Metal Hammer to release branded mobile game

Promotional screenshot from Metal Hammer: Roadkill (2015)

The heavy metal and hard rock news site Metal Hammer is releasing a mobile game entitled Metal Hammer: Roadkill. So far, screenshots suggest a fairly basic action game presumably inspired by endless runners such as Canabalt; the gimmick this time is that it incorporates rhythm game elements and a soundtrack of prominent metal musicians. Given popular trends in the mobile gaming industry, this will probably be released for free and earn most of its revenue through in-game microtransactions, but until the game releases, any speculation on the subject is empty at best. Roadkill most likely serves best not as a specific promotion (although it might turn out to be financially lucrative), but more as an example of the distance heavy metal news sites may need to go to secure funding and label attention in the future. We probably won’t be seeing the folks at Metal Hammer write any critical reviews of Nuclear Blast’s roster for quite a while.

The game releases on October 15th for iOS and Android devices; you can read the official story at Metal Hammer’s website.

 

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Elitism is Darwinism for heavy metal

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If you are a false, do not entry. – Sarcofago

Elitism gets a bad rap because it has been appropriated by hipsters to justify their interest in low-quality but obscure bands. The obscurity of those bands makes them rare, which makes them valuable in a social situation, as you can always one up someone else by suggesting something more obscure, connoting greater knowledge, experience and “being in the know” on your part. This is the inverse of elitism however which is a simple formula of quality > quantity, which hipsters confuse with simply measuring by quantity alone in order to find the least popular and equate it with the highest quality.

Inferior substitutes replacing quality originals is after all a trope if not the defining feature of what happens over time in our society. A good idea becomes edgy, then hip, and so a dumbed-down version is made for the masses to democratically share in the hipness, at which point declining quality (dumbing down) destroys whatever made the idea important in the first place. One needs look no further than the progression of Metallica from their second album to their fourth to see this in action. Over time, the complexity and intensity erodes and is replaced by a friendly, vapid and appearance-based substitute. The story arc of black metal shows this most clearly, moving from an outlaw genre that upended all rock and pop conventions to a pale imitation in the form of indie rock with incomprehensible screaming.

It is no wonder the hipsters want elitism misunderstood. It would eliminate the entirety of hipster bands by pointing out that, instead of being quality because of their rare quantity, they are impostors and pretenders. Poseurs, if you will. Then again, what defines hipsters is the formula appearance > reality, so that entire genre of people are by nature poseurs, scenesters, day-trippers, tourists, pretenders and the like. Elitism offers cynicism with hope: that by raising our standards, we can raise quality. World-weary observers may note that this has something in common with the theories of Charles Darwin, which held that better adapted creatures reproduce more and thus over the years their traits predominate; on the other hand, traits which are not used die out. Cynicism by itself leads to a dark place where nothing has value, but cynicism with hope leads out of the confusing harangue of nonsense that most people rationalize themselves into liking, and shows instead a chance to clear the clutter, value the good, and spend life on more meaningful pursuits than what is new or obscure.

Darwin gave us a warning, however. Humans now control the index of selection, and so if we value the wrong things, those will predominate over other traits and exclude those traits. For example, in black metal it became fashionable to like the novelty of hybrids with indie-rock, and those sold more as a result, and this displaced most of the original material. In turn, the originalists attempted to preserve their music through exaggerating its external characteristics, which led to self-parody and low quality. Elitism is recognition of what our ancestors could have told us: most people, most of the time, are engaged in useless or stupid activity in order to appear important. The self-importance of the individual is the death of humanity, perhaps, but it certainly forms the death of music. One needs look no further than a thread of favorite bands where each user busily types in the most obscure bands he can think of in order to appear wise.

Misanthropy has long been a trait of metal. Compassionate misanthropy would be much like cynicism with hope, or a recognition that most people are busy with the useless, but that some are not, and if we value those good, we get more of the good; on the other hand, if we ignore them, they die out. Darwin would nod and smile at this implementation of his theory. Unfortunately for humans, only some — those with the intelligence, experience and honesty/aggression to pursue the truth — can articulate the difference between gunk and glory. These are opposed by the rest because these tastemakers will point out the the Emperor has no clothes on at all, which invalidates the posing and posturing of the majority. This in turn renders the hipster, scenester and try-hard irrelevant, and they fear this and as a result fight hard against any quality > quantity assessment, which leads them to try doubly hard to find the obscure but mediocre and champion it as the apex of the genre.

Majorities however determine the order of the day. They have more money and in democratic societies, political power; their misery is that by “winning,” they self-destruct by replacing quality with inferior substitutes. The last twenty years of heavy metal reflect this anti-Darwinian approach and quality has declined proportionately. Even record labels find that following the most recent trends — the way to success in a mass society — has stopped working for them as consistently as it used to. This intensifies the desire to replace quality with quantity, especially by claiming that a small quantity or being ironic, different, unique or contrarian signals quality. On this point, hipsters join with the bourgeois mass consumer marketers in the same theory, and through two different pathways, produce the same inferior result.

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Cynic abruptly tears itself apart

Promotional artwork from Cynic's homepage

Rock and metal bands have a terrible habit of destroying themselves in dramatic conflicts. On Thursday, Cynic’s official Facebook page announced a breakup in the middle of a touring cycle. Perhaps not the best way to go about such a split. Recently, though, guitarist and vocalist Paul Masvidal claims (again, through Facebook) that neither he or the band’s bassist (Sean Malone) were involved in the decision to split. Whether or not each side is able to work out their differences is unclear at the moment, but this seems like a poor way to go about the business of ending a musical project, or otherwise changing its status.

Controversial reformation career aside, I personally owe Cynic a great deal for Focus, as its diverse aesthetic palette and jazz inflections gave me a gateway into extreme metal that I otherwise never may have found. Their later recordings, though, have done little to pique my interest and are unlikely to gain many fans around here. Perhaps this breakup is merely recognition that taking jazz, metal and metalcore and mixing them together produces a slurry that no one wants to drink.

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Cornell & Diehl – Billy Budd (2015)

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This enterprising blend combines a raft load of Latakia with a base of Burley and bright Virginia, then salts it with Maduro cigar leaf. This presents a challenge because the Burley and cigar leaf both present dark, rich flavors, in contrast to the sweet of the Virginia and the spice of Latakia. Like lower sounds, however, these dark flavors are stronger than sweet or spicy, which means that bowls of this burn in three levels: first, a friendly but slightly overwhelming Latakia spice; then, a smouldering Burley sensation with undertones of cigar leaf; finally, a merging of the flavors into a pleasant hum of lower registers, with the Latakia emerging as a slight alkaline flavor.

While Billy Budd has its charms, the Burley flavors dominate this blend after the Latakia boils off, which gives it a different flavor than its smell and breaks the balance established by harmony of its ingredients. Cornell & Diehl’s Burley is second to none, and many of us enjoy its rich and nutty flavor, sort of like a cedar-roasted chestnut. In theory, the higher flavors of Virginia and Latakia would balance this out and hide the cigar leaf so that it retained a “condiment” status, but in actuality, the cigar leaf becomes too present and the Burley dominates everything else. The rough cut of this blend, which has big chunks of moist Latakia in with shredded Burley and semi-ready-rubbed Virginia, means that flavors do not occur in a smooth transition as they do with the thinner ribbon cuts from, say, Dunhill. Further, little marriage of the flavors has occurred as happens with blends from Peterson for example. Those little “maturation” processes can make a huge difference, and here it is definitive. This blend has a good start but needs improvement.

Quality rating: 3/5
Purchase rating: 1/5

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SJW is “selling out” for the 2010s

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On the heels of the recent kerfuffle involving Deiphago and SJWs hyping an incident into a politically-driven media event, Hells Headbangers Records has released a statement about the incident. It reads, in part:

In regards to the Deiphago incident, rest assured that Hells Headbangers, the Agora and everyone else involved in bringing you this event are very upset and disappointed. There is NO excuse to justify Sidapa’s action – he fucked up hard. An incident report was filed and the victim declined to press charges. Although the new Deiphago LP is due to arrive soon, this incident will undoubtedly have a negative impact on its’ sale and the bands reputation has permanently been scarred. Such a shame! Further ramifications will be dealt with internally.

Although the label was just trying to do what it thought was the right thing, this statement reveals the core of SJW: it is driven by commerce and designed to signal safety. Just like big corporations spend millions to show that their cars, vacuum cleaners and toxic foods are safe, metal bands, labels and media are trying to expand their reach beyond the “scary” realm of the underground by making it “safe.” This was the same thing that selling out did in the 1980s, which was to take all those dangerous violent heavy metal bands and channel them into glam metal, which was offensive but not dangerous. There was nothing there that would sidetrack your child from going to school, getting good grades and going on to a career. Sure, he might have a bit more sex, and the bands took tons of drugs, but there were no ideas there that fundamentally challenged the bourgeois view of the world.

In the 1990s, death metal and black metal were far from safe as well. They rejected the dominant ideology of their time, committed actual crimes and more importantly, embraced political and philosophical viewpoints that are incompatible with democratic society and bourgeois existence. Forget the petit rebels of hip-hop and heavy metal, black metal bands actually scared people, and by doing so they upped the ante for what a band had to do to actually rebel. In many ways all heavy music has been stagnant since that time because no one can figure out how to be more extreme, and so they sigh and content themselves with being merely outrageous. “Selling out” meant that process where a band stops trying to have authenticity in its music and outlook on the world, and instead settles for whatever brings in a consistent audience.

In our current time, SJW is the method of selling out. If you go SJW, you will offend no one. People feel comfortable around businesses who promise that they are motivated by ideology, not profit. This also seems to guarantee that everyone will be accepted. Of course it does none of those things, being like all public relations exercises a series of cheap promises whose compliance can never be verified, but people like to be told comforting things. It calms them down and then they feel complacently optimistic when shopping at that store. This is why companies — again with shades of SJW — will fire controversial employees, hire private security, put up spikes to drive away the homeless and put up happy signs talking about diversity and how the uranium they use to flavor their food is 100% organic. Safety sells, or rather, lack of safety precludes sales.

Just like glam metal in the 1980s was preferred to hardcore punk, thrash and early death metal by parents who were afraid it was unsafe for their precious snowflakes to hear, and might lead them to a life lived in a van down by the river, precious snowflakes now want to be safe in their music. They want to be rebels… well, no they don’t. They want to appear to be rebels and at the same time, incur as little actual risk as possible. That way they can talk it up at the water cooler at work about how wild they are, and still not have to pay the price for wildness, like endangering their easy transition into the middle classes. It is not surprising that as metal has sold out in the 2010s with SJW, quality has plummeted. Who can make good music about such insincere topics?

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Luckily a backlash has commenced. Using the tag line “Make Metal Great Again,” a small group of metal musicians have declared their intent to drive out SJWs by indirect methods, namely by demanding higher quality metal. Sell-out metal is poseur metal, which means that it is both fake and replaces real metal. Metal thrives when it replaces the fake with the real. That could in fact be metal’s mission statement. Poseur metal is fake because it is designed to signal “safety” instead of opening the can of worms of truth, realism, history, violence, disease, horror and existential doubt. Labels love poseur metal because it has high margins: cheap, without risk, and easy to clone, it returns on investment every time even if less than an out of the ballpark hit like a really great band can be. Magazines love poseur metal because they can re-type the same story every month. Web sites love it because no review is ever wrong when all the music is the same under the skin.

If you wonder why metalgate has hit such a nerve, it is that it has threatened the profit model of the entire industry. Metal ca. 2015 depends on a constant flow of mediocre poseur metal bands to make sure that all the journalists, label people, PR people, bands and studios get paid. The market has shifted from the smaller, more agile environment it was in the middle 1990s. Now metal is big business, and like Microsoft or Apple, it’s in middle age. It aims for conservative successes that do not alter the formula and will not take the risk on anything outside of the norm. Since the music is crap, the labels need some other way to sell it to people, and they came up with “safe rebellion”: it looks all leather and motorcycles, but in fact it is a PC nanny who will tell you that everything is fine so long as you keep buying SJW products and ignoring the obvious signs of impending social collapse.

There’s a lot of pushback out there against those who push against boundaries. This is to be expected, but you can tell who are the cowards in the room by the people who won’t call it what it is. It is resistance by those who are growing fat and lazy off of the easy money chain formed by mediocre metal. It is no wonder they get nasty. This is why David Ingram has a temper tantrum when other people commit the grave sin of failing to agree with him. It’s also why Viranesir, the band banned from BandCamp, found itself on the receiving end of quite a bit of vitriol:

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In theory, SJWs and the like would be above such behavior. But that is the key to understanding them: their political opinions are advertising, not something they actually believe, just like what businesses say in television commercials are things designed to make you buy the product, not truths. The advertisements lie and SJW is an advertisement. This is why SJWs are so hell-bent on controlling what others see, hear and think. It would be a corporate wet-dream to have mind control, but with SJWs, they have a type of advertising that simply takes over like a virus or plague. Is is to surprising that many SJWs have connections to racist and fascist groups? As authoritarians, they appear to have switched sides, but really what they have done is changed their justification from ideology to commerce, and are now getting paid to advertise for their new corporate masters.

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SJWs getting nervous because “hipster metal” is fading in popularity

hipstermetal

Take a sneak peek at this fascinating chart: over the last few months, interest in hipster “indie metal” and “post-metal” bands has been fading like interest in a Justin Bieber death metal album. This could explain the vast nervousness and agitation among that group, who had a ten-year window to take over metal and use it for their own ends by replacing the original metal fans with a larger audience of quasi-mainstream SJW-style indie hipsters.

But they have failed.

As Google trends reveals, hipstermetal has been a flash in the pan, and these bands that received huge media attention from SJW journalists have collapsed. Even much more extreme and abrasive and non-hipster bands maintain a surprising degree of relative popularity in comparison to the dying indie/hipster metal trend.

Even Windir is more popular even today than Liturgy and Wolves in the Throne Room combined. Why is it that even though all these bands try so damn hard to sound like real black metal, true fans can always tell? Moreover, people with the true metalhead personality always end up gravitating to the real stuff. I think that’s because of psychological makeup and possibly even genetics related to brain structure.

In other news, the henhouse is clucking. But how they will be screeching when the destruction specialists appear for the first time. The anticipation is unbearable. The savoring of the flavor of the moment, as SJWs realize their gambit failed and they have now again been reduced to being low-paid entry-level workers in a world that does not care about their “Male Tears” mugs and bold, independent, brave and different social justice opinions…

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Sammath’s debut now on Bandcamp

Sammath - Strijd (1999); reissue

Long time DMU veterans should be familiar with our enthusiasm for Sammath. Strijd was well received by the staff back in 1999 when it was originally released, and a re-release on Hammerheart Records in both CD and vinyl format is still planned for the first quarter of 2016. In the interrim, a digital version is now available on Bandcamp, offering potential purchasers a chance to easily preview the album’s tracks and purchase a copy of sorts.

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Nan Elmoth / Maldicion – Live at Festum Tarnis 2015

nan_elmoth_-_maldicion_-_live_at_festum_tarnis_2015

This live split contains two lengthy songs from Nan Elmoth and five more conventional ones from Maldicion. These two bands could not form a greater contrast: the prog-oriented, folk metal informed Nan Elmoth with long discursive songs, and Maldicion with fast gripping songs like Mayhem meets Terrorizer.

Nan Elmoth kicks the set off with “Unleash the King of Wolves.” This lengthy song shows what is good about this band and what it needs to work on. Nan Elmoth is confused in both genre, and trying too hard. This song mixed Graveland with folk metal and power metal influences, then tries to cram it into a lengthy death metal tinged song. Perhaps a better approach would be to synthesize those voices into one of the band’s own, and then to not use method as a substitute for content; let the content lead you to an epic song or lengthy instrumental if it can, but forcing it creates a disconnect. These songs hold up well with rhythm and repeated motifs, and stand as some of the more deliberately “pushing the envelope” in extreme metal at this. The next iteration may bring more fluidity and allow them to breathe a bit. Nan Elmoth covers wide ground on riffs and themes and pulls them all together in this song, and a longer second song, “Nan Elmoth,” in which the variation sometimes seems pro forma but some excellent riffs stand out. This fades out into somewhat repetitive violence and then segues into Burzum “The Crying Orc” for a hint at what the past wrought.

Maldicion takes over with its songs which are dark like Mayhem, and feature periodic powerful internal collisions, but mostly seem to be more in the vein of fast death/grind. The result generates a lot of energy, gives it mystique, and then leaves it hanging about half the time. Songwriting is more proficient than most of metal but it could use some editing to determine the parts sufficiently relate to one another. Nonetheless, the raw aggression and vitality of this band outpaces most of what underground metal is doing now. Together, these bands create a set that is varied and strong, and point to future evolution of their sound that could push them farther in the world of underground metal.

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Sacrificium Carmen to release Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa

Sacraficium Carmen - Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa (2015)

The Scandinavian countries have always had disproportionate metal output; Finland’s continues with this debut album from Sacrificum Carmen, an occult-inspired black metal band. Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa is set to release on October 30th and showcases a more melodic sound than is stereotypical of the country’s black metal output.

Saturnal Records issued the following statement:

Hailing from the fertive Finnish black metal scene, Sacrificium Carmen both embody their home country’s prevailing underground idiom and offer a unique, diabolical twist to it. Founded in 2009 by vocalist Hoath Cambion and guitarist Advorsvs, the band draws their inspiration from the areas of occultism and Satanism exclusively. Sacrificium Carmen became active in 2012 with a full lineup, and soon released their debut demo “Sanansaattaja” in 2013 via Finnish underground label Spread Evil Productions. 

After the demo’s release, the band excelled in the areas of live shows and split releases, which all spread well around the underground scene. In 2014, Sacrificium Carmen started working on a debut full-length album, and the demo recordings led into a signing of a record deal with Finnish record label Saturnal Records for the release Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa.



Sacrificium Carmen plays black metal with a melodic and atmospheric touch where all tendencies have been directed into very aggressive and sinister output, where Finnish black metal sound meets murky death metal sound as witnessed with orthodox black metal acts. Across the eight tracks of Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa, the listener is dragged to the sulfurous depths, with vapor trails of hypnotizing melody lingering above the tar-thick sewage. Exquisitely filthy yet exceptionally well-recorded, Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa presents Sacrificium Carmen as a serious newcomer, a contender to be reckoned with in the years to come, as the band continue to propagate live rituals to increasingly rabid audiences.

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Vociferian – Princess of Violation (2014)

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Vociferian comes to us from the European sprawl through members who are originally French, but now reside in Belgium, and make a type of death metal/rock hybrid that rumbles in the right places but never really gets enough direction beyond drone to make a point. The songs do not ramble, but also never reach that moment of really wrapping around what the riffs have unleashed and transforming it into a new energy. In addition, many of these riffs are clever variations of very well-known types, which makes one wonder what is being said.

Although the band lists “crust” along with its other influences, the main focus here is droning doom metal of the hard rock variety, more like Crowbar and Sleep than Neurosis or Amebix. Unlike funeral doom bands like Skepticism, the songs do not gain momentum from the increasing layers of atmosphere but move in a circular pattern much like Sleep Holy Mountain. The result is a pleasing veneer on background sounds of collapse with more aggression than most of these bands can muster, wandering into sludge territory with rock/punk patterns.

Princess of Violation presents an album that falls far from bad, and has some interesting twists, but for death metal fans will not be internally varied or purposeful enough to seek again. Like most music, it has found a method without a cause, and so while this band scrupulously avoids randomness or wandering, never gets to its end point. Now that Vociferian has mastered its basic style, one can only hope for greater expansion of content and internal dialogue for the next work, as that would give this fertile style the power it needs to cruise forward.

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