Category Archives: News

Emptiness – Nothing but the Whole

emptiness-nothing_but_the_whole

Belgian death metallers Emptiness return with Nothing but the Whole which combines death/black metal intensity with the brooding ambiance of dark ambient similar to Desiderii Marginis. The result creates a dark, visceral experience.

The album exudes a deeply haunting and nightmarish feel which the band expands with its knowledge and application of melodic development. Songs unfurl in a rise-and-fall approach to intensity showing us different levels of thought and mood which develop and eventually conclude in melancholic unity.

Like similar experiment Lykathea Aflame Elvenefris, Nothing but the Whole occasionally struggles with direction which can cause a distracted and confused outcome which translates into meandering filler. There are also some unappealing “rock” riffs that do not fit well with the context of the songs.

Emptiness have attempted to add their own creative spark to the death/black metal world and have produced a decent creation albeit one that needs more focus and direction. Like many experimental albums, Nothing but the Whole is best described as a stimulating listen that will inspire others to expand upon its aesthetic ideas.

Varg Vikernes (Burzum) facing legal troubles in France and Russia

varg_vikernes-burzum-photo

Varg Vikernes founded Burzum and contributed heavily to the black metal movement before being jailed in Norway in 1993 for murder and possible church arson, then on his release in the 2000s began releasing the continuation of his prison-years ambient soundscape albums, most recently with Sôl austan, Mâni vestan and The Ways of Yore. Now he faces additional problems with both French and Russian governments.

Almost a year ago, Vikernes was arrested in France for suspicions of violating anti-discrimination and civil rights law there. His trial came up recently and a French court has convicted him and sentenced him to a six month suspended sentence and $10,000 in fines. In addition, Russian authorities seized his web site from June 18-23 because it found the Russian edition of his book Vargsmal violated Russian speech law as well.

While I can’t say that I agree with Vikernes — although I am fond of the first three and last two Burzum albums — in my view speech codes and goody-two-shoes laws are about the most un-metal thing there is. In the 1980s, the Parents’ Music Resource Center (PMRC) tried to prevent us from hearing music with lyrics containing gratuitous sexual or occult content, but now thirty years later, our governments are more worried about political speech. It tells us what threatens these governments that they are now just fine with our gratuitous sex and violence and occultism, but have turned their focus to ideas themselves. It’s an odd turn that I never could have foreseen.

For more information about Vikernes and his music, see our interview with Varg Vikernes from May of last year. For his beliefs, you can visit his blog and his website for his role playing game, movie and writings. There is also his official Burzum website and then, for a neutral viewpoint, the Burzum study group’s analysis of his music and beliefs. If you want to help with his burgeoning legal fees, there’s a donation page and his official merchandise page.

Society wants to scare you into quitting headbanging

headbanging

The relationship between heavy metal and mainstream society, with the burst of popularity of metal among those who seem to accept society at face value and like, has come to resemble a bad relationship. It reminds me of the girl who dates a rocker and starts making suggestions: wash those jeans, cut your hair, stop raging like a maniac, read The New Republic and listen to some Sarah McLachlan with me on Saturday nights instead of drinking blood in cemeteries. Soon he complies, and after that, she ditches him because now he is just like all the other guys.

In the same way, they humbled metal by making it repeat happy statements about how everything will be just fine if we are just nice to each other, then worked in their favor hackneyed and dead genres like lite jazz and indie rock. Now they are attempting to remove its sacred rituals by instilling fear in us that we will damage our brains by headbanging. As Jordan Lite (get it?) at Scientific American writes:

Head-banging can be hazardous to your health…McIntosh and Patton got down to business. Based on the popularity of the up-down style of head-banging at the concerts, and the average tempo of 11 songs deemed the best for head-banging by a minion of local musicians, the scientists developed a mathematical model of how violently you’d have to shake your noodle to hurt yourself. Their conclusion? Head-banging to a song with a tempo of 146 beats per minute can make you dazed and confused (read: give you a headache and make you dizzy) if you’re rotating your head by more than 75 degrees.

…A 15-year-old drummer in his neighborhood band suffered an aneurysm in his cervical vertebral artery, according to a 1991 case report in the journal Pediatric Neurosurgery, and Evanescence guitarist Terry Balsamo had a stroke three years ago that his docs blamed on his head-banging tendencies.

Summary for Realists: One guy suffered an aneurysm, and based on looking at the data, two guys — who have interest in writing an eye-catching paper so they can get known in their fields — theorize that headbanging may cause neck injury if done too quickly.

These masters of the obvious miss the point that we all know this. Headbanging is rarely done constantly and not always to the exact beat of the song. They tell us that “popular heavy metal often has a tempo of 180 beats per minute” neglecting to mention that banging your head three times a second is a physical impossibility. Further, metalheads rarely bang their heads exactly to the tempo, which is why this activity is often described as “chaotic.”

Rest your fears. This study is the usual fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that people have used to control each other since the dawn of time. We do not know what physical conditions the one guy who had a brain aneurysm after headbanging had before headbanging. But what they want us to believe is that heavy metal will be the best boyfriend ever if we just turn it into nice, respectable lite jazz and indie, and start behaving like all the other guys, even if it removes what makes us unique and makes us boring as concrete in the process.

Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground by Jason Netherton

extremity_retained-notes_from_the_death_metal_underground-by_jason_netherton

Jason Netherton (Dying Fetus, Misery Index) created his history of death metal called Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground by letting members of the community tell their stories. This book compiles interviews with death metal bands, artists, writers and label owners. It organizes these into five topic areas which makes it easier to find specifics in the book, and by grouping like stories together breaks up the repetition that massed interviews normally have. The result provides a good background in the history and experience of the rise of the death metal genre.

Netherton’s use of topic areas allows band statements to be taken as a whole on the theme and to expand upon it without becoming repetition of similar questions and answers that un-edited interviews tend toward. Some may be put off by the lack of narrative tying these together, but the upside of that situation is that there is little extraneous text outside of what the actors in this scene said themselves. The only weak spot may be that since the highlight is clearly the old school bands, the inclusion of newer bands becomes extraneous when compared with the old.

The following and others contributed to the content of hte book: Luc Lemay (Gorguts), Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), King Fowley (Deceased), Stephan Gebidi (Thanatos, Hail of Bullets), Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity), Doug Cerrito (Suffocation), John McEntee (Incantation, Funerus), Marc Grewe (Morgoth), Ola Lindgren (Grave), Kam Lee (ex-Massacre, ex-Death), Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, Lock Up), Robert Vigna and Ross Dolan (Immolation), Esa Linden (Demigod), Dan Seagrave (Artist), Rick Rozz (ex-Death, Massacre), Steve Asheim (Deicide), Jim Morris (Morrisound Studios), Terry Butler (Obituary, Massacre, ex-Death), Mitch Harris (Napalm Death, Righteous Pigs), Robin Mazen (Derketa, Demonomacy), Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail of Bullets), Andres Padilla (Underground Never Dies! book), Donald Tardy (Obituary), Paul Speckmann (Master, Abomination), Phil Fasciana (Malevolent Creation), Tony Laureno (ex-Nile, ex-Angelcorpse), Alan Averill (Primordial, Twilight of the Gods), Alex Okendo (Masacre), and Lee Harrison (Monstrosity).

The topic division of the book begin with the origins of death metal and then branch out to its diversification, and then areas of experience such as recording and touring. The final section addresses the future of metal. The material of most interest to me personally was at the front of the book where the old school bands talked about what inspired them and how the scene came together. It was like witnessing a revolution secondhand. In these sections, the most compelling accounts come from the people who are longest in the game as they are explaining the literal genesis of the process. Within each section, individual speakers identified by band write lengthy revelations to which the editors have added helpful captions. The result makes it easy to read or skim for information. Many of this book’s most ardent readers will find themselves doing a lot of skimming because the information here works as an excellent concordance to many of the other books on death metal or metal history and can reinforce or amplify what you find there.

We were all very much into underground music. Early on we were into Venom, Angel Witch and Motorhead, and later it evolved into bands like Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Slayer. We wanted to play like them, and that is pretty much why we picked up the instruments in the first place.

With Massacre we were calling the music death metal pretty much from the beginning. We liked a lot of thrash, but to us a lot of it was just a bit too happy and the rhythms were a bit “too dancey.” Of course there were darker thrash albums like Bonded by Blood from Exodus, but even by the first demos we were calling it death metal. I mean, it’s not death metal as you know it today, but those demos were certainly founding releases in the death metal genre in terms of style. Of course, there are no blast beats or anything, but it was a combination of dark rhythms, the dark lyrics, and rough vocals that separated it from thrash. The term death metal had started getting kicked around with Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. We also knew of the Possessed demos, and it was in that tradition that we were referring to ourselves as death metal.

Some of the statements by later bands or bands that are not really death metal seemed like revisionist history but that is to be expected, since every band has to self-promote and include itself in whatever it can. This book utterly shines in the lengthy statements by founders of the genre that explain how it came to be, the thought process at the time and some of the experiences bands underwent. Be ready for blood, vomit and death in the touring section, and prepare yourself for some gnarly old school history in the other parts. By the rules of information itself, it is impossible to craft a metal history that pleases everyone. Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground takes the approach that Glorious Times did and amplifies it by getting longer statements and not relying on pictures, and it adds its unique and vital voice to the canon of books on the history of death metal.

New “Hanneman-class” metal stars discovered

hanneman-class-metal-stars

According to a recent survey, one in ten thousand stars may be made of metal. This information was derived by examining the process of star formation.

Those of who are metalheads may find it relevant to suggest a new name for these stars: Hanneman-class stars. For if anything was ever made completely of metal, it was his mind and music.

No news yet on where to agitate for the adoption of this name.

Cosmic metal-influenced ambient band Khand releases new interview

cosmic_space_ambient_atmosphere

Cosmic ambient band Khand keeps deep roots in the metal community. Unknown to most of its fans, the compositional power of Khand was forged long before the first synthesizer tracks worked their way into the minds of listeners. Like most things related to this mysterious project, these metal roots remain incognito.

The band first emerged in the mid 2000s and began recording a series of demos which it release through a Creative Commons license via information-wants-to-be-free label HiArcTow. Gaining audience momentum for its journeylike compositions with a total lack of the usual smarm and pander of ambient music, Khand raised the skull chalice with its 2013 release, The Fires of Celestial Ardour. Since that time, the obscure project has kept its silence but recently, broke that quietude with a new teaser and new interview.

For those who dislike ambient music, Khand avoids the pitfalls of a genre where it is only too easy to lay down a beat and layer odd sounds over it until it feels “deep” enough for the greeting card buying public to swoon. Khand takes advantage of the depth of range and texture available to electronic music and uses it to produce unearthly compositions that take the listener on an adventure far from these mortal, material zones.

Read Interview with Khand

 

Hail of Bullet’s – III: The Rommel Chronicles

hail_of_bullets-iii_the_rommel_chronicles

Hail of Bullets formed when Martin van Drunen joined ex-Thanatos, Gorefest and Asphyx personnel to make a modern metal project with the intensity of old school death metal. Drawing heavily from related act Houwitser, the band specialized in pounding chorus-emphatic songs that used the simpler song structures of grindcore to accentuate the abrasive riffing of old school death metal applied with a modern metal sense of rhythm and production.

The band launched their third effort in 2013 with III: The Rommel Chronicles. This album more closely resembles late hardcore bands like Terror than death metal. The bouncy nature of the riffs and rhythms along with the metalcore-esque melodies present to us a more fun and friendly flavor of death metal in complete contrast to the death metal lexicon.

Reading the lyrics makes one feel as if they focused entirely on the lyrical aspect and assembled songs as a vehicle for those lyrics. Emphasis on riffs declines with the need to present vocals foremost. Slower riffs sound like they drifted over from a Whitechapel song. Martin van Drunen’s vocals sound as vicious as ever but that does not save the underlying problem: a lack of emphasis on riffs and song structure to fit them as has been the hallmark of quality death metal since its inception.

III: The Rommel Chronicles disguises metalcore as grinding death metal like Asphyx at the time of The Rack, creating death metal by style, not spirit. While there is much to like about this all-star lineup and many of its aesthetic choices, the underlying music cannot back up that promise and so the album feels hollow and expedient. Leave the trenches, because nothing is happening.

Morgue Eroded Thoughts re-issue pre-orders begin

morgue-eroded_thoughts

Classic Midwestern death metal band Morgue sees release on Dark Descent and The Crypt in the coming months. This band hovered at the periphery of death metal in the early 1990s, essentially filling in stylistic gaps and creating a unique testament to the power of death metal that inspired more musicians than fans owing to low visibility in the market.

Now the band gets a second chance with this release of their only full-length Eroded Thoughts with the “Random Decay” and “Severe Psychopathology” demos as bonus tracks. A 16-page booklet includes classic photos and a lengthy introduction explaining the band and its place in history.

King Crimson releases teaser of new album

king_crimson-band_photo

1960s progressive rock band King Crimson whose evolution paralleled that of Black Sabbath in developing melody-based, complex song structure music using moveable chords and other techniques, have returned with a new recording that at just over a minute shows the direction they will take on their new tour, which will cover the US starting September 9.

The recording shows the new seven-member incarnation of King Crimson which includes Robert Fripp (guitar), Tony Levin (bass) and drummers Bill Rieflin and Gavin Harrison. Observers will note the venerable Crimson fusing its 1990s style of complex atmospheric improvisational music with its more acerbic 1970s work.

War Master “Lust for Battle Tour 2014″ launches

war_master-lust_for_battle_tour

Texas old school grinding death metal band War Master takes its influences from old school death metal and melodic grindcore like Bolt Thrower. Since its launch in 2009, War Master has built up a following for those who like underground metal in the feral and atavistic way that distinguished the old school from the imitators.

Following the success of its EP Blood Dawn last year, itself following the triumphant Pyramid of the Necropolis full-length the year before, War Master unleashes itself on the Southwest with a mini-tour that should bring old school death metal maniacs out of the woodwork.

Tour Dates:

  • Friday, July 4 – Austin (The Mohawk)
  • Saturday, July 5 – San Antonio (Korova)
  • Sunday, July 6 – Laredo (Cold Brew)
  • Monday, July 7 – El Paso (Horizon Bar)
  • Tuesday, July 8 – Tempe (51 West)
  • Wednesday, July 9 – Los Angeles (Redwood Bar)
  • Thursday, July 10 – Bay Area (Burnt Ramen)
  • Friday, July 11 – Oakland (Road House)
  • Saturday, July 12 – Grindcore 2014 Fest