Cross Immolation Here in After with a modern brutal technical death band like Deeds of Flesh and you have arrived at the starting point for Destroying Divinity, who specialize in a barely controlled chaos of exuberant ripping and high-speed charging Krisiun-style riffs channeled into violent and athletic songs. Hollow Dominion clocks in at just over 33 minutes but packs in at least two albums of riffs.
Like most percussive metal bands, a great deal of the focus on Hollow Dominion involves use of choppy muted chords to emphasize a riff pattern and then varying that texture to create a kind of parallax shift sensation, allowing a melody to slowly emerge. Where this band excels is in packing together these riffs so that each change relates to the riff before it, and every riff fits in the song, but the song still makes sense with enough variation to avoid trope. If they have a failing, it is that many of the chord progressions used in these riffs are rather linear, which creates a heavy chromatic effect but also some predictability. Generally however the band manages to introduce its songs with the more obvious riffs and work deeper until it has subverted them with more interesting patterns.
Brutal death metal will not find a fan in every listener. It relies on cadence, trope, repetition and basically pounding the listener into her chair with solid slamming percussive riff after riff. In addition, Destroying Divinity pick up a number of techniques from Immolation such as the guitar squeal, recursive rhythms that simultaneously relax, and a tendency to use higher-string chords to offset the guttural vocals and pounding bass-intense riffs. In combination these two forms show metal as more of a series of patterns than a convention sense of riff-chorus, which makes this album a welcome antidote to the highly repetitive and circular songwriting of modern metal. With great intensity Hollow Dominion creates a world of vast internal diversity and then populates it with conflict, delivering death metal satisfaction with brutal death metal rigor.
The arrogance of someone proclaiming themselves on the right side of history still takes my breath away. As if after all this time, there are simple solutions to human problems that involve a totalitarian presence, which is control of all that we say and thus what we think. This issue defines #metalgate and explains why it has provoked such panicked reactions from the nu-metal SJWs.
SJWs raise a number of objections to #metalgate. Their first trick is to claim that #metalgate does not in fact exist because there is not a single touchstone event, as there was with #gamergate, which set it off. Since #metalgate was brought on by years of articles (and boring, soulless politically-correct burnt out hardcore bands writing “metal” albums) there was not a touchstone event, but a gradual rising opposition. Their next trick is to claim that metalheads want the ability to behave like louts without consequence. This is an obvious lie, since all we’re asking is to keep the PC thought police out of metal, since PC thought police ruin everything they touch, much like their bad “metal” bands. Finally they insist that metal is dodging these issues entirely, which is not true. Metal simply refuses to adopt the PC framing of these issues, which is designed so that only one conclusion is correct. Their approach is similar to a Republican asking where we stand on allowing al-Qaeda into schools. The only response you can make is “well, of course I oppose that,” or your response is going to look like you are supporting al-Qaeda.
The structure of anyone’s native language strongly influences or fully determines the world-view he will acquire as he learns the language.
Language works both forward and backward. It programs our minds to think in certain ways. If that language is changed, it works backward to change how we think about things. This is why people want to change the way you talk, program you to think in terms of issues, and otherwise force you to put your speech into a narrow range of what is defined as acceptable. They want to control how you think.
This artist remains controversial because her band was so heavily promoted as being “female-fronted,” which to a metalhead is suspicious because it obstructs from letting the music speak for itself. Like music which insists you appreciate it on the basis of theory, whether musical or gender studies, the sex-based approach demands fans look at the music first in terms of what precious little category it fits into. This is the same thing as requiring that we like a band simply because it is popular and sold a lot of albums. Krieg’s Imperial weighs in on this one:
This might sound a bit mean-spirited, but I don’t think seventy-five percent of people would give any second thought to Myrkur if there wasn’t the campaign of secrecy behind it pre-release, coupled with the fury over the main musician having ovaries and other things people who still live with their parents are confused and frightened by. It speaks a lot to gender politics in music in general with how this scenario played out, and it wasn’t at all helped by shrouding the whole thing in mystery early on; Velvet Cocoon did that ten years ago and much more successfully. Now, it just comes off like the Sex Pistols or American Idol-styled manufacturing, but that’s easier to ignore than the moist masses who, when faced with a woman, can only yell “TITS!” like she’s unaware that she has them. Yes, black metal is a negative expression which isn’t the most inclusive of genres, but recently people have been acting more like they’re on Xbox Live than in a genre which should be held to a higher intellectual standard than most.
This takes a moderate approach to metal which is that most of us are tired of the bad behavior of people on the internet, which is not limited to tidy categories like “sexism” and “racism” but approaches all-around shittiness because angry teenagers either find an outlet for their anger — plant trees, join the Guardian Angels, work in a soup kitchen — or they become hateful little haters who do nothing but hate on all of us. #metalgate isn’t about these people. It’s about a small group of media darlings and their pointless indie rock and hardcore punk bands pretending to be metal so they can enforce thought control over us and make us their bitches.
The sad fact remains that people who talk about “the right side of history” have a control agenda. We see again why metal is always unpopular, which is that it avoids herd opinion on all fronts. Political correctness is herd opinion. It’s not even related to actual leftist theory, but uses that as its cover story to hide the fact that it’s a naked grab for power. Jim Jones, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Tipper Gore and other cult personalities use this approach to build personal armies and take control. They are no different from the bigots who lynched people and who are currently beheading people and blowing up children in the middle east. Metal is just fighting back on its own terms, despite the apathy and isolation of most metalheads, because we don’t want to be part of their weird political jihad. And what’s more metal than that?
As #metalgate rages on on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr, the people who are trying to force these views on metal are defending themselves by claiming that #metalgate doesn’t exist or is insignificant. The truth is that this agenda has been advancing for some time and it has a dirty secret.
The dirty secret of the “SJW” agenda in metal is that it is totally unnecessary. Despite my own sympathies with many of the ideas they hope to achieve, like better treatment of human beings, I suspect most of these people are just poseurs. They are adopting certain viewpoints that they think are necessary to get ahead socially. Nothing makes a person feel more powerful than to be able to call someone else ignorant and selfish, while (in their own minds) looking superior, intelligent and altruistic. Especially if you are coming from behind and feeling ashamed about your family origins or stature in life, it can make you feel like a god to have moral right on your side and to look much more advanced than those around you. This is just another shade of the broken social life in the modern world coming home to visit metal and use metal for its own ends.
But even more, these “helpful” demands from SJWs are totally unnecessary. This is metal, where if you can create the music, you can join in the fun. We have always had something better than feminism with women being present and respected in Nuclear Death, Mythic and Bolt Thrower. People of color have always been here in Thin Lizzy, Suffocation, Blasphemy and Mystifier. Metal bands come from all over the world and from every tribe, culture and religion imaginable. We tend not to mark a little box each time someone who is non-heterosexual, non-white and/or non-male joins our ranks, but they are there and always have been. In metal, there is no need for a crusade for equality because we already have it. Even better, we have done so without turning that into a crusade against those who are heterosexual, white and/or male. We just accept people as they are.
But my ultimate problem with #metalgate is that it’s entirely manufactured. No one, or no group, is banding together to try and change metal in any one specific way — the threat is entirely imagined. Certain social values enter the metalsphere simply because those values are spreading throughout society as a whole — this idea that “SJWs” failed with #gamergate so they’re now moving on to a different cause is total bologna. They’re entirely separate people!
Personally, I enjoy what Vince Neilstein writes but don’t read it that often, mainly because I don’t visit sites with ironic names that censor out the word “fuck” for reasons unknown. But while I think he’s normally on point, here he confuses a few things. First “those values are spreading throughout society as a whole” means society outside of metal is adopting these values, and now wants metal to bow down and conform. He’s basically taking a pro-#metalgate point of view there but I’m not sure he intended two. Second, he assumes that the people involved in resisting the SJW incursion are #gamergate people, when actually it’s people like myself in metal who are not from either side of the political spectrum. We hate politics in our music, metal has already addressed this issue, and we don’t want to follow the herd in whatever flavor-of-the-month the iconoclastic hipsters behind the SJW fad think is important.
Metal has never been about doing what everyone else is doing but it has also never been about being “ironic” and trying to be different so hard that we act randomly. Metal is its own law and has its own culture. From outside of that culture, as Neilstein writes, people are trying to push conformist social values on us. The best “activism” for all of us who love metal is to push back against that dominant paradigm and go our own way instead.
#MetalGate exposes human behavior at its most basic level. When someone stands up and refuses to go along with the herd, most people fear that person. S/he is refusing to endorse the same behavior that everyone else engages in, which makes them look like they may be wrong. Even worse, this person has found a way of life which may even be better. This freaks them out and so they attack.
If you went to an American high school, you are familiar with the two types of iconoclasts. The first do everything they can to make sure that you know they are an iconoclast: they wear hats, dress oddly, listen to “edgy” music and give the finger to authority — usually some 64.5 year old security guard — whenever they can. The other type are quietly iconoclastic by cutting out of their lives all the time-wasting stuff other people do so that they can focus on what they want to do. In this group, you find many of the artists, top students, athletes, musicians and other honestly interesting people. The first group tries to be this, but never can be.
Heavy metal has always been the interesting kid. It does not need to shout its iconoclasm from the rooftops because when you throw the music on your stereo (or cell phone mp3 player) you can immediately sense that something different is going on here. It does not sound like regular rock music, the 31 flavors and 50 shades of which normal people listen to. This is music that has gone beyond what others are willing to tolerate, and it echoes this idea in its lyrics and imagery. People fear death, disease, warfare, the occult, conflict and evil, so metal sings about these things. It reveals to us everything that we would rather deny, including — especially — the apocalyptic and dystopian factors that point out that our society is over-ripe and likely heading for a fall and decay. Heavy metal is like the person at a cocktail party who will not take the hint and keeps asking about your upcoming corruption trial even though it is rude, unsociable and impolite to do so.
When a true (but quiet) iconoclast stands up, all the fake iconoclasts immediately want to take that person down. S/he makes them look bad in comparison because they are clearly people acting like iconoclasts, not actual iconoclasts. As many people have noticed through the years, there is no bigger group of sheep than those who insist they are not like the other sheep. An actual iconoclast does not need to tell you that he’s different; he just does what he does, and that difference becomes clear. There is also one more thing he possesses, on top of difference, which is direction. He is not different to be different. He’s different because he has a plan, an agenda and a purpose, where everyone else is just dressing up in weird clothes to try desperately to be “cool” (itself an ultra-sheep concept).
Over the years, many groups have tried to take over metal. In the 1980s the Church felt threatened by heavy metal and so sponsored a form of contemporary worship music known as “Christian metal” which imitated heavy metal bands, but had Christian lyrics. It never felt right as metal and so never caught on with anyone but those who were already Christian. Christian metal peaked in the mainstream with Stryper, whose Amy Grant style take on Motley Crue made fodder for endless jokes but also a fair number of album sales before the band vanished into well-deserved obscurity. The feeling among Christians was that since heavy metal was evil, Christians needed to make a “safe” version of that evil music so they could enjoy it too. The media ate it up, too, because it was ironic just like the high school iconoclasts. Christian metal was the equivalent of wearing a fedora and suit vest over jeans and a Hawaiian shirt while talking about the blue energy fields.
The problem with this agenda shared between the Christian establishment and the media establishment had two heads: the music wasn’t very good, and these two groups were obvious outsiders. They tried to solve this by getting Christian bands to play alongside regular metal bands, but this did not end well as most metalheads recognized this intrusion for what it was. No matter how many times the Christian bands said “See, we’re one of you!” and the big newspapers referred to them as heavy metal bands who coincidentally just happened to be Christian, metalheads did not buy it. Christian metal fizzled after some time. Other groups tried to achieve entry in the same way, including far-right groups, vegans and anti-drug crusaders, but all slipped by the wayside from failure to be accepted. The simple reason for this is that allowing metal to be assimilated to become a voice for someone else’s agenda violates the basic idea of metal itself:
If I could distill metal into a single phrase, it would be this: metal is the musical equivalent of the word “FUCK” aimed at society.
This is why the SJW’s will never win. Their “victory,” if such a thing is possible, would be Pyrrhic. It would destroy metal. It would turn metal into pop rock, and metal is the violent musical reaction against pop rock.
With #MetalGate, what happened was that in the late 1990s a ground of ex-hardcore people decided they wanted to make metal “safe” by having it bleat out their doctrine. Their viewpoint was popular among the new group of hipsters and other iconoclasts who filled American cities. This group created a new type of metal, a hybrid between death metal and post-hardcore and sometimes indie rock, and declared themselves the new underground. To be part of this new underground, you had to have the “right” opinions. The old underground nearly universally rejected them on musical grounds, since the new hybrid metal was both random and highly resembled old, burnt-out 1980s genres. But that did not stop these people from recruiting a new group of fans and trying to edge out the older underground types. They also had media support; most of them worked in media or knew people who did. New labels, magazines, and web sites popped up to sign these new bands who brought in a new audience not of metalheads but ex-hardcore kids. Like people fleeing a big polluted city only to move to a smaller city and make it big and polluted, they jumped ship looking for something unruined to ruin.
In other words, this is Christian metal all over again. They want to make metal “safe” by insisting that we talk about life in the way they have defined it, which is a series of “issues” much like Christian metal wanted to talk about morality when metal wanted to write about war. They have media support and want to use that to drown out other voices so that only they have control. Personally, I doubt they even believe the stream of stuff they write lyrics about, but like the fake iconoclasts from high school, just want to sound “educated” so they can be superior to the rest of us unwashed, uneducated, and simple-minded metalheads. Christian metal took the same attitude which was that we were simply ignorant sinners who needed to “receive” the good news of the Bible. Like Christian metal, “SJW metal” is failing and that is why certain media personalities are trying so hard to make us accept it. #MetalGate is the first pushback against the Stryper of the 21st century, and it’s making them so mad they are scrambling all hands to put out denials.
The phenomenon of #MetalGate expands as social justice warriors (SJWs) find themselves on the defensive, so they have retaliated with their favorite accusation: “There’s no issue here!” They want you to believe that #MetalGate was drummed up in response to “just two lines” in a SPIN article.
In their spin (no pun intended) metalheads and #GamerGate veterans formulated this whole situation out of pure hype, despite these being only a few of the articles written to try to shepherd metal into bowing down, becoming sociable, adopting the dominant paradigm of its age, and in other words becoming like everything else in media and music in its endorsement of an agenda favored by some people but not most metal fans: 123456789101112. These are just a sampling of the many articles written about metal and how it is either bad and terrible because it is not PC, or how now that it has become focused on “social issues” — generally something only grindcore bands do — that it is OK for normal, soft, fluffy and well-intentioned people to like it, but only the good bands with the right opinions. You know, the opinions like those of the 1960s bands that metal rebelled against in the first place!
Now let’s look at those “just two lines” again:
Metal is still dogged by the issues that arise from its deep-seated conservative values, but thanks to an increase in conversations about racism, politics, and feminism, those on the right side of history have gained solid ground.
Two-line statements have launched wars, ended careers and brought down economies. The question is the content of those lines, and in those words the writer tells us that metal is conservative, conservative is bad, and thus metal is bad, and that metal is on “the wrong side of history” if it does not start immediately making its focus creating propaganda (and let’s be fair: preachy lyrics are propaganda) about “racism, politics, and feminism.” This assumes that metal has not addressed these issues in the past and found another way of addressing the underlying issues. When the writer at SPIN says that metal needs to adopt these issues, she means that metal needs to preach the dogma she agrees with and abandon its own take on these issues. For political fanatics, framing of the issues is everything, and they frame those issues so that their conclusions are the only ones you can reach.
What we have here, as in #GamerGate, is a small group of people who — being inclined toward media and pop music — have infiltrated the metal scene and are trying to use it to preach their own propaganda. Metal already has its own way of addressing all these issues. We do not need to be bullied into agreeing with this small group of SJWs who contribute nothing but commentary and support only the “new” metal bands which are most emphatically not the classics of the genre, nor in the views of many of us anywhere near the quality of the classics. But these bands have the “right” opinions, you see, and for these fanatics, that is all that matters. Their latest attempts to minimize #MetalGate are just an attempt to distract and deflect from that reality, but they have picked the wrong group to attack, because metalheads specialize in unpleasant realities that socially pretentious people would like to avoid.
Empyrium started as a metal band, but they have become a band with its own voice that uses many styles including metal where they fit in each song, much like it might use a technique. Elements of traditional European bard styles, Gothic, neofolk, ambient, neoclassical and metal meld in this emotional but dark atmospheric band.
These melancholic and beautiful songs run longer than average because they focus on creating a mood, generally with piano and lush keyboards as the primary instrument complemented by vocals, and then working through it much as one might take a walk through the Black Forest, looking up into the trees as a new thought becomes familiar and finally fleshed out, then fading away like the dying light of day. Guitars and death metal vocals appear when they create the desired effect of aggression and passionate rage for balancing to what is otherwise a yawning abyss of tragic sadness. Like doom metal bands such as My Dying Bride and Skepticism, Empyrium work hard to balance moods that otherwise would become monolithic and all-encompassing, using variations in mood to strengthen the theme of each song much as Dead Can Dance do in their longer epics. The result is a mellow and gentle sound from which the bottom falls out and a void emerges, only to become absorbed by a general sense of narrative and development. This album is both easy to listen to and a hard place to want to go, but provides the perfect background to certain acts like driving in the rain, contemplating old pictures or burying an entire family.
While the metal content shrinks with every Empyrium album, the use of metal as a voice strengthens because it appears only when crashing guitars and guttural distorted vocals give presence to an idea within the song, possibly showing us where metal will be in another decade if it continues abolishing itself. What makes The Turn of the Tides of interest to metalheads is that these songs reflect many of the same emotional journeys you might find on a Summoning or Graveland album but are taken to a more expansive viewpoint through the use of other techniques as well. Fans of atmospheric black metal and doom metal alike will find Empyrium interesting, as will any who find the manipulation of mood in layers of atmosphere to provide a compelling listen.
People forget that the 90s were among other things a pervasively trivial time, which was one of the things that death metal was rebelling against. We finally got over the terror of the Republican 1980s, and the ex-hippies took over and that meant we were due for some good times. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure satirizes this best with its view of adult society in Southern California as completely oblivious, obsessed with the inconsequential and generally wrapped up in itself without any purpose or direction to life beyond consumer glory.
Immense Intense Surprise reveals this mentality of triviality, which is the concept that you can take something very ordinary and cover it with shiny objects and unique, ironic and different (UID) adornments and somehow it will be transformed into a revolutionary idea. This is not so: the underlying idea remains in control. In the case of Immense Intense Surprise the underlying idea is that same alternative rock that everyone else was pimping back then, but they have dressed it up as bouncy technical death metal of the Afflicted school, meaning that you will not find any epic or amazing melodies or song constructions here, only technical tricks on guitar and keyboard.
To keep us distracted, Phlebotomized constantly change layers of vocals, synths, drums and lead guitar that sounds almost plasticine in its tendency toward “chaotically” repeated similar structures. And underneath? Quite a few hard rock and classic heavy metal riffs reborn, some influences from 70s rock, and a bit of death metal that as with all ill-conceived hybrids, builds itself around the vocals. Notice also the novelty song structures. This release distracts from a missing core with a surface level of weird, much like so many people distract from their absence of soul with “interesting” personalities.
Not all of Immense Intense Surprise & Skycontact — a combination release of two late 1990s albums — is bad. Much of this material shows insight in songwriting and an ability to craft a good tune. Phlebotomized interrupt themselves on the way to a good song by instead of finding a voice for their many influences, trotting them out in serial fashion, creating the kind of “variety plate” music that fails to endure over time. Think, people: there is a reason these albums went out of print in the first place after haunting the sale bins of used record stores across the world. Surface-based music does not endure. They were not alone in their quest for experimentation. Bands like Disharmonic Orchestra, Supuration and Mordred were each trying to re-invent death metal by mixing in influences from previous genres. The problem with such a conflicted approach is that it destroys the voice of the genre which had achieved clarity, and replace it with the usual modern grab-bag of options unrelated to a purpose.
Phlebotomized put out an earlier album, Preach Eternal Gospels, which spent quite a bit of time in my CD player during the 90s because it was good, solid B-level boxy death metal. Bands at that level either accepted second-tier status and moved on, or became consumed with the desire to be the next Dismember or Morbid Angel and so embarked on a path of accessorizing their music to make it stand out. Their only real problem was that the mainstream rock discovered that tactic long before they did, and they were better at it.
Abscession appeared on the metal scene with a mission to bring the power of Swedish death metal to a stagnant scene. After a promising demo, “Death Incarnate,” Abscession return with a full-length Grave Offerings that expands upon their earlier strengths to make a solid Swedish death metal album with melodic touches but a few weaknesses that could sabotage its enjoyment by others.
On “Death Incarnate,” Abscession offered a great sense of melody and of place within each song, building up riff iterations like scenes in a horror film leading to a dramatic reveal. With their first full-length Abscession demonstrate the ability to write melodic songs that create a sensation of atmosphere and then bring it to a peak, uniting the song in a moment of clarity based on the journey encoded in its prior riffs. They draw from a template of Bolt Thrower, Dismember, Unleashed, Amorphis and early Therion in this ability but expand upon it with their own voice. Each song on this album possesses a point of focus and some form of internal content that guides its development, which avoids the “songs about being songs” problem that many death metal bands have. This radically cuts down on disorganization which can blight a metal album, and creates a sensation of descent into a dark world which deepens as the album progresses. Hardcore death metal fans may find the second half even more interesting than the first.
Where this album falls down is in the tendency to incorporate hard rock and death ‘n roll elements in some of — key point: some of — the riffs. These tend to focus on bouncy riffs like the Pantera style from the 1990s but without the angry bounce, more like a pop-music style that infects the brain but detract from the overall power of the song. Further, the vocals tend to synchronize too closely with riff and especially with chorus rhythm, and unfortunately are produced in such a way that they expand sonically instead of remaining focused; a bit of reverb and a filter on the microphone might help here. These are minor problems which probably keep this album from being an automatic keeper, but nonetheless it remains a powerful musical force that is immediately recognizable as its own entity and not merely derivative and celebrating that fact to recruit an audience as recent “true old school Swedish death metal” albums have done. Notice also what appears to be a Havohej tribute in the first riff of the second-to-final song.
Death metal fans will find this album relevant because this band actually write songs, have a flair for the kind of theatrical yet meaningful atmospheric changes that Celtic Frost pioneered, and demonstrate overall high levels of musicianship and songwriting. Many will be put off by some of the bounce riffs or Motley Crue-styled hard rock riffs, but these are as mentioned above a minority of what is on the album. Amazing for its ability to invoke the past without rehashing it from an outside view, Grave Offerings shows a powerful future for this band and proves itself one of the most memorable releases of 2014.
I had hoped that the busload of squalling drama that was #GamerGate (see here: pro | con) would not come to metal, but #metalgate has arrived courtesy of the same people who intruded into the gaming industry despite a striking lack of actual contributions:
Metal is still dogged by the issues that arise from its deep-seated conservative values, but thanks to an increase in conversations about racism, politics, and feminism, those on the right side of history have gained solid ground. – SPIN
Before we get involved in this partisan squabble, consider that metal is beyond the left-right divide. The left wants individualism through equality, and the right wants individualism through lack of social obligation. Neither recognize that societies, like metal genres, are organic entities where more is required than individualism; we need cooperation.
It is easy to see however why someone might want to — as writers have in the past — call heavy metal conservative. Metal avoids “social issues” and other internal questions of a society and instead looks at the health of a society as a whole, or in other words, how sane it is. We see a world gone insane through a refusal to pay attention to reality. The methods of that are beyond an artistic genre and should be injected into it, but since 2006 at least trying to reform metal has been a pet project of certain groups:
More than three decades after Black Sabbath conjured images of the dark arts, heavy metal is growing up. The genre is increasingly incorporating social and political messages into its dense power chords.
Cattle Decapitation vocalist Travis Ryan said his San Diego band’s mix of charging guitars and an animal rights message is drawing a diverse crowd that includes activists as well as traditional metal fans. – The Washington Post
The grim fact is that metal has split into two groups. When the newer group encountered the older group, they were appalled that it did not share their opinions, not just on politics but how to live. This new group is inherently “social” and they share opinions which make their friends feel warm and fuzzy about them. That is at odds with the older metal tradition of not caring what society thought, telling the hard truth, and being obligated to no one because most people are crazy.
It is only when you get involved in a managerial role with society, like a kindergarten teacher insisting that we all play nice together, that you care at all about making sure that everyone is included. Metal does not. Metal looks at society from the view of history and whether it is healthy or diseased from within. The metalhead view is consistently anti-managerial, since metalheads recognize the deficiencies of people and want to keep most of them at a great distance. It is not that we want to manage them, like political people do, but that we want to be free of them.
For years people have tried to make metal more sociable. They first tried in the mid-1970s when they mixed Black Sabbath with Led Zeppelin and produced hard rock, hoping that they could sell it to more people. “Sociable” sells. Then they tried in the 1980s with rap/rock, funk metal and other abominations. Finally they hit on nu-metal but that turned into an extended conversation about the impact of child molestation. And then, during the early 2000s, they rolled out a metal/hardcore fusion that had sociable lyrics like hardcore punk has for many years.
Notice that none of this was brought on by metalheads. It was created by people who wanted to be metalheads, but felt they could not be metalheads unless the genre agreed with their existing social, political and lifestyle biases. At this point, the metal community has entirely split between those who like the old school and those who want to be “nu-skool.” This is because they are two separate genres. Metal is metal, and the indie-metal/metalcore wave is someone else trying to use us for their agenda. #MetalGate is just the latest salvo in this fight.
Had Sepultura taken this direction instead of the path they chose on Chaos A.D., they would have receded into rock history as legends and not warmed-over attempts at former glory that got swallowed by their attempts to popularize a form of music that is inherently against all things dictated by popularity and illusion in the heart of the individual.
As every write-up on this band will tell you, Les Tambours du Bronx are a sort of Blue Man Group from New York whose shtick is to have a dozen men banging on samizdat percussion instruments, most visually impressive when made from 55-gallon drums and malleted with baseball bats. Like Crash Worship, on whose fame they surely predicate their own but with an intent for a more public spectacle, Les Tambours du Bronx put on a show that is as much visual as audial. They team up with Sepultura, playing its crowd favorites from Chaos A.D. onward into the post-Max years. The result shows a great deal of promise that with a nudge it might live up to.
To make this a great release, they would have dropped the vocals and given Andreas Kisser more time lacing his lead guitar through the riffs like a jazz player covering an old standard in a new interpretation. They might have allowed Sepultura to do what they do best, which is to write a string of ear-snagging riffs in a riff salad that nonetheless makes sense, and let the rhythm of Les Tambours du Bronx carry the songs entirely. This would have given the music an intense ritual air with primal undertones that belong to no tradition and fuse the modern with the energy of antiquity. Instead, as usual, there are too many chefs stirring the pot, or as it might be said for metal music, too many influences warring for dominance. Random industrial noises and squeals, the ranting pseudo-death vocals of Derrick Green and other attempts to impose rock-style song structure onto this open jam limit its power.
Since leaving speed/death metal behind, Sepultura have sought a way to become a Ramones for heavy metal, playing simple riffs that unite a carnival crowd and bring people to a point of energetic focus. Similarly, the style of percussion on this album creates a massive feeling of unison especially as it internally deviates from the archetypal rhythms it sets up for the audience to follow. Together these make for a spectacle, but the musical intensity is not here mainly owing to the lack of focus on the Sepultura side. Instead of trying to use outside forces to accent their own music, they should adapt their music to complement those forces and through mutuality, achieve something new. Metal Veins: Alive at Rock in Rio as a live album makes for dubious listening owing to the muddy sound, but with this being basically a “we’re different” stunt using nu-Sepultura in unchanged form, it offers little for repeat listens.