Another album that I briefly wrote about a while back is approaching its official release date. Rituals by Rotting Christ will release on February 12th, 2016, and is still available to preorder from Season of Mist in the meantime. You know how a great deal of established and older bands stick to their stylistic guns, especially now that the crisis of the 1990s is but a dim memory? Rotting Christ is amongst them; they’ve continued their traditional-black-etc fusion ways as hinted at on their earliest albums and established, at the very latest, on Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. If this album fails to be of any value, you’ll at least have Thy Mighty Contract as a fallback.1 Comment
The cult tradmetal band Cirith Ungol (not to be confused with the promising Dutch black metal band Cirith Gorgor) is stirring after decades of inactivity. The first sign of this was perhaps the original “Frost and Fire” festival they organized last year; now, they’re escalating their own participation by headlining the second one. In addition to Cirith Ungol, the festival will also feature many other traditional metal bands, as well as two other reunions that have yet to be announced. Cirith Ungol’s official forum claims that the extremely lengthy period in which tickets are on sale is a result of the original festival selling out despite two months’ availability. The resulting festival might be a interesting opportunity for anyone who lives in SoCal.2 Comments
Winter Thrice would’ve ensnared me for some time, had it come out in 2009. In my youth, I was more receptive to pomp and circumstance in my music, and if there’s one thing Borknagar’s latest recording does especially wrong, it’s that it never relents from its apparent desire to be epic, even to the point of having its share of contrived quiet sections for obvious dynamic contrast. Restraint is not part of these musician’s repertoire, and it makes for yet another flat (albeit psychically draining) album that I can’t imagine even its most rabid fans having much patience for once the initial blitz of sales wears off.
At its core, Borknagar is descended from the same sort of ‘atmospheric’ black metal that their fellow scenesters and countrymen in Arcturus once made a living doling out to the masses. It’s probably a coincidence (at best, historical understandable in the context of Norway in the early ’90s) that both of those bands have some roots in especially unusual death metal oriented recordings. What degraded these bands (and similar ones) over time was their ever increasing addiction to sonic novelty. While Borknagar was quicker to unify a few elements they liked and streamline everything else into their signature sound (I described the teaser as “melodramatic, pseudo-progressive heavy rock music”), they’ve ended up so dependent on their own aesthetic that it interferes with their ability to develop their songs.
Now, Borknagar is technically proficient, as you might expect from any metal band that sells and isn’t deliberately ultra-primitive. However, only the vocalists’ contributions manage to rise to any sort of prominence. If I strain my ears, I can catch a glimpse of what the instrumentalists are attempting, and I’m sure it’s pleasant enough as a result of all the time that went into writing and recording it, but there’s very little of substance there beyond the ‘epic’ orientation of Borknagar’s songwriting. On top of that are a series of sung parts from three vocalists all scrambling for your attention. These are again skilled singers (and shriekers) to the point that their performance takes center stage, but when the arrangements they perform are so forgettable, does it really matter?
Ultimately, I found Winter Thrice to be so aggressively unmemorable, to the point that remembering just what it sounds like beyond a vague impression of 3/4 time and minor key progressions is difficult. At its best, it sounds good, but this stylish album is ultimately free of substance.9 Comments
Voivod recently released the title track from the upcoming Post Society EP. Its overall Voivodness (in the French-Canadian metal sense, as opposed to the Polish administrative one) supports my previous theory that the band is continuing with the approach that they outlined on Target Earth; in my own previous words, “…an accessible mixture of of their signature late ’80s sound with more modern alternative and progressive rock influences.” The EP is still scheduled for February 26th, and Voivod is still going on tour next month. The good track record so far bodes well for the quality of the involved content, although the fact so much of it having already been released piecemeal may cut into its overall sales.No Comments
Master, Autopsy, Motörhead – what do they all have in common? They’re all long running bands that settled on a workable style relatively early and generally stuck with it for decades, gradually refining their craft while managing not to lose control of the forces that initially motivated them. Master is arguably the grandfather of this tradition within the realms of death metal, as they’re the approximate beginning of the constellation of Paul Speckmann projects (since War Cry is allegedly a far cry from most of his work). Given that Master sticks with tradition on An Epiphany of Hate, anyone who’s familiar with Master should know exactly what they’re going to get.
This album belongs to the more elaborate school of Mastercraft that’s come into being in the last few years; while Master has never written especially long or complicated songs, the level of musicianship and organization on display here is a definite improvement from the early days of the band. The production and mixing is also higher fidelity, but improving such is not nearly as difficult as becoming a better songwriter. I’d argue that Paul Masidval’s (protip: Cynic) contributions to Master during his brief mercenary period in the early 1990s must’ve resonated with Speckmann on some level and encouraged this elaboration. An Epiphany of Hate is still relatively sparse in its overall construction; the songs here are built out of comparatively few riffs; if not necessarily the three per song figure that comes up in older discussions. Monophony is still the band’s weapon of choice, but like many of the bands that have… mastered this sort of metal, Master’s musicians know when to keep it up and enjoy their freedom of melody and tonality and when they should instead use some sort of harmonic reinforcement. This expansion without overextension is something a lot of bands aren’t able to successfully pull off, so it does reflect pretty well on them.
I don’t know how much of an advance An Epiphany of Hate represents over 2013’s The Witchhunt, if any, but it’s still a good addition to Master’s legacy and a worthy addition to your 2016 collections.2 Comments
Phil Anselmo put a sour taste into the mouth of Dimebag Darrell and Pantera worshipers worldwide by making some white supremacist signs at the end of Dimebash 2016. Much to my amusement, he immediately backpedaled and insisted that these remarks were his idea of a joke. Like most of these incidents, the importance is not so much in what Phil Anselmo actually believes, but in how the people around him react. As a general rule, you people have overreacted. For instance, the good folk at MetalSucks (always a bastion of… well… something) struggled to reconcile their simple belief that racism is bad with their other simple belief that Phil Anselmo’s musical efforts are worthy of their time and attention.
Here at DMU, we’ve learned to deal with the fallout of our idols’ actual, provable crimes, such as the arson and murder of the Norwegian black metal scene to the point that we’re perhaps desensitized to thoughtcrimes, especially since we can’t yet peer into Anselmo’s head and accurately determine whether he’s a racist, or trawling for attention, or some combination of both. What matters is that we don’t jump to conclusions based on the unknowable. Besides, we have enough evidence of Anselmo contributing to Pantera.48 Comments
Avantasia is arguably a notable power metal act and perhaps one of the EU’s most profitable exporters of cheese. Man can’t live on cheese alone, but DMU occasionally attracts fans of mainstream power metal, and sometimes for all its goofiness it’s less idiotic than whatever else is trendy. Ghostlights will officially release tomorrow, but the German entertainment news site Bild (at least I think it’s lightweight news; meine Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut) is currently offering a stream of the album for those who want to preview the album. As is typical for this band, Ghostlights will feature an all-star roster of power metal musicians, and is generally very accessible and poppy; saccharine even once listeners acclimate to the sound. We might give it a review someday; no guarantees.3 Comments
Mark Squilla, a city councilman from Philadelphia, recently proposed a bill that would create a police-accessible registry of entertainers who sought to perform in the city’s venues, with the intent of allowing the police to vet acts and have a voice in whether they would be given licenses to perform. It seems the citizens of Philadelphia weren’t too pleased about this; while Squilla soon claimed that “…this provision is NOT intended to restrict artistic expression or any kind of entertainment, but rather is aimed at addressing public safety and quality of life issues,” opponents of the bill cited various concerns, most notably their belief that the bill would not actually protect the public, and that law enforcement should not be given such wide ranging powers. This sort of legislation, in fact, seems to me like the sort of thing that would result in police trying to keep even slightly controversial entertainers out of their city, or even ones they simply didn’t like if corruption was particularly rampant. If the bill passes in any form resembling its current one, it may create a great deal of difficulty for metal musicians seeking to perform for their fans in the area.5 Comments
Abbath’s pitfalls on Abbath are garden variety pitfalls (haphazard songwriting, too much time on the mixing consoles). What really distinguishes this album from all the other comebacks (like our recent coverage of Dystopia) is its main author’s legacy. Abbath’s previous accomplishments with Immortal factor very heavily into any promotion of his solo efforts, and this album has already received a great deal of praise because it doesn’t rock the boat by not sounding like Immortal and its more openly rock-like spinoffs (Between Two Worlds, March of the Norse). Divorced from the fame, Abbath might draw a little positive attention for having slightly above average individual riffs and instrument interaction, but that doesn’t stop it from paling in comparison to what Immortal themselves achieved.
A lot of what I could say about this album has already been used to describe previous efforts from when Immortal itself lost the impetus that made it so interesting in its early years. Running a simple search and replace on Brett’s descriptions of Damned in Black to replace band names makes for a very accurate, albeit not particularly original summation of how Abbath falls short. Surprisingly, it also describes some of the strong points; this album is arguably a lot more appealing on a superficial level than Immortal’s earlier studio albums. While skillful organization of musical content makes careful listening to a track like “The Call of the Wintermoon” off the debut pay off in the long run, I will admit that earlier material sometimes falls short in individual riffs and solos, mainly because the band members were less technically skilled in the past. That attention to detail, though, rendered the old works more ambitious. In contrast, a couple of tracks here come off as especially contrived; for instance, “Ocean of Wounds”, which sounds like Abbath and company decided that they absolutely needed to have a mid-paced arena headbanger. Many of the tracks aren’t as obviously pop oriented, but they’re still pretty haphazard and unmemorable once you start memorizing the individual elements.
It should come as no surprise that I don’t exactly recommend Abbath. The main difference between this and most of the chaff is that I think the musicians involved could do better if they set their minds to it based on the fact that they have, although the subtleties of the past sometimes just don’t pay the bills. At the very least, a financially successful but vapid comeback is a different problem than continued effort from bands that never put out anything of value.9 Comments
Amon Amarth is basically ‘beginner’ metal, although sometimes it’s very hard for us at DMU to hold that against them. Their latest effort, Jomsviking, comes out on March 25th and is already available for preorder from Metal Blade Records. The provided promotional video for “First Kill” continues Amon Amarth’s legacy of basic rock music with death metal aesthetics, and the fact that the band has stuck to this approach for their entire career (although their first few albums were allegedly a bit more complex) is non-news at best. After this album’s release, Amon Amarth will be going on a lengthy tour of the US with Entombed A.D and Exmortus that will last most of April and May.5 Comments