Argus – Beyond the Martyrs

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Inhabiting the terrain that is now labeled power metal, Argus originate in what is perhaps the newest wave in metal: fan-produced bands of any of the numerous true metal varieties. These tend to avoid current trends and focus on idiosyncratic interpretations of the past.

On Beyond the Martyrs, Argus applies its own personality to its influences. These are: Iron Maiden, for fast melodic riffs; Candlemass, for sense of tempo and type of melody; Manowar, for influence on chordal riffs and atmosphere, and a smattering of other NWOBHM and related acts rolled into one. This is a NWBOHM band that composes melodies as if it were a doom metal band.

Vocals alternate between the higher Queensryche-styled ranges and a more masculine, slower and more pronounced voice that’s reminiscent of what speed metal bands did to give their vocals more aggression. Instrumental prowess is demonstrated but not flashily so, and although there’s tremendous similarity between the guitar solos, each manages to stand on its own.

Throughout Beyond the Martyrs, you will hear three- and four-note groups which are familiar from classic metal such as the abovementioned influences and other well-known acts like Judas Priest. This is one of the ways this band stays in tradition without simply aping the past, as each of these melodic fragments is re-contextualized in a new riff or melody.

While Argus may not be for those who wish a “contemporary” sound, they are deliberately carving out a space for people who like the sounds of true metal genres but don’t want clones. This band wear their influences on their sleeves, seem nerdy and unabashed in their pursuit of heavy metal glory, and are probably going to keep doing it for the joy and thrills even if you absolutely refuse to consider buying this album.

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Suuri Shamaani – Mysteerien Maailma

suuri_shamaani-mysterieen_maailmaThe esoteric ambient/organic noise project of Beherit‘s Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance, Suuri Shamaani, will see its Mysteerien Maailma re-released next week by KVLT in Finland (€ 11 pre-order).

Like Justin Broadrick project Final, or post-Napalm Death project Lull, Suuri Shamaani attempts to shape sound itself using overlapping drones and ambient noises to create internal harmonies. Mysteerien Maailma (commonly called the “mysterious mailman” album for its resemblance to that phrase in English) represents a more ritualistic and ordered vision of that approach.

Those who enjoy the later music of Beherit, especially Electric Doom Synthesis, may appreciate the extension of ideas here. Like other post-black metal ambient project Neptune Towers, Suuri Shamaani discards what we recognize as music to shape an adventure or topography out of sound.

It is more like poetry made with discovered noise organized into a music-like language than it is composed music as we know it. Because its sonic texture is lighter than that of booming guitars or bright keyboards, Mysteerien Maailma requires a quieter listening environment and more investment of attention from the listener.

Limited to 300 copies.

    Tracklist

  1. I (3:52)
  2. Valve (14:32)
  3. Tähdet Ja Avaruus (9:58)
  4. IV (4:24)
  5. A17 (4:39)
  6. Jännite (3:33)
  7. Säde1 (3:03)
  8. VIII (3:21)
  9. IX (7:39)
  10. Okkultismi (4:44)

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Metal and Marginalisation: Gender, Race, Class and Other Implications for Hard Rock and Metal symposium on April 11, 2014

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The University of York in the United Kingdom will be hosting the Metal and Marginalisation: Gender, Race, Class and Other Implications for Hard Rock and Metal symposium on April 11, 2014. The topic is marginalization as understood through the concept of Otherness and expressed through the categories in the title.

According to the organizers of this symposium, “metal frequently casts itself as a marginalised group in mainstream society, with fans and musicians often reveling in their outsider status which is reinforced by references to non-conforming traits (Satanism, for example).” The strong social traits that result and the rituals enforcing them create “a dominant framework of a classed/gendered/sexualised/racialised identity, marking belonging to the ‘imaginary community’ of metal.”

The symposium’s organizations have issued a Call For Papers requesting 300-word proposals by December 16. These are open to the metal community as well as academics, so if you want to speak/write on these topics, or even better channel them from relatively standard academic fare to something more “metal,” get writing.

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Heavy metal shows piracy is not killing music, offers new business model

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The music industry — and the television and movie industries — appears to be in free-fall. After years of having an exclusive means of delivery, its market hold has been fragmented by the internet and increasing distrust of big media. Looking over the past decade, the picture adds up to a slow and steady decline with downloaded forms of media failing to replace the profits of their physical counterparts.

Although the industries responded with initiatives to stop piracy, many observers disagree that piracy is the root of industry’s woes and think instead that there is a need for a new business plan in the media industries because the old profit model has failed. However, no one is sure what that plan will be, since media is no longer a high margin industry with tons of excess profit between cost and sales price, but a low margin industry where people aren’t willing to pay much for media. Think of the difference between a 1990s-era $150/month cable bill and today’s $15/month Netflix bill.

The new holy grail is to find a business model that allows bands to have more promotion than being independent can provide, but does not lead to the excess and inefficiency of the big record labels of the past. Right now, the industry is all ears to anyone who can demonstrate a working business model that shows a profit. As of recently, one of the possibilities is offered by a heavy metal band you’ll all recognize: Iron Maiden.

“Iron Maiden’s BitTorrent data suggests Brazil is a huge driver of fans – and given Brazil is one of the biggest file sharing nations on the planet, this is a strong indicator of popularity,” said Greg Mead, CEO and co-founder of Musicmetric.

“With their constant touring, [the] report suggests Maiden have been rather successful in turning free file-sharing into fee-paying fans. This is clear proof that taking a global approach to live touring can pay off, and that having the data to track where your fan bases lie will become ever more vital.”

Despite being extensively pirated worldwide, Iron Maiden have managed to put themselves in the £10-20m for 2012. This means that despite the growing popularity of the band on social media, and the extensive and pervasive torrent downloading of the band’s music, books and movies, the band is turning a profit. This is in defiance of the past business model, and the idea that piracy is killing music. In fact, piracy seems to be saving music in Iron Maiden’s case.

One reason for this may be metal itself. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase and a clear brand and identity, even down to the uniform-style black tshirts that fans wear that differ only in band logo and art. The audience identifies with the genre, which stands in contrast to genericized genres like pop, rock and rap. It doggedly maintains its own identity and shuns outsiders. As a result, fans tend to identify more with their music, and place a higher value on purchasing it.

The music industry should listen up. Piracy may or may not be evil, but it’s a way of life for many people. High margins, such as found by selling a $0.25 CD for $18, are now gone. But heavy metal shows us a different business model in which although much of the product is pirated or given away, bands are still able to thrive and in fact do better than they did under the old model. Perhaps the future isn’t so dark after all for the music industry, at least in heavy metal.

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Does metal have a finite lifespan?

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Keith Kahn-Harris, a metal academic whose work in metal academia has been covered here and elsewhere, writes that metal may be suffocating under the weight of its own success:

Metal today is in crisis. Metal’s crisis doesn’t feel like a crisis. In fact it sometimes feels like quite the reverse. This is a crisis in which most are unaware that there is a crisis – and that is the crisis. The crisis is one of abundance.

He goes own to elaborate on how this is a sort of entropy where the proliferation of options has created a form of paralysis. “Almost everything that I ever wanted in metal now exists,” he writes, showing us that perhaps the glory years of a genre are during its time of struggling for recognition. What happens when it becomes fully recognized?

For Kahn-Harris, much of the glow is gone. He ties it to the ease of availability of music and information through the internet, but in my experience, it’s more likely tied to the expansion of metal as a market. When it’s new and fringe, metal is outside of the world of social oversight, including socialization and markets, public morals and most laws.

But as metal succeeds, it becomes a commodity and thus, information about it will proliferate. Today it’s the internet, but in yesteryears it was radio, magazines, and label propaganda in your local record store. To my mind, the internet isn’t anything new, even if it’s slightly more efficient (although with the surfeit of information, this advantage diminishes).

While this abundance has fulfilled my metal dreams, it has been accompanied by a strange sense of deflation. To some extent this is because dreams fulfilled are almost always disappointing. There are also good reasons why abundance does not necessarily satisfy. The ease of finding what was once obscure takes away the pleasures of anticipation, of discovery, of searching things out. The fact that metal music is no longer found exclusively in physical media removes much of that precious ‘aura’ that can accompany physical art objects. Demo tapes were exciting and mysterious objects because one had to ‘work’ to track them down…Today, there isn’t much frisson to googling something and finding it. Stripped of the aura, rare and obscure metal recordings become much more mundane.

Kahn-Harris’ article is engaging and thoughtful and worth reading for any who have wondered why metal seems so stagnant of late. Sure, there’s more bands than ever before, and they’re all technically competent (this is new, quite frankly) but so few of them have anything interesting to convey. All their work is in the packaging, at the surface, in style and not substance. Artistically, metal is dead. What’s the usual culprit?

An unusual source offers a parallel critique of a similar situation in software companies:

Here’s the problem that ends up killing company after company. All successful software companies had, as their dominant personality, a leader who nurtured programmers. But no company can keep such a leader forever. Either he cashes out, or he brings in management types who end up driving him out, or he changes and becomes a management type himself. One way or another, marketers get control.

Did metal run out of leaders, and get taken over by marketers? Or is this natural entropy, where there are so many options that none can compete on substance? Or is it, as is the way of things, that once something gets popular it gets dumbed down for the crowd? Commendations to Kahn-Harris for introducing this germaine and insightful topic.

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Demilich box set and compilation available for pre-order

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As previously reported, Demilich is releasing a career retrospective of its groundbreaking 1993 album Nespithe, its demos and post-album work as a 3LP box set or a 2CD digipak release.

With Nespithe turning 20 this year, it’s a good time for two decades of career to be compiled in a form that most people can purchase. Nespithe was a controversial album in 1993 and spent most of the next decade in sale bins, until mysterious forces caused its resurrection in the early 2000s and restoration to its rightful place in the death metal hierarchy.

The LPs in the box set come in three colors: transparent blood red (150 copies), slimy green (350 copies) and black (500 copies). The double CD comes with a 40-page booklet, and the LP with a 44-page booklet, including Demilich reviews, interviews, commentary and history.

For those of us who remember throwing this album on the CD player and broadcasting it out to a radio population that eventually came to accept and enjoy it, the transformation is gratifying to see. This box set also looks legendary, and sounds legendary as well. Below find a video showcasing the remixed sound of Nespithe, which according to the label is entirely remastered from the source tapes.

Here’s the description from Svart Records, who are putting out both the 3LP box set and the 2CD digipak compilation:


All boxes feature three LPs, the 1st of which is Nespithe in a separate jacket. Platters 2 and 3 have both the 2006 recordings and all of the group’s demos, wrapped in a gatefold jacket. There’s also a sticker, poster and a 44 page Demilich ‘zine, all housed in a sturdy box set.

20th Adversary of Emptiness contains everything Demilich have ever recorded, starting from Regurgitation of Blood demo (1991) and rounding things off with three songs the band recorded during their brief comeback in 2006. The only Demilich full length album Nespithe has been reissued several times over the years in various guises, but always using the inferior 16-bit CD masters and sometimes brickwalled beyond recognition. For this release we dug up the original unmastered 24 bit studio tapes for Nespithe and best possible sources for the demo material, and then had Sami Jämsén of Studio Perkele thoroughly clean everything up and create new masters. This is Demilich as you’ve never heard it before.

Nespithe LP is wrapped in the original Turkka Rantanen cover art, lovingly restored, and a new artwork by Mr Rantanen adorns the box itself. For the demo compilation cover the band commissioned new art from renowned underground artists David Mikkelsen and Johnny Maddox, inspired by Demilich lyricals. Mikkelsen’s art also comes as a poster in the package.

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Academic library stockpiles metal for future study

historical_music_collection_at_university_of_texas-smallDr. David Hunter is a music librarian at the University of Texas in Austin. As part of his work curating the Historical Music Recordings collection, Dr. Hunter stockpiles heavy metal for future academics to study.

Since 2007, metalheads have been sending metal albums and zines to the library as part of an attempt to inform academia further about heavy metal and the associated genres of death metal, black metal, speed metal, grindcore, doom metal and thrash.

Dr. Hunter writes on musicology and historical topics in music and has published articles in academic journals since 1985. His book, Opera and song books published in England, 1703-1726: a descriptive bibliography (1997) and articles in the Grove Music Online musical dictionary and Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart attest to his credentials as a writer.

If you want to help Dr. Hunter and the Historical Music Recordings collection at the University of Texas, send him some metal:


Dr. David Hunter
Fine Arts Library (DFA 3.200)
University of Texas Libraries (S5437)
2306 Trinity Street
Austin, TX 78712
USA

Office: (512) 495-4475
Fax: (512) 495-4490
Library: (512) 495-4481
david.hunter@mail.utexas.edu

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The “women in metal” debate is resolved

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It’s a perpetual favorite of late-night bull sessions and internet forums alike: what do we think of women in metal? Growing up with Jo Bench blasting out basslines in Bolt Thrower, the ladies in Derketa/Mythic making grinding doom, and knowing dozens of women heading zines, labels, and so on, it never occurred to us old schoolers.

But now it’s caught between two extremes. On one side, there’s great pressure to conform to the herd vision of us all being the same and doing the same thing. On the other side, there’s great commercial pressure to make women sex objects in metal, which makes everyone a bit uneasy.

Luckily, Rachel Aspe has cleared the issue up for us by demonstrating — alas, with mainstream nu-metal — the power of simply being able to pull your own weight. This was on a show called “France Has Talent,” and the reaction is priceless.

H/t Noisecreep.

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Death Metal Underground Weekly Newsletter 11/18-11/24

Death Metal Underground
Weekly Newsletter 11/18-11/24
Because Metal Is Art

Five things every musician needs

Those of us who have had the fortune to hang around the music industry for a few decades tend to pick up a few ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

If you are trying to get your music out there, you’ll get a lot of advice from people with agendas. They want you to do x so that they get y. What follows is generic advice for putting your best foot forward.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/five-things-every-aspiring-musician-needs/

Demilich box details revealed

Back in 1993, Demilich released a killer album entitled Nespithe. The album innovated consciously in every way possible. It took the audience a decade to warm up to it, but by the time Demilich re-united in 2006 for a reunion tour, death metal had fully bonded with this inventive act.

Fast forward a few more years and Demilich is finally getting the recognition it deserves through re-releases of its classic material. These were originally planned in 2006, but got delayed a bit as the wheels of music justice ground. Demilich has just announced the release of a limited edition box set with a 44-page booklet, sticker and new cover art.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/demilich-box-set-details-released/

Black metal album titles illustrated like children’s books

These pictures were originally innocent illustrations for children’s books. They were drawn by well-known but now deceased Czech artist Helena Zmatlíková who illustrated numerous books for children.

At some time after that, they were creatively edited by a member of Umbrtka who also writes for Czech Maxim. The innocence drained away, replaced by the eternal darkness of the blackest of souls.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/black-metal-album-titles-illustrated-like-childrens-books/

Deicide – In the Minds of Evil

If you break any ground as a band, you will suffer from momentum inertia. Your initial direction will carry you quickly to its end, and after three albums, you will find yourself with a loss of direction.

This occurs because in your vision, substance and form were joined, and you made a language out of what you wished to express. For some visions, a lifetime of specifics can be created; for most, there are big picture things to do, and then emptiness.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/deicide-in-the-minds-of-evil/

Cryogen – Continuum

Two revelations before listening to this: first, when I first got into music I thought talent and ability were rare; now I realize they’re commonplace, but the ability to apply them in some non-inert interesting way is rare. Second, that metalcore — the mix of metal genres in the post-hardcore style of “contrast without continuity” riffing — borrows almost everything it has from 1980s speed metal.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/cryogen-continuum/

Micro-songs: the shortest songs in heavy metal

About a decade ago, the trend of flash fiction or micro-stories seized the literary world by storm. The reasoning was that as people did more of their reading via phones and portable computers, they would want shorter, harder-hitting fiction.

Of course, metal was there first.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/microsongs/

Pink Frothy AIDS frontman says metal fans are “close-minded”

Heavy metal music gets a bad rap, not just from people who dislike it, but from people who claim to like it. The problem is that criticism draws attention to the speaker, so there’s no better way to stand out than to stand up and say, “All of this is wrong!”

While some critics of the current way are motivated by a desire to create useful change, most people are motivated by self-interest and change for change’s sake, which lets them seize attention and/or power. Pink Frothy AIDS’s frontman Mikael “Mick” Åkerfeldt recently attempted such a power grab.

His statements, recorded in a Metal Hammer interview via Metal Injection, are harshly critical of metal but suffer a gigantic logical “plot hole” that makes them totally nonsense.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/Pink Frothy AIDS-frontman-says-metal-fans-are-closed-minded/

Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-24-13

What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? These reviews address the music itself, instead of the social impact of assembling a public persona out of bands you claim to like. Since almost all human endeavors are mostly mediocrity, there will be tender self-pity follow by rage. Come for the laughs, stay for the schadenfreude… and occasional quality metal.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/sadistic-metal-reviews-11-24-13/

DeathMetal.org is the net’s oldest and longest-running heavy metal resource center and home of The Heavy Metal FAQ. We treat heavy metal music as a form of art and culture, and we believe we should bring out the best in it. Our primary focus is death metal; but we remain open to new musical experiences, both within metal and without. To learn more, visit our information center at:
http://www.deathmetal.org/about

To join our weekly mailing list, visit:
http://www.deathmetal.org/mail/

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Profile: Robert Plante, author of Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos

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Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos will present an encyclopedic listing of the metal demos of the 1980s in handy book form as written by author Robert Plante. It will also review them. Most importantly, however, this is the first attempt to systematically chronicle the birth of not just a genre, but the underground itself through demos.

This is part of of a literary explosion on heavy metal topics and specifically, underground metal. Glorious Times explained the underground as a community and culture, and renewed interest in the opening frontier and cold northern breeze of discovery that this time period provided. Underground Never Dies! looks at the underground through zines and how they fostered the community, while Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011) presents a narrative of the time through analysis. Then of course there’s the 1996-era The Heavy Metal FAQ, which explains the birth of the various genres of metal much as Ian Christe’s Sounds of the Beast did later in print.

Where other books tend to either stitch together a story of the past, or let one emerge from the words of the participants, Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos aims to list the demos of the time and show through each one how the scene as a whole functioned. Through partnership and friendship between Plante and Bazillion Points label head Ian Christe, it is likely that Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos will be on that publishing label.

We were fortunate to grab a few words with author Robert Plante.

What made you decide to write a book, and then a book about metal, and finally a metal book about 1980s metal demos?

The flash of inspiration came from the back pages of the Swedish Death Metal book, where all the bands and zines are listed. The idea of a huge book documenting every known 1980s metal demo suddenly rushed into my head. I know I’d buy that book in a second, but who would write it? I was there in the 1980s underground metal community, and I felt it was important that someone who could provide the context of a direct participant write this book. There are websites that document the ’80s tape trading scene, but they’re either small in scope or sparse of information. I’m aiming for DemoLition to be exhaustive in the amount of bands covered and the depth and quality of that coverage.

How did you compile an exhaustive and complete list of all the 1980s demos? How huge of a task was this?

It’s a combination of internet sources and my huge archive of metal zines. I was a fiendish collector of fanzines of all types for years, but purged most of them by the 2000s. Luckily I kept all my metal zines, and I’m always finding more to fill in holes in the collection. They’re my primary source, along the band members themselves. It took me about two years of daily work just to finish the outline (the listing of bands to cover), and really that will never be finished, as I’m finding out about new bands all the time. At some point we’ll just have to set a deadline where we stop adding them, likely around the layout phase.

Were you a participant in the metal scene back then? What got you into metal?

I followed the typical progression of classic rock, then heavy metal like Maiden and Priest, then underground/thrash metal, then the earliest extreme metal bands. I was an artistic kid, and like many metalheads was an outsider in a lot of ways, and metal is the music of the outsider (or one of them, at least). It’s one of the reasons I love black metal so much, is that it keeps the flame of the outsider spirit burning, it’s averse to the “group think” sociology that even metal can fall victim to. But yeah, I was a big tape trader, and contributed logos and illustrations to many zines back then.

What was the role of a demo for a 1980s band? Was there any analogue in mainstream music?

Well, in the mainstream music business a demo (short for demonstration tape) was used by up and coming bands to try and land record contracts, or given to club bookers to get gigs, or shopped around by individual musicians to audition for bands. The underground metal scene developed in the late 1970s and early ’80s, inspired by classic demos like Iron Maiden’s “The Soundhouse Tapes” or Metallica’s “No Life Til Leather,” and taking a cue from the DIY ethos of the punk scene, and bands began using demos sent to zines and traded around the world as a way to get their names around. You could be a trio of poor schmucks from the middle of Forkdick, North Dakota with no metal club within 200 miles, but if you made a good tape word would get around and you could actually have a chance at a record deal. Never mind knowing in hindsight that only a tiny fraction of bands ever made enough to make a living at it, but the possibility and the dream were there.

What’s the book like? Is it a huge index, or do you write some history or narrative as well?

I look at it as an encyclopedia. Each band will have their own entry, with all 1980s tapes listed (and reviewed where possible), along with historical information and critical biographies. The entries will range from bare-bones for the most obscure bands to longer pieces for the important ones. Depending on how much room we have, there are some cool ideas for appendices and sidebars also. It will be nicely designed and heavily illustrated.

When does Demolition – The Encyclopedia of 1980s Metal Demos come out, and when/where will we the fans be able to get it?

I’m still deep into writing and researching it, so it’s going to be at least a couple more years; we have no publication date yet. You’ll be able to grab it wherever finer publishers like Bazillion Points are sold. The best way to get news of the book is to watch the Facebook page, which is updated daily.

If relevant, can you tell us your background as a writer, and what you’ve done outside of the underground that helped you write this book?

I’ve written a little bit of music and film criticism here and there, but nothing out of the underground scene (I’m a graphic designer by trade). This is by far the largest writing project I’ve ever taken on. I did want to bring a more sophisticated and adult quality of writing to the project, while still maintaining the enthusiasm of a fan (we’ll see if I succeed). I think the music merits it, it was (and is) an amazing subculture that deserves a serious attempt at documentation.

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