Category Archives: News

Video games for misanthropes

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Most products are designed for people who want to get along with others. They make you feel happy and successful like you are the center of the universe and your narcissism is validated. They both make you passive, and make you cheerful, like opium or politics.

Some products are designed for gleeful misanthropes. We are the people who recognizes that in accord with Sturgeon’s law, 90% of humanity is basically chaff and the 10% are endlessly persecuted by the rest who realize they look mediocre in comparison. Imagine the slaughter of the herd…

The original Carmageddon came out in the mid-1990s just as black metal was burning and murdering its way across Europe. Inspired by the 1976 movie Death Race 2000, this video game emphasized carnage. To the horror of uptight parents, it gave points for every pedestrian killed — with bonuses for multi-kills and shattering pity objects like nuns and orphans — as well as for smashing other cars. It was followed by Carmageddon 2 in 1998 (using the dubious tag line “race war”) and then Carmageddon Total Death Race in 2000. But the Carma camp has been silent for awhile.

The wait is over. Carmageddon Reincarnation has not only been announced but is in public beta for those who wish to purchase early and murder their way to virtual happiness. For more information, click over to the Carmageddon website and begin the unholy slaughter.

Compilation of Death – Volume II Issues I & II

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In the many years of reading about metal, I have often wished for something like Compilation of Death: a zine that goes back through other zines, pulls out the best content and annotates it so that a historical record is composed from many sources. Each of the stories in this zine are like a shelf in a great library of metal, usually about a band but equally possibly a scene, a sound or a time.

What you will find among these pages is a carefully curated view of metal, which borrows whole pages from zines from the periods in which these bands were active, combines them with current-day interviews and perspectives, and assembles them into a kind of metal investigative reporting that shows us a well-rounded picture of each band or topic.

Compilation of Death carefully gives credit to each of the source zines and includes information on how to contact them, so in addition to being a feast of metal zine information, this is a promotion for the entire idea of zines, which are experiencing a renaissance as people tire of the information overload — which guarantees a predominance of low-value content — and endless useless people who clog today’s internet. Democratizing content merely means that every bad idea gets repeated thousands of times and good ideas get driven to the periphery, so that established commercial interests with the bucks to advertise on the big sites win out. Zines on the other hand are by their nature curated, meaning that someone plays the role of librarian/editor and picks bands deliberately, asks questions with intent, and reveals something unique to that subject with the resulting reporting. This is different than the assembly line process of web sites and big metal magazines, who process whatever the labels send them in roughly the same way with surface changes so that the “quirky” outlook hides the utter sameness and entropy of it all. What made zines powerful was that they had purpose, which allowed them to reveal a truth non-objectively and for reasons of itself, instead of secondary reasons like popularity and profit. Compilation of Death doubles down on this concept by not only choosing direction and topic, but picking from the vast number of zines out there the best of what is written on that topic.

These two volumes offer reading matter that can be pored over many times because they are bursting with details that become increasingly relevant the more one knows about a topic. In addition, metal historians will find many unknown but important details here confirming the motivations of bands and their art, in addition to a broader perspective on the people behind the music which is never revealed by the more uptight, formal and procedural interviews conducted by big magazines. For those who want a heavy dose of information about the underground in a form that rewards the diligent reader with a deep understanding, Compilation of Death is a treat that can be revisited time and again to bring out the nuance of its topic.

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Chalice of Blood – Helig, Helig, Helig

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This album presents a perfect case study in wallpaper black metal and a discussion of its apologetics. The title, formed from three repetitions of the Swedish word for “holy,” incurs two different wallpaper metal infractions: pointless repetition of riffs and pointless contrasting ideas.

Pointless repetition of an entire rhythm or riff, as opposed to reusing a theme in a different context, occurs when a composer has one of several possible aims. Traditionally this has been to let the listener get familiar with an idea, to let it sink in, as some would say. The most popular aim of repetition in the more ambient-oriented black metal field is to create atmosphere. The aim of the latter is to lead the listener beyond familiarity with the riff and into a kind of stupor. The listener is taken into this state with the purpose of preparing him for something else: a deeper dream level, as it were, which would follow. But apologetics of wallpaper music claim that all ambient-oriented repetition, even the one they themselves may admit to being meaningless, achieves its goal if it brings the listener to the aforementioned state of stupor without necessary deepening of mood.

Pointless contrasting ideas serve to redirect of a musical path or modify the nature of the stupor in which the listener is in, such as from an anger-fueled one to another infused by sadness or even happiness. The use of a contrasting idea makes sense if it interacts with its context and primarily with its adjacent riff sections, much as in writing each sentence in a paragraph must relate to the topic and the sentences before and after it. When contrast lacks that purpose in context, it becomes a technique for distracting from the stupor so that the listener does not realize that the trick behind the stupor is repetition alone and it will lead nowhere, which converts a dream-state into a state of boredom in instants.

Wallpaper Music

Wallpaper is defined as: “paper that is pasted in vertical strips over the walls of a room to provide a decorative surface.” It provides a decorative surface only without reference to what surrounds it. Its context does not matter so long as it covers a blank surface and provides something to look at. It is not meant to have any meaning. The frescoes, carvings or statues of classical art, on the other hand, were meant to be both pleasing to the eye and to convey a certain meaning, inviting the visitor into a different dimension (in the mystic-spiritual metaphorical sense).

Now the following question assails us, would someone completely unfamiliar with Western art become induced into the mental state that the authors of such art intended? Not necessarily. The degree to which that person’s reaction to art approaches that which was intended depends directly on the similarity of the background in culture and experience of the subject to that whence the artwork sprung from. This, like context, comprises the memories that give a new musical figure meaning.

In fact, herein lies our key to reverse engineering intention (of the author) and/or purpose (which may be independent of the author’s conscious intent) in music. This key is context. Let us be clear here that this does not refer to Epistemic Contextualism, which does not lead to a discussion on inherent meaning arising from some original intention but to that of attributed meaning as interpreted in any situation, even alien contexts to that which gave rise to the original product. The intended meaning of context in this article is precisely the conventional one described in the previously linked article as:

…certain features of the putative subject of knowledge (his/her evidence, history, other beliefs, etc.) or his/her objective situation (what is true/false, which alternatives to what is believed are likely to obtain, etc.)…

This allows us to appreciate the sense and coherence of a work independently of if we agree with its tenets. On a separate but related note, it is also from this vantage point that its connection to a more transcendent nature can be gauged, since the particular context, that which is temporal, is known.

Analyses, use, limitations and power

Perceiving context in a particular way and analyzing a problem in the real world is the subject of studies that produce methods to approach them. Everything that is perceived is subjective in the sense that depending on our experience and background we may highlight and give importance to different factors. After that, methods are devised to point out objective qualities that are pertinent to the aspects we want to analyze. This is true of mathematical analysis, and even of scientific analyses in chemistry and physics.

Of course, there is a catch here. The complexity, in terms of scope, of what is being analyzed matters in no small measure to the objectivity of the results. In the case of the sciences, the scope is reduced to what is known while assumptions are made about what is not known and then, given the reduced and strictly defined boundaries of what is being analyzed (which is usually not the whole system but rather a model of the system), completely objective results are obtained in the context of the reduced-system model. As a more knowledgeable person in the field would put it:

The larger the scope of the analysis of a system becomes, the more assumptions regarding the conditions that enable the system to behave in a certain way become present. Sometimes these assumptions are made deliberately, but sometimes they are present unknowingly. This is due to the complexity associated with an increasing scope of analysis, which makes it unfeasible to obtain a straightforward solution. Furthermore, complexity is associated with the relationship among the different factors (variables) and the system/phenomena being observed. — L. Garrido

The error factor grows alongside this scope and it may even become unmeasurable if we do not know how to precisely quantify a particular element like purpose or intention. Which is precisely why they are not included in the scope of any scientific analysis. It must also be clarified that the error factor of a problem does not represent its concrete error, but the maximum magnitude of all possible errors. Meaning our analysis could indeed be perfect, although this is unlikely.

Analysis in Music

In music, a very wide scope must be admitted into its analysis. This is necessarily so since we acknowledge that music is much more than the notes themselves, than the organization of these notes alone, than the context in which they are perceived, or the intentions of the artist. Musical quality encompasses all of them at the same time and, in a Renascentist-Magical holistic view, ultimately engenders a separate entity altogether which is none of these elements and is rather born from all of them. Any music analysis consists on the breaking of music down to its components with the aim of understanding how they function as parts of a greater whole.

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One of the most intriguing techniques for the analysis of “conventional” tonal Western music is called Schenkerian analysis. This was a system named after the theorist who devised it, Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935). It consists of demonstrating how music can be divided into a hierarchy of notes which range from background indispensable notes to more those of a more “auxiliary” nature, although the terms “neighboring” and “passing” are more suitable since they do not carry such a strong connotation of these notes being less part of the music. Before him came Arnold Bernhard Marx (1795-1866) whose revolutionary way of analysing music included judging the purpose, character and direction in music independently of the composer’s conscious awareness through the subdivision of sections until one finds indivisible components. These can belong to one of two kinds: the self-sufficient and assertive Satz or the motion-oriented, forward-moving Gang. Schenker’s method is, in a way, a formalization of the more intuitive process of Marx, who used a more holistic approach (and a wider scope, more assumptions), into a more mechanical approach — though still subjective to a certain degree.

Despite wild claims by detractors of this way of analyzing music which want to reduce Schenkerian analysis to subjective make-believe so as to dismiss any objective value in it, an argument is to be made in favor of its objective and logic and characteristics. The user of this analysis at his best can be compared to a detective following clues. The best detectives are not clueless idiots blindly following a manual. Detectives first take note of context, use psychology and decipher motives and even subconscious processes that the criminal himself might not be aware of. There is a lot of guessing involved, but educated guessing, which while being subjective interpretation cannot just be dismissed as simple opinion (in the passive-derogative and dismissive sense) since it follows a method based on objective points. It is important, of course, to point out that the detective also relies heavily on experience.

It is here that we turn again to the idea of context. The ideas of direction, stability and instability, and character inherent to these style of analyses is born out of concrete knowledge of the development of music during the Common Practice Period (roughly 1600s up to 1900). These are “concrete” in the sense that they were not just an archaeological approach to understanding the past, in which the theorist is separated from the data in question and is always forced to look at it from the outside. Rather, the theorists who developed these analyses were part of the musical “subculture” (and the culture at large which encases it and is an audience to it) which engendered the music they studied. So their subjective views and experience are, in my opinion, validated as relevant by that same fact that places them as insiders.

The reader might rightly question this last claim denouncing that this in itself cannot possibly give the theorists and historical critics license to judge the music at the subjective levels previously mentioned. I will address this by calling attention to the music theory “standard”, or rather a “musical language”, that came into being in the first half of the 17th century thus producing what we know now as the Common Practice Period. This language is based on harmony that is built by contrapuntal norms, avoids certain musical effects and favors a narrative style. From its very beginning up until the 19th century, a certain significance, as meaning in a spoken language, was attributed to musical phrases, melody direction and movement, harmonic tension or instability, together with rhythm. What is relevant about this is not that these beliefs existed, but that they were part of the music education and culture of that time. The rules and conventions (even the ones relating to extra-musical implications) by which these theorists and critics measured and judged music were the same that the composers themselves ascribed to. This does mean that some of the less talented critics would see superficial aspects as set in stone, but this was not true of A.B. Marx who saw music as an everflowing, ever-evolving transformation of styles whose steps beyond what he knew in his time were only as visible as vague shapes in the horizon.

Is the application of Western European analysis and philosophy to metal music really justified?

Now, if this analysis belongs to the Common Practice Period, would it be fair to apply it to metal music? After all, the processes that produced Metal music are different. It would not make sense to apply the same analysis to Iranian or Indian music which follow their own systems whose musical constructions have inextricable spiritual and religious significance in the culture that engendered it. Neither would we thus judge jazz, which is the result of African-American music borrowing European art music notions to produce a language and a more sensual purpose of its own. My opinion is that we can say jazz gets excused because the ultimate product is more African-American than European.

When taking a look at music and judging its “coherence” one can metaphorically refer to it as its logic. When taking a look at a logical argument, we first take look at the premises or assumptions and from there follow it through its process. If the argument fails to make sense based on its premises we can say it has failed. The same applies to music. We can judge musical construction according to the premises it sets for itself. The style it chooses, yes, but more importantly, the general music language (Iranian classical music has different harmonic notions and goals, for example, as does jazz) it chooses for itself.

Metal starts with Black Sabbath taking rock-based music (which itself subscribes to the use of Common Practice Period harmony, but used in a more mechanical way to produce simple verse-chorus music) and bringing back the more theme-based approach of horror movie soundtracks. Soundtracks which were themselves inspired on 19th-century Romantic music. From then on metal develops as this rock-and-dark-Romantic musical hybrid and at different points borrows elements from other music genres but always distinguishing itself as Metal by always keeping an entrenched Romantic music orientation. One can then distinguish deserters who fled to the rock camp by abandoning of this orientation (Metallica is a clear example). The more the genre evolved the more marked the difference between rock defectors and those who remained metal became. This is because the latter would try to distinguish themselves more from the rock element which was so prominent in the former. This is the process that originally gave rise to the terms sell-out and underground. It must be clarified that what is meant here is not that the rock element in any music is bound to produce poor music.

The only constant at the heart of metal then, is the Romantic sense of theme-based music with a serious and heavy character. From this point it follows that the “premises” that metal has chosen for itself stem directly from the Common Practice Period in general. This does not mean that we should try to read metal music as we would read a Beethoven symphony — at least not on the surface. The characteristics that metal has borrowed from classical music affected the genre at multiple levels and thus surfaces in different bands in different ways and to different degrees. We cannot judge all metal in the same way either because just as different musical genres choose different languages (different premises for their arguments), so it is that different bands choose dialects of their own which require us to understand them and part from there on. But they must be seen as precisely that: dialects of the broader language of metal. Thus they still fall under the umbrella of our discussion (Ildjarn would be a particularly interesting case to discuss as its surface and the first impression it gives one leaves no room for obvious comparison to Romantic traits).

One understands the intense repetition of some black metal as stemming from the same purpose it has in electronic music. Black metal remains metal because it still ascribes to the dark-Romantic principles metal is defined by. Part of this is tonality and how harmony is used to create movement, which along with rhythm creates pulse and is tied by theme and the large-scale interplay of sections. Part of it is the more complex interpretation of how the character of each section and song speaks out and relates to the other sections or songs.

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This character was an important trait during the Common Practice Period and it plays an important role in metal. When it goes unchecked, even if the outer technical aspects of music were all carefully crafted, the inner sense is perceived to be empty or messy. This thinking was very evident in the thoughts of both great composers and historical critics from the Romantic period such as Philipp Spitta (1841-1894) whose biography of Johann Sebastian Bach reveals extensive discussion, analysis and critique that encompasses everything from historical context and evolution of genres along with their influence over the German master, to detailed score analysis and explicit separation of what he refers to as “inside” and “outside” musical traits. The latter being musical expression itself, the structures, and the former being the character/aura/personality of not only the music pieces themselves but also of individual sections and their relation to the whole.

Modern metal unknowingly fails catastrophically by trying to create interest out of pure contrast. Still, some of the best modern bands keep a constant style and even use theme to tie a song together, but little or no evident thought is put into the aura of each section of a song and its balance with the rest of the song (see Fallujah).

The modern variety of metal bands which identify as “technical” (as opposed to Atheist, Immolation or Gorguts which were dubbed so after the fact) try to create interest by approaching this as if it were a textbook exercise, playing with the theme, placing it in different contexts, creating smart texture changes and witty variations. Since all that was cared about was the technical correctness of the piece, the evocation power of the music is negligible as it is not born out of Idea, but out of technical exploration (see Ara). The apologist comes in at this point and says that “emotion” is also in the process and that all parts are judged by passing them through this emotional filter. This is never denied here. But this statement would actually reinforce the notion that this music follows a backwards process: outside to inside, rather than inside to outside. The writer of purely technical music uses hard logic to drive his music creation and then judges it from an emotional vantage point. This works for science, but it spells out death for art.

Whereas in all productive men instinct is the truly creative and affirming power, and consciousness acts as a critical and cautioning reaction, in Socrates the instinct becomes the critic, consciousness becomes the creator — truly a monstrous defect. — Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Chapter 13

This general idea has been understood in the European classical music traditions for centuries and awareness of it has given the world some of the most refined and whole works of art music. It is only in our post-modern era that we erroneously want to strip everything away from its original meaning and validate poor art by arguing that all that matters is the writer’s own intentions, which nobody can guess or question.

Defenses for Wallpaper Music

The most stalwart wallpaper music apologist is bound at this point to support the previous statement by stating the fact that our modern culture (and even more specifically, that our metal subculture) is very different from that which engendered classical Romantic music. While I consider this argument to be debatable, I will concentrate on the biggest issue that comes out as a result of this reasoning as a whole. This is the idea that because modern artists are free to choose how to express themselves they can pick from any musical-philosophical camp and just smash it together, twist it around in whatever way they see fit or their limited organizational skills and inspiration allows them to, with little or no justification other than their “need” or “right” to express individuality.

Allowing that artists are, indeed, free to choose their means of expression, their music can be rubbish in the context of the language they choose if they attempt to use it in ways it was not meant to be used. Can a previous “musical alphabet” give rise to a new “musical language”? Yes, and this is precisely what jazz and metal (separately and in very different directions, the former separating itself far more from a philosophical perspective while the latter remained akin in spirit) have done with Common Practice Period theoretical knowledge or general concepts.

A “smart” wallpaper apologist remark here is that we at DMU “fetishize” the European classical music outlook. But we do not ask bands to ascribe to the metal language which has explicit ties to that European tradition. If a band does not want to be judged from this perspective, then choose a different set of premises, a different language to speak. I would be very interested in witnessing attempts at using metal instrumentation to play music built on the principles of traditional Indian music. It would not be metal, but it would be a thing of its own with coherent expression.

Does it mean that everyone making music has to subscribe to already-existing musical languages and that there is nothing new to be had so that we can only indulge in superficial variations? This is what post-modern short-sightedness would have us believe and in doing so somehow justify the trivial superficiality of the so-called experimental bands. But then you can turn to great composers such as Arnold Schoenberg(1874-1951) and Olivier Messiaen(1908 – 1992) who effectively created brand new musical systems for them to express the music they wanted. They were both world-renowned advanced composition professors, which says a lot about how difficult it is to single-handedly accomplish such a task. Furthermore, as Uri O’Reilly’s article Developmental variation and underground metal implies, defined constraints and limits that guide genres and the languages they speak do not themselves imply a prison for the mind or shackles for creativity, but rather a tool much like a sniper rifle’s scope to reach precise and far-off targets. Bands that build incoherent music out of disparate musical languages or fail to use their chosen language effectively and expect the listener to submit to the purely emotional shock of the music, or worse, listen to exuses and rationalizations to “explain” the art, have missed the point: context is meant to be referred to, much as we expect language to have consistent approximate meaning. To ignore that meaning is communicate with no one, whether in music or the written word.

Defenders of wallpaper music will react in a populist manner and say that all that matters is that one likes the music, and ask rhetorically and spuriously who is to judge music otherwise. To assume that art should have meaning is to judge one subjective experience over another, they say. Some might say that in that case, anything deemed to be wallpaper from a point of view might be seen as meaningful from another. While this may be theoretically true, in application it is the same as claiming that spewing random syllables cannot be labeled as gibberish since they may, in fact, mean something in some hypothetical human language. The next wallpaper apologist complaint here would consist of pointing out that while language has hard and precise meanings (which is actually, not entirely true), music appeals to general emotions and moods and so, if the work accused of being wallpaper achieves some sort of reaction in the listener that produces coherent thought, then it has “meaning”. But this, again, is just the same as the random syllables reminding anyone of something in his own language and thereby acquiring a meaning provided from the outside.

Return to Chalice of Blood Heilig, Heilig, Heilig

Just like Romantic-era critics with knowledgeable background and cultural familiarity with their genres allowed them to make criticisms not only of technical construction (outer traits) but also of character and sense (inner traits) of the classical music of their time, so is the educated metal critic who understands the objective nature and origins of metal endowed with the same capacity to dissect metal music.
A track by track approach to Chalic of Blood Heilig, Heilig, Heilig will illustrate the concept of wallpaper music and reveal its failing as a method of artistic communication.

We start off with “Hoor-Paar-Kraat”, which, if seen as a song or independent piece fails immediately as it consists of a chord progression in four bars in standard time signature played through 1:39 minutes with no variation besides different pick-up and ending percussion patterns, and a background guitar strumming the same chord progression in different ways (more sparsely here, more vehemently there). One is then tempted to see it as just an introduction, a sort of prelude to what is to come.

It is then that we face “Nightside Serpent” whose structure consists of an introductory or main riff followed by two distinct verse riffs. The riffs talk to each other convincingly in their contrast and similarity. They clash against each other in a way that makes one think of the classic of classics, “Transilvanian Hunger”. But while Darkthrone used as little as two riffs per song in that album to create whole sections with functions ranging from intro, to verse to a sort of ramp into meditative climax, only to bring us back to its initial aura, Chalice of Blood’s song is simply that: a main riff, a verse, a second verse. This is simply played two times and brought to an abrupt and meaningless end at the 3:19 minute mark. It is here that we start to suspect that the presumed introductory track may just be a taste of the incompleteness and vacuity of this music.

The third track goes by the title of “Shemot.” It can easily be divided in four parts. The pick-up measures are soft and consist of a strummed chord bent by a whammy bar which applies vibrato at the same time. Then the first of these parts is a Darkthrone-intense section with use of the raw energy of hard-picked tremolo and fast Immortal blast beats. This section dissipates into the second. The texture changes drastically into sparsely strummed chords and mid-paced double-bass drums to the beat of a snare in duple time. We then climb back to the intense texture shown in the second section as a way of climaxing that brings back the riding first riff to function as outro as well. This all happens in 3:18 minutes. The focus here is how much “atmospheric black metal” riffs can they use contrastingly to create shock. Other than that, there is little eloquence to this.

“The Communicants” is probably the most deplorable song in this album with the most obvious wallpaper thinking displayed. The whole song is built by repeating the same slow-moving chord progression of 8 measures from beginning to end. The only thing that signals different points in the piece are the drum patterns and the presence or absence of the vocals. This repeating chord progression is not used as one would see one of the German master composers create vast amounts of content through clever variations and chaconnes, but it literally consists of repeating the exact same music ad nauseam. Or ad 7:11 minutes, to be precise.

Finally, we reach the last inconsequential, empty track named “Transcend the Endless.” In here we are presented with 3:30 minutes worth of the same minimalist black metal approach sans substance.

Albums such as these remind us how little understood monuments such as Transilvanian Hunger really are. The greatness of the classic lies in the careful use of the least number of riffs in arrangements that together with voice and drums created complex structures with cleverly placed articulation points. The minimalism of Darkthrone’s masterpiece is only in how little tools and riffs they used. It is not a minimalism of complexity of thought or construction.

A blatantly simple music which expects emotional shock and some consistency in style to do all its work, Chalice of Blood Helig Helig Helig gives us almost twenty minutes of essentially nothing. Nothing except transient noise.

Interview: Berial of Betrayer

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Back in the hazy 1990s, many of us encountered a band from Poland who in the wake of Vader had been signed to Nuclear Blast and distributed in the United States. This band was Betrayer and the album Calamity, a work of high-speed metal in the Slayer-influenced style of Vader but also going in its own direction including a prescient use of melody, anticipating where death metal would go in the next decade. After two decades, Betrayer has returned with a split 7″ that is turning some heads for its aggressive integration of old school speed metal and death metal styles. We were fortunate to be able to sit down with mastermind Berial over a cup of hot blood and discuss Betrayer and the exciting possibility of new material…

When was Betrayer formed? How many demos did you put out? How did you get signed to Nuclear Blast?

Betrayer was formed in 1989 as a thrash metal quartet and as such, in 1990, recorded its first demo “Forbidden Personality.”

The same year there was a change in the line-up. I joined the band as a new bass guitar player shortly after splitting with my previous band Slaughter. I also took over the space behind a microphone. Since then Betrayer started drifting towards stronger and more extreme sounds. That was a turning-point and the beginning of a new era for the band.

Consequently in 1991 Betrayer released their second demo “Necronomical Exmortis”. It happened to be the real killer those days. One of the biggest metal magazines of that time in Poland, Thrash’em All,ranked it second in the category “Album of the Year.” Betrayer hit #4 in “Band of the Year” category. To this day the release is regarded as one of the milestones for Polish death metal music. This is how, I guess, we got signed to Nuclear Blast… Hard work, great gigs, loads of enthusiasm and energy with remarkable music art on top…

Where was “Calamity” recorded, and were these new songs or songs from the demos? What were your musical influences at the time?

Our debut full album Calamity was recorded at Modern Sound Studio in Gdynia, Poland. It was the best option at that time. Really modern and open for new trends in music so most of the reputable bands in Poland cooperated with them. “Necronomical Exmortis” was made in CCS Studio in Warsaw, which was the choice of many Polish stars, not only those in the metal stream. That was the first experience of working with a professional studio and the first official release for Betrayer. “Forbidden Personality” was different, more of amateur and self-made production.

Influences? Everyone had their own and not all were strictly death metal ones. All of them put together, however, made us what we happened to be…

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Was it difficult to record and release at that time, just a few years after the political changes in Poland?

I don’t know if that was more difficult than today. I do not even know if political changes had anything to do with those difficulties. Those were different times, times of rebellion and discovering new options and possibilities. Metal underground, and actually all music underground in general, was strong and buoyant in Poland at that time. With Calamity which turned to be a milestone in Polish death metal history, were lucky to be on the top of the ladder, arm in arm with another polish legend, Vader, when the changes turned to be in favor of the musical revolution which opened new horizons and roads of going worldwide.

Finally we were able to spread the power of Polish extreme music all over the world. This also gave us the opportunity to share stages with bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Death and too many others to count… Fantastic times!!!

Has Betrayer been on hold since that time, and are there are any other recordings people outside of Poland have missed out on?

We split up in 1994 shortly after releasing our debut album. It was nothing but a huge disappointment for us and the crowd of metalheads devoted to Betrayer. Only years later we learned that Betrayer had been well noticed in so many corners of the world. Instead of going on tour promoting such a great album as Calamity really was and pushing forward, we fucked it up. What a waste… Personal shit, you know… but it’s too late to moan now, isn’t it? I was so pissed off and consequently totally dispirited that I decided to stay away from the stage. In 2012, after nearly eighteen years of non-existence, demons of my inner self decided to remind me who I am and what I live for. There was no other option… Betrayer had to come back to life… and no, you didn’t miss any new recordings, except the split you know of.

You recently released a split with Neolith. What was it like recording this? Why release now?

From the very beginning we didn’t want to built our resurrection on the old stuff so instead of brushing up the songs from the past we decided to concentrate on making completely new material and release a new album. We didn’t want to, however, wait too long to announce to the world that we are back on the road. That’s why we decided to release one of the new tracks on the split. Same was with live appeariances. Initially we planned to do so after releasing the new album but for aforementioned reasons as well as unstoppable craving for going onstage we had to change the assumptions. In summer 2013, Betrayer appeared at Ragnarock Open Air Festival in Germany followed by a series of gigs around Poland. Obviously next to the new songs we performed some of the old ones too. The feedback was so great that in 2014 we were invited to play as a main support for a death metal legend Obituary in the only concert in Poland. Really good feeling and immense motivation, you know.

The Betrayer track on the Neolith split, “Beware,” shows more of an aggressive style and speed metal influence, with less death metal of the fast strumming variety. What motivated this change? Does this show a new direction in your music?

I wouldn’t say that there is a distinct change in Betrayer’s music in general. “Beware” is a song I would put somewhere between Calamity and the earlier “Necronomical Exmortis” demo, and I agree it’s kinda melodic at moments. The split features “Beware” just because this was the only song that we had ready to go at time the opportunity to release came. You might notice that it was not even finally mastered. Be forewarned that this song does not give justice to the whole new stuff …so do not be misled! Betrayer definitely stayed faithful to the death metal genre! You will see it yourself soon!

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The question everyone is dying to know… (a) Will there be another Betrayer album? (b) are there any negotiations to re-release Calamity so a new generation can discover it?

Sure it will! I’m proud to announce that our new album Infernum In Terra will be released on March 18th, 2015! The music was mastered in Hertz Studio which cooperated with such bands as Vader, Behemoth, Decapitated or Hate in the past… and I tell you, this is a real good piece of death metal, no doubt about it! We are exteremely satisfied and hope you will be too… and yes, Calamity will also be re-released, just a little bit later! Sounds good, doesn’t it? It looks like it’s gonna be a good year for Betrayer.

How do you describe the music of Betrayer? When you write music, what ideas do you aim for?

Well, it’s the same old Betrayer I reckon. Maybe a bit heavier but still drifting on the old school death metal wave. This is deeply rooted in our mentality and our hearts and truly defines the way we live, think, feel and create at the moment.

Ideas? Hmm, pretty same as before. Music, you know, is the way to express yourself with some kind of ecstasy which you try to give away and infect others with it. When it comes to lyrics and the message, it’s kind of my personal thoughts and feelings about the systems that our existence is implicated in. Especially the religious one, full of contradictions and hypocrisy… you might say “nothing new” but in that context Polish society is deeply premised on that. All this blind glorification of the institution of the Catholic Church as well as other creeds makes me sick and contemptuous. This is what I mainly speak out against.

It seems that everyone knows Poland these days with Vader, Graveland and Behemoth having become popular. What else are we missing out on? You can include both musical and non-musical items!

Oh,yes… Vader… indisputable pillar of the Polish death metal scene! I happened to be the part of the crew for a short period of time back in the 90s. Behemoth… yes, no doubt about it… true gods on the firmament of black metal music world! I’m not too familiar with Graveland, but talking about the extreme music stuff you missed out at least astonishing Decapitated to start with or Hate…

How should people learn more about Betrayer and your own personal (Berial) musical projects? Where do they go to hear the music and keep track of news from the band?

Definitely by reaching our albums and staying tuned to all oncoming news on our web page or facebook profile. There are no other projects in my life at the moment. Betrayer is the only and one that gives me strength and makes me survive in this world of misery.

I’m pleased to hear that in the past we were noticed and are still remembered in the United States with the real hope that we will keep it this way and be honoured to visit your vast lands in future!

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Dhwesha – Sthoopa

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Dhwesha create death metal with a large influence from classic heavy metal, sounding like a cross between the first Torchure album and a melodic Swedish band like first-album Sentenced or Desultory. Their bread and butter is the crossover between recursive downpicked rhythms like a speed metal band would use underneath melodic rhythm leads, and death metal riffs which re-direct these songs to more vicious ends.

Aesthetically a good comparison might be Monstrosity: drums, bass and guitar work together to create a powerful unison which hammers out a clear theme which corresponds to song title and vocal concept. But like early Therion, Dhwesha incorporates older heavy metal patterns and pulsing rhythms as opposed to the darker and more abstract death metal themes, which creates an organic heart of energy to this band which allows them to incorporate speed metal technique without it taking over songwriting. Songs generally cycle between verse- and chorus-like sections with a couple riffs each and a transitional section or two per song, focusing in the death metal way on the presentation of each. Frequently a lead-picked tremolo will outline a melody over a grinding but bouncy rhythm riff which creates a sense of a landscape shift.

Vocals take on the best attributes of Blasphemy, which is an incoherent shout so hoarse it sounds like the wind or a wild bison charging on an inattentive traveler, giving the music a feral air. All musicians show great proficiency but avoid showing off, which makes Sthoopa move like a single entity. Unlike many of the recent death metal attempts, Dhwesha show no desire to incorporate modern methods but homebrew their own instead, but also unlike death metal, this band seems content to exist in the late 1980s ambiguity between death metal and heavy metal. The result has the sentiment of Desultory with the earth-moving power of a more explosive act, but by balancing the two creates more of an atmosphere than one might expect from a band on their first album.

Death metal is big money these days

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Blabbermouth reports that Cannibal Corpse have sold more than two million albums, which makes death metal one of the more successful niche genres out there, since album sales of that nature plus tours equal a tidy sum of money. With founding bands like Morbid Angel and Slayer still gracing the charts, the spectrum of death metal related music sells more of its older albums today than it did back in the 1980s.

This puts an end to the assumption that bands cannot sell out by choosing underground metal. Once that might have been true, but now a band can launch into a genre with millions of fans, sell some albums and then detour into an indie rock project which then carries the cachet of edgy cool from having been involved with that rebel badboy metal music. There’s a lot of money in this genre for those willing to dig, and this means more entryists pounding at the door with careful camouflage for their insipid rock music.

“Heavy Metal Church” combines two things and destroys both

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In the process of turning everything into a product, Ohio’s Heavy Metal Church combines Christian worship with heavy metal, and in the process reduces both to caricatures of themselves.

To put it in a nutshell, we are a non-denomination, Bible-based Church in a comfortable atmosphere with great music! Our congregation consists of people from all walks of life and age groups. We don’t care what you wear because we just want you there! Our Church has no racial, ethnic or gender barriers and we could care less about your past or present life. We only care about your FUTURE life in Christ! Most people want God in their lives, but think they must clean up first before coming to Christ… You don’t clean up before you jump in the shower, do you? God wants you EXACTLY the way you are at this very moment. As long as you actively seek God, He will actively seek you, and the Holy Spirit will gently clean you up along the way.

This shows a shift from traditional church logic, which is that religion represents a spiritual force (“God”) which is unchanging and immutable, and that humanity has never changed since its inception, so there is a stability in the constancy of belief and its conventions. Back then, the goal was to get the individual to move closer to God. Now, as if selling cheeseburgers, the goal is to sell the church to the individual by making the church more like the everyday life of that individual.

Hence… Heavy Metal Church.

Christian purists and heavy metal purists alike will feel repelled by this abomination that combines a music dedicated to being separate from social conventions and a religion that at its heart feels it should not bend to social conventions. On one, the social convention imposed is a genre of mostly-entertainment, and on the other, the social convention imposed is church and being nice to people even if they’re idiots.

As Vice magazine reports, the heavy metal church is not that far removed from other “contemporary” worship services which feature rock music and the word of Jeeezus all in the same handy product package:

“We’re going to have healing, redemption, salvation, and deliverance take place here today,” says assistant Pastor Ron, from the front of the auditorium. Pastor Ron is a bearded guy who, if he were in a motorcycle movie, would probably be nicknamed “Tiny.”

“Woo!” goes the crowd.

Then the music starts. It’s a head-thrashing, blood-pumping tune, with decidedly Jesusy lyrics: “I believe / How about you / I believe / It’s true / I believe in him!” We bang our heads.

“Get your hands clapping! Come on!” says the guitarist wearing black who plays Judas Priest–style guitar with his combo.

“Woo!” goes the crowd, throwing their hands up.

This is excruciating. I am embarrassed for them.

Mainstream media discovers Mayan-themed metal, ignores black metal past

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Darling writers and poor researchers at L.A. Weekly have discovered Eduardo Ramirez, composer for post-black metal band Volahn, and his use of Mayan imagery:

A large shipment of a new heavy metal album to Germany, home to one of the genre’s most rabid fan bases, isn’t exactly breaking news. But when the subject matter isn’t the typical black metal tropes of Satanism and misanthropy, but instead pays tribute to Mayan civilizations and cultures of centuries past, it’s a testament to how well Ramirez is spreading his unique vision.

While his quest is surely a good one, he’s far from the first to do this.

Black metal included nationalism among its ideals, which meant singing in your native language about your native culture, whether that was Nordic or Mayan.

Several bands, most notably Xibalba with their classic Ah Dzam Poop Ek, have written about Mayan topics. Add to that list Xolotl from Mexico. In Austin, ex-Masochism guitarist Juan Torres created Ayasoltec, an Aztec-themed metal band, almost a decade ago.

It’s great to see bands endorsing their native culture, language, religion and folkways. However, it’s not something new; it’s a part of black metal, which the mainstream media like L.A. Weekly has spent years denying exists.

Nocturnus – The Science of Horror

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Early death metal barely made it out of the shadow of speed metal before. We call it speed metal, not thrash, because it was a direct extension of NWOBHM using some punk technique, not an outright punk hybrid like thrash. Speed metal represents one of the most varied sub-genres in metal, running the gamut from percussive (Exodus) through traditional (Metallica) and all the way to adventurous stuff like Voivod, Anacrusis, Coroner and Sacrifice. It is in that latter category that The Science of Horror begins.

This demo re-issue will be — for now — limited to 100 copies pressed to vinyl that incorporate two demos, The Science of Horror (1988) and Nocturnus (1987). These show both a band looking for a balance between the early death/speed hybrids and its future as a technical death metal band, and the personal vision that Mike Browning has been refining since this time through the present day with his current band, After Death. This vision unites the progressive with morbid rock and extremity, aiming for a theatrical presentation as much as musical obscurity, and never afraid — unlike too many prog bands — to use a primitive riff where it is effective. Like many progressive-inspired bands, there is a high degree of internal variation in these demos, Nocturnus and After Death, used like an ancient storyteller might use an extensive vocabulary. The theatrical nature of this approach means that the songs on these demos, which are mostly duplicative, take an atmospheric approach to a genre in transition that was otherwise more inclined toward all-ahead aggression. But like Anacrusis, Voivod and Coroner, Nocturnus adapted its songs to use both death metal technique and speed metal but creating a sense of rhythm of its own that emphasized frequent transitions and complex patterns without drifting into other known genres.

Several of the song segments used here show similarity to what appeared on Morbid Angel’s early work, notably its 1986 Abominations of Desolation, and feature the same flexible rhythm that nonetheless approximates the chorus rhythm without doing so in trope, leaving plenty of space for instruments to work independently. Like speed metal, much of this material aims for discrete chords in repetitive patterns, but especially on the second demo, use of tremolo to create smooth transitions gives this material a new aura of mystery and suspension of belief. As a document of early death metal, The Science of Horror both emphasizes the creative possibilities of metal at the time and reminds us how weirdness was once more front and center and how it did the genre well. On another level, this music provides pleasurable listening at the nexus not only of two genres but also several compositional styles, and the change from the first to later demo shows the incorporation of keys in the way that would later define Nocturnus and be expanded to become a fundamental part of the technique as a way of creating spacious, atmospheric death metal. With any luck, this pressing of the demos will see CD release later this year, as despite being the same tracks twice this recording serves well for casual listening as well as historical examination of death metal.

Tracklist
The Science of Horror Demo 2 (1988)
1. Before Christ – After Death
2. Standing in Blood
3. Neolithic
4. Undead Journey
Nocturnus Demo 1 (1987)
5. Nocturnus
6. B.C. – A.D.
7. The Entity
8. Unholy Fury

Personnel
Tracks 1-4:
Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals
Mike Davis: Guitars
Louis Panzer: Keyboards
Jeff Estes: Bass
Gino Marino: Guitars
Tracks 5-8:
Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals
Richard Bateman: Bass
Vincent Crowley: Guitars
Gino Marino: Guitars