Long ago, back when people mailed out physical promos of albums, I got an album in the mail from Stratovarius. I could tell from looking at it that it was power metal. I put it on the shelf behind the grindcore.
Power metal is interesting. Musically, it’s essentially speed metal (just like most “thrash metal”). The difference is that there’s some death metal technique, borrowed from Judas Priest’s Painkiller, that gives it some heft. However, there’s something else about it.
The music uses vocals designed to inspire and take people through a range of emotions rather quickly. It’s more like traditional heavy metal, but much more emotional, like Queensryche turned up to 11. There’s also something else, and it took me many years to recognize it.
In the American south, we have many gospel music traditions. Gospel music is what happens when you take hymns and treat them like 1920s jazz. They lose the classical music feel, and get more emotional and have a bit more of that “inspirational” feeling.
I’m not saying this is an influence on power metal, only that it sounds that way. This is not new for metal. Early gospel music influences include “War Pigs” from Black Sabbath, which fits the song format nearly perfectly. It’s worship music.
As a result of this realization, I had never really been a power metal person. I liked Helstar, sure, because Nosferatu is just a killer album no matter how you slice it. The Maiden/Slayer mix on that makes for almost an ideal form of metal. But when you add operatic vocals…
Stratovarius changed some things for me. For starters, I thought that musically it was quite adept and spirited. I also liked the way its focus on epic topics was in a metal tradition that stretches from Voivod through Atheist. Interesting stuff.
In any case, Stratovarius has released a new single in video form. Generally, their stuff is better than the average for power metal, or for metal at this point, and it’s epic enough to fit with the death metal vibe. So check this out, and see what you think.
Death metal early adopters Deceased begin their 2013 tour with special guests Gravehill on the “March of the Cadavers 2013 Tour” tomorrow in Albuquerque, NM.
Long-supportive of both the death metal scene and the primal horror-based heavy metal that went before it, Deceased are famous for being one of the first death metal bands to have recognizable technical prowess at a time when most people thought of death metal as violent incompetents with loud guitars.
Since those hazy early days, Deceased has continued releasing material and has mutated into a crossover between side-projects (October 31, Doomstone) and the band itself, ending up as a classic heavy metal band with death metal technique and horror-inspired, literate and funny lyrics.
Gravehill are middle-of-the-road, ear-friendly high-energy death metal that has made converts of people looking for music to party to — preferably with the dead — across the globe. 2011’s When All Roads Lead to Hell, on Dark Descent Records, won them fans and acclaim in both aboveground and underground metal.
March of the Cadavers 2013 Tour Dates:
Saturday March 9th @ Hooligans – Albuquerque, NM
Sunday March 10th @ Rocky Point Cantina – Phoenix, AZ
Monday March 11th @ Slidebar – Fullerton, CA
Tuesday March 12th @ Los Globos – Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday March 13th @ Elbo Room – San Francisco, CA
Thursday March 14th @ Burt’s Tiki Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
Friday March 15th @ Aqualung – Denver, CO
Saturday March 16th @ Cheyenne Saloon – Las Vegas, NV.** (w/ AVENGER OF BLOOD & SPUN IN DARKNESS)
When you review underground metal these days, bands skim across your desk like frisbees flung by absent-minded demons. Most of them skitter and disappear over the other side as you listen, realize it’s about the same, and then move on. Others stick around because they’ve got some spirit or animating force that makes them stand out, and motivates them to write better music.
One such recent discovery is Germany’s Lifeless. Sounding like a cross between Carnage and Unanimated, this Swedish-style death metal band pound out songs of crunchy riffs interspersed with nocturnal melodies that convey both emptiness and satisfaction with the potentiality of that state. It is adventure music for those who would leave behind the comforts of modern society and explore the abyss.
Lifeless released Godconstruct a few days ago, and while this album is just beginning its arc through the metal media, we were fortunate to get a few minutes with guitarist/vocalist Marc Niederhagemann answering a few questions about what it’s like to be Swedish death metal from Germany in 2013.
You’re from Germany and you play brutal but melodic Swedish-style death metal. How many times a day do you get compared to Fleshcrawl?
Well, in general we are not really compared to them but often mentioned as usurpers of their throne, ha, ha. But Germany is big enough for more than one band doing this kind of music. Fleshcrawl are a cult act from the 90´s beyond any doubts. Sven even did some guest-vocals on our song “Sworn to death”, so everything´s fine.
Although the mechanics of your guitar playing and production are more like Swedish heavyweights Carnage, there’s a lot of classic metal using melodic harmonization from the Iron Maiden school in your work, like Dissection or the second album from Unanimated. Are these influences? Can you tell us what else influenced you?
Of course there are various influences. The old Swedish, American and British DM bands from the early 90s. The all time classics like Maiden, Slayer, Metallica etc. And of course bands like Dissection, Unanimated and Necrophobic who did such a fucking great job in combining Death and Blackness as well. Sound-wise one could easily say we are just a Swedish styled OSDM band but if you listen closely there are all these influences in there too.
Is it hard being a death metal band from Germany? Your country is renowned for its excellent power metal, thrash and speed metal, but fewer death metal bands. How did you end up taking the death metal path, instead of going another way? Are you able to have a local fan-base?
The DM scene here in Germany is quite big and there are a lot of bands too. You are right, in the 90s heyday Germany played just an inferior role in the DM scene but nowadays there are a lot of great new DM acts coming from Germany. Sulphur Aeon, Chapel Of Disease, Deserted Fear, December Flower… the list goes on and on. And there is a big fan base for these bands and their music too.
A fan hearing one of your songs for the first time might first expect them to go in a more brutal death metal direction, but like a Kinder Egg(tm) your songs unfold to have a melodic center. How do you write a song like this — do you start with a melody, an idea, or just a fistful of entrails and a beer?
Well, in general there is no masterplan for us how to write songs. I catch my guitar and play around. Some cool riffs come up that might fit together. If there are enough riffs that could match together for a song, everything is arranged and completed in the rehearsal room by the whole band. Some riffs are added, some melodies come up. Everything comes kind of naturally. Step by step until there is this special feeling that everything´s fine as it is.
Do you think the death metal genre has a values system, or an idea behind it? What makes it different from other styles of metal, and why
is it that some bands seem to “get it” and others do not?
No, there is no special value system behind it I guess. Not in the sense of a movement or the like. I think DM is just honest and pure music. Despite the commercial heyday in the early 90s it has always been a passion to those who are into DM. Fans and musicians. In my opinion DM-heads stay always the passionate kids who just enjoy the whole thing with a kind of childish excitement. Despite of their true age, ha, ha…
If bands don’t “get it” they probably lost exactly this kind of childishness. Dunno…
Do you think death metal is dead, buried under these new more “hardcore” style bands, or do you think it still lives? What made you decide to go against trends and release an old school death metal album, instead of a nice lucrative power metal or metalcore album?
DM has never been dead and it never will be. After being trend it just shrunk and recreated in the underground. Nowadays it´s back with the same power and a lot of new stunning bands. Lifeless was intentionally founded to play OSDM. Modern stuff was never an option. Music should be passion, not trend. If you found a band to jump up on a trend you didn´t get what art, culture and the rebellious force from wich styles like Metal came from are about. If you see music just from a commercial point of few or if you just want to be famous, you should better do Pop-music or some other superficial shit…
What’s it like to experience Lifeless live?
Four aged kids rocking a stage, ha, ha… we rather bang our heads and move on stage than to play everything perfect. Playing live should be just fun for both sides, band and fans…
What are you looking forward to in the future? More tours, more recording? Think you’ll make it to see us in Texas (land of sheep-love and inbreeding)?
Yes, more tours/gigs/festivals of course. The next album to be released in about two years. Of course it would be great to make it to Texas/the US… we´ll see…
In the Swedish death metal style, what are the essential releases you think everyone should own? I use the term “style” because not all of these bands are from Sweden or even close!
Entombed – Left hand path/Clandestine
Dismember – Everything
Unleashed – Where no life dwells/Shadows in the deep
At the gates – Slaughter of the soul
Dark Throne – Soulside Journey
Grave – Into the grave/You´ll never see
Desultory – Into eternity/Bitterness
Edge Of Sanity – The spectral sorrows
And so on… too many to mention ’em all, ha, ha…
What’s your advice to new bands starting out now who want to make quality metal and put their mark on the metal universe?
Stay yourselves and don´t give a shit about trends and what people think what is right or wrong for you. If you have skills and talent for songwriting being authentic is the most iportant thing in Metal. Don´t try to be something you aren´t.
Thanks for taking the time to consider our questions. Our readers appreciate the responses, as do I.
Thanx for this interview and all your support. See you hopefully soon on a stage nearby…
Legendary Texas occult death metal band Imprecation released a song from their upcoming album, Satanae Tenebris Infinita. Although the band has been around for over 20 years, this will be their first true full-length, following up on 1995’s compilation of demo material Theurgia Goetia Summa.
This track shows Imprecation tending toward a more stripped down and mid-paced style, with more emphasis on song development than vigorously chorded speed riffs. The result is that songs are simpler but focus more on development, and a meshing of vocal rhythms and instruments. All of these tendencies give the band a more ritual and subaltern feel.
Background keyboards help guide this song but are used tastefully in a way that modern black and death metal bands would do well to note. Vocals emerge from Bahimiron/Morbus 666 throatsman Grimlord with searing distortion and an otherworldly detachment from human rhythms. The result is archly removed from the world of normal and “safe” human interactions.
Death metal fans across the world are looking forward to this album, which will be released on CD and vinyl through Dark Descent Records in the Spring 2013. Cover art by Chris Moyen will grace the front of Satanae Tenebris Infinita, which if it resembles this track, will be one of the highlights of 2013 if not a longer time period.
Texas-based old-school death metal band Blaspherian have rejoined with vocalist Desekrator who was heard on the Allegiance to the Will of Damnation EP and is preparing to release split releases with Imprecation, Godless, Crucifier and In League With Satan.
Known for their dedication to old school death metal standards like Immolation, Deicide, Incantation and Obituary, Blaspherian make earth-shaking death metal with hints of doom metal. Strictly occult, the music portrays a darker side of humanity that most would rather repress.
After the highly-acclaimed Allegiance to the Will of Damnation EP attracted interest in the underground, Blaspherian recorded a full-length entitled Infernal Warriors of Death in 2011 which received wide praise. The underground awaits their next moves with bated breath.
Produced by legendary thrash-era knob-twister Alex Perialas, I Blame You shows the band at their most vitriolic and powerful. The band has this to say: “Joining forces with Unspeakable Axe and Dark Descent proved to be the best choice for Birth A.D., as they are about the bands, the music, and doing things the old way (that is, the right way). We plan to cause even more problems with their support!”
I Blame You is scheduled to be released late spring/early summer 2013.
Evil Army/Birth AD live dates, 2013:
Thursday, April 4 – O’Briens Pub, Allston, NY
Friday, April 5 – The Acheron, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, April 6 – Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA
Sunday, April 7 – The Sidebar, Baltimore, MD
dir. Alex Cox
92 minutes, Criterion, $28 (Blu Ray)
Imagine yourself in 1984. No, not the anti-totalitarian novel 1984, but the year. Ronald Reagan is president; the economy is struggling. It’s uncertain whether at any minute the US and USSR will exchange nuclear weapons with one another, annihilating life on earth.
They’ve stopped doing the nuclear drills in schools because even the dimwitted teachers have finally realized what ICBM means. Intercontinental Ballistic Missile: it gets here so fast they won’t tell you it’s coming. There will be no warning, only an artificial sun eating your cities, evaporating your friends and family, obliterating your memories.
Even more, American society is in free-fall. 1968 brought a huge upheaval and now it’s hippies versus people in suits every day but the hippies are more popular. The media generally takes their side; industry sides with the suits. Average people are squeezed in the middle, just trying to find food and lodging in a world that now thanks to technology demands more of them and costs more just to survive.
Those are the obvious challenges. Underneath the skin, there’s a great deal of doubt. We fought wars to end wars; we got a Cold War. Society seems to be falling apart. People in general seem to lack a reason to live except a fear of poverty and death. As a result, the nervousness grows and people become more slavelike to jobs, ideologies, religions, drugs, sex, alcohol, corporations and lifestyle justifications. It’s a Nietzschean feast of schadenfreude and a vast fear and trembling.
Into this mess explodes the hardcore and thrash movements. The formative elements of hardcore punk floated around in the late 1970s between Motorhead, the Sex Pistols, and thousands of nameless two-chord bands, but the genre really blew up in the early 1980s with Discharge, the Exploited, and Amebix in the UK and Black Flag, the Cro-Mags, and Minor Threat in the USA. Riding that wave came the punk rock bands, like Circle Jerks and Dead Kennedys, who offered a softer and funnier version of the same. Following as well were the thrash bands, like Suicidal Tendencies and DRI, who mixed hardcore songs with metal riffs to make short fast bursts of fury and discontent with society.
The best way to chronicle this punk scene would not be to focus on the music, because then you end with a standard rockumentary in which musicians reveal that, if articulating things were their real skill, they wouldn’t be musicians. Instead they express themselves through sound, which is generally more reliable in that it’s harder to cleverly re-define its root terms and subvert it. To chronicle this scene, you have to show what they see, and then play the music so that the two join in the middle.
If any movie showed hardcore for what it was, and also explained the era to those who were not aware of it, Repo Man is that movie. Like its inspiration Naked Lunch, it is a collage of nihilism and post-modern boredom, mixed with the terror of a new kind of totalitarian society based on consumer choice (more like 1984‘s inspiration, Brave New World). The fundamental vapidity of the people around you is what dooms you to conform yourself, or be smashed beneath the grinding wheels of the industrial apparatus. It is a paranoid, unstable time. Repo Man shows us this world through the eyes of a teenage Otto, who is an everyman of the era in that he has connected to fundamentally nothing. His parents are aliens, jobs are pointless and ruled by petty tyrants, school was a blow-out, and even his fellow punks let him down with their selfishness and lack of vision. Adrift, he wanders through the rusted mechanical ruins of L.A. until he is rescued by a mercenary-minded repossessor.
“Repossessor” was a dirty world back then, much like we might view organ harvesters now. Repo men were the people who took your car when you couldn’t afford the payments, and this happened to a good number of people. It could happen in front of your friends and family, announcing to the world your failure. In a society basing itself on capitalism as a means of differentiating itself from the socialist East, this type of failure was emotionally crushing. As you can imagine, a repo man was not the sort of person anyone looked up to. Society’s lepers, they fed off the scraps in the dump of society’s excesses. You can imagine how for most people, a transition to repo man is like living death. But to a punk, society is already a dead man walking and existing in it is already offensively zombie-like. So what’s to lose?
Otto joins the repo team with his mentor, Bud, who is outwardly selfish but ultimately more dedicated to expression of his own frustrated emotions. Together, they raid the L.A. basin for overdue car notes and in the process, encounter a prize beyond their wildest dreams — a car worth $20,000 (now probably $80k). Like the white whale in Moby-Dick, or the holy grail, this car divides people against one another and reveals what characters are really made of. In a world dedicated to self-interest, the question is whether self-interest will win out, or whether a higher (or lower) principle will be found to save the day.
Splashed throughout with energetic punk music from Suicidal Tendencies, the Circle Jerks, The Plugz, Black Flag and Iggy Pop, Repo Man brings punk culture to a wider audience by showing us the absurdity of our time and the helplessness of the characters within it, so long as they adopt its values and behave in the ways it teaches them to. Disturbing, funny, nuanced and accurate in its portrayal of a society that has lost the path to health, Repo Man will explain to you why you walk on the other side of the street from mainstream society, and suggest an esoteric path that will lead you all of the way away.
“I’m not afraid to make some noise, especially when it comes to issues of cruelty to animals,” said Mr. Butler in a press release supporting the animal rights group and calling on UK grocery Fortnum & Mason to cease selling the delicacy.
This is not the first time that metal musicians have stood up for nature. In addition to all of black metal, which praises nature over humanity and expresses disdain for human ecocidal practices, metal has endorsed care for animals and avoidance of ecocide through many songs and albums over the years. A few highlights:
This is in addition to many songs about nuclear war, the shallowness of humanity, the endless race for consumer products and self-importance, and many songs in praise of nature and the natural, including its “scary” attributes like disease, predation and violence.
Foie Gras (pronounced PHUA GRA), according to StopForceFeeding.org, is created by the following charming process:
Two to three times a day, a worker grabs each bird, shoves a long, thick metal tube all the way down his throat, and an air pump shoots up to two pounds of corn mush into his esophagus. The industry always refers to the dry weight of the feed, which is about one pound per feeding. Adding oil and water doubles this weight, making it 20-30% of the bird’s healthy body weight. Picture 30 one pound boxes of dry pasta and then add water. This is proportionally how much a 150 pound human would be force fed using this formula.
A duck’s liver naturally weighs around 50 grams. However, to qualify as foie gras, the industry’s own regulations require ducks’ livers to weigh an absolute minimum of 300 grams.
The vast amounts of feed pumped down the ducks’ throats causes enormous internal pressure, and the pipe sometimes punctures the esophagus, causing many to die from choking on the blood that fills their lungs. Some birds literally burst, choke to death on their own vomit, or become so weak that they are unable to fend off rats from eating them alive.
This description sounds like something straight out of a Carcass song, or an apocalyptic death metal anthem. It even reminds us of Quorthon’s warning about the Ragnarok lurking inside of modern society:
In this age of utter madness
We maintain we are in control
And ending life before deliverance
While countries are both bought and sold
Holy writtings hokus-pokus
Blaze of glory and crucifix
Prepried costly credit salvations
TV-preachers and dirty tricks
Don’t trust nobody
It will cost you much too much
Beware of the dagger
It caress you at first touch O, all small creatures
It is the twilight if the gods
While most people seem to focus on how annoying PETA is presumed to be, we’re going to focus on the metal angle: death is real, and failure is real, and most people are in denial of both. It’s easy to ignore the consequences of our actions and instead live in a bubble world of happy thoughts, advertising, political speeches and documentaries.
In reality, what we do has consequences and for these small creatures, those are very real. We should consider what being aware of these cruelties and doing nothing about them does to our souls, because ultimately, we all must face the reaper and have him sit in judgment over us — even if only in our own minds.
Swedish-style death metal remains one of the high-water points of underground metal. Both brutal and insightful, semi-popular and alienated, it united melody and deconstruction into a single package which made death metal epic and adventurous.
With so much history behind the genre, it’s a hard act to follow, since any future releases will inevitably get compared to classics like Carnage, Therion, At the Gates and Nihilist. Following in the footsteps of countrymen Fleshcrawl, Lifeless are Germans who make Swedish death metal with an ear toward brutality, but inside of it, a melodic heavy metal core.
As you might expect, a prominent feature of the sound is the electric buzz-hum of Sunlight Studios production, including the distortion that takes a death metal pedal racked to the limit and pumps it through a dimed amp to create that fuzzy ultra distortion that brings out the melody in even the crunchiest power chord riffing. In rhythm and riff shape, Lifeless hit like heavyweights Dismember, but in use of guitar harmony and melodic leads, this sounds more like Unanimated’s Ancient God of Evil or even Dissection under the skin.
The result is a pulsating journey through metal of the last three generations but also a sense of supreme normalcy. This band know how to make death metal with a childlike sense of wonder at the world, both a destructive outlook at a broken adult society and a hopeful outlook at the possibilities of an awakening human spirit. Nietzsche would be proud.
On March 11, a classic returns to print: Cenotaph‘s Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows, which was a sleeper hit back in the early 1990s when by combining crepitant American heavy death metal with esoteric hymnlike melody, Cenotaph invented a national sound for Mexican death metal and stimulated the imagination of many.
Two albums followed, both in the “At the Gates style” of melodic death metal, but fans never forgot the moody and eloquent first album from this talented band. Members later went on to The Chasm and other projects, but over time, Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows has remained a favorite.
Chaos Records is taking pre-orders ($10) now for the CD version of Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows. This version contains an eight page booklet with artwork and lyrics for all tracks, along with original artwork by the Polish artist Ryszard Wojtynski in a new layout. As bonus tracks, the CD edition contains the Tenebrous Apparitions 7″ and The Eternal Disgrace 7″. The reissue has been fully remastered by Roberto Granados at Seismic Sound Studios. Vinyl editions are already available through Chaos Records.
Ideally, this re-issue will have done nothing much to the original production, which while primitive, suited the music perfectly. Along with other innovative classics of the death metal movement the epic slab of creative greatness that is Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows should takes its place among others of its caliber.