Category Archives: News

Metal is a rebellion against Idiocracy

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For years our media saw heavy metal as a kind of deviation from normal pop, which was presumed to be innocent and healthy. Metal, on the other hand, embraced the dark and obscure, the labyrinthine and the terrifying, and — unlike most pop — failed to condemn war, conflict, murder and occultism as “evil.”

As time goes on, it becomes clear that the terms “good” and “evil” are frequently inverted, with each taking the meaning of the other. For example, totalitarian dictators have a tendency to portray normal life as evil in order to make their systems of control seem “good”; conversely, pop music and other products like to pretend they are good and metal “evil” in order to infiltrate your headphones.

Increasingly, however, research shows that pop music is instead the siren call of a civilization collapsing into idiocracy, or rule by morons for idiots. As portrayed in the movie Idiocracy, this state occurs when the thoughtless and incompetent outbreed the intelligent and insightful, resulting in the ultimate consumer society of know-nothing, apathetic people.

That condition could also describe pop music in its current form. Recent research points out that pop music is indeed dumbing us down. In a recent article entitled “Scientists Prove That Pop Music Is Literally Ruining Our Brains,” Jordan Taylor Sloan argues that:

Research proves what our parents have been saying all along: Modern pop music really is worse than older generations of pop music. Not only that, it has negative effects on your brain, too — if you’re chiefly a pop music fan, you’re likely to be less creative than any other kind of music lover.

In 2008, Adrian North of Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University published the largest study yet of musical taste, involving 36,000 people, 60 countries and three years of work. He asked each participant to rank their favorite genres of music. He discovered that the most common characteristic among all genre listeners was creativity. However, one group of listeners showed a genuine and significant lack of creativity: pop music lovers.

This suggests what metalheads have said for years is in fact true: metal embraces not just forbidden topics, but acts out the forbidden idea that some music is indeed brain-dead and should be avoided. Wimps and poseurs leave the hall!

Further, heavy metal — by the complexity of its composition, the intricacy of its thought and lyrics, and the technicality of its instrumentalism — acts as a counter-force to this great dumbing down. Unlike music which tries to be popular by challenging no one and making sugar-laden over-processed musical junk food for the inattentive, heavy metal engages its audience and speaks forth social taboos in order to expand the mind and challenge the intellectually sedentary.

It is unlikely that the mainstream media will take note of this. It only takes note of metal when it is “socially conscious,” or flattering our current pretenses of being an upward society moving toward Utopia, instead of a dying civilization creating dystopia through oblivion toward reality as a result of popular narcissism. But parents might take note as they see their children become glazed-eye zombies in the hands of media designed to support idiocracy, not challenge it.

My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond by Max Cavalera with Joel McIver

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With all of the unanswered questions behind Sepultura lurking in the minds of metal fans, it makes sense that Max Cavalera would launch a guided autobiography like My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond. Together with metal writer Joel McIver, Cavalera pens a work that fits within the genre of rock ‘n’ roll confessional-biographies but underneath the surface, a careful hand edited this narrative into a smoothly-flowing storyline that hits the points of interest to Sepultura fans.

Since the fragmentation of Sepultura, fan rumors and lore have obscured the complex dynamic of interacting personalities that made up the Sepultura camp and led to the consequent splintering off of Soulfly and other related projects. McIver shows his prowess in debunking lore by tracing it back to its origins and exploring the context of the time, which tends to show the lore as anomalous, and then making suggestions as to what was more likely to have happened. Cavalera seems amenable to this process.

My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond reads like McIver accompanied Cavalera for months asking him questions about the past and then stitched together the chaotic responses into a single line of thought. The result is both genial and informative, since with multiple choices for any data point, McIver picked the one that was most thoughtful. As a result the text tends to frequently read as a pleasant narrative that suddenly gets serious in tone and detailed when an important point arises but does not, like most rock bios, leave fundamental questions unanswered by glossing over them with a trivial acknowledgment or anecdote.

The result knits together many complex threads in a narrative that has been both shrouded in mystery and inundated in propaganda from multiple warring points of view during the later years of Cavalera’s career. McIver makes the text flow so that the whole book resembles a campfire conversation. He brings out the texture in Cavalera’s voice by allowing as much as possible of his original statements to persist but seems to have re-ordered them and edited them to make them more efficient and thus intense than your average rock interview.

I started using only four strings on my guitar right after Bestial Devastation. My B-string broke at a practice, and we had a roadie, Silvio, who ended up singing for a band called Mutilator. He said, ‘We have a bit of money left, so we can buy a new string or booze,’ and I was like, ‘Fuck the strings, I never use that one anyway, so let’s get drunk.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you take the top E-string off as well and make it four?’ and I was like, ‘Why not?’

I got used to it, and it became my trademark. I never learned to play lead guitar, and I still can’t, to this day.I could learn if I worked really hard on it, and if I just did a simple, slow solo, but I always wanted to be rhythm only. I wanted to take riff-making to a new level. (61)

From this approach comes a wealth of information about the early days of Sepultura, but it is best read in its full form without an attempt at summary here which would miss the richness of detail and character it reveals. Over half of the book focuses on the post-Sepultura years, which for those of us whose interest in this band died with Arise seems like it would be extraneous, but surprisingly was not. I started reading this like any other story and found Max Cavalera a compelling subject as presented by McIver, and was curious to see how the story fully developed. As the story of a musician trying to find his path, it was ultimately satisfying to see Cavalera achieve the commercial success he has desired for years.

While many metalheads shudder at the mention of Soulfly or Cavalera’s extensive projects after that time, My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond correctly identifies the origin of this tendency in Chaos A.D. and also shows how this was the fulfillment of Cavalera’s original intent. For him, death metal was a transition toward what he liked, which was the simple roots rock and early punk in which a catchy riff and chorus made the song. Through careful storytelling, this fact emerges fully-documented by the backstory of Cavalera’s early life and musical inspirations, and changes what seems like a sinister sell-out to a quiet disagreement. Similarly, seeing the narrative leading up to the Cavalera brothers Igor and Max feuding in the post-Sepultura landscape explains many of the mysteries and lore that surround them to this day.

Although rock biography is not known for its depth and is generally assumed to be more of a public relations exercise than historical fact-based mission, My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond does its best to balance the two and let Max tell the stories as he sees them, while uncovering a factual framework that puts his words in context. Thanks to some inspired interviewing and editing, it is now easy to delve into the fascinating history of the Sepultura experience and how it shaped metal.

Death metal playlist for Ebola ravaging the world

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As the Ebola virus continues to ravage Africa and spreads into America and Europe, it may be time to get over our squeamishness and explore the wealth of death metal that can be played as we all get headaches, have flu-like symptoms, and finally pass out in pools of blood expelled from our various orifices.

With the help of our readers, we’ve assembled an all-star death metal, grindcore and black metal playlist for Ebola fanatics:

  1. Baphomet – “Infection of Death” (The Dead Shall Inherit)
  2. Carcass – “Vomited Anal Tract” (Reek of Putrefaction)
  3. Pestilence – “Chronic Infection” (Consuming Impulse)
  4. Autopsy – “Ridden With Disease” (Severed Survival)
  5. Blood – “Ebola” (Gas Flames Bones)
  6. Banished – “Diseased Chaos” (Deliver Me Unto Pain)
  7. Suffocation – “Mass Obliteration” (Effigy of the Forgotten)
  8. Morbid Angel – “Angel of Disease” (Abominations of Desolation)
  9. Beherit – “Suck My Blood” (Engram)
  10. Immolation – “Fall in Disease” (Dawn of Possession)
  11. Repulsion – “Pestilent Decay” (Horrified)
  12. Dead Infection – “Start Human Slaughter” (Surgical Disembowelment)
  13. Blasphemy – “Weltering In Blood” (Fallen Angel of Doom)
  14. Mortuary – “Sickish Disease” (Blackened Images)
  15. Obituary – “Infected” (Cause of Death)
  16. Von – “Satanic Blood” (Satanic Blood)

And to kick it off, a rip of Blood’s on-topic 1998 hit, “Ebola”:

First issue of Metal Music Studies made available free online

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The first issue of Metal Music Studies, which chronicles academic exploration of heavy metal in conjunction with the International Society for Metal Music Studies, awaits your download because the publisher had made it available free online (combi-PDF 7mb).

While many metalheads remain skeptical of academic study of society, the prospect of having orderly study applied to metal carries some benefits in understanding for both metalheads and society at large. So long as this study interprets metal and then develops theories about it, instead of cramming metal into existing theories, it should provide benefits.

In this respect, metal studies walks the same line as commercialism. When bands make music that is both good and popular, few complain; when bands make popular music, and cover it in a skin and aesthetic of metal without adopting the core of what it is to be metal, even the surliest wimps and poseurs begin to feel uncomfortable with the arrangement. Opeth, Cradle of Filth and Pantera, we’re looking at you.

The International Society for Metal Music Studies applies an even-handed and curiosity-driven approach to its metal study and has as a result produced interesting works in the past. As it moves on into the future, we expect more of interest from Metal Music Studies and its authors.

Zloslut to unleash U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama in spring 2015

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Serbian black metal band Zloslut will unleash its second album U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama in spring 2015 on Dark Chants Productions. To prepare audiences for the new work, Zloslut have released a sample track “Ukleta” (below).

We first reviewed Zloslut Zloslutni Horizont – Donosilac Prokletstva, Ocaja I Smrti, which combines black and death metal styles into a unique voice expressing an idea and atmosphere specific to this band, back in February. Since that time, the band has composed and recorded the new full album which will be released on CD and LP early next year.

Zloslut composer Utvara answered our questions for a brief profile as follows describing the new direction this band is taking and how it affects their distinctive sound.

How is the second album different from the first?

It is a completely new album, unlike the first album which was still quite linked to the older material.

First of all, we have made a step forward when it comes to production. It is not crystal clear, but it is not raw either, so expect something in between. The album is around 40 minutes in duration and comprised of 8 all-new tracks, with less instrumental composition than we had on Zloslutni Horizont – Donosilac Prokletstva, Ocaja I Smrti. This time you can expect something new in our music in the form of sampled chants and clean vocals here and there. But it is still Zloslut, primitive, ominous, dark in my own way.

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Where did you record it, with whom as engineer and who on mixing deck, and how long did it take?

The album writing started a little bit before the recording of the first (well, this precisely concerns only one track), but the recording phase was a question of only a few days. But all in all, it took me two months for getting everything ready from music to design.

It was produced, engineered, mastered and mixed by Nemanja Krneta (a.k.a. Zlorog), I worked with him already back in 2012 for the EP Pustoš i prevare izgubljenih duša. This guy knows what I want, so that’s why I contacted him. And I’m very happy about how everything turned out, from the recording to the final phases of the whole album.

The recording itself occured in Belgrade, Serbia, at various studios.

What are the topics of these song-titles? I don’t think “Google translate” will work on these.

“U transu sa nepoznatim siluetama” means “In trance with the unkown silhouettes”.

The tracklist is (with translations in parentheses):

  1. Odjeci Ezoteričnih Misli (Echoes of Esoteric Thoughts)
  2. Kletva Ožalošćenog (Curse of the Grieved)
  3. Crni Um (Black Mind)
  4. Transcendentalni Ples Ludila (Transcendental Dance of Madness)
  5. Ukleta (The Haunted One)
  6. Budućnost Smrću Blista (The Future Shines of Death)
  7. Istinska Odanost (True Devotion)
  8. Poslednji San (Last Dream)

The lyrics are quit poetic, if I can say that despite not considering myself a poet. All lyrics deal with occultism, death, delusion of life and mankind.

Tribe & Rite: A Heavy Metal Student Conference issues call for papers

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The University of Victoria English Department and the Heavy Metal department at the University of Victoria invite paper submissions for their upcoming conference, Tribe & Rite: A Heavy Metal Student Conference. The conference will be held at the University of Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada on November 8-9, 2014.

According to the organizers, “Metal culture celebrates the wild, the grotesque, and the forbidden. We invite papers on these themes from across the humanities, social sciences, fine arts, and related disciplines. Papers can draw on lyrics, musical technique, aesthetics (music, fashion, album art), innovations in metal, regional and historical metal movements, and more.”

The organizers suggest the following possible topics:

  • The makings and markers of a metalhead
  • Metal as genre, subculture, counterculture, or tribe
  • Rites and rituals of regional/historical metal movements
  • The transformation of metal by academia and vice versa
  • Generational differences in metal
  • The influence of metal on other cultural movements (e.g. punk, hippy), and vice versa
  • Comparison of metal with other cultural movements
  • Comparison of subcultures within metal (e.g. the radical politics of crust, the Satanism, neo-paganism, and occultism of black metal)
  • The future and fate of metal
  • Inclusive and exclusive behavior among metalheads
  • The relationship between metal music and memorabilia

Submissions must be send in Microsoft Word format to metalcon@uvic.ca by October 3, 2014. For more information, see the Tribe & Rite: A Heavy Metal Student Conference homepage.

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Soulburn to release The Suffocating Darkness

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Including former Asphyx drummer Bob Bagchus and original Asphyx guitarist Eric Daniels, Soulburn — known to many as the “off-brand” version of Asphyx during personnel shakeups — returns with a 2014 album entitled The Suffocating Darkness to be released via Century Media on November 17th in Europe and November 18th in North America.

As Asphyx continues its drive in parallel with Hail of Bullets to make a modernized form of its pounding abrasive death metal, those who are less committed to playing as a professional band have shifted to Soulburn where they can keep normal lives and still produce music. For Asphyx fans, this move provides two benefits, namely the more commercial version of Asphyx dominating the airwaves while the more underground version can more flexibly explore its style.

Bagchus and Daniels add Twan van Geel (Flesh Made Sin, Legion of the Damned) as vocalist/bassist and Remco Kreft (Grand Supreme Blood Court, Nailgun Massacre, Xenomorph) as a second guitarist. The album was recorded with Harry Wijering (Harrow Productions), mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö (Unisound Recordings) with artwork from Timo Ketola and Roberto Toderico.

“Bringing Soulburn back to life was a natural thing to do since the inspiration was huge, more than ever before. Playing the old songs as well as the new incantations is a blessing. The riffs and thus the songs kept coming and coming and we knew we were on the right track. The new deal with our longtime label Century Media Records was the next logical step,” said Bagchus.

SOULBURN line-up:
Twan van Geel – vocals/bass
Remco Kreft – guitar
Eric Daniels – guitar
Bob Bagchus – drums

SOULBURN tour:
21.09.2014 – Bremen (Germany) – Schlachthof *sold out*
22.09.2014 – Essen (Germany) – Weststadthalle *sold out*
23.09.2014 – Berlin (Germany) – SO36 *sold out*
17-19.04.2015 – Tilburg (The Netherlands) – 013 / Neurotic Deathfest

At the Gates releases title track from At War With Reality

First observation from the newest At the Gates track is encouraging. This is clearly better than the sing-song candy-pop that blighted Slaughter of the Soul and ventures tentatively into the land of darker melodies and stark contrasts that defines the death metal approach to mood.

Approximating the descending chord progressions from Terminal Spirit Disease, “At War With Reality” reveals At the Gates applying the more popular aspects of their sound as a means of intensifying older-style tremolo riffs. The solo comes straight from modern death metal and incorporates many elements of older heavy metal and hard rock, and the song builds itself out of a strict verse-chorus loop with overlays and internal melodies via lead rhythm guitar. As such, “At War With Reality” does not return to the good old days, but mixes the later days of the formative period of this band with newer styles and produces a song with more depth and power than the singalong material of Slaughter of the Soul.

As far as those hoping for the complex arrangements and internal melodic dialogue of the first At the Gates album, “At War With Reality” does not go that far. It is however only one track from the album, albeit the title track, so the rest remains an unknown quantity. But this shows the band moving closer to a form of music which has greater intensity, and in the process tempering the lite jazz and post-hardcore/emo influences of recent death metal hybrids, and so takes a positive step for At the Gates and death metal as a whole.

Varathron to unleash Untrodden Corridors of Hades

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Greek black metal founders Varathron return with a new album that takes the band in a modernized melodic metal direction but does so without losing the unique balance of heavy metal hooks and dark atmosphere that defined the debut, His Majesty at the Swamp.

Untrodden Corridors of Hades, which will see release via Agonia Records on November 21 in Europe and December 9 for the rest of the world, veers away from the old school doom metal sound of the debut but picks up with a version of the melodic metal of Walpurgisnacht but in a modernized style. This new style adopts the frenetic pace and compressed song structure of contemporary metal, but within that style, the ear for melodic composition and atmosphere of the original band makes itself audible.

With a cover by famed metal artist Mark Riddick, Untrodden Corridors of Hades was recorded, mixed and engineered by Kostas Kalampokas at Infinite Loop Music Studio in Greece and mastered by Tom Kvålsvoll at Strype Audio in Norway. The new album resembles 2009 release Stygian Forces of Scorn but with new energy and louder sound, as the embedded sample below reveals.

Tracklist:

  1. Kabalistic Invocation of Solomon
  2. Realm of Obscure
  3. Arcane Conjuring
  4. Leprocious Lord
  5. The Bright Trapezium
  6. Death Chant
  7. Delve Into the Past

Line-up:
Stefan Necroabyssious – vocals
Achilleas C – guitars
Sotiris – guitars
Stratos – bass
Haris – drums

Why Thurston Moore is right about black metal

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Most people believe that “trolling” happens on the internet and that trolls are a group like organized crime. Instead trolling is a method and trolls are any who troll, such as when Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore trolled black metal fans recently.

Having been around media and rock fans alike — two groups heavily invested in the pretense of self-styled self-image — Moore spotted a good mark for a brutal troll when he saw one. Thus with an offhanded comment, he lit the rage-fires of ten thousand fedora-blessed basements.

Black Metal is music made by pussies of the lowest order, and we felt it was necessary to investigate this aberrant anti-music behavior. We feel like the sound and attitude of black metal is a loss of self, life, light and desire in a way where it becomes so negative that a whole new bliss arrives where we become super pussy.

The guitarist elaborated later:

Black metal, it doesn’t even consider itself music. In fact, it doesn’t want to be confused with any kind of music because it’s something else entirely. It’s a voided concept from its start [laughs]. It’s all about complete disintegration of existence. It’s a music that uses the elements of rock instrumentation but it’s so anti-everything that, for me, it doesn’t matter what you say about it because it doesn’t exist. I figured I would just write something ridiculous about it. And boy, did black-metal devotees get really upset by it. You’re not supposed to be alive, so why are you getting upset?

We know that his first statement is a troll because it was the only statement included in the press release, and more importantly, it makes us of a dual meaning in the term “pussy” to wind up the angry denizens of vans down by the river. Moore has been around the alternative rock scene too long to be anything but scrupulously politically correct, so it is dubious he would ever use the term “pussy” in a sexist manner, but that does not prohibit him from playing off the common usage of the term in the metal community to mean (roughly) wimp or weenie.

It seems to me that Moore is having a bit of fun with the term and is distilling it back to its more Victorian usage where it refers to housecats as distinctive from street cats. Meaning that black metal fans are sleek, well-fed, pampered and most likely neutered. Domesticated. Not a threat to anything, probably not even mice, despite the face paint.

Black metal deserves this attack in 2014. From 1989-1994, the genre thrived amidst murder, politically incorrect statements and church arsons, but also some really excellent music. Since that time, much like modern Western civilization, black metal has been cruising on the wealth of the past. With a few exceptions like Demoncy, Beherit and Sammath black metal has fallen so far short of its historical peak that it resembles a collapsed civilization. Among the ruins of an ancient past of greatness, the remnants of a broken social experiment play and achieve nothing of any importance, but when challenged in a pub, they are quick to remind us all that they were Romans, once.

The usual crowd of poseur wannabes at the FMP and NWN forums have been cruising on the reputation of black metal for two decades now. They act like the worst street toughs ever and remind us that not only were they Romans, but once they burned churches and murdered people. However, they are most likely to come home from their jobs as Facebook consultants and hang around their loft apartments drinking craft beer and arguing over the minutiae of which indistinguishably bland “black metal” band has more “atmosphere” than the others, when in fact all post-1994 black metal sounds the same because none of it is written about anything. It is all variants on an aesthetic, and nothing more. The guts of it are gone; it has abolished itself.

Black metal was born as a reaction — both to and against death metal, which was experiencing a rare period of commercial success in the early ’90s — and thus, it had a rigid definition before it even had a body….Euronymous’s Helvete was to Norwegian black metal what MacDougal Street was to the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene, and his views were considered gospel. Death metal was “trendy” and “fun,” said Euronymous; well, black metal rejected trends and fun…For Euronymous, the primary essential element for music to be defined as “black metal” was Satanism. “If a band cultivates and worships Satan, it’s black metal,” he said. “What’s important is that it’s Satanic; that’s what makes it black metal.”

Moore keyed into this pointlessness. When a genre can easily merge with indie rock and heroin and form a “supergroup” like Twilight, and when droning nobodies like Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room are accepted as normal parts of the genre, it is dead and buried. It has lost its sense of “genre,” or having artistic purpose, and now is just another shade of wallpaper in which we can drape the usual thoughtless rock music so that it can be sold to a new generation of domesticated rebels.

Black metal had relevance when it was a movement of artists who felt Western civilization had gone down a bad path and had a suggestion of how to reform it: remove its morality of protecting the individual, which translated into protecting the vast herd of anonymous people who fear that someone might wake up and discover that all of society built on morality is a shame. It rejected all that was “good,” and embraced all that was functional yet “bad,” building on 300 years of Romanticism which encouraged the same. As an artistic movement, it had purpose, which meant that not everyone could participate. As soon as they could, the Hot Topic generation seized hold of this music and turned it into a neutered, tame and compliant version of itself so that it would not offend their personal pretense or make them actually controversial, although they gladly accepted the appearance of the same.

As guitarist for Sonic Youth, Moore knows this well. He made his career by dressing up the dissonant protest rock of the 1960s in the veil of distortion inspired by the Ramones, and essentially carries on every trait of the most-played out decade of music ever in a new form. Like a salesman, he finds a way to make you buy the same ugly vacuum cleaner in a new color because now it has a gizmo that winds up the cord faster. But he also knows music, and he is right to bash black metal. It is a pussycat, fat and perched on a luxuriant sofa, which hisses and holds out a trembling claw as we approach, reminding us that it was a tiger, once.

h/t I.O. Kirkwood / Metal Descent