Pact – The Infernal Hierarchies, Penetrating the Threshold of Night

December 19, 2014 –

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When black metal first hit the big time, my first thought was that the music industry was going to do to death metal and black metal what it did to hardcore music. When I spoke this out loud, people laughed it off, thinking that nothing that close to their hearts could change. Pact proves me right to such a degree that I doubt these people will even talk to me today.

Simply put, this album reduces black/death metal to formula in the late hardcore punk style, after the music industry came in and sanitized its opinions and enforced institutional-style songwriting. It got “professional.” And here we have a band which writes like a cross between later Gorgoroth, later Mayhem and early Impaled Nazarene. Pact carefully edits its material so that no extra riffs clog this album and each riff is roughly the same quality, which is fairly high but not exceptional. The problem is that all songs are template-cut just like the pop stuff you hear on the radio. Once you have heard five minutes of The Infernal Hierarchies, Penetrating the Threshold of Night, you have effectively heard the whole thing.

Pact like modern metal style vocals but write songs like a more literate hardcore band, using verse-chorus pairs to lead into a bridge that returns to the dominant theme. They vary up the riffing somewhat by using longer riffs and contrapositing them with variations on themes, but essentially this album pounds out the same circular formula per song. Tempi do not vary greatly nor do the changes between them differ, which results in the feeling of being trapped in a procedure like a doctor’s office or traffic court. While there are a few moments of insight on this album, as a whole it serves as a standardization of black metal to the point where it is interchangeable and thus is easily forgotten even while you are listening to it.

Rock music hates metal and wants to assimilate it

December 17, 2014 –

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has again slighted heavy metal by including musicians from all genres except metal while some of metal’s longest-running, widest-selling and most-acclaimed acts go unnoticed. As one metal writer pointed out:

“This is a symptom of the disrespect across the board toward hard rock and heavy metal,” says Trunk. “The Grammys haven’t gotten any better since they gave Jethro Tull a Grammy instead of Metallica (for the first ever Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance trophy in 1989).”

Exhibit A of that lack of respect: late, great Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman was a glaring omission from this year’s “In Memoriam” segment at the Grammy Awards.

Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, rock was the bad boy of popular music.

Then in the late 1960s the hippies took that to a new place where rock was not the bad boy so much as the voice of protest.

Punk stole the bad boy crown again by ducking out of the hippie world and becoming antagonists of everything people wanted to believe.

Metal did the same thing but in a different way. Where punk said our society was rotted and dying, metal pointed out that our souls were rotted and dying because we were in denial of life itself.

Ever since then, other groups have been trying to reclaim the bad boy title, with hip-hop the most plausible candidate. The only problem is that all of them follow the late 1960s model, so their bad-boy-ness is tempered.

Rock ‘n Roll has not forgiven metal and punk for stepping out in a different direction. They are still those who strayed from the pack, and ideally would be assimilated (rock music with a metal or punk surface) or destroyed.

Don’t hold your breath, metalheads, that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will recognize metal. To them, we are the enemy and we are either conquered and made into rock, or must be excluded from their special bad boy club.

The Ouroborean Circle declares its presence

December 16, 2014 –

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Metal spills over into other areas of life. Every person has a philosophy, and if they are attracted to metal, it is that personal worldview that drives them toward it and not the other way around, although certainly metal further informs that worldview. As a result, metal finds similarity in other ideals that generally seek truth instead of seeking social approval.

For this reason, society has always feared heavy metal. Society is based on control, which is based on the idea of creating a “truth” which manipulates people. This fake truth is to some degree necessary to keep people doing the things required for us all to survive, but over time it becomes tempting for those in control to skim off the top. To do this, they expand the fake truth to obligate people to do stuff that benefits the people in control.

In the 1960s, metal gave the finger to both the establishment and the hippies who were basically preaching a watered-down version of the fake truth in vogue in that era. In the 1990s, metal gave the finger to the vision of us all happily getting along. And now in the 2010s, metal may be giving the finger to the idea of society itself. This document recently appeared in our unpublished staff-only address:

INDULGE

Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!

  • Indulgence is a model of pleasure seeking activity.
  • Empirical pleasure must exist in contrast to self-destruction if it is to be quantified in the context of carnality.
  • Consumption of repetitive experience is a pathology, not indulgence.

This group will not be for the slaves, but the masters. It will draw lines and cause anger.

Membership is open and expressive. ID cards will be available soon.

[illegible] humans do not entry.

I have written back to the email address provided and await a response, although probably I am not elite enough to qualify for membership or even a ten-question interview. Whether this is fallout from the Cobalt debacle or not remains to be seen.

Exhumed to release Gore Metal: A Necrospective 1998-2015

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Exhumed released its debut of Carcass-influenced bouncy death metal, Gore Metal in 1998 with a bounty of crepitant grindcore riffs and death metal surging power. Almost two decades later, Exhumed returned to the studio to re-record its first album as Gore Metal: A Necrospective 1998 – 2015, which will see release this February via Relapse Records.

Thanks to increased musical proficiency through years of recording and better technology, Exhumed promises a bigger-sounding and more intense version of the debut. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey said, “I’m super pumped that we got the chance to re-record Gore Metal. I don’t think any of us were happy with how it turned out the first time around, so getting another shot at it meant a lot to me personally. I was also really excited to have our old friend Ross Sewage reprise his vocals on the new version, ensuring that it still sounds like that era of Exhumed, though things are a lot more audible this time around!”

As a precursor to the release Exhumed will tour North America after their current European tour alongside Aborted, Origin and Miasmal. With co-headliners Napalm Death and Voivod, Exhumed will launch their tour on January 27th in Miami and continue to a final show on February 28th in Houston. Additional support will be provided by Iron Reagan and Black Crown Initiate with Ringworm, Dayglo Abortions, Theories and Phobia to appear on select performances during the tour.

Gore Metal: A Necrospective 1998 – 2015 Track Listing:

1. Necromaniac
2. Open The Abscess
3. Postmortem Procedures
4. Limb From Limb
5. Enucleation
6. Casket Crusher
7. Death Mask
8. In My Human Slaughter House
9. Sepulchral Slaughter
10. Vagitarian II
11. Blazing Corpse
12. Deadest Of The Dead

Exhumed 2015 North American tour

EXHUMED w/ Aborted, Origin, Miasmal:
12/15/2014 Grillen – Colmar, FR
12/16/2014 Steinbruch Theater – Darmstadt, DE
12/17/2014 Jubez – Karlsruhe, DE
12/18/2014 Rock It – Aalen, DE
12/19/2014 Heavy Xmas – Zürich, CH
12/20/2014 Turock – Essen, DE

EXHUMED:
1/24/2015 The Rock – Tucson, AZ
1/25/2015 Red 7 – Austin, TX
w/ Napalm Death, Voivod, Iron Reagan, Black Crown Initiate:
1/27/2015 Grand Central – Miami, FL w/ Ringworm
1/28/2015 State Theater – St. Petersburg, FL w/ Ringworm
1/29/2015 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA w/ Ringworm
1/30/2015 Ziggy’s – Winston-Salem, NC w/ Ringworm
1/31/2015 Soundstage – Baltimore, MD w/ Ringworm
2/02/2015 Gramercy Theater – New York, NY w/ Ringworm
2/03/2015 Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA w/ Ringworm
2/04/2015 Opera House – Toronto, ON
2/05/2015 Maverick’s – Ottawa, ON
2/06/2015 Club Soda – Montreal, QC
2/07/2015 Palladium – Worcester, MA w/ Ringworm
2/08/2015 The Chance – Poughkeepsie, NY w/ Ringworm
2/09/2015 Agora Ballroom – Cleveland, OH w/ Ringworm
2/10/2015 Reggie’s – Chicago, IL w/ Ringworm
2/11/2015 Amsterdam – Minneapolis, MN w/ Ringworm
2/12/2015 The Zoo – Winnipeg, MB
2/13/2015 The Exchange – Regina, SK
2/14/2015 Republik – Calgary, AB
2/15/2015 Starlite Room – Edmonton, AB
2/17/2015 Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, BC w/ Dayglo Abortions
2/18/2015 Studio Seven – Seattle, WA w/ Theories
2/19/2015 Hawthorne Theater – Portland, OR
2/20/2015 Metro – Oakland, CA w/ Phobia
2/21/2015 Strummers – Fresno, CA w/ Phobia
2/22/2015 House of Blues – Los Angeles, CA
2/23/2015 Club Red – Tempe, AZ w/ Phobia
2/24/2015 Sunshine Theater – Albuquerque, NM w/ Phobia
2/25/2015 Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO w/ Phobia
2/26/2015 Granada Theater – Lawrence, KS w/ Phobia
2/27/2015 Gas Monkey – Dallas, TX w/ Phobia
2/28/2015 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX w/ Phobia

Lineup on Gore Metal: A Necrospective 1998 – 2015:

Rob “Bodybag” Babcock – bass, backing vocals
Mike Beams – guitar, backing vocals
Bud Burke – lead guitar, backing vocals
Mike Hamilton – drums
Matt Harvey – guitar, lead vocals
Ross Sewage – lead vocals
Backup vocal “Slay Team”: Alejandro Corredor, Dr. Philthy

“…a gleeful celebration of death metal…” – Decibel

“EXHUMED is Carcass reincarnated.” – Terrorizer

Demoncy to release Risen From the Ancient Ruins and re-issue Empire of the Fallen Angel

December 15, 2014 –

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In addition to unleashing a re-issue of its classic Joined in Darkness, nocturnal subterranean black metal band Demoncy plans to release a new EP entitled Risen From the Ancient Ruins and a re-issue of its full-length Empire of the Fallen Angel a/k/a Eternal Black Dominion.

Forever Plagued Records intends to release both of these “this year,” according to an announcement on its email newsletter, but this language does not clarify which year this is since 2014 is nearly done. Most likely, this announcement was intended for early 2015 and reflects a 2015 street date for these albums.

Here is the full statement:

Forever Plagued Records is also very proud to announce DEMONCY will be releasing a new EP this year entitled “Risen From The Ancient Ruins”, it will include three new tracks and one ambiant. As a follow up, another DEMONCY release FPR has planned for this year, namely, the new rendition of “Empire Of The Fallen Angel aka Eternal Black Dominion”. Both releases will feature IXithra’s voice of unclean spirits.

Warfather – Orchestrating the Apocalypse

December 14, 2014 –

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We can look at objects as their surface traits, or attributes they have in different categories at different times, or look at them as shapes (or even forms) which manifest themselves in those attributes. When this logic is applied to genres, we quickly see how complex the term “death metal” can be.

If you ask your average journalist about death metal, s/he will start listing off descriptors, like heavy distortion, guttural vocals, intense riffs, blasphemic and occult topics. The implication will be made that all of these things together make death metal and yet, four average musicians could bash out an album of Dolly Parton covers using those attributes in an afternoon and it would be no more like death metal than the original.

What holds death metal together is its internal language where riffs correspond to structure. The process of assembly, called “riff-gluing” by Bob Bacchus of Soulburn/Asphyx, means knitting those riffs into a narrative where they both comment on one another and lead to a series of mood or atmosphere changes in the whole which suggest some kind of event, realization, journey or gesture. With this approach, the death metal style of riffing is inevitably invented, as is the need to have vocals take a background role and guitars to lead and dominate over drums, bass and vocals. Even if death metal had zero influences before it, if people set out to reinvent it based on that idea alone they would end up with something a lot like underground death metal.

Warfather combines the charging high-speed riffs of Angelcorpse, the abrupt transitions and chanted choruses of Hate Eternal, and the love of sweeps and odd melodic twists of post-metal and metalcore. In doing so, it loses sight of what makes death metal a whole, and instead takes the pieces it finds most convenient and makes out of them something else. Because this something else lacks a centrality, it must choose between being so chaotic it becomes boring or so repetitive that it becomes boring. Warfather choose the latter and pound out catchy choruses and verses with strident rage guiding the vocals, but have nothing to unite them while seeking to break them up with flourishes to disguise the lack of development. Songs do not ramble, but charge in different directions and then resume back at the starting point before fading away. While there are some good riffs on here they are lost in a void of context. The end result is organized disorganization where all the pieces fit together and mean nothing.

On paper, Orchestrating the Apocalypse seems like it would offer everything a journalist uses to describe death metal: the riffs, the vocals, the loudness and perhaps even the blasphemy. As a listening experience it misses the intensity of death metal by a mile through focusing on these surface traits and missing the motivation to put them in a meaningful order that made death metal so terrifying, mindblowing and vertiginously exciting. All that remains is to finish this review and move on.

Calling #metalgate what it is

December 13, 2014 –

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We all went to high school. #MetalGate reminds me of those dark days when there were cool kids and un-cool kids, and if you weren’t in the former group you were just nobody.

Growing up with a single Mom who kept our budget tight, I never had the cool clothes. Since I worked after school and then did homework until bedtime, I didn’t know the cool stuff on TV or in movies. Not having been raised around the cool kids, or having a parent with the time or energy to show me how to be “cool,” it never occurred to me to try. And suddenly people were pointing and laughing and then my head was getting bashed into a locker.

When one of these people approached me and started making fun of me, my instinct was to cower away and assume that they knew something I should know which gave them some kind of “authority” in the high school social scene. Over time I realized that this “something” was nothing important, and their real goal was savor the Schadenfreude of making someone else miserable for being who they were. I learned that there is one way to stand up to such people: do not apologize, do not back down, but go straight to the biggest one and hit him as hard as you can. They usually backed down and often apologized after that. I let the matter drop at that point since most of these bullies came from troubled homes: Dad drank too much, Mom ran around with the neighborhood used-car salesman, or there were money troubles. Some of them ended up being lifelong friends, after we settled our differences on the schoolyard.

When I look at #MetalGate, I see a whole industry cowering before these people who want to make metal “socially conscious” and politically correct. We, as metalheads, have refused to call these people what they are, so I will: bullies. They are bullies whose weapon is guilt. In high school, it was guilt for not being “cool.” In the hipster-nerd infested metal scene, it’s guilt for not having the “right” opinions. Haven’t we all matured past this?

Bullies always have a clique. This clique agrees that they are right and everyone else is just not cool enough. They need an excuse that other people will accept for their bullying, so they come up with a reason that sounds good. They do not care if it is true. They just want to rally other people around them who will agree that you deserved getting your head pounded into that locker. Like all cliques, their little group works by every member validating every other. It is the worst aspect of humanity which we saw at the Salem witch trials, at Nuremburg, even in lynch mobs hanging African-Americans. This is the psychology of prejudice, and bullies struggle to conceal their prejudice by arguing that they are defending their ingroup against an outgroup:

What Tajfel discovered is that groups formed on the basis of almost any distinction are prone to ingroup bias. Within minutes of being divided into groups, people tend to see their own group as superior to other groups, and they will frequently seek to maintain an advantage over other groups. – The Psychology of Prejudice, Professor Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

In other words, if you group people together by any arbitrary means they will quickly act like a tribe and enforce their rules on others. This is how bullies operate: they gather together people, offer them entry into an ingroup, but the price for that entry is that they must join in the bullying of the outgroup… and so kids get heads slammed into their lockers for wearing cardigan sweaters (hey, it was a hand-me-down) which is totally uncool.

The #MetalGate people, who I am told call themselves “Social Justice Warriors” or SJWs, are bullies of this type. They will claim they are against prejudice, but really what this means is that they are using that argument to conceal their own prejudice. They just want someone to bully. The reason is probably the same as with the high school bullies, which is that their lives are miserable and they want to take out their frustration and anger on others. This pattern occurs time and again, with the most famous being the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC):

On August 19, 1985, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee of the United States Senate opened public hearings intended to gather expert testimony on “the content of certain sound recordings and suggestions that recording packages be labeled to provide a warning to prospective purchasers of sexually explicit or other potentially offensive content.” Widely known as “The PMRC Hearings” after the acronym of an independent group—the Parents Music Resource Council—advocating for the “voluntary” adoption of warning stickers on record albums whose lyrics it deemed to be offensive, the hearings did not, in fact, end up leading to any kind of legislative action.

This group also wanted to bully metal because they were looking for a scapegoat for what they saw as a decline in public morality. They figured they could pick on metalheads because we are not the wives of Senators, we may not have education and money, and we are prone to be silent when society bullies us. But metalheads stood up against them, whopped them in the nose, and refused to take it. Another group of bullies back in the 1980s were the Dead Kennedys fans who decided that Slayer was really, really bad for singing (with clear disapproval) about Auschwitz and the horrors of the Holocaust. “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” was their theme song and they used this as an excuse to beat on random fans wearing Slayer tshirts. Punk had just gone through its own #PunkGate at that point, I guess, and the politically correct people came out on top.

There are plenty of groups of bullies in metal today. The pretentious hipsters who think you are unenlightened if you do not “appreciate” Deafheaven are one, and so are the people who think that if you are not a full-on SJW you are a bad person. So are the “tryhards” who insist they support diehard underground music but use that as an excuse to troll anyone who does not exclusively listen to three-chord Blasphemy or Incantation clones. In each group, the solution is the same: tell them where they can shove their pretense and guilt because you know their secret, which is that they are just bullies.

The difference with SJWs is that they act like they are revolutionaries who are re-educating us in important topics. But guess what, guys: you are not disenfranchised anymore. You get positive press and in fact most of you work in the press. The US government agrees with you, as does the UN. Your ideas are not revolutionary because they are the norm. Like most bullies, you are cloaking yourselves in the ideals of the mainstream in order to punish us outliers. This is no different than what happened in the Soviet Union or Nazi regime, where people who “thought differently” got shot at dawn. You are the new Nazis.

Metal should fight back because metal should not become a vehicle for the control agenda of any group. Metal is its own group, and people police this because we know that many other groups would like to assimilate us and use us for their own purposes. It has been tried before, with hard rock in the 1970s, punk in the 1980s, and now post-punk in the 2000s. Like all bullies, they want to stop us from being different and make us more like them, which is to say the bog-standard generic mainstream. Their bands are all second-rate and their ideas warmed over slogans from the 1960s. Metalheads should feel no guilt about acting in our own self-interest, which is to keep our music away from this group of bullies and refuse to let them dominate us.

Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity

December 11, 2014 –

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When something great passes, people stand around wishing for more of those moments of power and beauty that it brought. And so we get the black metal equivalent of Django Wilson and his Electric Band Play the Hits of the Beatles, except that now it is a black metal version which revisits the greatest moments of early Gorgoroth through a filter of Ancient and Graveland. Nothing here is poorly executed but the whole misses the driving spirit of black metal that gave it its profundity and instead works on recombining known tropes that once gave it great intensity.

All of the classic attributes are here: the minor-key trailing melodies, the bombastic resurgent themes, the shifting between riffs conveying a sense of hope and thus returning to a feral despair, but the animating force that holds them together does not appear. Like a musical version of Frankenstein’s monster, The Divination of Antiquity is the most beautiful black metal album ever made from pieces of its best, but it lacks the soul to see beyond the immediate and material and touch the conceptual ground of actual black metal. Winterfylleth make songs with the basic feel and sensation of black metal, but without the intention behind it, they never develop to any conclusion sufficient for black metal and instead detour into the semi-circular wistful feeling that indie-rock and post-metal — both witnesses to the decline of human society in lugubrious ways, but helpless observers and not soul-participants in the counteraction — create that are the artistic equivalent of euthanasia. Like back, watch it happen, relax and let the waves wash over you. It will all be over soon.

As the album progresses, The Divination of Antiquity starts falling back on more rock and jazz tropes to supplement its diminishing store of black metal landmark moments. The result is pleasant to listen to and evokes many of the old feelings, but like uncompleted thoughts they linger in conversation outside the French coffeehouse and dissipate on the car exhaust and cold air of the morning breeze. It would be wonderful to find in this “what once was,” but that would be the equivalent of concluding the recent Star Wars movies will have the impact of the original out of nostalgia, and ignoring the obvious missing elements which, and not its accessories and techniques, made the original so powerful.

Interview with Cognizance

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Metalcore band Cognizance hopes to make itself a force among the legions of hybrid-metal bands dressing like hardcore kids, partying like millennials and hungry for riffs. With their newest release, _Inceptum, Cognizance unleash two tracks of technical metalcore with a focus on songwriting. Guitarist Alex Baillie gave us a few moments of his time to describe the past and future of this competitive band…

When did Cognizance form, and did you have a goal in mind at the time? Were you from similar musical backgrounds? What about life-paths and outlooks?

Henry and myself started working on a Death Metal song late 2011, we recorded it like 3 times with the help from some other musicians we were friends with. Eventually, it started to sound pretty cool and early 2012 we started (slowly) piecing 4 songs together which later became our debut Inquisition.

Pryce (Big Mac/Henry) and me have been friends for quite a long time, we’ve played in a couple of bands together. We’ve always shared a mutual love for heavy metal, gear and snacks. So kicking off this project was pretty easy going.

Phil joined the force late 2013, we’ve known him a while and I used to play in his band XisForEyes. You can check this out in detail in our “Origins” video:

You’re more experienced musicians than the average person starting a new band. Was this a challenge and how did you overcome it? Did you face any obstacles in uniting your musical styles?

I wouldn’t say we’re more experienced than people starting a new band, but we’re keen players for sure.

I’d say the only obstacle we initially faced and still sometimes do is Pryce telling me everything needs to be faster haha. We eventually compromise on a tempo, I’m down for the faster speeds but sometimes certain parts can just sound a mess at whacky speeds. Plus I can’t play that fast!

As far as musical styles go, we each contribute our style of playing to compliment the song. If our idea doesn’t work or fit then it gets changed. We usually put things like this down to a vote.

What sort of music is Cognizance? How does it differ from death metal, grindcore and metalcore?

Cognizance is modern Death/Extreme Metal. I don’t think we differ that much from the styles mentioned above. Although I don’t think we have any elements of Grindcore in there, yet.

_Inceptum seems to be a concept EP. What does the leading underscore (_) mean? What is the concept?

We wanted to use the underscore to visualise the technological/digital theme in the song “The Succession of Flesh.” The specific word “Inceptum” was inspired by the other single “Aeon of Creation.” The theme in each song share undertones which form the title _Inceptum.

The lyrical themes of each song are set in completely different time frames. “Aeon of Creation” is about the hellish conditions during the early formation of Earth, the originator of consciousness. A natural creation. “The Succession of Flesh” is set in the present and is themed around technology being considered an extension of human consciousness, a man made creation.

Why did you decide to do an EP instead of a full-length?

There are a few reasons why we decided to do this, mainly; Time, our budget and our ambition to keep churning out songs as quickly and consistently as we can.

Currently not being a live band means that we have to go about things in a slightly different method. At the moment this works for us and our sound is constantly changing so this keeps each release sounding real fresh.

Where did you record, and what did you do to get the crisp and crunchy (“Pringles”) sound you got?

_Inceptum was recorded in various locations:

  • Drums: Eyal Levi’s studio in Stanford, Florida. Eyal also recorded his solo here.
  • Rhythm and lead guitars: Henry’s studio up in Leeds; Eyal flew out to record us here in the UK.
  • Vocals and bass: Phil’s studio up in Newcastle upon Tyne. More Eyal action right here.
  • Frank Mullen guest spot- Tommy Jones (Videohammer Studios) who filmed the whole recording process flew out to Long Island New York to track Frank at Full Force studios.
  • Jason Suecof guest spot: Jason recorded his guest solo at his studio in Florida, the mighty Audiohammer studios. They now have a meat smoker over there but that didn’t make its way on to the recording.

About those Pringles you mentioned, the overall sound is down to each of our performances and the final mix Eyal did.

You chose to release the EP to press as a 20-minute film about the making of the EP. How did this “meta-release” come to pass? Was it a greater challenge?

The addition of the documentary fell in place naturally. We wanted to capture the experience of this project as it was a pretty big venture for us having Eyal Levi and Tommy Jones come over from the US to work with us. Plus including a documentary with the release was a nice step up from our last demo, widely know as the “Speed Metal” self-titled.

Tommy did an incredible job of the documentary. Filming in multiple locations/studios can’t be easy to edit into a final product but he’s really nailed it and we’re pumped about how it’s come out.

We will be releasing the documentary for free online alongside the release of _Inceptum on the 22nd December.

What’s next for Cognizance? How should interested fans stay on top of what you’re doing?

We’re already working on a bunch of new material. I’ve pretty much got four songs written at this point. I’m not sure what we’re going to use them for or when you guys will hear them. But we’re starting some pre-production in less than two weeks, should be badass.

We post regular updates on our pages

Why are digipaks so popular?

December 10, 2014 –

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Whenever I see a release will be in digipak format, I have mixed emotions. The digipak shows more of the art and does not have the spine of the CD case to break up the panels between front and back. It is more like the envelope in which vinyl records are packaged and arguably more attractive. But it also has a fatal flaw: it degrades rapidly, often randomly, and unlike the rigid CD case does a poor job of protecting the relatively fragile CD.

Records, while also fragile, have an advantage in that they are larger and so are harder to destroy and less likely to be combined with other items and crushed. What all of us love about records is the large format front and back covers which allow more visibility to the album art as if it were a two-panel painting. But this size of art will never exist on a CD because it is a quarter the size of a vinyl record, so it seems a bit silly to package CDs in a fragile format so that we can see the same small-size art. Perhaps by now the CD audience is accustomed to seeing smaller art, and will download a bigger scan if they need one, or buy the vinyl instead.

Among my years with the digipak format, I have seen multiple CDs become loosed by the failure of the CD tray to remain glued to the back wall of the paper foldout. Multiple times the spines have compressed or collapsed, leading to the abrasion of the artwork that is putatively the value in the digipak over a nice, sturdy and reliable plastic CD case. Trying to pack them together on a shelf, owing to the disuniformity of the format because of its multiple options for booklets and pockets, causes total chaos which inevitably results in digipaks slipping like North Sea sardines from among the mess onto the floor.

This blog post is not a persuasive writing. It does not seek to convince you of a point of view; it raises a few questions and then departs. Those questions might be: What is it that we like about digipaks, especially artists and labels but not (generally) fans and collectors? What are the downsides? Do those benefits outweigh the downsides, and what are the risks of the downsides occurring in the life of the average metal fan? Not all questions need answers but many produce answering response in us as we read them, which I hope has happened here.