About a decade ago, the trend of flash fiction or micro-stories seized the literary world by storm. The reasoning was that as people did more of their reading via phones and portable computers, they would want shorter, harder-hitting fiction.
Of course, metal was there first.
Heavy metal has a long tradition of making short and fast songs that derive intensity by compressing an idea and then unleashing it like a jack-in-the-box with razor blades for teeth. This tradition spans multiple metal genres and decades.
Generally three and a half minutes is considered the ideal length for a pop song, give or take a half-minute. Many bands, especially in more “serious” genres like AOR, progressive rock, jazz and metal, tend to write five minute or longer songs. Micro-songs on the other hand clock in well under two minutes, often under one.
According to many bands, writing a short song is harder than writing a long one. When the song goes by quickly, song structure is more transparent. There aren’t comforting layers of conventions, like guitar solos and ballady choruses, that can be used to disguise an emptiness within.
It’s just the songwriter versus the void.
Here’s a (brief) run through of heavy metal (and hybrids) who made flash-audio or micro-songs.
Two revelations before listening to this: first, when I first got into music I thought talent and ability were rare; now I realize they’re commonplace, but the ability to apply them in some non-inert interesting way is rare. Second, that metalcore — the mix of metal genres in the post-hardcore style of “contrast without continuity” riffing — borrows almost everything it has from 1980s speed metal.
Cryogen offer us a highly musical take on metalcore with Continuum, which displays excellent playing abilities, clear songwriting aptitude, and even the rarer ability to present songs in such a way that they are not only emotionally engaging but create a sense of transition that is coherent and not just random emotional outbursts giving way to one another like the rants of officer workers on sitcoms.
What brought us metalcore? A fusion of Meshuggah and The Haunted. Both used speed metal as a basis, but broke down the metal structure of internal riff dialogue and replaced it with the post-hardcore notion that great contrast between riffs to the point of incoherence makes for a better song. What it does is emphasize deconstruction and isolation to the point where the listener’s attention span is destroyed, which makes it easier to compose this way since the requirements are much lower.
Cryogen is best when the speed metal peeks out, or even when the heavy metal parts emerge. With their technical skill, they could easily make a classic heavy metal album. Instead they insist on burdening themselves with surface complexity, which because it must cram in more diverse elements, requires the unifying elements of the song be simplified. The result is very basic chord progressions underlying a pile of textural depth and intensive variation, which means that when you drill down you find your father’s bouncy heavy metal riffs.
I wish this band would knock it off with trying to stay current, and just drift in the direction they clearly want to go, which is in the direction of the first Cynic album. Those songs actually held together, and the core of them was a complex sense of harmony leading to a flexibility in key transition that gave them elegance. Cryogen is sort of the opposite: a lot of styling that is ultimately held back by the musically simplistic core enforced on it by the burden of participating in the great metalcore trend.
Soul Rot shows Disfigurement melding a number of different styles with an attitude of keeping intensity at full speed like a raging death metal band in the Pentacle or Hail of Bullets style. On the surface, this is percussive blasting death metal, but underneath the skin are rich bluesy solos reminiscent of Metallica, melodic riffs off an Amon Amarth album, and varied death metal influences from the late 1990s.
However, at its core, this band hearkens back to the mid-1980s and the collision of speed metal with underground metal that occurred on Bathory’s Blood Fire Death. On that album, charging riffs led songs into full-speed development, then dropped them into rhythmic riffing that recalls the best of Exodus and Nuclear Assault. Here the influences are more from the death metal side, but the speed metal core emerges over time.
Guttural vocals and a strong sense of rhythm from the interaction between bass and drums drive Disfigurement to apex sonic terrorism. Where this band is weak is in the loss of dynamics caused by the constant high intensity riffing, but their strength is in riffcraft and knowing when to leave out extraneous threads. The result is hard-hitting and musically literate.
We are fortunate to have a chance to talk with Nate from Disfigurement, who wants to remind you that you can hear the title track from Soul Rot and other songs at Disfigurement’s bandcamp page.
What was the moment at which you decided to become Disfigurement? How did the band come together, and were there any influences on which you “bonded” that later shaped your music?
Cheers, thanks for interviewing us. We’re very forfunate that people are interested in what we’re doing, especially Deathmetal.org.
Disfigurement came together at the very beginning of 2011. Adam and I were hanging out a lot, and he told me about this project he had been wanting to start for a while, a straight-forward thrashy-death metal band. He had been talking to some people that he’d played in bands with before, and gotten Richard and Max together, I volunteered to try out for vocals.
Once we got Vaedis onboard with drums, we had a whole line-up and were playing shows by March. I remember Vader and Carcass being the main influences for Adam at the time, and Panzerchrist and Deicide being the main influences of mine. There were also many bands like Morbid Angel, Dissection and Sodom that were going to play a part in our sound. We played around with the vocal styling a bit, but from the beginning were pretty set on the sound that we have to this day.
Soul Rot seems to be influenced by old school death metal and melodic metal, perhaps even Swedish bands like Necrophobic. How do you balance these two extremes, the guttural blasting chromatic menace of old school death metal, and the more elegant melodic side?
I feel that it’s always come naturally to us. That’s not to say that its always easy. I also don’t really feel that OSDM and more melodic death metal are really extremes; I guess it depends on what exactly you consider old-school or melodic. I think that the techniques used to deliver certain riffs and ideas can change it from brutal to melodic even though the ideas are really very similar. Our music has always had a very strong melodic basis, even if it’s over straight blasting and guttural vocals.
What makes a good metal song for you, and how do you write one? Do you start with a riff, lyrics, an idea or something else?
Our writing process usually involves Adam writing a sort of thematic idea that the song is based off. Most to all of the muisic is written, which is what I write vocals over. The song’s idea has a lyrical concept, often one word. I take that theme and build an entire concept for the song around that. The lyrics are written following this idea. Often the idea that I have is somewhat different or more complex than the original notion, but it’s rooted at the core of the song, and likewise the album. There is always an emotion central to the song’s essence.
A good metal song to me is one that is impossible to listen to without having a gut-wrenching reaction to. It has to grab me from the inside: heavy, and dynamic, but always evocative.
The production on Soul Rot is quite clear despite a lot going on during the album. How did you record this one, and did you use any special instrumental techniques to slash out those riffs?
There’s really no tricks or thrills, we just focused on getting crushing tones, and building from there. There is really no room for error in what we play, but at the same time, it has to come across as human and alive. We took our time tracking and made sure everything was precise, but not mechanized and sterile.
Can you tell us what you hope for in the future, and what you’re working on now?
We hope to be playing some festivals in the near future, and getting the backing to support a tour. Right now we are just trying to promote Soul Rot, which is what we’ve been working on for quite some time and really put ourselves into. We’re hoping Soul Rot will garner the support we need to continue.
Why did you choose old school metal styles over the newer options available? Do you think the fans will penalize you for this choice?
I don’t know that we decided consciously to start playing an old death metal style. A lot of the albums that we listen to that are very influential for us, such as Litany, Winds of Creation, M-16, Soul Collector, Gateways to Annihilation, and Serpents of the Light all came out in 2000, or the very late 90s. I suppose that’s still a much older style than much of the more modern bands’ stuff, but we’ve never been interested in anything like that. We just play in a way that conveys our message. It seems that old school death metal is the proper medium to express our feelings of nihilism and aggression. As far as the fans, it seems that many have been waiting for an album such as this to come out in recent years; as far as those who don’t like the style, there’s plenty else to chose from.
I appreciate the effort required by these questions and look forward to the end result.
Once again, thanks for the interview. We’re glad there is an interest in what we’re doing. We couldn’t do it without Sleyja over at Boris Records, please check out the other stuff that he’s doing as well and support our rising wave of bands that are putting out killer material.
If you break any ground as a band, you will suffer from momentum inertia. Your initial direction will carry you quickly to its end, and after three albums, you will find yourself with a loss of direction.
This occurs because in your vision, substance and form were joined, and you made a language out of what you wished to express. For some visions, a lifetime of specifics can be created; for most, there are big picture things to do, and then emptiness.
Deicide hit that point after its groundbreaking Legion. They put everything they had, worth about what ten bands do in their lifetimes, into that album. They wisely made a followup that simplified their approach but made it harder hitting.
After that, however, the band has been searching for a direction. Serpents of the Light adopted some of the black metal conventions of the time, but ended up too sing-song; their efforts after that have been varieties of heavy metal and death metal that never quite grasped a direction.
On In the Minds of Evil, Deicide return to the roots of death metal and make an album along the lines of Entombed’s Clandestine: bluesy leads, tremolo picked choruses, divergent riffs for textural variation. It doesn’t have the grandeur of the Entombed variant, but it achieves the 1992 death metal feel very successfully and is much more internally consistent than previous Deicide works after Serpents of the Light.
Vocal rhythms often recall the more intense moments of Legion and Once Upon the Cross and these, while repetitive, are not offensively so. Riffing ranges from old-school death metal to melodic heavy metal, but mostly stays within the zone of influence picked by the first wave of American and European (including a Carnage riff) death metal bands.
With that change, Deicide is actually making a form of music that came after their initial work, which while it used death metal vocals, like all forms of percussive death metal was at least half speed metal. On Deicide and Legion, the primary influences are Slayer Reign in Blood and Sepultura Beneath the Remains structurally, but the riffing style is more like Exodus crossed with Possessed with the complexity and intensity turned up to eleven.
In the Minds of Evil shows Deicide moving past its original speed-death hybrid and into pure death metal, but retaining a huge amount of heavy metal influence. The victory of this album is its consistency. Quality-wise, it’s on par with Serpents of the Light but with some of the intensity of Once Upon the Cross. The result is somewhat blander than their original albums but more consistent and with more substance their intermediate works.
Deicide may never return to the days of Legion, mainly because it’s an impossible act to follow. After years of wandering in darkness (or, in their case, light) Deicide have found a voice again, and they can only succeed as they expand upon this method of uniting content with exterior.
Back in 1993, Demilich released a killer album entitled Nespithe. The album innovated consciously in every way possible. It took the audience a decade to warm up to it, but by the time Demilich re-united in 2006 for a reunion tour, death metal had fully bonded with this inventive act.
Fast forward a few more years and Demilich is finally getting the recognition it deserves through re-releases of its classic material. These were originally planned in 2006, but got delayed a bit as the wheels of music justice ground. Demilich has just announced the release of a limited edition box set with a 44-page booklet, sticker and new cover art.
The set comes with cover art by Turkka G. Rantanen, above, and a fold-out A2/B2 size poster with art by David Mikkelsen, below. The box set comes in 2CD and 3LP forms and is called The 20th Anniversary of Emptiness, available through Svart Records in late 2013.
V34ish6ng 0f Emptiness / Em9t2ness of Van2s1ing (2006)
Emptiness of Vanishing
Vanishing of Emptiness
The Faces Right Below the Skin of the Earth
When the Sun Drank the Weight of Water
The Sixteenth Six-Tooth Son of Fourteen Four-Regional Dimensions (Still Unnamed)
Inherited Bowel Levitation – Reduced Without Any Effort
The Echo (Replacement)
The Putrefying Road in the Nineteenth Extremity (…Somewhere inside the Bowels of Endlessness…)
(Within) The Chamber of Whispering Eyes
And You’ll Remain… (in Pieces in Nothingness)
The Planet that Once Used to Absorb Flesh in Order to Achieve Divinity and Immortality (Suffocated to the Flesh that it Desired…)
Raped Embalmed Beauty Sleep
The Echo (1992)
egasseM neddiH A – ortnI
The Echo (Replacement)
The Sixteenth Six-tooth Son of Fourteen Four-regional Dimensions (Still Unnamed)
…Somewhere Inside the Bowels of Endlessness… (1992)
(Within) the Chamber of Whispering Eyes
…And Youll Remain… (in Pieces in Nothingness)
The Putrefying Road in the Nineteenth Extremity (…Somewhere Inside the Bowels of Endlessness…)
Inherited Bowel Levitation – Reduced without Any Effort
The Four Instructive Tales …of Decomposition (1991)
Introduction / Embalmed Beauty Sleep
Two Independent Organisms -> One Suppurating Deformity
And the Slimy Flying Creatures Reproduce in Your Brains
Those of us who have had the fortune to hang around the music industry for a few decades tend to pick up a few ideas about what works and what doesn’t.
If you are trying to get your music out there, you’ll get a lot of advice from people with agendas. They want you to do x so that they get y. What follows is generic advice for putting your best foot forward.
Five things every aspiring musician should have:
Mailing list. Before you start freaking out, realize this isn’t a big deal that involves new software and complexity that might make your sensitive artistic brain burn out. You can do this in Gmail or any other mail program. The point is to keep a list of every person who has helped you, liked you, interviewed you, or written to you showing interest. Don’t lose contact through disorganization, which is what 99.99% of musicians do. Ask “Mind if I keep you updated about [Band Name Here]?” and most people will say yes. Then send them periodic updates, about every third month. For people in the industry, this helps them track you and do nice things for you like write articles. For fans, this is a sense of being attached to something important. As your list expands, you can migrate to a free mailing list service.
Audio streaming. As soon as you have recorded material, you should have one current song you stream live. You do not necessarily need more than one, which preserves the exclusivity of your work. However, especially at the demo and first album stages, it doesn’t hurt to worry less about monetizing your work and more about getting it out there. Unfortunately, most streaming services are pretty bad and also rely on the notoriously buggy and unsafe Adobe Flash Player (if your computer got hacked in the last 5 years, it’s most likely it happened through this piece of junkware). The best are SoundCloud and YouTube, and both are free.
Contactability. Most of you have a web/phone presence, but the important part is this: it should never change. Thus you probably want it to be separate from your social media presence, which is where you post updates. What’s wrong with using Facebook as your official page? Social media trends change, and you’ll be (in about six months) in the same place the people are who stuck to MySpace. Get yourself a free website and keep it minimal. Post links to your audio streaming, your mission statement (see below), and have some kind of contact, whether an email address or a contact form.
Demo. What’s this, 1992? A demo? No one uses tapes anymore, you say. That may be so. However, the demo is the most important stage of your band’s career. It’s where you hone your craft and show us the direction into which you’re expanding. It’s also a stage at which experiencing reviewers tend to be generous to you, since they know it’s a work in progress. Most demos get cut from the review pile not for being bad but for being contentless, in other words imitations of form without substance. If you’ve got something you are trying to express, even if your style isn’t distinct, experienced reviewers tend to be accepting. A demo also allows you and your fellow band members — if any — to focus on what you’re doing, and figure out if you like your direction. It’s a form of prototyping that’s vital to making music. Nowadays, it might be an MP3 demo. But nothing’s worse than a band who rush out a first album of material that still needs incubation.
Mission statement. This is both a formal mission statement, and a one-liner for your own head. You’re at a party, and you head back over to the punch bowl made from an imitation triceratops skull, and you meet someone new. They ask, “So what’s your band like?” You want to have a one-liner you can zap out in a zombie-like state. This should briefly describe your musical style, but more importantly describe your direction. “We’re a death metal band trying to revive the creativity of the early heavy metal era” or “We’re a doom metal band who want to capture a naturalistic vibe.” Keep this one short and sweet. For your website, and to email to anyone who shows any interest in you, you need a one-paragraph more formal statement. If you aren’t confident in your word-smithing skills, find a local (underappreciated) zine editor or DJ and they will most likely help. Your mission statement should be a clear and easily-grasped statement of both style and substance, and it should be the first thing in any communication you have with industry. It’s not realistic to expect people to remember you immediately, and they’re busy people; give them a helping hint. This also gives people who visit your website “talking points,” such as “I found this new band, they’re organic doom metal” when they tell their friends about you.
“Listen to your customers, not your critics. Only invest your efforts into something you enjoy…”
Lee Parsons, CEO, Ditto Music
This is best expressed as a more universal principle: make music that you would be able to listen to for two weeks straight as a teenager and then throw on at least once a month for the rest of your life without getting bored. Make music you would be excited to find in the store or on a dub or torrent. If you satisfy your own cravings, and not the neurotic critique that most of us having running in the back of our heads, you will make something you can believe in.
Metal Meowlisha cares for the large number of feral cats loose in Southern Florida. They trap feral cats, neuter/spay them, and return them to the streets so that the population of additional strays is reduced. Metal Meowlisha also provides medical care to strays, feeds 20 colonies of feral cats, and attempts to help lost and injured felines find forever homes.
The concert will be held at the legendary Brass Mug and include a raffle, BBQ by Trevor “T-Bone” Peres of Obituary, and performances by a number of high-profile metal bands. All proceeds go to the Metal Meowlisha (you can also donate via email). Raffle prizes include a Dean Guitar, a bar tab, autographed merch and more.
There are additional reasons to help cats other than the cats themselves. Outdoor cats kill 1.4-3.7 billion birds per year in the US alone. Limiting feral cat numbers through trap-neuter-release and giving them alternate food sources lessens this assault.
Metal Meowlisha: A Headbangers Furball IV [ event ]
Terrorizer, Exhumed, Promethean Horde, Dark Disciple, Druid Lord and others
Saturday December 21, 2013 at 5:00 PM
$10.00 21 & up / $12.00 under 21 / $1.00 w/ canned cat food The Brass Mug 1450 Skipper Road
Here at DMU HQ, we see many potential topics for review. Some are terrible, and are sent to receive a public shaming via Sadistic Metal Reviews. Most are average, doing something somewhat competently but not in a unique fashion worthy of note; these we mention in passing or let languish in silence. The smallest group is that which does something uniquely and with room for potential future development. It is in this last group that we find Ritual Decay, with extracts from their upcoming demo Conquering Darkness.
The eponymous track is a winding, minimalist affair. The more thoroughly composed of the two tracks, it presents a slower form of death metal informed through the black metal tradition, though this track does not quite reach the same level of sinister malaise that this description might evoke.
Coming to the listener from a distance, the production sounds subterranean and contributes to the narrative by forming a bleak backdrop for minor tonal variation to paint color on. However, this is interrupted to an extent by the up-front placement of the drums and their prominent use within the song. The guitars’ motif endures throughout the entire track, undergoing modification as it progresses, but still retaining a common melodic and rhythmic base reinforced by drum patterns that provide forward motion. Where this track succeeds is in the way various riffs fit together to communicate commonality to the overall sensation, though still providing a definite direction in movement to a place related to the beginning, but identifiably unique.
The second track is much shorter and also more forgettable. Having more in common with a punk influence than with death or black metal, particularly in the vocal rhythm and delivery; this is a direct forward assault that does not come close to instigating the sense of foreboding that the preceding track did. Riffs are competent enough, though not enough to induce a desire for repeat listening, seeming more a collection of riffs, than a full-fleshed song; though this may be part of the nature of a demo.
There is a core of talent present within this band; though at least in the two tracks presented so far, the band is suffering from stylistic confusion in how to best amalgamate its various influences. If the band has the opportunity to explore ideas in greater detail, it will be interesting to see how the music develops in the future; hopefully keeping what is done well and discarding the rest.
For many, this will be not only the preferred way to experience this live concert, but also the preferred way to experience Empyrium. First, while the video is beautifully shot with professional attention to detail, this concert also lends itself to listening especially while deep in thought. Second, the setlist for this show compiles much of Empyrium’s most interesting material, providing both a best-of and highlight performance reel.
Into the Pantheon shows Empyrium using live acoustic instruments including pianos, strings and twelve-string guitars to create a fully-fleshed version of their sound, including operatic vocals but not the wash of keyboards doubling the guitar riff that is “symphonic metal.” This performance is closer to what Summoning and Enslaved did, which was to combine medieval music — think Dead Can Dance, but even more authentic — with slower atmospheric metal and use the combination to launch into songwriting that has been traditional to their homelands for millennia.
Technically, this is a metal album, and has metal sensibilities, much as Summoning does despite its convoluted take on the style. However, at its heart is the skaldic/bardic tradition of old Europe where singers put epic poems to music and other musicians as could be spared contributed chorus effects. Most of these songs are sung in the main by a single voice, in a less ostentatious version of operatic vocals (closer to the visceral and honest performance that Attila used to crown De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas), but this voice is accompanied by the aforementioned instruments, including a heavily distorted guitar that lays out the darker and more urgent themes using the best techniques of death metal and black metal.
Often however the instrument that leads is the acoustic guitar, plucking simple melodic patterns that are then echoed by violins and piano, and encouraged through harmonization of vocals to urge the melodies on. These develop, and then fragment, with multiple instruments each taking one approach, and as these conflict, a dissonance and sense of longing fills the songs, like wanderlust with fin de siècle wistfulness. The vocals return to guide these home and they do so, dropping from their atmospheric cloud of sound a clear counter-theme which provokes them into resolution.
The songs on Into the Pantheon are memorable, distinct and elegant, all while being metal enough to be of interest to anyone short of war metal fans. Like the dramatic presence of Candlemass with the somber mood of Skepticism, these songs seize the atmosphere and re-shape it in their own image. They then promptly escape any over-consistency by developing within these dark tunes storylines that include the light and beautiful, and many emotions between that and the abyss. The result is the classic European art of telling epic story through lyrics and song.
Since this late-career retrospective gives the ability the ability to both carefully choose songs and update them with all that they’ve learned about music since the early days, Into the Pantheon presents Empyrium in their best light and creates a platform on which they can build if they choose to release future works. But for now, this is a strong contender for inclusion on the list of quality albums released in 2013, and well-crafted enough to last years beyond that as a listening experience.