Like many of us, I discovered black metal as a young teenager. Back then, this relatively new form of music still retained some of its initial mystique and one could sense a scope and magnitude that went beyond previous conceptions of what metal was or should be. What initially won me over was not so much the heavy distortion, Satan/sodomy or spectacular extra-musical activities of individual musicians, but the evocative potential of the music. Its ability to create mental gateways into places normally out of reach, or as Mr. Vikernes once put it: “to stimulate the fantasy of mortals.”
At its most direct and well-calibrated, grindcore is a viciously effective medium for both emotional and corporal catharsis. But, as is often the case with experiential intensity, those equally delightful and terrifying moments seldom endure and will at best leave us grappling with a sensation of unresolved clarity. Whether or not this observation resonates with the reader, it may well be applied as an analogy for the grindcore phenomenon at large. Once a fortuitous offspring of hardcore punk and primordial death metal, early grindcore managed to tap into the deeper recesses of human discontent and paranoia and somehow channel this raw force into musical form. However, it didn’t take long before this short burst of essentially intuitive creativity gave in to rationalization and before anyone had realized it: game over.
The main point in case here would be Carcass. As have been previously chronicled on these pages, early Carcass lifted grindcore out of its self-inflicted musical and ideological circumscriptions with their debut Reek of Putrefaction (1988) —somewhat ironically, given its crude nature and presentation— before embarking on a steady slope into insignificance as the band got caught up with making music to please audiences. Since then, a veritable substyle has been founded upon Carcass’ earliest works reaching up to their third LP. Not surprisingly, the artistic results have been chiefly meagre because most successors have focused on mimicking style rather than the essential qualities of the music. Consider this in parallel to the poignantly limited musical palette of grindcore and a scenario takes form where novelty rather than substance is rewarded; because in a field where everything sound practically identical on the surface, the easiest way to gain notoriety is through aesthetic manipulation. Consequently, discovering worthy material quickly turns into a struggle of Sisyphosian proportions, as it requires extensive and often in-depth digging.
Unanimously forgotten by the metal world at large, Putrid Offal’s 1991 split LP with Exulceration comes across as a seemingly indistinctive affair at first glance. However, a deeper acquaintance with the material reveals this to be one of the more rewarding non-canonical works within the genre. Putrid Offal comfortably operates within a style somewhere between the first and second Carcass album if played with the intense rigidity of an early Napalm Death. Where the band excels is in a conjoinment of Reek of Putrefaction’s playful and frequently destabilizing nature with the more cogent and death metal-oriented riff sequencing witnessed on Symphonies of Sickness (1989). Riffs strive to expand beyond the simple chromatic patterns that has become a staple among grindcore acts. This allows the band not only to apply greater textural nuance to phrases, but also an opportunity to string riffs into sequences that defy binary modes of communication. While intensity remains as main focus throughout the playing time, both structure and riffology implies an undercurrent darker than what is usually expected of such a direct form of music.
Setting aside aspirations of petty “uniqueness”, Putrid Offal ironically enough belongs to the infinitesimal cadre of bands who’ve managed to expand upon the Carcass legacy.
It is not without good reason that the early 1990s are heralded as the golden era of metal music around these parts. In less than 5 years, not only did death metal reach its hitherto most mature stage, but in its immediate wake came the pinnacles of the by-then emerging black metal movement which remains unsurpassed to this day. (more…)
As the successive death- and black metal craze of the 1990s lost its grip over Scandinavia, many musicians started a journey back towards their earliest of musical infatuations. Often this meant a return to classic 1980s heavy metal, although filtered through contemporary developments in the metal craft and coupled, at least in the more auspicious of cases, with a melodic flair distinctive of the region. One of few interesting products of this slightly schizoid period is the one-man and seemingly one-off project Defender, brain-child of a certain Phillip von Segebaden. (more…)
By now established as one of few post-nineties black metal acts worth saving for posterity, Infamous returns with yet another joint effort production on the Hammerbund label. Joining the bill is the somewhat amusingly christened Gorrenje, a band previously unknown around these quarters but apparently of a slightly older vintage than their Sardinian counterpart. As has earlier been the case, Infamous proves to be vastly superior to their collaborators and is therefore the one most worthy of our attention. (more…)
Remember back in the mid-1990s when every black metal musician of repute boasted involvement in at least one dark ambient project? Although the move away from metallic ground towards previously uncharted territories comes across as a farseeing maneuver in hindsight – black metal had after all reached its creative zenith at this point – the lion’s share of resultant products left a lot to be desired. (more…)
A salute goes out to Misters Imladris and Kaelrok for sharing recommendations and insights related to the subject at hand.
After having recounted and commented on the birth and evolution of the first wave of European power metal in part II, the time has come for this author to travel across the Atlantic and take a closer look at the contemporaneous development of power metal in North America, commonly referred to as United States Power Metal (USPM). (more…)
While working with what was intended to be the second part of a tripartite article series covering the history and general properties of the power metal subgenre, it soon became clear that a sufficiently thorough treatment of the subject would require more space and time than what was originally intended. This insight subsequently led to the conclusion that individual parts needed to be subdivided and portioned out in order to not grow out of proportion. The initial plan to present the material into three consecutive parts has thus been revised. (more…)
Pure Blood Doom, the notoriously hard to find second album by elite Finnish death metal band Adramelech, has been scheduled for re-release on cd and limited vinyl courtesy of Nuclear Abominations Records. According to the press-release, hungry customers can expect “new, remastered sound and new, improved layout and cover by artist Turkka Rantanen who already drew the original art”.
(Join DMU Legend Johan Pettersson for what may be the most expansive analysis of power metal ever presented in the first of a 3 part series. Listen to the accompanying suggested listening here)
Of all the subgenres and styles that fall within the metal spectrum (hence excluding unmitigated relapses into rock such as death’n’roll, stoner, nu- and indie metal), power metal most definitely counts as the one that has received the highest amount of scorn and ridicule from critics, fans and outsiders alike. (more…)