Here in After is one of my favorites too. I do not judge it as inferior because it conveys too many moods. But because these moods are presented as scattered pieces.

          I know I sound repetitive and obviously I am infatuated with this composer but you may take a look at, say, Beethoven’s 6th or 7th Symphony for an example of works with variety of mood accomplishing great unity and focus.

          1. Ara says:

            How do you feel about Defleshed? Specifically Under the Blade. One solid mood across a brilliant record.

            1. Never heard of that band before.

              1. Ara says:

                It’s more death/thrash, and the lyrics are the dumbest, but it makes me want to kill people like few other records. They were more straight up death metal on two previous records.

          2. Felix says:

            But at the same time Beethoven is a master at developing motives (in a more romantic sense than Bach). If there’s one thing you learn with Beethoven (such things you learn by actually playing his music and not only listening) is that Beethoven can develop and exploit a few ideas throughout a piece in such a subtle way that it gives the impression of variety (not to be confused with progression), yet total coherence is achieved due to those advanced musical manipulations. That’s of course speaking on a purely technical level.

            1. Correct, and all not at the service of evocation but IN BALANCE with it. In the best of his works, of course, NOT always.
              That is why I set him as an example.

  6. Daniel says:

    This list will just bore prospective death metal fans. Left Hand Path is more death metal than Heartwork’s candied up German thrash as pop songs. Yes LHP devolves into Swedish d-beat crustcore on some songs due to many of them being early Nihlist material but those songs are still good and the record has real DM tracks. Throw Scream Bloody Gore and the IVth Crusade in there and you’re ready to entice people.

    Scream Bloody Gore as I can’t really encourage any listening to Death after Scream Bloody Gore as that’s when Chuck’s hippie liberal whiny bitch tendencies took over. The music just stops so he can say his oh so important lyrics and the actual rhythm riffs the backbone riffs for songs are often braindead chugging with guitar candy around them. Of course those albums are still decent up to and including Human but still you risk boring the listener. After that it’s just random melodic guitar masturbation that fails as metal much like Dream Theater.

    Why is Unholy Cult in level V over Nespithe or Onward to Golgotha? I understand this list is not organized based on the overall quality of the records but that’s the album on which the streamlining of Immolation’s sound starts taking a huge bite out of the music. Failures for Gods and Close to a World Below are more boring and streamlined than Craig Smilowski Immolation anyway. The plane was in free fall on Unholy Cult but still at a fairly high altitude. After Alex Hernandez parachuted and Vigna started writing the drum parts on his computer, it was just over. They didn’t truly crash land until the latest record though, which is total machine head garbage with zero redeeming features. The horrible recording, mixing, and mastering means you probably don’t even want to check it out as a trainwreck for more than a minute.

    Litany and Covenant are also fucking boring after hearing Left Hand Path, Adramalech, and Demigod. Why don’t you just play them None So Vile, Legion, Suffocation, or Like an Ever Flowing Stream right away? You want these guys to feel the overwhelming power of really put together death metal records before bringing on the more out there thought out stuff. I played Legion and LAEFS to a guy who only really listened to melodeath/black and he basically went nuts with DM. A better list would’ve been “How to get people who like Slayer into Death Metal.”

    1. Thanks for the suggestions. Remember this is only an example and a proposal. I do want to get you guys to suggest your own 5-step lists.

      1. discodjango says:

        This would be interesting. Thinking about it since yesterday, I have to say some albums are rather difficult to put into that specific categories. For example: where should I list “Altars Of Madness”, which I think is a masterpiece? It is not too complex, so it wouldn’t fit into category 5, but it is a deeply spiritual record (like “Abominations Of Desolation” and “Blessed Are The Sick”, too). “Left Hand Path” may not be a very spiritual record (and I am still thinking about whether it may only be death metal on the surface or really IS death metal; this has to be discussed sometime later), but how they put the riffs together on songs like “Morbid Devourment” is so well done, like forming an ‘ever flowing stream’ (ahem), that I would have to put individual songs much higher than category 1 or 2. This is a difficult thing. For example: although “Obscura” is not one of my ‘personal favorites’, I admire the album, and I get why you put it in category 5, but I also think that ‘simple’ music can have a spiritual quality, too. This can be reached by excellent riff-gluing. This is not a matter of personal opinion! For example, I do like “Leprosy” for its riffs, but it doesn’t deserve a rank higher than category 1 because it doesn’t bring the riffs together in a way that the whole thing becomes something great. Maybe I am being ‘too German’ about this, haha! How about a special category named “excellence through riff-gluing”?

    2. discodjango says:

      You are right bringing “The IVth Crusade” on the table. It is a great record, and one that built successfully on what this band achieved before. Category 4 or 5?

      Regarding “Heartwork”: German ‘thrash’ metal already had pop song structures. Carcass mixed in hard rock, power metal, very little death metal and even a minimum dose of their old grindcore. It’s a record I admire for its cleverness, its self-confidence and its ability to ‘hit hard’ when it is needed.

      1. I don’t think the IVth Crusade would go into 5. Perhaps category 2 or 4.

      2. discodjango says:

        *TO the table. Damn it!

  7. Frank says:

    TRITSIO was actually among the very first death metal albums I got. The crystal clear production and flawless song structures make it pretty listenable. Where would Onward to Golgotha place here?

  8. parasite says:

    Spiritual Healing has the lamest lyrics. So preachy and down to earth.. boring! One good solo is all that album is good for. I remember buying it on a whim, then listening to it a few times shaking my head because of the leanings into speed metal yet failing miserably. So I traded it in for Endless Pain and haven’t looked back since.

  9. Roger says:

    David,

    Why should we, the readers, put stock in these rankings and the extremely large statements you make about, say, morbid angel’s covenent ‘not transcending it’s technical aspects’? Why doesn’t it? Whats the use of just telling me that it doesn’t, without backing this up?

    Such statements did not ring true with me, and so my conclusion is they merely reflect your subjective tastes. What makes you more qualified than any other half-intelligent metal listener in passing such sweeping judgments?

    And LHP simply does NOT belong with Hatework.

    Cheers.

    1. If you put the different things ive written together you should have a picture of the reasons.

      1. Roger says:

        A constructive idea that leads from my mild criticism of your approach in this article is the following:

        Instead of, basically, arguing that exactly 4 angels can dance on the head of a pin (read: “that there are 5 categories of DM, and, of course, that Covenant is on level 3 while legion is on level 4), instead be a bit more general and list some of the best death metal records and say *why they are good*.

        Instead of alienating people pointlessly a little, by engaging in categorizing activities which are (i’m afraid) pretty much subjective, be more ‘inclusive’. But by this I DO NOT mean including spiritual healing among the best death metal albums.

        All in all I think you’re doing much more good for quality death metal than bad, but there’s no reason not to be the best one can.

        Cheers

        1. ” instead be a bit more general and list some of the best death metal records and say *why they are good*.”

          This has been done time and again and will be done again here in the future.
          But that was not the point of this article.
          The point here was not to say which albums were “superior”.
          The point is to start creating playlists or long-term plans to allow newbies to get into good death metal and eventually, hopefully, into black metal.

          I really think that good appreciation of black metal cannot be achieved directly…

        2. Instead of alienating people pointlessly a little, by engaging in categorizing activities which are (i’m afraid) pretty much subjective, be more ‘inclusive’.

          Nothing is subjective. Subjectivity is relativism :)

        3. list some of the best death metal records and say *why they are good*.

          I agree, obviously, as I’ve spent large portions of over two decades doing that.

          Others take a different approach, which is to suggest a poetic correspondence between the work and certain ideas as a means of both “framing” the art and pre-loading the mind of the listener with what they need to grasp the sonic gestures they will hear; this is like esotericism with a twist, akin to the mentoring process.

    2. Ara says:

      Didn’t you read the “Music is not subjective” article here? There is no such thing as taste in music- there is right and wrong and black and white and value and lack of value. Us lowly peon readers will hopefully be enlightened on how to correctly value art someday.

      1. Actually, you should read more closely. There is no subjective or objective in music. Dmu spoke against the modern meaningless concept of taste which is just personal preference. Taste originally implies a compromise between a group and the notions of an individual

        1. discodjango says:

          The article ended with these words: “No matter how this is parsed, it reveals that the truth of music is not on the subjective side, and matches what people mean when they say ‘objective’.” Maybe it’s the language barrier, but I read this as ‘music is objective’. It was argumented before that music communicates a thought directly and this can be ‘understood’ directly. Again: a difficult thing. In “Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde”, which I haven’t finished yet, Schopenhauer states that our intellect is something we are born with and that we cannot learn ‘different kinds’ of intellect (like Scharfsinn, Klugheit, Schlauheit, Einsicht etc.). This indicates that not all people can ‘get it’. But as we see, some people ‘evolve’. Maybe the ability is ‘in us’ a priori and it is working through ‘the will’, maybe it’s some kind of triggering that is needed, or a sharpening of the senses. Tarkovski, in his “Die versiegelte Zeit”, writes that art is aristocratic by nature and, in a way, chooses its audience. He also gives some interesting thoughts on the connection of ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’, but you have to read it for yourself because it is too difficult for me to translate (also the German edition I read is already a translation from Russian).

          1. “The article ended with these words: “No matter how this is parsed, it reveals that the truth of music is not on the subjective side, and matches what people mean when they say ‘objective’.” Maybe it’s the language barrier, but I read this as ‘music is objective’. ”

            That would be reductionist and cutting away what he is trying to explain.

            1. discodjango says:

              I read the sentence as a conclusion. Maybe it IS the language barrier. I guess I got the meaning of ‘match’ wrong I will read the article again more carefully.

          2. Philosophy is nice and it is good to think. We should also look into what modern psychology can tell us, but we have to be wary of their political inclinations because cowards and status quo peons always act with morals in mind first, shying away from the truth if it is not nice.
            A Recent book I recommend (which I also haven’t finished reading) is The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
            http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/Steven-Pinker-The-Blank-Slate-The-Modern-Denial-of-Human-Nature.pdf

            1. discodjango says:

              Thanks for the recommendation!

  10. Ara says:

    Snark aside, here is what I put together from the MA articles as to why AOD is the most Morbid Angeliest Morbid Angel, but know that I’m stating this as a dissenter who also feels Morbid Angel didn’t become Morbid Angel until Covenant.

    The writers here tend to favor music if it has an agenda first and uses music to vocalize that agenda, which is why black metal is often heralded as the highest metal artform here, which as a musician I disagree with. Music for music’s sake is inherently hollow and refinement of skill seems to get in the way of the message of art, so there is a purity to AOD that doesn’t exist for Covenant in that when the band started the purpose was to channel the elder gods through the necronomicon. Having a purpose at the start makes them automatically more artistically sound than how they appear on Covenant despite the maturation of musicianship and developed uniqueness of style. In fact it sometimes appears as though the DMU would praise a record of just howling at the moon over a musically crafted piece of art as long as the agenda is clear since that is the essential foundation for art.

    The issue I have with this is it seems to stem from a more punk ethos than metal, in that the pursuit of musical skills often obscured the purity of artistic vision, and quick synopses of records are dismissive of quality if progressive elements fuel the metal aspects as a result of what seems to be an unwillingness to allow personal charisma dictate music past the purity of the form of the agenda. Too much of that seeps in and you have adjectives like boring, wanky, riff-salad, nonsense-palette and so on. Regardless of the assuredly good place this kind of criticism is trying to stem from, to me it is often a musical appreciation from an anti-music stance, which is again more punk than metal.

    MA went from high school kids trying to summon the elder gods (good) to musicians trying to do I’m not sure what aside from writing some blaspheming songs on Covenant, which to DMU is a weaker foundation than where they started and thus a less Morbid Angel idea then where they progressed to afterward. This is the conclusion I’m drawn to here, but once again I disagree but am showing what appear to me as the steps that David has arrived at his conclusion with.

    1. “The writers here tend to favor music if it has an agenda first and uses music to vocalize that agenda,”

      Not true, this has been clarified time and again.

      I cam going to stop reading here because I am quite tired of seeing you misinterpret, reduce or just misread things again and again.

      1. Ara says:

        If you want to stop reading what I write because you claim I don’t understand, I can do the same for you and you’re only furthering the one post that claims you resort to browbeating others in saying they don’t get what you’re saying when they disagree with you. All this shit you write about writing from the inside out points directly to the points I am making and you can try to twist your argument to suit what benefits only you on some untouchable intellectual plane but I’m not going to buy it and neither should anyone capable of actual intelligent discourse.

        1. “If you want to stop reading what I write because you claim I don’t understand”

          You are great at distorting what you read/hear.
          I stop reading because you insist on something that has been denied and explained several times.
          You asked “is it A?” and we said “No, it is B”.
          And yet each time you come back and say “Well, because it is A, then…”

          Everybody else is like “wtf’s wrong with Ara?”

    2. “he writers here tend to favor music if it has an agenda first and uses music to vocalize that agenda, which is why black metal is often heralded as the highest metal artform here”

      This idea is in your head completely.
      Burzum is on a high pedestal around here and it has nothing to do with any kind of “agenda”. It is because the music itself is excellent.

      You believe what you want to believe, Ara.

      “Music for music’s sake is inherently hollow and refinement of skill seems to get in the way of the message of art”

      Yes, but this conclusion is reached because we hear defects in the end result, not because the “principle” is attacked.

      “In fact it sometimes appears as though the DMU would praise a record of just howling at the moon over a musically crafted piece of art as long as the agenda is clear since that is the essential foundation for art.”

      But it has never happened. So, where’s your proof?

      “The issue I have with this is it seems to stem from a more punk ethos than metal, in that the pursuit of musical skills often obscured the purity of artistic vision, ”

      It is not about metal versus punk. It is good music appreciation versus wanking. This is not restricted to metal or punk.

      “This is the conclusion I’m drawn to here, but once again I disagree but am showing what appear to me as the steps that David has arrived at his conclusion with.”

      You are far, far, far away from my steps. It’s like a reduced, distorted — even inverted — mimic of my process.

      1. Ara says:

        Everyone is like wtf is wrong with me? Plenty of people have made comments on how you argue. You claim I distort your steps but never explain how you arrive at your conclusions and just state that they simply are, and those who don’t get it aren’t smart enough to get it. Explain to me exactly how Burzum is excellent without resorting to personal taste, and tell me it has nothing to do with the spiritual element of what the band and black metal stands for before notes are even heard? You go on about how hipster black metal bands don’t get black metal and can only mimic the sounds so if this has nothing to do with the agenda of the bands then what does it have to do with?

        I posted a lengthy, non-emotionally charged perspective and you came off sounding like an asshole because I apparently don’t understand you. If you are running this site and would rather be an asshole than engage in conversation, you are doing something Brett never did even to the trolls that post here. If you don’t like what I say, don’t post my comments and further your fascistic view of how if people disagree with you they can’t understand you. I’ve read other perspectives of yours here and held my tongue just to avoid another argument on how I can’t possibly see where you’re coming from even though your Chapel of Ghouls comparison to classical music is a self-fulfilling stretch that ignores a by-the-book pop arrangement while anything that doesn’t fit the metal mold for you is condemned as pop, and repeated comparisons between traditional black metal and classical are laughable at best to those that understand music and aren’t hoping to find a parallel to imbue a primitive artform with some kind of superior intellectual prowess while drawing blood from a stone in the process and STILL at the heart of it all posting things as fact over opinion.

        You are running a blog and people and people are going to disagree with you. I may have a differing opinion than the masses here but that doesn’t make it invalid and as head of this site you can continue to follow the site’s current direction of attempting to be fairly inclusive to outsiders while still maintaining its ideology or you can essentially call me a retard and win in your own mind while allowing others that agree to not be shushed. It’s up to you but the latter is not the kind of site I personally would prefer to argue about metal on.

        1. Ara says:

          Also claiming that my view on your process is a reduced, distorted or even inverted take on it is exactly how I felt when you decided to put yourself in my shoes and claim to understand my process of how I write music. Feels shitty to be spoken for, doesn’t it?

          1. It’s completely different.
            If I say A in writing, it means A.
            Music is a whole different thing.
            Do not project your feelings.

            1. Ara says:

              You claimed to hear the process of my writing in my writing, which is impossible. You were not there and can only guess, something that I admitted to do at the end of my post regarding your steps of thinking aside from assert myself into them in a completely intrusive way.

              1. No, I didn’t claim that. Not in the literal way you are implying. Do you really have to simplify things like that all the time?

                1. Ara says:

                  You have written many things about how I write as opposed to about what is written without authority to do so. It is never good to claim to know how someone thinks.

              2. You were not there and can only guess, something that I admitted to do at the end of my post regarding your steps of thinking aside from assert myself into them in a completely intrusive way.

                Writing is communication, and it is often possible to backward-engineer what is going on. Whether that can in turn be communicated back to the creator, and then recognized, is another story. Musicians often are unsure of what they do or cannot articulate it, relying (like conservatives!) on gut feeling and sensation, spirit and appearance.

                Many of the best riffs resemble what they describe. I think lyrics are most commonly an afterthought or totally irrelevant. Well, that’s enough blasphemies for today ;)

          2. Also claiming that my view on your process is a reduced, distorted or even inverted take on it is exactly how I felt when you decided to put yourself in my shoes and claim to understand my process of how I write music. Feels shitty to be spoken for, doesn’t it?

            This is a clear statement.

            My questions are:

            (1) Where was/is he wrong?

            (2) What would you like your music to communicate?

            (3) What would someone in your shoes feel, see and think?

            These are more important than most people recognize. “γνῶθι σεαυτόν” is more than a statement; it is a doorway and a belief system. When we come to know our inner selves (cf. Sepultura!) we know how much we know of reality, and can adjust the two to match, and then know what we would change — what burns like a fire of conquest within us. You have felt this rage… can you hold it in your hands?

            NONCONFORMITY IN MY INNER SELF
            ONLY I GUIDE MY INNER SELF
            I WON’T CHANGE MY WAY
            IT HAS TO BE THIS WAY

        2. “You claim I distort your steps but never explain how you arrive at your conclusions and just state that they simply are, and those who don’t get it aren’t smart enough to get it. ”

          You know it didn’t happen like this. But it is convenient for you to claim it did.
          I only brushed them away and called them ignorant (not dumb, btw) when they repeatedly refused to even learn something new when directed towards it. This is actually your biggest problem. There are more things to LEARN, but you think it is all about points of view. So when in the comments I direct you towards a place that might help and you just brush it off, while you keep insisting on things on a lower level of comprehension, what do you expect of me?

          1. Ara says:

            I’ve actually straight up asked you how to improve and you only said to try. I’m ready to learn and love doing so and asked how to and didn’t get any actual advice aside from linking to philosophers you admire.

            1. Because the way to learn is through reading them, studying the concepts.
              Also, it was not linking to philosophers, the only philosopher mentioned was Nietzsche, and then the others were either master composers (Beethoven, Schoenberg) and a very important musician-composer and analyst who I find very illuminating in these affairs: A.B. Marx.
              You asking me to “teach you” is obviously just calling me out. If you want to learn, I shared some pointers I value. You treated it like it was nothing and just ignored it. You do not want to learn. You only want to attack.

              1. Ara says:

                Stop telling me what I want to do. Why would I only want to fight? What good would that do?
                When I asked you for advice I didn’t ask to see other sources to get that advice. I sometimes live too fast for multiple
                clicks. I wanted to know what you think, and not just to fight but to clarify your perspectives.

            2. I’ve actually straight up asked you how to improve and you only said to try.

              Perhaps I can explain, although I cannot speak for David. As a nihilist, I am an esotericist. That is, I do not believe anything can be taught. Here is a useful starting point for understanding nihilism:

              Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.

              http://www.iep.utm.edu/nihilism/

              As always, please remember that I am from the South; if I mention something, it is because I believe it within your grasp and worth your attention, not to posture intellectually or otherwise indulge in the kind of smug shaming we see so commonly on internet forums.

              Nihilism per above has three tenets:

              • No truth
              • No communication
              • No knowledge

              See also how it has expanded through history:

              By the late 20th century, “nihilism” had assumed two different castes. In one form, “nihilist” is used to characterize the postmodern person, a dehumanized conformist, alienated, indifferent, and baffled, directing psychological energy into hedonistic narcissism or into a deep ressentiment that often explodes in violence.

              …Postmodern antifoundationalists, paradoxically grounded in relativism, dismiss knowledge as relational and “truth” as transitory, genuine only until something more palatable replaces it (reminiscent of William James’ notion of “cash value”).

              As a nihilist, I do not believe anything can be true; it can exist, and something truthful can be said about it, but that truth makes sense only to those who can understand it by having had the same mental experience. I do not believe anything can be communicated, because that requires both parties to have had the same mental experience and to mean the exact same thing by the tokens they use. Finally, I do not believe anything can be known; we are interpreting reality and can approximate it, but this is a difficult process that depends also on the mental experience of those who are following along. Note for moderns: the converse is also true; we cannot not-know, have untruth or knowledge of what is not, by the same token. Very few people understand this step but it is a worthy learning experience.

              When it comes to music, what we can do is point to successful examples because those exist and can be analyzed. People like me can do what essentially amounts to “pitching” a whole vision so that parts of it may be found true. I can explain what I have noticed, but if my audience does not have the necessary mental experience to make sense of it, I will be spamming their brains with symbolic tokens which they will then interpret according to what they known, a process akin to projection.

              I’ve actually straight up asked you how to improve and you only said to try.

              For the best answer here, I might suggest what my mentors did for me: (1) tune yourself toward the type of material you wish to compose; (2) analyze your composition and look toward what your content is (this is the hardest part) in the form of what you wish to communicate, if only a “feeling”; (3) apply a principle of rigid connectivity, such that you ask yourself if each piece is necessary and if so, what necessary role it communicates. Writing music, novels, code and essays follow the same thought process: find out what is to be communicated, make an outline of the steps to get there, and then do those such that you include only what is necessary.

              To you personally, having enjoyed your music and appreciated what I see as increasing improvement, I would suggest returning to some of the basics of simple death metal and mastering writing songs along those lines. What makes a song distinctive? What makes a song evocative? Find a song that connects with you, find out what on what basis it connects, and then look at its techniques.

              It’s too bad you are so far away in Yankeeland somewhere, as it would be great to just sit down and in the time-honored tradition of metalheads (every musician I have known has done this, even if by themselves) listen to music, then play along, then figure out why each part is powerful. I might also suggest the following probably hipster-beloved book, In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. Someone handed this book to me when I was on drugs once and I have come to love it.

              1. Ara says:

                Where are you? Northless is touring the west coast in August.

                1. Sadly, a thousand a half miles from there. Good luck on tour. You’ll enjoy the mellowest weather in the world and millions of entertainingly detached people.

        3. “You are running a blog and people and people are going to disagree with you. I may have a differing opinion than the masses here but that doesn’t make it invalid and as head of this site you can continue to follow the site’s current direction of attempting to be fairly inclusive to outsiders while still maintaining its ideology or you can essentially call me a retard and win in your own mind while allowing others that agree to not be shushed. It’s up to you but the latter is not the kind of site I personally would prefer to argue about metal on.”

          I have no problem with people disagreeing with me.
          I have a problem with voluntary ignorance in the face of something that you haven’t learned (for whatever reasons) and emotional projections towards what I say.

          1. Ara says:

            Disagreeing isn’t voluntary ignorance and it’s showing me that you are claiming your perspective is the only logical conclusion you can arrive at if you’re educated enough. Stop that.

            You were the first to start emotionally projecting here.

            1. “Disagreeing isn’t voluntary ignorance”

              When did I say that?
              Your powers of misreading are amazing.

              I said I do NOT have any problem with disagreeing.
              I have a problem with voluntary ignorance.
              I am saying disagreeing is OK, voluntary ignorance is something different and is NOT OK.

              1. Ara says:

                We have arrived at the perspectives we are at because of the sum of our experiences. We view art the way we do because we have consumed outside perspectives and filter it through our own tastes as is inevitable. However sound the arguments of those you cite are, they are still rooted in opinion and poised as templates for how to view art and not streamlining the entire consumption process into a black and white form. The way I disagree with you is because my perspective dissents from yours but you feel yours is the result of a logical conclusion one can arrive at with the right education which is why if I don’t do the adequate research I’m viewed as willingly ignorant. We’ve all done our own research as how to to value things in our own way on our own time. Stop claiming I’m willfully ignorant if I TOTALLY GET what you are saying and still DISAGREE because my background has pointed me to a different conclusion than yours.

          2. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me.

            Yours is the role of patient teacher, listening and then providing possibilities, relying on the student to take up the initiative and close the gap on their own.

    3. Roger says:

      I think there is some truth in these statements. Although I think, ultimately, musicianship is prized somewhat more highly than you indicate.

      I can only understand why something like Ildjarn would be seen as more valuable than Covenant by interpreting the main overarching point to be correct to an important degree. Ideology.

      This would also explain the constant coverage of Varg’s ambient work.

      1. Roger says:

        (and also the ranking of black metal as being ‘higher’ than death metal)

        This can only come down to ideology (political and meta-political) to some great degree. There is nothing ‘in the music’ that makes, say, In the Nightside Eclipse better than Effigy of the Forgotten.

        We can see how closely meta-political philosophy is tied in with Brett’s analysis of music in his cool new post about the history of Slayer.

        1. >”There is nothing ‘in the music’ that makes, say, In the Nightside Eclipse better than Effigy of the Forgotten.”

          Comparing genres and specific bands and specific albums are all different things. Do NOT mix them.

          Explaining the shortcomings of Covenant is certainly not a straight-forward task. And I will not attempt it formally here in this moment.
          The difficulty of the topic is the reason why I’d rather point you to talented music critics and analysts like A.B. Marx who were far more competent teachers than I am.

          I think there is one point in which we all agree: nothing has inherent meaning.

          There are those who stop here and say “well then, fuck it, let’s do whatever sounds cool”. And then it’s all about arranging technically competent structures. I believe (but correct me if I am wrong) that Ara thinks the limit of music critique is at some point inside this technical and “objective” area.

          The next complaint seems to be “fine, music is more than a purely objective thing, but then we cannot judge subjective things”. This is where their thinking has erred. Music is not subjective either. As has been explained more than once, music lies somewhere in the middle between subjective and objective. The same is true of natural human languages. That is NOT to say that music is like a natural human language. Only a line of comparison on this characteristic is been drawn.

          The reason why Brett Stevens gave some approximate steps that are objective but based on subjective judgement and grey areas in between is in line with this. This is also the same reason why I will redirect you to particular readings.

          Mystics of the 16th century arose was because they detected in theology an incapacity to express the divine experience and conformism with it (“it cannot be explained, then fuck it, just obey”). Mystics gave the middle finger to dogmas but did not abandon discipline and adherence to a system that made sense but allowed them power to move in it.

          I view my effort and opinions in music to be akin to this.

          Meaning in a work of art comes from
          1)the creator, he who speaks
          2)the audience, he who listens
          ( 3) there is also performance which is interpretation of the created work, but I consider this to be more a matter of superficiality and only relevant in the interpretation of music written before we had recording technology)

          Appreciation of a work of art, then, can be achieved on a TWO-STEP (steps, together, not two “ways”) process:
          1) how well is this communication achieved. (we enter discussions on prerequisites and assumed knowledge the listener should be acquainted with to understand what speaker produces)
          2) a moral/ideological judgement of “reality” (in this last sense, Ara is right, but he is ignoring all the process before it or the reasons for this) . In other words, this is brought about as an EXPLANATION, we sense, for the first thing. But the judgement is always done on the basis of the music.

          Post-modernism reflects this conformism in the face of an incapacity to make sense or organize that “something else”. Since it is combined with an atheism and a coward’s “humanism”, post-modernism also advocates the idea that while the “objective” side of how something works (including music), we cannot criticize or even attempt to reach beyond it because it is in the “subjective”.

          Since the point here is being “objective” a huge chunk of what music is is just cut away and ignored. By that same token we can just keep going back and chomping chunks out of that supposedly “objective” basis and reduce it to dust, because it is actually based on human perception only. That is the reason why modernists started to do away with consonant music. They said it was only based on the study of the intervals what humans found pleasing or discomforting.

          Then we move into an era when art is created in a hedonist impulse to please our senses or an intellectual masturbation whose appreciation lies on how technically convoluted it is.

          Contrast this to the past where beauty was the point. Not a modern “subjective” beauty. But a meaningful beauty, again, a compromise between objective and subjective.

          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/beauty/

          1. 1) how well is this communication achieved. (we enter discussions on prerequisites and assumed knowledge the listener should be acquainted with to understand what speaker produces)
            2) a moral/ideological judgement of “reality” (in this last sense, Ara is right, but he is ignoring all the process before it or the reasons for this) . In other words, this is brought about as an EXPLANATION

            Roughly:

            1. Coherence
            2. Correspondence

        2. There is nothing ‘in the music’ that makes, say, In the Nightside Eclipse better than Effigy of the Forgotten.

          When you get to top tier, comparing albums is kind of worthless. Both are top tier.

          1. Roger says:

            So, is the claim then something like ‘there are simply more top-tier albums in black metal than there are in death metal’?

            This would seem to me to be false.

            But I’m guessing it’s not the claim. The claim is something about the *type* of music black metal is, vs the *type* of music death metal is.

            I would claim, more specifically, that it’s about the *ideology* behind black metal that is prized (archaic idealism/romanticism, nationalism, classicism, traditionalism revived in post-modern form), over that of death metal (structuralism, a less ‘historicist’ vibe, more of a cosmic than a traditionalist aesthetic).

            Now, there is nothing *musical* that can set the first, black metal, aesthetic higher than the second, death metal, aesthetic. Surely.

            Cheers

            1. Daniel says:

              There are way less very good to excellent BM albums due to the amateurism of it. Metal guitar is mostly self taught but there is so much fucking shitty hipster atmospheric black metal, basement core depressive black metal, and Transilvanian Hunger worship that you wish you were listening to Dismember jack Deep Purple riffs on Massive Killing Capacity.

              1. “There are way less very good to excellent BM albums due to the amateurism of it. ”

                I agree and disagree. and this also means we disagree on what is “good BM”.
                Even technically competent BM is usually BAD as music.
                I think what gets in the way of BM is the superficial confusion which tends to be Ok-ish with slightly more technically oriented genres like death metal, but spells out catastrophe in an inward and subtle genre like BM.

                Many people hear something simple in BM, so they just want to imitate this simple exterior and go ahead and produce atrocities. Many of these atrocities are incredibly well produced and recorded by excellent musicians. Remember that musicians are not necessarily creators (Schoenberg stressed this, the difference between those who called themselves “artists” and those who actually create, he said).

                1. Daniel says:

                  That’s a better way to put it. People see a template that they think is easy and fail horribly. I was more thinking along the lines that mediocre death like Benediction is much better than say Cult of Fire. Cult of Fire is just Tomas Corn mixing stolen Bathory and Immortal riffs, Abba keyboards, and pointless eastern music into a pathetic failure of black metal. He just has no idea how to write an effective black metal (any METAL) song despite being the accomplished drummer of Appalling Spawn and Lykathea Aflame. He just doesn’t get why people who can barely play grasp the compositional requirements of such better than him on albums like Fallen Angel of Doom.

                  This is true with metal drumming too. A lot of the jazz-trained guys end up suffocating the guitars and have no idea why Craig Smilowski and Fenriz are much better METAL drummers in METAL bands than they are. Tech death bands too; a complete failure to grasp why Bolt Thrower made better metal music than they do despite Bolt Thrower not finishing songs at the same time until the mid 90s.

                  1. ” Cult of Fire is just Tomas Corn mixing stolen Bathory and Immortal riffs, Abba keyboards, and pointless eastern music into a pathetic failure of black metal.”

                    This is GOLD :D
                    Please write SMRs for us :D

                    1. Daniel says:

                      Sure. I can tear atmospheric hipster black metal and redeath to shreds in a paragraph or less. What’s your email address?

                2. Black metal requires a layer of interpretation beyond music. It is more like kabuki dance theater than trying to determine the abstract relationship between chords; it imitates life and reflects it back in a grotesque, communicating at a layer lower than musical technicality. At least, at its best it does. At its worst it is the same dumbshits who ruined punk imitating other bands on the surface and making droning, boring, three-chord drivel like various tryhard (NWN/FMP) and hipster (BrooklynVegan) bands.

                  1. Daniel says:

                    Are Full Moon Productions still around and releasing crap? NWN at least does reissues and an interesting record every couple of years.

            2. I would claim, more specifically, that it’s about the *ideology* behind black metal that is prized (archaic idealism/romanticism, nationalism, classicism, traditionalism revived in post-modern form), over that of death metal (structuralism, a less ‘historicist’ vibe, more of a cosmic than a traditionalist aesthetic).

              It may be a mistake to (1) so widely separate these and (2) so widely refine them. Death metal is about structure contrasted with appearance/illusion; black metal is about atmosphere, or the pursuit of the inner world to know the outer. Death metal has higher technical requirements. As art, however, the two speak different forms of the same language, and that explains the difference in technique. Attempts to make technical black metal, short of some of the early Emperor and Enslaved experiments, have generally produced incoherent drivel because it is difficult to maintain what black metal demands and add in the technical commentary without essentially spamming the core attitude of the song.

              An interesting exception of course is “My Journey to the Stars” — death metal style through composition with black metal ambiance.

          2. Daniel says:

            The most you can say is both are excellent despite productions that did the material disservice. The darkwave keyboards are way too loud on In the Nightside Eclipse, frequently burying the guitars while Scott Burns wrecked Terrence Hobbs’ melodies on Effigy with the bassy equalization choices. The Morrisound solid state amps didn’t help either, the limits of which become apparent on Pierced from Within. All the bands that recorded with those amps that didn’t dial in some necro razorwire tone like Deicide sounded like shit. Even those types of tones sound better coming out of a JCM 800/900 than some crappy Valvestate.

            1. I can’t help here; I am for the most part production agnostic. Composition matters. Instrumentalism and production, unless so bad they obstruct comprehension of the music, are convenience factors.

      2. I can only understand why something like Ildjarn would be seen as more valuable than Covenant by interpreting the main overarching point to be correct to an important degree. Ideology.

        As someone who likes both, Ildjarn achieves an intense immersive experience with almost pure rhythm and extremely relative melodic gestures, and finds its own voice and is highly expressive. Morbid Angel Covenant is also highly expressive, but sometimes the music leads the expression, instead of the expression being the reason for creating the music; this is what many musicians refer to when they say that technicality is distracting from the content for the composer.

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