Another day, another novelty band from media

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What is a novelty band? A band chosen for anything other than its music. Common topics include bands with: women, female singers, minorities, retarded people, gay people, transsexuals, unusual instruments, drug use, JPOP girls and children. Record companies love novelty bands because the media fawns all over them, then the hipsters do, and it sells hype quickly and bypasses the normal metal fans, who are critical of quality instead of being driven by novelty.

The latest novelty comes to us from Vice Magazine who want us to read about Al-Namrood from Saudi Arabia. While it is true that this band may be risking their lives to perform, it seems like they face roughly the same amount of struggle that bands behind the Iron Curtain did back in the 1980s, which means they can circumnavigate authorities to exist, record an album, shoot a video, and be feautured in American media with their faces in the video and not get killed.

As with all novelty stories, this will be short-lived. There have been many tales of heavy metal bands from the Middle East and after the media blitz, these bands have gone nowhere. The quality test is what matters. If you cannot pass the quality test, you are SOL. Al-Namrood will be the latest to fail the quality test because their output is only nominally black metal, not aesthetically distinctive and indeed a bit awkward, and finally, the songwriting is not that memorable at least by metal standards.

“Bat Al Tha ar Nar Muheja” consists of fast melodic riffing in the style of Satyricon Nemesis Divina with a Middle Eastern influence on the choices of scales used. The vocals, on the other hand, sound like something from more recent Absurd albums. The song seems put together in the style favored by Behemoth, where riffs relate marginally to each other and the main point is to follow the vocals and rhythms to a big break and a melodic interlude, after which point the band returns to blasting fast single-picked riffs. While it is not terrible, it is also not exceptional.

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#MetalGate Band Podcast 3

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The MetalGate Band group produces a series of podcasts where informed participants in the movement against censorship in music meet to talk about issues of the day. If your Mom is in the room (for modern metal fans) or your children are (for underground metal stalwarts) you might want to keep the mute button handy because there is frequent, copious and gleeful use of obscenities.

Every episode has its own topic, and some high points which may be related. The peak of this episode seems to be the discussion about the difference between making media solely to make money or be popular, and those who want to be popular as a means of getting their music or movies out there to express an idea.

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Black Witchery/Revenge – Holocaustic Death March to Humanity’s Doom

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War metal bands Black Witchery and Revenge issued their new release on tax day, April 15, with each band recording three new songs of their trademark sound, which their biography eagerly informs us is inspired by Blasphemy and Sarcofago. With excellent and intriguing cover art, and raw but clear production, this release should appeal to fans of the genre.

Black Witchery tear into their three tracks with a studied recklessness and noisy attack. These shorter songs use the standard circular structure with a final detour, but the band inserts rhythmic breaks throughout — the war metal equivalent of a breakdown in deathcore — to build intensity. Most riffs follow the rock/grindcore paradigm of a static chord, possibly with a chromatic offset, establishing a rhythm to which a fill is added. These riffs resemble faster version of punk hardcore riffs in minor key with lower tuning and faster, more precise playing. This shows a heritage with more in common with Napalm Death than Immortal and a lack of the atmosphere and uniquely shaped songs that made the Blasphemy proto-black metal grindcore hybrid work well, as well as an absence of the melodic structuring of the Black Witchery demo. The relentless aggression of these songs will make them popular but they will not be as memorable as Blasphemy or Sarcofago. If this band wishes to improve, their first step will be to worry less about being intense enough and worry more about shaping that intensity so that at the end of each track, a profound shifting of mood and idea leaves the listener in awe. This was the standard Blasphemy achieved on the best moments of Fallen Angel of Doom and the direction Sarcofago indicated their material should take with songs like “The Black Vomit.” Of these three tracks, “Curse of Malignancy” is my favorite for its directed power that forcibly enacts a concise regimen that achieves the feeling of warfare at least in concept.

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Revenge takes a different approach to war metal through riffs longer in duration which use the same surging technique but depend on active drums to break pattern with accents and spur the riff on to change. This technique can rally the attention of the listener and is often used in marching bands. It however creates a reliance on the drums, which although it makes the surge tremolo riff technique less important, also relegates guitars to a secondary role and creates a type of static riffing that resembles doom metal sped up to grindcore paces. Much like Black Witchery, this music is almost exclusively chromatic, which gives it the primitive and violent feel prized by fans. Revenge also tackle Bathory “Equimanthorn,” but in imposing their own rhythmic standards they enhance the jerky and sing-song nature of this tune (comparable to Mayhem “Deathcrush”) and add nothing to the original, so it stands out barely. This band has always been one of the more technically proficient voices in war metal and while their music is enjoyable in a single listen, the songs are too similar in approach, topic and technique for prolonged listening. “Revenge” rounds out this three-song EP and may be my favorite track on this side for its compact, solidly focused assault.

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Infernus – Grinding Christian Flesh (2015)

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Late model black metal features many of these entries: as much borrowed from the days of speed metal as black metal, keeping a constant “jazzercise” style constant tempo and intensity, and while there are some sweet riffs, they are marooned in a sea of throwaway budget riffs and patterns from 1987 Exodus clones. Infernus has great rasping vocals but essentially, doom their album with highly predictable note progressions in the riffs and a constant, incessant droning style of composition. Many heavy metal touches pervade this album, suggesting that like early Gehennah and Nifelheim, this is heavy metal dressing up as black metal and equalizing all of its riffs to the same speed to hide their hard rock, speed metal and heavy metal origins. While the fans of the band will defend it on the basis of irony or some nostalgia, the result is musical tedium because of a failure to come to point. This is like watching the 5,000 slides of the vacation your neighbor just took, except that now the slides are old riffs and old tropes.

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Music industry comes up with successor to Opeth

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Opeth made a career for themselves out of making death metal that was not death metal. Instead, it was rock music that dropped in death metal riffs during the choruses, kind of like how a nu-metal band plays quasi-acoustic and whispers so it can explode into angry dad-hating rage. This allowed the audience to feel like outsider rebels while being low-risk conformists.

Over time, the Swedes in Opeth found their original inspiration, which was to be the Dave Matthews Band for the vegan chocolate Tumblr set, and stepped aside from being death metal-flavored entirely. Never fear! The labels have brought you Tribulation which is essentially the Opeth sound updated with some hints from Enslaved about how to be metallish without using metal riffs and, thankfully, uptempo and catchier songs.

Tribulation is what Opeth always should have been. Essentially hard rock, using somewhat linear but expanded song structures, they create the atmosphere of a Gothic band with the guitars of heavy folk rock, making atmospheric and pleasant music that keeps the hoarse whispering vocals of death metal. For fans of Cradle of Filth, Opeth, Tiamat, newer Paradise Lost and Pyogenesis, this is a perfect fit.

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Interview with Lech

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An interesting project emerging from the murky Texas underworld, Lech makes music of nearly pure noise and calls it “doom music” rather than a form of metal, but its similarities to metal (as well as electro-acoustic and other forms) cannot be denied. After reviewing the first album from this project, we wanted to hear more and were fortunate to get in a few words with Lech.

Who “is” Lech? Can you tell us band members, your history in music outside of Lech, and how you came together to form Lech -or- decided to do so?

We come from various experimental band backgrounds.

After some time away from music we decided to get together, and put out an 8 track ep.

You describe your music as “doom music,” although others might say electro-acoustic, drone or organic ambient. What inspires your choice of words to describe the sounds that you organize into music?

Doom in our opinion is the fear of impending threat or danger, but it can be taken out of context when describing music genre.

A lot of people think of Black Sabbath as being the godfathers of doom, and no doubt Tony is the Riff master but we believe Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was the true originator.

Doom music describes us best.

Is there a connection to heavy metal, or underground metal, that informs how you compose? Or is this an entirely different style? Do you have influences from any of the following ex-metal projects: Lull, Neptune Towers, Final, K.K. Null, Suuri Shamaani?

Actually the influences of the 8 tracks we have out now come from dark classical. Requiem, dirge, and Walter/ Wendy Carlos.

How do you create your music? Are these found sounds, digital manipulated, distorted or some combination of the above?

Our stuff is all original recordings.

No sample, found, or computer manipulation sounds.

What you hear that doesn’t sound like guitars are in fact guitars. The beginning of Waterwalker is a guitar run through an Eventide Space.

The experimentation that went into our sound would have to be seen to be understood.

When you compose, what do you aim to create? Do you hope to provoke a reaction or recognition in the listener and if so, what is it?

The first thought is probably “what the hell is this?”

Which I think we accomplished without saying, and the other is the true dark side of music.

Music is sometimes misunderstood, and when it is questioned you are usually on the right track.

Is this self-titled release your first recordings? What others are present? Will this be released on a label, or is it already out?

Yes, there will be another album out this summer under the Forlorn Group Label.

Why did you choose the name “Lech”? Does it have a particular meaning?

The name LecH was chosen because of the many different connotations that go along with it.

From the perverse, to the river in Austria.

It’s the unknown.

What are your future activities — will there be touring, more recordings, promotion or collaborations?

As for touring, and live shows we can’t wait to get a road crew together, and smoke some amps.

If you could play live with any Texas metal bands, which ones would you choose?

One would be Ryan from Howling Void out of San Antonio, and the other would be Annie Clark from St Vincent out of Dallas. She’s not exactly metal, but like us she has her own sound, which we like.

If people are interested in your music, where should they go to find out more and stay in touch with Lech?

We are taking a different approach to getting our music heard, so the best way for now is links on our Youtube stuff through our PR guy Kyle Lee.

Other than that we are working on a website, and hope to get out on the road to play live.

We are taking it as it comes at this point.

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Deathspell Omega – Paracletus (2010)

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The secret to excellent marketing is found in the word “different.” A successful salesperson puts a surface on an ordinary product so it appears new, luxurious or otherwise distinctive. In music, the best method is to put a new surface on whatever is trendy at the time. Thus cloaked, it allows its listeners to appreciate the same stuff everyone else is listening to, but with its different appearance, they can claim they are different and unique special snowflakes.

Deathspell Omega took the idea of the metalcore dominant at its time — mix up dissonant and technical or jazzy riffing with metal riffs in carnival-style rotational song order based on internal interruption — and put a black metal face on it. For black metal, it relied on what Ulver and Satyricon did, which was to create long melodies that start impressively but go nowhere and require the song structure to intervene “dramatically” and interrupt before people realize that the melody is like the rambling of a drunken person. On top of this, they put choppy technical-style riffing and dissonant chords, but keep the focus on the vocals to distract from the carnival music nature of this randomness, tying it together with rhythm and the strong vocal as post-black bands like Behemoth did.

If the vocals were removed, good portions of this album would appear to have come from recent Cynic albums. Often a jazzy break goes right into hard rock riffing that comes from the pop canon, but as if the band becomes self-conscious, a more violent riff intervenes. The real problem here — as in all rock-derived music — is that unlike metal, this is vocal-driven not riff-driven. The riffs tag along for the ride as the voice tells you things it thinks you want to hear. As such, Paracletus is not only a pretender to the black metal throne, but worse, is musically incoherent which results in mental confusion and boredom.

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Peste Noire – La Sanie des Siècles – Panégyrique de la Dégénérescence (2006)

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In the dying days of black metal, people imitate it from the outside-in by adopting its techniques but not understanding its inner core. Peste Noire combines heavy metal and indie rock with black metal stylings and produces a demi-opus of distracted listening: if attended to with half a brain, as when watching television, socializing or working, it seems fine and hits the right spots of black metal nostalgia. When listened to intently, it reveals itself as having relatively random structure and imitation of tropes that go nowhere.

The surface influence on this work that immediately comes to mind is Graveland, with a side dish of the more desolate Nords like early Gorgoroth and Immortal, but as an experienced listener of metal might guess, the closer one comes to self-pity music (depressive, doom) the lower quality of music becomes. A typical Peste Noire song begins with a black metal riff which it repeats in a cycle, ending in a chord progression reminiscent of bittersweet neurotically happy and sad at the same time indie rock, then drops into heavy metal tropes like the chaotic solo extending into a lead rhythm guide to a bounding riff.

Initial aspects of this album appear favorable: instrumental prowess, deliberate production, a study of black metal. At its heart it is disunified first by lack of purpose except egotistic lamentation, and second by a refusal to structure songs around anything but a visual perspective that hides itself by constant interruption (sort of like the “disruptive” trend in business). What remains, after the listener filters through appearance and randomness, could not fill the teacup of a black metal fan.

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Dirty deeds, but not dirt cheap. AC/DC’s Phil Rudd pleads guilty to threat to kill

AC/DC drummer Phill Rudd at trial. Photo (c) BBC

AC/DC drummer Phill Rudd at trial. Photo (c) BBC

We knew the band carefully cultivated a bad boy reputation, but now it may have gone too far. AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has pleaded to attempting to hire someone to kill a former business associate, in addition to possession of methamphetamine and cannabis. Here’s the BBC with the report:

Mr Rudd was concerned that security at the launch party at his restaurant Phil’s Place was not tight enough, according to the court summary.

A month later, the court heard, he telephoned an associate saying he wanted one of the people he had fired “taken out”.

He later offered the associate NZ$200,000 ($153,000; £100,000) as well as “a motorbike, one of his cars or a house”, which the person assumed was payment “for carrying out his earlier request”.

This most unfortunate development looks more like self-destruction than a realized plan. Rudd apparently also threatened the person in question via phone, which makes us wonder if he was trying to avoid prosecution at all.

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Marduk – Frontschwein (2015)

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Marduk attempts to return to their past of blasting melodic war-themed ultra-simplistic black metal, evoking Panzer Division Marduk more than the mysterious album which preceded it, Opus Nocturne, which remains arguably their strong point. The band incorporates some elements of tribal-industrial hybrid rhythms, but stays on point with short riffs. Arguably this mature form of Marduk offers more variation in tonal construction and riff form than ever before, but its tendency to use similar song structures and nearly constant exercise-video style tempi wears down the power of this release.

Like later Vader albums, the attempt to make the album fully intense creates a wallpaper effect where all of the intensity flows together because lack of internal variation deprives it of the context to make a truly great impact; in addition, riffs use a very similar vocabulary of rhythm and pattern, which makes songs hard to distinguish. Where Marduk excels is in, while avoiding the standard MTV form most metal bands use, orchestrating a rise of intensity that explodes into a clever use of melody and tempo change to produce a dramatic impression. The theatrical side of this band creates moments of impressive songwriting throughout the album.

Black metal vocals of the type that approach a chant more than a howl decorate this album and while much of listener focus is anticipated to be directed at these, they stand back when the guitars lay forth a mix between sawing rhythm and gentle lifts of melody, much like early Dawn albums or their militant spin-off Niden Div. 187. Frontschwein shows Marduk at their best in recent memory, and in modern warfare they have found a new inspiration, but the whimsy and mysterious nature-mysticism of Opus Nocturne was closer to black metal than what we might call this, ‘melodic war metal,’ and as a result like most rock projects it fades into repetition that becomes distinguished only by vocals and lyrics. Nonetheless good material appears throughout this album.

Tracklist

  1. Frontschwein
  2. The Blond Beast
  3. Afrika
  4. Wartheland
  5. Rope Of Regret
  6. Between The Wolf-Packs
  7. Nebelwerfer
  8. Falaise: Cauldron Of Blood
  9. Doomsday Elite
  10. 503
  11. Thousand-Fold Death
  12. Warschau III: Necropolis (Mediabook bonus track, in cooperation with ARDITI)

Tour
EUROPEAN HEADLINER tour with Belphegor (special guest) and two support acts
19.02.2015 HOL Rotterdam / Baroeg
20.02.2015 HOL Eindhoven / Effenaar
21.02.2015 HOL Sneek / Het Bolwerk
22.02.2015 BEL Vosselaar / Biebob
23.02.2015 UK Plymouth / The Hub
24.02.2015 UK Manchester / Academy 3
25.02.2015 UK Glasgow / Audio
26.02.2015 UK London / Underworld
27.02.2015 FR Paris / Divan du Monde
28.02.2015 CH Monthey / Pont Rouge
01.03.2015 FR Toulouse / Dynamo
03.03.2015 SP Madrid / Caracol
04.03.2015 SP Barcelona / Apolo
06.03.2015 ITA Turin / Cafe Liber
07.03.2015 ITA Brescia / Circolo Colony
08.03.2015 SLO Nova Gorica / Mostovna

HATEFEST 2015 with Six Feet Under, Vader and Hate
02.04.2015 DE – Leipzig, Hellraiser
03.04.2015 AT – Wien, Gasometer
04.04.2015 CH – Pratteln, Z7
05.04.2015 DE – Essen, Weststadthalle
06.04.2015 DE – Saarbrücken, Garage
07.04.2015 DE – Lindau, Club Vaudeville
08.04.2015 DE – Ludwigsburg, Rockfabrik
09.04.2015 DE – Hamburg, Markthalle
10.04.2015 DE – Geiselwind, Musichall
11.04.2015 DE – München, Backstage
12.04.2015 DE – Berlin, Postbahnhof

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