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5 albums that ruined metal

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If you create anything of beauty in this world, people will be attracted to it. They will want what it has, but because achieving that would require them to change themselves, they will instead make a version of your beautiful thing that fits their needs. This will become popular and soon idiots everywhere will adopt their dumbed-down version of your beautiful thing, effectively ruining what you have created.

Over the course of metal’s lifespan, it has several times been afflicted with the curse of popularity. During the middle 1970s, bands began cloning what Black Sabbath did and mixing it with the more radio-friendly sounds of Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Who and Deep Purple. The result gave metal such a bad name it required an underground genre, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, to renovate it with punk energy and DIY spirit. Then in the late 1980s, speed metal bands started selling out and making radio-friendly jive that quickly destroyed the genre because no one wanted to associate with it anymore. Only a few years later in 1994, underground metal imploded as clone bands and outsiders began making imitations of the new sound that used songwriting conventions and “values” from other genres. Most recently in the 2000s metal became “socially acceptable” and became basically a cover story for lite jazz and indie/emo which now could claim they were groundbreaking and authentic.

But I digress. Let us look at a brief history of bands that helped ruin metal and see if we can figure out where their influences ended up in today’s milktoast hybrid metal.

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Pantera – Cowboys From Hell

Before this album came along, speed metal had a certain gravitas to it. Songs were about war, human moral conflict, literature and the apocalypse. Then along came Pantera and injected a bro-sized dose of personal drama into it. After Pantera, speed metal included talking about how angry you are, getting drunk and starting fights about whose jeans are out of fashion this season, and raging about your inability to retain women who are not covered in naturally-growing wool. It was a strike of Idiocracy against the intense music of Metallica, Nuclear Assault, Overkill, Testament, Anthrax and Megadeth that dumbed it down to the Belieber level, just with more angsty testosterone. Not only that but the complex songs got replaced by verse-chorus and lots of “emotional” vocals accompanied by softer guitar parts. The path to death for speed metal started with this watered-down, dumbed-down, ego-drama path to stupidity. Luckily after they had made their money, Pantera disappeared and the band members went on to more reputable projects.

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Cannibal Corpse – Tomb of the Mutilated

In the year that death metal reached its peak, Cannibal Corpse release an album that made death metal accessible and in doing so, made it a satire of itself. This is Dethklok before Dethklok. Borrowing from the percussive style that Suffocation innovated, Cannibal Corpse took out all the complex songwriting and replaced it with somewhat complex riffs in predictable format. It took away difficult rhythms and topics and replaced them with I-puke-blood style blockheaded lyrics. They also introduced Pantera-style songs about sexually mutilating women because women are difficult and sometimes all one can get is a brojob back at the frat house. This album crushed the growing death metal movement by putting a giant IDIOTS AND SYCOPHANTS WELCOME sign over the door to the genre and convincing people that songs with blockheaded gore lyrics and simplistic structures under grunting incoherent vocals were more “death metal” than the complex music of integrity that defined the genre at the time.

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Cradle of Filth – The Principle of Evil Made Flesh

Point your TARDIS back to 1994. Black metal was in full-swing, having just put forth all of its founding works and then exploded in a media-fueled inferno of murder, anti-Christian and politically incorrect sentiments. In come the “smart” people who figure they can make a buck off this new phenomenon. Their formula: make Iron Maiden style metal with the new screechy vocals and make it emo so that kids can feel like it sympathizes with their horrible lives where their parents just totally control them and stuff. Then mix in the usual “teen paranormal romance” rambling about vampires and evil and you have baby food for coddled toddlers. It took some brains to like black metal, but Cradle of Filth asks nothing so challenging of its listeners! Even more, this band introduced the “carnival music” style of putting radically different riffs next to each other so that the listener loses track of song structure entirely. These songs are basically advertising jingles and warmed-over Goth rock stuck into second-rate metal, but all the kiddies brought their sweaty dollars to Hot Topic because they felt it “understood them.”

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Meshuggah – None

Right in the middle of 1994 it became clear that black metal and death metal had left the building. They had said what they wanted to; people had to either top it or find some easier and sleazier way to do. Ripping off the percussive textures of Exhorder, Prong and Exodus, Meshuggah came up with a “new” style that consisted of over-extending ideas from previous and better bands. It’s worth mentioning that Meshuggah’s first album was 80s speed metal with death metal vocals, but that it was extremely boring. Meshuggah figured that if they just made their style more dramatic and used lots of choppy riffs with shiny new “complex” polyrhythms, they could fool a new generation into liking their stuff. Without fail, it worked, and now metal bands find it necessary to incorporate the worked-over 70s groove with two-chord texture riffs and claim a “djent” influence. At its core, this band remains the same bad 80s speed metal that failed on its first album.

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Opeth – Orchid

You can pitch a market one of two ways: on one hand, you can be “just one of us regular guys” and pull a Bruce Springsteen (or warmed over punk); on the other, you can claim that you are so far out and deep that only a few deep people can understand you. The best is to hide the former in the latter so that you are selling the “profundity” of sing-song music for children but it gives them a chance to pop on a Fedora and think they are really so deep, you know totally deep, that no one can be as deep as they are. Opeth sold itself on being “open-minded,” which is this message: we are different from the rest of metal because we use acoustic passages instead of just solid heavy metal riffs. What they choose not to tell their fans is that they are more like everything else that is not metal, so to like this stuff is to admit you fail as a metal listener and go back to pumping radio pap through your Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. But every underconfident basement-dwelling pretentious geek loved this stuff even though it consisted of a simple formula, soft verse and hard chorus, that is most famous for its use among nu-metal bands. Nonetheless, Opeth opened the door for people who wanted to signal to the world how profound and different they were, and now most bands are tinged with the same simpering pander that makes this music sickly sweet and an inch deep.

Hardcore, Punk, and Other Junk: Aggressive Sounds in Contemporary Music edited by Eric James Abbey and Colin Helb

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Metalheads tend to distrust academia. We distrust the machine in all of its forms, and since the machine accepts academia, we believe the voice of academia is tainted by interest toward social acceptance. Academia also has a habit of finding ways to cram reality into its theories rather than the other way around. However, some academics make insightful contributions to the study of metal and Hardcore, Punk, and Other Junk: Aggressive Sounds in Contemporary Music provides an example of the best of this process.

This collection of essays looks at extreme music in general and extends this to metal, hardcore punk and punk rock communities. Sadly many authors make the mistake many do of incorporating recent pseudo-metal hybrids as some form of legitimate metal, which spams their results with some nonsense. The balance of results however turns out for the best because these academics look at detail-level reproducible phenomena and so are able to avoid the kind of craziness that would happen if they took “modern death metal” to be a legitimate form of the genre. Since metal and hardcore punk share a heritage both influencing and as influences of one another, the multiple pieces on that topic serve to bolster the understanding of metal.

Ross Hagen‘s piece “No Fun: Noise Music, Avant-garde expression and Sonic Punishment” ventures into the world of noise as music and explores a number of theories of its appeal. His most tantalizing riff zeroes in on the idea that society attempts to control noise and categorize it by the containers used to sample it, thus the tendency of irregular acoustic noise is to overthrow the social control imposed for the convenience of society having categorical dominance. While this piece does not seem to be directly on point to metal, it explores the same sonic space that metal uses and suggests reasons for it that may overlap with the psychology of metalheads.

Nelson Varas-Diaz contributes writing that analyzes Puerto Rico as a metal scene and the historical antecedents for appreciation of metal in this unique context. While his research involves statistical analysis, the best part of it may be the narrative aspect where he explains the history of metal in Puerto Rico as a type of struggle to be heard. In this piece also can be found extensive information about founding and contemporary Puerto Rican metal bands.

While it is beyond the scope of this review to cover every piece in the book, several others merit immediate attention by the wandering metalhead. Mika Elovaara looks into the meaning of metal lyrics and finds something akin to the mythical-historical view expounded upon in these digital pages. As if clarifying Lords of Chaos, one of his research subjects from Norway opines:

I feel that it is important that people understand why they have been born and that other people fought for our well-being and to preserve our culture and society. Our cultural heritage is going to die because people ignore it or do not even realize its significance. Viking and Norse mythology have been described as something evil and distant, but in reality, it is close to home and not necessarily evil at all. That it is not Christian does not mean it is evil. I use the mythology to describe situations in the world and politics, actual topics that were part of our lives a thousand years ago just as they are today. One can be proud of one’s heritage and identity without any racist or nationalistic tendencies. And Satanism is quite outside of this.

His extensive interviews bring up other similar flirtations with the taboo which makes sense as metal is “edge music” that exists to push social standards beyond what they normally accept. He probes the filaments of metal’s obsession with the evil and dark, and yet finds a certain kind of benevolence. “They mean critical thinking and encourage independent thinking,” said one fan about metal lyrics. The entire study is too complex to summarize here but at a minimum provides food for thought about what metal is attempting to communicate.

Another metal-related piece by Marcus Erbe looks into the science of producing death metal vocals and what that type of sound might mean in the unconscious and shared experience of being human. He finds that human vocals universally split between a melodic voice and a textural voice, with the latter expressing “monstrous” sensations. He then explores the nature of the monstrous in psychology and finds that it includes both the other and our fears for what is within us. This thought-provoking essay fuels further the question about what it is in metal that is really socially unacceptable, its rejection of social mores or its seeing through them.

Other articles explore more specific topics. On the whole, the book shows a new face for academia in looking into metal that is less afraid of certain areas of metal that are alien to what academia customarily writes about and may reject attitudes held by the majority of academics. The insight offered into the mechanics of metal and the associated symbols that it invokes also suggests new areas for academics and thinkers to pry into this interesting genre. Hardcore, Punk, and Other Junk: Aggressive Sounds in Contemporary Music lives up to its title and presents a window into the troubling questions that most would ignore raised by these dissident genres.

Interview: Question

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Question come from Querétaro, Mexico and create technical death metal in a combination of old school styles. Their debut album Doomed Passages saw release through Chaos Records in early June. Question deliver a very spacious style of death metal reminiscent of The Chasm with some Finnish touches. The guitarist, Rodrigo, agreed to talk to us about the band.

Question caught my eye as an unusual name for a death metal band. What made you choose this name?

“Question” is a name which is coherent with the philosophy of the band and the lyrics; it’s consistent with the context that we want to portray. A friend came with the idea and we thought it fit perfectly with the music that we were composing at the time. It’s not surprising that some think it is a weird or dumb name; you’ll always find people that keep looking for the most rude or evil names, but I think that has become a weak point with the past of the years in the metal scene.

I detect a strong Finnish death metal influence on Doomed Passages. Would I be correct?

Well, we are fans of some early Finnish death metal bands; also we listen to some contemporary bands that have been spreading rottenness lately. However, it’s more appropriate to say that we’re heavily influenced by obscure death metal in general; Mexico has a lot of obscure metal bands and some of them are big influences for us. Also, besides metal, we listen to a lot of punk, progressive rock, etc.

What drove you to create death metal?

Curiosity. In terms of composition death metal has a very vast spectrum of possibilities and we all are very into obscure, heavy and strange stuff, not just music, also books, films, so I guess it’s natural to feel a tendency to create and play this kind of tunes.

Is art separate from entertainment or are they one in the same?

I’m afraid I’ve never established a delimited frontier between these two concepts; any attempt to be objective will fail, however I can resume my thoughts with the following: many expressions of art can be entertaining, but entertainment mostly lacks art. Art is an intimate vision of an artist, and sometimes the vision is shared with some people. In contrast, entertainment is made for the masses, is a guided story that leads to a guided conclusion. Art is more subjective, it makes you think what you’ve experienced.

Tell me about the recording process of Doomed Passages.

We recorded the album in April 2013 at Oz Recording Studios in Mexico City. The process lasted five days and it was the first time for the actual lineup to record something. All went well, the studio is amazing, and we had a really good time, although the mixing and mastering process was more exhausting, as we couldn’t make a connection with Roberto Granados. I think the result is good.

What does the artwork on Doomed Passages signify and how does it tie into what is being expressed musically?

Hector and I wrote a couple of ideas for the artwork based on the lyrics and the band’s philosophy. We send this to Arturo Vargas and he came with this spectral vision that became the cover of our first album. The significance is relative; art should not be restricted to a single interpretation.

Sadistic Metal Reviews 08-06-14

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What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? Most humans understand reality through social definitions because this flatters their pretense of being important in cold and empty universe. Others prefer to find meaning through bonding with reality in all of its darkness. For noticing the difference, we get called sadists.

Algebra – Feed the Ego

algebra-feed_the_egoLate 1980s speed metal gets a strong infusion of Slayer-styled energy and tempo. If you can imagine second-tier speed metal bands using the riff patterns and rhythmic shifts from Reign in Blood, you grasp the basic idea here. This makes for fun listening but underneath the surface, an ugly hard rock influence shows, and the derivative nature of the riffing makes it hard to take seriously.

 

Cradle of Filth – Total Fucking Darkness

cradle_of_filth-total_fucking_darknessThey released the demo of the band that initiated the downfall of black metal. Like Opeth, Cannibal Corpse, Meshuggah and Pantera, Cradle of Filth made a name for itself by taking a new style and dumbing it down for an audience that wanted spoon feeding. Notice the idiotic hipster trend of inserting the word “fucking” to make an otherwise recombinant title seem edgy. What you will hear on this lengthy demo is basic deathgrind verses with melodic heavy metal choruses kicked into high speed and aggression with borrowed technique. Oh wait, there are keyboards so you can feel more profound than your friends for listening to such an open-minded band. This entire thing is transparent and shows how from an early date, this band was scheming to make a vapid but “profound” (like dreamcatchers, Ansel Adams posters and Eckhart Tolle) sound. While it is not explicitly terrible it also fails to make any lasting connection to the inner layers of being, like higher brain functions or what we sometimes call a soul.

 

Ending Quest – The Summoning

ending_quest-the_summoningIn my dream, I was in a vast house by the seaside. In the east wing, the hallway had endless doors. I opened one and immediately recoiled. I was in the retro-Swedish death metal room again! Ending Quest provides a better than average take on the retro style but does not achieve any level of impact such that it must be listened to. Imagine mixing a melodic Necrophobic-style lead rhythm riff into a more rock ‘n’ roll version of Entombed Left Hand Path in the riff department. Then work in elements of the death ‘n’ roll that came a generation later: abrupt cuts, bouncy grooves, relatively standard song format and lots of melodic hooks. The problem is that after a while it starts to sound like sonic wallpaper because it uses roughly the same approach and template to writing each song. Thus what emerges is a dozen songs that feature familiar motifs and all run together into a blur of Swedish-tasting death metal with hard rock undertones.

 

Final Conflict – Ashes to Ashes

final_conflict-ashes_to_ashesI always enjoyed this late hardcore offering but never found it as hard-hitting as the Cro-Mags, Amebix or Discharge. There’s a good reason: if Descendents decided to make a hardcore, it might sound like this. Riffs fit the patterns of basic California hardcore adapted to the stream of powerchords attack of the Exploited or Cro-Mags. But ultimately, this is melodic punk. Vocal melodies predominate with heavy focus on chorus and riffs work in enough melody to be predominantly hook-driven. Add to this lyrics that span a gamut from radical anarchistic sentiment to mainstream right-wing moderate calls for defense of rights and freedoms, and you sense a movement looking for a purpose. However Final Conflict create an album without filler that hits hard and keeps riding that violent energy which makes this a hardcore album you can appreciate without descending into total alienation. It’s probably a great workout album.

 

Greenleaf – Trails and Passes

greenleaf-trails_and_passesDo they ever tire of peddling the same hackneyed crap? This sounds like early 1960s angry rock, with a heavy MC5 influence. Bluesy, with extended rhythmic breaks and emphasis on a hippie vocal, this band might think they are related to metal but this is purely on the aesthetic basis that they use distortion pedals. Baby Boomers love this stuff because it lets them revisit their ancient pointless youth in the free love and whatever-stupid-shit-you-think-is-OK-man 1960s, but for the rest of us this retro detour is a dead end.

 

Humut Tabal – The Dark Emperor ov the Shadow Realm

humut_tabal_dark_emperor_ov_the_shadow_realmSome of our writers here think highly of the Texas scene but it seems to me that much like Texas itself, the scene there is composed of odds and ends. Such is the case with Humut Tabal who are jack of all trades and master of none. The basis of this album is promising melodic black metal with too much influence from the ersatz article like Watain, but the band know how to write some songs that verge on the beautiful. Then they drop in some idiotic riff straight off a Pantera album and reduce the IQ in the room to Juggalo levels. While their melodic approach, reminiscent of Dawn and Sacramentum, is basically really good, the band overplay it and end up with an album that disappears into its own sound. On the plus side, these songs remain distinctive enough to tell the difference, which suggests this band has the ability to have a bright future if it wants it. But maybe drop the two-word trendy name and the ridiculous “ov” style spelling, get more of a purpose, and stop trying to please everyone at once. You can’t do it because it should never be done.

 

Mordbrand – Imago

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As a genre descends, it improves in attention to details including basic musicality but fails at its center where meaning lies. This Swedish death metal revival band bash out a formula at either fast or slow speeds, but the effect is the same. It is focused on chorus as hook like the later Sodom records and never really develops past having a cool melodic idea for a riff; songs are essentially in standard format and take huge influence from later crustpunk which was by definition formulaic. There are parts of this to admire but the whole adds up to less than the parts.

 

Steel Prophet – Omniscient

steel_prophet-omniscientMiddle 1980s style speed metal picks up a few stylistic flourishes from power metal but basically stays in the great quest for a catchy chorus that can be backed by lots of muted downstroke strumming. Melodically, it closest resembles Judas Priest but adds some Manowar-like touches. Songs fit more into the rock ‘n’ roll mold of building everything as a support structure for the vocals, and drums, bass and lead guitars generate a backgrond that is too busy to make this anything but the kind of sonic assault waged by a fast-sell commercial. The vocalist exhibits quite a bit of talent and none of the players are bad, but the way they choose to combine this material resembles the frenetic activity at a shopping mall in that for all that it is busy, it never gets anywhere.

 

Dawn – Nær Solen Gar Niþer For Evogher

dawn-naer_solen_gar_niber_for_evogherThis re-issue tempted me but ultimately I have decided it lives in a duality: it has great melodic ideas and riffs, but insists on the type of semi-random songwriting that later became famous with metalcore. Riffs shift into other riffs without any real sense to the arrangement; by rock theory, this is OK since they’re in the same key. But in metal, the riffs talk to each other. Sometimes this band tends to like to bash out fast repetitive melodies on a plodding rhythm until the audience shoots itself. But scattered throughout this album in abundance are good melodic ideas and some really great riff pairs. If the band had worked on song structure and arrangement more, this could have been an A-level black metal album.

Swine Overlord – Parables of Umbral Transcendence

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Deathgrind took the guttural percussive sounds of Suffocation and took them to a place previously reserved for grindcore which was the ultra-primitive lower five frets of the guitar spelling out riff codes in a mathematic of recursion. Swine Overlord inherits this style and tries to give it as much life as possible despite a genre convention being simplistic repetitive vocal rhythms doubled by guitars.

The band keeps their focus on two predominant rhythms per song and works out several textural riff variations for each, then adds a series of pull-away riffs that serve as both break and transition. Ultimately songs remain in roughly the same cycle which they interrupt for effect. Vocals will take most of the focus of the average listener here and are executed in deep bass croaking expulsions that form the primary rhythmic instrument and through inflection cue mood. The problem with this approach is that it emphasizes very basic, almost-sing song rhythms. Vocals bear a passing resemblance to not only Cannibal Corpse but Infester in their tendency toward flared enunciation.

Guitars take a straightforward approach with occasional squeals and breaks but essentially non-stop blasting grindcore-style riffs or percussive speed metal-styled riffs that ride an E chord into a reductive cadence. The challenge to this band comes from the style itself: deathgrind has no rules but by its sonic conventions limits itself to a few general approaches and while Swine Overlord can make these interesting on first listen, Parables of Umbral Transcendence may not appeal to anyone but dedicated listeners of this sub-genre.

Interview: Unaussprechlichen Kulten

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We recently reviewed Unaussprechlichen Kulten Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath, a death metal album that knits together old school and newer styles of the underground metal art. We were lucky to get a few moments with Joseph Curwen, guitarist and composer, to explain the intricate secrets behind this dark cult act.

Do you identify with the “old school spirit” in the metal underground? If so, what is it and how does it emerge in your music?

Not really. “Old School” sounds like a “nostalgic trend” of “clone bands.” For us the Death Metal way is one style. It may have variants like brutal, old style or mixtures with other styles. But if the bands begin to clone all — the style, sound and even the graphics and pics — this really… sucks. Poorly made copies are not necessary! The “Sunlight” or “Tampa Florida” styles are wonderful and are always “inspiring,” I know it’s difficult to innovate in a “strict” style and with so many old bands as reference … but if a band does not have in its purpose something new, creative, original… anything in particular that distinguishes… why make that band?

The name “Unaussprechlichen Kulten” or “nameless cults” comes from the Cthulhu mythos, as do many of your song titles. How important is Lovecraft’s work to your art, and to metal in general? What other occult/romantic/fantasy writers influence you?

You are right about our name. Lovecraft’s literary legacy is rich in terminology and knowledge, therefore allows us to explain with his words the religious or spiritual concepts that otherwise we would be forced to use “Christian” or “common” terms so they can be understood. Lovecraft always publicly declared himself to be an atheist, but his erudition in the occult was something more than an amateur.
Therefore we are not only focused on the work of Lovecraft. We also include other topics, including Chilean mythology. The Necromancy is not unique to any particular culture, so what we do is explore in different subjects, always mystical and dark, but with the work of Lovecraft as a reference. Other interesting writers are Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard, classics occultist like Blavatsky and Eliphas Levi, even contemporary Chilean writers as Oreste Plath and M. Serrano and others

Metal has always been influenced by the literature of Terror, and Lovecraft is the horror writer who made the most important revolution in the genre. He will always be a benchmark in the lyrics of Metal bands.

Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath sounds like it takes influence from both newer and older raditions in underground metal. What are your influences? Which of these did you find most useful in creating this album?

A lot of influences, you know mainly 80-90. Classic Swedish and American death Mmetal. Some from South American or Scandinavian… older? …mmm INCANTATION, NECRODEATH, GORGUTS, SHUB NIGGURATH, IMMOLATION, NECRODEATH, PENTAGRAM, MORBID ANGEL (old), MORTA SKULD, DISMEMBER, the mighty SADISTIC INTENT, DEMIGOD (old), MORTEM, and of course SLAYER, MERCYFUL FATE, SACRIFICE….. Newer? Throneum, Karnarium, Deathspell Omega, Godless, After Death, Dead Congregation, Hatespawn, Katharsis among many others.

In the early 1990s, there were few bands and not that many fans. Now there are more of both, and metal is accepted as normal in the mainstream press. How has this changed what it is to be a metal band? How has it not changed how it is to be a metal band?

Good question. It’s been over 20 years and society (worldwide) changed. We live in the information age; in the early 90s without internet, the bands depended on the promotion and diffusion that could be done through the “official” and monopolized media (radio, tv, zines Poser, label’s flyers, etc). Now every band can do their own promotion, also in these 20 years there was a “democratization” of recording technologies now make it possible to make music in a “Home Studio” way. More music available and easier to access it produces “the moment” in which we live.

This album embraces a dark and occult way of putting riffs in order and making songs of them. How do you know which riffs fit with each other? And how do you compose a song — do you start with a melody, a riff, an idea, an image?

From “People of the Monolith” onward our approach has always been the same way — to do riffs. I bring the riffs, arrangements and dis-harmonies of both guitars (I come with everything done and ready in accordance to what lyrics need like faster, slower or thicker parts, strange arrangements, etc.). It’s personal, a kind of trance. I only think in the “concept” and the lyrics, while I do an old trick: I move my fingers over the guitar until I’m no longer playing at random, but there is a “pattern” becoming a “riff.” Once I show the guitars to Butcher, drumming is 100% his responsibility. Then we adjust the structure and cuts together in the rehearsal room. When that base is settled, we incorporate the bass (based on drums). I used to do the bass but in this last record, NAMRU IMPETRADORUM MORTEM was integrated into the creative process of basses, all of them were 100% invented by him in Chapter VIII.

How did Unaussprechlichen Kulten form? Did you know each other from previous bands? Did you have a stated goal in coming together and forming the band?

In the beginning we was just two members, with no previous bands, the first name was “SPAWN.” With that name we just recorded 5 tracks of traditional Death Metal (never edited!). During that period of time I always felt unsettled about the name of the band so I decided to change it for a name in Spanish: “Culto Innombrable” was the one that came into my mind, it was a good name, we even made a logo. At that time I realize about the coincidence with the apocryphal Lovecraftian book: “UNAUSSPRECHLICHEN KULTEN”, diabolically whispered in my ear by Azathoth!

How well has the album been received so far? As more people hear your music, will your plans change? What comes next for Unaussprechlichen Kulten?

So far very good reviews, but our plans will not change. We are a “not popular” or “trendy” band. It has been more than ten years since it all began. So far we are a very unknown band out of Chile, we have been into the deep underground always, and I think will always be so because of our style. Death Metal is not a “trendy” style at this moment; now Death Metal is made by people who are stubborn and headstrong which maintains this “sectarian” behavior. It is true that more and more bands are appearing… on one hand this is good … the “scene” looks “healthy,” alive, which allows bands to exist and makes the media interested in promoting them (and of course in our case, more people hear our music), but on the other hand, also the “overpopulation” of bands is huge, generating a size of information unable to be processed. “A lot of bands” are not synonymous with “quality of bands.”

Codex Obscurum – Issue Five

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Codex Obscurum graces these pages frequently as one of few print zines who uphold the idea of the underground: a focus on music, not popularity, and insight into the motivations and mentation of those who pursue the unholy music of death. Issue Five from this promising zine takes its power to new heights.

Over the preceding issues, Codex Obscurum refined its approach to layout, personality and content and now appears in a fully mature form. Layouts are readable and densely packed with information, interviews dig into the thoughts and emotions of those who are active in the underground, and content selection shows a strong preference for the ancient spirits of obscure music as well as an inclination to pick from current music the few bright lights who understand it in spirit as well as mechanics.

Layout for example shows great evolution. High-contrast pages of black on white or its inverse use sparse but intense images to anchor smoothly-flowing, tightly-packed text. The result proves readable for those in a computer age who wish for a professional layout in a print magazine, and allows the content to pop out at the reader without interference or confusing background. The resulting more efficient use of these pages allows the staff to cram in more interviews, notably more reviews, and features that show a concise but outspoken style.

Issue Five begins with a stream of interviews including most notably Brutal Truth, Krieg and At the Gates. These show the seasoned journalist at work, avoiding most of the standard background questions of mechanics and instead querying the musicians in detail about their compositional and stylistic choices. That approach elicits answers which deepen the connection between band and reader by escaping the surface world of rock and looking at metal as a series of choices united by a shared identity and way of looking at the world.

The At the Gates interview reveals the workings of of legendary band as the questioner probes into the branches of its career and the resulting changes in the music. Focusing also on the upcoming At the Gates album At War With Reality the interviewer knits past and future through the words of the band. A candid Brutal Truth exploration follows with bassist Dan Lilker talking about his approach to music and his history with the second-wave grindcore act, after which a cerebral Krieg interview digs into the questions that metal finds troubling. Witness this exchange:

Where do you see the place of black metal in the greater context of the development of musical styles in human culture?

I don’t see it as culturally important to humanity as a whole, only some countries it’s made a direct effect on their history and even then in the grand scheme of this shit circus it’s about as important as that one time you jerked off that one day that you don’t quite remember but you know that you did. It was engaging for those few minutes but then you finished and went on with your life. That’s how I see it in the big picture. But seeing that we’re Americans and American society places incredible emphasis on solipsism, then for the individual it’s touched it could be the greatest cultural movement of his/her life and for however long that individual is alive it’s the one thing they carry that had the greatest significance possible.

A welcome change comes in the form of the reviews which pack the ending pages of this zine. These take a longer form and look more in-depth at the music and use less rhetoric and judgment than before, which makes them more informative. In this issue, an editorial of a true metal nature follows the reviews and brings up a number of significant points for any thinking metalhead to ponder. This type of fully-developed personality shows the strength of this zine in its second year and fifth issue and promises even greater heights for its future.

Unaussprechlichen Kulten – Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath

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Named after a fictional work of occult literature in the Cthulhu mythos by H.P. Lovecraft, the “nameless cults” give their name also to this band who create modern death metal that remains true to the death metal style. Like Immolation circa 2000, carefully tuned guitars and use of odd diminished melodies create a suspension of reality that a rhythmic approach like that of the Deathspell Omega era “progressive” black metal complements and expands.

Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath cites from fully four generations of metal, mixing speed metal riffs with modern black metal and the aforementioned dissonant and complex death metal, but sometimes slides in old school death metal riffs and transitions reminiscent of the hybrid era of underground metal in the early 1980s. The tendency to offset rhythms to insert additional riffs comes from the newer style of black metal, which permits groove so long as it is disturbingly detached from consistent expectations, but the core of this album comes from the streamlining of death metal in the early years of this century that brought different chord shapes and dramatic conclusions to the genre.

Other influences work their way in here including a use of plodding cadences that would have fit onto a God Macabre or Afflicted album. Songs work riffs into a circular pattern that always returns to familiar themes for choruses but splits verses across multiple riffs using a Slayer-inspired pattern of working in a precursor riff, then changing riff, and then altering its texture and tempo with layers of drums, bass and vocals. Then the song culminates much like later black metal in a kind of revelation which melts down into the soup of primordial riff ideas that earlier served to introduce or complement themes.

For contemporary metal, Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath keeps its focus more firmly in the continuance of past traditions into the future than bands like Immolation managed. It does carry the tendency to be too emotive on its surface like Deathspell Omega, which leads to technique replacing content, but keeps this in line. This work impresses with the first couple listens and while it will undoubtedly socket itself into the secondary tier of death metal bands, crushes most of its contemporaries handily and displays a blueprint for death metal to get out of the metalcore funk and back to a newer version of its roots.

Interview with Nidhogg of Sort Vokter, Ildjarn-Nidhogg and Nidhogg

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History reveals little about Nidhogg, the musician known for his contributions to Ildjarn, Sort Vokter and Ildjarn–Nidhogg. These projects, while initially rejected by an increasingly faddish black metal “scene,” quickly gained fans for their use of elegant short melodies within ambient songs of abrasive noise fused with aggressive Oi rhythms and black metal riffs.