Staying true to roots is difficult because as time goes on and learning increases, one must necessarily spread wings and soar to more ambitious ground. Killing Joke do both on MMXII, an album that showcases the style of their first album as interpreted through a more modern style and revisiting their influences.
Categorizing Killing Joke has never been easy. They sound like they should be an electronic music band, with spacious beats and future pop song structures, but then they add in guitar which sounds like a lighter version of Amebix, and a distinctly sweet-sour male vocal that gives the music an expansive mood and lightens the sometimes intense distortion on the guitars. They augment this with atmospheric keyboards and a throbbing, pulsing aggro-pop bass groove.
On MMXII, the band get closer to their roots in early electro and British techno pop, using melody to lead the otherwise unstoppable fusion of industrial, pop, punk and rock that they wrap into a final product that is both passionate and furious. While this is no way a metal band, Killing Joke has influenced a good many metal bands because it shares a similar mood: mythological, metaphorical, distanced from the human and yet emotional in the sense of someone watching a lovely mountainside burn in a drought.
As fierce critics of the modern life and its favorite crutches, Killing Joke also have a mood that is more punk than the most righteously self-proclaimed punk. This gives the music a surging quality, between a contemplative Britpop melancholy and harmony, and a driving rage during which the vocals distort to the edge of black or death metal territory. The result is an enclosing wall of sound that catches the listener in its emotion.
MMXII presents an amazingly consistent package. While songs are generally verse-chorus with strategic breaks, and cycle around to circular structures that repeat with changes, they are not consistent and each one has a different set of moods. Like actors playing a role in the drama of the album, each seems like a shard of the glass face reflecting the true experience of this album, which is both elaborate and brilliantly compelling.
The job of a reviewer is to describe music, not judge it. Assessment ultimately becomes obvious from the context of expectation created by the reviewer which shows where all things must fit in the bigger pattern.
Monsterworks resembles a mixture of things and prefers to stay that way. The majority of the structural parts of songs are like Led Zeppelin mixed with Southern Rock and early doom metal, using metalcore style rasp vocals, so that most of what you hear is very guitar-rock styled heavy metal. This is a welcome change from the less organic metalcore of late.
If you like guitar playing that is bluesy, varied and emotional, this album will pique your interest. While the vocals rant, guitars hit all the right rhythms and then work in leads with the fills, slowly building up intensity until the song explodes in sound. If you can imagine Led Zeppelin and Ion Dissonance collaborating on a stoner doom album, this might be about it.
Monsterworks create very much in the 1970s style, and yet with its vocals and aesthetics, very much in the 2010s style as well. The result is both deeply engaged and like newer metal hybrids, incessant in its peak intensity, which can make it meld together indistinctly. It often detours into “different” arenas, like progressive rock, tech-deth, and straight up hardcore, as if a variety show.
Album of Man reforms the anti-technical side of post-metal and metalcore however by using the guitar as a voice of its own, and breaking up the strident extremity with old fashioned instrumentalism. This both brings rock and metal back to their core and renews the intensity of the vocals. By doing so, it takes newer metal to a better place and makes for a more satisfying listen.
We can only know the present by knowing the past. In the case of heavy metal, it is a murky past obscured by both the grandiose rockstar dreams of individuals and the manipulative fingers of a voracious industry.
Metal arose through a complicated narrative worthy of a lost empire, and by knowing this history, we can know more of the music we enjoy today.
Specifically of interest are a number of threads that interweave throughout the history of the genre, both as outside influences and later as internal habits, which influence its twisting path from something a lot like rock to a genre entirely separate.
This story then is a tale of how many became one, or how they found something in common among themselves, and how it has taken years of creative people hammering on the parts to meld them into one single thing, known as heavy metal.
However, no one really likes a lengthy essay. Instead, here’s metal’s history the best way it can be experienced: by listening to it.
1968-1970 — the origins
Three threads ran alongside each other: punk, proto-metal and progressive rock. All three are on the edge of being metal, since the type of progressive rock in question is raw and disturbing and not of the “everybody be happy love friends” hippie style. This is music that thinks our society is disturbed, and that therefore many of the values we reject are worth a closer look. Some is fatalist-nihilist, like the self-destructive tendencies of punk, where progressive rock is more clinical, and metal more epic (looking for meaning in the ancients, in nature, the occult and conflict).
Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
1971-1981 — maturation
A lot happened here, but basically, metal became more like its ancestors (hard rock), progressive rock faded out, and punk got more rock-music-like. The punk from this era is more like normal rock music than the outsider stuff it originally was, but also gains some aggression from Motorhead, who may technically be metal but were born of a progressive rock band (Hawkwind) and sounded very punk and inspired the next generation of punks to be louder, lewder, etc.
Punk music arose from the earlier work by Iggy and the Stooges, but formalized itself into a pop genre that used guitars more like keyboards than like the guitar fireworks of conventional guitar-intense bands like Cream and The Who.
An exception to the metal of the period was NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal). DIY and extreme for the day, it left behind the Led Zeppelin-styled “hard rock” vein of metal and got away from Sabbath’s detuned doom and gloom to make energetic, mythological but also somewhat excited-about-life metal.
Satan – Court in the Act
Angel Witch – Angel Witch
Iron Maiden – Killers
Judas Priest – Sin After Sin
1982-1987 — the peak
Punk got its act together, in part inspired by the more commercial bands like Ramones and Sex Pistols. This is where hardcore punk really happened. That in turn spurred a revolution because music had finally left rock behind, and by mating the nihilistic (no inherent rules) composition of punk with the longer-phrase riffs of metal (derived from horror movie soundtracks), the riff styles of death metal and black metal were born, and the progressive song structures of speed metal evolved. At the same time, essentialist movements in punk hybrids (thrash) and metal (doom) emerged, sending many back to the roots of these subgenres.
Discharge – Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing
The Exploited – Death Before Dishonour
Amebix – Arise!
A second generation arose in the USA (all of the above bands are UK):
Cro – Mags – The Age of Quarrel
Black Flag – Damaged
Minor Threat – Discography
1983 — the big branching: speed, thrash and death/black
1983 is a crucial year, and so it gets its own entry. Metal and punk cross-influenced each other. The result was a lot more metal. If you’re familiar with nu-metal or more radio style metal, start with speed metal, as it’s the most like really violent rock music with influences from progressive rock in song structure. If you like messy punk (!!!) try some thrash. And if you’ve already given your soul to Satan, try death/black. With death/black, there’s also some influences from progressive rock, although they’re balanced with punk technique which makes for a chaotic spawn.
Speed metal took the complex song forms of progressive rock, the muted-strum guitar riffing of the NWOBHM bands like Blitzkrieg, and added to it the high energy of punk hardcore and came up with songs that kept getting faster and faster. This shocked people of the day, and was the primary reason speed metal bands were different from the NWOBHM that came before them, hence it was dubbed “speed metal.”
Metallica – Kill ‘Em All
Nuclear Assault – Game Over
Megadeth – Rust in Peace
Testament – The New Order
Thrash is a hybrid genre that takes punk songs and puts metal riffs in them. Its name arises from “thrasher,” or skater, and those were the people who embraced this style of music that was more extreme than metal or hardcore at the time. While it leans toward punk, it used metal riffs, and wrote short songs that in the punk style lambasted society but in the metal style tended to mythologize the resulting conflict.
In 1983, these bands contributed just about equally to the new sound. In the largest part inspired by NWOBHM like Venom and Motorhead filtered through aggro-hardcore like GBH and Discharge, the unholy triad invented underground metal to come.
Bathory – The Return
Once proto-death/black metal had occurred, people began to expand on the formula. One side decided to make it more technical, and riffy, and taking after Hellhammer’s “Triumph of Death” and the increasingly mind-bending riffing of Slayer, made it use mazes of mostly chromatic phrasal riffs. On the other side, some wanted to preserve the atmosphere of the simpler songs that Bathory and Hellhammer had to offer, but injected melody and loosened up the drums to keep it from being as clear and rigid as death metal. While that latter group went off to figure out black metal, the death metal team experienced a boom of creativity and excess during 1985-1995.
Necrovore – Divus Te Mortuus
Morbid Angel – Abominations of Desolation
While death metal was just starting up, other bands were trying to figure out how to make melodic ambient metal, structured equally after early melodic metal and free-floating songs like Slayer’s “Necrophiliac.” The result had chaotic drums, deliberately bad sound quality to avoid becoming a trend or something which could be imitated, and high shrieking vocals to death metal’s guttural growl. Taking a cue from Bathory, Slayer and Hellhammer, it also embraced the occult and esoteric and rejected conventional social norms and religions.
As black metal matured, it moved into Norway, possibly inspired by the previous generation of melodic Swedish death metal bands who used high sustain through heavy distortion to make melodic songs which featured less constant riff-changing than the bigger bands from overseas.
Immortal – Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism
Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
This is just the beginning; there’s a lot more after this in all of the genres, which kept developing in their own ways. This is only an introduction to the history of it all, and is not designed to be comprehensive…
Satan‘s Life Sentence is going to hit a lot of best of lists for this year because it is the root of the most lastingly popular metal genre ever created.
In the early 1980s, speed metal bands like Metallica popularized the style, but acknowledged their debt to NWOBHM including Motorhead, Diamond Head and Blitzkrieg. These bands were from the far side of NWOBHM as it incorporated more punk influences and as a way of differentiating itself from the earlier versions, got harder, heavier, riffier and generally more aggressive.
Back in those times, Satan’s Court in the Act was considered one of the fore-runners of speed metal. With the advantage of 30 years of wisdom, Satan re-assembled — now with experience spent in bands like Blitzkrieg and Skyclad — and restored its vision of the past with an album that is harder, faster and heavier than their earlier works.
Life Sentence however also includes the best aspects of NWOBHM, which includes the melodic vocals and melodic guitar-based songwriting, with technical chops that aren’t overstated, and a good sense of developing theme. It makes many of the post-Metallica imitators of speed metal seem like two-note template-based song construction, and shows metal a way to renovate its own flagging fortunes: improve songwriting.
It won’t be hard to convince people to enjoy this album. As we pointed out in our review, it’s a winner with metalheads who like musicality with their speed thrills. We were fortunate to be able to talk with guitarist Steve Ramsey.
Back in the 1980s, when asked about the origins of speed metal (Metallica, Exodus, Anthrax, Testament, Megadeth) many people pointed me toward Court in the Act, and others mentioned the “Into the Fire” demo you released in 1982. What do you think your contributions were toward inventing this new style? Do you think it was widely recognised?
I think on the underground it was recognised that the album had some significance. Unfortunately it didn’t seem so to us at the time, hence the name and direction change. We knew we were pushing boundaries in our own way.
What floors me about Life Sentence is how you mix melodic guitar playing with aggressive and fast riffing. Do you get a lot of comparisons to Judas Priest’s Painkiller? How do you think this album is different from your past works?
We were heavily influenced by early Priest, especially the Unleashed in the East live album and the older material on that album. No one has mentioned this until now. Their earlier material in he seventies was very progressive, unlike some of the stuff that made them popular in the eighties. We tried to create what we think would have been our second album had the lineup stayed in tact. We had a few rules we made and stuck to. For instance, we didn’t think we would have written much in odd time signatures.
The term “power metal” popped up a lot in the late 1990s to refer to bands that were melodic in composition but used the more aggressive riff styles of speed metal and death metal, like Helstar and Stratovarius. However, Satan was doing all of this back in 1982. Do you think the community caught up to you, and do you think that your first album would be received differently today?
If the reaction to the new album is anything to go by then yes, I think the album would have fared better now. Aggressive melodic speed metal is a term that could be used to describe a lot of what we are in to writing and performing as a band.
Life Sentence is a remarkably complete album in that every song seems to fit and there’s not a dull moment. What’s your songwriting and quality control process? How do you start writing a song — with an idea, an image, a riff, a melody, or what? — and how do you determine what goes on the album?
It’s strange really, we didn’t have any left overs. Everything we put together is on the album. Russ is the main writer of the music along with myself, but a lot of the stuff is a collaboration between us and the other members adding their bits and pieces to the general picture and overall performance. It’s a true team effort.
Members have gone on to other bands, including Skyclad which claimed your guitarist and bassist for some time. How is Skyclad different from Satan? It is famous for mixing folk music in with metal. Is this a natural progression from what you did with Satan?
Not at all. That was a concept perceived by our ex-singer Martin and myself. We started off playing a more thrashy form of music and gradually added more of the folk element as we went on. Sabbat were a thrash band that Martin was in previous to Skyclad. His vocal style determined what we were able to do too.
How do you see yourself as different from death metal? In the Metal Forces interview, you say Satan changed the name in part to avoid being seen as being like Venom and Slayer. Musically and artistically, how do you see yourselves as different from these bands? In an interview with Snakepit magazine, you mentioned that Satan chose its path before black metal and death metal. What do you think of these movements which have built on what you’ve created?
When we formed the band Russ and I were 15 and still at school together. We thought Satan was a true heavy metal name for a band and of course we’d come up with a fantastic logo. We were into Black Sabbath but they weren’t branded by their name with everyone thinking they were into the occult or whatever. This happened later to the music scene. In the eighties we had some towns trying to ban us from playing and Christians demonstrating outside shows because of the name. We tired of this and having to explain that we weren’t preachers of evil etc.
I think nowadays it’s taken a little more tongue-in-cheek what a band decides to call itself. I like aggressive music and we write songs about the evil things that happen in the world but we have nothing to do with devil worship and all of that stuff and dont want to be associated with it. The forms black and death metal weren’t the issue, it was the message that some of these bands were tring to deliver. Slayer are one of my favourite bands.
In the German TV interview posted on your website, you mention how metal audiences are too trend-orientated. How do you think this has helped you or hurt you over the years? You mention in the context of Skyclad, that not being popular isn’t a judgment on musical quality. Can you tell us more about this?
This is especially what happens in the UK. The popular press lead the fans into liking the music made by the major labels, and of course those labels are the ones that fund the magazines through advertising. We’ve had situations in the past with press in Germany too where you’ll get an album review but no feature because your label aren’t paying for a big full colour advertisement in that mag. This makes it more difficult to be heard if you’re trying to create someting new on a small independent label. It’s really not the audience’s fault, they get into what they get to hear and that goes for mainstream too. This has changed a lot since I made that statement due to the internet and fans being able to find what they like themselves.
In the Snakepit interview, you say that your first gig involved playing covers by Black Sabbath, Motorhead and the Ramones. How much influence did punk have on your music? Where did the Motorhead influence come in? Was it balanced by another influence, that sounds more like traditional NWOBHM and guitar-oriented rock?
We listened to a lot of punk stuff in the seventies and wanted to involve that raw energy in our music. Motorhead were one of the first metal bands to do that for us. Also we played punk stuff because it was easy to play and people would identify with it at school where our first gig was! We were also listening to Deep Purple, Rainbow, Priest and Rush but couldn’t play that yet. We would play a lot of Priest songs from Unleashed in The East, “Kill the King” by Rainbow, “The Trees” by Rush and others later on in our early days.
How is it that people confuse writing about evil, with suggesting that evil is a good idea? Does this reveal something about them? I’m thinking of your comments (Steve and Graeme) in the German TV interview on the Satan page about how people would boycott Satan without knowing anything about the music.
Yes, it is a little naive. Unfortunately there are people out there who make assumptions without listening. There were bands promoting it through their lyrics too though and that didn’t help with us being called Satan.
In an interview with Metal Forces magazine, you said you wanted to get away from darker themes and “all this black death, killing people and devils. We want to get some life into metal. Music isn’t about death, it’s about life.” — is there a way for bands to be about life even with dark themes, or are the two mutually exclusive? Do you think many metal bands are going about this the wrong way?
I think what I was trying to say was that some bands try to deliver a message through their lyrics and sometimes it’s not good. We certainly did that with Skyclad and still do but Satan was never about that. We want people to enjoy listening to the band and the dark lyrical themes suit the music we make but were not trying to deliver any kind of opinion or message with them. There are also a lot of bands that share the same attitude.
You’ve now played a number of festivals, and come out with what I think will be a strong contender for album of the year, and you’ve got a powerful lineup ready to go. Are you going to tour more, or focus on recording more material?
Thanks for that accolade. Everything is very much up in the air and in the lap of the gods! If you’d asked us a couple of years ago are we going to make an album we probably would have laughed. The interest in what we do is leading us. This album went so well that there have been whispers in the camp about maybe doing another. We take the shows we get offered and we have some good ones coming up.
Thank you very much for the great review Brett. It’s great to know there are people out there who really get what were doing and appreciate it and that really came across when we read it.
Many don’t see this as a metal topic, but as Cianide would say, “Metal never bends!” What does bend, to trends? The hipster and all other people who think a surface-level view of life is important.
A hipster is someone who leverages all aspects of their personality, art and social group for the kind of invisible magic karma points that “popularity” and “notoriety” confer upon the narcissistic personality. Like cultists, hipsters have shattered self-esteem and seek to compensate by knowing things that other people don’t know, specifically traded in artistic and cultural artifacts that are special — like the hipsters themselves — for being unique, odd, “different,” unconventional, distinctive, etc.
Notice what’s missing in there: realistic, accurate, informative and/or useful.
Hipsters originally shunned metal because metal is by nature a warlike genre. We look past the surface level of life’s drama, expressed dually by individual narcissism and social group zombie hive mind thinking, and instead pay attention to the situation beyond the individual. The heavy stuff: war, death, metaphysics, infinity, disease, history, the occult and the esoteric.
Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.
But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”
An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.
Since that time, the hipster epidemic has only become more pervasive. Famous for being ironic, in order to be unconventional and different, hipsters wander through life making art out of garbage, Instagraming their oddball tastes in food, liveblogging their personal drama, treating their children like press agents for themselves, and generally making society more vapid, plastic, superficial, oblivious, trivial and vain.
Luckily, world leaders and authority figures are stepping in to help out.
First, North Korea is helping by threatening immediate war. But this isn’t a war on the USA. It’s a war on hipsters:
Some Texans, however, suggested the path in fact led 95 miles south to Austin, the state’s capital, and speculated that Mr Kim had taken against the liberal enclave’s young “hipster” population.
North Korea probably doesn’t get a lot of US papers. They probably don’t get too many Americans over there who aren’t credulous tourists or formal State Department types. However, they do get the internet. To them, America is an unending stream of Pinterest, Facebook, Reddit and FourSquare. From their point of view, the US = hipsters. So they’re taking out the real hipster capital of this place, and hope that will kill our culture like an ant mound poisoned with cianide.
From a completely different angle, Taylor Swift is mocking hipsters with her new single, including Instagram-style photographs, ironic hipster classes, and bittersweet lyrics that are poignant through indecision. She is hoping to curry her fanbase, composed of legions of young women with disposable income, to wage war on the hipster. This might succeed even better than Kim Jong-un’s nuclear attack.
And covering the domestic front, Boston’s police department are cracking down on hipster house parties featuring boring two-note pop punk bands with ironic themes about getting lost on life’s highway. Apparently, the officers are impersonating trendy hipsters in order to figure out where the hip ones are congregating in suburban houses, where they and their bad bands and PBR make noise until 4 am, prompting not one but many homeowners to open fire with rusty old weapons from the last real war.
While by themselves none of these seem significant, when added up these commonalities point to one thing: a world-wide backlash against the hipster and its superficial, ironic and selfish ways. As the hipster falls, metal rises, so we’re glad to see this development.
According to a post on their Facebook page, California gore-metal morticians Autopsy are entering the studio in early April to record their next full-length. Described as “monstrous brutality” independent of all trends, this album indicate what insiders suggest could be a return to Autopsy’s roots in complex, esoteric death metal.
During the early days of death metal, Autopsy were distinct because of their ability to use multiple tempi per song, to employ harmony and theme, and to use seemingly sloppy, grotesque, overflowing riffs to convey themes of death, suffering and disease. Their career arguably peaked with 1991’s Mental Funeral, an album of many varied songs of different lengths and song structures, presenting a strange landscape for the listener to navigate.
Last year’s Macabre Eternal showed Autopsy returning to the sound of old school death metal and the abrasive aesthetics that came with it, but not quite entering the realm of the weird where obscure song structures and riffs contribute to mood as much as they did on older Autopsy releases. Although that album showed promise, its somewhat consistent approach created a uniform intensity which resulted in much of the content getting lost on some ears.
The Headless Ritual will be recorded at Fantasy Studios under the care of Adam Munoz, with cover art by the widely-acclaimed Joe Petagno. Slated to be released on Peaceville Records sometime in June, the album is the latest chapter in the continuing odyssey of Autopsy and promises a brutal dose of gore, rancidity and internal decay.
For many years, metal was viewed as being outside the society which it comments on. Recently, as metal has bent closer toward the mainstream, it has become more accepted, which has led to some metal bands going farther in the direction they were originally going.
In return, metal is starting to give back in a big way. Former Anthrax guitarist, current Red Lamb guitarist and autism awareness activist Dan Spitz will be attending the metal conference to serve as a keynote speaker along with noted academics and journalists who have covered metal. Worldwide attendance will make this a legendary event.
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Edward Top notes three similarities between metal and classical: both are dedicated to releasing energy, a “shredder” tradition in both and shared enjoyment among musicians, and that both are “outsider” genres to the mainstream, with both coming from camps of people who are probably too smart or too nerdy (I have no idea what he’s talking about) for their own good.
It’s gratifying to see metal get the recognition it has deserved for many years, and for the classical tradition in metal to be acknowledged, at the same time academics are taking metal seriously and digging into its philosophical and social roots. It may turn out that despite years of downturned-mouth condemnation of metal, society is finally taking it seriously and may even learn from what it has revealed.
October Tide create their music in the hazy miasma between funeral doom and post-metal, which means searing distorted vocals, layers of blasted guitar sound, and slow percussion mixed into a dreamy veil of sound.
Tunnel of No Light is their latest album, and it goes further into this direction that ever before, combining post-metal style with the clandestine nature of 1980s dark pop, which makes their music full of mystery.
We were lucky enough to get a chance to talk with Robin Bergh, who plays drums in October Tide, about Tunnel of No Light, metal, what’s not metal and the future of metal.
There seem to be both funeral doom and post-metal/post-rock influences in your music. What were your musical influences, and did any lead in this direction?
There have been so many influences through the years. I can only speak for myself but post-rock is a genre that really attracts me as well as the metal from the 90s. I really like old Tiamat, old Paradise lost, Type O Negative, old Amorphis and of couse the old Katatonia stuff. When it comes to “new” music I tend to listen to some of Porcupine Tree’s albums as well as Cult of luna, A swarm of the sun, PG.Lost and Pallbearer. Perhaps you could hear a little bit of everything in Tunnel of No Light.
You have a lush guitar sound that is both ferociously distorted and seems to preserve the internal harmonies of chords instead of blowing it all on crunch. Can you tell us how you got this sound?
I guess this is a typical Fred/Emil question but I know for sure that Fred loves his GT-10. He has been playing around throughout the GT-series since ages so I guess he has found his comfort zone in his gear.
Do you compare your sound to any of the following: Opeth, Cemetary, My Dying Bride or Jesu?
Nopes. We rather try to catch a feeling then a sound. We are not those technical nerds that spends hour after hour and salary after salary to chase a certain sound. We prefer to spend our time, creating a feeling or some kind of atmosphere.
Do you think metalheads have more trouble reaching your music, or do you think a fan of Joy Division or Sisters of Mercy would?
You might have a point. Most of the metal music these days are quite intense and I guess that is what loads of metal heads expect when they hear a new album. Anyhow, we think the other way around which might attract the old Sisters of Mercy fans, but to be honest I don’t think that they have discovered us yet. Most of our fans are still metal heads.
Your members have been active in the Scandinavian metal scene for many years, always in slightly “outside” bands. Is there some difference in approach or philosophy that made you take this path?
We all play just for fun. We don’t really try to make a break or feed our listeners with music that we expect them to like. It is more important for us to play music that WE like to play and to have a good time together. With that strategy you don’t really get as big as “Swedish House Mafia” which is not really our goal either.
Do you think metal is changing to be more like indie rock and post-rock? Did one swallow up the other?
This is a tricky question. It is quite normal that music tend to develop in some directions and it is hard to predict what the next natural step for the future will be. For some years now a lot of bands have been competing with as high BPM as possible and totally insane guitars. I’m quite fed up with that at the moment so I welcome the post-rock direction with open arms. I have a side project myself that is called Aoria and I find it fun to play that kind of music as well.
One of the most amazing things about Tunnel of No Light is that your vocals are among the most savage in the business, but they get laid over these beautiful guitar tracks. What does this represent to you?
Even if you are surrounded by a beautiful atmosphere in a beautiful landscape you could still be very frustrated. I think that might be more usual in our society to day and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Just walk down the street and take a look at the people that you see. I do like the mix of beautiful and frustration.
How would you describe your sound as having changed since Rain Without End?
We have tried to stay as close to the 90s as possible but with some refreshed elements. The vocals are more intense now and perhaps your hair will stand straight backwards when we crank up the guitars. This is the first album that October Tide have ever recorded as a complete band with the intension to perform it live. That might also have affected the outcome.
These songs seem like they arise out of a clash of emotions. How do you compose? Do you start with a feeling, a picture or a story?
That differs from time to time. It could also be a scenario, that very often will give the song a project name. From there on we start to work it until we are satisfied.
How long did it take to write and record Tunnel of No Light? Will you tour the USA and Europe for this album?
The writing process was much longer than the recording process for sure. I think we did spend 5-6 days in the studio to record this album and the writing was done during the summer 2012. Not really sure what the touring plans are at the moment but check out our homepage at www.octobertide.net for the latest updates.
What do you think the next generation of metal will look like?
Rather synthetic than organic, less dynamic and loads of variation. More of everything I guess. Clean vox + growl + female growl + clean female vox perhaps some keyboards, percussion. Guitars and drums faster than machine-guns and everything is tight as a frog’s ass!
Revel in Flesh brought their high-intensity Swedish style death metal into the light and terrified the meek with onrushing riffs, hints of melody, uptempo choruses and savage vocals attacking from the wings.
Although this band hails from Germany, they are full-on metal maniacs in the style of old school death metal. This makes them a rarity since they’ve avoided both becoming candy-retro and slipping into the “modern death metal trap” which involves intricate songs about nothing.
Instead, Revel in Flesh keep slashing out the vintage-style Swedish death metal and in doing so, keep the metal flame alive. We were lucky to catch guitarist/vocalist Ralf Haubersson for a quick interview.
What do you think made Swedish death metal exceptional?
Hi Brett and DeathMetal.org diehards! I can speak only for myself, but I think the Swedish way of classic Death Metal transmits more emotion and energy. It’s not about the technical path, but the massive saw-like guitar sound gives a killer boost. Raw energy, but also dark intensity. Just take a listen to some of the Sunlight Studio classics from back in the day and you’ll be captured by that special feeling. It’s a special sound and style; it’s a love-it-or-hate-it thing!
You’re a German band making Swedish death metal. Since bands all over the world make Swedish death metal, this leads me to ask: what about this style drew you to it?
Well, to be honest with Manifested Darkness we didn’t have the agenda of sounding as Swedish as possible. The thing we have in common with the classical Swedish output is the use of the HM2 distortion pedal and the five half–tone downtuned guitars. If we might play another “sound” we won’t sit that much in the IKEA category, Ha! Ha! I see REVEL IN FLESH as a band that is truly dedicated to the roots of classic Death Metal. Simply the way we grew up with in the 90s. For example on the new album we’ve done covers of DEATH and AUTOPSY as bonus tracks. Without those two masters of the genre there wouldn’t be any Death Metal in the way we hear and love it today. But about your question: We do not (!!!) deny our roots, but I think we try to add an own sort of charm to REVEL IN FLESH since you do not need another copycat band nowadays.
Your style of death metal is stripped down and more rhythmic than noodly or math-riffy. Do you think this is a newer type of death metal, like new school old school as in on Immolation’s Majesty and Decay, or is this how death metal always has been?
I do NOT (!!!) like this kind of “math–like” feeling in Metal. I think Death Metal has to give you a kick for some serious headbanging. It’s about delivering emotions and energy; not about showing egoistic bullshit on your instruments. I think it’s ok, when songs have some kind of depths and things to discover, but on the other hand –- especially today with a thousand releases a month –- it’s important that you have some first hand catchy moments, that rips into the ears of the maniacs on a first contact.
About taste: My fave IMMOLATION record is and most likely will always be Dawn of Possession; love all aspects of that album –- starting from cover, sound etc. — so I guess you easily figure out my taste in Death Metal, Ha!
What bands do you draw from as influences when making your music? There seem to be three influences: Swedish death metal, melodic heavy metal style death metal, and someting like Motorhead. Is that true? Do you have influences from all three, or is this me projecting?
Speaking honestly you’ve been one of the first writers that mentioned MOTÖRHEAD in an album review of us. I don’t think that we have a sort of “Death ‘n’ roll” style like ENTOMBED had on some of their records; but in the end it doesn’t matter how people categorise our album; it only matters if it’s good or not, but most of all REVEL IN FLESH is under all aspects a Death Metal band; but of course you get influences and inspirations from all kind of stuff; but we don’t think that much about it. We simply do it!!! For example my comrade Maggesson does a lot of songwriting also for his other band DAWN OF DREAMS and throughout the years you acquire your own style in melodies and arrangements; you always hear your own basics in riffing etc. Shorty said we do not have one blueprint of influence, but I think it’s not a secret that we stick to our roots in the classic Death Metal way.
Do you think old school death metal has come back to stay?
Within the Metal genre everything comes and goes and COMES AGAIN!!! Today there’s a lot of hype on the “old school” matter; maybe this will change again sooner or later. Personally I see it like this: Good music is meant to stay forever. For example: I remember being at an age of 14/15 when I got “Like an Ever-Flowing Stream” by DISMEMBER in my hands for the first time. It was like WOW!!! Today I still have that WOW feeling, when I have that album spinning rounds in my stereo –- it’s timeless and I think that also in the years to come there will be a dedicated sort of fanbase to this kind of subgenre of Death Metal, as you might know: Evil never dies!
One-half of Revel in Flesh came from Immortal Rites (now deceased). What did you learn from that experience, and why did you move on?
Well; actually I’m the only REVEL member that has had a backround in IMMORTAL RITES. I played in IMMORTAL RITES from circa 1996 – 2011. We did two longplayers and one demo CD. I formed a lot important impressions in this period like first gigs, first real studio experience, friendship, parties etc. –- throughout the years we’ve played single shows with bands like UNLEASHED, GOD DETHRONED, DISSECTION, DISBELIEF, DESASTER and many more. The band fell apart due lack of time and motivation of the other bandmembers; mostly caused by normal circumstances in life like marriage, children, jobs & career. I’ve continued because I love METAL and I also like the aspect of being creative in that way within that scene. It’s a passion and it prevents me from going berserk in the shit caused in daily life. Musically IMMORTAL RITES had a more melodic and mixed style of Death Metal, but deep in my fan heart I always wanted to a totally pure and classically inspired Death Metal band under all aspects like sound, arrangements, lyrics & artwork. It took me many years, but REVEL IN FLESH is to me the band I always wanted to have; so in some way it’s good to be Metal retard, Ha! Ha!
What does Revel in Flesh have that the other situation did not?
Heart, passion and bloody dedication!!! Writing music with Maggesson is like a real flow; it feels pretty good. There’s not much discussion; we simply let the things flow and see what happens.
How do you create your version of the legendary Swedish style distortion? Did you use any other production techniques in making this album?
As I’ve told you already; we use the classical Boss HM2 distortion pedal like all the Swedish bands do as well. We experiment a lot with the guitar sound at VAULT M. Studios, which is owned by our guitarist. We also got some healthy advices by Dan Swanö (EDGE OF SANITY etc.) as well. He’s our man for that kind of sound. The particular rest of our sound/production will be kept as a secret!!!
What is it that appeals to you about death metal? From a financial, social and political standpoint, you’d be better off making dubstep.
Yeah! Death Metal won’t get you laid, Ha! Ha! Man, we simply love this particular style of Metal with total dedication. 3 members of REVEL IN FLESH are already in the age of 30 +, so this ain’t a youth sin anymore. We listen and support this music with all aspects for many years and YES, it’s most certainly NOT (!!!) about money. Death Metal is financially a minus business under all aspects; if you play this style you simply havwe to like it from the heart!!!
Revel in Flesh has only been active for three years, but has already put out two albums. How do you write and record so quickly?
To outsiders it might look like we have a sort of rush; but it’s not that way. After finishing Deathevokation in January 2012 we’ve had a real flow on songwriting and wrote and recorded 14 tracks within 11 months. Of course it was a lot of work and time consuming stuff, but it felt more like enjoying what we do. Simply a good feeling. We usually write and record directly at VAULT M. Studios, it’s a totally productive way. So far (!) we have not been a conventional rehearsal room writing band; but this may change with the input of the other bandmembers in the future. Time shall tell!!! We simply do what we like to do and don’t think in any sort of competitive or business way.
Please tell us what’s ahead for Revel in Flesh. Will you tour? Human sacrifice? More recordings?
Yeah we will play with MOTÖRHEAD and ask Lemmy about his opinion on your review, Ha! Ha! I’m just kidding…We have several weekend shows within Germany already scheduled and we will do a sort of minitour inside Germany with Swedish PUTERAEON. It’s currently in booking process. Some festivals like DEATH DOOMED THE AGE, NRW DEATHFEST etc. are booked as well. So far we never played outside Germany, maybe this will change with the new album.
There are plans for two split Eps as well in 2013; simply keep yourself updated on REVEL IN FLESH by checking our pages at http://revelinflesh.jimdo.com/.
Thanx Brett for the nice chat and all the support for REVEL IN FLESH on your webtomb. Drink beer & listen to real Metal!!! HAIL THE DEATHCULT!!!
Codex Obscurum fills a void left open when the old school fled to the basement in advance of encroaching hardcore hybrids like metalcore and nu-metal: the print zine that exists to promote a community against impossible odds.
For those who weren’t there, back in the “old days” (like, 20 years ago), zines were the most common means of spreading information. You couldn’t buy death metal in regular record stores, society hated it and often tried to ban it, and most people regarded metalheads as declasse outcastes who should be viewed with suspicion.
Enter the zines. For the price of postage, sometimes plus a little more for printing costs, although most were paid for (unknowingly) by corporate stooge employers, you would get fifty pages of xeroxed hand-drawn mayhem delivered to your door, including interviews and reviews of your favorite bands, and the all-important advertising by mail-order distros that you otherwise did not know existed.
Codex Obscurum fills this void with its release this week. To get a copy, you “mail-order them, old school style. No profit, you’ll just be paying for postage costs.” The publishers describe it as “a New England based old-school print zine dedicated to music, art, and all things dark.” And it looks traditional: fifty xeroxed pages of wisdom, chaos and brilliance.