Acclaimed Texas speed/death metal band Rigor Mortis plan to release their fourth and final album Slaves to the Grave on October 7, 2014. The first 5,000 CDs will include a “making of” DVD. The album will also be available on iTunes, Amazon, and limited edition vinyl LP.
Recorded in Feb 2012 at Ministry’s 13th Planet Studios in El Paso, Texas, Slaves to the Grave returns to the 1988 original first record line-up of Mike Scaccia – Guitars, Bruce Corbitt – Vocals, Harden Harrison – Drums, and Casey Orr – Bass.
The CD will be released at a Slaves to the Grave release show featuring Texas thrash legends Dead Horse at the Curtain Club in Dallas, Texas on September 27, 2014! The surviving members of Rigor Mortis — lacking founding guitarist Mike Scaccia, who passed away on December 23, 2012 at the age of 47 — will perform a set of Rigor Mortis songs under the name Wizards Of Gore.
While Slaves to the Grave is fully recorded, the band are soliciting donations to reach a $20,000 goal to enable them to tour. For more information, see the crowdfunding page for the album.
Black metal band reformed as nu-metal powerhouse Mayhem released their latest album Esoteric Warfare on June 6, 2014. Much like late-career albums from Triptykon and Massacra, the latest Mayhem shows that as a metal band ages the probability of it becoming Pantera or Southern Fried rock approaches one.
Although the album communicates little to no artistry or depth, it offers a strong example of how to successfully appeal to one’s commercial audience by being both digestible and using lots of hard and heavy sounds the audience recognizes as dangerous… if they came in any other form than a commercial product. Esoteric Warfare creates a blueprint for success by appropriating nu-metal’s populist simplification of the speed metal style of mono-dimensional lower-string muted riffing and sprinkling it with the pixie dust of commercial black metal aesthetics..
The band thus builds its appeal entirely from catchy central riffs which are so reduced in complexity that one is capable of comprehending them on first listen. The rest is garnish: the introductions, acoustic breaks, spoken word sections, black metal fireworks, seemingly random caesuras and even some death metal technique that randomly flares in the midst of the thudding rhythmic hook. This album belongs more to the exoteric, or easily and equally grasped at first contact, than the esoteric like older black metal, which deepened in revelation the more the listener devoted his or her consciousness to exploring it.
With the latest generation, the rock-metal hybrid that industry has always wanted rears its ugly head here. The new innovation is this tendency to break up the monotony with garnish, which allows the monotonic lower register riffs to drone on with strategic breaks to remind the listener that the entirety of an album does not necessarily need to sound indistinguishable however much the band may be seemingly trying to lead it in that direction. Complete sonic pointlessness does not dissolve, but rather mutates into a more friendly and funky exterior, thus allowing the listener an escape from a complete degradation of metal as an art form into a complete degradation of jazz as an art form. Whether that constitutes progress will be left to the view of the reader.
Azermedoth Records will release Chants of Pagan War: The Official Tribute to Graveland in July of 2014. The 2CD limited to 1000 units will feature other bands covering Graveland favorites from past and present.
Line up and tracklist (as of February 12, 204):
1. MOLOCH (UKRA) “Intro”
2. ORNAMENTS OF SIN (FRA) “In The Glare Of Burning Churches”
3. RAVENSBRUCK (USA) “The Night Of Fullmoon” from the “In The Glare Of Burning Churches” album
4. HIRAETH (USA) “Through The Occult Veil” from the “In The Glare Of Burning Churches” album
5. DIE WILDE JAGD (POL/HUN) “For Pagan and Heretic Blood” from the “In The Glare Of Burning Churches” album
6. YAOCUICATL (MEX) “Intro” from the “Celtic Winter” album
7. DARKEST GROVE (USA) “Call Of The Black Forest” from the “Celtic Winter” album
8. SAD (GRE) “Hordes Of Empire” from the “Celtic Winter” album
9. FOREST OF DOOM (MEX) “The Gates To The Kingdom Of Darkness” from the “Celtic Winter” album
10. KROLOK (SLOVK) “Barbarism Returns” from the “Carpathian Wolves” album
11. GRAFVOLLUTH (USA) “The Time Of Revenge” from the “Thousand Swords” album
12. TM (FRA) “Black Metal War” from the “Thousand Swords” album
13. ERESHKIGAL (MEX) “White Hand´s Power” from the “Following The Voice Of Blood” album
14. PROPAST (SERB) “Thurisaz” from the “Following The Voice Of Blood” album
15. AKASHAH (USA) “Raise The Swords” from the “Following The Voice Of Blood” album
16. SLEZA (POL) “Sons Of Fire and Steel” from the “Immortal Pride” album
17. PULSAR COLONY (USA) “Sacrifice For Honour” from the “Immortal Pride” album
18. HNIKARR (USA) “Tyrants Of Cruelty” from the “Creed Of Iron” album
19. HOLY PORTRAIT (USA) “White Beasts Of Wotan” from the “Creed Of Iron” album
20. UNTO ASHES (USA) “Source Of My Power” from the split CD with HONOR “Raiders Of Revenge”
21. HERMITAGE (UK) “Jewel Of Atlanteans” from the “Memory and Destiny” album
If you are interested in paying tribute to Graveland with a track for enclosure on this forthcoming work, send an email to Azermedoth Records with the name of your band and the track you will record.
Our minds quickly forget the vapidity of the 1990s amongst the greatest that some bands managed to achieve. In particular, its hangover from the 1980s was so unmemorable that the mind gratefully forgets it. That hangover was the attempt by industry and musicians to cash in on the notoriety of metal and the accessibility of rock by hybridizing the two.
In particular, this appealed to record execs. Why? They were all Baby Boomers. Their world defined itself through a search for the next Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd. As a result they found death metal to be totally alien, black metal to be unlistenable, and even most punk to be incomprehensible. Why don’t they just throw in a flute solo?
Straight in the middle of this process Massacra release Sick in 1994. Everything about it screams middle-90s when computer technology hit the point where you really could do just about anything from a desktop, but not quite do it well. Thus everything hit the page in bold colors, funky font tricks, and so on. Looking back, it resembles the 1980s teased hair and bright colored clothing: technological convenience. Similarly, the style of speed metal erupting with Pantera represented technological convenience.
Recording studios finally grokked how to record heavy guitar sounds so that the precision of the muted palm technique could be heard, which encouraged bands to divide aggressive rhythms with internal syncopation and expanding recursion, so that one rhythm broke down into several internal rhythms all of which outlined a “bounce” or offbeat rhythm based on slightly delayed expectation. This mixed funk (arguably the roots of rap), rock and metal into an abomination uniquely suited for dumb obedient tools of the system who wanted to blow off some steam before another shift and another six-pack of watery beer.
Sick represents a higher intelligence approach to this tradition and cites freely from the speed metal world, including the album that almost every intelligent metalhead had in the early 1990s, Prong’s Beg to Differ (which along with Exhorder and Vio-Lence influenced the Pantera sound). The band make conscious attempts to be avant-garde, most of which consist piledriver series of riffs ending in non-distorted semi-classical passages. If you wondered, however, where Meshuggah got their sound starting at this time, Sick seems to be the place. The same polyrhythms, the same use of groove between aggressive passages. Sick came out in May, and None (the first EP where Meshuggah demonstrated its modern technique) in November. Even the production has similar coloring, but this tells you all you need to know the sound here: based on expectation, like dogs chasing laser pointers, lots of bounce, basically rock structures subdivided by a proliferation of related riffs using the same concepts.
Most modern metalheads will experience embarrassment upon hearing this record. Like most fads, the bounce-metal fad experienced only very narrow relevance within a certain time period, and now sounds dated and awkward. Worse still is that a band like Massacra, no matter what their record label thinks, possesses too much talent to successfully chase a trend. What you get instead is something split between the music that they are good at making, and the music that industry wishes they would make (rewarmed Hendrix and Zeppelin, themselves rewarmed blues, itself rewarmed country music, that in turn rewarmed European folk music).
The tragedy is that much of the innovation that late 1990s bands relied upon in connecting together musical passages of this nature came from Sick or the prior release. American fans may forget how influential Massacra was (and is) in Europe, and how many American musicians heard it even when fans couldn’t find it in stores or on MTV (then an important method for mainstream fans of finding metal). Among the riffs that our minds skip over because we have heard the archetype so many times, great riffs populate this album at a 1:3 ratio to the rest. Some of the soloing contains concepts we have not yet heard metal elaborate on, and clearly someone thought hard about how to structure these songs. Musicians might keep Sick around as part of their book of tricks.
As far as a listening experience goes, Sick falls short in the range somewhere between “fru-fru” and “embarrassing.” Most metalheads would not want to be caught dead listening to this album, which sounds like the underground finally adopting how the mainstream saw metal (i.e. angry groovy drunken rock ‘n roll). The irony of course is brutal. By the time 1994 rolled around, Shark Records had fixed its US distribution problems and was able to get a record into just about every store. This meant that American metalheads who had heard tape-traders raving about Massacra for years finally got a chance to buy some and found this turd of an album belching in their faces. This, and the thin production on the first two Massacra albums which bothered American metalheads more than Europeans who liked the mids-centric feel of Bathory’s Blood, Fire, Death, relegated Massacra to a ring outside the inner circle of famous underground metal bands. Hopefully that will change someday, but not through Sick it would seem.
Century Media’s re-issues of classic Massacra works Final Holocaust, Enjoy the Violence and Signs of the Decline have landed. Massacra began innovating its high-speed Slayer-influenced style of death metal in the late 1980s and refined it to a frenetic blur of sound and aggression.
Final Holocaust inherits an updated production without excessive compression; it brings more tone and some but not dramatic loudness to the picture, which will be perfect on both vinyl and CD without obliterating the original sound or distorting it. Greater bass presence lets this album compete with other acts from that time whose work was more physically heavy in addition to being musically heavy as Massacra has always excelled at being. In addition, five additional tracks from a 1990 live show somewhere in France and a deluxe booklet with interview, snippets of old zines, and complete song lyrics finish out the package. This live show reveals the most chaotic version of Massacra yet with heavier live guitars and more extreme vocals. The band show their unique ability to play together live with an organic flow that does not necessarily correspond to the types of rhythm one might expect from the more mechanical music to follow.
Enjoy the Violence experiences similar upgraded sound with similar attention given to the need to preserve the classic sound of these now-ancient assaults. Similarly, the lower registers have been brought out with power that complements the otherwise mids-intensive production. A lack of knob-fiddling preserves the period document while a crisper sound gives it a similar intensity to the modern styles without going overboard into compression hell. Five additional tracks follow the album from a rehearsal in 1991, showing songs from the first album at peak proficiency and maximum intensity. These tracks give a feeling for how the band joined past to future without being merely repetitive. Having them on the second album rather than the first creates a powerful contrast as the album ends.
Signs of the Decline shows Massacra adapting to the departure of Fred Death halfway through the album’s creation and simultaneously attempting to evolve in parallel with the death metal it helped create. If someone ever asks for the difference between old school death metal and “regular” death metal, point them to the break between the last album and this one. Gestures at technicality and even crazier more fireworks-laden guitars and more of a speed metal rhythmic sense, using chunky chords in geometric divisions to create an expanding recursion, alongside an impulse toward what would be called “brutality” guide this album. Many parts of it show similarities to Sepultura Arise and Incantation from about the same period. The band is simultaneously racing toward something like Morbid Angel’s Covenant, which seems to have felt some influence from this album, and a percussive polyrythmic speed/death inhabiting the spectrum from Kreator through Deicide. Two additional tracks from a live show in Germany the previous year showcase two tracks from the previous album in grinding loudness and yet fully proficient rhythmic work, but the contrast between the two styles jars the listener. The earlier material integrates more smoothly and demonstrates its own presence. The later material, more hesitant, tries to be in too many places at once without having yet made its conclusions about how each element of style should be used.
Massacra often gets cheated out of the credit it deserves because most people see that the first album was issued in 1990. However, the band had three years of demos before that time which showed an advanced vision of death metal in the old school phrasal style like Morbid Angel, Slayer, Vader, Mortuary and early Incantation. It avoided the bounciness of speed metal and instead created a rhythmic sense that propelled energy through its listeners, rather than stopping with them as it chopped its momentum into ever smaller slices with muted palm strumming. Seeing these classics ride again — especially since German Shark Records who published them the first time had terrible distribution in the USA — shows new generations how to rediscover the ancient but vital past.
In darkness heavy metal finds its greatest friend. From the ominous tritone of Black Sabbath to the most vicious and bestial extreme metal of the modern day, diving into the abyss to find meaning has been metal’s clarion call. Keeping true to that paradigm, and displaying the ability to build upon it, Wormreich have crafted an EP of atonal black metal titled Wormcult Revelations.
Standing above ordinary circular composition, Womreich use leitmotifs if even on a small scale to expand the power of experience in this work. The narrative of this EP reveals itself through four songs which share returning ideas across the album, like a Satanic opera concluding in sinister victory. Cold and dark riffs, like a gathering of fervent souls brought together to recite the devil’s gospel, enclose this stygian mood. The dark, horror-like atmosphere of this EP separates this band from similar acts. The two instrumental keyboard tracks, “Shaare-Maveth” and “Codex Lvciferivm” use the dark-ambient style to emphasize that murky atmosphere.
Wormreich succeed in delivering a batch of haunting and devilish black metal similar to the likes of Aosoth, old Watain, and Deathspell Omega. Wormcult Revelations leads you through a whirlwind of smoke and fire for an authentic ritual experience.
I. Revelation I: Vox in Rama 2:30
II. Revelation II: Serpents of Choronzon 7:06
III. Shaare-Maveth 1:57
IV. Revelation III: Devotion’s Final War 7:15
V. Revelation IV: Enim Satanas Meum Sanguinem 7:25
VI. Codex Lvciferivm 5:08
VII. Malign Paradigm [Deathspell Omega cover] 4:45
Attitudes toward metal differ between Europe and the United States with the UK in the middle. One thing remains certain: until metal started prettying itself up with accepted genres like lite-jazz and indie rock, and adopting socially cherished “civilized” attitudes, it got nowhere on a big scale.
In vaunted music magazine NME Lars Ulrich (Metallica) attacks the perceived class divide between hard rock/heavy metal fans and the “sophisticated” mainstream rock audience:
In an interview for BBC 6 Music, the Metallica drummer and founding member complained about the media’s attitude to hard rock. He continued: “People have short attention spans in 2014… They like things broken down into easy, digestible sound-bites. It’s like, Metallica at Glastonbury, what’s the sound-bite? ‘Here comes the big bad heavy metal band to our precious little festival.’ I don’t think it’s genuinely like that… but there obviously are people who snub their nose a little bit at hard rock, and look at hard rock as inferior or lower-class, some sort of lower music form or something, and [think] that the people who listen to hard rock are less educated.”
Speaking about the same festival, the Glastonbury pop fest in the UK, Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) voiced a similar viewpoint but more from another angle — mainly an angle of attack:
He said: “In the days when Glasto was an alternative festival it was quite interesting.
“Now it is the most bourgeois thing on the planet. Anywhere Gwyneth Paltrow goes and you can live in an air-conditioned yurt is not for me.
“We’ll leave the middle classes to do Glastonbury and the rest of the great unwashed will decamp to Knebworth and drink lots of beer and have fun.”
American fans are used to this. In movies and books we are portrayed as the blue collar dropouts who work in garages and smoke too much dope to compensate for failure at life. This reveals both a snobbery against blue collar labor that is unconscionable, and the pretense of those making the distinction. They like to think they’re elevated to a higher grade of person because they’ve choked down eight years of education and work in office jobs (and only smoke expensive dope from exotic locales).
This stereotype both serves media interests and belittles metal. It enables the media to have an easy cue for its “bad boy” characters and to sell products based on that “rebel without a clue” image, but it also lets them subtly inform the rest of us that they, the writers and producers, are obviously much higher in the evolutionary chain than us neanderthals.
Indie rock and lite-jazz appeal to such people. The more precious and deliberately weird their music is, the more “educated” they assume they are. In the meantime, it’s metal fans out there who not only keep music from falling into an abyss of self-congratulatory clones, but also keep our infrastructure running. Whether we’re blue collar or something else, we’re realists… and we make sure stuff works while the rest of these clowns are posing.
American ambient-metal band Empire Auriga’s second album Ascending the Solar Throne expands the style pioneered by Burzum through the “Decrepitude” I& II tracks from “anti-black metal” album Filosofem. Ascending the Solar Throne comprises songs that are cold, distant, and simplistic. These spacious compositions rely on the repetition of arpeggiated guitars providing a base for reverb-drenched and piercing treble guitars to shine through, along with an anguished yet faint vocal accompaniment. Although the band forgoes the use of percussion entirely, tempi are regular and recursive song segments are identifiable. Synths or heavy guitar effects lightly sprinkle the mix almost as decoration, enhancing the presentation of the album but not interfering with its texture.
Expressing the desolation of technological existence, Empire Auriga weaves a journey through an inner experience of an individual separated from the external world of perception through pain, before coming to rest in a more peaceful place. Gradually moving from aggressive and dissonant chords in the beginning towards a calmer and safer mild major key conclusion, Ascending the Solar Throne is unfortunately unable to complete the journey which is hinted at in the opening tracks. Instead of turning the nihilism present into existential achievement, the album instead retreats into the safe and vacuous womb which afflicts most post-modern music.
Rather than confronting the question of one’s existence directly, as Filosofem did so elegantly, the choice instead is made to ignore it. This disappointment aside, Ascending the Solar Throne is an interesting album which attempts something rare in contemporary music: an artistic voyage. For that reason, it deserves consideration and acknowledgment where it succeeds, but ultimately the listener will be left slightly hollow and bereft.
Ascending the Solar Throne will be released on August 19th via Moribund Records.
Metal took its time to be accepted by social institutions. At the outset, metal appeared to most as another variety of rock. But with NWOBHM it distinguished itself and then went underground with speed metal. During those years, society rejected metal first for its repugnance to conservative moral ideals, and next for its alienation of liberal social ideals. It thus made itself friendless in a time where having political clout matters.
One reason for a lack of acceptance by some areas, such as the art world, is that metal is not controllable. As Bruce Dickenson (Iron Maiden) said in a recent interview:
The closest the “art establishment” ever came to embracing metal was punk. The reason they embraced punk was because it was rubbish and the reason they embraced rubbish was because they could control it. They could say: “Oh yeah, we’re punk so we can sneer at everybody. We can’t play our fucking instruments, but that means we can make out that this whole thing is some enormous performance art.” Half the kids that were in punk bands were laughing at the art establishment, going: “What a fucking bunch of tosspots. Thanks very much, give us the money and we’ll fuck off and stick it up our nose and shag birds.” But what they’d really love to be doing is being in a heavy metal band surrounded by porn stars.”
During the 1980s, Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) demanded warning stickers on music with content that advocated drugs, casual or perverse sex, violence and mayhem. Naturally this included most of heavy metal (sex) and most of speed metal (violence). Until rap music came along and blew those old standards out of the water by making most of heavy metal’s worst moments look tame, a real threat of economic censorship — forcing up the cost and legal risk of selling heavy metal, thus encouraging record stores to quit selling it — hovered over heavy metal.
Although the transition to online sales (1998) and resulting lack of control helped, another factor changed which put metal into hyperdrive as far as social acceptance: it found an audience in mainstream politics. As the Washington Post wrote in “Heavy Metal Gets Socially Conscious”:
More than three decades after Black Sabbath conjured images of the dark arts, heavy metal is growing up. The genre is increasingly incorporating social and political messages into its dense power chords.
The art world did not accept metal in the past because it could not be controlled. Neither did the moral world, nor the political world. Now metal has created a hybrid of itself — the indie rock, lite-jazz and grindcore infused postmodern metal genres — that is artistically acceptable, morally tame and politically acceptable. The question remains: does that mean that it is now controlled?
Anyone who lived as a metal fan in the 1970s and 1980s remembers The Line: some bands were rock enough to make it into the newspaper, others were “too metal.” Major newspapers never covered Slayer, rarely covered Metallica, and generally drew The Line at anything heavier than Guns ‘n Roses. Thus even major bands like AC/DC got cut out of the mix.
No more. As the image above illustrates, the front page of goody-two-shoes news network CNN shows us the latest about the AC/DC 40th Anniversary Tour. Even the biggest megaphone for mainstream news which spends most of its time nagging us about our bad habits or flashing sensationalistic messages of world decay finally acknowledges heavy metal. In the 1980s, this would have been unthinkable. And yet, now we’re here.
What’s behind metal’s legitimization? It’s not so underground anymore, being one of the bigger non-rock/pop genres. It’s also not so extreme, since rap opened up the lyrical gates to violence, lust and obscenity and nu-metal got radio accustomed to heavy crunch (and lyrics about parental neglect). But most importantly, metal is now an industry. With enough consistent fans and labels behind it, and those labels having found a way to “metalize” or “metal-flavor” just about anything (indie, rock, jazz, blues, industrial), metal now provides one of the pillars of the entertainment industry.
Even more, heavy metal is now a recognized part of our culture. Rap music represents a certain kind of rebellion or a certain kind ofirony. Heavy metal raises the flag for a certain kind of rebellion that is both cluelessly adolescent and “old soul” world-weary and informed. It’s a feeling we all have, and its appeal seems to be increasing.