Orcultus – Orcultus

December 19, 2014 –
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Orcultus returns to the days before black metal when NWOBHM band Venom created short, catchy songs but Orcultus runs this approach through a Norsecore filter and adds post-metal riffing for atmosphere. The result is both eminently listenable and unendurable because its simplistic approach misses everything that made the Norse strong, adds too much adornment to achieve the simple pleasures of Venom, and will never be accepted by post-metal because it is not trendy enough.

Songs tend to launch relatively simply in the Norsecore droning riff style, redouble that with catchy choruses, then fade out with either more Norsecore or the patented drunken people waving in the breeze as a sad note sounds and then falls style of post-metal. They then repeat this formula with different Norse riffs matched to opposite corresponding Venom-style rhythms and a slight variant on the post-metal drone. This creates an effect of transitioning through the life cycle of black metal in a single song, which brings up miserable reminders and ends in the nowhere man gentrified urban neighborhood entropy that post-metal uses to make hipsters of us all.

Worse than obliterating the past by ignoring it is to destroy it by adulterating it, and then to let the adulterated hybrid take the place of the original. Yet this is what happens in most cases. Orcultus represents this attempt in the black metal genre, mixing several generations of heavy metal and hybrids into an indecisive and contentless paradigm that produces a sensation of fatigue, ambiguity and confusion, but not the dark and rich melancholic emotions of black metal. As a result, despite having much of the old school in it, this one goes on the black ‘n roll heap and gets consigned to the bit bucket.

The King is Blind – The Deficiencies of Man

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Of all the modern metal tendencies that can be completely annoying, the insistence of vocals leading the piece takes the cake. Like rap, the music takes a backseat to whatever is being shouted at you like political slogans or advertising offers. Here the band writes a grind-death hybrid distilled to high-energy riffs under a slowly-enunciated cadence of vocals that makes for utter tedium. The problem is that the band is equipped to write two-riff songs and when they go beyond this they sense they are out of their depth and offer instead melodic metal fills.

Like all metalcore, which is as good a container as you will find for “modern metal” which follows hardcore songwriting with metal riffs, The King is Blind comes across as disorganized because it is in metal terms. In rock terms it is highly organized, with verses matching choruses in key and rhythm. The problem is that the riffs are unrelated so they serve the same role as a slow double-strummed open C in a Bruce Springsteen tune: they keep background harmony to the vocals, which are the real focus here. Except these vocals are mostly monotone. Throwing in simplified Slayer riffs just creates a circus atmosphere, as does the use of other metal technique to try to give momentum to this otherwise pointless music.

Black Anvil – Triumvirate

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Every now and then as you sort through the massive stacks — about 3-5 per day on average — of albums submitted to this site, you find an honest-to-goodness tragedy. There you sigh and think, this could have been quite good, with a few relatively minor adjustments as seen from a decade away. Those adjustments would look major to someone in the year of the album release because they would involve violating what was en vogue in the moment, but aspire instead to songwriting that withstands the years.

Black Anvil, despite the somewhat ridiculous name, write quality death/doom metal in a melodic style that might be described as Dissection attempting to be Goatwhore. It keeps energy high with catchy riffs that vary within verses but keep choruses in pure infectious pop energy. At its heart, Black Anvil thinks like a doom metal band but writes uptempo melodic riffs instead because it aims for an audience with a shorter temporal span. Most of these riffs fit within well-recognized archetypes but are distinct enough not to evoke a specific band. Songs build around simple melodic progressions, under unfortunate vocals which blurt in the modern style but and while riffs do not create a sense of ongoing transfer of knowledge through changing atmosphere through experience, they fit into sensible songs which create a mood and deepen it before leaving it in a different state. Throughout it we get the sense of a rock band writing an album with the late-grindcore surge energy of Napalm Death Fear, Emptiness, Despair and translated into quasi-death metal riffing.

Had someone reached back from 2019 to this band, they would have encouraged them to drop the contemporary vocals and name, and would have encouraged greater variation in tempo and perhaps more aggressive riffs before leading into the Iron Maiden styled sweetness. As the album goes on, the band runs out of ideas and begins to rely more on crowd-pleasing technique than songwriting. Like Goatwhore, this is mostly catchy pop and less content, but here the frequency shifts more toward 80-20. A great album could have emerged from Triumvirate but what stands now is merely a good album which will be forgotten because it fades into the background of now-dead trends and never allowed itself to fully come to a point.

Algaion – Exthros

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Black metal has been taken over by cocktail parties. I used to be able to say, “You know, everything but black metal is a copy of a copy at this point,” and the point would drop. Now people start digging out their Prada notepads and Christian Dior iPhone cases and rattle off a list of their favorite new (or is that “nu”?) black metal bands. I dutifully make note and brace myself for disappointment.

I was not disappointed with Algaion Exthros. That is, my disappointment was not disappointed: this albums is bad beyond terrible. Its worthy contribution can be found on the first track where the band covers one of those Greek melodies that tourists and tour guides alike recognize that a crowd will recognize as Greeky Greek, and they make it into a ripping black metal tune. It was not excellent, but it far surpasses the absolute desert of songs that one could possibly enjoy in “nowadays black metal.” What follows is an abomination of taste and content.

Taking a page from the At the Gates book, this band write melodic hooks for the verses and then have vocal hooks lead the otherwise straightforward and grinding choruses, but they keep the whole thing in rock harmony — including extensive (yawn) pentatonic leads — so that the power of all of this is muted. The vocal hooks are of the Pantera variety, which is the kind of simple song you sing to yourself when doing the laundry or trying to give your pet an enema, infectious but brain-numbing and here taken to new extremes of repetition and sing-song cadence paced with war metal tempi and modern metal style regular open-throat vocals, as distinct from the closed-throat guttural of death metal or open-throated but sonically-shaped vocals of black metal. Excruciating, this is. I weep for the landfills which have already filled or shortly will fill with this terrible, predictable, mind-destroying disc.

Fanisk – Noontide

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Normally I refuse to review NSBM because in my view, if your politics must be understood to like the music, the art has failed and we have ventured into propaganda. Nonetheless I attempted to listen to Fanisk because so many people swore by its value, including those I respected.

Let me quickly set your fears to rest: this is a band endorsing Nazi sympathies which can be entirely forgotten for reasons of artistic content, independent of any message it may carry. Unlike Darkthrone, Burzum, Morbid Angel, Incantation, Infester, Graveland, Mayhem and other bands which have flirted with the triskelion, Fanisk is a proficient form of terrible that combines post-metal, excellent neofolk keyboards, and boring droning black metal with chromatic fills elevated to the level of riffing as happened on later Gorgoroth albums. In many ways, this is like neo-Nazism itself: a backdoor by which low-quality material can declare itself faithful to The Cause and achieve inclusion to social circles that were denied to it before.

The best part of this release are the keyboard intros and background Summoning-style keys which accompany the slighter guitar riffs to fill out the atmosphere, although sometimes these mistake the mood are come across as inappropriately cheerful in the style of Master’s Hammer. If Fanisk stitched together the keyboard-heavy parts of this album they would have a killer 15-minute song, but as it is you have to listen to post-metal melodies set to black metal textures, which establish a good energy and atmosphere then fail to figure out where to take it, and substitute chromatic fills and bouncy crowd-pleaser riffs to try to take it home. Obviously the Deathspell Omega style has had a huge influence here but it is similarly directionless.

The only way to fight politics in metal is to call out these bands on their garbage. Christian metal is garbage, SJW post-hardcore “enlightened metal” is boring and directionless, and this festival of NS fidelity and love lacks a purpose as well. With Burzum, the Nazism came out of the art and a hatred for the mediocrity and cowardice of humanity; here, the band heads the opposite direction, and tries to invent the art out of the Nazism and collected impressions of what is hip. The result is uninspiring.

#metalgate calls us to action

December 18, 2014 –
Image by Gunnar von Cowtown.

Image by Gunnar von Cowtown.

By now, the rage over #metalgate has subsided as #shirtgate, #gamergate and #metalgate converge on a single movement that spans many genres: opposition to the censor police who, using political correctness as an excuse, have invaded multiple genres with mediocre options while declaring them enlightened. They have used this indirect invasion to take over media and public discussion, crowding out the better music and games for more propaganda.

The point made in these pages is that the invasion of terrible hybrid-metal bands — simply boring, pointless, pretentious and of no relevance to a normal life — into metal has come about as a result of the SJW journalist invasion that #metalgate spoke of. SJWs, hipsters and scenesters are basically the same thing. They find a new genre, exclaim how unenlightened it is, and then bring into it the same stuff they do everywhere else, making that genre as boring as their origins. These people are lost, without purpose, and desperate for any attempt to draw attention to themselves. When they take over, they all promote each other and talk about each others’ bands, websites and labels until they cloud the skies of that genre and most information about it involves the hipster agenda.

What I suggest today is <slight> action. That means that we do the simplest and least amount of work for the greatest effect. We know who the SJWs are and where they are writing articles. It’s time we exclude these people from the metal scene. That does not mean attack them, but to simply use other news sources, listen to other bands, and avoid their self-promoting circular masturbatory motion. Here’s a short list of sites that have supported SJWs:

These are the invaders who are trying to destroy metal music and turn it into indie/hardcore so it can be “safe.” If you support these with your band, your own reading, or your advertising, you are helping to turn metal into the latest version of hipster indie rock with the “safe” opinions that metal has always rebelled against.

How we shut them out is the same method used to keep Christians and neo-Nazis out of metal: say “that’s a political site/band/label” and imply that you won’t deal with them because of the resulting shady and manipulative associations. Pretend you found out that the Vatican, North Korea, Scientology, Monsanto, al-Qaeda, the Ku Klux Klan or Jesse Jackson were running a website and how you would react to that, and then apply it here.

#metalgate helps put Hatred back on Steam

December 17, 2014 –

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You probably don’t yet know this, but it’s ideological warfare out there. “Politics” no longer exists in the realm of voting and reading the Editorial page only. It is now part of every aspect of life, and the movement is only accelerating. This occurs because the people in our society are divided by what type of future society they want to be moving toward creating.

Some say this is accelerated by the collapse of the USA as a superpower and with it, the notion that the “American formula” of capitalism, the welfare state, democracy, consumerism and media power is no longer seen as a universal good. Instead it may be about to join the other failed ideologies — Communism, Nazism, Anarchism, and undoubtedly others — in the dustbin of history. Being on the cusp of such vast change naturally makes most people nervous, and so the masses are forming into mobs and squaring off against one another.

One of the big stories on your talking screen right now is The Interview. Apparently Hollywood — which never colludes with popular opinion in looking for bad guys who will not offend certain traditionally offended groups, like American Indians, the Chinese, and Arab Muslims — made a movie about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Il Jung. A group of hackers claiming to be from the DPRK have hacked into Sony studios, revealing in the process that upper leadership is almost entirely white and male, but are also threatening theaters that show this film. Many theaters have out of fear pulled it from their marquees. This is how you get things done in the age of ideological bullying: shut your opponents down, and call them fascists, all while enforcing some “fascism” of your own on their point of view.

Reaction to #metalgate has been mixed. SJWs first tried to deny it, then blamed the gaming community, and finally have fallen back on their try-hard die-hard standard of calling #metalgate supporters “fascists.” But today, #metalgate scored its first victory. The video game Hatred — developed in Poland by a group of metalheads — instigated controversy early on and, thanks to whining by SJWs who called it a “genocide simulator,” was removed from video game clearinghouse (like a cross between Google’s App Store and Amazon) Steam. But today, Hatred is back on Steam thanks to a grass-roots campaign by #gamergate and #metalgate supporters. You can see how this political warfare operates: the goal is to get the sellers to stop carrying certain games and music, which reminds me of the bad old days of the 1980s when Tipper Gore and her crazy friends tried to get heavy metal albums out of stores and barring that, required they have little stickers put on them saying that they had bad lyrics and Satan.

Over at MetalBlast, an article calls out this ideological warfare for the utter hypocrisy that it is:

In the world of Social Justice Warriors, when a white person “twerks” it’s cultural appropriation (because within their infantilizing view of blacks, Africans have a proud tradition of shaking their asses until they clap), while a female African American playing heavy metal is just a good “you go girl!” moment. This is, incredibly, both hilarious and infuriating at the same time, since while nobody has ever said that Derrick Green should leave Sepultura because he’s black, commentators, and even performers, demand whites leave jazz, rap and hip hop alone. Thankfully, those defenseless minorities can count with the Social Justice Warriors carrying the White Man’s Burden.

It would be ironic if “anti-racism” became another form of racism, one that rewards minorities for behaving in the way that their white overlords — er, social justice friends — want them to. But then again, it might not be out of character. After all, Eric Gardner was restrained by NYPD for the crime of selling single cigarettes. New York also made 24-ounce sodas illegal. Once upon a time, they made alcohol illegal, too. The motivation behind the “social justice warriors” of every age is the same: they have found a cause to which you cannot object without appearing to endorse its converse. There is no response to “Are you an anti-Nazi?” or “Are you a witch?” except an enthusiastic Yes! because otherwise you seem to be saying that you think Nazis and witches are just great, fine, peachy-keen. This condition is almost impossible to parody, as the Tyranny of Tradition folks explored with an article that made its points indirectly:

All I want is to not be told what to do by outsiders because they got their feelings hurt a few times growing up. People want me to speak in a way that is politically correct, but what about how I feel? What about who I am? Why do I have to be the one that pretends?

When our world is seen in a literal binary of “good” versus “evil,” we are the ones caught in the middle. We can become pawns for one side or the other, but insanity will win because politics has invaded normal life. The SJWs trying to take over metal have lost their legitimacy because metalheads have called them out on it, and the more they deny, obfuscate and outright lie, the more it becomes clear that we caught the real “fascists” with their hands in the cookie jar. They have lost legitimacy not just for their attempt to control us, but for their frankly boring and pointless imitation of all those old post-hardcore albums in metalized form. Metal deserves better, and seeing these pretentious gits kicked to the curb does us all a world of good.

Destroying Divinity – Hollow Dominion

December 16, 2014 –

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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.

“On the right side of history”

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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 point of this approach is literally thought control. As Roger Brown wrote in 1976:

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.

#metalgate got some interesting support some time ago from an unlikely source:

myrkur

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?

Why metal is better than “social justice”

December 15, 2014 –

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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.

When #metalgate upsets people it is because they do not want to face the conflict between outsiders and metal, as is shown in this article on MetalSucks:

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.