Von – Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves

von-dark_gods_seven_billion_slavesVon gained fame for the ultra-minimalist droning 1990s album Satanic Blood which raged forth in three-note songs that resembled air raid sirens of the soul going off in an infinite night of bestial darkness.

Returning after a long hiatus, the band conjure up Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves to bring us the greatest of rarities in metal: an honestly experimental album. Most “experimental” albums involve recycling avant-garde and progressive rock themes of the 1970s, but there isn’t anything at all like this album.

Perhaps recognizing that repeating the past would be tame, Von have instead chosen to make a form of ritual music that sounds like a collision between black metal, later Danzig and a horror movie soundtrack. The songs are just as simple but more musical, and are generally played more slowly but have a stronger sense of developing theme.

Like a soundtrack, these songs are designed to fade into the background and influence mood rather than command attention. Much like a few repeated notes signal a dark theme ahead in a movie, these songs use very similar melodies to horror movie soundtracks and presage a limitless and expanding fear. The mood is similar to Profanatica‘s Profanatitas de Domonatia or Demoncy‘s Enthroned is the Night. Much as in a horror movie we watch the characters go into the room where evil lurks, or prepare to yank aside the curtain covering what they fear, this album exudes a menacing sense of impending and inexorable threat.

Percussion works in a way that is rarely seen outside of opera. Its timekeeping functions are present when the music is uptempo, but for slower pieces it forms pure mood, a clomping footstep like the tread of an executioner. Guitars play very similar patterns repeatedly and nearly constantly, but are frequently overlaid with background chaotic noise that like distortion itself brings out submerged harmonics and gives the music added body and menace.

Melodies themselves sound like horror movie music tinged with the more listenable vein of occult or dark rock, sounding sometimes like Danzig’s later works and sometimes like the Sisters of Mercy. They fit together well and evoke moods clearly and strongly, which makes this album more interesting for repeated listens than Satanic Blood. The ritual nature of the pacing of song development, coupled with the uncanny ability that vocals had on the first album to trigger a sense of dread and despair by offsetting rhythm like an attacker outside the law, builds momentum behind this atmosphere.

Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves is going to take many by surprise. It’s sparse, meaning that it’s not a constant wall of sound; it is often slower and more theatrical; it is complex in that many simple riffs together tell a story more than cyclic complex riffs can. It is experimental, in that while this style could be called black metal, there’s a lot more going on, but unlike “kitchen sink” bands who throw in other genres at random, everything here is fused into one consistent and expressive style.

While this may not deliver conventional metal thrills, Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves shapes its minimalistic riffs into a changing atmosphere of morbid curiosity and onrushing fear. The result is overwhelming, like a vision of hell brought to earth, and with its convoluted and esoteric patterns shows us darkness revealing itself before our eyes, while we stare at the screen too scared to scream.

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Civilization accepts death metal

civilization_accepts_heavy_metalAlthough for the last decade mainstream society has accepted the more radio-friendly metalcore and post-metal variants of metal, there are signs that civilization is finally facing the importance of underground metal and grindcore, albeit in baby steps.

First, a study that will make you question your individuality pointed out how people in mosh pits behave like the molecules of excited gasses. The ensuing articles got moshing and moshpit terminology into the minds of the average citizen and seemed to capture the imagination of many.

Then, numerous newspapers reported on a plan to use Napalm Death as a sonic disruptor for an art piece. “The collaboration was designed to be a comment on poverty, with Mr Harrison making sculptures of tower blocks from the band’s home city of Birmingham which would explode as they played, reflecting the breaking down of inequalities.”

Continuing the theme, mainstream media have formally recognized the death metal genre as not only existing, but as having been in existence these past 25 years. A brief overview of Tampa death metal made it onto the wires, complete with incredulity and band names. No one mentioned the Death album found under the murdered guy, but they did capture some of the appeal. “It’s dark, evil, ugly music, and not many communities want to acknowledge that an Obituary record might mean just as much to a lonely teenager as any Tori Amos or Nirvana album.”

While we in the underground have come to expect little from the mainstream — they like love/sex songs with pretty vocals and simple rotating structure — it’s gratifying to see the genres of death metal and grindcore being officially admitted as having endured enough years that they’re not going away, and civilization might as well sigh and make its peace with them.

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Hod releases The Uncreated demo

HOD demoWe recently spoke to Hod guitarist Lord Necron about their new demo as well as previous happenings with the band. That interview can be read here.

Now their new The Uncreated demo has been made available for purchase. The demo shows the band taking their sound further with more dynamics, aggression and violence, while staying true to the styling of their first album Serpent.

Fans that liked their previous work will definitely enjoy this new offering from Hod. Those interested can purchase a digital demo for $5.00 USD at their official bandcamp presence.

The Uncreated Demo by hod

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Neurosis “Of Honor Found in Decay” European tour

neurosis-honor_found_in_decayNeurosis got a bad rap among metalheads because most of us got introduced to this innovative band at the peak of their career, when metal journalists and radio were pushing the metalcore trend and wanted us to consider Neurosis part of that movement.

The reality is more complex. Neurosis started out as a terrifying hardcore band with completely alienated approach to modern living, and has since then continued to grow and develop, forging a new style of hardcore-metal hybrid.

Music around them has tried to catch up, but when you’re ahead of your time as much as Neurosis has been (consistently) over the last two decades or so, patience is required. However, more people are warming to the radical sounds and ideas of this innovative band.

Of Honor Found in Decay, the most recent Neurosis album, has spawned a European tour worthy of such a vast musical effort.

NEUROSIS Honor Found In Decay European Tour

  • 5/24/2013 Primavera Sound Festival 2013 – Barcelona, Spain
  • 5/25/2013 La Grande Halle de la Villette – Paris, France w/ Swans
  • 6/21/2013 Hellfest – Clisson, France
  • 6/22/2013 Eurocam Media Center – Lint-Antwerp, Belgium
  • 6/23/2013 Substage – Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 6/24/2013 SO 36 – Berlin, Germany
  • 6/25/2013 Grey Hall / Christiania – Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 6/26/2013 Betong – Oslo, Norway
  • 6/27/2013 Byscenen – Trondheim, Norway
  • 6/28/2013 Bravalla Festival – Norköpping, Sweden
  • 6/30/2013 Palladium – Warsaw, Poland
  • 7/01/2013 Lucerna Music Bar – Prague, Czech Republic
  • 7/02/2013 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, Germany
  • 7/03/2013 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, Germany
  • 7/04/2013 Magnolia – Milano, Italy
  • 7/05/2013 L’Usine – Genf, Switzerland
  • 7/06/2013 Rote Fabrik – Zürich, Switzerland
  • 7/07/2013 Eurockeennes Festival – Belfort, France

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De Profundis – The Emptiness Within

de_profundis-the_emptiness_withinEvery age has its conventions that set a target for those who aspire to success. When they achieve a fulfillment of those conventions, the aspirants have entered the elite and expect great reward to follow.

In our time, “progressive” rock has returned with a vengeance in the metal/hardcore world. It takes two types; the avant-garde type cycles between radically different riffs in an attempt to open the mind through contrast, while the jazz-type builds on a jam and then breaks it up with contrasting riffs to keep the jam going without becoming circular. De Profundis is of this second type.

What comes to mind when hearing this record is that Cynic and Atheist put their second and third albums into a room and nine months later, out popped De Profundis. This band mixes metal riffs of several different types with a cocktail jazz ambiance and plenty of delicious lead guitar, but builds up tension and release much like a hard rock band from the late 1980s.

The result is very easy to listen to. The jazz format is the most efficient for musicians, as it doesn’t require creation of custom song structures like other prog does, and it absorbs basically anything you can throw at it. De Profundis throw everything in there, from Satriani-esque quick pentatonic runs to dark minor key improvisation, and the result will enthrall people who like a high degree of internal contrast in their layered music.

Like dub or a really free-form jazz jam, De Profundis songs revolve around a central conflict that encounters interruptions which lead back to the theme. It’s the interruptions that are the main course, ironically enough, because these allow extended rhythm leads and leads that showcase the playing skills here.

It’s a slight to this band to call them “metal,” because it’s clearly only one of several dozen ingredients, but a wide diversity of metal riffing can be spotted here, from Swedish melodic to early black metal. All of this fits into a funky, warm, jazzy exterior that fulfills the expectations of its age’s elites.

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Morgengrau – Extrinsic Pathway

morgengrau-extrinsic_pathwayMorgengrau unleash an album described as classic death metal, while in actuality it sounds more like 1980s metal merged with progressive death metal from a decade later. Despite being a relatively new band, Morgengrau includes several experienced players alongside enthusiastic new blood, and the result shows on this thoroughly professional album.

With detuned guitars, death vocals and cluster-munition drumming, Morgengrau tears into songs like a death metal band. However, songs are structured more around vocal/guitar cadences and lengthy fills in the style of later Exodus, augmented with progressive touches that are reminiscent of later 1990s Death. This makes them easier to listen to than riff salad and gives them more of a compelling groove.

Extrinsic Pathway features the hooky rhythms you might expect from a classic 1980s speed metal album with the more elaborate atmosphere of a progressive metal band, without the noodly flights of fancy of prog metal. Lead guitars are elegant and yet obscure, and rhythm guitar is rigid with enough swing to give it a groove of its own. In this, it’s reminiscent of Death’s The Sound of Perseverance.

A cover of Sepultura’s “Inner Self” finds a home in the middle of the album and complements the other tracks, which pick up in intensity from the mid-paced death metal model to more of a ripping death metal pace as the album goes on. On the whole, this is a good first effort as this band finds its voice in the raging chaos of extreme metal.

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Sammath releases new rough mixes

Sammath, Dutch-German furious black metal band, continues to work toward the release of its next album, Godless Arrogance.

To this end, the band released two tracks in demo form from the forthcoming album on Folter Records. These show the black/death thrashing hybrid that this band has become over the years.

On the new album, expect the instrumental prowess of 2009’s Triumph in Hatred with a stripped-down and vicious style more akin to 2006’s Dodengang. The band shows high confidence going into this album and it will be great to see it hit the shelves soon!

This world must burn

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Birth A.D. – I Blame You

birth_a_d-i_blame_youBack in the 1980s thrasher music — a hybrid of punk and metal listened to by skateboarders — was big. In the 2000s, Birth A.D. has resurrected this style not through retro-nostalgia but by picking it up where it left off and taking it further.

Thrash grew up from simple short and fast punk songs with metal riffs and reached its peak with S.O.D.’s Speak English or Die and D.R.I.‘s Crossover. These albums packed the intensity of the blur-speed earlier work into lengthier songs with more emotional depth and variation. Birth A.D. picked up from that point with their first EP, Stillbirth of a Nation, which kept the chunky riffing but added melodic vocals and song structures customized to the topic of each song.

Returning with wisdom and more vitriol, I Blame You shows Birth A.D. reforming their style. The album comprises songs from Stillbirth of a Nation matched to new material which is tighter, faster and harder-hitting. It hits both with ripping riffs and militant time changes, but also with a greater internal contrast between themes which gives these songs a greater poetic intensity.

Lyrically, Birth A.D. emerges straight from the thrash tradition, which is to criticize our society as having made a wrong turn somewhere and now heading for doom. The lyrics defy categorization unless you imagine a systems architect looking at modern society as a whole and suggesting changes that management has overlooked for its own reasons. Of note is “Popular War” which criticizes the tendency of people to really enjoy killing other people when it’s easy, fail-safe and creates a good opportunity for business.

The original thrash movement burned out because it burned too bright. It had a lot to say, but instead of drawing it out into long dramatic pieces, it blasted us with rapid-fire alienation. Easily understood, it was rarely understood, because it was too radical. Birth A.D. bring this idea back not by imitating it, but by upholding its spirit, which makes for an exhilarating and violent listening experience.

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Live stream of Revel in Flesh – Dominate the Rotten

revel_in_flesh-manifested_darknessTaking their name from an Entombed song, Swedish-style metallers Revel in Flesh mix Motorhead-esque rowdy roadhouse metal song formats with Swedish death metal riffs and production.

Like many of the newer generation, they combine the heavy metal style melodic Swedish metal with the more hardcore influenced old school death metal which kicked off the movement. The result is easy on the ears like a Motorhead tune, but has all the bass and crunch that an alienated outlaw anti-social metalhead might need.

One thing that’s refreshing about this band is that they are not trying to rehash the past. They’re trying to be a metal band with influences. The result is that this is not first album Entombed. It’s Revel in Flesh, and unlike some of the recent bands, it offers not nostalgia but a current sound of heavy metal style death metal.

We are pleased and excited to, in coordination with Clawhammer PR and Revel in Flesh, offer you this live stream of a song named “Dominate the Rotten” from the new Revel in Flesh album, Manifested Darkness.

For your listening pleasure:


Revel in Flesh
“Dominate the Rotten”
Manifested Darkness
FDA Rekotz (2013)

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Supuration – Cube 3

supuration-cube_3No one doubts the importance of style, but at the end of the day, style is not what makes one album great and others mundane. Like a technique used in painting, style is essential to convey particular meaning, but its inclusion alone doesn’t make the painting great. Only the skill of the artist and the composition of the painting can do that.

Supuration emerged years before the current alternative metal and progressive metal trends, mixing 1980s dark pop and indie with a strong progressive undercurrent in the style of Rush or Jethro Tull. Their legendary album, The Cube, divided metal listeners because while it had many aspects of off-mainstream rock, it sported death metal vocals and metal riffs. However, it also made them many fans who liked their adventurous use of music and very personal, evocative songwriting.

Cube 3 hits the target set by this first album by not imitating the style of the past but instead developing changes to that style naturally and focusing instead on songwriting. This allows Supuration to gratify older fans but not force themselves into acting out the past as remembered from a far off-distance. The style is mostly similar to The Cube, being alternative/indie-rock harmonies mixed in with metal riffs and progressive chord progressions, melodic leads and oddball song structures.

What makes this album work is that each song unites two concepts: first, a pop style hook; second, a theatrical staging of the conflict between two or more tendencies. These songs pull themselves apart between bassy heavy metal riffs, bittersweet vocal melodies, and intricately picked melodic guitar that expands the context of the music and shows a broader context.

These songs are full of musical oddities picked to stimulate, amuse and delight, but what fundamentally drives this band is its songwriting which has a strong connection to the idea of metal. The result is a metal hybrid that keeps the intensity of metal while creating a technical achievement that also has the emotional appeal of negative pop.

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