In the many years of reading about metal, I have often wished for something like Compilation of Death: a zine that goes back through other zines, pulls out the best content and annotates it so that a historical record is composed from many sources. Each of the stories in this zine are like a shelf in a great library of metal, usually about a band but equally possibly a scene, a sound or a time.
What you will find among these pages is a carefully curated view of metal, which borrows whole pages from zines from the periods in which these bands were active, combines them with current-day interviews and perspectives, and assembles them into a kind of metal investigative reporting that shows us a well-rounded picture of each band or topic.
Compilation of Death carefully gives credit to each of the source zines and includes information on how to contact them, so in addition to being a feast of metal zine information, this is a promotion for the entire idea of zines, which are experiencing a renaissance as people tire of the information overload — which guarantees a predominance of low-value content — and endless useless people who clog today’s internet. Democratizing content merely means that every bad idea gets repeated thousands of times and good ideas get driven to the periphery, so that established commercial interests with the bucks to advertise on the big sites win out. Zines on the other hand are by their nature curated, meaning that someone plays the role of librarian/editor and picks bands deliberately, asks questions with intent, and reveals something unique to that subject with the resulting reporting. This is different than the assembly line process of web sites and big metal magazines, who process whatever the labels send them in roughly the same way with surface changes so that the “quirky” outlook hides the utter sameness and entropy of it all. What made zines powerful was that they had purpose, which allowed them to reveal a truth non-objectively and for reasons of itself, instead of secondary reasons like popularity and profit. Compilation of Death doubles down on this concept by not only choosing direction and topic, but picking from the vast number of zines out there the best of what is written on that topic.
These two volumes offer reading matter that can be pored over many times because they are bursting with details that become increasingly relevant the more one knows about a topic. In addition, metal historians will find many unknown but important details here confirming the motivations of bands and their art, in addition to a broader perspective on the people behind the music which is never revealed by the more uptight, formal and procedural interviews conducted by big magazines. For those who want a heavy dose of information about the underground in a form that rewards the diligent reader with a deep understanding, Compilation of Death is a treat that can be revisited time and again to bring out the nuance of its topic.
Back in the hazy 1990s, many of us encountered a band from Poland who in the wake of Vader had been signed to Nuclear Blast and distributed in the United States. This band was Betrayer and the album Calamity, a work of high-speed metal in the Slayer-influenced style of Vader but also going in its own direction including a prescient use of melody, anticipating where death metal would go in the next decade. After two decades, Betrayer has returned with a split 7″ that is turning some heads for its aggressive integration of old school speed metal and death metal styles. We were fortunate to be able to sit down with mastermind Berial over a cup of hot blood and discuss Betrayer and the exciting possibility of new material…
When was Betrayer formed? How many demos did you put out? How did you get signed to Nuclear Blast?
Betrayer was formed in 1989 as a thrash metal quartet and as such, in 1990, recorded its first demo “Forbidden Personality.”
The same year there was a change in the line-up. I joined the band as a new bass guitar player shortly after splitting with my previous band Slaughter. I also took over the space behind a microphone. Since then Betrayer started drifting towards stronger and more extreme sounds. That was a turning-point and the beginning of a new era for the band.
Consequently in 1991 Betrayer released their second demo “Necronomical Exmortis”. It happened to be the real killer those days. One of the biggest metal magazines of that time in Poland, Thrash’em All,ranked it second in the category “Album of the Year.” Betrayer hit #4 in “Band of the Year” category. To this day the release is regarded as one of the milestones for Polish death metal music. This is how, I guess, we got signed to Nuclear Blast… Hard work, great gigs, loads of enthusiasm and energy with remarkable music art on top…
Where was “Calamity” recorded, and were these new songs or songs from the demos? What were your musical influences at the time?
Our debut full album Calamity was recorded at Modern Sound Studio in Gdynia, Poland. It was the best option at that time. Really modern and open for new trends in music so most of the reputable bands in Poland cooperated with them. “Necronomical Exmortis” was made in CCS Studio in Warsaw, which was the choice of many Polish stars, not only those in the metal stream. That was the first experience of working with a professional studio and the first official release for Betrayer. “Forbidden Personality” was different, more of amateur and self-made production.
Influences? Everyone had their own and not all were strictly death metal ones. All of them put together, however, made us what we happened to be…
Was it difficult to record and release at that time, just a few years after the political changes in Poland?
I don’t know if that was more difficult than today. I do not even know if political changes had anything to do with those difficulties. Those were different times, times of rebellion and discovering new options and possibilities. Metal underground, and actually all music underground in general, was strong and buoyant in Poland at that time. With Calamity which turned to be a milestone in Polish death metal history, were lucky to be on the top of the ladder, arm in arm with another polish legend, Vader, when the changes turned to be in favor of the musical revolution which opened new horizons and roads of going worldwide.
Finally we were able to spread the power of Polish extreme music all over the world. This also gave us the opportunity to share stages with bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Death and too many others to count… Fantastic times!!!
Has Betrayer been on hold since that time, and are there are any other recordings people outside of Poland have missed out on?
We split up in 1994 shortly after releasing our debut album. It was nothing but a huge disappointment for us and the crowd of metalheads devoted to Betrayer. Only years later we learned that Betrayer had been well noticed in so many corners of the world. Instead of going on tour promoting such a great album as Calamity really was and pushing forward, we fucked it up. What a waste… Personal shit, you know… but it’s too late to moan now, isn’t it? I was so pissed off and consequently totally dispirited that I decided to stay away from the stage. In 2012, after nearly eighteen years of non-existence, demons of my inner self decided to remind me who I am and what I live for. There was no other option… Betrayer had to come back to life… and no, you didn’t miss any new recordings, except the split you know of.
You recently released a split with Neolith. What was it like recording this? Why release now?
From the very beginning we didn’t want to built our resurrection on the old stuff so instead of brushing up the songs from the past we decided to concentrate on making completely new material and release a new album. We didn’t want to, however, wait too long to announce to the world that we are back on the road. That’s why we decided to release one of the new tracks on the split. Same was with live appeariances. Initially we planned to do so after releasing the new album but for aforementioned reasons as well as unstoppable craving for going onstage we had to change the assumptions. In summer 2013, Betrayer appeared at Ragnarock Open Air Festival in Germany followed by a series of gigs around Poland. Obviously next to the new songs we performed some of the old ones too. The feedback was so great that in 2014 we were invited to play as a main support for a death metal legend Obituary in the only concert in Poland. Really good feeling and immense motivation, you know.
The Betrayer track on the Neolith split, “Beware,” shows more of an aggressive style and speed metal influence, with less death metal of the fast strumming variety. What motivated this change? Does this show a new direction in your music?
I wouldn’t say that there is a distinct change in Betrayer’s music in general. “Beware” is a song I would put somewhere between Calamity and the earlier “Necronomical Exmortis” demo, and I agree it’s kinda melodic at moments. The split features “Beware” just because this was the only song that we had ready to go at time the opportunity to release came. You might notice that it was not even finally mastered. Be forewarned that this song does not give justice to the whole new stuff …so do not be misled! Betrayer definitely stayed faithful to the death metal genre! You will see it yourself soon!
The question everyone is dying to know… (a) Will there be another Betrayer album? (b) are there any negotiations to re-release Calamity so a new generation can discover it?
Sure it will! I’m proud to announce that our new album Infernum In Terra will be released on March 18th, 2015! The music was mastered in Hertz Studio which cooperated with such bands as Vader, Behemoth, Decapitated or Hate in the past… and I tell you, this is a real good piece of death metal, no doubt about it! We are exteremely satisfied and hope you will be too… and yes, Calamity will also be re-released, just a little bit later! Sounds good, doesn’t it? It looks like it’s gonna be a good year for Betrayer.
How do you describe the music of Betrayer? When you write music, what ideas do you aim for?
Well, it’s the same old Betrayer I reckon. Maybe a bit heavier but still drifting on the old school death metal wave. This is deeply rooted in our mentality and our hearts and truly defines the way we live, think, feel and create at the moment.
Ideas? Hmm, pretty same as before. Music, you know, is the way to express yourself with some kind of ecstasy which you try to give away and infect others with it. When it comes to lyrics and the message, it’s kind of my personal thoughts and feelings about the systems that our existence is implicated in. Especially the religious one, full of contradictions and hypocrisy… you might say “nothing new” but in that context Polish society is deeply premised on that. All this blind glorification of the institution of the Catholic Church as well as other creeds makes me sick and contemptuous. This is what I mainly speak out against.
It seems that everyone knows Poland these days with Vader, Graveland and Behemoth having become popular. What else are we missing out on? You can include both musical and non-musical items!
Oh,yes… Vader… indisputable pillar of the Polish death metal scene! I happened to be the part of the crew for a short period of time back in the 90s. Behemoth… yes, no doubt about it… true gods on the firmament of black metal music world! I’m not too familiar with Graveland, but talking about the extreme music stuff you missed out at least astonishing Decapitated to start with or Hate…
How should people learn more about Betrayer and your own personal (Berial) musical projects? Where do they go to hear the music and keep track of news from the band?
Definitely by reaching our albums and staying tuned to all oncoming news on our web page or facebook profile. There are no other projects in my life at the moment. Betrayer is the only and one that gives me strength and makes me survive in this world of misery.
I’m pleased to hear that in the past we were noticed and are still remembered in the United States with the real hope that we will keep it this way and be honoured to visit your vast lands in future!
Early death metal barely made it out of the shadow of speed metal before. We call it speed metal, not thrash, because it was a direct extension of NWOBHM using some punk technique, not an outright punk hybrid like thrash. Speed metal represents one of the most varied sub-genres in metal, running the gamut from percussive (Exodus) through traditional (Metallica) and all the way to adventurous stuff like Voivod, Anacrusis, Coroner and Sacrifice. It is in that latter category that The Science of Horror begins.
This demo re-issue will be — for now — limited to 100 copies pressed to vinyl that incorporate two demos, The Science of Horror (1988) and Nocturnus (1987). These show both a band looking for a balance between the early death/speed hybrids and its future as a technical death metal band, and the personal vision that Mike Browning has been refining since this time through the present day with his current band, After Death. This vision unites the progressive with morbid rock and extremity, aiming for a theatrical presentation as much as musical obscurity, and never afraid — unlike too many prog bands — to use a primitive riff where it is effective. Like many progressive-inspired bands, there is a high degree of internal variation in these demos, Nocturnus and After Death, used like an ancient storyteller might use an extensive vocabulary. The theatrical nature of this approach means that the songs on these demos, which are mostly duplicative, take an atmospheric approach to a genre in transition that was otherwise more inclined toward all-ahead aggression. But like Anacrusis, Voivod and Coroner, Nocturnus adapted its songs to use both death metal technique and speed metal but creating a sense of rhythm of its own that emphasized frequent transitions and complex patterns without drifting into other known genres.
Several of the song segments used here show similarity to what appeared on Morbid Angel’s early work, notably its 1986 Abominations of Desolation, and feature the same flexible rhythm that nonetheless approximates the chorus rhythm without doing so in trope, leaving plenty of space for instruments to work independently. Like speed metal, much of this material aims for discrete chords in repetitive patterns, but especially on the second demo, use of tremolo to create smooth transitions gives this material a new aura of mystery and suspension of belief. As a document of early death metal, The Science of Horror both emphasizes the creative possibilities of metal at the time and reminds us how weirdness was once more front and center and how it did the genre well. On another level, this music provides pleasurable listening at the nexus not only of two genres but also several compositional styles, and the change from the first to later demo shows the incorporation of keys in the way that would later define Nocturnus and be expanded to become a fundamental part of the technique as a way of creating spacious, atmospheric death metal. With any luck, this pressing of the demos will see CD release later this year, as despite being the same tracks twice this recording serves well for casual listening as well as historical examination of death metal.
Tracklist The Science of Horror Demo 2 (1988)
1. Before Christ – After Death
2. Standing in Blood
4. Undead Journey Nocturnus Demo 1 (1987)
6. B.C. – A.D.
7. The Entity
8. Unholy Fury
Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals
Mike Davis: Guitars
Louis Panzer: Keyboards
Jeff Estes: Bass
Gino Marino: Guitars
Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals
Richard Bateman: Bass
Vincent Crowley: Guitars
Gino Marino: Guitars
Adorned with the tagline “Produced by Metalheads,” death metal themed horror film Deathgasm will be showing at this year’s SXSW festival. The filmmakers have released a trailer which shows scenes from the film and their approach to horror movie making.
Members of Amebix and Voivod have joined with other experienced underground musicians to launch Tau Cross, a new project already signed to Relapse Records and planning to release its debut album in 2015.
Recorded in three different countries over several months in 2014, the Tau Cross album will see release in spring. According to the official press release, Tau Cross formed in 2013.
Rob Miller (Amebix) spoke of the new band: “The music that evolved over this time is difficult to categorize, as there is clearly a lot of Amebix in the songwriting as well as some elements of gothic, Joy Division, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Industrial and hard fucking old-school punk rock. This is an entirely original work that is the organic fusion of four unique people. We decided to let the songs form themselves around the original demos and allow people to bring themselves into the mix, to allow the bark to grow around the tree.”
Death metal band turned prog-core act Gorguts has re-issued the latter two albums from its classic period, Gorguts and From Wisdom to Hate, on industry powerhouse Century Media Records. The re-issues — on jewelcase CD, 2LP and limited edition 2LP — will be available in pre-order starting March 9, 2015.
Says guitarist/composer Luc Lemay: “I’m proud to announce that our 1998 record Obscura and 2001’s From Wisdom To Hate will finally be re-released! …For this re-issue, I decided to include liner notes that tell the story behind each record. How we got together as musicians, what was the composition process that made this sound possible and that made us grow as artists…I decided to change the logo because, with a step back, I realized that I never really like the original one on Obscura and I wanted to give the record a fresh look. I kept the same logo for From Wisdom To Hate, because it was created for this record…Thanks again to all our fans for their unconditional support through all those years.”
The re-issues see official release on April 6, 2015 in Europe and April 7, 2015 in North America. Both are dedicated to the memory of former members Steeve Hurdle (R.I.P. 2012) and Steve MacDonald (R.I.P. 2002). While Gorguts has deviated into progressive-themed *core territory with their latest, Colored Sands, this band helped forge the sound of technical death metal back when that term simply referred to death metal which required technical ability to play. While Obscura has often been imitated in style, those who have tried to imitate it have generally done so on the basis of style alone and missed the sublime composition within which made this album a classic independent of style.
Ripping death metal band Vader, who gained stature in the field of Morbid Angel/Slayer-influenced fast tremolo death metal, plan to re-issue three early demos on CD, cassette and LP via Witching Hour Records starting on April 3, 2015.
The three demos — “Live in Decay” (1986), “Necrolust” (1989), adn “Morbid Reich” (1990) — will see separate releases unlike the last collection of Vader demo material, 1996’s Reborn in Chaos which remains a sought-after release for its Pavement Records version which contains better sound than other variants. These capture the transition of Vader from aspiring speed metal/death metal hybrid to catching on to the new death metal style and picking a fast but explosive style that graced their first album, The Ultimate Incantation and subsequent albums De Profundis and Sothis EP.
As Vader continue to release material in a fast although simplified and more hookish style, these retrospectives may provide insight into the origins of this band back in the days of the Soviet bloc. It will be interesting to see what bonus tracks, if any, Witching Hour Records adds to pad these releases up to full-length duration.
Vic Records plans to issue the first album from Stockholm death/grind experimentalists Carbonized, For the Security. The album will be re-issued on LP and CD on Vic Records, early 2015 including its original artwork, liner notes from Christoffer Johansson (Therion) and Piotr Wawrzeniuk (Therion) and two bonus tracks.
Carbonized was formed in 1988 by Lars Rosenberg as an early death metal band from Sweden. Many musicians to later go on to fame in the Swedish death metal underground participated at various times in Carbonized, including Matti Karki (Dismember / Carnage), Richard Cabeza (Unanimated / Dismember). Carbonized recorded two demos and one EP from 1989-1990. Shortly before recording its debut album, the band finalized the lineup that would last for all three albums: Lars Rosenberg (Entombed / Therion), Piotr Wawrzeniuk (Therion) and Christoffer Johansson (Therion).
For the Security was recorded at famous Sunlight Studios with Tomas Skogsberg but features more of a primitive angular grindcore sound, like Blood or Terrorizer, than the flowing and often too rock ‘n rolly for its own good Swedish death metal to follow. A classic of the early underground metal years, this album was previously re-issued on Nuclear Hell but without its iconic artwork and follows the Carbonized demos collection that came out two years ago.
Unlike many bands, Desecresy — the product of experienced musicians a decade after their first entry into the scene — formed with a full concept that manifests on the first album as a slow form of death metal. Peeling back the layers, influences can be seen at many levels here, but the most prominent are Bolt Thrower for the sense of rhythm, Carnage for riff transitions, Therion for use of synchronized strumming to adjust rhythm, and Paradise Lost for the use of lead-picked melodies evoking harmony in the riff below for a resonant, haunting sound. The result more approximates the moods and sensations to the listener of a funeral doom metal band, but at varieties of middle pace instead of extremes, creating the feeling of a descent into a subterranean world populated by non-verbal creatures.
The important distinction between death metal and doom metal that appears in this work is the tendency of death metal toward wonder, and a Lovecraftian obsession with the workings of the universe, where doom metal focuses on a despairing, passive and self-focused mood that makes no such commentary and in fact symbolizes fatalism. Desecresy keeps that outlook, and shears from it any sense of real-world issues such as the crusade against Christianity or need for social justice, replacing those with a mythological view of existence in which darkness is not self-pity but an outlook reflecting the red in tooth and claw essence of nature, itself a logical response to the need to avoid stagnation and mediocrity. Like Bolt Thrower, Desecresy envisions a world of constant warfare, but in this case the warfare emerges from the clashes of biological and mystical entities rather than modern political forces. All of this emerges from the music itself — the lyrics could as well be ingredients written on soup cans — which uses its riffs in a constant grinding which slowly grows into articulation of dual principles, ending without resolution into a singularity but a fragmentation followed by evolution which more reflects the state of nature in which conflict creates speciation instead of singularity. Riffs start as two chords colliding, then through the slowly equalizing rhythms of downstroked chords reach equilibrium, at which point they mutate into something else. The intense similarity of many of these riffs, built of the same few chords, puts emphasis on their form and its mutation and development from a microbial state to that of full of organism.
Over this flow the type of chanted vocals that adorned the first Therion album, using the death shout not as a rhythm to impart urgency to the guitars, but in a timekeeping role that counterbalances that of the drums which serve more as a texture of rhythm to allow internal motion to have reference points. In the midst of this sonic landscape the reverb heavy lead picking of melody creates a sheet of sound against which the power chorded rhythm guitars can develop, allowing songs to slide forward under this cover and develop what are essentially background riffs into rhythms that pick up additional internal variation and thus command more complex riffs. Desecresy generally keep it simple and grinding in the style of middle-period Bolt Thrower, but at crucial moments intervene with complex riffs and elegant transitions. This completes the cycle of this album, moving from serene but conflicted stability to complex and ambiguous change, a repeating pattern which creates the impression of lawless growth and beauty appearing from nothingness that lingers in the mind of a listener like a nearly-forgotten hope.
Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes demonstrates a long history of crossing over between worlds. With Burzum, he crossed black metal with the cosmic space ambient music (RIP Edgar Froese) that defined the best of the previous decade, and now with his newer folk/ambient work he crosses over between the world of role-playing games, philosophies that get bast the postmodern thought-loop which has stalled humanity for the past century, and the inspiration in warfare, wizardry and medievalism that distinguished the aesthetics of his black metal.
In releasing the new track “Mythic Dawn,” Vikernes shows us a work in progress with a somewhat sparse but distinct track in the style of the second half of The Ways of Yore, specifically “Autumn Leaves” for the shimmery distorted background guitar effect and “The Lady of the Lake” for the plodding slightly offtime loop of neo-tribal drums over a simple bidirectional chord progression. As a work in progress, the new track is naturally sparser, but the chord progression seems very basic and song structure less integrated with its own purpose, which suggests this is a very early conceptualization of this track without the traditional Burzum “magic” being added. As musicians age, they often retreat into the realm of techniques and textures such as specific samples or types of melody, and this can adulterate the material that in their younger years they would have agonized over until all of it had an intensity of its own and none fit within a template, even if of their own making. With some luck and gumption Burzum will not avoid that fate.
As part of the video, Vikernes reveals pages of his Myfarog role-playing game (similar to Dungeons and Dragons, usually abbreviated “D&D”) and in the text on the background image of the video describes its appeal to those who, like Vikernes, have rejected modernity not just as an experience but as a concept entirely and seek alternatives outside of the realm of what modernity can describe. The game looks complex, and the song is promising for its initial stages although it looks like it will require some work, and so the audience looks on with interest at this evolving event and hopes for more.