Soilwork – The Living Infinite

soilwork-the_living_infiniteIf you ever find yourself wondering why mainstream music produces so many professional and well-produced acts while metal seems pasted-together in comparison, worry no more: Soilwork has invented a new form of radio-friendly metal that competes with the big bands you can hear on the radio.

Much of metal’s heritage is pop. Iron Maiden, Queensryche and even easy-listening death metal like Cannibal Corpse follow the pop formula. What they are not is systematic in listening to their own material, analyzing it, following published research on effective songwriting and thus, consistent. A professional band approaches music like science. Every part of every song must be deliberate, which requires organization and to put it bluntly, work. This anti-hobbyist view threatens metalheads two ways. First, it points out that we could do better, with self-discipline; second, it points out that the world isn’t as simple as “all pop is crap” and “all underground is good.” Pop is musically competent and in many ways surpasses the underground bands.

The Living Infinite manipulates human emotions like a Hollywood mega-movie. All aspects of this work are thoroughly professional. Nothing is left to chance. Every iota is calculated to produce an effect that works together to make a greater whole. Production is also a masterpiece, creating a glassine space that resonates with guitar sound and avoids crowding of the distorted tracks. Every aspect that wants to be heard can be heard, and through the magic of ProTools or an analogue, identical parts are (literally) identical. In itself, the production makes you want to relish this release because it gives it big-radio pop gloss without truly emulsifying the product into uniformity.

The style of the music is designed based on what has become highly popular for metal over the past two decades. If you can imagine Iron Maiden, The Haunted, Rammstein and Amon Amarth in a blender, you can see where Soilwork get their influences. It mixes the sweet dual lead guitar work of NWOBHM with the bouncing riffs and “carnival music” detours of metalcore. You will hear a Blind Guardian influence in the surging choruses and sparkly bright major key vocal melodies, and you could detect later Queensryche’s hybrid of indie rock, glam metal and power metal in its use of vocal hooks and interwoven rhythm lines. There are no ballads, per se; the ballad effect has been swept up in the metal effect, which is itself subsumed in the rock effect.

Soilwork target the audience for guitar-heavy bands like Dire Straights or Rush with the appeal of melodic metal and the positivity of power metal (which has a lot in common with modern Christian rock in this respect). While The Living Infinite may not satisfy the underground or true metal palate, its goal is not to appeal to that audience, but the people out there listening to mainstream rock who are looking for something that goes a bit further without going to a truly dark place. For that purpose, this heavily guitar-oriented band serves as an introduction and baptism into what could eventually become a dangerous metal habit.

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Fear Factory kicks off The Industrialist tour 2013

fear_factory-the_industrialistIndustrial metal band Fear Factory graduated to concept albums early in their career, and following on the successes of last year’s The Industrialist will be touring in support of their particular mix of industrial, metal, grindcore and rock.

Based on a science-fiction epic written by vocalist Burton C. Bell, The Industrialist comments on the present and the future as part of one continuum. While the story remains inscrutable, the dystopian-anarchist feeling of industrial music pervades it.

Bell describes the work as the band’s most focused effort. “Everything had its purpose and we knew exactly what we were doing and what we had to do,” he said. The album is the second for the reunited songwriting duo of Bell and Dino Cazares, who worked on earlier material from this band.

Starting life as an alternative to Godflesh at a time when no other band could work within that style, Fear Factory has melded its own sound over the years, combining Nine Inch Nails and Ministry style industrial rock with metal riffs and grinding cadences.

If you want to catch these maniacs on tour, be sure to visit one of these venues:

  • 4/14/2013 The Black Sheep – Colorado Springs, CO
  • 4/15/2013 Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
  • 4/17/2013 The Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
  • 4/18/2013 The Rave – Milwaukee, WI
  • 4/19/2013 Mojoes – Joliet, IL
  • 4/20/2013 Club Fever – South Bend, IN
  • 4/21/2013 Diamond Pub & Billiards – Louisville, KY
  • 4/22/2013 Rapids Theatre – Niagara Falls, NY
  • 4/24/2013 Opera House – Toronto, ON
  • 4/26/2013 McGuffy’s House of Rock – Dayton, OH
  • 4/27/2013 The Machine Shop – Flint, MI
  • 4/28/2013 Montage Music Hall – Rochester, NY
  • 4/29/2013 The Junkyard – Nashua, NH
  • 5/01/2013 The Webster Theatre – Hartford, CT
  • 5/02/2013 The Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY
  • 5/03/2013 Revolution – Amityville, NY
  • 5/04/2013 Mojo 13 – Wilmington, DE
  • 5/05/2013 Sound Stage Baltimore – Baltimore, MD
  • 5/07/2013 NV Nightclub – Knoxville, TN
  • 5/08/2013 Amos South End – Charlotte, NC
  • 5/09/2013 Brewsters Roc Bar – Jacksonville, FL
  • 5/10/2013 Culture Room – Ft Lauderdale, FL
  • 5/11/2013 The Haven Lounge – Winter Park, FL
  • 5/12/2013 Brass Mug – Tampa, FL
  • 5/14/2013 Trees – Dallas, TX
  • 5/15/2013 Backstage Live – San Antonio, TX
  • 5/16/2013 Scout Bar – Houston, TX
  • 5/17/2013 The Station – Broussard, LA
  • 5/18/2013 Riverside Warehouse – Shreveport, LA
  • 5/19/2013 The Chameleon Room – Oklahoma City, OK
  • 5/21/2013 Fubar – St. Louis, MO
  • 5/22/2013 Station 4 – St. Paul, MN
  • 5/28/2013 Club 9one9 – Victoria, BC
  • 5/30/2013 Studio Seven – Seattle, WA
  • 5/31/2013 Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR
  • 6/04/2013 DNA Lounge – San Francisco CA
  • 6/06/2013 Marquee Theatre – Tempe, AZ
  • 6/07/2013 LVCS – Las Vegas, NV
  • 6/08/2013 The Roxy – West Hollywood, CA

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Hessian Studies

hessian_studies

The Hessian Studies Center was founded in late 1994 for the purpose of creating an atmosphere for study and respect of the Hessian tradition, folk art, and philosophical background. Over the next year it struggled off and on with authenticity and funding but eventually opted to remain underground because of the freedom given to respect metal’s traditions as independent, rather than integrated, with the western world’s containers for those philosophical and political entities. Additionally, the liberal policies of the Center regarding drug use caused ostracism and exile from the benevolent gaze of the herd.

The work of the Hessian Studies Center consists primarily of materials acquisition and content authorship, as well as think tank work in the continued architecture of Hessian history. Its members have authored numerous documents for this and related political efforts and continue their efforts to this day, striving for an independent Hessian state and the corresponding benefits of legal power (decriminalized recreational substances, an end to loudness ordinances, legalized crime).

The following is a reproduction of the original Hessian Studies flyer that kicked off the chaos back in 1994:

What is Hessian Studies?

Hessian Studies is the academic study of Hessians, Bangers, Metallians, Metalheads, death rockers, and other adherents to the genres of metal and grindcore. The Hessian Studies Department believes that any truly diverse multicultural population will contain representatives of this world-wide underground culture, with its rich and spanning historical and social contributions.

What are the aims of the Hessian Studies Department?

The Hessian Studies Department seeks to establish a presence of Hessians on campus and in campus events, as well as to create a comfortable environment at The College that suits the specific needs of Hessians at a small liberal-arts college. To this end, we have presented a List of Demands to the Administration:

  1. That there be Hessians hired to faculty and staff positions, and that all hair length rules and any form of drug policy regarding Hessians hired be abrogated, as Hessians have a religious need for some currently-regulated substances.
  2. That there be a Hessian Studies Center, complete with both audio and textual libraries and lounge area, for the study and advancement of Hessians.
  3. That the community radio station play more music favorable to the tastes of Hessians during prime-time shows.
  4. That the inscription at the gate of the college be changed to either “Fuckin’ Groovin'” or “You Suffer (But Why?)”.
  5. That discrimination against Hessians as a group of drug-addicted, drunken, long-haired incompetent losers destined for parole at best be eradicated from campus literature and mindset.
  6. That there be Hessian cultural events on campus, including concerts by noted Hessian bands and festivals related to various organic products enjoyed by Hessians.
  7. That the Hessian Studies Center be funded to provide late-night pizza and beer snack breaks.
  8. That Hessians be given equal time to speak at multicultural events, and the right to develop their own curriculum of Hessian Studies Courses.

Hessian Studies Center

Hessian studies is academic analysis of the international subculture of alienated heavy metal listeners and followers of intense music and noise of destruction. Our vision includes tolerance for all people and the right to individual autonomous direction and an end to compulsion and normative behavior.

Since its inception in 1994, the Hessian Studies Center has supported the international metal subculture through collection, analysis, and dissemination of the music and philosophy of thrashers, metallions, headbangers, metalheads, Hessians, longhairs, cruisers, piledrivers and others who comprise a virtual ethnicity of people inspired by the power of heavy metal, speed metal, black metal and death metal music worldwide. We achieve our ends through peaceful and herbological methods.

In addition to supporting the pantheon of academic and cultural programs above, the Hessian Studies Center aids with time and equipment as well as money the Dark Legions Archive, a repository of analysis concerning the music of the worldwide metal community. Headbangers, metallions, metalheads, longhairs, stoners, and other social rejects apply through means of this email link.

The United Hessian Front

The United Hessian Front exists as an extension of the Hessian Studies Center that seeks to find adherents to the subculture of heavy metal music and philosophy internationally and unify their voices in a forum for communication about future generations of metalion thought. Our goals are to acquire and disseminate information about the Hessian subculture in this process while reinforcing its objectives through our actions and treatment of others.

In order for Hessian culture to accelerate its own growth toward the future it must be aware of its past as well as the likely environment into which it will develop. As the world spirals closer to oblivion, entropy, and genocidal apocalypse, the vast suicide cult that is modern society seeks further methods of denying darkness, chaos, and destruction. Hessians exist so that this may not be so.

The objectives of the UHF are as follows:

  • Establishment of an Independent Hessian State.
    To ensure freedom for Hessian development and minimal intrusion from normals, sober people, and authority figures the creation of an independent and autonomous Hessian zone under self-rule is a primary objective of the UHF.
  • Religious Freedom and Controlled Substances
    The complex sociomystical structures behind the art, aesthetic and mindset of a modern Hessian lifestyle requires the stabilizing influence of chaos-generating psychoactive substances in order to remain efficient and content.
  • Equal Air Time for Nonconventional Music
    Current media tendencies exclude all but the most soothingly inane and simplistically melodic, leaving a void of contemporary music for the intellectual connoisseur or musician, generally attenuating the intellectual readiness of the population; for this reason alone we request more air time for metal and other non-mainstream forms of music.
  • Injunction Against the Christian Right
    Given the evidentiary state within science that concludes that so far agents of discreet brainwashing have not been found to be able to influence humans to extreme behaviors such as suicide, assault, or murder through the simple method of stereophonic amplification, it’s time to call off the Christian right from attacking metal and rap as “promoting violence and depravity.”
  • Flier for Public Distribution and Chaos
    Our reprehensibly straightforward and dissonant fliers bring all of the alienation and some of the isolation home to those you can dupe into reading them, as well as providing hours of family topics for discussion. Spread this bad news everywhere to deconstruct society the networked way!

Our vision is of a world where Hessians can be recognized as a virtual nation of headbangers, metalheads, and thrashers and will eventually be treated with respect to their specific needs and inclinations. Through mutual tolerance we can live together or we will surely die together.

Hessian Life

Introduction
Hessians come from the tradition of subculture, or resistant counter-culture embedded within a much larger cultural container. They have been spotted in almost every country in the world where electricity and a relative amount of personal music technology have been distributed. Most cultures have learned to recognize them and write them off — at their essential nature, they are a pacifistic culture of alienated and/or intellectualized rockers looking for truth in extremity.

Social Conception
Society encompasses their culture, but they treat it with dissonant indifference, realizing that its actions are beyond their control and are mostly ignorant attempts at control or manipulative, fearful and destructive compulsions to duty. The desperate impulse that is afraid of silence (as in silence one must think within) drives normal social activities to be centered around events and to aim at providing comfort. Hessians reject these ideals and instead favor indirection, mayhem, destruction and other chaotic acts in their free (not enslaved by school/job) time. Often they can be found gathered around a bong for interpersonal time, or gathered in small groups to become intoxicated and raise some hell. The heavy party culture that underlies all rock carries its extremities also in the extreme rock arena, where brutal concert violence and fastidious drug abuse are signs of successful interaction.

Philosophical Worldview
Beneath this fury of strange behavior a philosophical foundation supports but does not attempt to justify these acts. The naturalistic philosophy of the Hessians prioritizes justice and ideal at the same time it encourages chaotic fantasy; its essential communication is to live well through freedom from the clutches of neurotic thought, and to spend time in whatever liberating activities can be fashioned from the elements available. The nature of this in the trapped, suffocating world of commercial society (narcotic of the one true herd) is a relative overemphasis on intoxication and freedom from plans, morals, karma, memory, or the will of other people; the consequence is often an overindulgence in rebellion without a clear direction for self-preservation. However, Hessian philosophy as revealed by the metaphors within the music reveal a fascination with information, with fantasy, with power, with destruction, and an obsession with honesty and spiritual power to speak the apocalyptic truth.

Drugs and Mysticism
Hessians tend to believe in both the psychological/mystical power of drugs as well as the spiritual power of their music, although this belief is not shared by all. Often Hessians can be found gathered around a stereo consuming large quantities of marijuana, hashish, or other less-refined forms of drug. By liberating the mind in intoxication the Hessians believe they achieve a stable plane of nihilistic consciousness, where they are closer to the dark gods of winter and more able to comprehend the profundity of death. In this morbid ritual metalheads develop a comprehension of reality that supersedes all other methods of processing life and frees them from the drug of mainstream life, fear and consumption. In this more spiritual state they feel they can comprehend the complex messages transmitted through rhythm and metaphor in the music. Other parts of this ritual involve simple spreading of chaos in the fertile order of society, a mystical act of supreme rebellion and refreshing spiritual heresy.

Freedom Manifesto

Conventional social ideals would cast aside the non-ideal, the non-quantifiable and stay with the symmetrical and symbolic, fearing the ambiguous world of obscurity and metaphor. Double meanings, they say, balking in horror like the sheep they are. But what does the Hessian say?

The Hessian rejects insecurity and underconfidence and plunges ahead no matter how insane the project in conventional ideals. By denying the doubt of the people around them and aiming for loftier ideals than the simple “feed thyself” command of society’s trough, Hessians have created some of the most extreme and beautiful music ever to hit planet earth.

Their rejection of neurosis and mocking anti-idolization of society’s scapegoats make them a terror to the unstable and fragile balance of deception that allows our modern society to function.

“Turn off that fucking noise!” — every Hessian that has ever lived has heard it. Many people every day seem not to think about how unoriginal their comments are and tear into the usual insult of how Hessian music is “noise” and not music because it does not fit conventional classifications. The wily Hessian only laughs, and mocks back with even ruder noise — for the Hessian knows that human boundaries are only impositions of human understanding, and not inherent to the outside world — a place known for its nihilism and aggressive destruction as well as its nurturing instinct.

Through their addiction to noise Hessians have discovered a method of chaotic, spiritual, dark and naturalistic living that rejects the distinction between music and noise as it rejects government, religion, control and commodity as frivolous arbitrary containers of human invention for the purposes of competitive success. Who knows why humans think that way? But the Hessian only blasts louder, breaking down distinctions as his music breaks down assumptions and suggests a darker vision for art than the kitsch and design of mainstream consumer tastes.

The anarchistic views of Hessians rest in their fundamental choice to have will, rather than reaction, as their response to life. To be informed and to be of mental presence to make decisions, they say, is a fundamental part of the valuable capacity of being alive. Society is here to make room for the individual to create and to be, they say, not to glorify the process of society and to make it more demanding, more greedily afraid of its own destruction.

Through the needs of our industrial machinery we have enslaved ourselves to bureaucracy and the weakness of human need in the power-deprived state of an anonymous modern individual. We have seen, they say, the order of our grandparents and parents grow stronger every day to enforce its arcane social restrictions yet it cannot stop the problems it bemoans, but only makes them stronger as symbols against its rule. We have seen how soon all was suspect, and anything outside the norm became fearful — we have seen also how easily the scared will run to this strong will of order, begging for their dose of power from the dominatrix, doubt.

A civilization that worships fear is nothing to us, they say, as we like the ancients choose a broader, faster, freer life. We choose our will and our dreams over fear.

Naturally this runs against the order of society: sit down and be sensible, provide for yourself or you might become lost (sheep without pension must retire in poverty, and sheep without property may be beaten by the sheepdogs of the herd). For this reason to most in society Hessiandom is an Icaran falling into the abyss of fire, consumption by internal angst (although most of the inner tension is caused by the external internalized), but to Hessians it is the freedom in the one honest voice they hear, which affirms the nihilism of survival, the degraded state of the human race, the victory of destruction over life, and the uselessness of civilization as conditions of existence.

More than the violence of punk rock or the dissidence of political music, this scares the public because of its ambiguous but menacing message of deconstruction. But ineffective control has led to anarchy anyway, an anarchy of a different sort: the equal response to suppression is rebellious destruction; the power of denial cannot file this off the walls of our memory. And so metal is denied, as it has not yet been broken down into enough of a mainstream consciousness to be accepted as anything other than aesthetic.

In the shadow of this denial Hessians have had to find a new way of understanding their existence, when it is not often acknowledged and never given any credit for being as intelligent and architected as it is. This enforced internalization has reached its peak in the romantic but morbid subgenre of Black Metal, which encourages a fascistic love of self and misanthropic hatred toward the world. Alas, Hessians in this world are tainted by its virus, and this over-extension is sometimes as much reaction as independent direction. However their metaphor speaks its truth plainly, and rebellious deconstructs any rules or beliefs that it can lay a hand upon.

But were there only silence, the spirit of the Hessian would continue, in the same proclamation that life makes oblivious of its communication, a nihilistic acceptance and aspiration toward the light as if to become the world rather than consume it. This translates, through the voices of memory and individual personality, to a universal level of thought that refines to a simple message and harmonizes in the medium of chaos. In this arena, the medium delivers the message: with no order, it is free, and it has proclaimed itself so with the organic complexity of chaotic recombinance.

The dark nihilistic rage of the winter gods of thunder presents the looming possibility of spring, of death beyond life and life beyond the living death of modern society. In the combination of musics at modernistic minimalism and romantic construction, metal brings forth a future that may offer more answers and less emptiness than our current adaptation of our collective existence.

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Gifted children find comfort in heavy metal

heavy_metal_a_comfort_to_the_bright_childAs reported by The Telegraph and other news sources of quality, “intelligent teenagers often listen to heavy metal music to cope with the pressures associated with being talented,” according to new research.

The original research from the University of Warwick surveyed 1,067 students for their attitudes about family, school, leisure time and media. They found that students who ranked metal above other genres tended to have “lower self-esteem and ideas about themselves.”

Following up on that, the researchers interviewed gifted students to find their attitudes about heavy metal. These gifted students identified heavy metal as a source of catharsis and the release of pressures associated with school. More than a third of the top 5% of students in the UK rated heavy metal as their favorite type of music.

The study suggests that people listen to heavy metal because they are under pressure from what they perceive of daily life. As the researcher in charge of the study stated, “Perhaps the pressures associated with being gifted and talented can be temporarily forgotten with the aid of music. As one student suggests, perhaps gifted people may experience more pressure than their peers and they use the music to purge this negativity.”

This contradicts the notion that heavy metal causes the anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and other behaviors with which it is associated. Furthermore, it implies these behaviors may be the result of higher intelligence people attempting to integrate with our modern world and its declining social standards. Most likely, the research suggests, these are not problems but rational responses to the world around, and are the product of not a lower mindset but a higher one.

As another article pointed out, heavy metal is “a favoured music of 11-19 year olds with lower self-esteem than their peers” but that the “youngsters said they could connect with metal’s ‘politics’.” In other words, this is in response to the world itself and not the internal makeup of these people.

It could just be that if you notice enough of reality, heavy metal is the only music and corresponding sociocultural identity which can make sense out of what a smarter child can perceive.

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Does metal cause violence, or violence cause metal?

the_heavy_moments_in_lifeWe recently had a mass stabbing here in Texas. Whenever we have a mass shooting anywhere in the world, I brace for the inevitable: they’re going to blame heavy metal.

They did it with Columbine. They tried it with a dozen others, blaming metal and/or industrial, even if the music wasn’t really “metal” at all. Since the 1980s, when Judas Priest got sued over supposedly backward-masked lyrics exhorting fans to kill themselves, it has been a common media trope to blame heavy metal for suicide, violence and self-harm.

A writer over at ScienceAlert asks the vital question of whether metal causes violence, or is caused by violence, in the context of an article on metal and self-harm.

First, the article points out that most people grasp the right meaning of song lyrics only 28% of the time on a four-song test, which puts us 3% ahead of guessing randomly. Even backward masking doesn’t seem to make a discernible impression.

The article dissipates a bit after that, attacking opera as likely to inspire suicide, and sort of missing the point there. Opera is about the heavy topics in life, lost lovers and regaining honor and other intense life-decisional topics, much like metal is.

In fact, if metal has a relationship to violence, it’s as neither cause of or caused by, but “aware of,” because metal is for realists who don’t deny the dark side of life as well as the light. If that was spurred on by early exposure to violence, horror, sadness or a lack of parental love, so be it — we all have to “wake up” sometime and face reality.

Fortunately, psychological research shows that they needn’t have bothered. Teenage metal fans are also more likely than most to suffer neglectful parents. That’s a much more credible explanation of why they’re drawn to both self-harming and a musical subculture that expresses their disaffection with mainstream society that has failed them.

From the article, it sounds like metalheads are just those who awaken a bit earlier. Opera fans tend to be in their 40s-80s and are aware of all that life entails, including those “heavy” decisions and heavy moments like saying goodbye to others or choosing aggression over passively accepting fate. But somehow, we never hear the media reasonably discussing this idea after a school shooting.

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Sinister – The Carnage Ending

sinister-the_carnage_edingIf you can imagine a hybrid between older Grave and Centurian, you have the essence of the new Sinister, which like side project Houwitser specializes in fast, simple riff-fests that evoke ancient feelings of ornamented function like the spires of historical castles.

Like fellow high-speed metal legion Angelcorpse, the songs on this album rush forward with unrelenting speed and battery but slow down for moments of melody or artfully-suggested pauses, like a knight resting on the crest of a valley before battle. Many of these riffs will be familiar patterns, not just from death metal but types of melodies famous in other ages.

To keep that from being overwhelming, The Carnage Ending features many of the fast and aggressive chromatic riffs that build tension and heighten energy in the way they did on the first three albums. While this album is not as carefully put together as Cross the Styx, and has more redundancy among riff types, it maintains its memorable moments in a sea of high-energy blasting.

The Carnage Ending erupts from a pure old school death metal background and does a more than credible job of rendering itself. Some of the chaotic material on here seems offhand, but the songs have been trimmed back so that they are expressive and not disorganized. The result is hard-hitting, raging death metal from more than one former age.

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Summoning – Old Morning’s Dawn pre-order

summoning-old_mornings_dawn-pre-orderTolkien ambient black metal project Summoning have unleashed their latest recording, Old Morning’s Dawn, via Napalm Records. The pre-order links are now active and the final product will be released June 27, 2013.

Napalm Records promises that “Despite the long break, the congenial duo Silenius and Protector did not stray an inch from their patch. Their distinctive melodies are the heart of all the songs on the latest longplayer, and bring the listeners directly into the fantastic world of Middle-Earth.”

Old Morning’s Dawn follows up on 2006’s Oath Bound, which united the epic spirit of power metal with the gentle melodic atmosphere and inner savagery of black metal, making the ideal soundtrack for medieval battle or spiritual occult warfare against the modern world.

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pre-order CD 12 EUR / pre-order DLP 23 EUR

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Interview: Andrew DiMatteo, Editor of Codex Obscurum zine

codex-obscurum-zineSince the introduction of Codex Obscurum, a new printed zine of the style common from 1980s-2000s, interest has risen in this ancient but effective form of metal journalism.

After the punks (and really, convergence of technological ripeness) introduced D.I.Y. record labels, fanzines and shows, the 1980s brought us some of the first fanzines which were generally xeroxed paste-ups of hand-drawn illustrations and typed text. What made them great was the content: new bands no one had heard of, described in detail, and interviews with the bands people wanted to know more about. They were news and quality control in one.

With the dawn of the internet age, zines seemed destined for an early death. But as publishing information got easier, the quality of the information decreased because people were posting just about anything and the audience treated it all as having that standard. In the current day and age, a zine suggests an edited, deliberate and thoughtful publication, and it has more cachet than a blog or Facebook post.

We were fortunate locate Codex Obscurum editor Andrew Bastard and get in a few questions about the latest old school zine to hit metal:

What did you like about classic xeroxed zines, and what advantages do you think they have over glossy magazines?

I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t like glossy magazines; I had a subcription to Metal Maniacs from approximately 1995-2001. I still have boxes of them somewhere and love to flip through them on the shitter. I also have a bunch of old xerox zines in a three-ring binder that I still read to this day. There is some magic behind a xerox zine though that glossy color zines just lack…the fact that you know someone sat there and put the zine together by hand, a true labor of love.

Has the internet changed how music is sold, listened to and discovered? How does this affect classic-style zines like Codex Obscurum?

Absolutely. Music almost isn’t sold any more aside from vinyl collectors and hardcore music owners. I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD online; I’ll buy from distros at shows/fests here and there but for the most part, I’m in the business of discovering older demo bands that you can’t purchase anymore so I download 80-90% of what I listen to these days. A lot of those blog sites are down these days too so even that has become difficult.

On the flip side, the internet has made listening to new music so easy. Full albums are up on YouTube, along with sites like Bandcamp and Spotify. The net’s been an awesome resource for new bands to get heard.

What inspired you to take on this somewhat anachronistic format, and what advantages do you think it offers over other formats?

I’ve wanted to do this for years ever since I first started working at a Kinkos while in college; I had the resources to do it cheap; I just needed the time to make it actually happen and I guess I finally found that time. I’ve always loved the old style of doing shit, being it releasing demos on cassette, tape trading, zines etc. so this was only natural. This is my way of contributing to the scene while at the same time keeping the old school fires burning. It’s so easy to tell which n00bs are in this scene to stay and which ones are in a “phase” and will be gone soon: the fakes don’t care about the zine; the true lifers love it and are ordering it via snail mail from all corners of the globe.

What zines influenced you back in the day? Did you also read glossy magazines? Did the two complement each other?

I’m only 30 so I missed out on a lot of the classics that I later obtained through trades, eBay, etc. I always had Metal Maniacs around the house but I also loved to read S.O.D., Unrestrained, etc. and some of the shithead, xerox style zines that inspired Codex Obscurum are Slayer (duh!), Pagan Pages, The Grimoire, Mutilating Process, Worm Gear, Metal Forces, etc. I dont know they they complemented, per se; I just liked reading about bands that I liked and discovering new bands through writers that I shared similar interests with. I gotta give a shout-out to Nathan T. Birk, particularly his Apocalyptic Raids column. He knew how to keep it old school even in the newer glossy mags. 90% of the bands he wrote about that I had never heard of, I’d find myself enjoying not to mention he just had a great writing style.

We’ve gone — over the span of only a dozen years — from a time in which information scarcity was a big deal for underground metal, to a time in which information overload (and a thousand times more bands). How do you think this has affected the underground?

I don’t even know how to answer this; I will say I hate the popularity of metal these days. It’s the biggest trend going and we’re flooded with mediocre bands copycatting Anthrax with flip brim PBR hats on and cut off blue denim shorts and Vans sneakers that think they are doing the scene a favor when in reality they are just wearing on those of us that have been involved our entire lives. It’s really frustrating but all you can do is bask in the fact that this is, indeed a trend for them and they’ll give up and move on to something else soon enough and this metal pop diva faux show will all end.

How will people get ahold of this zine? Rumor is it that you’re charging very little over postage costs — do you hope to make money on this? What will keep you going forward, pay your writers, etc.?

On the Codex Obscurum Facebook page you’ll find a Big Cartel link to order online. I also accept snail mail cash or money orders; all that info is also in the “about” section of the FB page. $2 an issue covers what it costs for me to print these things, and shipping costs are as low as I can get them. I’m not looking to make a dime on these although I think I will make a little money on the side in the end which will probably go towards stickers or t-shirts or something. None of the contributors get paid; we’re all doing this out of our love of the old school art.

Why do you think metal is important?

Metal is the only form of music, in my opinion, that truly shapes the lives of its fans. You don’t see any other music genre that has such heart felt, loyal followers that leave and breathe and bleed for it like you see in the metal community. I guess that’s what makes it “important” to me: you don’t just listen to metal, you are metal. And metal is you.

What function did print zines serve in the original underground? Do they serve the same function now?

Back in the day (BITD) print zines served a much more legitimate function than they do now. Before we had the internet, zines were how you found new bands and how you learned about said bands and the doctrines that these bands prescribed. BITD you had word of mouth, tape trading, snail mail letters and shows; those were your only means of discovering new bands and learning what those bands were all about.

Nowadays you’ve got the net which makes it so much easier but not nearly as much fun. A zine in this day in age is honestly kind of pointless. I could just take all of the info that I put into Codex Obscurum and post in on my facebook wall, or on a blog or whatever and the readers would get the exact same information, faster and far more conveniently but it all harkens back to keeping the flames of old burning and like I said before, it’s fun.

I love physically holding a zine in my hands, and being able to fold it up and throw it in my back pocket and whip it out whenever I’ve got some down time and read a piece or two and then put it away. That’s why record collecting is so big these days and the advent of these die hard releases where you get all these extra goodies: people like to hold and possess the things they love and always have it on hand somewhere to go back to and reference whenever they like.

Can you tell us about yourself, and your past. What other projects have you had? How did you know/meet your staff? Who are they?

This could take forever but I’ll keep is short and sweet and try not to self promote too much .. I currently play in two bands, the first band basically rips off Motorhead, Discharge, Venom and Celtic Frost; we call that band PanzerBastard. The other band is an old school, shithead black/death metal band called Deathgod Messiah…paint, spikes, bullets and Satan. Total South American ‘fago blasphemy…prior to these two, I played in Horn of Valere, an epic, melodic fantasy based black metal band out of Providence, RI.

I currently live in Boston, MA (Jamaica Plain, represent!). I also have a solo project that I haven’t touched in years called Shayol Ghul, also fantasy based. I’m a huge fantasy sci-fi nerd and I mean that in the truest sense, not just one of these Game of Throne over-nighters (was reading that series in detention in high school in 1996). Look at my book shelf and you’ll see what I mean…

My ‘staff’ are just a bunch of local metalheads that for the most part, I’ve known for years just from being around the scene and going to shows etc. most are involved in their own bands; eventually I’ll probably run a feature in the zine showcasing the contributing members personal bands.

Would you give us a little run-down on issue #1 — what’s in it, how many pages, what type of content, etc.?

The first issue of Codex Obscurum is thirty 8.5″ x 11″ pages, double sided and folded in half, that ends up being 60 readable pages packed with text and pictures. The content is primarily band interviews and reviews but there are a few small personal bits in there; rants on this and that and a big written piece remembering Rozz Williams (Christian Death) because the zine came out the day of his suicide (April 1st). This issue has interviews with Hellbastard, Varg Vikernes, Steve Zing (Danzig/Samhain), Vasaeleth, Guttural Secrete, Skepticism, High Spirits and a few more.

Any plans yet for issue #2? Is Codex Obscurum going to be a “regular thing”?

Issue #2 is already underway. We had so much material for issue #1 that it didn’t all fit so we’ve already got a headstart on #2. It should be out in June, maybe July. I’m shooting for a new issue every 2-3 months. I’m going to keep doing it for as long as I can and for as long as my ‘staff’ remain enthusiastic about doing it! and of course for as long as the readers continue to read the damn thing — no readers = no zine so please support us! Thank you.

$3 plus shipping

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E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr – Kometenbahn

e-musikgruppe_lux_ohr-kometenbahnThe most immediate comparisons E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr will attract are to Tangerine Dream and other “cosmic” bands of the 1970s, but while the technique of this trancelike electronic waveform fits that description, its composition reflects on something more like the “chill-out” albums of the middle 1980s.

Kometenbahn uses many of the same samples and sounds as old Tangerine Dream. The Moog keyboards intermix with the highly sequenced percussive synthesizer that keeps time, and lengthy and intricate guitar solos use the same distortion and tuning. Even the studio sound is very similar.

How E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr differs from the cosmic musicians however is in structure. This music is built more like the 1980s techno and chill-out albums, like the KLF’s album titled after the genre, than the 1970s bands. The electronic acts of the 1970s had a lot more in common with progressive rock, and so structured each song around either a set classical form, or as an adaptation to the content being expressed.

In contrast, more like the 80s material Kometenbah is composed in layers shaped around a central circular structure. This is not verse-chorus, but more linear, with the idea that one alternating pattern attracts others and then variations are made to those to tweak intensity and build up an experience of their atmosphere and immersion of mood.

This album offers powerful stuff to those who love ambient music. It is a feast of sounds, textures and rhythms. While it does not use the cosmic song forms of Tangerine Dream and friends, it produces a more contemporary atmosphere of suspension of disbelief and exploration of not a labyrinth, but deepening detail of an intensely ornate and beautiful object.

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