The term “melodic death metal” has lost all meaning with the rise of its postmodern form, which is essentially heavy metal or power metal (speed metal + later heavy metal) with death vocals, played at twice normal speed and using tuning and mode to achieve a melodic sound. The genre often fails because in an effort to deliver lots of those sweet ripping melodic moments, it renders itself uniform and thus passes like sonic wallpaper.
The best of the genre either takes after early Dissection, which is essentially heavy metal, or early At the Gates, which is essentially death metal. In the middle, there are those who combine the two, making what sounds like a cross between early Dissection and early Necrophobic. In this area, bands like Unanimated, Sentenced, Cemetary and Sacramentum made their great works. Desultory fit into this picture as well but was always just a bit more predictable and catchy than those bands would admit into their own music.
Some call it obvious, but the history of art shows us that the person who makes the most evocative form of obvious basically states what everyone is too neurotic to think clearly, and becomes a winner. For that reason, it’s a terrible shame that this album has been overlooked since it is better than almost everything to come out in the genre recently. Opeth and BloodBath fans in particular might enjoy this album which is equal balanced parts beauty and virulent darkness.
Riffs are catchy and strike a good balance between melodic hook and infectious rhythm with some aggression to it, a form which is downplayed but provides a good internal counterpoint to the sweet spots (in contrast to most bands, who do this externally by playing the verses as grinding madness and the chorus as undistorted or sickeningly over-harmonized AOR riffs). In song structure, this album is more like older death metal of the melodic type, but its soul is pure heavy metal of the type that dominated the airwaves in the 1980s, just with twice the complexity and technicality.
In many ways, this album fulfills the promise of melodic metal. It’s like a cross between Iron Maiden Number of the Beast and Slayer Reign in Blood. This is a hard mix to get right, and it’s fair to note that there’s more hard rock in this than even in Iron Maiden, but the end result is very pleasant listening that maintains a sense of longing and beauty in its atmosphere, while simultaneously raging against the darkness.
There is so much to appreciate about this album, starting with its technicality, but most prominently extended to its sense of a notched lock between a good rhythm and a good melody. The problem is that this release is infected with the post-modern-metal fascination for the carnival music style of intense variation, which ends up creating a lack of narrative, which must be substituted with primitive means like repetition and hook, pushing these out of place. The result is listenable but too busy; it turns everything up to 11 and as a result, almost nothing stands out, and its careful inventiveness in riff and variation becomes textural background. However, like Neuraxis — to which it is a close relative — this is at least a listenable form of metalcore-influenced late death metal.
From the storms which tear the earth, haunting the skies at night, empowering chaos and embracing vampyric magick, the cult USBM horde Black Funeral return from the abyss with this morbid spell of blood lust and darkness! Raw, vampyric & occult Black Metal.
Worm Gear Zine has officially relaunched, with 19 reviews and new interviews with Agalloch and Forefather! We know it has been a long time, but we are excited to have revived this stalwart bastion of extreme music. Expect more frequent updates and more of the quality writing you’ve always depended upon. We welcome all readers to this resurrected endeavor, and are eager to hear your thoughts and to get your participation in our ongoing discussion of the underground. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter as well!
From our original review of Worm Gear zine back in 1998:
Professional layout belies the depth to which this magazine sinks into the underground, asking up-front questions in a variety of reviews, features and interviews. Excellent coverage on an individual basis of those bands and individuals lucky enough to be featured in this solid zine from Michigan.
Sabrewulf make doomy music in the new interzone of hybrid between post-punk, metal and drone. These boxy riffs are aggressive and forthright, and hammer home a brainworm of a rhythm and then lapse into drone, as if subjugating the listener with a vision that cannot quite be realized in the present dimension.
Because the essence of post-hardcore is to swallow up all other genres, this is visible like a skeleton poking through the decaying flesh of a fallen beast. Despite the guitar tone which is straight out of 1980s Autopsy, the essence of this music is very slow minor key punk riffs that set up a sustained tone and let it fill available space, then manipulate its sonic dimensions to create a sense of absence.
Song structures are of the circular with layers type that came to us first from electronic music, but now is popular in that it lets the style do the talking — the medium is the message — which is popular in that it allows musicians to craft impressions into three-dimensional structures. Like any good doom band, Sabrewulf know when to ride a melody and create a gratifying sense of inertia like the last swings of a no-contest fistfight.
While many are skeptical of the new styles, and with good reason since almost none of the new bands have the staying power of the 1990s underground metal, it is wisest to see this as heavy-metal flavored punk that also pretends it is post-hardcore, but really just wants to ride a drone into a rant and come out the other side with the world on fire. Even if it does it as a glacial pace.
In the intersection between harsh industrial noise and blasting war metal/grindcore, Intolitarian carves a place for itself by being unique in its absolute inferno of abrasive sound. These two tracks contain rasping vocals over abrasive waves of noise that sound like a high-tuned bass played through a storm of distortion, spaced out with loudspeaker spoken word designed to evoke a futuristic totalitarian feeling.
The Orwellian nature of this music takes the listener away from the now with a dramatic surge toward the extreme. Drumming resembles some of the more adventurous drum and bass from the late 1980s, riding a wave of gated grinding power electronic noise while the incessant vocals enunciate like a martial arts competition over the top. It is like a news report from hell, or from a future time when all pretense of humanity and morality has been cast aside.
As an intensely reductive medium, this type of grinding industrial noise has almost no musical elements: it is pure rhythm, pure spoken word, and pure texture, but no harmony or melody. The spoken word portions are produced to sound like either 1940s radio or the off-world propaganda spaceships from Blade Runner, giving it an apocalyptic military urgency. Every syllable throbs with violence.
If war metal were to go in this direction, it would get closer to its own ideal. All meaning is destroyed except conflict and propaganda. This isn’t music; it’s mental conditioning, from that moment during the midnight air raid when the world is shaking with explosions and the ranting of state propaganda from a nearby loudspeaker is the only comforting sound. It encourages survival, to push onward, and a confrontation with nothingness.