Riot founder and guitarist Mark Reale died in 2012 after releasing the consistently engaging Immortal Soul. Under-appreciated for their entire careers, Riot never quite managed to do as well as they should have in the underground credibility sweepstakes. Manilla Road and Virgin Steele have both acquired formidable reputations with the passing of time, and deservedly so too, but Riot has been relegated to a footnote in metal history for the most part.
Like W.A.S.P. and early Manilla Road, Riot spent the early years as a fun-loving hard rock band teetering on the edges of heavy metal, without compromising their knack for tasteful songwriting or acute, insightful storytelling. Greater musical awareness dawned with the classic Thundersteel, no doubt influenced by the heavier, more intense developments in the contemporary metal of the time. Their run since then till the present day contains many undiscovered gems sure to appeal to all lovers of classic heavy metal.
How does one judge an album like Unleash The Fire? Created by those that have survived Reale’s death, and containing no original members, it is a tribute to a fallen comrade whose essence yet permeates all that is contained within it. As opposed to the more extreme strains of metal, everything in this music is geared towards a culmination in the big vocal chorus, new singer Todd Michael Hall recalling the late Guy Speranza’s clean, distilled tones. Riot’s talent, however, has always been to imbue this deterministic course of things with intensely melodic — but never melodramatic — embellishments and minute detours, thus greatly enhancing the overall fabric of songs. A wealth of detail lies hidden within the simplest of chord progressions, allowing the listener to enjoy the moment regardless of general predictability. Picking technique relies on tighter, speed metal chugging for creating and maintaining tension, and conventional, open power chords to convey a sense of epic release. Neoclassical virtuosity finds comfortable home amidst an undeniable individuality that is touched with the harmonic sensitivity of old practitioners like Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, and Iron Maiden.
Albums like this are the reason why it is possible to be optimistic for the future health of metal despite much evidence suggesting that the rot has already set from within. There is a naive, guileless innocence to be found here, refreshingly free of the cynicism that reduces the best among us to surly curmudgeons at times. Unleash The Fire is a well spring of inspiration for all real strains of metal, as disparate as they may feel on the surface, if not always through its cosmetics then most definitely in what it aims to represent.
In its spirit, the way forward for metal can be seen much more clearly, by opening the eye at the back of the head, and keeping steady sight of what has gone before. What may appear as anachronistic or overly sentimental are actually the eternal universals; honour, beauty, pride, a respect for the past and, above all else, the debt to oneself to live up to these notions in the best way possible. These ideas may seem to be out of vogue in a transitory world but that doesn’t make them singular; it only means that they lie buried under the detritus of sensory overload and cultural conditioning, most people being unable to detect them or give them sufficient credence, and, if they do, unwilling to act on them due to conflicting interests. Their embers, however, occupy a perpetually smoldering space in all human consciousness, waiting to be stoked into the fullest of fires. As long as this stays true, heavy metal will endure.
Hailing from North Rhine-Westphalia/Germany, Evoked issues four savage compositions of blistering mid-paced death metal honoring the early days of the genre on their demo “Return of the Dead.” This demo came out in 2014 and uses Swedish-style blistering production but actually hails to an earlier era.
In the style of bands such as Possessed, Grotesque and Slaughter Lord, Evoked creates standard format songs stacking three riffs against one another, one each for verse and chorus and a transition, and based them around the kind of fast mid-paced rhythm with very tangible stops that speed metal bands used. This music harkens to the era of transition 1985-1989 when metal was abandoning the speed metal legacy and transitioning into death metal, and so calls to mind early Morgoth, Death, Pestilence Malleus Maleficarum and the like. What makes it stand out is that it holds enough content to pique the interest of old-school metal enthusiasts.
While a four-song demo gives little insight into the future of the band, Evoked show absolutely no inclination to deviate from this classic style, which has the advantage of being highly comprhensible. While the band shows no sign of taking this to a simpler and more mob-pleasurable sellout place, it also clearly panders to the tryhard audience with a demo that would have been amazing in 1989 but in 2015 is just adequate.
Mourning Mist use the increasingly popular approach of making underground metal music without explicitely subscribing to any particular subgenre. Unlike many of the clueless out there, they do know that despite the positive aspects of such an open approach, a basis must be chosen on which to serve as foothold.
For this they choose a death and black metal amalgam that ultimately has more of the latter and is only sprinkled with the technique of the former. Stylistically, the rest wanders a little into a sort of Euro-pop/rock, or at least this is how I can describe it in my little experience with that kind of music. I found myself thinking of Moby at one point. A more superficial element that contributes significantly to the atmosphere of the record is the solo violin which spurs in avant-garde manner which brought memories of Jean Luc Ponty, even though the actual music connection might be weak.
One can grow tired of mentioning and pointing out the same mistakes that seem to plague most musicians in general. It must be part of the mediocrity which is just part of the average. This band does not escape this and while there are moments in which their light bulb obviously lit up (there is a commendable build up in the 5th track which lasts about 4 minutes and culminates in that Moby moment), these are drowned in wallpaper filler. This is especially prominent towards the end of the album. It’s almost as if the band started with good ideas and they had solid content to drive the music. But as the minutes go by, as the first, and second songs finish, they start to increasingly rely on the contrasting styles rather than actual content to move the song forward.
The bad parts indirectly affect any good effect the content-rich parts might have because from the integral point of view, each part contributes to a whole, but if the whole is greatly composed of meaningless filler, the content itself seems either diluted or even confused. Mourning Mist’s album ends up with the latter
effect, like someone speaking while a gag is wrapped around his head.
Finnish funeral doom metal band Skepticism performed their yet-unreleased fifth full-length album, Ordeal, in a live recording at Klubi in Turku, Finland on January 24, 2015. The event was also captured on film for an accompanying DVD to go alongside the album, in shades of what Empyrium did last years with their first performance in nearly a decade.
The band describes the new songs as “emotion-laden, crushing, and yet beautiful, more than ever before.” Visitors to the historic recording event received an exclusive re-issue of the band’s first 7” EP which was originally released in 1992. Ordeal will be released on Svart Records in May 2015 as a CD/DVD bundle and a LP/DVD set.
Skepticism commands a loyal following who want doom metal to fall neither into the nearly tuneless grinding of some doom-death or warmed over rock stylings of stoner doom, but prefer atmospheric and melodic music that creates a contrast within dark moods and can develop songs for a sense of being transported. The band formed in 1991 and since 1995 has released a stream of quality releases which remain enjoyed by a devoted cadre in the underground.
Sturgeon’s law holds that 90% of everything is mediocre. This condition occurs because most people are not thinking at all about what they are doing. When they want to be important, they create a metal band to make them look important, instead of trying to make good music. With brutal cruelty and ecstatic sadism we separate the poseurs and tryhards from the real deal with Sadistic Metal Reviews…
Collision/The Rotted – Split
Three tracks comprise this aggressive split. Collision leads in with two tracks of rigid, violent grindcore which incorporates a few ideas from percussive death metal to give it additional crush. These tracks keep intensity through speed and chaotic blasting but harbor no surprises in chord progression of phrase, which makes them fun to listen to incidentally but perhaps nothing one would seek out. The Rotted on the other hand slashes out a single track of old-school hardcore with a catchy chorus, extremely rudimentary but melodically hookish riff balanced against a sawing (but not grinding) verse riff, and genre conventions from older punk. Both of these bands aim to uphold the genres they are from and do it competently but when a genre is well-established, every band is a local band until it rises above from some distinctive personality or idiosyncratic perception. They do not need to be “unique,” since such a thing has never really existed, but they must be their own creation. Both bands here feel like minor variations on known archetypes and, while competent, do not inspire particular allegiance. That being said, they both remain enjoyable for that local grindcore/band experience, and together these tracks enhance each other like memories of the set you saw while drinking craft beer and talking up that sexy Facebook consultant at a bar that has changed hands eleven times in the last quarter. It would be interesting to see what these bands did with a longer recording as that would put more pressure on them to differentiate style or at least expand upon it.
Decline of the I – Rebellion
Someone raised this question the other day: is metalcore a new style, or simply incompetent death metal? After all, we had bands who tried that Pantera-Fugazi-Nasum hybrid stuff in the past and generally it turned out that they were simply terrible songwriters who had no idea how to focus on an idea and bring it to clarity. Similarly, one wonders about “post-metal.” Is this just idiots dressing up garbage and incompetence as the avantgarde, because that’s what the avantgarde really is? Seriously, I’d love to see one of these artists who makes sculptures of his own feces that interpret the metaphysics of Schopenhauer as quantum physics, for once, just for once, make a classically beautiful art work first so I don’t simply think he’s a Damien Hirsch style conjob. Decline of the I is really hilarious when you realize that it thrusts this question upon us. It sounds like stoned desperation with a home studio: random bits of metal songs that went nowhere, stitched together with what every 90s con man used in his band, the sampler. It doesn’t flow in any direction or express anything other than “moments” of perception, like standing on a street corner while two cars collide and a pigeon defecates on a 24-year-old copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Rebellion amalgamates speed metal, death metal and punk riffs together with a bunch of influences outside of metal. There is no continuity, only a series of exhibits like a subway train going through an art gallery. These clowns use the different styles as wallpaper slides to color otherwise empty music and hide the collection of hackneyed tropes made “new” by hackneyed avantgarde tomfoolery and snake oil salesperson confidence jobs. Even the most incompetent ordinary metal band is preferable because its dishonesty is limited to its music, while Decline of the I brings in every posture, pose, pretense and fabrication necessary to make this hacked-up studio defecation seem like music.
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
It has often been suspected that bands, when they run out of actual motivation, pick one off the shelf to make themselves seem profound. Their profundity means our guilt if we do not buy the album because we have turned down a great gift to humanity, you dig? But the fact is that they went into the big closet of Hollywood motivations — the poor, the downtrodden, the children, suffering animals, drug addiction and being raped — and pulled out one giant compulsion to make you like their empty music. Napalm Death went down this route when after Fear, Emptiness, Despair guitarist Jesse Pintado embarked on a course of alcoholism so crippling he could not bail out the rest of the band anymore. That is too bad, since Pintado essentially revitalized the band and created three of their best albums with his homegrown grindcore know-how. Ever since then, Napalm Death has been wandering in a wilderness of not giving a damn buuutttt something needs to pay for this condo, so they puke out another album. Apex Predator – Easy Meat takes Napalm Death full cycle from a band that protested pop music to a band that makes the worst of pop. This pretense-pop would be OK if it were good pop, because then we could laugh off the guilt, but instead it is a series of very similar riffs that break into very similar choruses which cycle until the end with a few breaks that are almost visual or high school theater department drama because they are so transparent and obviously manipulative. It was embarrassing to be noticed listening to this because it is not just bad, it is inept; its ineptitude is covered up with rock star glitz and production, but it still sounds hollow and horrifyingly empty. Please, give these guys jobs in media relations because they are done as a band and this embarrassing formalization just removes whatever shreds of self-respect they once had.
The Chasm – Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm
Although Daniel Corchado is obviously one of the most talented composers in underground metal, The Chasm does not present his best work. The appeal can be immediately seen: epic metal band with lengthy songs that play out internal conflicts in a way the audience can identify with. Under the hood, while there are some touches of DBC-style riffing, what greets us here is the cliches of 1980s speed metal with added progressive-ish fills that demonstrate guitar talent and knowledge of harmony. The songs remain basic when you factor these out, excepting the longer instrumental passages, which also rely on riffs from the past dressed up or lots of rhythmic downpicking that adds little other than keeping a place in the harmony. Additionally, occasionally comical vocals and a number of hackneyed metal stalwarts mar this release, but the real crisis here is the lack of interesting riffs, the shamminess of the songs in dressing up the mundane as exotic, and the coup de grace which is the inability of this album or its songs to convey an emotional experience outside of the music itself. They resemble nothing other than constant variations in a style of technical speed metal riffing that bands like Anacrusis made great by putting around evocative songs, but the latter part is missing here. Individual moments shine with the brilliance that can be expected of Corchado, and moments in songwriting show insight. The problem is that there needs to be more of the random or evocative in riffs, which would allow Corchado’s song structure ideas to take on significance, and less of the highly talented progressive tinged touches that are impressive on a guitar-playing level but compositionally, serve the role of filler. On the whole, this album resembles the kind of tuned-up musical entropy that all of us ran to death metal to escape around 1989 or so.
Edge of Haze – Illumine
In theory, this should be hated: a hybrid of Gothic music, power metal and djent-inspired percussive speed metal. In reality, Edge of Haze restore balance to these genres by putting them in the right context. Speed metal is the hard rock of the 2010s, thirty years after its release, and updating it with a smary 1980s Gothic pop vocal and power metal “inspirational” choruses gives it the right context as the popular music of the age. It may be cheesy, as one might expect from these populist niche genres, but Edge of Haze seems at least comfortable in its own skin and the removal of the usual death metal vocals gives this album both greater levity and a greater intensity, as well as removing the crowding effect of harsh monotonic vocals. In addition, this re-introduces the voice as a melodic instrument which allows guitars to focus purely on rhythm and rudiments of harmony without losing direction to a song. Edge of Haze executes this hybrid well by capturing the dark pop aspects of Gothic and creating for them a framing of boldly abrasive metal that runs the gamut of styles from the last three decades without creating an oil-on-water effect by having those styles dominant the rhythm and song structure for a segment so that other parts seem like extra organs in a cadaver, puzzling the drunken pathologist at 4 AM as he files the report on the latest Jane Doe. Edge of Haze present something as intense as nu-metal but with a darker aesthetic that carries more gravitas than the dad-hating victimhood affirmation that nu-metal conveyed, also removing the rap/rock beats and making a form of popular metal that can be not only relatively heavy, but have a grace of beauty in darkness, and still write some quality pop songs. Aesthetically, this makes my skin crawl; musically, it is well-done and should be praised for putting this style of music in the context it warrants and deserves.
Death metal tends to get described in terms of its influences among the classic bands, and in the case of Abysme it makes sense to mention Entombed, Autopsy and Dismember when describing the style that cloaks the music of this band. Using the brawny Swedish distortion at full intensity, Abysme creating brooding prowl riffs like Autopsy and put their songs together much in that vein by carefully leading up to a moment of unleashing the riff that defines each song, but that riff quickly mutates into a style of melody like Dismember with the boxy but expressive riffing of early Entombed.
This is a Left Hand Path vision of Entombed, not anything later, and most closely corresponds — in its seeking of obscure moods and labyrinthine, backdoor entrances to the major themes of each song — to the songwriting template of Autopsy, but also has its own voice which is more gearing toward a deepening of moods within a dark mantle. The atmosphere of morbid despair generating an impulse to destroy becomes an assumption and within that framework, Abysme create different moods that transition from relatively understandable basic gut-level instincts to submerged existential questioning. Riffs achieve a voice of their own with a protean tendency to twist on themselves and emerge as a new form which evokes but does not echo the old, solving the mathematical symmetry problem that so many death metal bands find themselves becalmed in. Abysme like to vary between doom-heavy slower riffs that use single chords to hold space and the more phrasal riffs of classic death metal, frequently transitioning into single-note picked riffs to shadow and overlay major themes. As a result, from within a familiar style emerges a new voice.
Sometimes the vocals are overdone and sound more like a guy shouting himself hoarse at a biker rally than a musical instrument but for the most part they provide solid rhythmic backing to the change in guitar riff which is only loosely contexted by percussion, which alternates between doom-death quasi-groove to full-on blasting in rapid succession, managing to avoid leading the change within arrangements while still foreshadowing it and following it closely, like a covert sniper tracking a target among the artificial hills and valleys of an abandoned city. While some riffs originate in extremely basic chord progressions, the theme expands over time and develops into an entity of its own. Abysme create music on their own terms in tribute to the past and show an ability to understand death metal as the unusual but articulate beast that it is.
German death metal band Torchure has re-issued its second album, The Essence, on Vic Records. The album was produced by S.L. Coe of Scanner and Angel Dust and comes with very special liner notes, rare pictures and two re-mastered unreleased tracks as bonus.
Torchure formed in 1985 and released three demo tapes before unleashing their debut album through German underground metal label 1MF. Their debut, Beyond the Veil (1992), showed a style of death metal with origins in heavy metal that nonetheless managed to be both intense and moody. Torchure toured Europe to support Sepultura and Pestilence. After the tour founding members and brothers Andreas (guitars) and Thorsten (bass) Reissdorf died in a car accident. The band decided to go on and found two new members who were also brothers and with this new lineup recorded their second album, The Essence (1993).
Vic Records re-issued the Torchure debut Beyond the Veil in 2013 as reported previously. The reissue of The Essence seems to have received much the same treatment with bonus tracks, expanded booklet and a jewel case CD instead of digipak. The reissue can be ordered from Vic Records directly.
Perdition Temple, a band composed of Angelcorpse and Immolation members, will release its second album The Tempter’s Victorious on Hells Headbangers Records on March 24, 2015. The album shows the band refining their militant high speed slamming phrasal riffing in a style of death metal similar to Vader and Fallen Christ.
In many ways the underground’s response to the technical metalcore currently in vogue in the above-ground “underground,” Perdition Temple crafts songs from high speed strumming and extensive fills. On the new album, the band intensifies this approach and adds chaotic lead guitars which give it an oddly occult flair.
Simultaneously Perdition Temple announced that the band is slated to play Hells Headbangers’ forthcoming Hells Headbash 2 label anniversary festival on September 4-6 in Cleveland, Ohio (USA). The band will join other such Hells Headbangers-affiliated bands as Profanatica, Archgoat, Deceased, and Cianide.
Texas subterranean death metal band Blaspherian recently announced the planned release of a new album in 2015, tentatively titled Reborn through the Black Flames of Lucifer. According to songwriter/guitarist Wes Weaver, the band has already written four tracks for the new release.
Following their triumphant Upon the Throne… of Eternal Blasphemous Death 7″, which showed the band solidfying and intensifying the doom-death style of their last full-length, Blaspherian plans to issue a split 7″ with In League With Satan on Blasphemous Art Productions and release two new tshirt designs and a new patch design.
This comes in addition to the band’s tour schedule, which includes regional shows and at least one metalfest.
The SJWs keep up a simple strategy for dealing with #metalgate: pretend it never happened and, if it did happen, it died an early death.
Instead, #metalgate is ramping up as the collision between Political Correctness and heavy metal intensifies. Recently metalcore band All That Remains’ vocalist Phil Labonte made some comments that riled a few basement neckbeards:
In 2005, on the ‘Sounds Of The Underground’ DVD I said, ‘PC is for f–gots.’ That was the first time people went, ‘Whoa, what did he say?’ I have nothing against gay people. It’s just a word. Honestly, I think the only people that have a legit grievance when it comes to any racial slurs is the black community. I know the homosexual community has problems with it and I understand their hurt feelings.
But homosexuals were never property. They’ve had a rough time and I’m not trying to minimize that, but I think the black community has a whole lot more room to be upset about a word than the LGBT community.
Apparently this outraged and upset Rob Flynn of alternative-metal band Machine Head, who seems to spend a lot of time on Facebook. He carefully assembles a series of clichés and strung them together into a post which raged against Labonte:
Where are the god damn protest songs? Where are the “War, What Is It Good For’s”? Where are the “Fight The Power’s”? Where are the white metal bands protesting about Ferguson and Staten Island? Why don’t metal bands stand for anything anymore? When did we reach this point in society where it’s unpatriotic to question our military or our police? Why are so goddamned proud to just fall in line?
Here we see the underlying issue that propelled #metalgate rising to the top: the PC people recognize only certain issues, but metal is in fact fighting back against the actual problem, which is a religious approach to reality denial through secular (but unrealistic) politics. In the PC view, if we just change our thinking, we have changed reality. This is why for SJWs it is essential that everyone think the same way, speak the same way and act the same way regarding political issues. We will be in lock-step like good Nazis/Communists/Christians and since we will all be uniform, no deviation can occur. Problem solved! …right?
The metal point of view takes an entirely different approach. In the metal view, problems do not go away until you find the root and fix it. People do not “just get along.” In fact, the more you push people to publicly affirm an idea, the more they resist it in private. In the metal view, there are no magic bullets like laws, rules, and speech codes that fix problems that have persisted since the dawn of humankind. In the metal view, it seems reckless to — knowing that these problems exist — bring them into our communities by demanding that we “tolerate” the endless clashes that result.
Flynn’s rant is stupid because he refuses to acknowledge that metal has for years endorsed sensible responses, but they are not ones that are politically correct because they do not affirm the public paradigms that everyone else is affirming. Every major corporation, police department, court, Congressperson, media outlet, and metal magazine agrees with Rob Flynn and will enthusiastically say so. They do this because people act as a herd, and while the herd is always wrong, the herd rewards its own. His opinion is not radical, it’s the norm. Metal has resisted the norm and this is why it upsets him. He even admonishes us to be more like Bob Dylan and John Lennon, two hypocrtical Baby Boomer communists who quietly enriched themselves while talking up the working classes.
Let’s face it: in the highly politicized decade in which we live, songs about social justice are the equivalent of love songs in the 1950s. They offend no one. They shock no social norms. They give people something to bond over, which is how terrible gays, lesbians, women, minorities and other groups who should be pitied are treated by the bad white people. Because, see, SJWs are the good white people — and the vast majority of SJWs are college-educated whites who didn’t quite hit the jackpot, the same audience that creates all the hipsters. Being into social justice is their way of showing you that they are “good” (and thus concealing all that is bad about them behind that symbol of goodness) like politicians kissing babies or celebrities giving money to the homeless. SJW metal is like Justin Bieber except instead of using candy pop to sell records, it uses candy opinions and recycled hippie cons to make you think the people behind it are “good” even though you know only one thing they think or do and the rest is concealed.
Metal says that society is illegitimate because it denies reality. Whether that is through its approach to religion, politics or social activity, it is all lies: it would not be popular if it were not a lie. That is not the same as saying “because it is popular, it must be a lie,” because some things are popular for simply being catchy and vapid, and sometimes society is even correct. But it says that only lies or other things which do not threaten the human pretense at the root of our rotting society become popular. Thus, if you see that all the dunces are in confederacy in favor of something, be suspicious.
SJWs have a simple plan. They will censor through guilt. This allows them to avoid using Nazi-style government tactics to enforce speech codes when they can simply make Soviet-style speech codes mandatory by attacking anyone who does not agree. Rob Flynn is the witch-hunter here, the same sort of person who 200 years ago would have burned witches when the crops went bad, hung black people without a trial when a rape happened, or even a generation ago would have banned kids from school for wearing all black. He is the totalitarian. He and the SJWs are using “social justice” as a means to seize power and subjugate the rest of you. Metal — nearly alone, but with a few brave others in #gamergate — is resisting this authoritarian takeover.
The same thing gets tried every generation. Charlie Hebdo was attacked so that all cartoonists and writers would think twice about criticizing Islam. Despite all the protests by people who were at absolutely zero risk, and all the warm fuzzies from media about how free speech will save us, the result of the attacks is more crackdown on people who criticize Islam, both from governments and their insurance companies who do not want to pay out for preventable deaths. The PMRC’s campaign to have record warning labels made law failed, but the legal campaign won because it intimidated record labels into putting the warnings on those records or they could not get them into stores. SJWs will do the same thing by labeling some metal as “verboten” because it did not join their politically correct view of the world, and then it will be unable to be sold openly. That is their goal: censorship. Their method is a 2.0 to book burnings, public executions and other censorship 1.0 techniques, but it aims at the same thing and is more effective.
You can see how Bieber-like it is when you look at this comment on Mr. Flynn’s comments:
You just GAINED one more fan. I don’t even know what you sound like yet.
The SJW outlook is not new. It is not revolutionary. It is what governments of the USA and EU endorse. It is in fact conformity. They however want to convince you that their ideas are “revolutionary” so they sound unique, different and exciting. They want to look like brave outsiders denying the will of shadowy oppressive forces and liberating us all. In fact, they are attempting to enslave us all — wonder who our Al Sharpton will be — and they are every bit as mainstream, ordinary and socially accepted as Justin Bieber. They appeal to the herd by telling it what it already accepts, just like Bieber offers music with absolutely no surprises that resembles every big pop act that went before it. But if you listen to them, they are heroic Christ-like bearers of enlightenment and the rest of us are just idiots in comparison and should be silenced as a result.