Heineken Nederland B.V. – Newcastle Brown Ale (2015)

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Options in life often take the form of what is conveniently available plus feasible given resources. Imagine a standard American suburban Saturday night, when you are the squad are about to chill in the garage with some death metal and smokes. What can you pick up at a standard die-cut suburban liquor store or grocery store that does not hit either extreme, mediocrity or expensive novelty? One option for generations has been Newcastle Brown Ale, now brought to you by the same people who murdered Heineken and turned it into Budweiser with Dutch flavoring. Luckily, with Newcastle, there is less room to ruin: this has always been a medium-dark, sweet beer with a caramel-molasses flavor, and although this version is more watery than the ones from two decades ago, it mostly maintains that flavor. Pouring the beer releases a fallen leaves brown liquid with a medium head and an immediate note of its dominant flavor, a nutty warmth melded with malty stoved sugar with undertones of fresh bread and a hint of malt vinegar. It goes down smoothly with a creamy flavor and a lingering sweetness which might be the weakest point for this beer, followed by an earthy but not bitter flavor of hops. Like many commercial beers, its aftertaste is most revealing, which has the sugars dissipate to a slightly skunky yeast flavor. What saves it is that warmth and toned down brown ale flavor seamlessly mixed with a gentle sweetness. Sometimes this one is too sweet for me. But Newcastle Brown Ale provides a solid middle-of-the-road brown ale that can be found almost anywhere at a low import price, making this a go-to when the pale imitations of formerly great imports (and their 20% higher prices) make the lips curl with resentment and not anticipation.

Quality rating: 4/5
Purchase rating: 4/5

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Codex Obscurum: a retrospective

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From its beginnings as an unsteady homage to the zines of years past to its current role as commentator and gatekeeper of quality underground metal, Codex Obscurum zine has grown and refined its approach over the past five years. Today the editors released a photograph of issues one through eight in all their glory, and we thought we would share it with you.

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Malediction releasing Chronology of Distortion discography re-issue

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Previously under-appreciated UK death metal band Malediction, whose sole release was a live recording on Wild Rags Records entitled Chronicles of Dissention, has partnered with Dark Blasphemies Records to re-issue its discography as Chronology of Distortion, sixteen tracks spanning 72 minutes of death metal slated for release in December 2015.

Known for their laconic take on the Morbid Angel style of phrasal guitar riffs woven together into a narrative, Malediction specialized in using selective melody and introspective lead guitar to create a unique vision of the death metal style. Fans who could not get the songs on Chronicles of Dissention the first time around will appreciate these lost classics finally coming to light.

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Unearthly embarks on Unearthly Rites tour

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Brazilian speed/death metal band Unearthly have embarked on a tour of the United States which sees them which sees them hit over 20 dates with Krow and Nihilistinen Barbaarisus. Following the steps of Hate Eternal and Nile, Unearthly embrace a technical style of death metal which features the choppy riffs and stop/start techniques of speed metal. Listen to their 2014 album, The Unearthly, below.

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Dark Reign releases “Fire Power Resurrecting Death” demo (2015)

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Dark Reign, a band most known for its 1980s demos of speed/death metal hybrid high-intensity metal, has released a 2015 demo entitled “Fire Power Resurrecting Death.” A sample track follows, showing more of ripping riffs and thunderous choruses for which this band — which granted members to other Texas death metal acts — has been known and appreciated for during the past two decades.

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Infamous unleashes Tempesta

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Italian black metal band Infamous unleashed its third full-length album, Tempesta, on CD-R limited to a hundred copies. This band carved a niche for itself with its incredibly violent music that nonetheless conjured up the naturalistic, feral and sentimental spirit of black metal that confronts reality directly and generates a sense of opposition to decay.

Like the previous Infamous release, Rovine e Disperazione, the third album — as shown by the sample track below — emphasizes better riff definition and the slow emergence of depth of melody through layered composition. With recent work revealing a possible Ildjarn influence, Infamous tread waters of a careful balance between the emotional aspects of melody and the primal alienated violence which was characteristic of older Norse bands, albeit in a style which reflects its Southern European roots. Fans of Greek black metal and the more windblown releases from Graveland and Ancient might appreciate this one.

With any luck, a deserving label will pick up this band and re-issue its discography, a series of recordings which display raw creativity along with a steely-eyed glimpse at the ongoing failure of humanity.

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From banning “hate” to forced obedience

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Originally, the “no platform” idea was that when outright neo-Nazi bands scheduled a concert, people would protest and the venues would stop supporting them. While I find this dubious and believe it will backfire against its original intent, it was at least clear and limited to stopping undesired expression.

Now we see that it becomes: forcing all bands to have the “right” opinion if they want to perform. As the Times of Israel writes, a performer is being censored for not being pro-Palestine:

Festival organizers were driven by intense pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the reports said. Artists scheduled to perform at the event threatened to cancel their appearances if Matisyahu were to perform because he was “seen to represent Israel.”

The organizers gave Matisyahu an ultimatum, telling him if he would “sign such a declaration [publicly affirming his support for the Palestinians, he] can perform,” according to Spanish daily, El Pais.

Now, I know that people on the internet can get feisty about Israel and/or Jews, but I view this as a mistaken notion. Oddly, what I used to hear coming from the far-right I now hear coming from the middle-left, which is the usual smattering of fears that Jews somehow control the world or are responsible for its downfall. Back in reality, Jews are a small minority that — while disproportionately successful in science, the arts, entertainment and business — act in their own interests which seem to be personal in nature rather than The Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style conspiracy takeover of Earth. It is beyond this article to comment on Israel-vs-Palestine except to say that it is clear that the two populations seem incompatible with one another.

From that point, we can actually discuss the issue. But that is not what SJWs — who are all liberal and should know better as presumed defenders of individual rights, including speech — want us to do. They want discussion to end and only one viewpoint to be heard, which is that of a pro-Palestine anti-Israel outlook. What happened to Matisyahu crosses the line into anti-Semitism. He is not known for a pro-Israel position, nor has he offered one. But he is Jewish… and he performed in Israel… which is enough for his critics to equate “Jewish” with “pro-Israel” and demand he speak out in the issue in agreement with them, even if he has either a contrary viewpoint or any of a number of differing views. It is unclear whether he has any political views at all.

Censorship forms a slippery slope. At first, it is designed to eliminate ideas associated with known social harms, like violence and pedophilia. No one will stand up for those people, so the next generation aims at a broader target. Eventually, it becomes what we see it is now, which is “Agree with us or you will be silenced.” If you want to know what keeps me and other anti-censorship activists going, even if it means speaking up for icky people from 4chan or Reddit, it is that we know how censorship expands from known ills to failure to agree, and we want to stop that process before it starts.

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New Burzum / Vikernes direction with “Skáldskapr: Hávamál stanza 138 & 139”

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Burzum composer and mastermind Varg Vikernes has released his latest musical composition, two verses from the Hávamál set to music and voice. This takes a more floaty ambient Vangelis-style approach, spending its time setting scene and then varying texture within it, more like modernist classical than the linear music of today.

While his last few ambient albums have been widely praised on this site, he finds himself in a difficult place: there are many clueless Hot Topic buyers who would love to snap up a Burzum album that sounded like Motley Crue or the Deftones with more evil, a smaller but loudmouthed horde of FMP/NWN tryhards who want only three (chromatic interval) chords and the truth, and then a world music audience which is impossibly locked in its expectation of the same mishmash of Afro-Cuban rhythms with any local tradition it wants to explore. Finding an audience is difficult.

Placing all of his money on the wildcard, Vikernes has decided to appeal to those who have already drifted past all of the above, which are essentially multi-decade trends (no core, no mosh, no fun) that have long become cliché but their audience, being self-obsessed and oblivious, cannot tell the difference. This new track shows Burzum going more into soundtrack-land and trying less hard to please any of the audiences hovering around black metal’s corpse like flies.

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Literary inspirations of metal

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Fenriz (Darkthrone, Storm) unleashed his band Fenriz’ Red Planet a half-decade ago and on its first release included a song named “John Carter, Man On Mars.” This should immediately send all of you running to your search engines, where you will find that John Carter was the protagonist-hero of a number of books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, all of which are available online.

That in turn leads to the larger question of which metal bands have shown their literary influences. If a list were made, H.P. Lovecraft and J.R.R. Tolkien would lead the list from the 1970s onward, but perhaps the influences are subtler. Jim Morrison acknowledged Louis-Ferdinand Céline and William Blake, and this carried forward into metal through thematic elements, some of which have been picked up on by metal bands since. Many of these influences may be subtler than explicit reference, such as whatever gore-drenched literature inspired Carcass and any of the occult fringes of underground metal.

One wonders what lurks in lyrics and song ideas from the vast library of black metal, death metal and grindcore. Science fiction seems to make an appearance with the more technical bands, where the more primitive and violent prefer popular but challenging literature such as Lovecraft. It has yet to be seen whether metal bands can adapt ideas from Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy. But perhaps some are working on it. If you can think of any literary references in metal, drop them in the comments.

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Smithsonian Magazine explores metal with Slayer: The Origins of Thrash in San Francisco, CA

Metal rarely got attention from respectable institutions during its early days. As officially designated social enemies and rebels, metalheads were perceived as being antagonists of such institutions who did not necessarily agree with their basic principles like the hippies did. However, with the lightening of metal this has changed, and academics, the corporate world and now the Smithsonian Museum have taken an interest in metal.

Slayer: The Origins of Thrash in San Francisco, CA is a five-minute video which looks at the creation of speed metal as it happened in San Francisco, California, following up on the work of bands like Motorhead, Satan and Blitzkrieg in the UK when hybridized with hardcore punk. It shows the respectable institutions of society recognizing not just Slayer, and speed metal, but that a thriving and viable sub-culture has existed within their society for almost thirty years.

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