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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Interview with the fan who prefers to buy CDs

physical_cd_collectionIt’s no big news when someone who grew up two decades ago prefers to buy CDs. Back then, the shiny little discs represented a break from the cumbersome technology of the past and instead were a gateway to modernity.

Not so, now. People growing up in the last decade have emerged in a world where “buying music” increasingly means downloading a song from an iTunes or Amazon account. The idea of buying physical CDs is as odd to them as buying a player-piano scroll.

However, there are always those who don’t go with the flow. We found a user named Evisceratorium at large on the internet who is willing to tell us about the decision as a new listener to go back to buying physical music instead of digital.

I understand that you’ve grown up with the digital download generation, but have switched back to buying CDs. What were your reasons for doing this?

I decided that the overall experience of buying physical music was more interesting and fun than simply pulling up a downloading website and clicking a button. It simply started as an alternate way to own music, I guess — I didn’t consider one way of doing things to be superior to any other. If I was at the record store in the mall and I saw an album that I was interested in checking out, I’d buy the CD there instead of getting it off iTunes, if only for immediate gratification and convenience.

Do you think there’s a value in having a tangible product? Do you have your collection on display, or use it as conversation pieces?

I think there’s a lot of value in owning the tangible product, especially for musical formats. It’s not just a sign of devotion to me, it’s a token piece that I get to keep and look at whenever I’d like. I’ll admit that, contrary to most somewhat similar opinions I’ve heard, I don’t buy music to support artists I enjoy. If I enjoy them, that’s fine; but frankly I usually expect to receive some item in return for my money and support, rather than something intangible. I do have my collection on display — Discogs.org says I have 280 items on some format or another as of right now – and yes, I do enjoy talking about it to other people. I like going through other people’s collections and comparing their albums to my own, too, so I appreciate it when other people talk about their finds as well!

But to be entirely fair, I don’t have this same sort of attachment to physical formats of other media like movies or books. I don’t feel like people should be obligated to acquire every single thing they want in physical form, because even I don’t really do that for things that aren’t musical; but if you’re truly passionate about something, you should seriously consider having pieces of your passion there for you to touch and observe, because it really is a great feeling.

Do you know of any others who have made the same decision?

The same general principle, yes, but I don’t personally know anyone who mirrors my personal philosophy verbatim. Most illegally download most or all of their music, or they physically buy most of it but download when the item in question is rare or out-of-print. I’ve never done that: if an album I want is out-of-print then I wait for it to become available for sale, if it’s brutally expensive I save up and then get it, or if it’s not available I don’t acquire it period. It doesn’t mean I want it any less than anybody else, but I don’t see why I can’t wait to own it like everyone else did. I think a lot of the people who download work mostly off the concept of instant gratification, which I think hampers the excitement of music quite a bit.

Besides, anyone reading this is already utilising the giant resource that is the Internet, and with a bit of digging on the buyer’s end, I would argue that (excluding most demos from decades-old bands, I’ll admit that these tend to be unattainable) most “rare” or “out-of-print” albums are a lot easier to find than most people would like to think. Expensive? Well, of course, you’re trying to get a product that came out 15-20 years ago and has been spread throughout the world since, or a product that was limited to 50 or fewer copies and is only now being relinquished by one of the fans who originally acquired one. But if you want it, it’s definitely there. Even Bathory’s infamous “yellow goat” LPs are a couple of clicks away from being yours, according to Discogs. For nearly $1,000, yeah, but if you really want it that bad, it’s there. The whole “downloading old stuff is okay because it’s not there” comes off to me as a side effect of the Internet age: a combination of impatience and a retrospective sense of entitlement. In other words, the Internet is attempting to transcend the limits that were originally set by the record labels in question and I don’t appreciate that. But I’m starting to digress from the point. Basically, no, I don’t know anyone who embraces physical formats as adamantly as I have, though most of my friends buy physical copies of albums to some extent.

Other than the reasons for which you initially started buying physical copies of music, have you discovered any other advantages?

Quite a few, actually. Physical albums are much more likely than digital files to contain vital information about the album which one might be interested in. I’ve seen tons of posts on forums where people asked about the lyrics to certain songs and the answer was right there, plain as day, in the booklets of the albums in question. More subjectively, I think they’re a lot nicer to look at, the variety between stuff like digipaks, cassettes, box sets, and LPs is nice and gives each item a more unique identity, and for me they make me develop a closer relationship to the album than if it were only a bunch of files. (You can see this in terms of interpersonal relationships, too – proximity breeds intimacy amongst people, and I’d argue that the same can be said of people and objects.) They’re something to look at when I’m bored, admire as an aspect of myself when I feel upset, and as I mentioned earlier, they’re fun to talk about.

Another important thing is that I think buying physical items, or paying for music in general, forces people to be a bit more patient with their music, which is always good. I see so many people talking about hyper-downloading all thirteen of a band’s albums, at which point I assume those albums probably either fester on those people’s hard drives or get listened to once and subsequently forgotten. I’ll admit to having terrible self-restraint, so physical albums help me to limit myself and pay a bit more attention to everything. Put a wager of your own money into the game, and you’ll be much more likely to take things slower, appreciate nuances that you might miss on a cursory listen and be able to say more about what you listen to, instead of only being able to say “oh well duh I heard that album once, I think it’s good”. I haven’t heard that much music by quantity (there are still plenty of big-name bands where I either haven’t heard them, or I’ve only heard an album or two of theirs), but I feel like I could say a lot more about what I have heard than most other people could. Life is short, but not short enough to where you should feel the need to rush everything. Art should be given ample time and appreciation for it to sink in properly, lest we run the risk of bypassing things that we’d grow to love with a bit of patience.

This doesn’t really fit into any of the questions you’ve posed, but I’d like to briefly add that I don’t see anything wrong with people “taste-testing” music. I’ve checked out numerous bands and albums via YouTube and I don’t see anything wrong with doing so. And occasionally when I review albums I don’t own, I’ll download them, listen to them for reviewing purposes and then delete them. Free streaming and downloading are unquestionably useful tools. (Though they’re not always my preference…seriously, once you have around $20 or so, go to some underground black metal distro and buy five $4 cassettes by bands you’ve never heard, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds!) It’s when people start abusing these tools to acquire anything and everything at will that I’d say they’re starting to be abused beyond their original purposes. And yes, I’m aware that metalheads are not the most opulent subculture, but I refuse to believe that most people are so hard-pressed for money after the bare necessities of groceries, clothing, education and utilities that they are rendered completely financially unable to buy a $12 CD or a $4 cassette. This may be the naivete of youth speaking, but I get the feeling that most people who don’t have the money to waste on “inessential items” such as CDs are instead just using it on equally inessential things like food that isn’t rice, bread, or ramen noodles. When you boil down to it, music is just the same as any other luxury: you’re not entitled to it whatsoever.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background in metal, what sort of metal you like, and how you balance your metalness with a normal lifestyle?

I just turned 16 a month or so ago, so I guess most people would say I’m pretty young to be talking about something like this. I live in an area of the United States (read: Bible Belt) where metal music is essentially nonexistent, so that in combination with my status as a minor means I can’t really go to metal shows. I’d like to think I give back to the metal scene at least a bit, though: besides my insistence on buying albums, I post on forums a lot, and I have an account on the Metal Archives (as MutantClannfear) where I’ve posted about 130 reviews, mostly of brutal death metal or deathcore albums.

I got into metal via “the ’00s nu-metal kid’s way”. I hear lots of people talking about how they started with Iron Maiden and Metallica and trickled up through power metal and thrash up to extreme metal, but I took a much more direct route. I was aware of Metallica from earlier in my life, but my real impetus for getting into metal was Slipknot. I think I first heard them in 2008 via Guitar Hero III, and that game later led me to Rock Band. The downloadable content of Rock Band led me to Cannibal Corpse, Job for a Cowboy, Lamb of God, and Whitechapel in late 2009, and that was basically where my journey began.

I’d consider myself pretty well-rounded when it comes to metal, though my favourite genres are probably brutal death metal and the more airy, atmospheric sides of black metal. But my list of favourite bands would include stuff like Dark Angel and Black Sabbath, as well, and my favourite band of all time would be Lykathea Aflame. I never really shed my roots as I still listen to nu-metal and deathcore, and even find both styles growing on me a bit the more time passes. I don’t feel like I need to “balance” my metalness out with the rest of my life, per se. I’d consider myself more of a general music fan than a metalhead, and though metal is my favourite genre of the bunch, I feel like I enjoy a bit of everything (though my tastes have primarily been modern pop music lately). Outside of the shirts I wear, I don’t try to be ostentatious about my tastes in music unless people ask. And yes, I give non-metal genres the same attitude towards purchasing physical music: in fact, the last two CDs I bought were by Ellie Goulding and Ke$ha, oops.

Sorry if this rambles a bit, but I’m a bit tired and I feel like I had a lot to say. All in all, I think the physical side of music is a thing that goes greatly overlooked now that people can effectively bypass it, and I’m damn proud to see the metal scene in particular fighting to keep it alive for as long as it has. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this interview!

And there you have it. Start buying CDs, because it’s a great way to experience music. Or vinyl, if your tastes run to that. Thanks Evisceratorium for a great interview!

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Is metal “too nihilistic”?

fenrizA non-Hessian friend once pointed out to me that metal music is essentially avoidance. With its nihilistic outlook it seemed to him to be just shuffling meaning around, never really reaching a conclusion or be able to produce a complete artwork.

Faustian? Pah! It may enjoy details of the world’s harsh realities, the death and gore and decay, but only because the transient nature of death allows for constant change, consequently avoiding all meaning. Which means we may contently pull back in some basement, still fearing reality as a whole. That’s what you get with bands obsessed with death.

Classical? Pfft! How could it be? Metal is too sensuous, delving in creepy subjects and gritty riffs without any sense of spirit or abstract idea.

Unsurprisingly, I think this is writing it off too quickly.

Metal is certainly content with the world, but does that make it materialistic? It does not like society perhaps; metal loathes its stale “bourgeois” mentality, yelling “Fake! Fake!”, and it loves the hedonistic.

But metal nevertheless hungers for the epic, a “heavy” greatness and seems to enjoy the game that nature is playing. Metal found that society was materially flourishing, but also found decay in the souls of the bored everyday man, echoing the troubled mind of Fenriz of Darkthrone who loves art that comes from “the exhaustion of easy life”.

To awaken us, metal explored natural decay. But not as a materialist act: needless to say, with their obscure imagery, dark riffs and haunting vocals, metal bands created a mysterious world that seemed more honest, more real than the life in any Western metropolis. Lauren Wise writes:

Heavy metal seemed just like classical music to me: It was ritualistic, accepting of death and change, questioned authority and normalcy, and satisfied that need for an overture or reconsideration. It was as if classical and metal both quenched my need to understand the positive strength and ultimately horrific nature of the world. Metal may be less refined, but it still seeks to express that philosophical assumption about life.

Metal found life in death – initially as a warning, later as full-on Romanticist nature worship – and that beautiful paradox sums up my answer to my friend: Metal seeks essence, it does not avoid it – but it takes no prisoners.

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Is all metal “Christian metal”?

god_listens_to_slayer

Around and around again the argument goes. Some people advocate for Christian “metal,” and others like myself find something wrong with it. It’s like school-approved metal or eat-your-vegetables metal.

It just feels wrong. We need one genre devoted to doing something other than what the herd does. The herd, it seems, is cool with anything as long as it enforces the principle that we need them.

That need is based on the guarantee that each person is important. If everyone agrees, see, then we’re all protected and can do whatever we want. But the price is that you have to tolerate the delusions of others.

However, metal seems built on the opposite principle. In the world of metal, epic wars sweep away all these bright and promising individuals. Truth is more important than what people think. The present tense is lesser than the past.

And so the drama goes around again. All the brave individualists say that Christian “metal” is OK and should be accepted; the rest of us wrinkle lips and think there’s just something not right with that.

One Christian writer advances a reason why the distinction might not be so important, but by approaching the question from the other angle — is any metal not Christian?

Even the most banal, goat-sacrificing, wannabe Satanic metal participates in the Christian reality by stringing three notes together and calling it a melody. Their songs contain order, and order is the province of God. Their songs contain harmony — however overdriven — and thus amount to pitiful attempts at Beauty, and Beauty is God. Sure, these bands intentionally miss the mark, miss the point, preach vice, fall short of writing anything good enough to last, and waste time indulging the petty, Dionysian emotions, but even their failure is Christian. Failure to be Good, True and Beautiful, can only exist in reference to the Good, True and Beautiful. If their music is bad, it is bad because it fails to be good, and thus in its very badness it gives testimony to that-which-it-fails-to-be, namely Good, who is God. Purely evil music would not be music, because evil is Nothing. If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert. – “5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music,” by Marc Barnes, Patheos

Barnes writes eloquently for reasons to not have Christian music at all, namely that it reduces Christianity to a flavor of the same mainstream junk everyone else is listening to.

He makes a point, since this is probably the same reason metal does not want to be Christian, but from the other direction. Metal needs to be metal. It should not be “flavored” by anything else.

It’s also pathetic to pander to special interest groups. What’s next, homeschooler metal? Vegan metal? BBQ metal? Swinger metal? Please leave your freaky needs at the door and just be metal.

In fact, this is part of what makes metal great. It is a devotional experience of its own. You go to shows, join in a great swirling pit, be united by intense music, affirm reality, and then go home where your parents, friends, neighbors and coworkers can yell at you for not using the blue covers on your TPS reports.

For metal to be what it is, or in Barnes’ words to be an affirmation of “the good, the beautiful and the true,” it needs to be its lawless, amoral and occult self. That’s what metal should be, and without it, metal fails to live up to its role in the drama.

Much like John Milton wrote lovingly of Satan in Paradise Lost, or Romantic poets praised the Pagan gods, or even William Blake revealed a demonology beneath everyday life, writing about the darkness is essential for both darkness and light to know themselves.

And as the ancient Greeks would say, “gnōthi seauton” or “know thyself” is the root of all knowledge. Including that which wears bullet belts, hails Satan and raises the (inverted) cross in blasphemy.

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Pasadena Napalm Division (PND) releasing debut album

pasadena_napalm_division_PNDThe wording above says releasing, not releases. There’s apparently a bit of label-shopping and confusion as to when this interesting work will actually land. The good news is that when the new Pasadena Napalm Division (P.N.D.) full-length lands it will probably crush your spine.

P.N.D. is a thrash band formed of D.R.I. vocalist Kurt Brecht and Dead Horse guitarists Greg Martin and Scott Sevall, joined by drummer Ronnie Guyote. Formed in 2008, the band released an EP in 2010 which was greeted by enthusiasm from the fans.

Since this is a project band for Brecht, its schedule is unsteady and depends in part on when he’s not busy with his main act D.R.I.. As explained in a recent article, much of P.N.D’s output arose from times when D.R.I. was out of commission due to guitarist Spike Cassidy‘s health woes.

The album will be released on SF-based Minus Head Records, but the exact date is uncertain but likely April or later of this year. Since the band waited over a year to release the album while label-shopping, this means we’re finally getting a glimpse into their 2011 output. Maybe this will spur them on to do even more.

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