Orcrypt – Mercenaries of Mordor (2015)

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Here’s another recording released by Iron Pegasus Records. Like yesterday’s Eurynomos, it occupies that strange liminal space between traditional heavy metal and black metal, although the existence of two such albums in quick succession sometimes leads me to believe that it’s larger than previously suspected. However, if Eye of the Pantheon was at home in 1984 or so, Mercenaries of Mordor is more reminiscent of the early 1990s, although its ancestry is more obvious than the actual recordings of that era. It also labels itself “Pure Goblin Black Metal” for what are presumably marketing purposes, but people looking for a new Summoning in Orcrypt are going to find something more conventional by far.

On Mercenaries of Mordor, Orcrypt desperately claws for atmosphere and ambiance and creates songs of long drones stapled together by sampled audio (shamelessly ripped from the Ralph Bakshi adaptation of Lord of the Rings) and a great deal of guitar leads. It’s often reminiscent of of the blastier bands in the genre, but since the drumming and songwriting is generally of a middling pace, the rhythmic texture of the album ends up spacious in a way that deemphasizes the percussion. Besides the Bakshi, though, everything here has frequently been done. Orcrypt’s strength here is that they manage to pull a mixture of techniques and aesthetic adornishments from the air in a relatively organic way. Part of this is a pseudo-lofi production that is crystal clear (even the bassist is audible and prominent) despite its attempts to sound like garbage. It does, however, give them a strong foundation on which to build songs and make something valuable, but their dedication to that is spotty at best, mostly due to the emphasis on drone with limited elaboration outside the sound effects.

Ultimately, this is a proficient but not particularly interesting record, especially since it exists in a context of bands that have done what it does more effectively. I feel like a lot of the problems here are explained by the marketing material. The record label’s site claims that the band “…plays in the tradition of the early 90s underground, before Black Metal became popular,” and generally cites the earlier, more prototypical works of bands like Burzum and Emperor as influences as opposed to their more refined peaks. From a stance of rawness, that’s all fine and well, but it generally does more for you to imitate your idols’ heights rather than their rises. However, Orcrypt would have to go beyond merely imitating either of these to become particularly valuable as more than a quick shot of nostalgia.

 

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Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen starts Patreon campaign

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Sometimes Al Jourgensen seems tangential and unrelated to the DMU mission, but given how many projects he’s had his hands in, you won’t have much trouble finding a lineage between one of them (probably Ministry, since they tend to sound like metal even when the underlying songwriting isn’t aiming for that style) and something more directly related to our usual interests. Al has recently created a page on Patreon full of invective against the music industry and promising video backstage type content in addition to the usual industrial metal stuff in return for financial support. Musicians in general seem to have embraced the Kickstarter/Indiegogo type funding model more rapidly than Patreon; if you ask me, it’s easier to adapt the business model of the former to an LP every 12-36 months than it is to adapt to the more rapid releases that Patreon campaigns benefit from. Either way, the push towards crowdfunding and other means of financing free of major record labels is something our business-oriented readers may want to keep an eye on.

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Dark Funeral preparing new studio album for 2016

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Around here, Dark Funeral is probably best known for being one of David Parland’s (Necrophobic et al, RIP) projects that later took on a life of its own as a relatively mainstream sort of black metal act, similar in streamlining, commercializing effect to bands like Dimmu Borgir or Marduk. The band’s recently announced a new studio album for 2016 through their various social media presences, although not much information about the album and its approach have been revealed yet. It’s probably going to not only be more of the same (which is typical for aging bands that don’t go for major style shifts), but also even more of the same, given that the band is commonly criticized for a lack of diversity. For a good primer on the band’s overall approach, see their 1994 debut EP, which has been reissued several times over the years with varying quantities of supplementary Bathory covers.

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Eurynomos – Eye of the Pantheon (2015)

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This short EP has been sitting in our review queue for a while, for better or worse. I personally didn’t know what to expect from this band, but I certainly wasn’t expecting Root or After Death style ‘traditional’ heavy metal with extreme metal technique (i.e what we call power metal in the local parlance). The specific genre probably isn’t important, but Eye of the Pantheon does fit in quite well with the nebulous “first wave” of black metal despite its contemporary vintage. Luckily for us, Eurynomos takes after the better metal in that vein by making up for its technical shortcomings with ambitious songwriting and that certain ineffable gutter charisma I find rather common in similarly primitive recordings.

A lot of our readers will probably remember how, during the last decade, Darkthrone earned some notoriety for creating deliberate throwbacks to traditional metal and hardcore punk that were too goofy and self-referential to be of much value. Eurynomos seems to be aiming for something similar, but their efforts actually end up more accomplished and coherent. The musical language is very similar – both bands employ consonant but minimal riffs, halfway harsh shouted vocals, simple song structures, and so forth. Eurynomos, though, manages to write and perform in a more elaborate fashion, hiding their verse-chorus nature with well constructed bridging material and using their vocalist more effectively. Given a style that isn’t all that technically precise, his clear enthusiasm for the material means I’m willing to overlook his awkward cadence and his slurred diction. This overall mix of pros and cons does, as previously mentioned, extend to the rest of the band, especially since this mixture of traditional heavy metal with old underground tropes does not have the greatest musical demands.

In the process of appraising material for DMU reviews (and more generally, just listening to music), I find that a lot of bands would benefit from either simplifying or complicating their material. In this case, I think that Eurynomos would benefit from being a more elaborate and technically ambitious band within their style, but what they have so far is a good foundation, and it’s worth listening to in its own right.

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Metallica continues San Francisco Giants concert series


In the latest of what are assured to be profitable sporting events, Metallica will perform their 4th “Metallica Night” at AT&T Park on May 6th, 2016, alongside a baseball game featuring the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies. This ungainly combination of baseball and metal music is sure to make a lot of money. Now, stadium performances are a pretty common choice for bands of Metallica’s commercial stature, but they’re usually not interleaved between innings of baseball like this. Furthermore, the Giants host an enormous amount of special events to liven up their seasons, so maybe their acquisition of Metallica’s services isn’t so out of the ordinary. In the end, an opportunity for those who like both (they of exquisite taste), and the punchline of a joke that’s yet to be written for everyone on DMU.

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Blood Music preparing a expensive Emperor vinyl box set

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After two and a half years of preparation, Blood Music is compiling a huge and particularly expensive box set of everything Emperor officially released, and then some. For 700 Euros (currently 744.52 USD or 492.38 pounds sterling), you can get a swathe of material released between 1992 and 2009 – from the band’s earliest demos, to their studio albums, to the occasional post-dissolution live performance document and so on. Now, this is obviously a major financial investment; the people at Blood Music claim it’s due to the cost of press vinyl and creating the lavish packaging. Unless you’re a complete and utter Emperor die hard, it’s a tough sell, and it suffers from the typical box set pitfall of including later and less accomplished works in addition to In The Nightside Eclipse. Blood Music would do well to renege on their promise not to publish albums separately in this form, at least if they want to get in on the ambitious “One Emperor Album Per Child” initiative we could start if we had the funding and global reach we seek.

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Borknagar sets release date for Winter Thrice

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The bastard sons of Molested are back. Borknagar started their career as a melodic ‘viking’ themed black metal band, but gradually (under the influence of its revolving door of vocalists) evolved towards the sort of melodramatic, pseudo-progressive heavy rock music of their post-black companions like Arcturus and Solefald. Winter Thrice is allegedly going to hearken back to the band’s earlier days in some ways, but judging from the sample track released, this is going to be the same sort of musically proficient but sterile product so many other bands are releasing. It comes out on January 22nd, 2016, further adding to the barrage of upcoming releases in that month and on that day in particular.

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Policeman fired after singing with Vital Remains

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A constantly evolving story we have here, folks. Last Wednesday, parts of the internet caught fire after Andrew Ricks, a police officer from Sanford, Florida, was fired for participating in a Vital Remains concert while on duty. The last bit seems to be what sealed his fate – in an interview with the Daily Beast, Ricks’ supervisor (Chief Cecil E. Smith) claims that prior to this incident, Ricks had previously violated police policies – for instance, not keeping a body camera active during ‘community contacts’. It’s also worth noting that Ricks had already given notice of impending resignation and would have performed his last day of policework yesterday had he not been fired. Whether or not Chief Smith’s actions were justified, it does make a potent case for keeping an eye on a news story and paying special attention to any new information that comes up as it evolves.

There’s also arguably the issue of Vital Remains. Although their musical abilities aren’t likely to play a role in upcoming elements, it’s not our style to let them go unmentioned. Unfortunately, this is one of the bands I haven’t exactly given more than the most cursory of examinations (and even that was several years ago) but I seem to remember them falling into the common trap of having disorganized songwriting; an especially great problem as they also tend to favor extended songs. Is this accurate? I’d like to read about your opinions.

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My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery (2015)

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Regardless of how you might feel about My Dying Bride as a whole, you could make the point that their earlier, more death metal oriented works gave them more musical breadth to work with. Feel The Misery mostly tosses the ‘death’ part of the band’s legacy and doesn’t replace the holes with anything. To be honest, I found it quite depressing, but I don’t think it was really for the reasons that the band intended. By trying to stretch out a minimum of musical ideas to just over an hour, My Dying Bride has turned their latest studio album into an exercise in tedium and predictability.

Like many a doom band before them, MDB takes a style of metal (on this album, really basic traditional Black Sabbath type stuff) and plays it especially slowly. The emphasis is generally on the vocal performance of Aaron Stainthorpe, who on this album seems shackled by the sluggish pace and constant atmosphere of the recording. His combination of both proficient growls and a clean baritone register give him some versatility that would certainly come in handy on an album with enough diversity of musical language to accommodate his talents. The emphasis on the traditional, mainstream sorts of metal, though, come with a troublesome burden – permanent consonance and conventional pop music language mean that anything the band introduces often lasts for a very long time or is callously discarded without much in the way of elaboration. The songwriting here isn’t completely stagnant, but it certainly meanders, and the inability to properly develop on anything makes an already lengthy album feel even more drawn out than it already is.

The obvious point of comparison is not necessarily to death-doom or even more mainstream forms of doom metal as a whole, but to other drawn out, minimalist/ambient works. The best works of that sort (sparse as their construction often is) tend to trace out a sort of musical “journey” by building up a logical connection between every aspect of the music. Compared to more conventionally structured music, it’s simultaneously easier and harder – the former because there’s less elements to work with, and the latter because listeners would therefore have more opportunity to inspect and scrutinize what actually is there. It seems, however, that My Dying Bride doesn’t even attempt this on Feel the Misery, which is content to wallow in its own sorrow. If you want a miserable navel gazing experience, it would fit just fine, but as a work of metal, it is a dismal failure.

 

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Dave Lombardo starts new hardcore punk band – Dead Cross

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In other news that beats trying to explain why My Dying Bride’s latest LP is a borehole and a psychic drain (more on that later today if all goes well), Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame has started a hardcore punk band, adding to his already substantial roster of projects. Besides Lombardo, Dead Cross also features Justin Pearson from The Locust and Retox. If the band’s lineup and announcement on Vice are any indication, Dead Cross may take more after modern hardcore punk and metalcore than older substyles of the genre. If you particularly need to hear members of Slayer performing classic hardcore punk, there’s always Slayer’s Undisputed Attitude, although Lombardo was out of the band when it came out in 1996.

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