Abscession – Death Incarnate

abscession-death_incarnate-full-sizeIf you approached Slaughter of the Soul with the stylistic outlook of Left Hand Path, you would follow the path that Abscession travel on Death Incarnate. These are short, melodic songs that understand the dramatic nature of successful Swedish death metal.

Easily imitated, Swedish death metal is hard to master. The basics are simple: play d-beat drums under riffs adapted from the vocal melodies of 1970s horror film music and American guitar rock bands, then stack those against faster Black Sabbath-styled chromatic rhythm riffs. Is there really such a void between “Symptom of the Universe” and “Crawl,” or the soundtrack to Carnival of Souls and Clandestine? Not if you listen to them side-by-side.

Thus, by combining Discharge and heavy metal with horror soundtracks, the Swedes invented a new style and kicked it into high-gear with that buzzsaw dimed-Boss distortion. But while qualification in this style is easy, it quickly becomes generic. That is because to take riffs out of context, one must build up a next dramatic context to give them framing, such that the change in riff (and tempo) is symbolically and aesthetically significant to the listener.

Abscession kick off this mini-album (EP) with a lengthy intro that, while funny at a first listen as it reveals death metal obliterating the music of normals, probably isn’t going to be fun past the first couple of listens. After that, it’s into what they do best: buzz-saw rhythm riffs which give way to lengthier melodic riffs which are played in power chords instead of single-string-picked like the first At the Gates.

The result captures much of the mood from Clandestine with big bristly clouds of buzzing distortion cushioning us as a melody emerges from within, like flying through clouds and seeing the moon emerge above. Once we’ve settled into the feel of the fully mature song, Abscession give it a kick or otherwise challenge it with a dramatic transition, which requires guitarwork to wrangle the song back toward its final state of affirming order.

What makes this release stand out is how well-composed the melodies are and how the band is able to arrange riffs in a meaningful manner, even if a simple “meaning” like the sensation of a walk through a dangerous forest at night and a confrontation with mortality as the blade of a foe emerges. Riffcraft is good and focuses on the longer melodies that distinguish the professionals from the “Garage Band” weekend activists in metal at this point, and all musicianship is good, but it is the content and composition of these songs that sets Abscession ahead of the Swe-death pack.

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Absu embarks on North American Connexus Continuation Tour 2013

absu-celtic_occult_heavy_metalTexan mythological occult heavy metal band Absu, who began life as a death metal band and ventured into NWOBHM-tinged black metal before arriving at their current hybrid of Mercyful Fate and modern progressive metal, have extended their North American tour dates through the end of the year.

If you have been aching to see these highly technically skilled musicians live and live in the eastern half of the United States, look toward these dates to tell you when to cancel all prior engagements and head to the club.

     
11/08/2013 The Shop Pittsburgh, PA
11/09/2013 Down And Over Pub Milwaukee, WI @ (November Coming Fire Festival)
11/10/2013 Cobra Lounge Chicago, IL
11/11/2013 Fubar St. Louis, MO
11/12/2013 Beale Street Live Indianapolis, IN
11/13/2013 The Maywood Raleigh, NC
11/14/2013 The Pinch Washington, DC
11/15/2013 Firehouse Saloon Rochester, NY
11/16/2013 Mavericks Ottawa, ON
11/17/2013 Boot & Saddle Philadelphia, PA
11/18/2013 St. Vitus Bar Brooklyn, NY
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“Heavy Metal and the Communal Experience” announces speakers

heavy_metal_and_the_communal_experienceWe mentioned the “Heavy Metal and the Communal Experience” conference which will take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 5, 2014. This conference aims to define community in metal and explore its boundaries.

As part of our ongoing exploration of academia in metal, this conference offers a topic that many of us have wondered about in the past. How does metal balance its radical individualism with its radical sense of community, and of a post-individual humanity, which sets it apart from all other genres philosophically?

Some years ago a friend mentioned how death metal unnerved her because the bands attempted to play in unison with each other or at least in complement with each other instead of trying to push the boundaries of how chaotic they could get. Like church music or higher math, metal is about order, and it imposes this through forcing twisted fragments of power chords into phrases that address each other like a dialogue in the music. This outlook could explain how metal views community.

The conference will attract a number of luminaries from the metal academic circuit, including:

  • Keith Kahn-Harris
    University of London, UK
  • Niall William Richard Scott
    University of Central Lancashire, UK
  • Deena Weinstein
    DePaul University, USA
  • Karl Spracklen
    Leeds Metropolitan University, UK
  • Jeremy Wayne Wallach
    Bowling Green State University, USA
  • Amber Clifford
    University of Central Missouri, USA
  • Brian A. Hickam
    Benedictine University, USA
  • Cláudia Souza Nunes de Azevedo
    Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, BR
  • Nelson Varas Díaz
    Universidad de Puerto Rico, PR
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Underground Never Dies! LP details released

andres_padilla-underground_never_dies-boxsetThe forthcoming release of Underground Never Dies! on Doomentia Records will be accompanied in its first pressing by a unique LP which features classic tracks from back in the early days of the death metal underground.

Thanks to author Andrés Padilla, editor of Grinder Magazine (CL), the world can now see what’s on the LP. But first, information about the LP itself. There will be several batches, as follows:

  • Box set
    • Limited to 150 copies
    • Massive box with custom padding for:
    • Underground Never Dies! book
    • LP on colored vinyl
    • MC
    • CD
    • A1 poster
  • 500 x vinyl
    • 150 on black/white HALF/HALF effect
    • 350 on black
  • 500 x CD
  • 200 x MC
  • 500 x Underground Never Dies! book

This means that 500 LPs will go out with the book, and another 500 LPs, 500 CDs and 200 MCs will be available for underground maniacs. There’s going to be a run on these at your local distros, especially the padded box set which is “massive” in form and content if early reports are right.

Next, what’s on it? Here’s a complete tracklist:

     
SIDE A
INCUBUS Engulfed in Unspeakable Horrors 5:19
SLAUGHTER LORD Taste Of Blood 3:13
MUTILATED Hysterical Corpse Dislocation 3:05
DR. SHRINKER Cerebral Seizure 3:06
AFTERMATH When You Will Die 3:52
EXMORTIS Beyond The Realm Of Madness 3:24
Total Running Time Aprox. 21:30
 
SIDE B
NECROVORE Mutilated Death 4:25
INVOCATOR The Persistence from Memorial Chasm 4:14
SADISM Psychomental Storm 2:57
ARMOROS Euphoria 3:23
POISON Black Death 3:14
MENTAL DECAY The Final Scar 3:27
Total Running Time Aprox. 21:98
 
Bonus Tracks for CD/MC:
PHANTASM (US) A Souls Nightmare 8:12
FATAL (US) Malevolence 2:44
FUNERAL NATION (US) Sign Of Baphomet 4:03
VIBRION (ARG) Massive Frustration 2:56
INSANITY (US) Fire Death Fate 2:51
DEATH YELL (CHI) Untited Track – Unreleased 3:17
CORPSE GRINDER (CHI) Concentrator Camps 3:53
NECRO BUTCHER (BRA) Christ Psychic Butchery 1:53
INNER SANCTUM (URG) Deathless Prophet 3:37
MACERATION (DK) The Forgotten 2:40
BLOODSOAKED (MX) Emptiness 3:01
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Ildjarn – Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths re-issue

ildjarn-seven_harmonies_of_unknown_truthsLike thrash bands of the 1980s or the first two Napalm Death EPs, Ildjarn is often first mistaken for a novelty for its short and seemingly irrational songs. What exists under the skin is a complex outlook toward the world distilled into a simple naturalism.

Much like the techno, oi and black metal that these songs derive inspiration from, Ildjarn is a visceral emotion: its songs are not so much concepts, as emotional concepts created from the application of intellect to real-world problems. This is not theory; it’s application. However, it exists in small fragments that appear irrational to us because they are beyond the human perspective, as if spoken by the voices of nature themselves.

Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths is an early Ildjarn demo that has appeared in fragmentary form on several other recordings, but never in full. Eisenwald Records has re-released the demo on CD and LP with new artwork.

Released on September 23, 2013, the new edition is properly balanced but not remastered or cleaned up for the authentic “period” sound. Pre-orders come with a free poster of the cover art and an ILDJARN sticker. It is gratifying to see interest in this band resuming again after a short periodic absence, as has occurred wavelike since the founding of the band.

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Oblivion – Called to Rise

oblivion-called_to_riseTechnical metalcore band Oblivion unleash Called to Rise which offers technicality with more mood among all of the speed thrills that experienced musicians playing at top speed in a wide range of colors, textures and tempi can express.

Following in the steps of high-intensity blasters like Kataklysm and Cryptopsy, Called to Rise uses fast tempi with rapid-fingered riffs which either bat out a complex rhythmic texture of power chords or rip through a scale in a certain order, often alternating between hitting the beat on the nose and being encapsulated by it. The result is like a shifting plateau of sands and waters through which melody flickers like lightning.

In the modern technical metalcore method, Oblivion focus on great variety between riffs. A simple chug follows a silvery sweep like the dance of glare on the tips of small waves, then a bluesy lead dances over a trudging sludge progression; then, an augmented chord riff straight out of jazz-influenced AOR or funk graces a transition to fast picked single-string melodies. The result is like being driven through a museum of rock on a bumper boat, watching the sights and sounds change as you howl through different rooms.

While the essential composition is of this modern style, Oblivion includes several generations of metal. Heavy metal, speed metal, hard rock, and progressive metal feature prominently, as does classical music. First in the cover of Rachmaninoff’s “Canon in E Minor,” which is sensibly executed with strumming at top speed while note change sticks closer to the proportions of the original. Next, in a series of ambitious compositions including three pieces with string orchestra, some featuring musically unquantifiable sounds.

Where Called to Rise stays within the metal world, Oblivion is of the newer range of technical death metal which, in contrast to death metal, is composed in the late hardcore style that emphasizes contrast and exceptionalism, where death metal emphasizes contrast being part of a larger pattern in which logical parity is achieved leading to a larger context. That means the goal is for these riffs to clash, and then for another riff to take over, so that a cycling between different things is preserved.

Oblivion make this album interesting through its vast variety, and once it becomes clear to the audience that the point is a variety show instead of a penetrating observation of a limited set of musical tropes, Called to Rise can be enjoyed for the fusion of genres that it is. Its musicality and textural diversity should appeal to shredders and fans of modern technical and progressive metal alike, while its adrenaline pace of changing images carve out a place in contemporary music for a new extreme.

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World metal maps reflect density of metalheads

Metal_bands_per_country

Above you can see a world metal map that shows number of metal heads per capita in the nation-states of the world, originally found on public whiteboard space here. However, one researcher noticed a fatal flaw to this map.

That is, the original map measures by nation-state, but not by populations within those states, such as the independent Quebecers who brought us Voivod, Gorguts, Obliveon and other “Canadian” bands that don’t have much in common with the English-speaking parts of the country. Thus, Dominic Arsenault made his own map, which you can see below, or see on his own his web site.

metal-bands-per-country-quebec-canada-addition

This brings to mind a fascinating question: does metal reflect national culture, national circumstance, or is it a “nation-state” issue like political system (for example, rebellion in the Reagan 1980s) or political instability? Our own international metal map shows metal bands by nation-state and reveals that some small countries definitely outperform larger ones on the metal scale.

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Organic (formerly Organic Infest) releases catalog on internet

organic_infest-penitenceOn the anniversary of the release of its first recording, Puerto Rican death metal band Organic (formerly Organic Infest) is releasing its four recordings — two albums, an EP and a single — for free download on its ReverbNation page.

These songs are available for free listening. If you like them, you can purchase them in digital form, with 50% of the proceeds going to Fender Music Foundation, which provides musical instruments to students who cannot otherwise afford them.

Organic got its start with 1993’s Penitence which despite abysmal production showcased a new take on the guttural blasting style of percussive death metal favored by bands like Malevolent Creation and Cannibal Corpse. From there, the band explored a melodic avenue with its more recent works.

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“Heavy Metal Music and the Communal Experience” academic conference launches in Puerto Rico

heavy_metal_and_the_communal_experienceWe use the term “metal community” on a regular basis, but it’s unclear to many what this includes. What is the metal community? Is it defined by boundaries, or a shared ideal?

A conference of academics is meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 5, 2014 to analyze this issue by presenting papers and having open discussions on the topic. Hosted by UPR professor and metalhead Nelson Varas Díaz, the conference aims to attract scholars from the Latin America, Europe and the United States.

One of the major themes is one that metalheads have brushed over for years, namely the conflict between individualism and group identity in metal. Both are strong, but individuals finds expression through group identity in metal, seemingly a paradox. In addition, the conference will explore the communal experience in metal and how it can be analyzed.

For more information, haunt the “Heavy Metal Music and the Communal Experience – Academic Conference” page on Facebook or contact Professor Díaz at nvaras@mac.com

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Empyrium – Into the Pantheon

empyrium-into_the_pantheon-coverEmpyrium have cross-bred funeral doom, folk/power metal and 1980s Gothic synthpop but have removed the electronic sounds, producing an organic take on the nascent Romanticism in the modern spirit. This is music for return to the forest, but in a less aggressive form than Ildjarn or Burzum; it’s on the level that power metal fans and even Nine Inch Nails listeners can appreciate.

Into the Pantheon is a live concert in which this reclusive and only sporadically active band picks its most forest-friendly tracks and plays them in a single unified format. With production thus level between them, Into the Pantheon serves as both greatest hits and a modernization of their classic sound.

What is great about Empyrium is how well it meshes. Vocals are dramatic and funereal in the way that Sisters of Mercy and Fad Gadget made famous, but are accompanied by light orchestration and minimal percussion, with acoustic guitars taking the lead. At crucial points however, the full power of the fulminant distorted guitars take over and create a surge of energy but unlike rage, this is directed at a dark and melancholy place like a contemplative forest walk in twilight.

Empyrium win fans over through their musicality and a vision of doom metal that is tasteful and elegant. Unlike Candlemass, vocals do not dominate the music but appear as a complementary effect; unlike more modern doom bands, guitars are not over-active or musically flashy. Instead, here there is the art of classic songwriting, on a subdued pace that emphasizes beauty emerging from within in the clash of darkness and light.

Where a funeral doom band like Skepticism overwhelms with a poignant morbidity, Empyrium is more like the music which has traditionally emerged from popular off-mainstream European artists. It’s heartily personal and heavily emotional, but could easily transition from this genre to an acoustic performance in a pub near a lost mountain path, or in the court of a king. It has an eternal character to it underneath the modern genrification.

Empyrium has not given many public concerts, and we are told that this 2011 recording represents the return of the band to active life. Hearing how emotional and yet violently lusting for life these anthems are, it makes sense to want this band to continue with its renovation of metal. Not all will take this path, but its outlook can be infectious, and improves on the three-notes-to-rage formula that mainstream forces wish it would take.

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