Metal has nothing to fear from Tiny Doo arrest

November 22, 2014 –

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A rapper in LA gets indicted on murder charges just for the cover of his rap album. That is what the headlines scream, and among the metal community and its media some are comparing this even to previous onslaughts of music-related censorship like the PMRC days.

That is not the case. The metal media likes to think it is, because it gives them something to write about in the midst of a dearth of events of actual import (versus paid promotions disguised as reporting) and it lets all metalheads feel self-righteous about being warriors for the truth and martyrs for free speech, or something like that.

Even more, the case of Tiny Doo and his album is more complex than a first glance reveals. The album cover was one piece of evidence but the bigger and more important piece was that he was in the gang that did the shooting.

[Tiny Doo] is a documented gang member with a “gang moniker” of TD, according to the San Diego police.

…The evidence against Duncan, Watkins said, consists of his rap album and pictures on a social media page of him and several other defendants.

So now we’ve got three data points: (1) known gang membership, (2) photos of himself with the killers, and (3) an album which promises “no safety” for snitches.

Is there an analogy to this in metal? Certainly: when Burzum named his first EP Aske, put a burned church on the cover, and sold it with a lighter with a burnt church on it, that too could have been considered evidence against him. If he had been in the Crips and had Facebook postings of himself standing among them throwing gang signs, his conviction might have been easier as well.

The point is that the prosecutor is using this album to tie it all together. And really, it fits in well: known gang member hangs out with killers and then puts out an album suggesting that he would hunt down his enemies and shoot them, at least from the cover. (We can hope that he has in fact pulled the ol switcheroo and instead released an album of ambient black metal about the Viking war against Christianity but this is unlikely to be the case).

For these reason, cool your jets about censorship. The case is more complex than the headlines allow, as usual. As our media devolves further into clickbait, rational and thoughtful headlines fly out the window, but even more, good luck expressing anything complex in 72 characters. It is the people who followed up on this with hysteria who should be embarrassed.

No, they are not coming for your metal. They do not need to. Your metal was always at best a tiny movement, a fraction of the sales and activity that big hard rock bands like AC/DC generated. It is not even on their radar for social trends. Further, they have something better than censorship: the genre has been taken over by indie rock. Now all songs are going to be about feelings, disguised in the usual blood ‘n guts material.

Not only that, but if authorities wanted to censor rap music, they would have done so long ago. Rap in the 2010s is like Madonna in the 1980s: everybody listens to it. While many of us consider rap and hip-hop the artistic equivalent of deathcore, and suggest a nice Coltrane live set instead, it is a huge moneymaker that now occupies the most respected position in pop music.

We wish Tiny Doo the best in his upcoming case. He is after all innocent until proven guilty. But metalheads need to chill out and stop seeing this case as the censors versus artistic expression, or a backdoor attempt to take your progressive grindcore with lyrics from ancient Olmec sorcery away from you. Only your Mom can do that.

Forward into the past

November 19, 2014 –

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Revolver published its list of metal bands who define the future of metal, and naturally people are a bit taken aback. The dominant trend on the list: metal bands that look like 90s bands who play with more distortion.

They come in several types: Marilyn Manson style hard rock goth, lite-jazz merged with Dream Theater riffing made technical in the math-metal style, black metal hybridized with shoe-gazing soul-searching solipsistic indie rock, tepid stoner rock, and the descendants of nu-metal who have mixed elements of the above in to hide their rip-off of hip-hop melded with bouncy radio rock.

In short, the list reveals a dearth of ideas, and instead of forging forward, these bands are heading backward toward past “successful” genres and mixing them together with a few metal riffs to make the claim to be the future of metal. Like the great metalcore revolution, and Napalm Death’s attempt to go indie with Words from the Exit Wound, this will succeed with the audience the industry has cultivated and fail with the wider audience for metal.

Metal thrives when it tackles the forbidden. In any civilization, that excluded taboo is the nihilistic approach of literal reality: the inevitability of death, the vast unknowability of our role in the cosmos, the necessity of war and violence, and the innate hatred that exists in humanity as some individuals break away from the herd and try to rise above. Metal is naturalistic and feral, aggressive and amoral, violent and morbid. It is everything we fear in life.

On the other hand, this new list presents nothing we fear in life. Tattooed hipsters in sweaters and goofy cartoons of uniforms do not induce fear. They induce tolerance and a shrug. They tell us nothing we do not hear from the many media outlets and rock bands of past. Unlike Black Sabbath, who dived bombed the flower power circlejerk with their own dark vision of the evil within us all, and the necessity of conflict, these bands offer us what Good Housekeeping might if dedicated to the quasi-“edgy” urban culture of guys with media jobs looking for a purpose so they can be unique at the local pub.

If you want to find the future of metal, go to its roots. Metal does not change because humans do not change. We fear death and the possibility of it coming for us, so with the aid of social conventions we exclude terror from our language so that we can exclude it from our minds. This is what metal rebels against, and its philosophy originates in rejection of this denial in order to discover what lies beyond the realms of sociability and polite conversation. The future awaits there at that horizon, not safely within the boundaries of existing culture.

Manilla Road – Out of the Abyss re-issued

November 18, 2014 –

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Shadow Kingdom Records will reissue the seventh album from Wichita, Kansas, band Manilla Road, entitled Out of the Abyss on January 13, 2015. Originally release in 1988, this album shows the band in both fully-developed and archetypal form.

Death metal fans coming late to this album may note how it is a prime example of how to do everything right and end up wrong. Manilla Road write speed metal in the style of Judas Priest crossed with the post-Slayer high-speed riffing of bands like Atrophy. They do so with precision picking, a good knowledge of harmony and rhythm, and yet make completely boring music.

Part of reason for this boredom emerges from the style itself. This type of late speed metal emphasizes breaking songs into discrete modules composed of riffs, following the NWOBHM style, but they break rhythm between those which allows little buildup. Instead, it is a series of right angles. Further, in another NWOBHM influence, these riffs are fundamentally static in that they center around a chord and use fills composed of that chord or a matching scale, but do not develop melodically within the riff; as in rock, that is reserved for the vocals. The result feels a lot like a series of riffs in a verse-chorus pattern with a tangent 2/3 of the way through, guided along by vocals. It does not achieve the structural intensity of death metal.

With that being said, it is clear why many bands hail Manilla Road as an influence. Crisp and exact playing gives these riffs a militant technological sound, and whether from this influence or another bands like Deceased, Voivod, DBC and Obliveon have put this technique to good use. Subtle rhythms abound in addition to the obvious toe-tapping speed metal choruses and lead guitar, while very much entrenched in the domain of rock-style soloing, provides an example of technical excellence within that domain. Vocals sound like a more devious Rob Halford. All of these contribute to the power of this release, but it remains enmired in the binary riffing and somewhat static riffs of the speed metal days which were thankfully left behind during the transition to death metal.

This re-issue will give a new generation of metalheads a chance to appreciate the technical ability of this band and the compositional issues raised by this style. For example, should metal go the rock route of static riffs and build on that in the style of mid-period Judas Priest, or should it follow more of the death metal style of phrasal riffs and flexible song structures? Guitarists will enjoy the challenge of playing these riffs at speed and still making the change, and classic metal fans will delight in the whole package. Out of the Abyss does everything right to hit its target, but for those of us who are post-80s, it may be the wrong target.

  1. Whitechapel
  2. Rites of Blood
  3. Out of the Abyss
  4. Return of the Old Ones
  5. Black Cauldron
  6. Midnight Meat Train
  7. War in Heaven
  8. Slaughterhouse
  9. Helicon

For more information:

Metalhead massacred by methed-out Christian zealot

October 31, 2014 –

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Heavy metal fan Jacob Andrew Crockett was nearly beheaded by Christian zealot Isaiah Zoar Martin after the latter engaged in a binge of drug use and watching Christian-themed videos on YouTube, resulting in the untimely death of Crockett and police detention for Martin.

According to local sources, Martin felt religious inspiration inspired the killing:

The defendant’s brother also told police “Isaiah had been watching YouTube videos related to his Christian beliefs and the Book of Matthew” earlier.

During Isaiah Marin’s 911 call, “the caller began rambling about sacrificing and magic,” according to the affidavit. “Asked how … he murdered someone, Isaiah stated, ‘I hacked them to death with a machete.’”

In August, on one of his Facebook pages, Isaiah Marin wrote, “Tried to take on a demon and God had to help me through the tough parts. Got to be careful with my words and pay closer attention to my emotions. Need to figure out how to keep on speaking when I’m with the presence of the Lord God.”

Murder victim Crockett spent his time in local bands Dungeön and Toxic Injection before they fragmented late last year, and was a fan of widely varied metal bands including Dying Fetus and Mayhem. He apparently had feuded with Martin in the past over Crockett’s ongoing experimentation in various occult beliefs, a practice presumed related to his heavy metal fandom.

As the brother of the killer related, religion formed the basis of the tension in this case:

He says Isaiah followed him, trying to calm him down and “would explain why he killed Jacob from letters he would write while he was in prison.”

Samuel told police Crockett and Isaiah had disagreements in the past.

He said Jacob Crockett and his brother, Jesse, “were practicing witchcraft and Isaiah had strong Christian beliefs.”

For many years, Hessians have received zero protection from persecution or violence by those of other faiths. According to many metalheads, heavy metal is its own religion. While right now people might view this beheading and other anti-metalhead violence as the case of isolated extremists picking on someone else for a lifestyle choice, it is more accurate to view it as a clash between members of competing faiths. From persecution of metalheads in Muslim lands to Christian demands for censorship in the USA and now this violent assault, the tension rises.

I can only imagine the media response will not be so muted if heavy metal fans decide to start defending themselves by beheading Christians who seem likely to commit crimes out of religious antagonism. According to the articles above, Martin prepared for his crime by watching YouTube videos with Christian themes. Perhaps metalheads should be extra wary when members of other religions are nearby watching videos… and arm themselves for the inevitable clash.

National Cat Day playlist

October 29, 2014 –

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According to my calendar, October 29 is National Cat Day, or a day for celebration of all things feline. As mentioned in earlier posts, metalheads love their kitties and bands have been known to put their felines before careers.

In the spirit of this holiday, here are some songs that while not kitty-themed, at least seem tangentially related:

Motorhead – “The Chase is Better Than The Catch”

Asphyx – “Evocation”

Cathedral – “Picture of Beauty & Innocence”

Imprecation – “Nocturnal Feast of the Luciferians”

Obituary – “Intoxicated”

Suffocation – “Anomalistic Offerings”

Uncanny – “Indication vitalis”

Belial – “The Invocation”

Catalepsy – “Compulsive Bestiality”

Blood – “Hecatomb”

Deicide – “Revocate the Agitator

What “we” should do is nothing

October 22, 2014 –

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Currently the gaming world struggles with something called “GamerGate,” which involves two groups of fans. There are those who want gaming to be more socially responsible, and those who want it to be more like 4chan.

Sound familiar? Some thing we should create the same division in metal:

Heavy metal fans have been targets for scorn and derision for decades. The metal community is supposed to be a place where misfits and outcasts can find shelter in the face of that intolerance. When you throw around bigoted slurs, whether you know it or not, you’re eroding the community we’re all supposed to be a part of. More importantly, you’re reinforcing the prejudices of every mouth-breathing homophobe within ear or eye shot, and you’re very possibly harming another human being for no reason. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to call someone a fa* or describe something you don’t like as gay. Hopefully you’ll think twice about the language you use in the future. But if you still don’t care, please do everyone a favor and keep your stupid comments to yourself.

Personally, I wish to fall into neither camps. The first camp wants to offend no one and make sure that humanity all gets along so that heavy metal can be accepted by mainstream society. The second camp wants to keep us as perpetual outsiders, which is fine, but they want to do so by appealing to the lowest denominator among us. I have a problem with that, too, because it seems to me that being the opposite of a wrong thing is often to make a different version of that wrong on the level of method and not goal. Or rather, by removing an actual goal, you create a lack of goal, into which method fills the gap.

That’s a subtle argument. It also takes some subtlety to understand why the offend-no-one argument is wrong. At a gut level, we are metalheads: we do not stand for speech codes, social morality and being nice to people. We specialize in saying thing as we find them and if that offends someone, too bad. We also are some of the last defenders of a way of life outside of society, where you can think what you want and say what you want and not care what other people think you should think. Someone else really nailed the biggest reason for avoiding the Nanny People: they are a lynch mob, witch hunt, high school bully, and nagging aunt all wrapped up into one, and what they do is create destruction and conformity in their wake:

A moral panic doesn’t have any relation to reason. It’s a mob expression of rage against an issue that threatens the social order, usually relating to the violation of some cultural taboo. There exists a long American tradition of moral panics, from Prohibition in the 1920s, to the Red Scare of the 1950s, and most egregiously the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. People were jailed and lives ruined over obviously false accusations made by children trying to please psychiatrists and other adult authority figures.

You can see there is a range of opinion about this. I pitch an unusual idea to you today: do not take a side. Do not join the Louts and do not join the Nannies. Instead, trust nature. There has always been a diversity of opinion within metal ranging from the anarchist to the totalitarian and back again. People are going to have their own opinions and they will not get along. There is no “we.” Metal is a refutation of the idea that we can all get along. Trying to make us all get along will create more problems than it solves and might also foster a nasty backlash that will turn metal into a permanently alienated battleground.

Sanctuary releases “Exitium (The Anthem of the Living)” from The Year the Sun Died

September 12, 2014 –

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During the 1980s, Sanctuary albums popped up wherever speed metal was sold but never quite found entry into the genre because of their reliance on a hybrid sound with the brainy radio heavy metal of the day. Like Queensryche, they embraced the dark rainy sound of the Northwest that later lived on in grunge which aims more toward presentation of intense vocal performances than a maze of riffs leading to detonation.

“Exitium (Anthem of the Living)” takes a doom-metal infused perspective on that style much in the style of Skyclad or Confessor, dropping into slower riffs to allow melancholy vocals to tie the song together. Song structure is simple and cyclic with flair but essentially exists to support vocals, so riffs follow a verse-chorus layout. The vocals sound a lot like Alice in Chains with more morbidity or Queensryche with more aggression, laying out a melody that is both hopeful and fatally self-contradictory. This creates an atmosphere of darkness with an inspirational tinge to it that seems almost like the band is exulting in self-pity.

The newest Sanctuary album The Year the Sun Died will walk among us on October 14. Fans of this band may find the changes unsettling and less intense than past works, but may appreciate the greater emotionality and connection to inner sensation that The Year the Sun Died appears to offer. As metal reaches toward rock in many directions, this somewhat overcast and isolated approach may work for Sanctuary as they try to forge anew their signature sound.

At the Gates releases teaser for At War With Reality

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Something lurks in humanity that afflicts all of our best efforts. When we create something, and then start seeing it as a tool or means to an end, the principle of its greatness is lost. It seems to occur because when the object is directed at humanity, it attends to what we think and wish were true instead of what is. Thus metal bands go from creating vast fantasy to creating ludicrous self-prostituting visions of excess to make their audience feel important, and the beauty of the music itself is lost.

This gauntlet looms over every death metal band that makes a “comeback” album two decades on and claims it is returning to the old style. Recently At the Gates made such a claim, and in face of public skepticism and vast anticipation, released a teaser. This contains about 45 seconds of music amidst the visuals and branding, so any assessment of it speaks only to that portion. The album could vary from it, although smart money says that such a turn would be anomalistic given that this snippet is what the band chose to promote the album. Nonetheless, this tiny window into the soul of At the Gates may tell us what to expect, and showcases the phenomenal production and art direction this record has received. Clearly Century Media intend to make this the metal event of the year and have every chance of succeeding.

The excerpt provided shows us At the Gates using the type of melodies they used on Terminal Spirit Disease and the second half of With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness which would be at home on a 1970s jazz-infused stadium rock album but in power chords take on a more sinister mood. However, these are presented with the type of frenetic riffing using internal texture to bolster the otherwise sparse melodic pattern that we see on Slaughter of the Soul and the first album from The Haunted. The result suggests some promise but lacks the developmental depth of Terminal Spirit Disease due to the intensified speed and desire to keep phrases short and hookish in a conventional manner as was used on Slaughter of the Soul.

As noted above, this track shows us only part of the album but it reveals the part that the band, label and management likely think will most appeal to the audience they are targeting. It seems that their attempt is to make a version of Slaughter of the Soul which embraces the rhythmic frenzy of The Haunted and the slightly more musical approach of mid-period At the Gates, which taps into both metalcore and Opeth audiences and should produce a best-seller for this band.

Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain

September 2, 2014 –

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The best-selling death metal band of all time, Cannibal Corpse maintains its audience by writing rhythmic hooks and cramming a half-dozen riffs into each song in a way that is memorable enough for the average listener. On their 13th album, A Skeletal Domain, Cannibal Corpse sensibly alter just about nothing to their winning formula.

If you can imagine the 1988-1990 period for Slayer and Exodus combined and turned up to 11, the basic idea of Cannibal Corpse will shine through the genre labels such as “death metal.” This music has little in common with early Morbid Angel, Deicide, Asphyx or other founders of the genre. If anything, it resembles 1980s speed metal given the death metal treatment with extremely distorted vocals, absurdist gore lyrics, and a higher dose of intensity in technique and speed.

Songs build themselves around either a chorus or a memorable riff, usually with hints of melody, and the rest of the time create a primitive groove based on an expectation of rhythmic satisfaction interrupted in sub-divided patterns that recombine the same few basic riff ideas. The guitars support vocals which take center stage in a monotone that foreshadows and echoes the dominant rhythms of each piece. Lead guitars sound straight out of the 1970s but played faster and more erratically, and bass while active and precise acts in a support role to guitars. The result delivers a compact sound that displays little internal variation.

When you listen to this album while distracted, after smoking a bowl, or while typing on the internet, it seems rather impressive. Each individual riff makes sense and the riff after also makes sense. The problem is that songs as a whole do not make sense. They fit together, but no internal tension or communication occurs, which leads to a very “postmodern” style where chaos surrounds an articulated foot-tapping chorus rhythm. The lack of relation and relevance between riffs and the whole of each song makes Cannibal Corpse seem like a stream of spare parts, even if linearly riffs follow in sensible order. You will hear a lot of Slayer in these riffs, which is always welcome.

Metal fans love this band and it is hard to see why they would not. It is catchy, extreme and chaotically hilarious. Its subversively discordant attitude toward all aspects of what most people accept as good and natural life makes it the surly kid who sneaks cigarettes into chapel. The best riffs are often the support riffs, which work in melody and challenging rhythms, and often sound like more intense versions of what second-string speed metal bands like Heathen, Atrophy and Assassin used to do. While I can praise what this album does well, and appreciate the ear candy attributes of it, there is no reason I would purchase this with my limited funds and listen to it on a repeated basis.

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Wömit Angel releasing Holy Goatse on October 3, 2014

August 22, 2014 –

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In tribute to the original and perhaps most shocking internet meme, Wömit Angel plan to release their second album Holy Goatse on October 3, 2014 via Inverse Records.

The Finnish band, who some compare to Impaled Nazarene and Motörhead, will unleash their mixture of hardcore punk, metal and rock ‘n’ roll with low-tech presentation and high intensity rhythms. Consisting of Vile Anarchy – Drums, J. Violatör – Guitar & Backing Vocals, and W. Horepreacher – Bass & Vocals, Wömit Angel describe their music as “fetus aborting sado-metal” and direct it toward a less serious audience.

Much like other bands in this style, including Driller Killer and Impaled Nazarene, these Finns find spectacle and shock to be as important as the music they write and so have dedicated a career to essentially trolling the metal and rock audiences that they can lure into their insanity.