International Journal of Community Music releases its heavy metal special

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Image from The Musical Autist.

The International Journal of Community Music recently released its June 2014 issue which focuses on heavy metal through writings by the heavy metal studies academic community which explore heavy metal and its social effects in many different forms.

Centered around the concept of “community music,” the journal investigates interactions between music and the surrounding community, but peers most deeply into how music can be a voice for events, values or changes in a community. Its general list of topics includes:

  • Music and informal educational settings
  • Music in areas of conflict and former conflict
  • Music and the youth service
  • Music in prisons and probation services
  • Music in health settings / Music and cultural policy
  • Music and Life-long learning
  • Genres and musical styles e.g. music-making of all kinds and all styles, listening, music technology
  • Philosophy of Community Music
  • Music, faith and spirituality

The “heavy metal special” issue concentrates its analysis on some of the more controversial areas of the interaction between heavy metal and culture. The topics of these essays seem ready to dig into the type of conflict that would make a good basis for a shredding album of brutally intense music.

International Journal of Community Music June 2014 issue contains the following contents:

  • Raising the horns: Heavy metal communities and community heavy metal music
    Authors: Gabby Riches And Karl Spracklen
  • Kami semua headbangers: Heavy metal as multiethnic community builder in Penang Island, Malaysia
    Authors: Marco Ferrarese
  • Reconceptualizing hard rock and metal fans as a group: Imaginary community
    Authors: Rosemary Lucy Hill
  • ‘Ons is saam’ – Afrikaans metal and rebuilding whiteness in the Rainbow Nation
    Authors: Catherine Hoad
  • Metal made me who I am: Seven adult men reflect on their engagement with metal music during adolescence
    Authors: Michelle Hines And Katrina Skewes McFerran
  • Mapping the underground: An ethnographic cartography of the Leeds extreme metal scene
    Authors: Gabby Riches And Brett Lashua
  • On your knees and pray! The role of religion in the development of a metal scene in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico
    Authors: Nelson Varas-Díaz And Eliut Rivera-Segarra And Sigrid Mendoza And Osvaldo González-Sepúlveda
  • Hamburgers of Devastation: The pleasures and politics of heavy metal cooking
    Authors: Michelle Phillipov
  • ‘The Black Sheep of the Family’: Bogans, borders and New Zealand society
    Authors: Dave Snell

The journal can be purchased at this location.

Cannibal Corpse: Bible of Butchery by Joel McIver

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Derided mostly by casual noticers of their cover art, Cannibal Corpse created a public face for death metal by becoming the most popular death metal band in history. Outselling the rest of the genre, they have kept on tour and pushing out albums for two and a half decades and now have unleashed their thirteenth album. Veteran music journalist and metal writer Joel McIver caught up with the band and wrote a history and explanation of Cannibal Corpse.

Intelligently, McIver opted not to try to make a narrative of his own. Instead he took a Glorious Times approach and let the band speak for itself for the most part, then knitting the disparate statements together into single narratives. The first two thirds of the book consists of statements from the band members which come across as unedited although their length suggests they were assembled from multiple interviews. The last third of the book contains a history of the band as a whole told through excerpts from interviews with the band, managers and other members of the underground community. The entire book is interspersed with song lyrics with brief explanations from the band. As a result, this book becomes easily readable and very personal, avoiding the pitfalls of trying to become overly formal or over-analytical with a band that does not want to be taken overly seriously.

In our twenties, we weren’t thinking too seriously about this stuff. Chris wrote the lyrics and we gave him free rein to be as offensive and disturbing as he thought necessary. Nowadays we probably think a little more about the subject matter of our songs, and the end result can be lyrics that are still horrifying but less overtly offensive. I think that sometimes a more subtle approach can be more effective for horror fiction anyway—‘subtle’ being a very relative term in our case, maybe the difference between a hatchet to the genitals and a hatchet to the head. But that’s what our band is doing really: putting horror fiction to music. We don’t back what the characters in our songs are doing: they’re just evil characters who are appropriate for stories like these. – Alex Webster (121-122)

If the book has a theme, it can be found in the normalcy of Cannibal Corpse. The band member biographies detail their early interest in heavy metal, then in musicianship, and their desire to be part of the new movement of harder and heavier music coming out after Metallica and later, after the first nascent death metal. They mention the classics of proto-underground metal like Sodom and Slayer, but focus on not the extremity of lyrics but the music itself. These men wanted to make music that did what their musical heroes did, but took it to a new level of intensity. They also wanted to have a sense of humor about it. And, going back to their earliest influences, they found idols who had also made it big on a commercial level: the 1970s hard rock and heavy metal acts that shocked the uptight citizenry but delighted mischievous and alienated kids everywhere. The comedic lyrics of torture, sadism, butchery, gore and mass killing arise not from a fascination with the dark and morbid, but a joy in disturbing social pretense that has more in common with Kiss or Judas Priest on the big stage, gyrating away as church ladies gasped.

When assembling the narrative of the band, McIver stacked statements from band members in such a way to tell the narrative through its strongest voices, inserting summaries of major events so that the least specific material is told from a third-person perspective. This gives more space to the band to speak about their own intentions and analysis, which enables this book to move along at a fast pace and never wind down into the kind of rambling anecdotes that blighted rock journalism in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, it is both a short book and complete in its recounting of the Cannibal Corpse story. Through skillful editing, McIver avoids having the history drag or become tangential, and with the voices of the band members he brings up every essential topic in short, readable fashion. We also hear from band members and crucial actors like label boss Brian Slagel whose voices are not normally heard in the telling of this history.

In my downtime, I shoot guns. I’ve been interested in them since I was a kid. It’s the other thing I’m interested in apart from guitars, and it’s a great way to let off aggression. I go to ranges and shoot targets. Playing loud music is another good way to release stress. I like to go to the gym and work out, and I like to go out and drink and have fun with my buddies. Luckily, I’ve always been able to go anywhere and make friends. I live day by day. I would never have guessed that I’d still be doing this after all this time… — Pat O’Brien (46)

In the history of metal, Cannibal Corpse: Bible of Butchery will be remembered as a book that started a debate instead of ended one. Most analysis of Cannibal Corpse so far has focused on the reactions of others and has been unable to get around the disturbing imagery and lyrics. By mixing lyrics with histories, and looking at the motivation of band members for personal and artistic goals instead of reading the band as an advocate of what is described in its lyrics, Cannibal Corpse: Bible of Butchery reveals the commonality of Cannibal Corpse with heavy metal bands since the dawning of the genre. Instead of serving as a kind of unpaid advocate for serial killers everywhere, this band acted as a continuation of the heavy metal tradition of upsetting parents and delighting kids. By getting past the elephant in the outsider viewpoint room, McIver shows us Cannibal Corpse as they are, and lets their story tell itself and reveal the undiscovered history behind what for most people is the public face of death metal.

Heavy Metal at the Movies conference issues call for papers

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The Popular Culture Association (PCA) announced the theme for its upcoming meeting on April 1-4, 2015 as “how heavy metal culture relates to cinema.” The PCA issued a call for papers on this topic so that aspiring heavy metal studies scholars can submit writings in advance of the conference.

Held in New Orleans, the conference will allow participants a chance to present papers and network with others in the fields of heavy metal studies and popular culture studies. The PCA accepts a broad range of topics: “Papers on individual films, metal (sub)genres or individual bands are all welcome, as are more theoretical musings on the interrelationship between cinema and metal.” It gives the following sample topic areas:

  • how heavy metal is (ab)used in feature films
  • how documentary films create, expand, and discuss a sense of group identity
  • how cinematic traditions are used in heavy metal culture.

If interested in submitting a paper, please send a 300-word abstract by October 15, 2014 to Gerd.Bayer@fau.de. The official call for papers notice can be found here.

Neoclassical Music Hub for metal DC++ users

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For those of you who like to trade movies, music, books and conversation online, the Neoclassical Music Hub offers a Direct Connect (DC++) hub for those who enjoy classical, neoclassical, dark ambient, heavy metal and hardcore punk.

Hosted by a small team of users who have kept it running for a decade, the Neoclassical Music Hub allows users to share files with one another in the curated environment of a Direct Connect hub, which allows chat, direct messaging and file sharing between those who are connected to it. This escapes the somewhat chaotic nature of open-access P2P clients and the access issues of torrents.

Perdition Temple release title track from upcoming The Tempter’s Victorious

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Perdition Temple emerged from the ashes of Angelcorpse when guitarist Gene Palubicki established a new act to make the high-speed, texturally-encoded complex riff frenzy that made Angelcorpse so distinctive among the later death metal bands.

Anticipating its upcoming album The Tempter’s Victorious, Perdition Temple today released a teaser video for the title track “The Tempter’s Victorious.” The band’s first album for new label home Hells Headbangers, The Tempter’s Victorious unleashed eight new tracks and cover art by Adam Burke. You can listen to the audio below.

In addition, Hells Headbangers will release a 7″ EP in anticipation of the album with an original and cover song enclosed. Release date for The Tempter’s Victorious is tentatively set for early 2015. The band has solidified its long-fluctuating lineup as the following:

  • Gene Palubicki – guitars (Apocalypse Command, Blasphemic Cruelty, ex-Angelcorpse)
  • Bill Taylor – guitars (Immolation, ex-Angelcorpse, ex-Feldgrau, ex-Xenomorph)
  • Impurath – vocals (Black Witchery, ex-Irreverent)
  • Ronnie Parmer – drums (Catalysis)
  • Gabriel Gozainy – bass

For more information, view the Perdition Temple faceplant page.

Nothing Left – “Demo 1999”

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Way back in the halcyon days of 1999, Steve Cefala (Dawning, Pale Existence) joined forces with Mike Beams (Exhumed), Brian Glover (Bred For Slaughter, Pale Existence) and Jon Nedbal (Disembodiment, Bred For Slaughter) to make detuned high-volume death/doom metal. From those sessions emerged this 25 minute demo which owes as much to early grindcore as to death metal and doom metal.

The constant assault of “Demo 1999” calls to mind bands like Mortician that intended to make thunderous slow primitive death metal, and energetic heavy-bass assault grindcore bands like Drogheda. The result alternates between slow grinding passages and picked up two-chord uptempo charges, aiming with these basic songs more to create atmosphere than work in a dozen riffs in the death metal style. Like deathgrind slowed down but without the insistence on utterly basic catchy rhythms, taking more of the Napalm Death approach of making basic rhythms sound alien and unnerving, Nothing Left surges like the pulsing sounds of tanks passing in the night on their way to an apocalyptic battle.

Primarily influenced by Mayhem, Brujeria and Mortician, Nothing Left existed for a few short years. To get their signature sound, the band tuned down almost an octave and played at top volume through two full stacks and giant overdriven bass cabinets, then ran the bass through a DOD Meatbox subharmonic pedal that generates a companion tone two octaves below. The result throbs and hangs in the air like a nuclear blast, rumbling and surging within its slowed-down rhythms. True to its influences, it takes the low-fi primitive grind sound and gives it the expansive atmosphere of black metal while reducing all that it creates to incomprehensible destruction. For those who can confront such a monster, band has made the full demo available on YouTube.

Divine Eve in studio finalizing new material

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Divine Eve’s Michael Sleavin and Matt Killen in the studio.

Doom/death metal band Divine Eve penetrated the walls of the studio some time ago to record their forthcoming full-length following up on the 2010 release of Vengeful and Obstinate, an EP which saw the Texas band build on the strengths of their 1990s debut As the Angels Weep. Since that time, audiences who enjoy the type of fusion between Swedish death metal, punkish heavy metal like Motorhead, and doom-death like Cathedral have eagerly awaited new material from Divine Eve.

It appears the wait may be over, or at least nearly so. An advance track, “Into the Conquest End,” graciously loaned to this writer by Divine Eve, shows the band maturing and stripping down their sound. Like classic death metal, Divine Eve know how to use a theme well, varying it both in speed and texture and also expanding upon it as the song progresses. The song begins with a raw death metal riff — reminiscent of Death “Altering the Future” — and repeats it on a trancelike beat. This theme repeats in two forms, one with an ending trill and another with a more rigid, doomlike conclusion. The band then breaks into an energetic and simple riff derived from the middle phrase of the previous at an upbeat punk tempo, and use this to introduce the chorus riff which hammers out the theme of the song in a riff answering the first theme.

The band rides the second theme against the chorus and picks up an energetic groove. This part of the song quickly falls into a comfortable zone, both enjoyable and straightforward, which appears to be the moment the band were waiting for… to strike. At this point, the song stops with a simple standoff riff reminiscent of the opening theme of Beethoven’s fifth in its rigidity and simplicity, then returns to the first them before dropping to a slower and darker version of the second theme which answers it in a mode more like that of the chorus. The band then transitions through a lightly strummed, drumless heavy metal style anticipation pause and then builds on that melodic riff as a means to transition to to a bounding doom metal riff that would have been at home on As the Angels Weep but with more of the old-school doom that Saint Vitus made famous. As this mood builds, it falters and collapses into the first theme, then chorus riff, and finally a variant on the standoff riff. The song wraps up its simple elements by repeating them multiple times in different pairings to create a sense of a deepening meaning emerging from the mundane, like an occult meaning derived from the pattern of everyday objects.

Divine Eve added a sense of mystery and atmosphere to the world of death metal bands that play extensive segments of doom metal in their work, expanding upon a lengthy list of death metal influences. Like Cianide, the band has drifted toward a fusion of older metal styles (notably Motorhead) that maintain the same mood, which is a bleak but militant droning which suggests a dystopian collapse followed by rise of vengeance warriors bent on restoring an atavistic order. The result gives more variability to the death metal style and may confuse listeners in a positive way by taking different ideas and restating them in the language of death metal. The production on this track takes an organic and spacious sound and gives to it the dense textures of ancient walls, clarifies drums far more than previous releases and keeps vocals grim but intense enough to stand on their own. The result suggests that the power of the older material will take on a new militarism on the forthcoming album.

Metal and Cultural Impact: Metal’s Role in the 21st Century conference in Dayton, OH on November 6-8

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The Metal and Cultural Impact (MACI) conference launches its inaugural meeting on the topic of “Metal’s Role in the 21st Century” in Dayton, OH from November 6-8, 2014. This conference features a number of metal academics of note discussing the effect metal has on the society around it through culture.

Described by its organizers as aimed to “examine Metal culture’s role in 21st century society throughout the world,” the conference consists of presentations by academics such as Amber Clifford-Napoleone, Nelson Varas-Diaz, , Vivek Venkatesh, Ross Hagen and Brian Hickam. In addition, after-conference events include a screening of March of the Gods which explores the metal scene in the African nation of Bostwana through the story the band Wrust and an art exhibit on the nature of masks in metal hosted by Brian Hickam.

The University of Dayton Department of English, the Graul Chair in Arts and Languages, and the International Society of Metal Music Studies are the primary sponsors of the conference. It winds up with an evening concert featuring local bands chosen by Alex Skolnick (Testament, Savatage), who also presents a panel on “Louder Education” at the conference. Ticket proceeds benefit two charities, the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund and Project READ.

Classical music for metalheads

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Metal like any addiction sends us toward the next more intense experience by necessity. When we cannot find the rush in metal, we turn to other genres, but few of those satisfy. Metalheads often find themselves tempted by classical music, but shy away for a number of reasons.

Classical music requires greater attention to recording, conductor and year than do rock-style albums where artist name and album name will suffice. The choice of which of those to get appears at first baffling and ambiguous. The classical community can be a big help, but on the internet, fans of every stripe tend to have a holier-than-thou outlook which drives away others. Finally, classical cannot compete sonically with metal which is a constant delighted terror of high-intensity guitar.

For those who want to branch outward however, classical offers an option which resembles metal under the surface even if from a distance it appears the opposite. Classical music like metal is riff-based and knits those riffs together into compositions which transition between multiple emotions and forms to tell a story, unlike pop which is more cyclic if not outright static. It also embraces the same Faustian spirit of rage for order that defines metal.

The brave few might want to forge ahead with these albums which serve as good entry works to classical:

  1. Brahms, Johannes – The Four Symphonies

    Pure Romanticism, which is the most beautiful classical genre but also its most easily misled into human emotional confusion. Flowing, diving, surging passages which storm through tyrannical opposition to reach some of the most Zen states ever put to music.

    Four Symphonies by Herbert von Karajan/Berliner Philharmonik Orchestra

  2. Respighi, Ottorino – Pines, Birds, Fountains of Rome

    Italian music is normally inconsequential. This has an ancient feeling, a sense of weight that can only be borne out in an urge to reconquest the present with the past.

    Pines, Birds, Fountains of Rome by Louis Lane/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

  3. Schubert, Franz – Symphonies 8 & 9

    A sense of power emerging from darkness, and a clarity coming from looking into the halls of eternity, as translated by the facile hand of a composer who wrote many great pieces before dying young.

    Symphonies 8 & 9 by Herbert von Karajan/Berliner Philharmonik Orchestra

  4. Saint-Saens, Camille – Symphony 3

    Like DeBussy, but with a much wider range, this modernist Romantic rediscovers all that is worth living in the most warlike and bleak of circumstances.

    Symphony No. 3 by Eugene Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra

  5. Bruckner, Anton – Symphony 4

    Writing symphonic music in the spirit of Wagner, Bruckner makes colossal caverns of sound which evolve to a sense of great spiritual contemplation, the first “heaviness” on record.

    Romantic Symphony by Herbert von Karajan/Berliner Philharmonik Orchestra

  6. Berwald, Franz – Symphony 2

    The passion of Romantic poetry breathes through this light and airy work which turns stormy when it, through a ring composition of motives, seizes a clear statement of theme from its underlying tempest of beauty.

    Symphony No. 2 by David Montgomery/Jena Philharmonic

  7. Paganini, Niccolo – 24 Caprices

    Perhaps the original Hessian, this long-haired virtuoso wore white face paint, had a rumored deal with the devil, and made short often violent pieces that made people question their lives and their churches.

    24 Caprices by James Ehnes

  8. Anner Bylsma and Lambert Orkis – Sonatas by Brahms and Schumann

    We list these by performer because this informal and sprightly interpretation is all their own. Played on period instruments, it captures the beauty and humor of these shorter pieces with the casual knowledge of old friends.

    Brahms: Sonatas for Piano and Cello; Schumann: 5 Stücke im Volkston

Not everyone will take this path. Where metal, pop, rock, blues, techno, hip-hop and jazz aim for a consistent intensity, classical varies intensity as it does dynamics and mood. The point of listening to classical is to let it take you on an adventure, which much like metal will at some point encounter a crashing conclusion in which all things vast, powerful and beyond our reach come to bear on us for the ultimate feeling of heaviness.

Extreme Metal II by Joel McIver

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For a short book that you can finish in an afternoon, Extreme Metal by Joel McIver packs a great density of information of unusual breadth into this deceptively simple volume. Comprised of brief introductions and then combination profile, history and review of the major works of each band, this book applies a flexible strategy to information and dishes out more on the more important bands but refuses to leave out essential minor ones.

McIver released two versions of this book: an original (2000) and this update (2005). With each edition, the book gains more factual information and the writing kicks it up a notch. I first read Extreme Metal I shortly after it came out in a bookstore and noted how some of the writing was boxy and distant, but how (thankfully) it did not drop into the hipster habit of insider lingo and extensive pointless imagery. In Extreme Metal II, McIver writes according to the journalistic standards of the broader media and skips over the conventions of music journalism and especially metal journalism which are less stringent. If there is an Extreme Metal III, the language will be even more streamlined and relaxed.

A good book on metal includes not only information but interpretations; all books filter by what their authors think is important, and one of the strengths of Extreme Metal is its ability to zoom in on not just the larger bands but a number of smaller ones that contributed to the growth of the genre. With each of these bands, McIver presents the information as relevant to a metal fan interested in learning the genre but also in hearing the best of its music. After an introduction by Mille Petrozza of Kreator, Extreme Metal launches into a brief history and afterward is essentially band profiles in alphabetical order. McIver includes all of the big names that one must include especially in any book that wishes to have commercial success, but devotes a fair amount of time to focus on the underground and the odd details that complete its story. He displays a canny instinct for rooting out the important, even if obscure, and relating it to the progress of the genre as a whole.

Written in a conversational but professional style, the book unloads a large amount of information with a low amount of stress and reads much like an extended magazine article covering the growth of the extreme metal genres. Depending on what sub-genres a listener enjoys, parts of the book will be skimmed, much as some Hessians glaze over whenever anything related to nu-metal emerges. McIver displays the instincts of a metal listener and refuses to sugar-coat his opinions, but does not drift into the trendy internet sweetness-and-acid diatribes that afflict those who rage at the excesses of the underground. Instead, the book assumes that its readers are open-minded enough to listen to any good heavy metal and tries to dig out the best of it, even if those standards need to expand when nu-metal or metalcore float by.

Massacra

Massacra was a French ‘neo-classical death metal’ band and was formed in 1986. Three demos landed them a deal with Shark Records from Germany and later, the major label Phonogram. However, the band was put on hold in 1997 when a founding member, Fred Duval, died of skin cancer at only 29. Some members of the band formed an industrial band, Zero Tolerance, and released an album on the Active label.

Recommended Album: Final Holocaust (Shark, 1990)

Among the truckloads of paper published since Lords of Chaos convinced the industry that money could be made in books about underground metal, Extreme Metal distinguishes itself by being open-minded and yet straight to the point. Most books pass over perceived minor bands like Massacra, Autumn Leaves and Onslaught, but this book fits them into context and explains their relevance in a way that is both enjoyable and informative. While major bands like Metallica will always get more coverage, here McIver works to tie his write-ups of those bands in with traits of other bands who both helped make that success happen and carried it forward.

McIver has gone on to write other books including a best-seller about Metallica, a biography of Max Cavalera of Sepultura, retrospectives of Motorhead and Black Sabbath, a band history of Cannibal Corpse and most recently, a book about alternative band Rage Against the Machine. He demonstrates comfort at every level of above-ground and underground bands, but his instinct as a fan makes him a writer worth reading as he tears through metal, sorting the entropy from the growth. While one can write about underground metal to any depth, Extreme Metal strikes the right balance of information and expediency and produces an excellent first step for any fan or researcher looking into these sub-genres of heavy metal.