Finnish old school death metal band Desecresy released their third album, Chasmic Transcendence, via Xtreem Records (ex-Drowned) on April 21, 2014. Following more of a mid-paced approach in deference to the doom-death of past, the album offers 14 tracks of shorter length than previous albums.
Descresy, which consists of Nurmi T.G. on vocals and Tommi Gronqvist on guitars/bass/drums, might be compared to a fusion of old Finnish death metal like Abhorrence and doom-death like Incantation or Asphyx. The band released a promotional track, “Voracious Mass,” which demonstrates the changes in style.
Texan death metal band Crucifix released multiple demos during the early 1990s which showcased the band’s development of percussive death metal into an artistic voice instead of participation in a trend. Like many other neglected bands who were ahead their time, the band never released a full album. Those who desire a collection of the band’s original material can now obtain it through the efforts of Dark Blasphemies Records.
Visions of Nihilism displays the blueprint for the sub-genre that came into fruition along with bands such as Suffocation and Baphomet. By relying on bursts of energy that emanated from palm-muted guitars, which alternated with structured rhythmic variations of tempo, Crucifix simultaneously achieved a morbid atmosphere and created forward motion by extending and contracting the components of a song, like a slinky falling down into a dungeon.
Dark Blasphemies released this compilation of demo material as Visions of Nihilism in homage to the name of the the band’s planned but unrecorded album. An enjoyable return to death metal’s spirited and threatening years, the CD can be picked up from Dark Blasphemies Records’ bandcamp page for €6 (around $8).
At any rate, I, too, think Melana Chasmata might be the most deficient post-Celtic Frost reunion album I have been involved in. I have made uncounted such statements within the band during the extended time we were working on the album, and there exists a long string of very unambiguous mails to this effect, addressed to the band’s management and to our partners at Century Media.
Melana Chasmata was an exceedingly difficult and complex album to make, and that is never a good sign. There were reasons for these difficulties, and they were far from superficial, on more than just one level. In the end, I couldn’t have worked on this album for even one more day, even though I seriously pondered at least a remix, if not far more drastic revisions. But I eventually felt I needed to wrap it up and thus also conclude the entire emotional landscape attached to it.
Frankly, I personally am utterly puzzled by the extremely favourable opinions the album has garnered from most in our audience as well as from reviewers, record company, management, and fellow band members. My own stance is far, far more critical, and I have so far been unable to listen to the album as a whole. The faint light on the horizon, for me, is that I felt the same way about To Mega Therion in late 1985. Only a few years down the road did I begin to digest that album and its production, eventually enabling me to think of it as one of Celtic Frost’s most significant albums.
The difference perhaps is that To Mega Therion encapsulated what many were feeling but did not yet know how to say, where Melana Chasmata encapsulates what many are saying, but not what they are feeling.
Sadistic Intent became known for their brand of intense death metal that carried the dark, foreboding atmosphere of speed/death metal bands such as Possessed and Slayer to its logical conclusion. Later, the band further developed its technical capacities into a style of death metal similar to Morbid Angel. After years of relative silence, Sadistic Intent have announced the itinerary for their Lurking Terror Crusade 2014 tour:
May 2 Detroit, MI (The tangent Gallery)
May 3 Chicago, IL (Cobra Lounge)
May 4 Lakewood, Oh (The Foundry)
May 5 Buffalo, NY (The Rocking Buffalo
May 6 Philadelphia, PA (The Milkcreek Tavern)
May 7 Wallingford, CT (Cherry Street Station)
May 8 Boston, MA (Sammy’s Patio)
May 9 Brooklyn, NY (The Acheron)
May 10 Hyattsville, MD (Schizophrenia)
May 11 Chesapeake, VA (Roger’s)
May 15 New Orleans, LA (Sitheria)
May 17 Houston, TX (Mango’s)
Sadistic Intent‘s legacy consists of short-players and compilations, never having recorded a full expression of the band’s artistic merit. This is a great shame in that few bands were able to fully leave speed metal behind and adopt the style that bands like Morbid Angel, Massacra and early Sepultura did, which allowed the full promise of death metal in intricately-knit combinations of riffs which each symbolized meaning through their shape and in combination told a tale of successive revelations. Possibly this sort of joy in perception can be yours as you catch Sadistic Intent on tour.
According to its description, the conference focuses on this nexus of metal’s growth: “The evolution of metal, as any other music genre, is impacted by the technological and economic revolution that has radically reshaped the forms of music production, delivery, consumption and culture – let alone the role of social media in communication, community building and fandom. Altogether, metal is embracing new fans and markets, creating new practices, forming new cultures, while treasuring the strong and polymorphous legacy of the genre.” To address this, the conference participants plan to analyze and explicate “the current standing of metal; the plethora of its forms, cultures, practices, and markets.”
For those who have an opinion on metal-as-industry as it has come about in the post-1994 years when it left underground and transitioned to being aboveground but a recognized “niche market,” much like in the 1970s, this conference is an excellent time to record those thoughts in orderly and studious fashion and present them to an audience of not just fellow metalheads but also academics and industry. The organizers invite input of many forms:
We are particularly interested in contributions shedding light on the markets, practices and cultures, faced by the metal practitioners and fans in the current multifaceted and global expression of heavy metal and its countless forms and sub-genres. The event is open not only for academics focusing on metal studies (in business studies, cultural studies, social sciences, humanities, musicology, arts, and other fields) but also for scholars from the wide range of popular music and popular culture studies. We warmly welcome also views from “the outside” to discuss and compare metal with other genres and cultural forms and helps in positioning metal in the bigger picture of cultural production and consumption.
The suggested themes include (but are not limited to):
Metal music industry and markets; global and local views, formation and structure of markets, entertainment and cultural industries
Metal management; strategic thinking, branding, visual communication in metal, metal export/import, leadership and roles, creative management
Metal practices; music, production, technology, performance, delivery
Metal cultures; fandom and fan communities, local communities, transnational/global communities, tribalism metal and social media, mainstream and subcultures, metal generations, gender and metal, artistic identity
Form and philosophy of the metal genre
Sound and structure of metal music
Metal narratives, lyrics, and storytelling
Metal and belief systems, metal and religion
Politics, ethics and moral of metal
Artistic and aesthetic considerations; metal (in) art, metal representations, aesthetic experience, bodily experience
History, present and future of metal; transformations of the genre
Scope and methods of metal studies
Metal on the borderline; positions and connections of metal within the popular music and popular culture context
Various topics exploring the phenomena and representations of metal and related genres.
Alongside with more traditional research papers, novel and creative approaches to research are strongly encouraged. Theoretical reviews, practical case studies, conceptual studies, methodological papers, ethnographical reports, lyrical and visual analyses, qualitative and quantitative approaches, and various other forms and approaches are supported. With the long abstract and paper process, we hope that many new studies get ignited and completed for the conference.
Please note that the paper review process comprises two stages: abstract and full paper. Final acceptance is based on the full paper.
A common sentiment expressed by “diehards” (or as cynics call them “tryhards”) is that the internet ruined metal. It was a paradise before, they say. You bought zines, traded tapes, bought from small labels, and everything was pure and innocent. The demon of convenience and commerce had not yet reared its ugly head.
With the internet, it is said, all of that ended because it became easy to acquire a band by just typing the name into a search engine. There was no commitment that way, the story goes. People became accustomed to everything being easy and no longer cared about quality. They stopped going to shows and “supporting the scene.” Underground metal became armchair metal.
While I don’t doubt there is some legitimacy to those complaints, I offer another view: what made the internet kill metal was that it turned the process of being a fan inside out. In the old days, you picked bands you liked. Now, you pick bands to make your online personality look good. When someone asks a question about a type of music, you want to have something unique to answer with.
The result is blog posts and threads on forums which are dedicated to “being different.” You get zero scene cred for stating the obvious top ten, and that list can be found anywhere, so people are now craving bands that are more obscure. But the problem is that wanting something for a trait unrelated to its content means you no longer care about quality. Thus quality has plummeted as people seek novelty.
For the aboveground metalheads, this novelty-seeking manifests itself in the same trends that black metal talked about. This week it’s shoegaze; next week it will be “industrial black metal” again, or maybe punkish black metal, or ironic ABBA covers by grindcore bands, who knows. For diehards, the novelty-seeking is obscurity bias: a desire to dig back in the vault and find something that no one else knows about, then make it your favorite band ever.
The point is that no one is a fan anymore. Fans decide what’s good and celebrate it. But hipsters and scenesters have a different approach. They look for ways to make a name for themselves. “That’s my man Bill, he’s an expert in Seattle drone metal.” This is why there are ludicrous genre names in the post-internet arena, and why the advice you get on metal from the internet is almost universally garbage. It’s hipsters being hip, not people talking about quality or relevance.
The internet has made us all into hipsters. To get people to pay attention to your online profile or blog, you need to invent something “important” whether it’s there or not. You to find novelty either in the past or the present. The last thing you’re going to do is offer up some honest opinion. It’ll never get you Google AdWords dollars. It’s not unique and different enough for the social environment the internet has to offer.
Diehards need to quit complaining about the internet. It has had no different effect than moving all of metal into a dense, high social and cosmopolitan city like New York City would. City culture has always rewarded the “different,” which is why cities have always had hipsters. Bands struggled against that culture, not succeeded because of it.
What’s ironic about this whole situation is that complaining about the internet is another way of being “different.” That in turn serves to conceal the fact that since 1994, metal has produced little worth writing home about. Why has that been, you wonder? The black metallers told us: when hipsters appear, trends arrive, and then quality leaves the hall.
Back in 1990, Celtic Frost released Vanity/Nemesis. This album was tasked with redeeming the fans’ respect after the affair that was Cold Lake . Straddling the gap that existed between that album and the style of inventive proto-death metal that had made Celtic Frost worth hearing, Vanity/Nemesis was a rather mediocre album. It was reasonably competent and it attempted to blend in with its contemporary milieu, but the album was artificial and uncomfortable to listen to.
In many ways, Melana Chasmata is the linear descendant of that album. First, this is an album with an astute grasp on the market it is attempting to exploit: like Triptykon’s debut, production is crystal-clear, uniform, and decidedly modern. Tom Warrior’s vocals have continued their changing form begun on Monotheist and now share the monotonous, ranting tone more in common with nu-speed metal bands such as Pantera. Riffs, as well, have “progressed” in a similar fashion. Although Eparistera Daimones‘ riffs were minimal, single string sequences, some intriguing melodies arose. For the most part, these are missing on Melana Chasmata, at least on the traditional metal tracks.
Where this album genuinely attempts an artistic statement is during attempts to merge noir-electronic music with the aesthetics of metal instrumentation as was introduced on Warrior’s last two albums. These tracks are worthwhile in that melodies are allowed to develop in a subtle, restrained manner before the climax of the tracks strike, in contrast to the uniform faux-aggression of the rest of the album. Greater tonal variation as evidenced by clean vocals, mildly pentatonic clean guitar sequences, and melodies confirm Warrior’s avowed interest in artists such as Gary Numan. (For a similar, contemporary album in spirit, one might point to the comeback album from Amebix , which also attempted to merge post-90s metal with popular, but slightly “outside” music). These tracks, while superior to the other fare, ultimately lack in the same core way as the others: there is no great resolution, or purpose inherent in them.
For those who hoped that Eparistera Daimones would be but a stepping-stone back to a more traditional Celtic Frost type of composition, they will be disappointed. If death/black metal is one’s primary interest, Melana Chasmata will almost undoubtedly not be worth listening to. However, for those who will admit to being Warrior fanboys (such as the author) or those who are interested in the other aspects of music on this album, it may be worth investigating, if only for curiosity.
Obscurity bias arises from our desire to discover hidden essential influences in the past. In metal, it is the search not only for concealed gems but for lost ancestors of our favorite music.
This thinking is a variation on our perpetual quest for more alternatives. We look at what’s there and think we want something better. This ignores the basic rule of life that usually what’s wrong is a lack of quality, not need for another alternative.
When we look back for historical alternatives, we are seeking to avoid the obvious historical truth: there are few ancestors because few necessary steps lie between 1969, when Black Sabbath recorded the first proto-metal record, and today.
Metal, punk and prog evolved in the 1968-1969 period in parallel, and since then have been trying to find a hybrid equilibrium that preserves the heavy worldview of metal, the intensity of punk and the complexity of prog without falling into the bluster, one-dimensionality and incomprehensibility that are the downfall of each respectively. With underground metal, arguably the last genres with any intelligence in metal, we ended up with metal riffing, punk strumming speed, and progressive rock song structures with underground metal, and that worked pretty well.
What happened after the initial invention was a hiccup. The music industry invented proto-glam by trying to make Deep Purple/Led Zeppelin bands “heavy” enough for the new Black Sabbath audience. What happened was that they made rock-metal, and while it was popular, it didn’t satisfy the core audience. After the hiccup metal retaliated with NWOBHM, most importantly Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The next generation combined those to make speed metal; the generation after that mixed in the punk that arose after Motorhead, hardcore punk, which was far more extreme and less musically related to rock music than anything which had come before.
In 1982, Discharge released Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing. The following year, all hell broke loose. Metallica unleashed their first album, starting speed metal. Slayer took off on a separate tangent. While both these bands were partially inspired by Venom, it was more in an aesthetic sense than a musical one, because if you remove the rough playing and bad production, Venom is basically Motley Crue. Slayer in particular took more from the punk side of things and made chromatic riffs and elaborate internal song structures where Metallica followed more of the rock format harmonically and used fairly standard song structures, except for their prog-influenced instrumentals.
Thus by 1985 we had Slayer, Hellhammer, Sepultura, Bathory and Sodom making proto-underground metal; by 1986, Morbid Angel had formalized the style. If anything, the Death and Deicide assault of the next two years brought death metal back toward the speed metal — Metallica, Exodus, Prong, Nuclear Assault, Overkill, Testament, Megadeth, Anthrax — of the previous five years. Death metal took on a life of its own when it escaped that with releases like the first Incantation, Massacre, Morpheus Descends, Massacra, Carnage and Pestilence releases with the turn of the decade. These brought metal back to its Slayer-Hellhammer-Bathory nexus, with tremolo strumming and labyrinthine song structures, and away from the more speed metal song structures of Death and Deicide. Black metal grew out of the melodic death metal bands who started structuring their songs using melodies, not riffs alone, and thus needed less of a drum-dominated approach. That brought them closer to the original punk sound, but kept the metal method of making riffs.
So what’s with the search for missing ancestors?
Black Sabbath creating proto-metal in 1969 was no accident. The band sought to find a new sound. They also realized the hippie movement was in the process of grossly selling itself out, having gone from a form of protest to a lifestyle of dissolution through mental obesity. It was time to kick over that false figurehead and do something new. Coming from a prog-tinged background, they invented something that sounded a lot like progressive rock, if it weren’t addicted to a dark and foreboding approach.
The message of Black Sabbath more than anything else was that truth is staring us in the face. People make a lot of noise to cover everything in flowers, sex and brotherhood, but really underneath it all a darker reality threatens. Most people are crazy. Most ideas form mass delusion of the herd. And these people have nuclear weapons, and control of economies, and other methods of taking these screwups to an exponential level. Every teen rock ‘n’ roll band sings about how the world is crazy, in part because it is crazy. Punk bands expanded upon this with an outlook of total nihilism at first, and later a kind of comfortable anarchism combined with genteel progressivism. These outlooks helped drive the evolution of genres to express a sound that was more rootless (punk) and more apocalyptic (metal) as time went on. This made it clear to each generation what the next would sound like.
The scary fact is that we can navigate metal based on a few nodal points. First, Black Sabbath, King Crimson and Iggy and the Stooges; next, after the proto-glam years, the NWOBHM triad of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead plus the punk music that simultaneously wracked the UK (Discharge, Amebix, The Exploited) and US (Cro-Mags, Black Flag). Death metal would have arisen from these alone, but Venom accelerated the process aesthetically, although took a step back musically toward the bad old days of proto-glam. It was natural that death metal bands would experiment more with melody, and so black metal was an obvious outgrowth of this.
All of that leads me to today’s topic: Terminal Death, whose 1985 demo and other recordings have been released as Terminal Death by Shadow Kingdom Records. Their press release states:
TERMINAL DEATH: One of the first DEATH METAL bands 1985!!!!!
When you talk about the earliest Death Metal bands, we think of SEPULTURA, DEATH, POSSESSED (all stemming from VENOM) right off the top, but there were a few ripping bands that quickly fell into obscurity and TERMINAL DEATH is one of those bands. This is not just an obscure band; they could have been a HUGE Death Metal band if they were signed to the right label back then. They certainly had all of the talent the aforementioned bands did. Their 1985 Demo tape screams with energy and intensity! This is a re-mastered collection of their complete and very short-lived career. The CD booklet is massive with a very in-depth and lengthy interview done by Laurent from Snakepit Magazine. There aren’t that many Death Metal bands can come close to how amazing these songs were. This collection is another snapshot of that amazing early Slayer-esque Death Metal. Co-founder Shaun Glass, whom also co-found SINDROME later joined the more well known classic Death Metal band BROKEN HOPE in the early 1990’s. Shadow Kingdom Records teamed up with Hells Headbangers Records to release this lost gem as a Double LP. If you’re into vinyl, keep your eyes peeled for it will be a glorified presentation.
Let’s look at this historically. By 1985, the big three of death metal — Slayer, Hellhammer and Bathory — had already recorded. Then we listen to Terminal Death. For the most part, this is simplified speed metal at a punk pace, more in common with early Sacrifice than the death metal to follow. Not only that, but Deathstrike had already beat it to the punk/metal hybrid of that era. OK, so what? I don’t consider that important, other than that it somewhat contradicts the marketing. Let’s look at the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s also not very inspired. Lots of chromatic riffs, drums kind of struggle to keep up, and heavy repetition with standard song form. There’s a reason this band took a back seat to the other influences on the rising death metal movement. It’s not bad, but it’s not great.
The DLP doesn’t look bad, but it’s unnecessary. It’s basically the 1985 demo plus three unreleased songs and several other versions of the demo songs. It might make more sense, since the album is appealing to people who want early proto-death metal, to release the 1985 demo with the three unreleased songs for a CD that presents this band at its best. Hopefully SK will do that in the future. But the question for metalheads now is why to buy this. Its historical significance is not really that great, and the music is not exceptional either. With that in mind, I’d say Terminal Death is something we can bypass.
By now, you’ve probably heard that France’s Hellfest had been planning to team up with a porn site to provide entertainment at the show. Naturally, two sides have formed, the pro side who think either this might be cool or it should be allowed, and the con side which thinks it’s a bad idea.
I’m going to join the con side at a meta level by saying that I think we should be very careful about involving any industry with metal, including the “metal industry” (which should be an oxymoron) itself. Industry wants the opposite of music quality; it wants a tractable fan-base that will buy whatever comes out so long as it has some “new” quality, like using a trombone or a different singer.
Pornography is many things. There’s a moral argument against it from conservatives, which is that it debases the family; there’s also a moral argument against it from liberals, which is that it degrades women. Probably both are true to some degree, but it’s also true that women and men both voluntarily join up to participate both in the films and in purchasing the eventual product. Either it’s not debasing/degrading, or some people want that experience or at least don’t mind it.
But the real issue here is economic. People are already leery of Toyota’s Scion imprint sponsoring metal shows, or past sponsorship deals with alcohol companies. There’s no reason we should be less skeptical here just because porn is an “underground” industry (like the “metal industry”). It will still try to infiltrate and use you for its own ends, metal fans, because to it you represent dollar signs. Does the money go into the music, or the… ah… you know?