Master to release The Witchhunt

master-the_witchhuntOn September 27, famous proto-death metal band Master unleash The Witchhunt, the band’s twelfth album since the early days when Paul Speckmann moved from heavy metal band War Cry to the more punk-influenced band Death Strike, who released their classic and only album Fuckin’ Death at about the same time Master released its first opus.

(If you ask us, the Master albums to get are Collection of Souls and the Master-related band Speckmann Project’s self-titled album, which contains many updated versions of classic Master works.)

Over the past two decades, Master has steadily been abandoning its heavy metal and bounding punk influenced style for a tighter, more complex, and more rigid attack that compares favorably to mid-1990s death metal.

The new Master album, featuring musicians Paul Speckmann recruited in his new home nation of Czech Republic, has an even tighter and more energetic sound. If the past is any guide, this will be an album to enjoy for all death metal, heavy metal, punk and blues fans.

  1. The Witchhunt
  2. Plans of Hate
  3. Another Suicide
  4. Waiting to Die
  5. The Parable
  6. God of Thunder
  7. Remove the Clowns
  8. Raise your Sword
  9. Wipe out the Aggressor
  10. Manipulated to Exterminate
  11. The American Dream

For updates and to see if Master is coming to your town, check out the band’s official homepage.

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Thinning the Herd release “Rabbits” from Freedom From the Known

rabbits-freedom_from_the_known-thinning_the_herdWhat’s an obviously hard-rock band doing on a deathmetal website? The answer is that it’s good to remember that there’s decent mainstream metal out there, but that all of it shares a singular trait: it stops trying to be cute and focuses on being heavy metal.

Rabbits sound like a three-way cross between MGMT, Crowbar and Motley Crue. The result is a somewhat violent psychedelic sound with a horde of riffs cut from familiar cloth that yet hold their own because they help this band deliver the experience it promises, which is chaotic and semi-antisocial modern (post-“alternative”) metal with deep roots in the world of gritty hard rock.

You’re not going to stagger back from this foaming at the mouth and proclaiming it genius, but you may enjoy it for its messy take on what metal would be if it weren’t focused on being so cute twee, deceptive, clever, etc. It’s just a rockin’-out experience, like Red Fang but without the smarm.

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Grave releases “Venial Sin” from new album Morbid Ascent

grave-morbid_ascentBack in the early 1990s, it was hard to be a death metal fan without encountering Grave’s Into the Grave. Primitive, music reduced to almost rhythm alone, it filled the niche between truly primitive grinding like early Napalm Death and the more musically intensive Swedish death metal like Seance.

Fast-forward twenty years. Everyone in death metal, recognizing that their society was going to collapse of its own inertia amidst the confusion and denial of their fellow citizens, have gone on to have families, careers and lives. But in them burns that desire to be known for their place in an important time and activity in their lives, which is the production of death metal.

Morbid Ascent is a new five-track EP with a cover of Satyricon’s “Possessed,” a remix of a past song “Epos,” and a re-recorded version of “Reality of Life,” a track from their 1989 Sexual Mutilation demo. The EP will be released both digitally and on vinyl and is available for pre-order at Century Media or on the band website.

Morbid Ascent track-listing
Side 1:

  1. Venial Sin
  2. Morbid Ascent

Side 2:

  1. Possessed (originally by SATYRICON)
  2. Epos (Risen From The Tomb – Remix)
  3. Reality Of Life
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Lalu – Atomic Ark

lalu-atomic_arkI read the news today. There was another miracle cure for cancer. In six moths, they’ll publish a retraction. What does this mean? Don’t take it at face value; ignore the hype.

In the same way, a lot of CDs come out that have interesting backstories. So-and-so is a progressive musician who turned to metal. Genius awaits. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. So unique they don’t even have a category for it, so we’ll put the genre names in scare quotes.

Then there’s Lalu. Promised as progressive rock/metal. Actuality: terrible hard rock with semi-difficult riffing and time changes, but no melodic development, unique song structure, or even musical complexity beyond technique.

I can’t blame the labels. It’s their job to hype stuff. I can’t blame the band; it must be like watching money walk by to see these other bands succeed. I blame the listeners, and some other reviewers, for not calling this what it is.

If you really liked Quiet Riot, and wished it had jazzier tempos and more intricate lead rhythm riffs with slightly dissonant melodies, then this is your lucky day. If not, you’ve already wasted too much time on it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdGYmcJR5DI

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The Ruins of Beverast – Blood Vaults

the_ruins_of_beverast-burial_vaultsThe worst reviews are the ones that say a band is right in the middle: “They do a few things well, but there’s not really some unifying theme, so this album is great if you’re a huge fan of those things they do well.”

A better review reflects conflict. This is one of those reviews. Dear Ruins of Beverast: you have potential, but you need to edit your material. In a huge way. In such a huge way that I don’t think most people will finish listening to this album. And change the name. What’s wrong with “Beverast” instead of a sentence-band name?

Many of the ideas on this are great. However, they’re spaced out with filler that amounts to repetition of some very tired ideas. Further, this allows this one-man band to gimmick its way through, so instead of carefully composed songs we get extended interludes that do nothing but dilute the mood. When The Ruins of Beverast decide to shred, the result is bare-bones riffs that build up to a climax.

After that, confusion reigns, so this composer avoids that point. That in itself is a mistake. Building to a peak requires a snowballing of intensity, and that produces the type of dynamic change that made black metal so much fun. But after that, what must be done — as in any Tolkienesque journey — is to Romanticize the quest and then contrast the end result to the inception.

If songs don’t lead to a path that shows a clear growth process, they become circular. With circularity, the conclusions resemble the precepts. That means that we’re hearing sheer atmosphere pieces with no actual development, since any “development” that is created doesn’t uncover a mystery or lead to new heights, but plunges back into itself.

This composer is afraid of his own work. When he writes a good riff, it takes him to some point where he must go somewhere with it, and that freaks him out. What’s there? It might just be darkness. But in the darkness he does not see romance, only permanence. So he goes back to gimmicks with chanting, distorted voices, interludes, etc. It strips him of his own strengths.

If someone took the twenty minutes of promising material from Blood Vaults and arranged it with some verve, the result would be three to four very powerful songs. Instead we have an extended detour into pointlessness that sacrifices the best abilities of this songwriter to his worst fears.

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Sammath debuts “Fear Upon Them” from Godless Arrogance

sammath-godless_arroganceDutch-German furious black/death metal band Sammath unveil their most promising material to date with a new song “Fear Upon Them” which reveals the many influences of this underground metal band. While some of its works sound like Morbid Angel or Perdition Temple with an underlying melody line, other songs are wholly melodic and go more into black metal ambiance.

“Fear Upon Them,” which is the latest single released from Godless Arrogance, shows Sammath going back to their roots. Specifically, the most furious melodic black metal bands to walk the earth, namely Immortal and Bathory. By slowing down the drum tempo but speeding up the strum tempo, Sammath create an unearthly sound like a dream in fog.

On top of this, the band add riff development and a sense of the unexpected yet not obviously quirky and contrarian, which means that songs slide into their own personalities and transcend their influences. In this case, “Fear Upon Them” wears its influences on its sleeve, more as a tribute than a blueprint for emulation.

The album Godless Arrogance will come out on Hammerheart Records later this year.

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Gyre – Second Circle EP

gyre-second_circleNew Jersey metalcore band Gyre has a surprise: not only are they not heavy metal, but they’re in fact alternative rock, and a very competent version of that hidden beneath the skin.

I guess sometimes it seems like it’s best to disguise what you’re doing as what everyone else is doing, but this seems puzzling to me, as if Gyre dropped the metalcore stylings and let loose their alternative band, I think they’d be in every record shop across the nation.

True, the surface is off-putting to a death metal fan. These are the emo-punk-style metalcore riffs, complete with fanning of power chords and a few odd voicings thrown in with the off-beat quicky rhythms that jump around like a protester having a tantrum. And the metalcore vocals, which wail-rant.

In fact, much of the surface metalcore could have come straight out of the 1990s and found commonality with bands like Pantera and Dillinger Escape Plan. It bounces, and then it creates a kind of plaintive lag, like someone getting arrested by the cops to make a point. Then it rebounds.

Underneath the surface, in a method reminiscent of Metallica’s …And Justice for All (subtitle: But We Get Paid Anyway), Gyre weaves melodies around the bittersweet narrowing of intervals that gave alternative rock its distinct whiny, resistant sound.

Second Circle will get dismissed by most because metalcore is already yesterday’s news. However, most metal fans haven’t found anything more compelling yet, so you speak to the audience you have, not the one you want, I guess. It’s a shame because these winding melodies, reminiscent of Nirvana or Stone Temple Pilots, grant to the music a depth and power it would not otherwise have had.

As a metal album, Second Circle wouldn’t really make sense. It barely fits as metalcore. But when you burrow under the skin, and stop worrying about whether it looks tough enough to your friends, there’s a lot to think about even in this short format.

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Why I listen to music on YouTube and left my MP3 player behind

death_metal_unlocks_divinityLike most of you, I experience a prevalence of dual-use time in my life. That is, I have to be here at the computer doing something, but like most things in “mature” “adult” “responsible” society it takes half a brain at best, so I put on some tunes and shift most of my brain and mind that way.

Originally, back in the dire proto-technological days of the 1980s, we had to manually throw on an LP, CD or cassette to hear music. Otherwise, there was the radio, but there wasn’t as much choice there. Radio was both the last resort, and a way to hear new music. It served a sacred role in the latter and could be an event in its role as the former.

If the rare metal show in your area showed up only one night a week, that became party night while you and your buddies checked in for the weekly connection to the world of metal. Sometimes, it was just for fun. It was easier to let someone else DJ and pick the tunes, and if the price you had to pay was every third tune being a stinker, no big deal.

Then in the late 1990s, people started getting crazy with the multi-disc changers. Now you could have five or six discs in rotation and just let them roll. Put in what you wanted, throw it on repeat, and listen for three hours or longer. I used to put my Harmon-Kardon on shuffle repeat and bathe people in music of disparate form but similar content, which created an immersive wave of exploration in that topic.

But it all changed with broadband and the evolution of the MP3 codec. When we launched our radio station back in 1997, the Frauhnofer MP3 codec we used was really excellent. But since that time, innovations have occurred in variable bit rate, compression and sound dynamics that add on to that strong basis. Now MP3s are a better delivery mechanism than tape and, given adjustments for physical electronics degrading sound, almost as good as CD.

Listening to music via MP3 was different however. Generally, you saved a ton of MP3 files to some directory on your Winchester disk. Then you pitched those into a playlist and started somewhere. The player would, like a merciless harvester of ears, keep going until you told it to stop. So it was more like tuning into a radio station whose playlist you chose, but one which favored sequential albums. You could also randomize.

The problem with this style of listening — as you’ve guessed, doubtless, being the intelligent reader — is that it’s autopilot. Want to listen to Slayer? With two clicks you’ve launched everything beginning with “S,” and then the playlist begins again when it runs out of those. You can conceivably keep your entire record collection streaming in the background.

However that loss of choice can be disturbing. You’re no longer choosing to listen to something past the first choice. You get caught up in the playlist. If you randomize, it’s only a little bit better. In the end, it’s like radio without the human intervention of the DJ, and takes power away from you.

This is why I’ve come to enjoy YouTube. It’s like putting an LP on the record player more than anything else. I think of an album; I type the name and “full album” (LOL search engines) into YouTube, and up pops a version of it. I hit play, and sit back and listen to it. But then comes the magic: when it’s done, it’s done. I have to manually, physically and deliberately choose another piece of music or sit in silence.

In this, I get the best of both worlds. The (nostalgia aside) beauty of choice, where you have to walk to the shelves, think of an album, find it according to your filing system, and then manually put it on the player. And yet, the promise of digital technology and convenience of MP3s: no record you can scratch, no CD you can fumble, no cassette to entangle. The two are united by typing that search into the YouTube site.

There’s some ethical issues of course. I’d be happier if all bands posted official full albums so I could kick them the $0.02 per play that YouTube pays. In the end, that might pay more than traditional record contracts; I don’t know. Most bands don’t seem to care, as many of us using YouTube are doing so in places where we can’t bring our record collections, like work, friends’ houses, church, missile silo, etc.

But at the end of the day, what really matters about music is preserving the magic. That sense that behind the next corner, something amazing lurks. A buried treasure; an undiscovered secret. An explosion of imagination, or emotion, or even pure logical calculation. That life is ongoing, and infinite, and we’ll always find something new to quest after.

Ultimately, this is what makes YouTube compelling. It requires a choice. There is no constant rolling playlist. I must go to the site, type in the band name and album name, and start the process. This makes me the person in charge who then rapidly loses control as the music sweeps over me. This is the experience of listening, and in this sense, YouTube brings back the beauty of the LP with the convenience of the iPod.

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Vikernes suing French government for false detention

varg_vikernes-burzum-band_photoAt least one metal musician has learned that if society attacks, you counter-attack. Varg Vikernes of Burzum, who was arrested several weeks ago and charged with inciting racial hatred, is attempting to sue the French government for an arrest that ultimately led to no new charges because of a lack of evidence.

“We want to sue the authorities for arresting us for no good reason whatsoever, doing so in the most brutal way possible and with children present,” Vikernes wrote on his blog.

During the early 1990s, Vikernes created a one-man band named Burzum which knocked out a series of innovative, multi-riff songs designed to blur the boundaries between metal and ambient, and “awaken the fantasy of mortals.” Some metal historians believe that Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss effectively ended black metal’s development by raising the bar above that which others could follow.

Since that time, Vikernes has spent sixteen years in Norwegian jails, written several books, and continues to both produce music and write political texts. His most recent work, Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, is an ambient work that recalls the power of earlier Burzum.

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Exhumed kick off North American tour with release of Necrocracy

exhumed-necrocracyExhumed, the band that combined up-beat Swedish death like later Fleshcrawl with the crepitant grind of Carcass but gave it the bounce of more punk-oriented grindcore bands, has returned from the dead and unleashed Necrocracy, an infectiously catchy but hard-hitting slab of recreational grind that should keep listeners in motion.

Following an early career of more grind-influenced music, the band began to see the possibilities in more energetic and listenable ventures, and so began to mix enthusiastic heavy metal into the grind and then blur the grindcore technique with a fair amount of death metal. Like many revival movements, this aims to put a modern superstructure into the aesthetics of the past.

Necrocracy represents the kind of thrill that came with later Ministry albums. Speed, excess and unflagging energy combined to make a record that could both motivate you to drive 120 mph down a lonely road, or socialize with friends while shouting lyrics about masticating corpses. The band kicks off a US tour this October.

EXHUMED w/ Dying Fetus

10/04/ Mojo 13 Wilmington, DE
10/05/ The Soapbox Wilmington, NC
10/06/ Back Booth Orlando, FL
10/07/ The Orpheum Tampa, FL
10/09/ Fitzgerald’s Houston, TX
10/10/ Red 7 Austin, TX
10/11/ Trees Dallas, TX
10/12/ Chameleon Room Oklahoma City, OK
10/13/ Warehouse 21 Santa Fe, NM
10/14/ Rocky Point Tempe, AZ
10/15/ Observatory Santa Ana, CA
10/16/ The Whisky W. Hollywood, CA
10/17/ DNA Lounge San Francisco, CA
10/18/ Branx Portland, OR
10/19/ Studio Seven Seattle, WA
10/20/ Rickshaw Theater Vancouver, BC
10/22/ Republik Calgary, AB
10/23/ Pawn Shop Edmonton, AB
10/24/ Riddell Centre Regina, SK
10/25/ Park Theater Winnipeg, MB
10/26/ Station-4 St Paul, MN
10/27/ Reggie’s Chicago, IL
10/29/ Peabodys Cleveland, OH
10/30/ Chance Theater Poughkeepsie, NY
10/31/ Palladium Worcester, MA
11/01/ Gramercy Theater New York, NY
11/02/ Empire Springfield, VA

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