Metal Photography

“There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless. What is this quality? What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? What quality is common to Sta. Sophia and the windows at Chartres, Mexican sculpture, a Persian bowl, Chinese carpets, Giotto’s frescoes at Padua, and the masterpieces of Poussin, Piero della Francesca, and Cezanne? Only one answer seems possible — significant form. In each, lines and colors combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions.“ – Clive Bell, Art

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Metal photography often slides off our radar because we have no point of reference. We are familiar discussing the metal scene, but not the metal photography scene. In addition, it’s hard to separate the serious from the casual in this realm.

It appears that every musician’s girlfriend automatically becomes a band photographer. Usually the result of their concert shooting culminates on social networking sites to flaunt to their friends, or possibly provide evidence that the night before existed before they all blacked out drunk.

However, there are professionals that meddle in this field. New York photographer Peter Beste distinguished himself after releasing his acclaimed book True Norwegian Black Metal which documented his trek across Scandinavia for 7 years in the black metal scene.

Others have taken different paths. Swedish photographer Daniel Falk from Framednoise.com and Close-Up Magazine is often in contact with the protagonists of Scandinavia’s music scene. He’s become well-known for his work in Europe and is spreading in fame to the USA.

Luckily, he’s agreed to shed some light on his craft and motivations:

What inspired you to get into music/metal photography?

I’ve always liked music. I bought my first album (ABBA!) when I was 6 years old, then I started to play the drums at 8 and saw my first Iron Maiden concert back in 1983.

The photography was more or less by coincidence though. In 2004 I bought myself a DSLR for the holidays and some months later I was invited to a friends concert and took the camera along. I was absolutely crap, got pissed, read a ton to find out WHY I sucked, bought better lenses and shot more gigs. By summer I applied as a photographer at Metalnyheter; a now defunct Swedish metal webzine and I have been shooting ever since.

I guess I just discovered something about myself; that I have a good eye for capturing moments and that I could combine it with my love for metal to create something that others appreciate.

Outside of music photography, what other projects have you shot in the past?

I really don’t shoot much else than music. I do wedding photography every now and then when people ask me to, and I went on a photo trip to Chernobyl a few years ago, but that’s basically it. I’m not the kind of person that photographs my whole life and brings heavy gear with me everywhere, I need to have a purpose in order to be inspired. I have a few projects in the pipeline but it’s hard to find the time and energy, especially since I already have to turn down requests from bands.

Have you exhibited your art anywhere?

I had an exhibition at a café/concert venue called Musikens Hus in Gothenburg back in 2008, but nothing since concentrating on my work. I had several large canvas prints at the Gothenburg Sound-exhibition back in January, but it’s kind of hard to find places that want photos of sweaty men on their walls and find sponsors for the prints.

You’re known throughout Scandinavia for event photography. How do you overcome obstacles such as poor lighting, moving subjects, ect?

I can’t lie, I have GOOD gear. I use expensive cameras that can keep noise levels down and bright lenses that allow me to shoot at the smallest clubs with piss poor lighting. Other than that it’s just down to experience. You learn by shooting A LOT. Of course, there are times when nothing works and you feel like you don’t have a single usable shot, but I still very much prefer shooting small bands that I like; to larger bands at better venues that I don’t care for. I’m not a fame-whore and have skipped several headliners at large festivals just to see/shoot a small band at another stage.

Since you started Framednoise.com, you’ve been enlisted to shoot for Close-Up Magazine. Has this opened up more opportunities for projects that you haven’t thought you’d do?

Absolutely. Through the magazine I can apply for accreditation/photo permits to concerts/festivals around Europe that otherwise wouldn’t be very interested in me as a freelancer. I also get opportunities and assignments that force me to push my own limits and step outside of my comfort zone. It also works as a kind of “seal of quality” and obviously spreads my work to new potential contacts. I have made lots of new friends.

What advice would you offer beginners that are interested in music photography?

Know your gear and its limitations. That’s my main advice. The more experience you have; the less you need rely on the automatic functions. If you have a DSLR with a simple kit lens stand close to the stage and use the bright wide end of the lens. The next step is to buy a bright lens for those small clubs, such as a cheap 30mm or a 50mm f1.8. Always shoot in RAW-format for maximum flexibility. Flash? Nopes, not until you REALLY know what you’re doing.

Start out by shooting friends and local bands, you need experience and if you can handle the small clubs, you can handle bloody well about anything! Be nice. And LOVE the music. The more you like the music you shoot; the better your photos will be and the less you’ll care about the countless hours you will spend in front of the computer editing the photos. And yeah, learn the editing part too. It’s one thing to snap a photo and another thing to push it to its full potential.

Look at photos that you like and try to figure out WHY you like them; what mood they capture and why they make you feel like if you really were that at that concert.

Are there any historical metal events, like particular concerts or locations in time, that you wish you could have been present to shoot? How would you approach such shoots?

Personally, I would have LOVED to see/shoot Rainbow back in the Stargazer era with Cozy Powell on the drums since he was one of my idols as a young drummer. More recently, I wish I had been at the last Dissection concert in Stockholm, they’re such an iconic band that have influenced so many others and considering what happened later those photos probably would have been very emotional and significant for many fans.

And Iron Maiden during the Powerslave tour. I REALLY wanted to go but my sister wasn’t too keen on having to look after her younger brother and I had to stay at home ;-( And the stage production was AMAZING! I would have loved to stand there with a really wide angle lense and capture the action. The closer the better!

Feel free to check out Daniel Falk’s photography at Close-Up Magazine and Framednoise.com.

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Cenotaph – Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows re-issue

cenotaph-the_gloomy_reflections_of_our_hidden_sorrowsOn March 11, a classic returns to print: Cenotaph‘s Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows, which was a sleeper hit back in the early 1990s when by combining crepitant American heavy death metal with esoteric hymnlike melody, Cenotaph invented a national sound for Mexican death metal and stimulated the imagination of many.

Two albums followed, both in the “At the Gates style” of melodic death metal, but fans never forgot the moody and eloquent first album from this talented band. Members later went on to The Chasm and other projects, but over time, Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows has remained a favorite.

Chaos Records is taking pre-orders ($10) now for the CD version of Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows. This version contains an eight page booklet with artwork and lyrics for all tracks, along with original artwork by the Polish artist Ryszard Wojtynski in a new layout. As bonus tracks, the CD edition contains the Tenebrous Apparitions 7″ and The Eternal Disgrace 7″. The reissue has been fully remastered by Roberto Granados at Seismic Sound Studios. Vinyl editions are already available through Chaos Records.

Ideally, this re-issue will have done nothing much to the original production, which while primitive, suited the music perfectly. Along with other innovative classics of the death metal movement the epic slab of creative greatness that is Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows should takes its place among others of its caliber.

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Expurgate – Dementia Tremens (Comatose Music, 2013)

expurgate-dementia_tremensIn the style of blasting gurgling death metal that filled in after bands ran out of ways to pay homage to Suffocation, Expurgate unmoor a first album that is genre-consistent but shows promise in that these songs do not fade into a wall of noise.

Most bands in this style are unable to differentiate between riffs or songs very well, and so produce large amounts of very similar material. Much of that occurs because the style demands it; as a subset of death metal, it rewards only some of its techniques. The result becomes to the listener a vast flat space composed of necrotic vocals and chugging, blasting riffs with no real variation.

Dementia Tremens does not assault this basic tendency but injects an individuality to Expurgate into these songs through the distinctiveness of each song, and the tendency to vary pace just enough to allow some tension to build before its release in blasting, slamming, chugging and gurgling guttural mayhem.

While this is a strong first effort, it is going to hang out at metal’s second tier because while it is more distinctive than most of this genre, it is still relatively limited in technique and as such, songs are very similar. Expurgate are great at charging riffs and chugging tempo shifts, but would benefit from some of the fast-fingered phrase riffs that gave death metal much of its imaginative power. It also might help if this vocalist changed up his two vocal styles periodically, or toned them down to allow the song to expand around him.

Despite those small glitches, Dementia Tremens is a strong first effort that presages a great possible future for this band. If they keep developing, they’re going to hit on something interesting that can rise above the rest of this niche sub-genre. If they go further into being more like the other bands, they will be a reasonable option but not stand out more than that. Since they clearly have the ability, let’s hope they shoot for the higher goal.

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Death Metal Underground podcast 03-03-13

death_metal_underground-podcastDeathMetal.org continues its exploration of radio with a podcast of death metal, dark ambient and fragments of literature. This format allows all of us to see the music we enjoy in the context of the ideas which inspired it.

Clandestine DJ Rob Jones brings you the esoteric undercurrents of doom metal, death metal and black metal in a show that also exports its philosophical examinations of life, existence and nothingness.

This niche radio show exists to glorify the best of metal, with an emphasis on newer material but not a limitation of it, which means that you will often hear new possibilities in the past as well as the present.

If you miss the days when death metal was a Wild West that kept itself weird, paranoid and uncivilized, you will appreciate this detour outside of acceptable society into the thoughts most people fear in the small hours of the night.

The playlist for this week’s show is:

  • Absvrdist – First World Problems/Amongst Humans
  • Lustration – He Ru Ha Ra on the Horizon
  • Necrovore – Slaughtered Remains
  • Boyd Rice – Love Will Change the World
  • Imprecation – Chapel of Rotting Flesh
  • Khand – Bete Noire
  • Sacramentum – Devide et Impera

A transcript of the dialogue embedded in this week’s program:

The lovers of peace in our age are a smiling sociopathic bunch, whose aim is to mentally and physically disarm man – to feminize and pacify all human life, naively believing it detached from the animal realities from which our species emerged. Nietzsche warns us to be wary of those who over love peace, whose self-worth is built upon condescending to the down-trodden and grasp at things they themselves have not fought to win. Such people are averse to direct conflict and parasitize on the efforts of those who do struggle and create, inwardly desiring to tear down what they perceive as the strong and oppressive.

Metal stands in opposition to this feminizing, sanitizing pull. Modern society impels us towards passivity, telling us to plug in, zone out and let government, schools, jobs and charity remove all obstacles before us, dissolving all sense of self-reliance at the same time. The future we imagine however is unsustainable, relying on imaginary forces like equality, pacifism and finance to justify and will it into existence – ignorant of the blood soaked past that has created the space for such comfortable fantasies to breed.

Conflict and war are and have always been the natural order of things, securing resources and eliminating those whom we compete with for them. We now merely live in an interim period between major conflicts; one long enough and soft enough for many of us to forget the inescapable power and necessity of strife and domination in the winning of peace and material prosperity.

Metal revolts against this comfort-loving naivety, revelling in all that is dark, chaotic, violent and uncertain – glorifying reality un-idealized and unsanitized.

Metal songs glorify the act of struggle, over more self-indulgent emotional experiences. Metal avoids the typical prole song subjects of falling in love, breaking up and partying – any idiot can safely enjoy these things without thinking too hard, offending anyone or accomplishing anything. Worse still we use these kind of pointless dramas (and songs about them) to distract ourselves from the other 95% of our lives that are increasingly dysfunctional and bland.

It’d be better and more honest perhaps to write songs about how insane sitting two hours a day in traffic, waiting to go somewhere else and waste another 8 hours in front of desk doing nothing, day after day, year after year until you either die of a stroke or civilization implodes, whichever comes first.

Metal however tackles more intense subject matters, focusing more on things with an invigorating power. It searches for the mythic in an experience and expresses it in terms of conflict, action, fear and triumph; part escapism and part statement of vision – a desire for a world beyond the stultifying drudgery of modern life. It often puts itself in the head of those who commit extreme acts and conveys that train of thought without moralising, recognising that it is in the most intense experiences – when our sense of all boundaries are overcome – that we are able to see ourselves and the context of life most clearly.

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Master – The New Elite tour

master-the_new_elite-band_photoEver since the opening notes of Death Strike‘s Fuckin’ Death, Master and its related projects have gripped the imagination of the metal community. Simple and direct, the music represented a missing link between punk and death metal.

This year’s The New Elite takes the band more in the direction they took on one of their most popular albums, On the Seventh Day…, which showcased precise playing and rhythmically aggressive songs with more chord changes than a punk band would use. In other words, they moved to modern (now “old school”) death metal.

This was an interesting choice considering the range of the band over the years. Starting in the early 1980s, when Paul Speckmann and others left War Cry to experiment with this new kind of metal, Master, Abomination, Death Strike, Speckmann Project and other bands of this origin have one thing in common: basic, punk style riffs using metallish minor key and chromatic progressions, with influences from blues, rock and hard rock in the fills.

The New Elite made our Best of 2012 list with this review:

Master – The New Elite

Over the past few albums, punk/heavy metal hybrid Master has steadily been migrating toward late-1990s death metal. This new album presents a more technical view than the verse-chorus-exposition songs that Master (and related Speckmann projects) evolved from. Much like On the Seventh Day God Created…Master, riffs are strummed with precision at high speed and tend to lead away from stable grouping by adding riffs to the existing loop. These riffs use longer progressions and more chromatic fills, giving the music a mechanical terror that makes it sound like technocracy taking over. Speckmann’s vocals are tighter than in the past and urge the music along, but somewhere in this musical process of evolution, his overall tone has started sounding less like protest music and more like a cheering of the coming conflagration. Seeing that Master keep improving over time provides a great incentive to follow this band as they evolve further.

Now you can catch Master on tour and appreciate the wizardry behind these manic and often insightful tunes as they tour with Sacrificial Slaughter and Fisthammer on a 32-date jaunt across the USA:

Fri. March 1st – Los Angeles, CA @ The Joint
Sat.March 2nd – Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro
Sun.March 3rd – Portland, OR @ The Branx
Mon.March 4th – Seattle, WA @ 2 Bit Saloon
Tue. March 5th – Boise, ID @ The Shredder
Wed.March 6th – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
Thu. March 7th – Cheyenne, WY @ Forum 619
Fri. March 8th – Topeka, KS @ The Boobie Trap
Sat.March 9th – St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
Sun.March 10th – Madison, WI @ The Frequency
Mon.March 11th – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Rock Club
Tue. March 12th – Warren, MI @ The Ritz
Wed. March 13th – Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar
Thu. March 14th – Providence, RI @ Firehouse 13
Fri. March 15th – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
Sat. March 16th – Philadelphia, PA @ Gunners Run
Sun. March 17th – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
Mon. March 18th – Asheville, NC @ Static Age Records
Tue. March 19th – Dothan, AL @ Herman’s Billiards
Wed.March 20th – New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
Thu. March 21st – Fort Worth, TX @ Tomcats West
Fri. March 22nd – Oklahoma City, OK @ Chameleon Room
Sat. March 23rd – Houston, TX @ BFE Rock Club
Sun. March 24th – Austin, TX @ Beerland
Mon. March 25th – San Antonio, TX @ Zombies
Tue. March 26th – Midland, TX @ Pine Box
Wed.March 27th – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
Thu. March 28th – Tucson, AZ @ The Rock
Fri. March 29th – Mexicali, MX @ Bar El Andariego
Sat. March 30th – Pomona, CA @ Characters Sports bar
Sun. March 31st – Oceanside, CA @ The Royal Dive *
Mon.April 1st – Long Beach, CA @ Alex’s Bar *

* = NO Fisthammer

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Interview: Lecherous Nocturne

lecherous_nocturne-behold_almighty_doctrineLecherous Nocturne have a new take on blackened death. Instead of trying to be black metal with death metal riffs, be death metal with black metal melody. And instead of using happy melodic death metal, use frenetic blasting death in the Unique Leader style.

The result is an aural fusillade that withers even the strongest opposition. It is quickly simply designed to pummel the listeners with jagged and abrupt riffing, then lull them into complacency with melody, and then make even those melodies evil and vile.

What makes this band interesting is that despite their newer stylings, they are sticking very much to the old school ideal of music that makes sense, instead of discoordinated riffing designed to distract. Like it or hate it, the result stands apart from the rest by communicating a worldview that is both terrifying and makes you want to participate.

We were lucky to catch up with Lecherous Nocturne guitarist Ethan Lane. We asked him if he’d mind a few questions.

Thank you for your interest.

What made you decide to take this interpretation of blasting death?

Melody and harmony, coupled with meter and rhythm, form the very foundation of any piece of music, and the music of Lecherous Nocturne is no exception. Although the melody can be difficult to pick out in our music, it is actually the driving force behind it and always exists. If you were to isolate any small section of one of our songs, and hear it played by itself, you may be surprised by how melodic it actually is…

Next, another one of the daunting aspects of our music is the complex meter changes/combinations we employ… It may seem like it’s changing all the time (and in fact it usually is…) But a piece of music is a living, breathing thing, constantly growing and developing. We are not a “verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, chorus” band… that constricting formula is not just sickeningly cliche, but inherently can’t fully let music be the art form it truly is. The musical masters of yesteryear always strove to break out of such restrictions and let their music grow, …even such a popular classical piece like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (that everyone knows the melody to) would never allow itself to become trite in its constrictive complacency — it’s always moving… Sure, themes are revisited, but almost always are they in a different key or presentation. This is found throughout all higher forms of music.

Now, I realize that the unrelenting “blast-beat” is very predominant in our sound, and a common characteristic of many of the traditional schools of death metal (which, we of course are fans of), But also, it may be easy to overlook the very strong black metal aspects of the music as well, which are every bit as predominant. It is the Black/Death marriage which can, if properly employed, really bring out some of the most exciting results… What I would ask of any potential listener of our latest release, is to let the blast beat (in it’s many different incarnations) be a “guide” for your emotions as you absorb the melody… listen “through” the blast beast to the underlying melodic, harmonic & rhythmic realities of the music. When that is achieved, a whole new world is opened up, so much more appreciation is to be found, the break-downs hit so much harder, the blast-beats themselves so much more poignant, the music is punctuated by so much more color…

What would you identify as your primary influences?

This is always a difficult question to answer without just listing a bunch of bands that we like….First and foremost, every one of us is a die-hard metal fan. The music we play is “Metal” (we would never consider our style anything else but metal, and were never ashamed of the term “metal”, as so many were in the 90’s…We of course grew up listening to the classics of many, many genres of metal…

But it goes even further than that. Every one of us is also a serious musician as well, and always looking for ways to further develop that sense of musicianship… Obviously, we’re all influenced by the various schools of black metal, thrash metal & death metal (Trying to name individual bands would be pointless, as the list would go on and on), but in addition to the obvious metal influences, there is so much more… James’ bass technique draws a lot from Jazz playing styles, as does much of the poly-rhythmic work Alex does on the drums. I personally take most of my guidance from classical/romantic piano masters such as Chopin, Rachmaninoff & Beethoven (Those guys were melting face off with some of the most ferocious extreme music ever written, a hundred years before anyone figured out how to distort a guitar or play a blast beat).

And our influences are not all just “musical” ones either. We’ve all been part of this difficult journey called life, and life is indeed one of our primary influences. The feelings of bitterness, frustration, sadness, loss, cynicism, anger & skepticism life elicits … and the desperate need to exorcise these demons from ourselves through this music is perhaps one of the greatest needs we have as artists, and truly one of the most important aspects of doing what we do…. The “Spiritual development”, if you will, of ourselves as individuals, as musicians, and as performers of metal. Hopefully others will take encouragement from this, and be strengthened from it as well.

You’re from South Carolina, which both has a long history of metal bands and isn’t the first place name that comes to mind when we talk about death metal. What is your local scene like? Did you face adversity being in a city with fewer death metal bands?

It’d be more accurate to say that we’re from “The Carolinas” (three-fifths of the band actually lives in North Carolina). And you are certainly are correct in observing that the Carolinas haven’t been the most “nurturing” environment for extreme metal. (despite having quite a long history of metal bands) Yes, It has been extremely difficult to “stay the course” in an area with such little support.

To say we’ve constantly had to face adversity would be a monumental understatement. And that’s not to put down the “local scene” entirely… there have been countless valiant efforts by the local scene to make something out of it, but without that support (that area-wide enthusiasm), it’s easy to simply run out of steam and burn out… it’s really depressing how many great bands have had to call it quits, simply due to a lack of support or encouragement (I know this all too well from my own personal experiences struggling in this scene for well over 10 years).

I consider myself very fortunate to still be doing this. But I’m also aware of how this has turned out to be a blessing in disguise in another aspect. Because of this adversity and lack of support, the “wheat definitely gets separated from the chaff”… In fact, Lecherous Nocturne, as it has turned out to be, wouldn’t even exist without the constant disappointments and frustrations we’ve all had to deal with. It brought us together, strengthened our music, and throughout all of this adversity, we’ve learned to be self-sufficient, to turn to our music and each other to find encouragement and the strength to carry on…And that is a very positive thing.

We are not a “verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, chorus” band… that constricting formula is not just sickeningly cliche, but inherently can’t fully let music be the art form it truly is.

Behold Almighty Doctrine sounds like it has some form of concept behind it. Can you tell us more about this?

Behold Almighty Doctrine isn’t a “concept album” in the traditional sense of the term (with each song telling a defined part of a greater story, lyrically, in “chapters” as it were), but this album in a sense, does tell a story; The story of the frustrations of its own creation. Lyrically, you could say we’re telling the story of our frustrations with life, bitter social commentary on the state of human existence, etc… But I think an even greater story is told in the music itself, without words, for those with ears to hear. I’ve actually been describing that story in little pieces this entire interview. It’s about what we stand for, ideologically & musically; what we get out of these struggles, how we can improve ourselves, and spread this message. This music is our “doctrine”. It’s an answer to the question “Why do we do this?”, a question that the songs themselves answer far better than words.

These songs are like complex mazes of riffs. How do human beings even compose such a thing? Do you use computers or higher mathematics to help you?

The complex nature of the composition and structuring of our songs is truly the heart of Lecherous Nocturne’s music (Aside from an unyielding dedication to the essence of “Metal”, of course…) It is this aspect of our music that is also the most time-consuming… It’s not uncommon for a single 2-minute song to take several months to write. We take great pains to challenge not only the listener but ourselves as musicians with what we write, constantly reworking sections, developing themes and transitions & tying the composition together as a whole in as many subtle ways as possible. In many cases, it takes several listens of a song to really start absorbing much of what has been painstakingly worked into each composition. Regardless of the seemingly chaotic manner of our music, I assure you that each note has been carefully placed, every time change, theme & phrase analyzed and re-analyzed until we feel that the piece has blossomed fully into the carefully constructed work of art we strive for it to be.

How did the band form, and how have you held together a lineup over the past decade?

Lecherous Nocturne was originally formed back in 1997, but there have been numerous lineup changes over the years. What Lecherous Nocturne is at present though, is a culmination of years of tempering. A combining of forces, a living metal entity, a group of people who have decided to keep playing without compromise, in the face of adversity, with little to no support, and a dedication to personal integrity to this music.

Do you think death metal now is stronger than when you started? Do people still listen to “real” death metal?

I’m not sure what people listen to anymore, why they do, or what the “metal scene” even means anymore…. And it’s ironic to me that I’m just as disappointed & disillusioned with the “metal scene” now as I ever was, despite the “resurgence” of the popularity of metal (in general, not just death metal). Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the metal scene at all. I don’t really have time to, or frankly, much of a desire to.

Lecherous Nocturne, as it has turned out to be, wouldn’t even exist without the constant disappointments and frustrations we’ve all had to deal with. It brought us together, strengthened our music, and throughout all of this adversity, we’ve learned to be self-sufficient

What’s your advice to fans who want to find quality death metal in 2013?

That all depends on what an individual defines as “quality”… is it how many notes you can play? is it “brutality”? is it how shocking your lyrics are? is it on-stage gimmicks? is it how fast you can shred/blast? Of course not. it’s none of that. I believe that true quality comes from a sense of dedication to artistry, intuition, individuality, creativity, and personal integrity to yourself and your craft. I’d start by keeping those characteristics in mind when trying to find something with “quality”. If you can do that, then I think you’re on the right track.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our interview questions.

Thank you once again.

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Final album of Rigor Mortis released this summer

scacciaMike Scaccia and his mates in Rigor Mortis finished recording a full album before Scaccia passed away on December 22 last year. The day before, Scaccia and engineer Kerry Crafton did some initial work on mixing the album entitled Slaves to the Grave which will be the last from the band.

Of its quality Crafton says:

This record is amazing. Mike, Bruce Corbitt, Harden Harrison and Casey Orr all performed brilliantly in the recording and I believe they all did the best work of their lives. […] The depth and breadth of the material is really awesome.

While it’s difficult for the rest of us to estimate how well Rigor Mortis as a band hold up musically these days (the band’s last full-length was released more than two decades ago), Scaccia’s legacy has more than sentimental value.

Slaves to the Grave will be released sometime during summer 2013.

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Dehumanized – Controlled Elite

dehumanized-controlled_eliteIt’s the rare band that improves with age. New York’s Dehumanized returns with a leaner and more complex sound in the style of percussive death metal, a lot like Suffocation or Malevolent Creation given lessons in being mean.

Although the band bill their as “slam death metal,” its roots are in the muted-strumming high-impact styles that extends from Exodus through Meshuggah, with stops in the middle for Morpheus Descends and Resurrection. It is a mathematics of complex impacts, like Shao-lin monks attacking with the precision of a supercomputer.

Dehumanized make their songs out of chromatic strips of chords arrayed in layers of riffs, alternating every third riff or so with a melodic counter-commentary similar to that used by newer percussive death bands like Deeds of Flesh. The result keeps interest throughout and gives you a break between pummeling skull-crushing material and abrupt tempo changes that leave a whiff of snapped necks in their path.

Vocals are chortled guttural rants that undulate through the guitar rhythms that dominate each song. Percussion follows with a flair for fills in the style of modern technical death metal, but rides a cadence like old school death. Songs are efficient, and listenable in that way that Napalm Death’s Fear, Emptiness, Despair is, meaning that they are catchy and minimal but not so repetitive that the brain filters them out.

Lite jazz musicians and metalcore enthusiasts will fear and loathe this album, but for those who like meaty and violent death metal, it is a treat that deserves more inspection. Birthed of the militaristic NYDM scene, Controlled Elite lives up to its reputation by being simultaneously ferocious and listenable.

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Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance

Production: Static-free, slightly muddy guitar tone. Drums are clear and unremarkable.

darkthrone-the_underground_resistanceReview: Continuing Darkthrone‘s recent series of forcing anachronistic albums, all traces of black metal have been stripped from this album. Fenriz’ tracks consist of the same relentlessly bouncy riffs over which unbearably clean vocals are belted. Nocturno Culto’s are differentiated only by slightly heavier vocals.

Nothing on this album is unique; if you’ve listened to 70s and 80s metal to any extent, you will know these riffs. Devoid of originality, this album could have been recorded by any nameless metal band.

Whatever motivated these musicians to release such toweringly monumental works in their earlier careers has clearly been lost. At a certain point, the creative spark burns out and all that’s left is talent but no sense of urgency or spirit, which is how albums like this are created. Like junk food, at first glance it appears edible but afterwards leaves you feeling slightly nauseous and unfulfilled.

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Frankenslayer tears up Australia

Slayer, performing with Jon Dette as Dave Lombardo and Gary Holt as Jeff Hanneman, has launched its new tour in Australia. This fan-filmed video shows how the new ‘Frankenslayer’ performs.

‘Frankenslayer’ refers to the two original members plus two hired hands that now forms the ‘Slayer’ you see on tour. Some have a problem with this, and rumors and doubt circle around the Slayer camp.

This is a complex issue. We are the biggest Slayer fans on earth around here, and some of the few people who have given them credit for their contributions to death metal (we’re also huge fans of Hellhammer and Bathory, the other .666 of the Unholy Triad of the origins of black and death metal).

However, we’d never want them to keep carrying on for the sake of carrying on. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Slayer’s output has been uncertain since South of Heaven, with some real dips in there as the band have tried to adapt to the new nu-metal landscape. If their hearts aren’t in it, we’d want them to do something they enjoyed more instead. It might not be appropriate to do it under the Slayer name, but having Slayer members in the band carries a great weight.

In addition, we know that the record industry burns out bands. Musicians should spend most of their time goofing off and playing their instruments. Instead, they’re spending most of their time on media relations, business, office-type stuff and negotiating with suits. In addition, most have families now so it’s an additional burden since they have less time. The result means that band practice is like a 4-hr-per-week job and whatever comes out of it gets chopped up like sausage into the “next album.” Concept, deliberation, inspiration and imagination take a back seat to the raw demands of the trade.

We’re hoping (of course) that Jeff Hanneman recovers, but that’s for the reason that he’s Jeff Hanneman and we hope he recovers. His choice about being in Slayer after that is his choice. Similarly, we hope that Dave Lombardo can work out his contract with Slayer to be part of the band again, but that’s because he’s Dave Lombardo. We don’t make any requests on Slayer itself. It will decide, as a group or as the singular identity that is more than the sum of its parts, to carry on.

In the meantime, ‘Frankenslayer’ is obviously putting on a heck of a performance. However, there is something about Lombardo’s accusations that rankles:

Last year, I discovered 90% of Slayer’s tour income was being deducted as expenses including the professional fees paid to management, costing the band millions of dollars and leaving 10% or less to split amongst the four of us. In my opinion, this is not the way a band’s business should operate. I tried rectifying it by letting my band mates know, and Tom and I hired auditors to figure out what happened, but I was denied access to detailed information and the necessary back up documents. – Dave Lombardo/Facebook

As others have pointed out, Lombardo has been out of the band for some time, and he’s now a hired gun. He doesn’t receive his split of the band’s profits for the tour because he’s not technically a member of the band. Instead, he gets paid like any hired drummer, although we hope perhaps gets paid a bit more for being Dave Lombardo.

The problem with this arrangement is that it’s the antithesis of what a band is. Fans are showing up to see Slayer as Slayer, meaning the guys who originally created this music in the first place. Instead, we get two members and a hired troupe of musicians who are basically putting money into the Slayer bank account without being Slayer.

It’s difficult for great music to emerge from a job-style relationship. Adequate, sure, but these guys can do “adequate” in their sleep. If something positive can come out of this debacle and the ‘Frankenslayer’ Australia tour, it’s that Slayer may need to recalibrate and if they’re going to continue, try doing it as a band in love with their own music instead of a band as a day job.

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