Death Metal Underground’s Best Albums of 2015

It took some time, but despite the deluge of content constantly bombarding us and aspiring metal fans worldwide, we’ve been able to reach some level of consensus on 2015’s worthwhile metal music. Not to say that we’re in perfect harmony (If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that there’s some room for dissonance in our musical language), but the hope is, like what our recent reinspection of 2013 revealed, that some of this material remains interesting for more than the year it was released.


 

Album of the Year
Kaeck
Stormkult

A wrathful reminder of what war metal should have been: a melodically-structured, chromatic holocaust to the god of this world. Jan Kruitwagen’s leads awe listeners and are optimally placed to hold attention just as each rhythm riff runs its course. An impenetrable mix rewards repeated listening to an album that may surpass Kruitwagen’s work on Sammath’s Godless Arrogance. March to Kaeck’s martial heartbeat or revel in shit.

Reviews:

 

Recommended Albums

 

Desecresy
Stoic Death

Bolt Thrower meets ritualistic black metal. Rather than cathartic bending into climactic oriental leads, Desecresy diffuse tension by methodically varying into bizarre melodies with carefully placed, otherworldly leads to a steady metronome.
Mid-paced riffing in the style of Bolt Thrower builds tension with melody and drifts off into space with variations and well placed leads. Where Bolt Thrower themselves shoot a rifle at the ballon using rhythmic change to introduce another riff or dramatically bending the riff into a climactic, oriental short solo, Desecresy insert ritualistic blackened leads for dramatic contrast with the rhythmic, power chord riffing.

Review and Interview:

 

Tau Cross
Tau Cross

Rob Miller returns from blacksmithing to his previous metallic occupation with an album of catchy post-punk in Motorhead and Metallica song formats. Thankfully free of the Godsmack and other MTV influences present on Amebix’s swansong.

Review:

 

Worthwhile releases

 

Cóndor
Duin

An effective album of mid-paced death and heavy metal riffing. There is no psychedelic rock pretending to be Black Sabbath “doom” here. Highly structured; the opposite of the random tossed riff salads of most modern metal. This band takes an approach more like that of classical guitarists toward melding death metal with progressive rock, blues, folk and other influences: it mixes them in serially and adopts them within the style, rather than hybridizing the two styles.

In other words, most bands that try to sound like progressive death metal try to act like a progressive rock band playing death metal, or a death metal band playing progressive rock. Cóndor takes an approach more like that of musicians in the past, which is to adopt other voices within its style, so that it creates essentially the same material but works in passages that show the influence of other thought.

Reviews and Interview:

 

Morpheus Descends
From Blackened Crypts

This vinyl 7” single features two new, well constructed death metal songs from one of from one of the few truly underrated bands in the genre. Those foresighted enough to purchase the identically-titled CD boxed set version received the band’s entire catalog in one of the rare remasters that sounds better than the original releases.

Interviews:

 

Motorhead
Bad Magic

One last Motorhead album of mostly Motorhead songs. Nothing “new” is introduced for those in the non-metal audience who disdain metal and wish to feel intellectually superior to the common headbanger. The final work from a relentless machine of a band.

Review:

 

Reissues

 

Grotesque
In the Embrace of Evil
Immolation
Dawn of Possession (Listenable Records)
Order From Chaos
Frozen in Steel (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Carbonized
For the Security
Sammath
Strijd
Arghoslent
Arsenal of Glory and Galloping Through the Battle Ruins (Drakkar productions)
Blasphemy
Fallen Angel of Doom (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Gorguts
Obscura

 

Those Left Behind
Zom
Flesh Assimilation

Crusty death metal of the better than braindead Benediction but worse than Cancer category.

Satan
Atom by Atom

I’ve possibly heard too much but Hanger 18. I know too much. Although not as degradingly vulgar as Surgical Steel, Atom by Atom results in a pretty tacky affair. Vocals are as emotional as in the first album, except that in here they seem even more disconnected from the music as the music veers into some sort of progressive speed metal akin to Helstar’s. (Editor’s note: I liked it, but David Rosales was critical)

Sarpanitum
Blessed Be My Brothers

The band shows promise with their Unique Leader-style rhythmic riffing and soaring heavy metal leads. While being above par for technical deaf metal, aping a different one of your heroes every few verses doesn’t make for particularly enjoyable repeated listening.

House of Atreus
The Spear and the Ichor that Follows

Fredrik Nordstrom’s Arghoslent.

Denner/Sherman
Satan’s Tomb

Technical power metal carnival music.

Iron Maiden
The Book of Souls

Nobody is allowed to edit themselves or turn on their bullshit filters in Steve Harris’s band anymore (Read a full review here).

Kjeld
Skym

Kvist meets the randomness of metalcore. Indistinct riffing and songwriting mix with pointless shoutout verses to past greats that makes listeners wonder why they aren’t just playing Sodom and Mayhem in the first place.

Malthusian
Below the Hengiform

Where are the riffs?

Throaat
Black Speed

Every Teutonic speed metal band gone Voltron.

Ares Kingdom
The Unburiable Dead

The band has no need to repeat half the song just so the guitarist can get over his refractory period and play another solo. This is also an extremely distracted riff salad in which the individual riffs can be brought in from sources as different as galloping power metal to thrashy death metal to alternative nu and groove “metal”. This is headbang-core for beer metallers and other social metalheads. This recording received two reviews in 2015.

Obsequaie
Aria of Vernal Tombs

A collection of interesting renaissance faire riffs written into songs that quickly wear out their welcome as metal, becoming RPG background music.

Sarcasm
Burial Dimensions

A few strong songs on a demo do not warrant a two CD set of Swedish death with limpid keyboards anticipating the steps black metal took towards mainstream goth rock in the late nineties.

Mgla
Exercises in Futility

This is the type of black metal as repetitive rock music that ignorant hipsters will praise as “ritualistic”. The album’s title sums the quality of its musical content: futile. (Editor’s note: I wanted to give this album a chance. It didn’t age well.)

Horrendous
Anareta

Gothenburg cheese and Meshuggah licks are less appetizing than a lead-laced Mexican lollipop.

Cruciamentum
Charnel Passages

Grave Miasma returns. This time with 1993’s atmosphere.

Crypt Sermon
Out of the Garden

Candlemass meets Soundgarden.

Vorum
Current Mouth

Every Teutonic speed metal band gone Voltron.

Exhumation
Opus Death

Solid underground metal in the spirit of Sarcofago that is perfectly well-written but does not amount to more than the sum of its parts; does not conjure up any long-lasting message.

Sadistic Metal Reviews – Loute Vire Edition (End of 2015 Series)

zombies

Popularity contests are good for one thing only: determining the degree of decadence the mentality of a certain group. Given the state of sedation and apathy of the general public, it is no surprise that this list shows the contemptible character and inability for self-criticism and assessment the average man is aflicted with. Also, like anything mainstream, very little here is actually metal, even in spirit. Loute Vire especializes in democracy, bringing the average stupidity back to the average person, feeding them their own filth.

Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls (2015)

1. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
Free us from Glam-rhythm Maiden. Character-wise, this nu mid-paced Iron Maiden is a combination of eighties hair metal, power-doom-epic metal in the vein of Candlemass but with the emphasis of catchy Murican posturing. Structurally, it manages to be both formulaic and pointless in its overextension, basically taking the worst from both worlds. Iron Maiden have become the kings of posturing, and even if butthurt fans complain, one must say that this downfall was evident ever since Somewhere in Time and was pretty evident with Seventh Son of the Seventh Son. Stick to 1985’s Live After Death as a synthesis of the band’s golden era and you’ll be fine. Stop feeding Steve Harris’ ego machine.

Ghost

2. Ghost – Meliora
Caricature music that disguises carnival thinking by providing a steady, unchanging background. Ghost know how to fool the enemy, the audience is hooked, distracted by fireworks to the right and to the left, without realizing they are paying for an empty but colorful cardboard box. Ghost, master deceivers, everything is so in your face, that the decadent masses love the fake but safe entertainment that ironic bullshit provides. Surely this would also be released in vinyl format, that’s what hipsters do. They need to keep piling up appearances and hip products. The best thing you can do with one of these is break it and use the shards to cut the throats of Ghost fans.

Tribulation

3. Tribulation – The Children of the Night
This hard rock-ish outfit is probably what Opeth would sound like if they focused on their weirdo rock side instead of jumping around genres without musical justifications or proper transitions, or if Ghost took itself seriously and had a little talent. Tribulation’s may be the best album on this list, as pop and hook-based as it is, it retains the basic decency of proper music in its continuity and coherence. The focus is completely on the guitar lines. Unfortunately, songs do lapse as they are overstretched for the false ‘complexity’ appearance that hipsters, high school nerds and college SJWs like. Worthy of from radio airtime, not more, no less.

(Editor’s note: You know a band is bad when it gets double-SMR‘ed.)

Amorphis-Under-the-Red-Cloud

4. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
I may not have been paying enough attention but, when did this originally Finnish death metal band turn into American high school rock balladers with queer Scandinavian leads? (Editor’s note: It began in 1994.) Amorphis seems to have abandoned all sense of pride for a couple of more greens. This is selling out clearly exemplified. Bands, this is what you should not do. Fans, you will only find plastic here.

Enslaved-In-Times

5. Enslaved – In Times
Progressive rock for those who lack the subtlety for progressive rock. Black metal for those too soft to brave the intellectual challenge of not being a sheep. This is long-winded pop and rock artificially styled to appear complex for insecure posers.

Coma_Ecliptic_cover_art_by_Between_the_Buried_and_Me

6. Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic
Dream Theater meets Avenged Sevenfold with a strong Pink Floyd influence. How do these guys manage to sound exactly the same again yet be so vague in content? All semblance of continuity here, apart from tonality, is only maintained at some cerebral level in the imagination of the band or of the fans who will like any catchy & ‘complex’ turd that distracts them from their monotonous lives. The music itself is a disparaged parade of funny moments.

high on fire - luminifierous

7. High on Fire – Luminiferous
Speed metal on the outside, borish NWOBHM on the inside. This gets old quick and leaves no mark. Like many others, it tries to be an updated, more tough version of Motorhead, and use the old excuse of just “wanting to play good ole rock”. Forgettably redneckish.

queensryche - condition human

8. Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman
It is difficult not to laugh when listening to this macho-man bullshit for young, white posers. However bombastically pop and girly these songs are, they flow well. On the downside, the band never develops or resolves songs, meaning they are only good as groove and hook inducing. Radio garbage.

Paradise-Lost-–-The-Plague-Within-01

9. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Boring as ever, or perhaps more than ever, Paradise Lost is still trying to make the album they almost achieve with their earliest music. Never rising above potential mediocrity, this band is a collection of dull moments peppered with pleasing leads. An unexpected heir to this hooky combination of candy and nutrition-less filler is Sylosis. Anyone looking for a casual hit may dig into some of the tracks here, otherwise, refer to classic underground so-called doom metal.

TDOLT_Cover

10. Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things
Alternating angsty with pretty boy vocals, the mark of immaturity. Groove-based music without a clear thematic line, the mark of an empty mind. So, this is basically unthinking, puerile nonsense for people who want to “feel” metal but do not actually like metal. Destroy not only any copies of this but the factories and corporate buildings in charge of producing this mindless heap of catchy garbage.

Arghoslent’s Arsenal of Glory and Galloping Through the Battle Ruins reissued

galloping through the battle ruins

Article by Daniel Maarat

Arghoslent’s  Arsenal of Glory demo and their first album, Galloping Through the Battle Ruins have been repressed on CD and made available for lossless digital download on Bandcamp by French underground metal label Drakkar Productions. The original mastering is intact with no signs of excessive dynamic range compression. While lacking lacking the overt pop rock influence of the Gothenburg scene, Arghoslent’s catchy songs and riffs were heavily influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and classic speed metal bands Mercyful Fate and Running Wild. A new generation of headbangers may now easily purchase the prime material of this politically incorrect melodic death metal band in spite of the Kim Kelly, No Clean Singing, and MetalSucks social justice “metal” gestapo.

Pureblood Albums – A 2013 Recap

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Article by David Rosales

As another year ends and a new one begins, many “best of” lists pop up here and there, among them our own here at DMU. While others may be eager to know about what is ever new, we are more interested in what stands the test of time. Today we will look at some albums that were highlighted here as the foremost products of the year 2013, which was a year of renewal, great comebacks, startling discoveries and a general wellspring of inspiration. In the opinion of this writer, 2013 has been the best year for metal in the 21st century.


To start off, we shall pay respects to long-lasting acts with a black metal background, namely Graveland, Summoning and Burzum. While the last has left the metal camp for good, its approach and spirit is still very much enriched by the essence of the deepest metal infused with transcendental values. Summoning is still doing their thing, ever evolving, trying a different permutation of their unique style. Fudali’s project has become the warrior at the frontlines of the strongest nationalism grounded in music that uplifts the heart with an authentic battle feeling (as opposed to those other bands playing funny-jumpy rock and acting all “dangerous”).

burzum-sol_austan_mani_vestan

Sôl austan, Mâni vestan is an ambient affair that uses short loops which revolve around clear themes in each track. The approach is a little formulaic, thereby limiting the experience with a feeling of repetition. However, as with many good works of art, this self-imposed canalization serves to speed the result in a direction. As with a lot of Burzum’s work, this is a concept album that must be listened to as a whole. When this is followed and one stops looking for novelty and instead concentrates on the details that bring variation within the familiar landscape, the somewhat arduous experience brings great rewards once the summit is reached and the journey is taken more than once.

summoning-old_mornings_dawn

Something similar can be said of the slightly pop-minded Old Mornings Dawn. This effort by Summoning certainly lacks the density of their masterpiece, Dol Guldur, but is no less effective, although perhaps shallow. But what isn’t shallow when compared to that masterpiece? As with every Summoning album, Old Mornings Dawn has a very separate personality, and in this case, it is one of heroism, light, regeneration and hope. Something that will never leave the band’s trademark sound is the deep feeling of melancholy and longing for ruins.

Thunderbolts_front2013_

Graveland materializes in Thunderbolts of the Gods one of their most warlike efforts to date in a smooth trajectory that has gone from rough-pagan to long-winded and epic to heroic war music. What raises this offering above others in Fudali’s current trend is the awesome bringing forth of destructive energies mustered in the imposing drumwork. Gone are the clumsy rhythms of Cold Winter Blades and the redneckish tone of the (nonetheless great) album Following the Voice of Blood. This is the technically polished and spirit-infused summit of this face of Graveland.

black_sabbath-13

One of the most deserving releases of 2013 was Black Sabbath’s 13. More expectations could not have been placed on anyone else. Yet the godfathers of metal delivered like the monarchs they are: with original style, enviable grace, magnificent strength and latent power. Along with the last three albums just mentioned, this album shows itself timeless in the present metal landscape. It encompasses all that it is metal, and brings it back to its origin. This is an absolute grower which will age like the finest wine and is, in my opinion, the album of the year of 2013.

profanatica-thy_kingdom_cum

In 2013, Profanatica finally achieved amazing distinction with Thy Kingdom Cum, which can be considered the fully developed potential of what Ledney presented in the thoroughly enjoyable Dethrone the Son of God under the Havohej moniker. To say this is the natural outcome of Profanatica’s past work is as true as it is misleading in its implications. This is not just a continuation of what the band was doing before, but a deliberate step, a clear decision in the clear change in texture quality that means the world in such minimalist music where a simple shift in technique or modal approach defines most of the character of the music.

condor-nadia

Cóndor’s Nadia was probably the hidden pearl of the year. Never mind the metaphor of the “diamond in the rough”, there is nothing rough about this. It is polished, but it is hidden. The shy face of this beautiful lady is covered by a veil that turns away the unworthy, the profane! This is immortal metal artwork which to uninitiated eyes and ears seems but like the simple, perhaps even amateur, collection of Sabbathian cliches and tremolo excuses of an unexperienced band. The knowledgeable and contemplating metal thinker recognizes the Platonic forms under the disfigured shapes.

imprecation-shirt-satanae_tenebris_infinita

Imprecation’s Satanae Tenebris Infinita and Blood Dawn by Warmaster draw our attention to the strong presence of a more humble but profoundly (though not obviously) memorable album and EP. These will stand the chance of time, but will not necessarily remain strong in the mind of a listener in a way that he feels compelled to come back to them often.

von-dark_gods_seven_billion_slaves

Dark Gods, Seven Billion Slaves by VON seemed more enticing at the time. It’s definitely a solid release, but it is however a very thinly populated album with more airtime than content. Whatever content it has is also not particularly engaging. The enjoyability of this one is a much more subjective affair and like a soundtrack is more dependent on extra-musical input from the listener’s imagination.

argus-beyond_the_martyrs

As delightful as the three heavy metal albums Argus Beyond The Martyrs, Blitzkrieg Back From Hell and Satan are, the intrinsic qualities of their selected subgenres makes them a difficult candidate for long-lasting and profound impact. That is not to say they have no lasting value. If anything, these are albums one can come back a thousand times and perhaps they will not grow that much, but they will never truly grow old.

headless_ritual_large

Autopsy’s Headless Ritual is one of the strongest yet most understated albums of the year. The extremely rough character of the music may contribute to how it carelessly it can be left behind. Fans of brutal music will find it little different from the rest and will quickly forget it. Fans of wider expressions and deeper thoughts will pass it by with little interest. Such is the tragedy of this very respectable album.

master-the_witchhunt

A few stragglers in this group; Master’s The Witchhunt, Centurian’s Contra Rationem, Derogatory’s Above All Else, and Rudra’s RTA proved to be more impact and potential than manifest presence. These will remain fun and quaint for a very occasional listen, perhaps even a sort of throwback feeling, but lacking the long-lasting impact of others in this list.

empyrium-into_the_pantheon-cover

A special mention is deserved by Into the Pantheon, the essential synthesis of Empyrium, being their most revealing, powerful and clear release. While not outwardly metal, this live recording everything that is to be metal at the level of character and spirit. As such it is the perfect closing note for this recapitulation and reevaluation of past selections.

Sadistic Metal Reviews – Anxious Mediocre Gopher Edition (End of 2015 Series)

abbathimmortal2012live3_638

Leftist political science grounded on Marxism does not go well with metal. The first is a bunch of illusions and mental fiction for emotional weaklings to feel empowered. The latter is the art of the realist, the nihilist with an eye in the transcendental. Besides, only a self-styled hipster would pair up Immortal’s picturesque character with Leo’s most iconic work. The reader is encouraged to take any strong endorsement from this fiasco as a warning of superficiality or weak hipster appeal.

 

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1. Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of the Earth
There is a reason why movie scores are not written by artistically illuminated composers, but by shrewd businessmen who know how to gauge the audience’s momentary craving in a modern society where every vice is promoted as a freedom and discipline is marked as obsession. Wilderun really does play like a popular soundtrack. It cannot stay on topic for more than thirty seconds and each of the sections is not only forgettable but the whole makes absolutely no sense. In an excellent work which draws influences from a wide variety of sources, the differences are mostly superficial and are used as different vocabs, but in here, these ultra-thin music without a true structural backbone merely places meaningless expressions one after another only to keep the most stupid of audience members hooked. Burn this insult to music composition.

 

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2. Trials – This Ruined World

Ah, yes, riff worship in metal. The genre’s curse makes us subject to many a mediocre would-be songwriter who thinks he can embody Pantera 2.0. Of course, because the latter were the embodiment of groove-based glory according to the Homer Simpsons of metal. Trials write the sort of songs that are utterly devoid of distinction and clear train of thought. Any riff would go well in any part of any other song in the album. Not to mention that these riffs are little more than thickly produced fart streams. Go home, Anselmo.

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3. Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers
More darko-depressive, diva rock pretending to be metal. While definitely showing some potential in its paucity, the candy it hands out reveals that the reason for this is not a carefully controlled composition of deep taste, but the superficial sensuality to be found everywhere. However, Barren Earth do succeed in achieving some manner of quality, however distracted their slick transitions are, how whiny and long-drawn operatics are and how annoyingly bluesy their leads are. Listen to this if you derive a moment’s masturbatory pleasure from half-cooked, bland music.

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4. Beaten to Death – Unplugged
If you consider an album good because it makes you look good in front of the hip kids and because it appears to be offensive. Then you are little more than an overgrown teddy bear trying to wear spikes to resolve its puberty. In case Napalm Death was too much, you can have Beaten to Death for a softened but still “edgy” dose of some of the worst deathcore pretending to be grindcore made nicer by some gay rock clean guitar picked passages. Leave these to the IQ-85-or-less crowd of gluttonous dipshits who saw no mental development past the 11-year mark.

CrimsonSwan-Unlit_Cover
5. Crimson Swan – Unlit

Onto the false subgenre of “doom metal”. Although a very few albums do seem to venture into a style of its own that is more than just slow heavy metal, most bands like Crimson Swan, are just playing a much slower version of detuned and melodic-oriented heavy metal. Crimson Swan fails catastrophically in the same way that most music by Esoteric: it stagnates in its harmony, only deviating a little and quickly returning. Its thinly veiled worship of middle-period Skepticism (the worst of its periods, only superseded in vacuity by their latest installment) is laughable. When anyone the terms “melody and feel” to describe why an album is good and calls it a day, it goes a long way to say how little music as an art is understood.

hce

6. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase
The fact that Steven Wilson is eerily akin to a Marylin Manson without make up should give the listener a clue of what is coming. The music reflects the character of a harmless and sexless being completely lacking in any kind of self-assertion. Bombast ala Ghost, combined with some Pink Floyd-gone-80s-pop sensibilities and the most cliched 90s indie gayness, Wilson manages to make mindlessly boring music into an inadvertently comical series of forgettable pictures. Fodder for the mentally lazy who have the emotional need to be acknowledged for an intellect they lack.

Gloryhammer_-_Space_1992

7. Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards
If there is something that hipsters love more than cuckold rock music by androgynous minds is metal nobody can take seriously. Why? Because it is not only inoffensive, but as it lacks any content of weight, it cannot in any way represent a challenge to the listener. Hipsters avoid challenge. But they love the illusion of challenge. They like to seem smart, but not actually stress their minds beyond the safety limits created by the society they claim to be at odds with. Cool-aid power metal for the mentally retarded.

The-Gentle-Storm-The-Diary
8. The Gentle Storm – The Diary

More boob-flashing from the opera whore club for naive, high school and college virgin nerds. Not only does this lack the solidity of Mandylion but is an obvious attempt at pushing another plastic product in the vein of bombastic metal pop acts with Victorian bimbos for faces. No amount of alacrity can turn this into good music. Just ignore this release, please.

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9. Nechochwen – Heart of Akamon
(Editor’s note: Haven’t we already given this one the sadistic treatment? Guess it’s really that bad.)
More Alcest than Graveland, this candy-ass folk-themed headache full of terribly clumsy transitions and tired, boorish leads calls the attention of those incapable of paying close attention to worthwhile quality. More like a trailer of commonplace ideas without development, this album plays more like a disparaged sequence of TV ads.

Angra-Secret-Garden

10. Angra – Secret Garden
No, Angra’s new album is not surprising in any context. Except if you mean, you could not imagine they could disgrace themselves in a more sellout manner, even bringing in mercenary Fabio all the way from Italy. What the common rabble calls “staying power” is merely the hip-moving hooks they get from everyday radio-listening. What pseudo connoisseurs of metal call good songwriting is merely streamlined mediocrity.

Symphony X – Underworld (2015)

symphony-x-underworld

Review by David Rosales

Symphony X has quite a following in the progressive power metal scene and has had such mainstream success in the technical musicians camp that almost each of the individual members of the band has his own little cult going on. In its very beginnings, the band leaned towards the so-called neoclassical stylings of ’80s melodic heavy metal. A few albums later, a clear progressive music orientation had crept in. All the while, the band retained a relatively original voice centered in Michael Romeo’s signature licks and Russell Allen’s distinctive vocalizations.

The band followed this course steadily up to their 2002 album titled The Odyssey, which seemed to crown their ever-ascending incursion into a world of structural complexity which tried to keep the music catchy nonetheless. The failure of Symphony X as a band may have to do precisely with this inability to fully compromise on a clear artistic path, choosing instead to use technique as a gimmick that attracts dorm-room guitarists and  pop singability with a touch of gospel that makes casual listeners acknowledge the band and perhaps open up their wallets occasionally.

After what seemed like the inevitable end of a journey for Symphony X, 2007 saw them coming back with Paradise Lost, which set a much darker and simpler tone to their music. Unfortunately, like most music of this sort, atmosphere is only skin deep, and the meat and core of the music continued to consist of disguised syncopations, clever groovy riffs with little thematic potential. The album was supported by a 3D music video vaguely illustrating the concept on which the album was supposed to be based. This mildly succeeded in attracting the superficially-minded who did not consider this to be on par with the graphics displayed in their Playstation games, and in pissing off serious art aficionados who cringed at the Hollywoodization of the classic story.

Symphony X took another four years to release their next album, Iconoclast, a massive oeuvre that could not be contained in one compact disc and had the audience yawning after 3 or 4 songs. By this time, it was fairly obvious that the band was beating a dead horse. The band wasn’t heading in any direction, nor was it keeping up in content — it was just a rehashing of riffs around whatever lyrics they came up with. The dumbed-down approach of the new era was prevalent but there was a deliberate intention of concealing it under longer songs and slower developments in tracks not intended for radio airtime.

Underworld in 2015 is the very reflection of an artistically defunct band. As butter scraped over too much bread, only a mere wraith of what the soul-infused band used to be remains. A collection of band cliches accumulated over the year rears its head in different postures and attitudes throughout the album while rather miscellaneous expressions form bridges between Romeo axe winks and Allen’s one-shoulder-shrugging, lip-biting, sensual diva outbursts. Taking the album for what it is (a professional metal pop collection of cool moments put together by very talented musicians) instead of for what it isn’t (an artistic achievement), Underworld shines bright in its hard rock firmly grounded in African American voices. Michael Romeo flashes solos that are worthy of mention in any guitar forum and have a well-earned place in the technical etudes of any student of the metal instrument.

The potpourri character of this album in combination with the adroit aloofness of the songwriting seems to indicate a secretive acknowledgement that the band knows this is the end of the road. The song titles and song lyrics towards the end of the album seem to reinforce this theory. After a relatively successful pop metal career and a couple of bill-paying, drowning-man albums towards the end, this seems like the appropriate place to retire with some dignity left.

Interview with Brian Parker of the San Diego Metal Swap Meet

sdmsm_logo_exportPreviously, as part of our lifestyle coverage, we featured Brian Parker’s guide to hand-rolling cigars. As mentioned at the end of that article, Brian has hosted the yearly San Diego Metal Swap Meet since 2009, giving metalheads in the southwestern corner of the USA a chance to socialize and purchase goods outside the context of a live concert or festival. Since this sort of thing creates a great deal of opportunity for everyone involved, we figured we’d get back into contact with Brian Parker and get his thoughts on the event he’s created.

1. You’re the creator of the San Diego Metal Swap Meet. What is a metal swap meet? Is it limited to metal, or certain types of metal?
The San Diego Metal Swap Meet is a social gathering for fans of metal. There are over 20 vendors selling all types of metal merchandise like CDs, LPs, cassettes, posters, shirts, patches and stickers. We also have booths from local artists, showing and selling their jewelry, paintings, leatherwork, sculptures and other various types of art. During the event we have metal tunes playing, we close out with a metal band, a beer garden for those over 21, and food for sale.

2. You were working at a record store when you started the swap meet. How hard was it to get the event started? How did you do it?
Actually, I started the San Diego Metal Swap Meet about 2 years after the record store closed. It was called Blue Meannie Records. Most people in San Diego County considered it the headquarters for metal. I felt that the closing of the store left a void for people to buy and sell metal related merchandise. There also was a void of a place for people to meet up. I met a lot of friends at that store, and I wanted other people to still be able to experience that, even if it’s just once a year. It was not difficult to do. My buddy Israel Pelayo and I organized the first one in my driveway. We had about 12 vendors, they set up, and it had free entry. We had over 200 show up to this modest event, and we knew we had to have a proper venue, if we were going to do another one.

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Photos from San Diego Metal Swapfest’s Facebook photostream

3. The meet is now in its sixth year, soon to be seventh. What has changed over the years? How do you hope to see it grow in the future?
It has grown every year. We now have around 25 vendors, a live band, and about 450 attendees. From the cozy event in my driveway, that was more of a yard sale, to having bands playing and Derek Riggs appearing. It’s come a long way. I would like to think that it has kept the same small business feel as the first one, and the record store had. In the future, I am hesitant to make it a full on “Metal Fest”, with tons of bands playing all day long. It seems that term gets thrown around and really doesn’t draw the excitement that it used to have. I’d like to evolve the event into a little more of a heavy metal convention… by convention, I mean having a way for people to meet musicians, artists, lessons, and art being made during the event. These are things I’d like to implement, without taking away with allowing vendors to sell at a reasonable price.

4. What is unique and important about a metal swap meet? Do metalheads need their own institutions like this, or can they coexist with regular rock music?
It’s unique because it’s really the only metal event that’s not centered around a live show. It’s centered around metal merchandise, memorabilia, and art. I do believe it’s important for them to have their own event. Sure, we coexist with the rest of society, but I think it’s unique to have an event where everyone has a common interest. This event is also unique as it’s a family environment.

Major record labels have displayed interest in the swap meet

Major record labels have displayed interest in the swap meet

5. What do you do the prepare for the meet, and what’s required for after the meet and the rest of the year? Was it hard to find funding?
First off, we reserve the date with the venue. This year, as well as the past 5 years, will be at the Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center, in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego City. The funding is not hard. We put down a deposit on the venue, then we are able to sell vendor spots for the tables. The money from the tables takes care of a lot of the expenses. We then need to arrange who will be volunteering, and what they will do. The volunteers are crucial. We have had the same base of volunteers, who know what to do, and really believe in the event. We also have things to do like hiring security.

6. What inspires you about heavy metal?
The diversity is probably what kept me around it so long. From listening to Black Sabbath as a kid, to thrash of Kreator, then death metal of the 1990s of bands like Dismember, then black metal bands like Abigor. I can find enjoyment out of nearly all metal sub-genres. I also like how I’ve made so many good friends from metal.

Merchandise abounds, including musical instruments

Merchandise abounds, including musical instruments

7. Do you listen to multiple metal genres? What attracts you to a specific album, if not genre? What makes a top-notch album for you?
As stated in the previous questions, I do enjoy multiple metal sub-genres. What makes a top-notch album for me is it breaks some sort of boundary. When I listen to the insane, psychedelic vocals of Bethlehem’s “Dictius Te Necare” or the neo-classic melodic riffs of Dissection’s “Storm of the Light’s Bane.” I am looking for an album that adds something new.

8. How did you become a heavy metal fan? What led to you working in a music store? Were the two related?
I was raised on hard rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. It was a natural step for me to move to thrash and then death metal. I used to buy all of my music at Blue Meannie Records. I got to know the crew that worked there, by being a customer and I got a job there when there was an opening. Unfortunately, the crash of the music business forced the store to close it’s doors.

9. What should people bring to a swap meet, and what should they expect?
If you don’t have a table, you can still bring in some things and try to trade them with vendors. You will want to bring some cash for merchandise, food, and beer. If you are in a band, feel free to bring in stickers, promo CDs and anything else that you would like to give away. We have a table of free stuff for anyone to take. Expect to explore 3 rooms, filled with metal vendors and artists. This is a social gathering, and there are crowds, so don’t expect to get through it real fast.

A family-friendly environment

A family-friendly environment

10. When is the next SDMSM, and how should people stay on top of news about it?
The next San Diego Metal Swap Meet will be on Saturday, May 7th, 2016 from 11 AM to 5 PM at Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center, 3925 Ohio Street, San Diego, CA 92104. The best way to keep updated at the moment is to like our Facebook page.

Sadistic Metal Reviews: Dark Symphonies Special

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Many lost “gems” have been reissued to capture undiscerning millennial money. Most never found a market as they weren’t up to par. The Death Metal Underground hopes that readers were not gifted any of these on the Unconquered Sun’s birthday.

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Hydra Vein – Rather Death than False of Faith (1988)
Raining blood, from a lacerated sky! What? This isn’t Slayer. What the hell is this? Did Tom Araya have too much to drink? Wait this idiot’s British and doing drunken Motorhead karaoke and Kerry King air guitar solos at the pub. The cover looks like a ten year old’s Clash of the Titans fan art. This album is a fifteen year old’s Slayer fan art. Maybe if I drink half a bottle of whiskey my  brain will think Hydra Vein is actually Slayer. I could just turn it off and play Slayer.

morpheus son of hypnos
Morpheus – Son of Hypnos (1993)
Morpheus (no relation to Morpheus Descends) was an early nineties musical project put together by four residents of a Stockholm group home. The vocalist sounded like Sylvester Stallone imitating Glenn Benton, the guitarists idolized the Hoffmans, and everyone attempted to cover Kreator. During the recording sessions, the band members expressed situational homosexual behavior by prostate massaging one another with their genitalia. The orgasmic screams of these disturbed sodomites echoed jungle fowl being rended by monkeys. Son of Hypnos makes for an amusing pornographic soundtrack.

bloodstone
Bloodstone – Hour of the Gate (1996)
Hour of the Gate was produced by Tomas Skogsberg and Fred Estby at Sunlight Studios. I hit play and instead of crusty Swedeath my ears hear Incantation’s “Profanation” breaking down into Necrophobic riffing. Then Gothenburg leads and more Profanation. That lick’s from Megadeth. How many salads were tossed here? The shit-buttered anus of death metal was licked right well and clean. I need to get a drink. I blacked out listening to this turkey. This CD was not repressed as history wanted to black it out too.

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Sacrificial – Forever Entangled (1993)
The sound of groove riffs ‘cross the glade,
Heshers cover your ears in horror.
This death trash is rather staid
Chugging along into the gutter.

Sacrificial, Sacrificial
Pantera meets Destruction
Sacrificial, Sacrificial
What a horrible production

Vocals are just way too loud.
Matti Karki would not be very proud.
Many metal songs are raped.
Their holes torn apart and gaped.

Sacrificial, Sacrificial,
Watched Blackadder the Third.
Sacrificial, Sacrificial
Another reissued turd.

Worlds

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Article by David Rosales

Pretty much once in a lifetime does an artist of the greatest kind offer a work that has added to its musical consummation the ability to summon entire worlds into the conscience of the listener. The three following examples of this achievement go about this in the same way that Tolkien’s mystery mythology is built: by broad strokes, consistency in themes and marvellous artistry in strategic details. These also form a triad that describe three concentric spheres of human experience: the physical, the mental and the divine.

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Stormcrowfleet
: The Metaphysical Will

Here is a pondering on will, vision and the embracing of the self’s calling:

Devouring the world through the senses, only to slowly flood back into it and extend Will yonder. Powers sifting awesomely in vast expanses according to harmonious law. As the fruit of work materializes, impetus is satiated and now serves as pulse. Arcane forces call beasts of desire into action, as does the disciplined mage through obedience to true aphorisms attain silent influence.

Destiny is embraced, faced with passionless determination. Beyond what is felt, what is seen, what is heard, closer to the truth, there proud and solitary existence awaits. In that place, sensation and impression are fused with meaning. It can never err, it simply is and is ever becoming. Such is the fire-lit secret of unclothed reality.

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Dol Guldur
: Mind and Imagination

Longing for earthly beauty and the majesty of man’s handwork and a respect for the purpose that is instilled into them cries out in whispers through the crevices of undead statues. High culture and nature are melded in absolute harmony through a revitalization of Tolkien’s verses. Man is here but a speck in the middle of the grandeur of this Earth, this center of our cosmos, the most precious of gifts to mankind.

Mythic transpositions of stone structures and forests from a mortal’s character and inner struggle are interleaved. The landscape painting of the master linguist is vibrated in shy cadences that sustain melodies gradually taking us aloft to places not corresponding to our physical present, nor to a faithful idea, but somewhere in between. This is where dream and reality meet, whence manifestation of destiny ensues.

bathory-blood_fire_death
Blood, Fire, Death
: Cruelest Present

Without leaving behind legendary imagery as an aim and placeholder for imminent action, we are shown an unapologetic picture of crudeness. This is the here and now of human experience. It is the visceral rushing of adrenaline-charged blood through the limbs.

No glory, no shame, only happenstance. In this nihilism is the truth of the triune complemented and completed.Things are or they are not. You live or you die. Revel in the ritual of life and attach no special meaning to anything.

Cirith Gorgor – Visions of Exhalted Lucifer (2016)

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Cirith Gorgor bases its music around a strong vocal in the modern metal style of several emphatic syllables which then trail off, and this primary rhythm instrument propels the music forward. Underneath it flow melodic riffs which are not based on unique shape for its own ends, but fit around the rhythm of the vocals, approximating the style of later Emperor.

All of the familiar patterns are here: the sweeps, the gently falling melodic riffs, and the sawing upsurge riffs, and they are ordered in sensible songs. These songs do not particularly distinguish themselves from one another, nor evoke any type of emotion other than a general sense of feelings about the genre, but they are not random and are better assembled than the average. They resemble a sort of ongoing conversation that appears in different forms.

If this band has a weakness, it is reliance on the modern style of “yapping chihuaha” vocals. These are easier to follow than the old way, but place too many demands on the guitars for them to lead songwriting. The melodic hooks are pleasant and the discourse of songs orderly, but this band has a way to go before it expresses something like the power this genre has sleeping within it.