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July 16th, 2011 – A Day of Death, Buffalo NY

October 2, 2011 –

When the stars are right, when the planets of alien coordinates align in perfect syzygy, when the arcane progress of dark matter warps the cosmos into gravitations of sinister consequence, the Dead Gods may once again rise from their eonian slumber… but only if the proper rites are set in motion by those giftedly prescient of mortals. Chainsaw Abortion-ist Brian Pattison was one such a prophet who had succeeded before in the act: 1990′s Day of Death, an atrocity survived by none but a fanatical few, and the tale obscurely recounted within the scripture known as Glorious Times. Now 21 earth-years after that most notorious of receptions in the death metal saga, a wiser but no less maniacal Pattison determined the time was ripe for another extra-dimensional conjuration, with no less a death-god than Kam Lee in mind as his ultimate summoned entity. Naturally, the Buffalo territory of New York would again provide the setting, with the chosen temple for this installment being the rather profoundly-named Club Infinity.

An unprecedentedly cavernous venue, Club Infinity can house up to 500 or so bacchants before it becomes a legal deathtrap — yet attendance for the day must have been less than half of that numeral. Apparently, the local Buffalonians who would normally haunt the premises for their fix of alcohol and loud noises had absconded to a different corner of the land, lured up and away by the promise of an outdoor barbeque/live music festival of some sort. As it were, only the blackest-hearted diehards heeded the call to this cursed slice of suburbia, where memories from beyond time would once again climax in a lurid celebration of the horrific, the macabre, the rapacious and warfaring facets of existence from which fleeting mortality truly derives its meaning. Our lives — and indeed our deaths — would bear the distinct and indelible imprint of this Day as a scar that never heals, and whose free-flowing ichor blazes a sanguinary trail across ages…

Lethal Aggression: New Jersey’s crossover-thrash godfathers themselves had been the honorary headliners for the pre-Day of Death celebration, which of course had been successfully realized the previous Friday night; but for Saturday’s Day of Death proper, Lethal Aggression actually re-emerged from their dens — bleary-eyed and wracked with raging katzenjammer — at an ungodly brunch hour to be the very-fucking-first band in the proceedings, which was a display of tenacity mostly lost on the scant gathering of earlybirds. What followed was a forthright little blitzkrieg of their trademarked “drugcore” anti-anthems, which was made all the more special for the occasion with the return of classic-era guitarist Dave Gutierrez (though he may have been initially unrecognizable due to his new blue-dyed and bespiked hair), who additionally was commendable for drawing the wicked Lovecraft-inspired design for the Day of Death T-shirts. Towards the end of their timeslot, though, it became clear that vocalist John Saltz had most anticipated getting to the last song on the list — “No Scene” — as he had accidently launched into that whole vocal line during the beginning of penultimate song “Spooge”, causing the band to screech to a stop and start all over. In retrospect, the mixup should not have been too surprising, as the apathy-decrying, poseur-scourging lyric matter (the key verse being, “All you do is come to shows, sit around and stare”) was uncomfortably relevant enough to boil our blood. And this was an absolutely necessary kick-in-the-ass to start everything off on the right track.

Hubris: Being the first of four local bands to open up a 13-band procession is a task about as unpleasant as serving in the infantry during a foray into an uphill battle, and yet the cadre known as Hubris still mobilized for their set like the hungriest of mercenaries — corpse paint, wicked demeanors and all. Though they are a relatively new constellation in our Northern skies (to wit, all of their embryonic recordings thus far feature a drum machine because they could not, until recently, secure a faithful skinsman) Hubris’ style of black metal extrapolates directly from the most abrasive entries in the classical Scandinavian school, falling into a nebulous scape between Marduk’s Opus Nocturne and Immortal during their soulraping halcyon years with Demonaz. But at 4 p.m. in a sun-baked, poorly ventilated enclosure, the band’s blizzarding invocations of carnage-strewn battlefields and holocausted settlements were all but guaranteed to a tepid reception. Frontman Hellskald vehemently refused to let the standers-by off easily, however, and at numerous intervals demanded choruses of quasi-fascistic fistpumping from every slouched, beer-nursing figure in the near and far vicinity. It would be difficult to not be impressed by the young band’s charisma, and Hellskald’s exiting exhortation to “Rape angels! Drink their blood! Castrate God!” would basically set the tone for the remainder of the rituals to follow.

Seplophile: Attribute it to that everflowing stream of youthful vigor if you will, if that would most efficiently explain how Seplophile had the mettle to burn through one of their own setfuls of brutal death, just a few hours before they would entirely re-animate the godlike monolith of morbidity ‘From Beyond’ with living legend Kam Lee. Despite Seplophile’s ostensible “newcomer” status, they are a band that follows “The Old School Spirit” as their unshifting lodestar, and their drive is incited by memories of the vital role that the Buffalo scene had once taken in the death metal genesis (that is, before everyone and their grandparents emigrated to Florida). Their discography to date apparently features none but a single demo ‘…And Death Shall Have His Dominion’, so the boys did not exactly have a hell of a lot of material to choose over, but their formulas exhibit a certain potency of form and execution that echoes the advanced blastations formerly mastered by the early incarnations of Cannibal Corpse and Cryptopsy. If anything, the set was a reassurance that this fledgling local band had talent in abundance for the daunting role of Kam Lee’s backing band, and that would only further whet our bloodlusts for the Massacre to come.

Resist Control: Reportedly one of the all-time favorite newer Buffalonian bands of Brian Pattison himself, Resist Control followed swiftly on Seplophile’s heels with high-octane, classic hardcore-thrash madness that veers more towards the vehicle of purposeful, distinct narrative rather than uncontrolled paroxysms of angered words and misplaced epithets. This is the type of band that would incite violent, all-consuming pits amongst any gathering of punks and skins on a normal night, but of course since Resist Control were haplessly saddled on the first quarter of a 12-hour-long engagement, they were mostly just gawked at by those who weren’t caught up at the bar or the merchandise tables with all the luminous death metal celebrities. Still, the band gave voice to outrage as sonorously as a good “canary in a coalmine” ought, and it would be well-off if they could soon branch forth from their hometown Buffalo circuit and reach more disenchanted ears out in the rest of the Amerikan wasteland.

Sam Biles: Caught in similar circumstances with antihero-of-the-day Kam Lee, Sam Biles is an illustrious frontman who for some reason or other stands separated from his classic backing band — Hideous Mangleus, in this case — and so performed his best-loved songs at Day of Death eponymously, with the aid of youthful and capable hired hands. Somehow, Biles had managed to secure and implausibly import a star-crossed trio of Texan luminaries to stand in as his henchmen: on guitar, Francisco of HRA; on bass, Dave of PLF; and on the drumthrone, Matt of Blaspherian. This ad-hoc convocation had actually never before rehearsed with Biles, and yet their set for the evening came together with such natural beauty that a blind man would no less envision the old gang of Feev and the Brothers Bonde back at their respective spots (except — dare we say it — with tighter musicianship?). Preposterously outfitted with all of cast-iron armbands, leather pants and a fucking Ratt T-shirt, Biles prowled the peripheries of the stage like a caged beast whilst animating every disturbingly hilarious lyric with guttural prowess — and of course, the Tejas Squadron behind him did not once skip a stroke, faithfully re-enacting the catchiest death-throes behind material like “Question Your Motives” and “Burning Children” (“Remember kids, don’t play with matches! Aaaaaargh!“). If the audience gathered for the night had any doubts about Biles’ solo appearance, their apprehensions were completely quashed before the first song even ended; and by way of analogy, it could be correctly assumed that Kam Lee wouldn’t need Rick Rozz, Terry Butler or Bill Andrews to pull off the old Massacre songs with masterful [dis]grace.

Avulsion: The final of the local marauders to be showcased for the Day, Avulsion are elder guardians (est. ’92) of the Buffalo death metal tradition, though their essence is thoroughly imbued with eclectic dosages of hardcore and grind. Shrewdly tongue-in-cheek yet convicted in their anti-humanist manifestos, this band effectively mimics the torments of alienation through truncated songs patched together from ambiguously buzzing tremolo riffs. But perhaps their most distinctive asset is the uncanny throat-power of their frontman, who is able to switch so rapidly between a strident punk shout and a rattling growl that it was easy to be fooled into believing there was more than one lead vocalist at work. After completing a formidable listing of original compositions in record time, Avulsion thought well enough to conclude their set with a cover of Carcass’ “Empathological Necroticism”, which certainly tweaked the ears of all those yakkers in the vicinity who were only half-listening otherwise.

Goatcraft: The horned and cloven-hooved brainchild of keyboardist Jason “Lonegoat” Kiss, Goatcraft is purest piano metal unbounded from the conventional backdrop of screaming strings and timekeeping clangor, essentially comprising foreshortened sonatas that weave narratives and paint airs with bleak minimalism — obviously, this performance would be the one looked upon as the “oddball” on the bill by a large portion of the audience, if only for their bewilderment over aesthetics! Matters were not made much more agreeable due to the fact that The Lonegoat did not have access to his personal keyboard for the night, and thus had to make do with a rented piece of junk that would hiss and sputter at loathsomely frequent intervals. Though the technical difficulties as well as the piss-drunken interjections of certain audiencemembers shot through any semblance of good ambiance for this listening session, the one-man-band remained steadfastly transfixed at his post, only uttering a few words of exposition when necessary, or still more rarely betraying a glare from beneath a heavily corpsepainted and bloodsoaked brow. It may be a sad inevitability that those few ambitious souls who elect to play solo, ambient Metal in a concert setting will never have the right kind of audience, as people who walk the hessian path between Classical and Metal appreciations are still unmercifully uncommon, especially in regards to the U.S front. But for any matter, Goatcraft is still a promising work in progress; expect to hear more from this satyrid maestro in further compositions both personal and collaborative.

Druid Lord: The newest creative vehicle of former Acheron axemen Tony Blakk and Pete Slate, as well as their skin-hammering Equinox comrade Stephen Spillers, Druid Lord is a death/doom affair that draws its most prominent tributaries from the sludge-tainted fountainheads of Winter’s Into Darkness and Autopsy’s Mental Funeral, with perhaps the faintest hints of vintage Cathedral coursing noxiously through the solution. But whatever feeble combinations of band names one chooses for describing Druid Lord, it remains that this band gathers its purpose in delineating true imageries and sensations of Horror: the same inspiration for all music branching from the germinal genius of Black Sabbath. For their Day of Death appearance, Druid Lord had driven up north nonstop from their vantage point in the opposite pole of the country (Orlando, Florida), which might have added an honest dimension of bodily-excruciation to their already torturous live show. Though their 2010 LP Hymns for the Wicked lists Druid Lord as being a three-piece, they have since added Ben Ross as a rhythm guitarist, allowing The Great Slate to solo to his evil heart’s content whilst dense riffing frequencies are maintained. Bassist/vocalist Tony Blakk, already bedecked with plenty of frontman’s credentials for his years in Equinox, was practically thespian here in his snarled descantations of grisly fates. But for the song “All Hallows Evil”, he stepped aside to allow Kam Lee to take over on vocals — a very honorary guest appearance that would only be shared for the night by Derketa. Speaking of which…

Derketa: As of late, reunions in classic death metal have occurred on such a frequent scale that even the over-sanguine among us are becoming rather desensitized; an entity like Derketa, however, is so improbable a phoenix to rise from the ash that only the ignorant could fail to take notice. Formulated in the foundational ’80s era by Sharon Bascovsky and Terri Heggen, Derketa holds historical leverage alone for being the first female death metal band; of course, they earned their musical leverage by their demo recordings and the ‘Premature Burial’ EP, which featured decelerated-tempo, incredibly growly songs that sounded somewhere deep within the realms of Hellhammer and Nihilist. But the immediate intrigue that the band’s output garnered seemed to cause the very pressure that broke them apart, although Bascovsky put forth several honest attempts to keep Derketa’s name alive over the years, finally succeeding in a full reunion by 2006. Only five years later did the revitalized cult feel strong enough to begin live outings: the first three in their native Pittsburgh, and the forth to be Buffalo’s Day of Death 2011 — significantly, the girls (minus current bassist Robin Mazen, who was busy with Demonomacy back in Florida) had been in the audience for the fest’s 1990 edition. When it was finally time for Derketa to commence with their first out-of-state appearance and the opening sequence for “Premature Burial” was sounded, practically the whole fan-populace in the venue came flying to crush in front of the stage. Guitars sounded appropriately huge and menacing (although in the beginning only Sharon and Robin could be heard, as Mary Bielich’s distortion pedal had shorted out), and it’s apparent that over the years Sharon has trained her vocals to be even more fearsome. It was especially uplifting, though, to see Terri reprise her role as the original female death metal drummer — still the rarissimus avis of the genre — and as she was able to borrow Rottrevore’s massive drum kit, her blows were as sonorous as they could be. A brand new song called “Rest in Peace” (dedicated to Seth Putnam and others in a growing list of “dead metal guys”) was showcased: it could be the most doom-influenced track they’ve composed yet, which probably hints a lot at the overall aesthetic to expect on the imminent debut LP, In Death We Meet. And, as mentioned before, Kam Lee made one more guest appearance for the song ‘Last Rites’, growling along with his brightest female disciple for what must have been a very high point in the band’s lifespan.

Rottrevore: After Derketa and Sam Biles-technically-Hideous Mangleus, Rottrevore were the last in a series of revitalized Pennsylvanian cults to preside over Day of Death with their characteristically Northeastern, bowel-wrenching odes to the evil in man. Known best amongst the underground for their solitary full-length opus Iniquitous — an onerous, eldritch epitaph crafted after the most primeval echoes of the Stockholm and New York schools — the band almost inexplicably vanished from the scene shortly after the release, issuing no signs whatsoever from under their official banner save for the ‘Disembodied’ compilation pressed by Necroharmonic some time ago. This being so, their sudden resurgence back into action this year — signing with Spain’s Xtreem Music, dusting off unreleased songs, logging studio time with Erik Rutan for a new EP — is more than remarkable, and Day of Death would be honored with the first Rottrevore performance in nearly two decades. Frontman Chris Weber did not at all contrive much fanfare and flamboyance about the distinction, however, and preferred to be businesslike in his dispensation of aural punishment. Their set of course included all the choicest bits from Iniquitous (this humble narrator was partial to ‘Unanimous Approval’ and ‘Incompetent Secondary’, but everything honestly sounded true-to-form), and there was also a peppering of the new material which sounded to be very close in spirit to the classics, which is a very good thing indeed. This reunion show turned out to be a success in any respect, and the fact that it was all only a preview of what is to come can only confer the best of prospects.

Deceased: Who could have imagined that our most beloved Virginian bizarro-deathmeisters Deceased would be the only holdovers from the first incarnation of Day of Death? Granted, in the 21 years that have elapsed since then, the band has metamorphosed into an almost entirely different beast: the latest album Surreal Overdose features a tightly-crafted continuation of the ripping speed metal that has become their standard since the mid-’90s; and of course, King Fowley now vocalizes at the helm rather than behind the drumkit, backed by a quartet of mostly drafted-for-the-live-show mercenaries (including, for the very first time, guitarist Danzo of New York City-area hilaritythrashers Vermefüg). With a varied listing of the old savage classics mingled with everything up to the newborn creations, Deceased had a canonical time-travelling drama to offer their audience, although their stage time had to be disconcertedly hurried along due to some fascist schedule-policing on the venue’s part. This constraint was especially bogus for a born raconteur like King, who barely had an adequate moment to address his audience between songs, yet he still strived for those full Deceased theatrics we’ve all come to expect, complete with fucked-up monster masks and all such related tomfoolery. Perhaps, in recognition of the spirit of Day of Death, Deceased should have traded out some of their later-period songs for more selections off the early milestone ‘Luck of the Corpse’ and so on, since the audience was uniformly comprised of old-school hessians hellbent on tradition. But whatever the case, it was gratifying to have one of the original fest participants return for the second incarnation — and how many bands other than Deceased truly demonstrate the longevity of the underground death metal practice?

Insanity: It would not at all be a droll exaggeration to nominate San Francisco’s Insanity as the least fortunate band in all of death metal, following from their absurdly tragical biography as the one-time most promising vanguards of the newly developing extreme style, poised at the very cusp of self-realization yet cruelly denied their seat in the pantheon due to terminal illnesses, crippling accidents, and the ever shifting sands of label-backed patronage. Fate is a bitch, as superhumanly tenacious frontman Dave Gorsuch knows only so well at this point, and Her cantankerous whims sure enough wrought hell on Insanity’s maiden voyage across the Northeast. The very first tour date in Toronto had to be cancelled due to issues with bordercrossing policies, and during that same time bassist Falko Bolte was sniffed out for drug possession and was summarily locked away in a local jail, for as long as it would take for his sentence to be issued. Shaved down to a trio with no low-end support, Insanity nonetheless soldiered onward to Club Infinity intent on following through on the warpath they had carved. Guitarist Ivan Munguia took over Falko’s vocal duties on the spot, and both guitarists turned up the bass on their amplifiers with the hopes of plastering up the frequency gap in their wall of sound. It was evident then that failure was decisively averted once the opening strains of ‘Attack of the Archangels’ sounded out across the hall, electrifying the East Coastal audience who had before only dreamed of bearing witness to California’s most mythical entity. Since Insanity’s complex, many-riffed compositions emphasize guitar theatrics over everything else, the lack of Falko did not distract too much from the live reenactments, and the normally-silent Ivan’s backup growls turned out to be commendably feral, especially for the newer material which draws more than usual from call-and-response vocal forms. But the high point had to be marked by the song “Fire Death Fate”, which might be declared the most well-known of all Insanity songs if mostly for the fact that Napalm Death did a cover of it on their ‘Leaders Not Followers’ tribute album: a rather late piece of evidence concerning the remarkably deep-rooted influence that Insanity exerted on British extreme metal. In all, Insanity’s appearance was laudable in spite of the hindrances that seem to perennially plague them, and your humble narrator would go on to follow the band for two more dates of the tour, which were similarly sublime beyond all belief and yet met with shockingly low turnout. But that, friends, is a story for another odd time and place…

Nokturnel: After Goatcraft and Sam Biles’ One-Off Backing Band, Nokturnel were the last of the fiends who flew up from Texas to play a set — although, most old-schoolers remember the band from when they were still based in their native New Jersey, rattling out an intriguingly odd permutation of Voivodian death-thrash on the oft-overlooked opus Nothing But Hatred (another lamentable victim of the doomstruck vessel that was JL America Records). But sadly, nothing at all from the back catalogue was to be on the menu for the night: Nokturnel were quite literally debuting a new drummer and it was simply not in their longterm interest to teach him anything other than their contemporary songs, which are structured and conceptualized out of a much different mindset than the ’90s fare. It was a let-down for the diehards — come to think of it, *everyone* who was gathered for Day of Death was essentially a diehard in some way (especially that magnificent bastard who adamantly demanded to hear “Nuke Seattle”: may you have Satan’s blessings) — but sets will be sets, and it was still fun to watch Tom Stevens shred like a maniac (until his guitar strap came flying off its peg in the middle of everything). We were, however, treated to some completely new material: “Demonic Supremacy” and “Ancestral Calling”, the latter of which was astonishingly pulled off despite the drummer’s inexperience of ever rehearsing it. But at the end of it all, when Tom and the gang were packing it up, the restless energy in the room very palpably spiked to the critical mass: with Nokturnel down, the strike of the fatal hour was fast approaching with the grand finale…

Kam Lee/Seplophile: Primogenitor, mastermind, chieftain, elder god — in death metal, these honorary titles can only officially be coronated onto one Kam Lee. As vocalist for the overwhelmingly foundational bands Death and Massacre, it was Kam who devised the guttural vocal approach closest associated with the genre; and — as is only natural for a Samhain-born son — it was also Kam’s profound knowledge of literary and cinematic Horror, as well as the darker facets of world history that gave concept and soul to an artistic movement. Though his deathgrowls became the stuff of legend early on in the ’80s tapetrading network, his best known contribution is arguably the full-length Massacre album From Beyond, and the fact that this meisterwerk would be fully re-concerted for Day of Death [or should it have been called "Asscrack-of-Morning of Death" at this point?] imparted a dizzying sense of disbelief on the intimate, rabid crowd clinging in front of the stage. But indeed, it wasn’t a collective delusion: the familiar hearkening of “Dawn of Eternity” resonated true through us all, and surely enough Kam Lee stepped forth from the shadows, with Seplophile’s instrumentalists trailing close behind. Previously, Kam had worn a Bone Gnawer shirt for lounging around with his fans and peers off-stage, but for this set he switched to one bearing a “Herbert West: Reanimator” logo — of course, very appropriately referring to the film based on the Lovecraft novella of the same name, with its central theme of profligate science hideously inverting the laws behind life and death. What followed was a set that went by a true-to-album, track-by-track order of those nine anthems we all know better and love better than family; Kam’s live execution captured the full, terrifying intensity of the recordings of his youth, and his ribald yet quickwitted banter in between is always prime entertainment. All the while, the axemen of Seplophile darted to and fro across the stage like winged nightgaunts, and considering how the band had only three rehearsals with Kam to prepare for the night, their performance was almost too good to be true. When “Corpse Grinder” finally ground everything to a halt, Kam and the boys made a hasty exit… but everyone knew the slaughter couldn’t possibly be over yet! And in no time, of course, the spotlights flickered back on and Kam had indeed returned with a few bonuses in store. There was “Provoked Accurser” from the fabled single of the same name, a cover of Impetigo‘s “Boneyard”, a ridiculously fun cover of “Skulls” by the Misfits (which Kam introduced with a paean to punk’s crucial relation to death metal’s genealogy), and finally the ‘Inhuman Condition’ EP’s cover of Venom’s “Warhead” (similarly introduced with reverent words for the Newcastle trio, and how they were responsible for Kam’s fateful crossover from punkship to metaldom). Kam also took advantage of his stagetime to relate some news concerning future exploits: apparently, he has rekindled his alliance with veteran Massacre/Obituary guitarist Allen West, and the duo are in the midst of a scheme Kam has decided to name “Corpse Rot” — a portmanteau of the Massacre song “Corpse Grinder” and the Obituary song “Slowly We Rot”… naturally! And with that, the stars again shifted into benign coordinates and the glorious spell was broken, yet the harrowing tale would be scribed immortally within the Necronomicon of death metal’s saga. For this Day would surely be the last Day that Kam Lee would perform those classic Massacre songs live in concert, and those who missed it, have missed it for all eternity.  

-Thanatotron-

Rites of oblivion bathe in execrable light

August 21, 2011 –

Gontyna Kry – Welowie

One of the best works of Polish black metal, Welowie has the craftmanship and melodic sophistication of Sacramentum’s best work but marginalizes the death metal influences, instead filling that loophole with the post-Discharge melodic hardcore that Graveland had a niche for carving out in their earlier work. Distant screams amidst a melancholic plethora of notational sequences reveal a sense of emotionally fraught catharsis not unlike a more musically ‘learned’ take on Mutiilation’s best works. The eight tracks on here run at just over 26 minutes in total but still in such a limited constraint manages to make the most of epic scope and artful expression within a time constraint that would more traditionally fit a death metal band. In some ways calling this work merely a ‘demo’ does it little justice. -Pearson

War Master – Chapel of the Apocalypse

A young Texan war squad shows you don’t need advanced technique or labyrinthine compositions in order to succeed at pulverizing death metal hostility, as the palm muted chainsaw grind slugs onwards with the determination of a German panzer advancing towards certain death upon the Stalingrad plains. As with most young death metal bands, their earnestness sets them apart from most of the older colleagues and the primitive, architectural weight of “Awaken in Darkness” convinces one of morbid intentions unlike a thousand Necrophagists. Dark atmospherics abound in these documents of fear and rage in chthonic shade, bringing reminders of Amorphis’ and Incantation’s early Relapse days , the five musicians being able to build a solid tribute to their influences on this demo and generate a fiendish excitement for a capable followup. The success of the band in creating an esoteric sensation out of their simple source material is worthy of praise. -Devamitra

Witchblood – Witchblood

As if possessed by the ritual thrall of Walpurgis night, this mostly solitary creation of an individual called Iron Meggido is a clash of smoothly feline aggression of Nordic Black Metal with the Romantic architectural use of Heavy Metal riffs that characterized the occult metal of Celtic Frost, Samael and Therion. Alongside the suggestive and provocative riff stand the invoking voice of an Erinys caustically timed with the bludgeoning tempi of guest drummer L’Hiver. Underlying the beauty of this demo is the illuminated fire of an artistic vision in its birth-throes, painfully struggling against the bounds of convention in order to express the ultimately inexpressible: the twilight zone of fever and mythos where the ‘supernatural’ influences the evolution of man and mind. Hopefully their talisman is effective in order for the legion of Witchblood to fly even higher on these wings of rapture.

-Devamitra

Autopsy – Macabre Eternal

July 18, 2011 –

The last couple of years have seen a artistic renaissance of a genre that throughout the best part of the mid- to late 90′s, and the early reaches of the millennium, was perceived to be a ghost that had long outlived it’s most glorious moments of artistic clarity. Great quantities of ‘gore’ and ‘brutal’ Death Metal acts have over the last two decades, dumbed down the mystical perversity that gave a genre the likes of Blessed Are The Sick, Legion, Cause Of Death, Onward To Golgotha, Imperial Doom, has in years past given way to acts that aim principally for shock value, sidetracking any of the compositional and dynamic attributes that were the essence of what made Death Metal so vital in it’s 1989-1993 heyday.

It’s great that Autopsy should record such a gem as this, as it serves to vanquish the plasticity and dross that once great acts such as Morbid Angel and Deicide have spluttered forth. Not only does it filter out these negatives, but it also does great justice to many artists who embrace an archaic yet craftsmanlike and refreshing interpretation of Death Metal.

In addition to having put out the excellent ‘The Tomb Within‘ EP last year, Autopsy have eschewed the notion of ‘re-recordings’ or filtering previously released material onto this new record. Instead what we have is a colossal, quite lengthy record, lasting greater than an hour but never straying from momentum and vibrancy.

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that in terms of intricate song structuring, Autopsy have perhaps even upped on what they originally achieved on Severed Survival and Mental Funeral, with a more obvious sense of grandeur. This exhibits itself on tracks such as ‘Bridge Of Bones’ and ‘Sadistic Gratification’, which sound somewhat like a logical conclusion of what was being hinted at on their second album. Eric Cutler’s riffs and modes are the usual tritonal, Black Sabbath meets Hellhammer-esque death dirges, which occasionally recycle patterns and forms familiar in early material, yet also giving the album a renewed sense of consistency. It is this grasp of orthodoxy within the metal genre which always makes for contributing to the collective framework of the artists work, which Autopsy fulfill here.

This is however not to say that there are flourishes of ‘experimentation’. Luckily the band have played a good hand of cards, and have not fallen into the ludicrous corner of ‘evolving for the sake of it’. Particular songs on ‘Macabre Eternal’ show the band using greater song lengths than before (‘Sadistic Gratification’, ‘Sewn Into One’), and also display a greater sense of direct melodicism (‘Dirty Gore Whore’). Whilst Autopsy have never been associated with playing at fast speeds, large stretches of this album are more uptempo.

Chris Reifert is on top form as a vocalist. His ability to evoke majestic visions of dismemberment and perversion seem to contain a greater dynamic than usual, as to suggest that nearly fifteen years of prolonged absence has only allowed his strengths to re-accumulate.

Though certainly not a complaint on behalf of the reviewer, what may potentially put off some fans of earlier material is the production, which is undeniably modern in tone. Whilst Chris Reifert’s drumming is still top notch the only minor complaint being that the compression on his drumkit seems to somewhat nullify the sense of ability, flair and aggression that a more analogous production would bring out. Whilst Macabre Eternal possesses all of the right atmosphere and conviction worthy of great death metal, the more aesthetically orientated listener will notice that the overall tonality is not as analogous as what was committed to tape in the 80′s and 90′s.

In spite of this minor specific, this album is superb, and rightly deserves to be considered a beacon of the revivification of a dark and morbid art form that until the turn of the new millennium, was considered a dead horse. Hail the new dawn. Not only in terms of structural and grandiose perversion does this album triumph, but fragments of it’s lyrical scope only serve further as to compliment the metaphysical and transcendental nihilism that death metal eternally symbolizes.

“Under the sign of a skull faced moon

We rise from abysmal embryotic doom

Existence as torment, yet locked in a grave

A sick fragile cycle from which no one is saved”

Within the recent decade, this is the best ‘comeback’ release that has emerged from any of the elder practitioners of the genre. Undoubtedly, this shall also be a worthy contender for being the best album of the year.

-Pearson-

Summoning – Minas Morgul

July 5, 2011 –

Great Death Metal, through its boundless courage, developed an uncanny ability to plunge listeners into a subterranean labyrinth, revealing the philosophical impetus that stimulated the development of the genre itself. Black metal is slightly inverted, wherein the meandering melodic and thematic developments reveal an adventurous spirit and a desire to plunge into and discover the majesty of the infinite. Indeed, although each genre is somewhat complimentary there is a stark philosophical difference that characterizes each, where Death Metal revels amongst the catacombs and forces listeners to re-evaluate life in the face of their impending doom, Black Metal having stared long enough into the abyss and having emerged from the catacombs seeks glory amongst the stars, and in so doing provides listeners with a glimpse into what once was, and must be again.

Minas Morgul is a testament to this very spirit. Individually meandering, soaring and delicate melodic phrases weave around one another, periodically converging and thus creating a breathtakingly lucid and organically familiar polyphonic structure. What the listener will find most striking is the way each melodic motif develops according to its own internal logic while simultaneously complimenting and augmenting the presentation and development of concurrent melodic lines, which themselves develop according to their own internal logic. Here the infinite abounds as listeners bear witness to the expert use of polyphony, with each rung in the ethereal melodic hierarchy subtly altering the emotional experience of the listener through its capacity for slight differentiation.

The individual melodic motifs themselves are more robust and less restrained than the cryptic sense of melody that characterized say early Darkthrone. However therein lay this albums strength, as each melody is highly communicative and capitalizes on its inherently archaic, although timeless content to appeal those psychological archetypes that define the modern Hessian, to wit, regality, a desire for adventure, wanderlust and a sense for the transcendent.

Guitars are a secondary instrument on this album, however they are utilized with such tact and melodic viciousness, if I may say so, as to ensure that the sometimes airy and sentimental melodies remain grounded, bonded to an orthodox sense of attack and ferality that has always made great metal threatening, challenging, confrontational, and insightful.

Indeed, what makes this album truly compelling is that it successfully melds together a romantic longing for those eternal values that once gave life meaning, with a feral and commanding spirit that wishes to take hold of life and explore it’s depths, and its mountainous heights! One is less likely to find an album more suitable to one’s journey of self exploration and self transcendence.

-TheWaters-

Cianide – Gods of Death (2011)

June 16, 2011 –

We who still love metal walk a fine line between the sold out nu-hardcore stylings of metalcore, and the tendency to hop on the bandwagon of the old school too much; the previous Cianide, Hell’s Rebirth, walked too far on the old school side — when a band loses direction, they imitate successful techniques and patterns from the past without knowing what those patterns evoked in the listeners.

Despite pretending the contrary is true, Cianide is intensely emotional music. It brings on the spirit of doom and fate from old Celtic Frost, the fire-blooded desire to seize life by the throat and live the hell out of it of Motörhead, and from ancient death metal and doom metal a contemplative inner sense, a wondering where we fit in this big picture.

Hell’s Rebirth skipped the emotion for the equivalent of lots of songs about being in a death metal. Gods of Death, despite the less-than-promising self-referential title, is a quality mature effort from these veterans. It is not a concept album but a collection of songs that somewhat self-consciously attempt greater internal variation than previous albums, evenly mixing the “Metal Never Bends” style of bounding, energetic death metal of the type early Master did well, and the brooding drone of Hellhammer and the doom-death style it influenced. The songs are still simple; the solos still squiggles of graffiti on walls of unyielding tone.

If anything, this album reverts to the hardcore roots of death metal and eschews the “nu-hardcore” post-1980s prog-punk and pop-punk styles that are so popular in metal now. In both style and substance, Gods of Death is an affirmation of the past and a recognition that style alone did not define it; the spirit and the soul of the artist made 1990s death metal what it was, and they not only live on but move forward on this chunk of oxidizing steel.

-Brett Stevens-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUxpsvOtlEE&feature=fvst

Beherit – At the Devil’s Studio 1990

June 15, 2011 –

I am really glad this recording is not the final form these songs took, but I am equally glad to be able to hear them in this form. Most people will compare this to The Oath of Black Blood, but it reminds me more of the later EPs, although it’s in the style of The Oath of Black Blood.

On those later EPs Beherit experimented with the sonic form of its material, not changing the song structures as much as the pacing and the use of guitar noise, drone and other techniques. What emerged on the Osmose release of The Oath of Black Blood (a compilation of demos assembled by the label into an album) was more monolithic and primitive, in the raw style of Blasphemy which was inherited almost certainly from a cross between early Bathory and early Napalm Death.

But some time later what came forth on Drawing Down the Moon removed the chaos in favor of a clear, simple, direct and ominously infectious statement of power; it matured, for lack of a better word, and cut out the ambiguity to make a purposeful and morbid statement of dark power.

At the Devil’s Studio attempts to take the early monolithic style and tweak it sonically to gain effect, and it does so by making a dark immersive world of hanging sheets of resonant sound, but it loses the sinister abstraction and aloofness of the second album.

However, it gives these songs a new dimension, and makes it like hearing them for the first or second time, which alone will induce me to buy this thing and keep it close at hand.

-Brett Stevens-

Ripping Corpse – Dreaming with the Dead

June 13, 2011 –

Though the barrier of moral pretense that’s raised in the minds of those who live in fear of this world can be seen as the work of social or religious conditioning, it isn’t necessarily intrinsic to systems of thought that wish to superimpose theories of order upon nature. Rather, the impulse is an artifice of the ego, in assuring it’s own physical safety and metaphysical sanctity, whether the origin of this is ascribed to a divinity or otherwise and then marketed to the masses. This monochromatic rendering of a world half engulfed by the shadow of such a barrier disregards the interdependent balance of elements, the opposite and equal value of death to that of life, and begins to symbolise a holy war against the unknown, just as the actual structure has represented conflicts throughout human history, from Hadrian’s Wall to the West Bank. Maybe Demoltion Hammer one year later recorded the soundtrack to the destruction of these architectural demarcators but Ripping Corpse pinpointed the mental plane with one of the apex recordings of both these tri-state bands’ style of corpse-shredding Speed/Death Metal.

Dreaming with the Dead doesn’t so much harmoniously reconcile life’s opposite extremes, though, as it reveals their arbitrary placement on the spectrum of phenomenon and deconstructs such division with the characteristic absurdism of Death Metal and Lovecraftian inhuman consciousness. The thematic outline of the album is even marked by a transition from the pulp ‘escapism’ of subconscious terrors on one hand to social commentary on the other, as though returning from the Abyss to expose the hypocrisy of so-called civilised men who indulge in normalised forms of depravity while pouring scorn over uncivilised ‘savagery’. The musical elements that Ripping Corpse fuse on the album illustrates this idea further, overlaying the quasi-neoclassical shredding posibilities opened up by European Speed Metal bands such as the socially conscious Destruction with perverse melodies and sequences of increasingly fractured riffing typical of Death Metal at the time.

Although the adverse effect of retaining such past influences would be that some later songs still structure themselves around anthemic choruses – a burden that most of Ripping Corpse’s contemporaries had already evolved far beyond – the band manages to employ enough compexity in their compositions to keep up with the demands of their vision. The sound of the guitars may be construed as being weak or mixed poorly, but this lighter texture lends itself well to the progression of riffs from measured punctuations of rhythm to insane variations by way of fucked up artificial harmonics and blastbeaten tremolo sequences. Tempo blurs the lines of what is considered primitive, though the act may be embellished with the jewels of modern society or justified in the name of some ideology. As layers of humanity are removed from the conscious mind, lead guitars erratically and uncontrollably rip through passages and bring a microcosmic level of culmination within a song, like the fleeting screams of demons being exorcised from a long tortured soul.

There is some continuity to be heard in the first album of Erik Rutan’s much later Hate Eternal, which is a far more sizeable contribution than his involvement in Morbid Angel, however, Ripping Corpse clearly struck an evolutionary dead-end with Dreaming with the Dead. Yet for all it’s antiquated aspects, the focus and engineering of the music manages to highlight the illusions which obstruct mankind from understanding the world around him because he chose to no longer belong in such a world.

-ObscuraHessian-

Deicide – Legion

April 6, 2011 –

It is often asserted that some of the best works of the death metal genre arose as if by accident. A better assertion is that by the early 1990′s, many artists prominent within this musical form found themselves at a level of impassable momentum; a culmination of instrumental violence, a taste for profound and subversive ideals and a sadistic will to power. The year 1992 found death metal at its most potent, chaotic, destructive and virile, just as speed metal was in ’86, and black metal in ’93. Legion sets itself in a league of its own, giving each musician a distinct elemental voice. Glen Benton’s cthonian barking is at its most virulent and savage, guttural yet dynamic, having a rhythmic cohesion that is comparable to that of David Vincent, but separable in tonality. His bass playing is clearly audible, sandwiched in between the juxtaposition of the trebly guitars, which are thankfully never distant or uninterpretable. The drumming of Steve Asheim is insanely over the top yet disciplined, as if one were battering cakes laced with grenades.  The musical influence of Slayer is the clear template for Deicide’s work, and in terms of compact intensity, Legion is to their self titled debut what Reign In Blood was to Hell Awaits. A parallel can also be drawn to Slayer in the musical interplay in the dissonant soloing techniques that see the best ideas of Hanneman and King taken towards a polyphonic atonality. The album radiates just under half an hour of pure blasphemous momentum, and communicates through spiraling, chopping guitar riffs that sit in perfectly with a multi-faceted rhythm section. Structurally Legion emphasizes a highly proficient musical backdrop, which advances what was exhibited on their debut and compresses it into a greater density that is both a pleasure to listen to and gives Deicide a platform on which to construct their most unique and standout work. Virtuosity echoes the best work of Atheist and Voivod if the melodic and progressive rock tendencies were eschewed, whilst the pattern language and aesthetic is in league with the best work of Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Massacra and Suffocation. This is Deicide’s pinnacle, one they would never surpass. A fundamental cornerstone of death metal, one of the all time best.

-Pearson-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F1J_4GA1s4

Blaspherian – Infernal Warriors of Death

March 3, 2011 –

Blaspherian improve upon their promising debute Allegiance to the Will of Damnation, sharpening their focus by developing riffs as themes, stacking multiple variations of a similar idea and then slaughtering it with counter-themes. In the best tradition of death metal, these songs make sense once you’ve heard all the riffs in sequence, but you would not think they’d fit together if you heard them separately. This gestalt allows Blaspherian to create a deepening atmosphere of cavernous doom, using the time-worn technique of old school death metal bands but wrapping it around a new spirit, one in which evil is deliberate and contemplative instead of chaotic. Through this evolution we see Blaspherian staying true to the old school, but allowing gentle influence from the developments of black metal and more recent maturations of the style such as those seen on later Immolation and Beherit albums. The emotional side of death metal emerges but is confined within a cold and inhuman logic, making this music both as natural as an open summer sky and brilliantly outside of the human norm under which we suffer. Blaspherian use a low-tech approach, with percussion that sounds like early Incantation and anchors the riff-fest generated by former Imprecation guitarist Wes Weaver. Detuned, bassy riffs of one to four chords hammer out patterns that then mutate and contort, often with a dropped note or changed picking technique, to produce textural layers through which melody filters. While firmly grounded in the old school, Infernal Warriors of Death opens up new horizons for the old school death metal genre, which now exists in parallel with others. It also shows what made this genre powerful in the early 1990s and makes it doubly relevant now, in the process delivering powerful music with an intense and resonant atmosphere.

-Brett Stevens-

Massacra – Enjoy the Violence

February 7, 2011 –

Know how to kill! Nothing is rarer, and everything depends on that. Know how to kill! That is to say, how to work the human body like a sculptor works his day or piece of ivory, and evoke the entire sum, every prodigy of suffering it conceals in the depths of its shadows and its mysteries. There! Science is required, variety, taste, imagination… genius, after all.

 

… So spake the lyrically impassioned and thoroughly blood-splattered master torturer from Octave Mirbeau’s exploitative allegory ‘Le Jardin des Supplices‘ — a work often regarded as the French parallel to Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ in its mutual objective towards smashing the moral edifices of Western civilization and exposing the corrupted, putrefying soul beneath. Framed in this excerpt is a rational, eloquent and yet sickeningly grotesque declaration of sadism as a fine art — or even a manifestation of divine love — which so happens to mesh very excellently with the more measured methods that Massacra had undertaken for their second opus Enjoy The Violence, an album that has historically competed with its predecessor Final Holocaust for total lordship over the death metal world. While the ivory sceptre is generally awarded to the debut by merit of its raw, inexorable and blindingly brilliant riff-saladry, an equally convincing case can be argued on behalf of Enjoy The Violence — a sophomore effort in the greatest sense of the word. No longer does songwriting resemble frantic tornadoes of jagged phrases, bewildering developments and hazardously unhinged instrumentation: here we find Massacra, having done their thorough “research of tortures”, limiting their machinations of aural infliction down to a choice but variegated selection, with all parts oiled, honed, and sharpened for excruciating efficiency.

Markedly fewer motifs are employed — a few even resurface on multiple songs — and yet it is this very spareness that imparts such character and memorability unto each composition, along with a newfound, almost cinematic command over tempo, texture, voicing and atmosphere. In addition to the familiar Destruction-esque, adrenaline-rushed thrashing fare, songs of pure death-doom are introduced, serving to showcase both the band’s ability to stage ominous and imposing dirges in the grandiosely operatic tradition, as well as the most tasteful musicianship yet to be wrought by the Duval/Tristani guitar duo and even percussionist Chris Palengat. Bassist and co-vocalist Pascal Jörgensen, whose efforts were unfortunately somewhat smothered by the crêpe-flat production on Final Holocaust, now rises to the status of an eminent narrator, complete with audible basslines and a dictatorial roar that bears with it the all the glorious and savage atavisms of the Gallic warrior spirit. A richly imagined, brutal and at times sardonic album, Enjoy The Violence is very much Massacra’s second masterpiece and — like the aforementioned Mirbeau — speaks to the undercurrent of murder and pillage that flows blackly through even the modern, safe, and plastic societies that have pleasantly stultified us in this age of oblivion. 

You take pleasure
In using violence
It’s in your nature
Psychopathic sense
Psychological conflict
You’re under my influence
You can’t repress your instinct
I incite you to violence

-Thanatotron-