Pale Existence posts entire 1995 demo

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Doom/death metal band Pale Existence has posted its complete 1995 demo for posterity. This band arose in the second wave of death metal and was part of the wave of bands experimenting with slower and more atmospheric metal after other branches had gone for speed or riff-labyrinth composition.

Over the years several members of Pale Existence migrated to other bands from the area surrounding their San Jose origin, including Exhumed. wound up in that band. Guitarist Lorin Ashton became the popular DJ/electronic artist Bassnectar.

Personnel
Brian Glover – Drums, obnoxious vocals
Bud Burke- Guitar , vocals
Mark Smith- Brutal low vocals
Lorin Ashton – Guitar and mid range vocals
Steve Cefala- Fretless Bass

Recorded by Bart Thurber on top of Mount Um in 1995.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRuMm7IAVEw

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Remains – Evoking Darkness

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Old school death metal band Remains returns with its fourth release Evoking Darkness which shows inspiration from the Swedish and American greats of mid-90s death metal merged with the type of bluesy and infectious integration of classic heavy metal that made Clandestine a powerful album, albeit placed in a style that is closer to a cross between older Dismember and Unleashed. The band does not attempt to innovate in aesthetics but creates a sonic charge with the energy and unsettling corruption of mainstream archetypes which defined death metal during its heyday.

The band produced an impressive body of work with its 2012 demo “The True Essence,” the …Of Death EP the following year and Angels Burned in 2014, and follows up on those with simpler, tighter songs that eschew pure grinding in favor of a well-blended integration of metal styles designed to be both audially compelling and unnerving in the method of classic death metal. Songs rotate around a central break from the verse/chorus pairings, repeating themselves in both introduction and egress from that core confrontation. Lead guitars drop in with a variety of styles integrated into organic but energetic explosions of clusters of notes and lengthy fret runs. Vocals take on the gruff exhortations of older Dismember and give it the percussive rhythm of American death metal like Malevolent Creation, crafting a narrative of violence with a lining of excited morbidity. Remains shy away from the melancholic and dark side of death metal and instead converge on its region of pure energy, with music that delights in the finely-picked textures of Swedish death metal alongside the percussive power of Florida death metal. Herein lies where Remains can improve this work, which is that the hard rock/heavy metal integration into the death metal does not always emerge triumphant and often consumes the death metal portion, and extremely basic chord progressions which do not give songs much room to expand in structure or melody. The aesthetic, energy and atmosphere remain perfect and can expand over time as this band matures.

Most people will be floored by how Evoking Darkness not only stays true to the old school sound but gives it life through a voice of its own which is not expressed in style but in these songs themselves and their unique takes on the riff forms from the past forty years of metal. Where Remains shows its power is in the fitting together of these meticulously crafted rhythms so that riffs both flow and contrast one another; while greater harmonic or melodic death would enhance this, it alone makes Evoking Darkness more listenable than all but a few of the retro-death albums which fit together blockily or unevenly. These riffs balance each other in dissymmetry and create a sense of an evolving lacuna which propels the listener forward to see what comes next. Not only do riffs counterpart each other well, but their internal rhythms show a study of the power of the riff itself, and the album flows past without lapses or discontinuities. It shows vast improvement over the previous album from this band and signals a path to their future, since Remains has built a framework upon which more complexity, both in complexity of structure and use of tone, can be built.

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Winner of Pantera slashfic contest announced

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A week ago, this site opened a contest for erotic fiction writing involving the groove-metal band Pantera, essentially a challenge to create pejorative “slashfic” about the band and its assorted milieu. Many users answered the call, and we received some truly great erotic writing involving Phil Anselmo, Vinnie Paul, Darrell Abbott, and Rex Brown.

Now it is time to announce a winner.

First, let us revisit the contenders for winning entry of this contest. A number of creative and insightful contributions were made, so let’s look at the group:

These offer true creative writing and some venture further into musical criticism of Pantera or even analysis of metal as a subculture. That makes for some stiff competition, with no one that rises erect above the rest because so many of these are so well-executed. However, choose a winner we must, and so it’s time to go through the candidates.

Grails_Mysteries offers one of the first qualifying entries and a short story that explores the pathology of sexual identity denial among heavy metal musicians. In addition, it gives us some insight into the type of personality that might power a band like Pantera. Compelling. steven foster offers a short piece with a Kerouac/Bukowski vibe with a strong conclusion. SEIG pops up next with a more violent offering that explores the visceral and organic side of Pantera eroticism. It reminds me of the Marquis de Sade outraged that the marketplace/polling-place for heavy metal had been taken over by mediocrity! LostInTheANUS offers an almost Huxleyian analysis of how the seductions of money, power and fame can lead to a different kind of seduction… disturbing, and I mean that in a good way. Then thisoneheredude satirizes every Didion-inspired experiential piece of rock journalism ever, creating a lingering sense of unease and distaste. Good work. Vnholy Loa gives us a lengthier look into the effects of timid poseurdom combined with aggro-brocore in a piece delightfully riddled with puns. Following up on that, Eli Murray shows us an unsettling view of psychological manipulation for sex in the context of rock fandom. That’s New Yorker territory but we’ll take it. As the contest gained momentum, Iconoclast wrote a Jungian exploration of the subconscious in attitudes toward existential crisis and how it manifests in the hollow carelessness of pop music like Pantera. This one is really worth reading. Next Dave reveals the paradox of sexual surrender paired with a tough guy exterior, in a story that may portray either rape or someone finally achieving satisfaction, or both… White Powder Activist typed up a whole bunch of stuff so disturbing I can’t comment on it here. Captain Penis Cheese presents a short poetic piece on the parallels between pop music and awkward sex. Turning the contest to a more introspective level, Marcus Antony Frattura explores the psychology of Pantera and their critics and finds some similarities. And if you made it through all of those, you will need professional help.

The competition is tough but some clearly came out ahead. Our winners are:

GOLD
Marcus Antony Frattura

SILVER
Iconoclast

BRONZE
Grails_Mysteries

Gentlemen/ladies, please claim your prizes by emailing editor at deathmetal dot org with the IP address you used to post your piece. Include a mailing address, US only please. I appreciate the contributions of all who participated and the many, many creative entries we received.

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Infernal Dominion – Salvation Through Infinite Suffering

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The late 1990s belonged to bands of the Suffocation style of percussive death metal which derived its essential technique, the muted-strum power chord, from speed metal, but worked riffs into mazes with high dynamic variation but consistent narrative in the death metal style. This balance proves difficult to maintain as choppy riffing lends itself too easily to simply circular riff patterns and the resulting patchwork song structures. Starting with Sinister Hate in 1996, the subgenre experienced a revitalization through the injection of melody and the more theatrical song structures of mid-paced death metal. With the rise of Unique Leader bands in the early 2000s, the percussive brutal death metal sub-sub-genre exploded, and into that environment Infernal Dominion dropped its only album.

Salvation Through Infinite Suffering dwells within that narrow musical range but derives most of its influence from bands like Incantation (specifically 1997’s Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish) and Immolation, although it applies these within the percussive blasting style. Bands of this era struggled to balance the need for compelling rhythm in vocals and verse riffs with the more fluid and aggressive choruses and other riffs designed to support the developing song structure. Any greatest strength is a greatest weakness, and in percussive death metal the same type of sound that makes it compelling also can take over composition and result in boring songs that repeat too much of the same stuff and go nowhere.

Infernal Dominion interpret this style as having a high dynamic intensity in song structure but built around loops that emphasize the verses and allow vocals and percussive strumming to take center stage. Onto that they add complex lead guitars that while jazz and rock influenced stay out of entirely cloning those styles. Many excellent riffs, some of the archetypes that later appear in guitarist Wes Weaver’s more recent band Blaspherian, go into this release as does a violent and compelling performance by the vocalist and other instrumentalists. The challenge remains allowing both influences to breathe, both the guttural blasting death metal that occupies the surface style and the underlying fascination with the darker doom-death and cavernous death metal styles. Sometimes the styles emerge and separate like two heads of a dragon fighting one another, and by the law of compromise the band defaults to the simpler elements.

While Salvation Through Infinite Suffering offers many moments of greatness, it possesses more potential than was ultimately delivered. It relies too much on its great strength, trying to make the vocals lead songs where guitar needs to lead, and then packing too much into each song. As the inclusion of several tracks from 2004 show on this release, over time the band streamlined its material and achieved greater clarity while still keeping the terrifying guttural vocals and perhaps making them even more violent. While this album may have attempted a grand vision that never quite realized itself, in part because of stylistic or personality conflicts in the band, it also provides a grimoire of great musical ideas which await development by future death metal musicians.

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Demoncy re-issues re-recorded Empire of the Fallen Angel

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Musicians who go back and improve former works get all respect from me. For example, Godflesh re-imagining Love and Hate as a dub album, or even the recent Nausea re-working of demo-era material. Demoncy — long the reigning black metal band from the United States — announced the re-issue of its fourth album as Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion) which will see release on Forever Plagued Records in 2015.

This re-issue follows the new version of Joined in Darkness which will be available March 9, 2015 on both gatefold vinyl and digipack CD with an inverted cross booklet layout. Where that album was remastered, Empire of the Fallen Angel was re-recorded by Ixithra during 2013-2014 and may be substantially altered from the original.

Tracklist:
1. Invocation To Satan
2. Risen From The Ancient Ruins
3. Scion Of The Dark
4. Eternal Black Dominion
5. Sepulchral Whispers
6. My Kingdom Enshrouded In Necromantical Fog
7. The Enchanted Woods Of Forgotten Lore
8. The Obsidian Age Of Ice
9. Night Song (Apocalyptic Dawn)
10. Empire Of The Fallen Angel
11. Shadows Of The Moon (The Winter Solstice)
12. Warmarch Of The Black Hordes
13. The Ode To Eternal Darkness

For more information, see the Forever Plagued Records website.

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Pantera erotic short story contest

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The recent fracas over Pantera grave desecration reminds us all of two things: many people who criticize Pantera do so out of hurt feelings about social justice issues, and many Pantera fans respond like raging apes locked in coin operated toilets. This creates a potent mix of rage and butthurt that appeals to the sadist in each of us.

To fan the flames, because simply being logical (RIP Spock) and level-headed about issues never gets anyone famous, DeathMetal.org announces a Pantera erotic short story contest. The rules are as follows:

  1. Your story must be between 500-5,000 words and involve the members of Pantera including Dimebag Darrell, and optionally the hipster crust/punk/black band that originally claimed to desecrate his grave, in intensely sexual or erotic situations involving homosexuality and other non-traditional sexual inclinations.
  2. You must paste the story into a comment on this site by midnight (EST) on March 6, 2015.
  3. Your story must be your work alone, except for Pantera lyrics quoted as characters reach climax.
  4. Winner will receive a box of random stuff I can reach easily without leaving this chair.

The point of this is to offend both those who criticize Pantera for being un-PC, and those who defend Pantera with blockheaded and thoughtless remarks. Hopefully both groups will be appalled and call for the death of anyone connected to this, pointing out yet again how both PC indie-metal fans and Pantera fans have more in common with ISIS than metal.

Writers are encouraged to seek inspiration in early Pantera glam metal works like Metal Magic, Power Metal and I am the Night. Bonus points for anyone who works in a Chuck Schuldiner/AIDS subplot, or even a thread about Opeth and a tour bus painted bright pastel colors.

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We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

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Often movies address a need for some voice to explore a certain idea, even if the implementation might be a bit shoddy. This movie attacks a necessary topic but does so in a way that while proficient in technique misses an opportunity to make the story come alive.

As many know, screenwriting possesses its own discipline of technique over content much as songwriting does, based on the kind of spreadsheet-logic that shows the sweet spot where 77% of people in a crowd understand and appreciate a gesture, which in aggregate makes the product successful. This “workshop style” of screenwriting arrives at this movie most likely through the book on which it is based, and prevents any wholehearted recommendation of this film. It addresses the mother of a child described as “evil” who is at the very least troubled in the kind of apathetic direction toward sociopathy that arises in children of narcissistic parents. Therein we find the issue, which is the question of what produced this child? His parents are not only narcissistic but have delusions of grandeur and apparently a fair amount of money; the child is also of mixed-race and somewhat gender-mixed as well. Kevin appears in this film as troubled from his youngest days through adulthood, but what is more difficult to watch is the obliviousness of parental response, and it is perhaps in this that the intent of this film rests: people are focused on using others as means to their own ends, and as a result, they raise children in a void of common sense, actual love, concern, discipline, authority and attention. Children are designed to be accessories to the self-importance — measured in career, wealth, social prestige and other external accomplishments — of the parents. As a result, children are left empty and unattended, and sometimes one of those takes that in a hostile direction.

While no spoilers will be given here, the plot is not hard to figure out since it is as said above “workshop style,” which means that it is based on the predictability of things and the reactions of people as if they were simply complex chemical compounds in unique situations. In my view, this is what makes We Need To Talk About Kevin somewhat tedious: it is wholly linear despite attempts of the filmmaker to break up the narrative over different threads in time. The story itself is linear. Narcissists raise child, cannot snap out of their own little worlds to do something about it and then… and then, what you might expect would happen happens, and the viewer ends up without much sympathy for anyone involved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGjjK5SMbJA

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Housebound (2014)

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Combining comedy with horror takes a deft touch or the result rapidly veers into the leering variety show that Hollywood has adored since its earliest days but that strikes an audience with deep existential dread rooted in unacknowledged devastating boredom. A film can either be a horror film with a sense of humor, or a comedy wearing the mantle of horror, but few can do both.

Housebound reverses the direction in which even movies like Evil Dead (1981) venture, which is the “self-aware” movie in the postmodern style, or a movie which is ironically funny as part of its ineptitude or uncertainty about its primary mission. It might make more sense to refer to the 2014 movie as “suspense comedy” because it does not evoke horror so much as a sense of something large and important being wrong underneath the veneer of normalcy which we call “normal life” and as a species use to bury our doubts, fears and existential confusion. Housebound is a very funny movie, once the viewer gets accustomed to the method in which it delivers its humor, which is mostly situational and character-based but relies on a strong sense of the absurd and thus requires the viewer, like the protagonist in a horror film, to be a realist among the herd of denialist sheep.

The movie begins with plot-as-setting: a young woman, troubled in her relationship to drugs and crime, runs into a sadistic judge who assigns her not to jail but to a sentence back where the problem began, namely her childhood home. This in turn puts her into confrontation with her mother who exists in mental orbit most of the time, and a stepfather who seems to have no ability to change anything that happens in his life. While they live in uncertainty and loathing for each other, events that appear to be supernatural in origin begin to appear, and all react with skepticism until the pervasive intrusion within their lives can no longer be denied. At this point, the plot ramps up with a delicious lack of concern for human life and “feelings.” Like most good comedies, the characters are situationally accurate but take on a larger than life aspect in order to drive forward a plot that requires people to react like unstable chemical compounds. Sympathetic portrayals of even the pathetic give this movie somewhat of an extra grace, and while it is not always believable, its mockery of the head-in-the-sand of normal human existence makes it an enjoyable watch.

“Suspense comedy” might describe this film better than anything related to horror, since the aspect of horror that lives on is a pejorative realism toward human adaptive behaviors, and although there are moments of fear and terror the real drive of this film is satire of the wretched and absurd nature of human existence. As a result, it makes no sense to endorse this as a horror film, but more to say it is a comedy set in a horror backdrop which may win over its audience from the similar ways to horror films with which it treats humanity and its sacred cows. In addition, once it gains momentum (and the audience adapts to the New Zealand accent), Housebound provides a compelling character drama within an existence as nonsensical as actual reality, only more clearly revealed as such by the humorous events which it contains.

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Proxy (2013)

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The genre of psychological horror often gets ignored because it does not deliver the tangible impact that sheer horror does, but unsettles the watcher as in the coming days that person contemplates what he has seen. Proxy attacks psychological horror by combining Swedish introspective cinema with the type of suspense found in movies like Psycho, delivering what is ultimately a biting critique of modernity.

Without giving away the plot, this movie involves the tendency of people to project and transfer their own psychological drama onto others, centered around the idea of family. In this film, people treat others like objects of their own egos, which creates secondary consequences that render characters unable to stand themselves. Through prolonged psychological exploration, including an insight into the way the world appears to those who are intensely lonely, this film explores the sources of modern alienation and why this society starts us out as alienated isolates from within our own families.

Filmed with more of a sense of intense subjective awareness than an objectivity which the camera always betrays, Proxy explores the confrontation between detached and disaffected young women and their attempts to start their own families. It shows how people project, or live vicariously through others by assuming their role in a narcissistic conception of self, and then undergo transferrence, or conditioning their own happiness or sadness on the acts of others. These conditions like PTSD and other mental afflictions follow a binary progression, in that the person holds on to the reality they can parse for as long as they can but when it cracks, it does so violently and leads to a culmination of violence and emotion that are perfectly paired into poignant yet devastating circumstances.

Like any movie tackling the inner workings of the human mind, this film touches on subjects which many of us would rather not witness because they reveal too much to us of our own fears. In particular, it has a sense of being Generation X art, reflecting the wave of children who growing up under manipulative families tended to wall off huge areas of life and stick with only what they know and trust, probably because their own parents viewed them as accessories for showing off (or blaming) like owning a British motorcar. The characters in this find no peace and no contentment as they rage through life, tricking their own perception into creating what seems like what they desire, only later finding the hollowness within, and the rapid transition to danger caused by illusion and its collapse.

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Listening guide for Burzum The Ways of Yore

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Controversial Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes gained a new method of being divisive, which is that his recent tracks “Mythic Dawn” and “Forgotten Realms” are sparser and more circular than his earlier work. This invokes criticism of his ambient music work, specifically his most recent album, The Ways of Yore.

While this album strikes me as a quality work, it also has a feeling that parts of it are rushed, and as a result the full conceptual depth of a Burzum album has some rough edges. I present the following listening guide for those who want to experience his newer work at full intensity:

02. The Portal
06. The Reckoning Of Man
04. The Lady In The Lake
05. The Coming Of Ettins
08. The Ways Of Yore
10. Hall Of The Fallen
13. To Hel And Back Again
11. Autumn Leaves

Arrange the tracks in this order. Some are missing; those can be listened to another time. Prepare yourself with the most silent circumstances you can find, which is usually late at night. Turn off the computer, the lights, the TV, the videogames. Slow your breathing until it is regular and you are relaxed.

Place into your mind the vision of a descent down a large spiral staircase. You will be going into a place that is not dark or light, but a place where what we think of as good and evil have been suspended for something far greater than individual humans. This is a space for epic warfare, battles of the soul and perhaps mystic wisdom.

Then, ignore the spoken lyrics. However this album is meant to be experienced, it is best as a piece of music without worrying about meaning outside of the organization of sounds. Ignore the name Burzum. Clear your mind of everything and listen.

Most of the above is generic advice for any listening, but it allows this album to present itself in a new context, which is that of a lack of the two intrusions that normally cloud human vision, namely the self and the distracting world. Settle down into this one and see where it leads you.

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