Yes – Fragile (1971)

yes fragile

By Johan P, with the amiable assistance of David Rosales. This review continues Death Metal Underground’s 1970s Progressive Rock for Hessians series.

In this part of the article series “1970s Progressive Rock for Hessians”, I have chosen to take on the English group Yes‘ fourth album Fragile from 1971. While their fifth effort, Close to the Edge, is generally regarded as their creative peak and definite statement, Fragile was more important for the development of the nascent progressive rock genre, and perhaps a more suitable entry point for someone who is getting into prog rock from a metal background. There is definitely a sense of power in the works of Yes even if it takes on a different form than what we are used to in metal music. Where early metal bands like Black Sabbath expressed a gritty, doom-laden heaviness through guitar-centered power chord riffing, Yes opted to build momentum through a more instrumentally integrated approach. That is not to say that there are no heavy guitar parts on ‘Fragile’, but here the guitars assume a somewhat different role than in metal.

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Traversing the Underground: The Beginning of a Journey

tolkein moria gate

Article by David Rosales.

We often use the term underground following the multiple discussions of underground extreme metal started on Death Metal Underground by Brett Stevens himself. Conceptualizing it here would be redundant and confusing. Instead, we might benefit more from brainstorming that allows for the reveling of authenticity that so characterizes underground music. What we are interested in here is not metal only, or metal as a whole, but rather metal as conducive to realization, breaking of false boundaries, destruction of a false mainstream, doing away with a useless society, and a contempt for a decadent civilization that through negation is blind to its own fatality.

The answer is not in this or that genre, in formal philosophy, or in the bare findings of the scientific establishment, but in their use in service of individual discernment. Music itself, if taken as more than mere sensual distraction, is the intuitive way leading to the shattering of illusions perceived through the senses, instigated by the mundane. This is not mere sophistry,; its most practical result is that in the abstract realizations thereof the mind is free to challenge what before appeared as commandments written in stone. Reality does not belong to anyone; truth is a quest.

baphomet pan shub-niggaurath
Unaussprechlichen KultenBaphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath (2014)
The tumultuous death metal of Unaussprechlichen Kulten captures the rawness of exploring black magic in darkness upon the listeners mind. What is significant about the interest of metal at large in what is hidden, what is occult, is not the morbidity alone, although that is the explanation that even luminaries may conjure and the only one that the rabble may consciously understand. The open door to asocial darkness, to inhumanity, to disintegration, is the contrast between ephemeral and the immanent. However, facing this burning darkness is also a voluntary act: it lies beyond good and evil, where the primal breath of the whole that puts our non-divinity into perspective. Here, the old school death metal expressions within free structures that never overextend and are perhaps inconclusive, nevertheless represent a perfect introduction to an energetic flow of destruction and consumption.

snowland mmxii
Sorcier des GlacesSnowland MMXII (2012)
A well-deserved update of Snowland, Sorcier des Glaces’ Snowland MMXII shines with self-attenuated glow, hiding vibrant vitality. This is the course of nobility after or through darkness. Sorcier des Glaces takes us to the essence of black metal as post-nihilism. What some would confuse with empiricism or mere scepticism, but is in reality free transcendentalism following death, complete nihilistic destruction. The dark light emanating from image and action, from reality and unreality, the delight beyond sensuality in the universe as it is as perceived imperfectly as we see it in the thousand ways in which we tune in to it.

Departure at Sunset
Isa – Отход на закате [Departure at Sunset] (2015)
Risking death by lynching, I’ll introduce this rather inconspicuous and only vaguely metal album as the culmination of this discussion. This lies more in the realm of ambient and is liable to be confused with post-rock when seen from a certain angle. Departure at Sunset captures the naturalist side of metal in a stronger way than do most these days. This is done in perhaps an extreme way that does not befit the always-hidden, the underground spirit of metal. That is, there might be too much sunshine in this for the traditional underground, so that it might seem counter-intuitive for some to see this as more authentically revealing than what sounds traditional. But the trademark old school sound has been hijacked for a long time now, it has been commercialized in what is almost a counter-spell to its original black conjuration. The truth seems to emerge, then, in the opposite, sunlit, ice-clear sounds of this ambient metal that transports us to Siberia as the antithesis to the modern world.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Fisting Female-Fronted Pseudo-Metal

goetz iron hand

Resistance fuels hatred and must be crushed beneath an iron fist.

the oath
The Oath – The Oath (2014)
“Whoa!” – Keanu Reeves. These women are actually fairly attractive! Usually metal girls are fat, under 5’4, and have saggy tits. Or they love Slipknot. I can see why Lee Dorian is dicking the hot one. This at least has riffs even if most of the songs wear out their welcome fairly quickly. There are Cathedral albums more boring than this but most of these songs feel like Motorhead if they smoked dope instead of cranked speed. Motorhead if Motorhead were boring and the songs went on two minutes too long and had random riff salad bridges. If these two would actually get naked on the cover like the real Coven and separated or refined their compositions, maybe this would be more listenable. Hold it is that riff from Bad Company? Who steals riffs from Bad Company? What kind of degenerate does that? If this is among the more listenable grrrl metal…

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Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc (2016)
As ridiculous as their band name, Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s 2016 effort is a lazy mixture of stoner rock and deathcore. It consists of interleaved Black Sabbath-core grooves and pointless breakdowns accentuated by a menstruating screamo vocalist. By the very definition of those two genres, the reader should know this is but a string of feel-good moments with absolutely no point whatsoever.

One has to wonder if the band even knows what “agoraphobic” means, given their blatantly idiotic use in their band name. From there, we can easily tell how they would also try to use “fancy vocabs” from the metal terrain without even knowing what they are for, hence the constant groove with no beginning or ending. The meaningless breakdowns that do not necessarily make the stoner rock more bearable, but just emphasize what white trash trailer park music this is. It is an updated distorted-guitar redneck music.

Baroness Purple
Baroness – Purple (2015)
The most generic heavy metal rhythm guitar riffing possible clipped with too much compression and mixed with queer hipster rock for those who question their sexuality. I’m pretty sure the hairy girls in this band are in a polygamous relationship with the dude singing and blow roadies on the side. Kind of like how Carrie Fischer let the crew members of the original Star Wars rip the tape off her tits only with more Hepatitis C positive semen from people who tried intravenous drugs. This album sounds like my local modern rock radio station who plays Bush twice a day. Baroness is the most generic 2003 rock possible only maybe one of these girls’ brothers had Led Zeppelin and Metallica posters in her bedroom. Baroness should go back to VH1. Wait VH1 doesn’t air this crap anymore as even VH1 realized how terrible it is. VH1 is Rock of Love now.

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Wolvserpent – Aporia:Kāla:Ananta (2016)
Who knows why we ever receive these sort of promos that are not remotely metal, though perhaps some suppose there is a connection because the sound and procedure may remind one of the pointlessness of post metal/rock. At the center of Wolvserpent’s music is a violin playing repetitive music while the fringes are filled with synthesizers, bass and some kind of distorted noise to fill the space. I imagine this purports to be ambient, and it evidently takes cues not only from what we know today as classic ambient but from the old, more noise-inclusive and experimental one. At some point during the 40 minutes of this release, towards the approach of its middle section, a growl-screech appears and we become the audience of a post-doom-black nothingness that lasts for about 5 minutes. After this, the music tries to pick up by adding some synths to beef up the emptiness of the lame doom metal writing that approximates what Esoteric do most of the time (waste your time with largely content-less sections while pretending to have an ambient edge). This amounts to little more than piled up noise with some consonance. This melting away proceeds for about 8 more minutes, after which we are introduced to a 4-minute hum. This hum gives then serves as background for some 3 classical string instruments playing repetitive disonant arpeggios for 3 or 4 more minutes until only they remain and the music fades out to the sound of soothing, rolling, waves. Empty and boring. Throw this away

Cult-of-Luna-and-Julie-Christmas-Mariner
Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner (2016)
Enya songs with randomly inserted post-metalcore sludge bridges. Are those bongos? Is this Arise? Who thought of this? Whoever thought of this should be shot in the back of the head by their local troika, have their children post-nataly aborted, and their women deported to the camps for wives of traitors to the motherland.

snake tongue
Snake Tongue – Raptor’s Breath (2016)
Random stolen eighties metal riffs made into Entombedcore with gang vocals by Kurt Ballou. I think that’s a woman in the promo picture. Maybe it’s a man who is just confused that his baby dick is a big clitoris. Yeah they can get that big. Haven’t you seen Backdoor to Chyna?
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necrosic cover
Necrosic – Putrid Decimation (2016)
These girls imagine what would have happened if in 1990 Autopsy had written songs entirely out of mosh riffs broken up by hardcore and shameless lifts from Slayer’s catalog. The answer is a metal band that would have only have been fit to play pizza parlors filled with 17 year olds too busy playing arcade games to pay attention. Anthrax if Anthrax decided to cash-in on sludge instead of nu-metal in the early 90s.

sacrilege reissue
Sacrilege – Behind the Realms of Madness (1985)
This is the sort of release that exemplifies that some releases were never meant to be heard, not to mention be re-released. To pretend this is some sort of hidden gem is to pander to the clueless audience’s sense of nostalgia in the most dishonest way. Sacrilege never amounted to much as their music was never much. What we hear in hear in Behind the Realms of Madness is the sort of simpleton’s generic metal any angry teenager could be writing and playing in his garage with his friends after huffing glue. Each of these songs is based entirely upon a single riff played ad nauseam while an angry woman shouts about how much she hates her father. There are random supplementary riffs here and there but they are just meant to provide some sense of dynamism to the propulsion of the main riff. The main riffs in every song are generic and almost indistinguishable, the vocals are identical (some angry British woman screaming about how she got fucked over by her dad who wouldn’t pay for her BA in Womyn’s and Sexual Identity Studies), and every single song has the same kind of poser-trudging-accross-the-mall-food-court from Hot Topic vibe about it.

sacred few - beyond cover
Sacred Few – Beyond the Walls (1985)
Another mediocre eighties heavy metal album with an annoying vocalist that deserved to be forgotten. Manilla Road this is not; the songwriting is generic, the riffs unoriginal, and the guitar tone too thin. This was only pressed to CD to cash in on idiot hipsters dumb enough to be deluded by Vice into believing that metal needs more dumpy women. I would rather listen to every Motorhead album I don’t remember even exists than this lame woman who drinks too much Budweiser again. This is retro-metal for cuckolded submissive males who think Steve Harris is Pogrom and jerked off to the blonde women in catsuits from The Oath instead of real porn. I’m going to crack open another Coors Banquet and use this CD as a coaster. Wait is the Puerto Rican  guy in the collar her slave?
Sacred_Few-promo_photo

lizzies cover
Lizzies – Good Luck (2016)
Judas Priest covered by Spanish pre-op transsexuals. Listening to this album makes me want to chop my leg off so my femoral artery will bleed out in three minutes. Two tracks in and I just put on Unleashed in the East instead. Let’s all listen to that classic instead of this crap:

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Occult Burial – Hideous Obscure (2016)

occult burial - cover

Article by Corey M.

Overall satisfying (but not quite inspiring) straightforward songs with equal parts thrash and proto-death metal present. I don’t quite hear the “occult” sound these guys are evidently going for; their music sounds too immediate and, weirdly, fun. The band members clearly enjoy creating this music and therefore their work is free of pretense; no revivalist coat-tail riding here. Expect to hear fairly similar-sounding riffs throughout, without much in the way of dynamics. Compared to their contemporaries in bands like Nifelheim and Aura Noir, Occult Burial are competent and maybe even a step ahead of the more popular bands that mix thrash with modern metal because they aren’t impeded by gimmickry. Their lack of theatrics may work against them because they will probably continue to be overlooked until they learn to cut loose and let their imaginations run a little more wild with their songs. Compared to the more aggressive speed metal classics from Coroner and Razor, parts of Hideous Obscure are downright boring. Even playing a bit faster and cleaning up the recording could do wonders for the effectiveness of these songs. Some parts sound truly terrible. For instance, the snare drum sounds  in the words of my favorite robot puppet “like a bag of sardines thrown up against the side of a pole barn.” Nevertheless there is promise here and I would reserve more judgment until Occult Burial release a proper-sounding album or I can catch them live.

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Death Fortress – Deathless March of the Unyielding (2016)

death fortress deathless march of the unyielding

Article by Corey M.

Death Fortress play a truly bellicose version of black metal but not in the Blasphemy war-metal style aped by pointless tribute acts. Deathless March of the Unyielding is minimalist in that it eschews all excessive instrumentation like all the best black metal. Guitars slash out streams of elegiac tremolo melodies or simply strummed chords (there are no leads or trippy guitar effects). The drums either play blasts or dominant marching rhythms. Vocals orate battle commands or agonizingly recount Pyrrhic victories. The overall theme of the music seems to be battles with no heroes and wars with no victors. It’s a deconstruction of Graveland‘s or Bathory‘s style that brought forth the glorious aspect of defeating and conquering: war is still the object in question but the subject isn’t life; it is sorrowful, lonely death.

The melodies are crafted with a tenuous balance between intense grimness and clouded dejection. This is music about warriors and war but not in the fantastical sense that black metal usually takes: no witchcraft or frozen forests are to be found here, only shredded tank tracks, bent artillery barrels, crushed bodies of hapless infantry infused in twisted heaps of smoldering slag, and blackened holes gouged into the earth itself. A useful comparison would be Sammath‘s mid-period output of Dodengang and Triumph in Hatred, though those albums reveal a deeply heartfelt motivation to illustrate the gruesome carnage of warfare without completely abandoning the near-romantically empathetic ties to the fallen fighter. Death Fortress take a more distant, aloof approach, neither glorifying nor condemning the act or outcome and treating the soldier as another soulless statistic. Both bands approach the horrific topic with a sternly wide-eyed, unflinching resolve, giving us the opportunity to witness visions far more stark and distressing than the cartoonish swords ‘n’ sorcery take on combat that black metal too often peddles.

Yet this album suffers from a major drawback: the musicians share the contemporary tendency to disappear up their own asses in wringing all emotive potential from a line of melody. There aren’t any comically awufil or idiotic chord progressions but some of them are inappropriate and others repeated for far too long. The songs have plenty of breathing room and the band never seem to be at a loss for direction or trying to cram in too many lyrics before their riffs overstay their welcome. At times, it’s too easy to become impatient while waiting for the band to introduce the next segment. No amount of drum fills or effects trickery would fix this; the fat needs to be trimmed and the compositions made more concise. A leaner, more refined Death Fortress could easily rise above the better-than-average position in which they sit now.

Readers may listen to Deathless March of the Unyielding at Death Fortress’s Bandcamp page and purchase a physical copy from Fallen Empire Records.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Monday Mastications

FeedingPenguin
Oh here she comes. Watch out boy she’ll chew you up. She’s a maneater. – Darryl Hall and John Oates, 1982.

black tusk pillars of ash
Black Tusk – Pillars of Ash (2016)
A fusion of party rock, screamo, and hardcore punk, Pillars of Ash brings a risible contribution to the rock/punk spectrum that many a beginner is prone to confuse with metal. The relevant question here is whether or not Black Tusk have anything worthwhile to offer to the listener that may not be found in higher quality elsewhere. The answer is a resounding NO. The album plays like a tenuous stream of echoes of 1980s hardcore bands rearranged with Mario Paint.

tombs all empires fall
Tombs – All Empires Fall (2016)
Tombs is described in some places as black or post metal, and while there is some borrowing from black metal techniques in the use of some blast beats and an imitation of traditional black metal vocals, Tombs isn’t isn’t black metal. The post-metal is correctly applied in that this isn’t much more than a poor excuse for pseudo-ambient experiments with haphazardly connected sections being paraded as composition. There are strong references to doom metal, cheap and stompy heavy rock, with post rock being added as the way to get away with 3rd rate writing. All in all, boring, generic, unfocused, and unoriginal background music. Tombs is lounge music.

howls of ebb third eye
Howls of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows (2016)
Entirely random pastiche of metal clichés loosely held together by psychedelic interludes and a drunk vocalist feigning faux lunacy. If a blend of Voivod, galloping heavy metal, canned black metal and fuzz drenched noise rock wah wah soloing wasn’t pointless enough, the band commands and impressively dissociated catalog of occult vocabulary to match.

nucleus sentient
Nucleus – Sentient (2016)
Nucleus have fun in the studio and they want you, dear listener, to have fun at home with them. If you like Demilich but thought it was too strange, too serious, or too weird to play around your sister then Sentience is the record that delivers all the thrills of Finnish extradimensional insectoid death without danger of unthrashability. All the more perfect for fucking your sister behind the dumpster at the skatepark.

candelabrum necrotelepathy
Candelabrum – Necrotelepathy (2016)
Two twenty minute tracks of spooky landscapes, sad vampire vocals, and canned drum patterns. If the goal was to stride the line between hysterical and uncomfortable, this record is a resounding success. Necrotelepathy is more Vampire Diaries metal.

abyssus once entombed
Abyssus – Once Entombed (2016)
Another pizza thrash band with a veneer of death metal fronted by a Greek John Tardy fan. The album art and song titles make adequate use of Death Metal Band Generator. Perfect comedy for those Saturday mornings when you are drunk with fellow “scene veterans.”

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Clawhammer Abortion – Slaughter Campaign (2016)
This band took every criticism levied against death metal and wrote an album of it. In order to get through, I turned it into a drinking game: Hear a cliché, drink. The only problem is I passed out drunk after three songs and the Editor took over. He heard so many Sodom breakdowns and generic grindcore riffs that he kicked my ghetto blaster into the campfire. Only the most calcified kidneys and fattiest livers prevail in the Eternal War.

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Embalmer – Emanations from the Crypt (2016)

embalmer - crypt cover

Article by Corey M.

Too many death metal bands these days are attempting and failing utterly to convey the more obscure, ghastly effects of Onward to Golgotha or early Gorguts rather than the grisly, gory, in-your-face ripping and grinding style that was more prevalent at the time of those classics. Emanations from the Crypt is revitalizing to these ears as there is no effort made whatsoever to “enhance” the “atmosphere” of the music with excessive reverb or eight-hundred layers of guitar tracks; there is only brutality and aggression. Early Deeds of Flesh is an obvious inspiration for this juggernaut album as the guitar riffs squirm and shred through gnarly contortions, while the drums attempt to restrain and sensibly contextualize their wild leaps and bounds. The vocals are very convincing growls and gurgles that switch up just when needed to suggest a shift in dynamics, much like Infester used theirs and never attempt to take control or drive the music. Also present is some of Deicide‘s spirit announcing itself through the jittery, psychotically antagonistic riffs that seem to only represent melody tenuously. Embalmer’s Emanations from the Crypt some of the best death metal on the brutal end of the spectrum since Scalpel‘s Sorrow and Skin.

Listen to and purchase Emanations from the Crypt on Hells Headbangers’ Bandcamp page.

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Metal Versus Classical

slayer classical dueling

Article by Lance Viggiano

Metal, like nearly every form of contemporary western music, carries legacy traits from western classical music. Noting these inherited qualities and their contribution to metal’s identity is a fruitful venture worth study. Yes, some artists such as Emperor created music that may as well have been performed by an orchestra. Nevertheless there is a distinct tendency among metalheads to validate metal through this heritage. The logic behind this is eloquent and simple: Classical maintains an esteemed position and metal retains compositional/artistic characteristics of classical; therefore metal is good (insert adjective for good: High Art, Quality, etc.). This does a disservice to metal however as it forsakes the baroque for the succinct while deriving much of its power from textural aesthetics. Metal needs to be qualified and judged according to its own merits.

Both forms of music arrange motifs according to an underlying narrative. The pathos of western classical music is derived out of experiments in harmony that attempted to imitate a well ordered and intricately planned cosmos. The composer embodies the role of the One God who conceives and executes a nature in which each of its parts cooperate in accordance with divine law  or in the case of music: its score and story. Metal however is all about the riff; not just its position in the score but also the way it sounds and the way it feels. Downtuning a guitar, plugging it into a bass amp, and dialing the gain knob to its upper limit are not trivial or accidental decisions. The textural component gives the music body which allows for succinct motifs to achieve significance out of relative simplicity. On the other hand, classical must take on a ”notey” characteristic to give the music weight. The roar of an ensemble is a force of its own, yet it is comparatively tame next to the bludgeoning delivered by an amplifier and a few pedals.

Classical entices the mind with intricate and ornate patterns while metal ignites the heart by delivering an unabashedly barbaric, vitriolic and brash force of will. With each occupying distinct but equally valid dimensions of the human experience – The mind and the heart, respectively – it becomes clear that using one to validate the other does a great disservice to each form of music. Unplug metal and survey its patterns next to classical and one will find that it sounds as if it was composed by intellectually immature children. Plug classical patterns into metal and one finds that the need to make tonal sacrifices to retain clarity while distilling patterns down so as to be performed by fewer instruments results in sterile powerless wank which exists without proper support.

The Romantic movement turned its gaze back to the primacy of nature from the perspective of the civilized man who took all of his habits of thought with him; retaining his clear, distinct abstract patterns and hard mental boundaries. He walks at a distance from the forest so as to keep his boots from the blemishing mud and his coat from the shearing thicket. The Romanticism of metal walks barefooted against the cold soil, barely managing to escape the weather but never the bonds of nature. His damp stone refuge is aerated by a primate musk so thick that the festering gobbets and searing tendons of his kill cannot penetrate it. The civilized man understands nature as an idea from which he is blissful detached and divinely endowed to understand while the uncivilized man understands nature as an irrational outpouring of desire against which his only freedom is attained by projecting his own will against the world. Each vantage point offers a unique view of the same landscape. From that summit the artistry of metal ought to be discussed and ultimately, loved.

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Hooded Menace – Darkness Drips Forth (2015)

hooded menace darkness drips forth

Article by David Rosales.

When music is taken as communication, as a nurture of the soul, or even as a kind of magic then small details such as the name a band chooses for itself can forebode promise or ultimate triviality. The reason for this is that music, when taken as an integral enterprise, exudes the intention and capabilities of those who give birth to it. Hooded Menace’s name does not show much imagination but perhaps a rather superficial or commercial line of thinking. The title of their album, Darkness Drips Forth, isn’t much better. These suggest a lack of definition or the non-existence of a deeper wealth of thought.

In any case, the music comes first; prejudices must be set aside so that the stream of notes can dance unhindered. The structural approach of Hooded Menace’s doom metal is actually fairly convincing, and technically speaking, the composer-like qualities of whoever is writing the songs are sharp. The music is flowing, the passages never overstay or pass by too quickly, the dynamics of adjacent sections make sense together and their discourse feels natural enough. Individually, each section is tasteful though none is particularly original or distinctive. At first it may appear as if Hooded Menace may be the exception to the rule that one is supposedly bound to bump into sooner or later. Or are they?

Listening through this release and keeping in mind what has “happened” minutes before in the song, one starts to see that the content kept changing, but somehow hasn’t really gone anywhere. What is the problem then? Intuitive alarms such as this, when justified, must be grounded in concrete causes. The band had effectively avoided the carnival syndrome, it made use of motifs in linking sections — but only locally. This isn’t bad on its own, magnificent works based on the variations template have graced our ears in the past.

The problem is slightly different from song to song. The songs are not bound together by a common aura. They may go from a lethargic groove to a happy melody, but this is minimal. Some to flounder between a nondescript extreme metal counterpoint between the guitars to a Disturbed-like groove, only to return to something more characteristic of typical of doom metal. Far more detrimental to the aura is the relatively static sense of the harmony, constantly returning to the root and never, even for a second, leaving that tonal space  except for overt and obvious effect. This is predictable and even vulgar. When you put these two together — imprecise style and weakly phrased, boring harmony — you have a recipe for subversively monotonous and superficial music.

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