Category Archives: Review

Castrator – “No Victim” (2014)

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Approaching deathcore like a doom metal band, Castrator mix invariant riff-chorus pairs with extended solos over slower riffing and hybridize the chromatic riffing of their influences with Judas Priest style hard rock riffs. The strength is the melodic soloing which, while very much cut from a conventional metal/rock mold, guides the slowly looping slow-paced riffs to make an interesting atmospheric piece. Their death metal riffs however both conform strictly to archetypes and achieve no variance, so that a wall of extremely similar sound gives way to a solo, then repeats briefly and fades away. Many of these riffs stick to fixed patterns at a single note, which produces the kind of droning that made post-Suffocation clones excruciating. Melodic hooks drape over power chords in a backdoor way of creating a groove, but these become repetitive quickly as well and have the kind of pop tendencies that trivialize death metal. The vocals perhaps provide the strongest point of focus for this band, but that in turn becomes a weakness, because vocals alone cannot unite a loop of similar verse/chorus riffs with breakdowns into a song. The gruff monotone vocals keep a bass-heavy pulse going that drives songs forward with aggression and anger. While the band write catchy songs, the low internal complexity and archetypal riffing detract from the desire to hear this again.

Infernus – Grinding Christian Flesh (2015)

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Late model black metal features many of these entries: as much borrowed from the days of speed metal as black metal, keeping a constant “jazzercise” style constant tempo and intensity, and while there are some sweet riffs, they are marooned in a sea of throwaway budget riffs and patterns from 1987 Exodus clones. Infernus has great rasping vocals but essentially, doom their album with highly predictable note progressions in the riffs and a constant, incessant droning style of composition. Many heavy metal touches pervade this album, suggesting that like early Gehennah and Nifelheim, this is heavy metal dressing up as black metal and equalizing all of its riffs to the same speed to hide their hard rock, speed metal and heavy metal origins. While the fans of the band will defend it on the basis of irony or some nostalgia, the result is musical tedium because of a failure to come to point. This is like watching the 5,000 slides of the vacation your neighbor just took, except that now the slides are old riffs and old tropes.

Deathspell Omega – Paracletus (2010)

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The secret to excellent marketing is found in the word “different.” A successful salesperson puts a surface on an ordinary product so it appears new, luxurious or otherwise distinctive. In music, the best method is to put a new surface on whatever is trendy at the time. Thus cloaked, it allows its listeners to appreciate the same stuff everyone else is listening to, but with its different appearance, they can claim they are different and unique special snowflakes.

Deathspell Omega took the idea of the metalcore dominant at its time — mix up dissonant and technical or jazzy riffing with metal riffs in carnival-style rotational song order based on internal interruption — and put a black metal face on it. For black metal, it relied on what Ulver and Satyricon did, which was to create long melodies that start impressively but go nowhere and require the song structure to intervene “dramatically” and interrupt before people realize that the melody is like the rambling of a drunken person. On top of this, they put choppy technical-style riffing and dissonant chords, but keep the focus on the vocals to distract from the carnival music nature of this randomness, tying it together with rhythm and the strong vocal as post-black bands like Behemoth did.

If the vocals were removed, good portions of this album would appear to have come from recent Cynic albums. Often a jazzy break goes right into hard rock riffing that comes from the pop canon, but as if the band becomes self-conscious, a more violent riff intervenes. The real problem here — as in all rock-derived music — is that unlike metal, this is vocal-driven not riff-driven. The riffs tag along for the ride as the voice tells you things it thinks you want to hear. As such, Paracletus is not only a pretender to the black metal throne, but worse, is musically incoherent which results in mental confusion and boredom.

Peste Noire – La Sanie des Siècles – Panégyrique de la Dégénérescence (2006)

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In the dying days of black metal, people imitate it from the outside-in by adopting its techniques but not understanding its inner core. Peste Noire combines heavy metal and indie rock with black metal stylings and produces a demi-opus of distracted listening: if attended to with half a brain, as when watching television, socializing or working, it seems fine and hits the right spots of black metal nostalgia. When listened to intently, it reveals itself as having relatively random structure and imitation of tropes that go nowhere.

The surface influence on this work that immediately comes to mind is Graveland, with a side dish of the more desolate Nords like early Gorgoroth and Immortal, but as an experienced listener of metal might guess, the closer one comes to self-pity music (depressive, doom) the lower quality of music becomes. A typical Peste Noire song begins with a black metal riff which it repeats in a cycle, ending in a chord progression reminiscent of bittersweet neurotically happy and sad at the same time indie rock, then drops into heavy metal tropes like the chaotic solo extending into a lead rhythm guide to a bounding riff.

Initial aspects of this album appear favorable: instrumental prowess, deliberate production, a study of black metal. At its heart it is disunified first by lack of purpose except egotistic lamentation, and second by a refusal to structure songs around anything but a visual perspective that hides itself by constant interruption (sort of like the “disruptive” trend in business). What remains, after the listener filters through appearance and randomness, could not fill the teacup of a black metal fan.

Marduk – Frontschwein (2015)

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Marduk attempts to return to their past of blasting melodic war-themed ultra-simplistic black metal, evoking Panzer Division Marduk more than the mysterious album which preceded it, Opus Nocturne, which remains arguably their strong point. The band incorporates some elements of tribal-industrial hybrid rhythms, but stays on point with short riffs. Arguably this mature form of Marduk offers more variation in tonal construction and riff form than ever before, but its tendency to use similar song structures and nearly constant exercise-video style tempi wears down the power of this release.

Like later Vader albums, the attempt to make the album fully intense creates a wallpaper effect where all of the intensity flows together because lack of internal variation deprives it of the context to make a truly great impact; in addition, riffs use a very similar vocabulary of rhythm and pattern, which makes songs hard to distinguish. Where Marduk excels is in, while avoiding the standard MTV form most metal bands use, orchestrating a rise of intensity that explodes into a clever use of melody and tempo change to produce a dramatic impression. The theatrical side of this band creates moments of impressive songwriting throughout the album.

Black metal vocals of the type that approach a chant more than a howl decorate this album and while much of listener focus is anticipated to be directed at these, they stand back when the guitars lay forth a mix between sawing rhythm and gentle lifts of melody, much like early Dawn albums or their militant spin-off Niden Div. 187. Frontschwein shows Marduk at their best in recent memory, and in modern warfare they have found a new inspiration, but the whimsy and mysterious nature-mysticism of Opus Nocturne was closer to black metal than what we might call this, ‘melodic war metal,’ and as a result like most rock projects it fades into repetition that becomes distinguished only by vocals and lyrics. Nonetheless good material appears throughout this album.

Tracklist

  1. Frontschwein
  2. The Blond Beast
  3. Afrika
  4. Wartheland
  5. Rope Of Regret
  6. Between The Wolf-Packs
  7. Nebelwerfer
  8. Falaise: Cauldron Of Blood
  9. Doomsday Elite
  10. 503
  11. Thousand-Fold Death
  12. Warschau III: Necropolis (Mediabook bonus track, in cooperation with ARDITI)

Tour
EUROPEAN HEADLINER tour with Belphegor (special guest) and two support acts
19.02.2015 HOL Rotterdam / Baroeg
20.02.2015 HOL Eindhoven / Effenaar
21.02.2015 HOL Sneek / Het Bolwerk
22.02.2015 BEL Vosselaar / Biebob
23.02.2015 UK Plymouth / The Hub
24.02.2015 UK Manchester / Academy 3
25.02.2015 UK Glasgow / Audio
26.02.2015 UK London / Underworld
27.02.2015 FR Paris / Divan du Monde
28.02.2015 CH Monthey / Pont Rouge
01.03.2015 FR Toulouse / Dynamo
03.03.2015 SP Madrid / Caracol
04.03.2015 SP Barcelona / Apolo
06.03.2015 ITA Turin / Cafe Liber
07.03.2015 ITA Brescia / Circolo Colony
08.03.2015 SLO Nova Gorica / Mostovna

HATEFEST 2015 with Six Feet Under, Vader and Hate
02.04.2015 DE – Leipzig, Hellraiser
03.04.2015 AT – Wien, Gasometer
04.04.2015 CH – Pratteln, Z7
05.04.2015 DE – Essen, Weststadthalle
06.04.2015 DE – Saarbrücken, Garage
07.04.2015 DE – Lindau, Club Vaudeville
08.04.2015 DE – Ludwigsburg, Rockfabrik
09.04.2015 DE – Hamburg, Markthalle
10.04.2015 DE – Geiselwind, Musichall
11.04.2015 DE – München, Backstage
12.04.2015 DE – Berlin, Postbahnhof

Kjeld – Skym (2014)

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Kjeld tackles black metal by drawing a line through all of the bands to capture the concept through history and then pulling out the best and adapting it to a local sound, producing a band that alternates between mid-paced and high speed melodic black metal that balances its pleasant sounds with savage primitive riffing. The result introduces enough variation that melody serves as a technique within a palette, and brings out the implications of the phrases of the more chromatic riffing, allowing songs to mature into a clear perspective rising above the chaos.

The closest comparison to this band may come from second-wave bands like Kvist and Setherial, who shortened the longer melodies of Emperor and Burzum and focused on longer songs that brought forth the full melody later in it, more like the cosmic ambient music that inspired much of black metal. Similarly, Kjeld like to begin songs with a theme that develops in clash with more brutally straightforward riffing, then let it develop in order to be obliterated, then be reborn in its final form leading to re-interpretation of the initial theme. This effect works remarkably well as it allows songs to have the intensity of Zyklon-B (the band) with an endpoint like the flowing moments from Eucharist or Ancient, albeit in a style of melody that fits more in the local area from which this band came, much as the Sinister Diabolical Summoning brought forth a sense of if not ancestral at least familiar melody.

Skym maintains its intensity throughout the album mostly by varying tension internally in songs so that despite the high rate of fire the music never falls into a sonic wallpaper of uniform consistency that, even if intense, loses its power by becoming predictably so and relegating itself to a kind of drone. Instead, these songs develop as their own creations, and song structure varies moderately as a result, producing a series of listening experiences that put together create a power greater than the mere sum of their parts. Without putting itself in a camp or time period, Kjeld upholds the strength of black metal in both savagery and beauty, making this album the rare uncompromising listening experience that voices itself in a style fitting both its own experience and the ideal of the genre.

Uncreation – The Great Delusion (2014)

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Australia band Uncreation combines several underground metal styles: trudging death metal in the Immolation style, bursting speed metal like Artillery, and technical death metal for transitions. Avoiding explicit hard rock, it cycles between different ideas compatible with death metal, but focuses too much on trudging beats like the Suffocation clones of the late 1990s. Technically adept, with highly proficient drumming, the band makes good work of these many styles and throws in some excellent riffs with an eye for transitions that increase emotional momentum even when slowing down. Vocals are of the raspy chihuahua-on-meth variety interpersed with the basement toad guttural that paces the beat during trudging parts. Within The Great Delusion is a promising album, buried under too much trope, with not enough emphasis placed on cultivating a mood and developing it instead of using it as a conduit to return to the trudge. Apparently the band has disbanded after the untimely death of their drummer Rowley Hill, and has made this album available for free and legal download.

Paradise Lost releases “No Hope In Sight” from The Plague Within

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Seminal heavy metal/doom metal band Paradise Lost will release The Plague Within on June 1, 2015 in Europe (June 2 in USA) through Century Media Records. During the early 1990s, this band inspired death metal and black metal bands to experiment with layered melodic lead rhythm guitar over distorted power chords, and to this day holds a position both close to popular music and using underground technique.

Paradise Lost comments: “Check out the first track from our new album ‘The Plague Within’. ‘No Hope In Sight’ was one of the first tracks we wrote and it reflects a blend of styles. From death metal to gothic to classic rock. It’s like all eras of PL wrapped up into one track. We hope you all like it!”

“No Hope in Sight” follows a familiar format, which is as much Iron Maiden as Black Sabbath, using melodic hooks contrasted by slow bass-heavy chord progressions in an extended pop song format that made its debut back in the early days of MTV. The result is infectious and on the lighter side, but dark enough in spirit to attract Gothic and metal fans alike who enjoy well-composed straightforward music.

PARADISE LOST live:
29/05/2015 – Rockavaria – Munich – Germany
30/05/2015 – Rock im Revier – Gelsenkirchen – Germany
18/07/2015 – Castle Party Festival – Bolkow – Poland
15/08/2015 – Summer Breeze – Dinkelsbuhl – Germany

Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (2014)

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The audience for this album are the same people who are fooled by magic shows at carnivals, speak in tongues at revivals, buy the latest iGadget sight unseen, and smoke in bed. If you claim to like this album, you are either not paying attention or merely a fool. Like every sell out, it is designed to cater to the lowest common denominator, which generally recruits idiots.

Thantifaxath combine trivialist “progressive,” minor key black metal riffs, and indie rock to make what they call “depressive suicidal black metal.” Songs start with basic black metal-ish riffs, but instead of featuring a varied internal texture, these are uniform with an equal number of strums per chord and chords generally changing on the beat, creating a drone effect. The band then play “progressive” riffs that amount to showy but not all that complex guitar and sonic technique used as distraction, and then get to the main point, which is minor key indie-rock riffs that feature the hook to the song. If you can imagine LSD guitar practice plus a basement black metal band ending up in a cover of someting off Daydream Nation, that is the sum total of Thantifaxath.

While the sin committed by Sacred White Noise is insincerity, its musical failing comes from being essentially contentless and relying on fireworks or pop techniques to fill in the void. What does this album communicate? According to people who claim to love DSBM, they find an emotional rush from this in realizing how horrible life truly is. But how is that different from emo? Late 80s emo achieved the same thing but it kept the pop more visible, so it could cry through the tears, as the saying went. This band wallows in its sadness and then plays random music over the top to distract from how fundamentally simple it is.

Thantifaxath use questionable “black metal” riffs. The riffing is essentially static such as that which bands like Nile or Necrophagist used, where the point was to play a chord in a certain rhythmic pattern and then add an extended fill so it seemed like a death metal riff, despite having more in common with Elvis or Lynyrd Skynyrd than death metal. These parallel the “progressive” playing, which seems to focus on finding a whacky guitar technique (whacky: odd, ironic, rarely used — because it is useless for expressing anything but musical confusion) and repeating it at different notes quickly and erratically. Sometimes this becomes comical when these patterns resemble familiar phone numbers or radio jingles. Its indie rock is clearly its heart, because the full melodic hook comes out here, but it does not distinguish itself from thousands of other bands in this area.

In summary, Thantifaxath create directionless melodic wandering at a slow pace with a hookish atmosphere in three styles, doing none well and fooling only those who have no particular ability to pay attention for prolonged periods of time. At its best, its melodies resemble the wandering style that Celestia brought out, but this style owes more to lack of purpose than to any idea or feeling it communicates. An astute observer will notice that for all of its supposed variation, this album expresses only one mood and it never changes — only is interrupted by distraction — and that it applies technique uniformly to create sonic wallpaper from even the most “different” pieces. To its audience, who apparently are so deep in self-pity that “depressive suicidal black metal” seems important, I have a word of advice: cut harder.

Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni – Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni (2012)

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To make meaningful commentary on a band like Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni, or any other band walking the old death metal tightrope for that matter, one has to hear them in context with the specific niche in time that their sound occupies. Execute a bit of nifty time-travel in the mind and place the band concerned in the august company that it aspires to keep. Observe if it compares favourably with at least the spirit of the originals in terms of aspects like general coherency in songwriting, perpetual will to forward motion, and, above all else, that ineffable, visceral reaction that only the very best are capable of evoking. Originality in this cloistered paradigm is a disingenuous word; what the avid listener hopes for is a transmission of the same vitality that informed the heyday of this music.

Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni posits no claim to innovation but that is no crime in itself. Incantation, the bread n’ butter of modern death metal, is frequently referenced in the use of flowing tremolo lines plucked from the chromatic scale. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the use of atonality in death metal – it indeed comprises much of the bedrock of the genre – it also becomes something of a cop-out in the hands of lazy bands that lack the creativity required to compose tastefully and in accordance with tradition. Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni aren’t an especially lazy band and are perfectly capable of constructing riffs according to harmonic conventions as heard in the more black metal-inspired sections of this album.

Where Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni falls hard is in arrangement. Songs rarely build up to any kind of crescendo, even compromising whatever momentum may have been built up initially. While any topography consists of peaks and troughs, there appears to be no aesthetic meaning to Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni‘s contours. Riffs rise and fall like waves on the ocean but without any of nature’s geometry, and what results is an album that touts itself as Satanic death metal but feels curiously void of life’s irrepressible energy.