No 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.
Prong is hitting stages across Europe this summer as part of a wide-reaching tour. If you’ve been looking for a chance to witness this legendary band, now’s a good time, especially if you’re in Europe or work for an airline.
The story of Prong begins with their mid-1980s origins as a messy hardcore/metal crossover thrash band with their Force Fed and Primitive Origins releases that set new standards for raw intensity. Some musical experience later, they released their mid-paced speed metal classic, Beg to Differ.
As they describe it, they were art school grads trying to make metal. The sound they embarked upon eventually integrated some aspects of art-rock into metal, and has never gone for a full-on traditional metal vibe. In recent years, the band has gone further into its own style, starting with Cleansing, that more resembles the power-pop and late hardcore mix of bands like Helmet fused with some of the underground metal acts.
Their newer material continues in this vein but with modern metal influences. If you’re out there on the European continent, catch them live this summer with these handy tour dates:
June 23, 2013
June 25, 2013
June 26, 2013
June 27, 2013
June 28, .2013
Graspop Metal Meeting
June 29, 2013
June 30, 2013
July 12, 2013
Zlin, CZECH REPUBLIC
Masters Of Rock
Revel in Flesh explores the area previously inhabited by recent Swedish tribute bands such as Entrails, who mix the bludgeoning simple music of Grave or Suffer with the wisps of melody that make recent Swedish death metal offerings both listenable and murderous.
Riffs slam along with a rudimentary intensity that resembles that of battlements carved roughly from ancient rock, but then are contrasted by melodic single-picked leads that add an infectious hook to the relentlessly compelling rhythm. Over this, two vocal tracks play off each other in the style of older Carcass.
Manifested Darkness bypasses imitating first album Entombed for the more ear-catching sounds of the recent Swedish death metal revival, which mix the cudgel-like chromatic riffing of early Swedish death metal with the relaxed song structures and 1970s heavy metal melodic and chorus riffs that bands like Unanimated and Desultory used to great effect.
Having Revel in Flesh discover its own path instead of emulating the past works out well for the band. Like later offerings from Fleshcrawl, little time is spent on complex arrangements that take five minutes to get to the point. Like early Motorhead, these songs are rough and ready and charge right into their groove and then exploit it. As each song reaches conclusion, riffs shift and melody leaves a sense of lingering loneliness and isolation.
On Manifested Darkness, Revel in Flesh upholds the best Motorhead-ish tradition of simple riffs and verse-chorus song structures with transitions to liven the experience. It reminds me of Motorhead’s 1916 crossed with Entombed’s To Ride, Shoot and Speak the Truth.
The soaring melodies and melancholic moods conceal how much roadhouse heavy metal hides within these album. The trademark crunchy “Swedish style” distortion accelerates the classic metal power of thunderous riffs and gives this album a balance between rocking out and musical destructiveness that any heavy metal fan will appreciate.
Shane and Amy Bugbee, authors and entrepreneurs who helped organize the Milwaukee Metalfest and interviewed metal luminaries including Jeff Becerra and Gene Hoglan, also interviewed Ian Mackaye of Minor Threat.
Ian Mackaye and Minor Threat were part of the American hardcore punk scene which followed closely on the English scene of 1977-1983 that provided the formative basis for metal and punk after, and instrumental in both the founding of the straightedge (SxE) and post-hardcore (Fugazi, Rites of Spring) scene.
Kings and Demons: Francisco Goya [Scroll over each picture for information]
In this series I will be examining art and artists whose works have been used in metal band artwork or whose themes have been source for inspiration for metal musicians. The first artist is Francisco Goya of Spain, whose later works have been found on album covers for Anaal Nathrakh, Belsebub, Amon, Mortem, Torgeist and others.
I feel strongly that to truly appreciate art – visual or otherwise – that it is important to understand its context. Goya’s life and and the time period in which he lived made him one of the world’s most influential and important artists. It is said that he was the primary artist that ushered in the Romanticism era and it was his attention to detail, even in the most graphic of subject matter, that shocked his contemporaries.
Francisco Goya was born in the late 1700s in Spain, during a very tumultuous period of time artistically and politically. His talent for art was recognized at a young age and he traveled to Rome to learn his craft from the masters there. Upon returning to his hometown in Spain as a young man, he created quite a reputation for himself by drinking, whoring, and brawling. His reputation preceded him when he fled to Madrid after killing a man in a bar fight and being sought by the Inquisition for his crime.
Arriving in Madrid, Goya was greeted by a city full of newly-minted aristocrats being placated by lazy “masters” selling them poorly painted Baroque style cherubs and nature scenes to decorate their palaces. Goya’s more realistic and new Romanticist style was a breath of fresh air to the stagnant art scene of the time and he quickly earned himself a top position as the official painter for the Spanish Royal Family.
In 1792 Goya was afflicted with an unknown illness that left him completely deaf. There has been wide speculation that it was lead poisoning from his paints that caused his illness, but there has been no evidence to support this theory and it is genuinely not considered to be valid by historians. Following the recovery from his illness, Goya returned to work for the Spanish Royal Court, becoming named the director of the Royal Academy in 1795.
In the late 1790s in Spain and elsewhere in western Europe, political dissent and social unrest began to build. The French Revolution had reached its peak in 1789, and there the people revolted against the established monarchies and deposed of those in power. This dissent spread to Spain as well, and Goya, despite having been in the employ of the Monarchy, was well in tune with the plights of the common people.
In 1799 he released a series of 80 etchings known collectively as “Los Caprichos” (The Caprices), which is one of the first examples of Goya’s work turning darker. They were designed as social commentary against the rampant corruption, greed, and inequality he saw to draw attention to the struggles of the average Spaniard. These were published and then almost immediately withdrawn due to political pressure. The original printing plates and unsold prints were offered to the King to avoid the wrath of the Inquisition.
Goya’s political dissent began to creep into his “professional” works, as well. In 1800, he painted an official portrait of the Spanish royal family of King Charles IV.
It was well-known, but not publicly discussed, that the Queen was the true head of the household, and to nod to this, she is positioned in the center and larger than the rest of the family. Goya himself is in this portrait, off to the left in the shadows behind the canvas. The queen and her mother (pictured fourth from the left) are depicted as quite ugly, and the whole family has been described as looking like common people who just won the lottery: bewildered and uncomfortable.
In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain and installed his brother, Joseph, as ruler. Goya, surprisingly, was not cast out with the rest of the royal family and their staff, and continued to paint under Joseph Bonaparte during his seven year rule, until Spanish nobility, under King Ferdinand VII, regained power. King Ferdinand famously quipped to Goya, “you deserve to be garroted, but you are a great artist so we forgive you” and let him keep his position as court painter. Goya was tortured by what he had seen during the fighting and the conditions that the Spanish people were subjected to during the Napoleonic invasion and subsequent retaking of Spain by King Ferdinand during the Peninsular War. Similar to his Los Caprichos series, he released another series of sketches called Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War) to depict these horrors with his characteristic sarcasm and cryptic descriptions. Others in this series depicted his dissatisfaction with Ferdinand’s rule, despite the great personal risk in doing so.
With the political climate only getting worse and his health in decline, Goya went into self-imposed exile in Bordeaux, France, in 1824 at the age of 72. He took with him only one servant and became a near recluse in the house that was known as Quinta del Sordo, or the Deaf Man’s Villa. Here he would paint his most famous paintings on the walls of his own house. Without titles and likely never intended for anyone to see, the works that are now known as The Black Paintings (for their technique as well as their subject matter) were never even titled by Goya; their names have all been given by historians. Exploring the subjects of the wars and the inquisitions, many of the Black Paintings had anti-clerical themes and were inspired by the fears brought out during the Inquisition.
One of the most famous of the Black Paintings is The Witches Sabbath, which depicts a goat-headed man wearing priest robes being feared and adored by a group of grotesque witches. At center is a woman wearing what appears to be a white nun’s habit. Mouths in particular are quite prominent in Goya’s works during this time; gaping, drooling, oversized and ugly, they are the center of expression on many of the faces in his scenes. To the right in this painting we see a woman seated in a chair, wearing black, seemingly uninterested and defiant. This painting represents what Goya felt was the cult of superstition whipped up during the Inquisition, the dangerous descent into medieval thinking and the suppression of scientific thought. The “he-goat” represents evil and the fawning witches represent the clerics and nuns in a frenzy over it. The lone dissenting woman represents the last bastion of reason, helplessly overlooking the fray.
Saturn Devouring One Of His Sons is a play on the Greek myth of the titan Saturn (Kronos) who, upon hearing a prophesy that he would be destroyed by one of his children, killed and devoured them as soon as they were born. Here, the eternal Titan represents royalty, and he – fearing his “children” (the common people) will ultimately turn on him, destroys them at their most vulnerable. Again in this piece we see Goya’s use of grotesque facial expressions in the oversized, gaping mouth rending the headless child to pieces.
Goya remained in Bordeaux until his death in 1828. His final works remained in his house for 50 years, until they were carefully removed and transferred to canvas. Works of his are still being discovered to this day, and can be viewed in museums and private collections around the world.
Earthen Grave casts doom metal with a twist: this traditional doom metal in a form very much like Black Sabbath, Pentagram (US) or Witchfinder General adds a virtuoso violin player and occasional touches of high-speed riffing in the style of death metal bands.
Dismal Times (if they named a newspaper after this album, I’d subscribe) powers itself with good ol’ 1970s metal riffs, appropriated detuned and given the mid-paced treatment that made early Cathedral so successful. They rock along, create a groove, and then into it drop dissonant sounds and a slow-down, imitating what it feels like to run into bad news.
The bad news theme continues throughout this album. “Relentless” rips along in the style of Slayer’s South of Heaven, but then stalls into a dark collision of melody, sounding like a day of ambition that ran full-tilt into a morass of oblivion. The violin of Rachel Barton Pine, renowned classical player and life-long metalhead, dips in and out of the music to accent a riff or zip in a quick fill, contrasting the slow churning riffs.
Vocals are of the higher register type that listeners may be familiar with from Pentagram or Witchfinder General. These work to great effect because the guitars are downtuned and slow, allowing the more able vocals and violin to dart around them and flesh out the layers of sound.
Dismal Times will satisfy metalheads because it is something old and something new; it is classic metal riffs, put together in songs with a mid-paced slightly upbeat feel, but it doesn’t lose what makes it doom metal. Instead, it amplifies it, and shows us that the bad news can be fun reading indeed.
This riff-intensive high-energy package should probably be banned by the authorities here in suburban USA, but since it is not, we can enjoy it with its full brain-crushing intensity. We were fortunate to be able to speak to Pathogen mastermind Willie Desamero, who plucks both strings and vocal chords for this band that is gaining an increasing underground following.
Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations was originally recorded in 2009 and self-released, and only now is seeing the light of day on a label. Why did you decide to self-release and why or why not would you recommend that path to others?
After the release of our first album, Blasphemous Communion in late 2007, which has garnered a considerable amount of exposure from having been released on multiple formats from cassette tape, CD and vinyl LP on various independent record labels world-wide (not counting our own D.I.Y. version of it on CD-r prior to the release of the said formats) we planned the recording of our second album, Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations in mid-2008, things went downhill for the band. Both personally and career-wise, some band members had personal problems and many of the labels we once trusted turned their backs upon us because of the Blasphemous Communion dispute between two labels who released the CD version of it, namely Old Cemetery in the US and Dead Center Productions from Russia which has created quite a stir.
We went ahead recording Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations in late 2009 and afterwards, we got several record deals to release it on CD the first was from a local label, which I won’t name, but it didn’t push through, perhaps they have other plans. After that Inner V.O.I.D. Records from Tennessee wanted to release it, but that didn’t push through either, we then snatched up an offer from an obscure French label, Satanized Productions to release Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations tape in March of 2010. They made 300 copies of it, which actually sold out pretty quickly. After that we released it independently on a CD-r and then traded and spread them out to all fanzines, bands and maniacs world-wide. We also sent out many copies of it to other record labels world-wide for a proper CD release but nobody was interested-perhaps we’ve hit on what was called a “sophomore slump” which has afflicted one too many bands world-wide.
But anyway, we actively traded away Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations for the better part of 2010 to 2012 until we stumbled upon Bernd of Dunkelheit Produktionen when we did some trades for his band, Nacht. Initially, I didn’t know that he was running Dunkelheit until a little later when he offered us a deal to release Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations which turned out to be a very good company and very professional, too. He did everything he promised us. And that’s pretty much the entire story of our second album, Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations.
Anyway, it certainly is a good way to build your bands’ name and credentials in a D.I.Y./independent way. I would advice that to any serious new band starting out — to rely on themselves more. In this so called “music industry” these days, having talent and musical skills is not enough. You also need skills to promote your own music-which is relatively “easy” now in this hyper-connected world compared to 10-15 years ago. And one more thing you need is international cooperation. Get in contact and befriend fellow independent/underground bands and fanzines everywhere! There is no place for xenophobia these days. We’re living in a vastly globalized world for the past 15 years with the internet thing and such. I suppose those are the things that we held as an advantage to other local bands here. I mean we’re not the most talented band in the world and we’ve gone through countless ups and downs as well — “Spinal Tap situations,” if you will — and even if no label would ever sign us today we will still be releasing and spreading our own music that way.
This album seems very much in the fast death metal style of Angelcorpse, but there’s also a lot of other influences peeking in here and there. Which metal bands inspired you to take on this style?
I’m glad you noticed! Hammer Of Gods knocked me out of my brains first time I heard it. But there’s a lot more to it if you listen to the album very closely. Many of the fast parts are certainly Morbid Angel/Angel Corpse influenced but other fast riffs there are also influenced by European death metal, Swedish and German, in particular. I really like the haunting melodic edge and almost crust/punk-ish D-beat sensibilities of bands like early Entombed, Carnage, Dismember, Treblinka, Unleashed and the aggression of Morgoth and Fleshcrawl.
A lot of the slow and mid-paced parts of Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations are inspired by Asphyx, Autopsy and Celtic Frost. Many bands have shaped Pathogen’s sound and more often than not, we wear our influences proudly on our sleeves. From early Carcass, to Master, Winter and Nuclear Death — but we also have our roots planted firmly on the pre-death metal era extreme thrash and black metal bands and punk/crust as well-you know, the classics: Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, Venom, Possessed, Sodom, Kreator, Bathory, Voivod, Onslaught, Sacrilege U.K., Amebix, Hellbastard, Sarcofago, early Sepultura, early Napalm Death, Cerebral Fix, Deathwish… I could go on forever!
Those influences tend to rub off our songwriting. We don’t listen to one particular genre or metal style. We also dig classic heavy metal and some progressive rock stuff. A lot of people think of music is primarily a performance art — sure, performing and practice is certainly a very big part of it — but in reality, music is primarily a listening art. You have to listen to it a lot in order to play it, especially in this kind of genre. It practically feeds off itself.
No two bands are alike, but a few other bands from the Philippines have adopted a style similar to yours. Is this a local sound, that you all developed out there? Is there a “metal culture” specific to the Philippines?
Not really, I mean, metal is really not that big here unlike in other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan where there are really big logistical support systems set up for even the underground bands up to the big mainstream metal acts visiting from the US and Europe. Here in the Philippines, metal in a general sense are still very much an underground phenomenon. Fans or even bands themselves organize their own shows and release their own demos and fanzines and a few financially well-off groups can do tours to nearby and far-flung cities and provinces.
There are no metal festivals here and gigs are usually held in small bars and pubs with shitty equipment attended by mostly by the band members themselves. Davao City probably has the highest concentration of metal fans in this country. I’ve been told that even ordinary gigs there can rake several hundred people, unlike in Manila or here in our city (San Pablo) where gig attendance rarely reach past 100 or so, except when foreign bands are playing. There is no future for a metal band in this country that’s why we have invested a lot on getting our name known overseas.
Anyhow, yeah, there are a few bands here that have chosen the same path as we do, such as Toxemia, Servorum and Comatose — which are cool. But you know majority of Filipino bands that are known overseas are not death metal at all, Incarion, Deiphago, Korihor, Maniak, Kratornas are actually black metal bands while Paganfire is thrash.
You’re making metal that would fit in right into the middle of the 1990s, but it’s not the 1990s anymore. What made you decide to stay with the older style, and what advantages do you think it offers?
Well, it’s mainly because we really miss this kind of music. Death Metal or even Metal, in a general sense, from back then has a different vibe. They have more “feel” and atmosphere to the music and their attitudes didn’t seem to be fake and contrived. I mean, “death metal” to the newer generation is all about superfast drumming, million notes per second guitar playing, low, unintelligible vocals, overtly gory lyrics and such. While back in the 80s and 90s death metal was both the fastest and slowest musical form there is! They have an aura of darkness and evocative atmospheres, dismal haunting melodies and very intelligent lyrics that are rarely heard today!
And that’s what we are trying to achieve with Pathogen. Back then there wasn’t any competition for who can play the fastest — everybody was sort of doing their own thing about death metal whether adding thrash, black metal or progressive influences into the fold. Nowadays death metal seems to have a set of pre-determined norms and nobody is pushing the envelope or doing it with the kind of sincerity that the older bands have except for a few bands in the underground who can actually still re-create that old magic.
On “Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations,” you demonstrate two seemingly opposite techniques. You use a lot of dissonance, but also have a lot of melodic riffs keeping these songs going. What made you choose this style?
I personally like the contrast of having dissonance and countering it with a dark sounding melody. It’s good to have that balance, that variety, and not get the listener bored with monotony. When we do an album, we always think of a way to keep the listener’s attention on our music. For instance on the track “Uranium Messiah” almost the entire song is charging away with aggression and ferocity, and after a dissonant false ending, it opens the outro with this Maiden-esque dual guitar harmonies that fades away into oblivion. Those are some of the things that excites me when I listen to a record-hearing the unexpected and being somewhat musically adventurous. That’s the kind of vibe I get when I listen to old Venom or Iron Maiden records. And as I have stated earlier the reason we chose this particular style is we because we miss it. A lot of bands should put more effort into their songwriting instead of their individual playing.
With this signing, it looks like things are picking up for you as a band. What do you think your next move is going to be?
After a decade of hard work and self-promotion things are really looking up for us-for the first time in our careers. It was never easy considering the fact that we have no managers and no producers helping to create and promote our records and general lack of resources-but we always make do with what we have and make things happen for us. There are countless of times where we have gone broke and close friends, parents, relatives, girlfriends are all discouraging us to give up our goals and ambitions. But we kept on slogging nevertheless because our dreams are all that we got, you know.
We didn’t want to end up in obscurity like everyone else, living a brain-numbing 9 to 5 job and married to an ugly bitch that kept on fuckin’ nagging you. It would either be making a career out of playing metal, or die trying! Next on our agenda would be to find a professional management to finally help put us on the road and record our fourth album sometime this year. We got all the new songs readied and demoed since last year. We just have to scrape the finances to put them all together into a proper album.
Imagine that time zoomed back to the moment before Entombed came out with Wolverine Blues. It was inevitable the Motorhead- and Roky Erickson-loving Swedes would turn to death ‘n’ roll, but they lost the gnarly bassy power chords and distortion in the process.
Slaughterday fix this situation by making a hybrid between Motorhead and Left Hand Path. The riffs are crunchy power chorded and bouncy, and every three riffs there’s a melodic interlude, but the essence of this composition is a good racing beat (probably 2x as fast as Motorhead) and a chant-heavy chorus. Bluesy leads flicker in and out to give it some spice.
This isn’t quite death metal. It’s more like death metal influenced roadhouse heavy metal, and as a result, it doesn’t have the odd constructions and difficult mood passages that death metal has, but instead rocks along nicely like an older heavy metal or hard rock album, but graces itself with the dressings of older Swedish death metal.
If you like At the Gates’ Slaughter of the Soul but wish it had been a little more aggressive and violent, or wondered why Entombed went so civilized and tidy with Wolverine Blues, this demo might warm your dark heart. Its appeal is as simple and timeless as heavy metal itself, and the added Swedish guitar tone and riff technique just gives it that much more punch.
Tunnel of No Light has a foot in both the funeral doom world and the post-metal world, revealing that October Tide were way ahead of their time in predicting trends in music. These are lush, beautiful chord progressions with an ethereal sadness about them but a churning power-pop resurgence that gives you a sense of enjoying the process of survival in a dystopic world of sadness.
In metal as in biology, the development of an organism reveals its prior stages in evolution. In the case of post-metal, it seems to me it owes more of its heritage to great 1980s dark pop bands like Sisters of Mercy and Joy Division. The same stygian Gothic moods prevail, but it has the same sense of discovering a lightness in the midst of the storm which made those bands so compelling for high school cigarette breaks in the parking lot.
Unlike most funeral doom, October Tide changes the blueprint frequently, bouncing between churning Skepticism-esque doom metal riffs and open-chorded, nearly hopeful dark pop riffs that have the kind of proud doomed independence that made 1980s music so defiant and great. In addition, October Tide are comfortable with silences and spaces where melody alone carries the tune.
This is not an album for people who need constant distraction or guitar fireworks to hit them over the head, but is more of an album best listened to alone on an isolated island or when driving interstate after the death of everyone you know. Its moods vary and are not all hopeless, instead balancing each other in similar proportions to create a bittersweet sense of determination in the face of the void.
With searing death vocals chanting and rasping over this contemplative music, a listener might be tempted to lump this in with the death metal, but more reasonably it shows a continuation of what My Dying Bride was doing in the 1990s, with the added post-metal twist that brings in the best of 1980s dark pop and its lovely melancholic atmosphere.