Sacramentum – “Fog’s Kiss”

This classic band finally got around to making a video. While there were many Dissection clones back in the day, with Dark Tranquility and In Flames leading the pack, Sacramentum always had something different going which was more like where Sentenced and Amorphis were heading: a nocturnal romance with the potency of existence and the power of the unknown.

Poetic in their approach, and beautiful in the result, Sacramentum launched an initial EP of highly artistic intentions before moving on to their full length, Far Away From the Sun, which suffered from a cover too close to that of Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse and hit just before the melodic metal explosion but just after the Dissection clones debunked themselves. As a result this band never quite got the attention they deserve, which would be to always be mentioned in the same breath as melodic metal greats like Dissection, Sentenced, Necrophobic and Unanimated.

You can buy the re-release of this CD for $10 from Century Media.

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The brilliance of Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet

A new series of articles in which the writer explains why his tastes in music are so impeccable. The title of the series is a cheap spin on a recurring sketch from the English comedy show The Fast Show.

skepticism-stormcrowfleetThis week I have mostly been listening to…. Skepticism – Stormcrowfleet

Doom divides metalhead opinions. Arguably a lot of it is just regular heavy metal slowed down, so probably doesn’t deserve to be considered a separate entity, and while there isn’t really a definable doom “scene” the music does attract a type of personality and culture that is fatalistic and overly emotional, i.e. not very metal.

Nonetheless, there are at least two bona fide classic metal albums that have come out of doom – Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium, and Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet.

Considered one of the fore-runners of funeral doom (doom played very, very slow), Stormcrowfleet inverts the rock music expectations for predictable, foot-tapping rhythms and offers spacious, atmosphere-heavy music with the rhythmic elements subordinated to the melodic and textural components.

Many doom albums that are near-misses succeed in evoking a morbid, foreboding atmosphere but ultimately fall short because they are music about personality dramas, rather than, as with all the finest metal, music made to mythologicize existence. Stormcrowfleet succeeds because it offers a worldview that is not overwhelmed by external trials, but embraces them and uses them to reframe individual life in the context of something more majestic.

Similarly to Burzum, it creates an experience that is journey-like and transformative, yet vaguely sentimental, although in a way that directs the sentiment towards cosmos, nature, and mysticism. The album as a whole entity doesn’t really arc and conclude as neatly as a Burzum album, but instead it leaves a sense of the thoughts and emotions of the album lingering for a while after it has finished, leaving normal life to seep slowly back in to the room after the experience of the music has finished.


By the healing waters
Of my lovely shores
I laid
The air so bleak
I breathed with my eyes
With my ears
Through aeons went my journey

From these mountains
I swear the world
I am the hammer
I am lightning
By the signs I shall return
To burn all land
Beyond the seas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhhkY9doEX8

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Does heavy metal have broader social or political implications?

heavy_metal_and_politicsAs part of my morning ritual, reading the news while half-asleep is important mainly because of the exceptions. Among the usual parade of murder, corruption, incompetence, failure, etc. there’s the occasional article that sends the coffee-cup tumbling over the edge of the table as I gasp and pull the screen closer.

Today, such an article was from the UK and entitled I’m a Conservative who loves heavy metal – here’s why, and made me spit coffee all over the sideboard. But if you read on, the article has some areas of interest.

First, like all good inner activism within politics, it begins by “outing” every single heavy-metal-loving conservative in UK politics. This is on the whole a good thing, as these people won’t be voting against their secret social identity in the future. In fact, they may be forced to actually own up to not only tolerating but enjoying heavy metal.

Next, the article contains this interesting assertion:

[H]ard rock appeals to a certain breed of Conservative. It’s not into navel-gazing; it’s rebellious, anti-authoritarian, full of strength in both the beats and the lyrics.

Although I’m not sure I know exactly what this writer means here, I think I get the general gist. Most of society is a pleasant cloud of mental images based on people selling you stuff, and that includes most politics. You’re afraid of war? I’m selling peace. You’re afraid of poverty? I’ve got a program for that. And so on, building coalitions of voters based on what they fear, and pleasant images of how these things will be fixed by government.

As a full-time cynic of course I don’t believe most problems can be fixed. In fact, if they’ve been around more than a few years and there’s not an explicitly technological solution, they probably can’t be fixed. But that’s my cynical self talking, so don’t let it bother you. I could be wrong. Most days I hope I am.

But that brings us back to the point. Metal affirms all that mankind fears, including war, disease, injustice, violence and murder. It’s not navel-gazing at all. It’s the music of those who are ready to go in there, get covered in blood and banged up, and fix things the old fashioned way, which is by killing the idiots and protecting the good people.

Then again, it may not. It may just be about shreddin’ tunes, a bong hit for the afternoon and drinks until the early hours of the morning. It could just be about hating your parents, like my parents said it was, or about dropping out of society. She has a point with the anarchic but full of strength part. Metal is like a strong leader, maybe not a political or social viewpoint however.

Maybe she has a point or maybe she doesn’t. Maybe this is conservative, although it seems universal to me. Unless you’re an avowed navel-gazer, in which case I apologize and hope you’re not on the board of my HOA. Either way, it’s an interesting question from an oddball article.

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Falloch: Further flushing black metal down the proverbial toilet

hipster_black_metal_flavored_alternative_rock_fanWith lyrical themes of suicide, drugs, and aimless misanthropy on one side, and kumbaya-esque sensibilities on the other, record labels have figured out a way to sell more metal-flavored products to mainstream alt-rock America: make alt-rock that superficially “sounds like” black metal.

Don’t worry; it’s not dangerous. These songs are still the same rock chord progressions we’ve always heard on the radio. The latest new trend formed by burnt out metal musicians who are too inept to fully sell out is to play another genre of music and wrap it in the aesthetic of another. You would think people are smart enough to figure out Nachtmystium is nothing more than Joy Division with raspy vocals or that Liturgy is failed ‘avant-garde’ post-rock dressed up as black metal (much like Solefald), but when marketing dollars and ads are at work, that is unfortunately never the case. Real metalheads know this is false metal, only appearing like metal, but to the American Apparel wearing alt-rock fans who buy Pitchfork magazine and Kerrang for the next bandwagon to hop on, it’s a new fashion statement or lifestyle option. It’s something ‘new’ they can belong to.

Black metal has been absorbed into the melange of the current ‘post-metal’ trend, inspiring new ‘artists’ to create their own rearrangement of pop music under the guise of black metal with no knowledge over it’s history, music, or having any idea about the expression of the music. Falloch, a new band from Glasgow, Scotland, may just be the final word on how awful, poppy, and warped this music associated with black metal has become.

Sounding much like a skinny jeans wearings Ulver shopping at Walmart for Thursday cds, Falloch further destroys the metal ethos much further than the later output from Katatonia or Paradise Lost could have ever hoped for. The emo crooning and the open chord strumming which is suggestive of a depressive hippie get together is all there, but watch out! There is a rasp or inappropriately fast drums at times in there to appear different, unique, whatever. The themes of sadness and lost love is there, and when you wrap this all up in a package whose cover art seems to portray a “this world is lonely, pity time!” aesthetic to AFI fans, you have a winner.

What’s most unfortunate is that Candlelight, a label who once released albums like Dethrone the Son of God has released this. So a once former niche hipster trend that no record label worth their salt would touch has now become a money maker that you can ship off to Terrorizer or Metal Maniacs for promotion in a big way. While some bands are able to mimic black metal better than others, Falloch fails to do even that properly, only using the genres recent popularity to cover up fractures in their pop songwriting and overextending very simple songs for the sake of coming off as ‘different’ when in fact it’s no more different than this.

Falloch is just another tool in the machine of corporate labels’ bid to assimilate itself further into the mainstream music scene. No doubt documentaries like Metal Evolution, Until the Light Takes Us, and Promised Land of Heavy Metal being shown on VH1 or Sundance had a hand in it falling to the hands of Starbucks culture, but even those documentaries have clear cut examples on what the music is all about, showcasing real black metal:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0jyfbgyfjM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfYJu9t9hhs

Instead we have people who have consciously decided to make “black metal” that isn’t black metal, and claim it’s an “evolution” when in fact it’s a regression to what existed before black metal, because they hate their fans and think they’re stupid, and want to make some money off of them instead of treating them like human beings. It’s hard to argue against ripping off any group of people stupid enough to think this is black metal, but it’s also unethical and guarantees we’ll get more of this milktoast, lukewarm, baby-soft “black metal” flavored alt-rock.

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Judas Priest guitarist invents solution to the unknown local band problem

k_k_downing-birminghamK.K. Downing, one half of the legendary guitar team from NWOBHM band Judas Priest, is launching “The Future of Heavy Metal,” a business dedicated to showcasing new bands and helping them get discovered. Along with longtime promoter Dave Coleman, his new venture is essentially a mini-tour that collects promising local bands and delivers them to clubs in exchange for a fair payment to the band.

“In the past when you had some interest from managers or record companies you could get advances. Record companies would give an advance to buy instruments or make a record. That’s not happening any more,” said Downing. “It’s going from bad to worse too and bands are actually being asked to pay to buy onto a tour which goes against the grain. But to find the money to pay as a guest is not do-able unless they have got rich parents.”

The first crop of bands being showcased include Midland acts Hostile, Under Blackened Skies and Fury, along with French band Moray Firth. According to an article in his local paper, Downing considers Birmingham and the Black Country in the Midlands to be the spiritual home of heavy metal, and accordingly, is helping perpetuate the movement into the future.

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International Day of Slayer becomes a yearly holiday

international_day_of_slayerOn June 6, 2006, a new holiday was born in commemoration of the 6/6/6 of the date. Inspired by the American political movement National Day of Prayer, this new holiday was dedicated to the most extreme of metal and was called the “National Day of Slayer.” Since others outside the USA wanted to participate, it soon became the Inter-National Day of Slayer, and has been celebrated enthusiastically every year since.

This year, sobering news hit: On May 2, 2013, founding guitarist and major songwriter Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died from arachnid-induced liver failure. While Slayer re-camps and tries to figure out this situation, the International Day of Slayer team decided to recognize the obvious: Slayer is an emblem of metal just like metal is a symbol for not letting your sense of reality get stolen away by social pressures. As a result, the team re-dedicated the International Day of Slayer as a generalized heavy metal holiday, focused on Slayer as a symbol.

In addition, the same group is launching a new project called the Hessian Association for Identity Legislation (H.A.I.L.) whose goal is to get heavy metal recognized as a legitimate cultural group much like most religions, ethnicities, lifestyle choices and national cultures. We are metalheads, and we are legion worldwide, and we are a culture separate from both the mainstream and the counter-stream. We are going our own way… the most intense way, the way of reality and the way of METAL!

“Hessian” is old-school California thrasher slang for headbangers, metalheads, metal fans, threshers, heshers, etc. It’s derived from the Hessian mercenaries who came over to fight for the British during the Revolutionary War and were both feared and known for their long hair and wild eyed combat tactics. Someone — probably a cynical history teacher — saw the similarity and the name has stuck ever since.

Check out the H.A.I.L. website at www.hailmetal.org and visit the International Day of Slayer while you’re at it. Keep the horns high and the celebration loud, and we could have our own Hessian nation spread out across the globe in no time at all.

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Autopsy sticks to form on new material

autopsy-the_headless_ritualAutopsy played a new song named “Arch Cadaver” during their set opening for Bolt Thrower at the Oakland Metro in Oakland CA on May 26,2013. Contrary to record company/band hype, no new ground is retread and laurels are rested on to some extent, namely the formula adopted on Acts of the Unspeakable, albeit this new song has much less grindcore/Nuclear Death influence.

In other words, Autopsy is treading into Exhumed territory with simple songs that use somewhat predictable structures but focus on writing killer riffs and having intensely catchy, gory choruses. The result is like a fusion of early German speed metal with gore-drenched grindcore in the Carcass and Repulsion style, making a high-energy form of music that is pure pop at the same time it is pure pus-ridden disease-laden metal for the sake of sounding extreme and creating that old school feel of being totally alienated from the sociable world.

Following a dooming intro reminiscent of “Meat” from Acts of the Unspeakable, the band go into the dark 2-beat hardcore/death metal previously explored on songs like “Dark Crusade.” It’s doubtful the band intended to reinvent the wheel with this release, and if this song is any indication, The Headless Ritual will be the “crowd pleasing” Mental Funeral and Acts of the Unspeakable admixture fans were hoping for.

Drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert opined in a recent interview, “Expect nothing less than the monstrous brutality that Autopsy has been known to offer. Laurels will not be rested upon, trends will not be followed and mercy will not be shown. Mark your calendars for June and pick out a coffin to lie down and die in. Darkness and death await…”

Autopsy have begun selling the album and related merchandise through their label, Peaceville. Click below for the live song on YouTube video, or the stream of the studio version of the same song.

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The first Hessian event: Heavy Metal Day (May 29, 1983)

heavy_metal_day_1983_u_s_festivalI wasn’t old enough to have figured it out at the time, but according to this entertaining report, Steve Wozniak of Apple fame cobbled together a festival in 1983 whose goal was to showcase new styles of music, and in the process, showcased metal blowing away the willowy music of the previous ten years.

This isn’t to say I dislike New Wave or any of those other styles. They have their place. But in 1983, metal was raging to take over. The Cold War was in full nuclear terror of instant radioactive death, the world was unstable and conservative, and as a result most people were getting ready to go into full kumbaya mode. Metal to the rescue, with warfare, doom, death, disease, horror and hedonism!

Heavy Metal Day featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, Triumph, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Scorpions and Ozzy Osbourne raging across a massive stage with spectacular amplification. In short, it was the MTV metal of the day, or the stuff you’d see on the then-new invention of MTV with its music video channels, and that meant it wasn’t as extreme as what we have now, but for then, it was like a giant backlash against the gradual creeping “love will save us” mentality of 1970s music. With metal, war was back, and it was angry!

The ever-pointed Vine Neil of Motley Crue told one reporter that the significance of Heavy Metal Day was that “It was the day new wave died and rock ‘n’ roll took over.” 670,000 people attended the event, but over half of them came for Heavy Metal Day alone. The power of metal was established, and would only rise from this point onward as the world waited for the wavebreak of Slayer, Metallica, Bathory, and Hellhammer which was about to come crashing down about its ears.

Perhaps May 29 should be remembered as the day metal rose up in power and struck down the opposition to assert itself.

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Interview with Duke Hagin from Southern Decay on Stench Radio

duke haginInternet radio access is usually available on a global scale. With a little webcasting know-how someone can connect their computer to a server and stream a full-fledged internet radio station. I would imagine that marketing the station to build an audience might be more difficult than devising the station itself. I stumbled upon Duke Hagin’s show Southern Decay on Stench Radio. It was great to see that his program consisted mostly of underground metal and classical music which reached thousands of people. Duke agreed to an interview after I was interested to see how his program came to be.

Howdy Duke Hagin! Thank you for taking the time to have the Death Metal Underground inquire about your exploits. What inspired you to get into internet radio?

Just to put this into perspective, as of this interview I am 24.  Around the time I was 10 or 11, Limp Bizkit and Korn became a huge part of my life.  I often recognize these shitty “nu-metal” bands as my gateway to a taste in finer music, despite being well aware of bands like Metallica and Slayer.  I was in marching band in high school and I was largely a loner, but I did have a small group of friends I would float around to and expose new music to.  Some people might be surprised to find out, considering the type of music I play on my show, that Rammstein is amongst my favorite bands.  I exposed friends to Rammstein, Korpiklaani, and other bands and in turn I was exposed to bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Venom, Immolation, Dimmu Borgir…the list goes on and on.  During these times my friends and I would hang out on various IRC channels and stream music for each other.  This is what largely got me interested in broadcasting to the masses.  I enjoy exposing people to things they’ve probably never heard before.  Obviously my preferences in music, Rammstein and Korpiklaani aside, have drastically changed and I hope that my work is allowing people to enjoy something new to them.

Stench Radio is owned by Stig Stench. How did you get into contact with him? Was it easy to convince him to let you have your own show?

How I met Stig has nothing to do with music.  When I was a senior in high school, I was very much (and still am) involved in professional wrestling.  Stig was a manager for a group of various wrestlers and I would volunteer for a locally based wrestling promotion.  When I found out Stig was a fan of black metal, we hit it off.  He eventually persuaded me to get involved in the actual show and became a mentor of sorts to me.  We lost touch for a while after I graduated high school and moved on to college but we got back in touch a bit after Stench Radio was launched over three years ago.  One month I’d ask for a 30 minute show and it wouldn’t happen.  The next month I’d ask for a one hour show and it would never come to fruition.  Honestly, I begged for almost three years to have a show and he was gracious enough to give me a three hour time slot.  I consider Stig a great friend and although we may not agree on a lot of things philosophically, he is very near and dear to me.

Your show Southern Decay on Stench Radio is different than most of the other programs on there. Why did you decide to bring extreme metal to a punk oriented radio station?

Stench Radio has a large audience.  I mean no disrespect to the other DJs by saying this, but you can only hear so much Black Flag and Sham 69 and no on-air personality before you get tired of it.  If I wanted to listen to robots play music, I’d put on Spotify or something.  Stench Radio has attitude and that’s why I wanted Stench Radio to have a show that is complete chaos.  I do my best to be personable and have fun with it.  When I first started the show, I was incredibly nervous.  Over time I think I’ve found my style and the audience has been more and more responsive each week.  I hope to continue to learn from my listeners and learn more about myself as this experience presses on.

Most of the shows on Stench Radio reach thousands of listeners in over 40 countries. Was there marketing involved to help build the audience? Has your show been well-received?

Stig has connections everywhere.  The man has built an underground empire from nothing and what’s great about it is that it is a tight nit community with a very loyal fan base.  Marketing has mostly been through promoting shows locally in Austin, TX and via social networking.  The network is completely listener supported and nobody is making a dime off of this.  As far as my show being well-received, there was some initial backlash from the guys who want to hear nothing but punk 24/7 but I’ve grown on a lot of people I hope that trend continues.  It’s been getting more and more exciting to do a show each week, especially when I get to conduct interviews.  My interviews so far have not been great on my side but that is something I am definitely working to improve on.

Being that you’re based in Texas and sometimes feature Texan bands on your program, do you feel that it’s a duty to support your local scene through your program?

I regularly play tracks by Hod, Plutonian Shore, The Black Moriah, Id, and Morgengrau.  I hope to keep that list growing.  I wouldn’t say it is my duty to support these bands.  It is an obligation.  They pour everything they have to make the scene in Texas what it is and I refuse to be a leech.  I want these bands to succeed and I want Texas to be a hotbed for metal.  As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason this state can’t have something on the level of Maryland Deathfest.  Rites of Darkness (bullshit aside) and Sacrifice of the Nazarene Child were magnificent fests but there needs to be a stronger foundation.  There are a few smaller fests that mainly feature local acts that pop up here and there but there needs to be something stronger.  This needs to reach out further.  I mean no disrespect to any promoter in this state, but I feel that by exposing these bands to a large audience I can help break ground on something big.  I don’t know what that something big is quite yet, but I hope that one day, in some city in Texas, we can shut down a street or park or fairground and bathe in the glory of what these bands do with thousands of other people.  “Big things have small beginnings.”

You also feature Classical Music on your program. Why?

There is a very simple answer to this question.  You must pay tribute to your kings.  Without the old, there is no new.

What are your favorite bands?

I’ve already embarrassed myself and declared myself false by admitting that I like Rammstein and Korpiklaani, so I hope to salvage some “cred” with this answer.

I love Midnight.  I open every show with a Midnight track and I close with Saint Vitus’ “Blessed Night”.  I’ve also recently gained a great deal of respect for Revenge, especially after seeing them at Maryland Deathfest this year.  Antaeus and Aosoth are great.  Marduk is up there along with Wodensthrone, Embrace of Thorns, Pseudogod, Immolation, Katharsis, Desolate Shrine, Adversarial, Nosvrolok, Profanatica, Beherit………….

Since your show is still fairly new, do you have any special plans for it in the future? Theme based shows?

I have interviews coming up with Humut Tabal and Plutonian Shore.  As far as themed based shows go, the only one I’ve done so far was the show that aired on April 20th, for obvious reasons.  I played a lot of classic rock, doom, sludge, and “stoner” metal that day.  This Saturday (6/1/13) I am doing a live show from Chaos in Tejas.  The Chaos in Tejas show will largely feature bands playing that festival such as Absu, Manilla Road, Satan’s Satyrs, Speedwolf, and much more.

Thank you for your time. Please share any last words and resources for our readers to check out.

My show airs on Stench Radio from 3PM to 6PM CST every Saturday.  Again, Stench Radio is completely listener supported. Donations are appreciated to cover server and equipment costs.  I am in the process of having a series of patches made as well so keep an eye out for those.  You can reach me personally on Facebook as well. Keep your hammers high and support your local scene, no matter where you are.

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Groovy Commercialism

who wants a hugThis morning I was flipping through the book Choosing Death and landed on an interview with commerce queen Angela Gossow detailing her opinion on Cannibal Corpse:

“I loved Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back To Life, because it was so extreme at the time when I was a kid, but I didn’t sing along with those lyrics.” Gossow admits. “It’s somehow just a bit intimidating. It’s so much about violence against women. It’s not a guy who’s being totally shredded—it’s always a woman. It’s usually a sexual thing too, like rape, then murder, and I don’t think you should promote that. You don’t wanna have your girlfriend raped, strangled and ripped apart when she was pregnant. I still don’t get it when so many of the people out there sing about that [subject matter] have girlfriends—I just don’t know how they can justify that.”

While she does have a valid point from a woman’s perspective, the dots didn’t connect that the main factor to their popularity is shock value. Cannibal Corpse have become the most popular death metal band for outraging people in a cartoonish manner. Most of their lyrics are so farfetched in its violence, sex and gore that it defies a sensible reality. They found a commercially viable formula and cater to people that seek music that doesn’t delve farther than the surface level. I can easily envision a teenager sitting at the dinner table wearing a Cannibal Corpse shirt for one sole purpose: to repudiate his parents and be “rebellious”.

Cheese: The nineteen nineties were besieged by an onslaught of second rate bands that were inspired by the shock value of Cannibal Corpse and took the concept even further. One such band that accelerated to popularity more than the others for being more extreme was Devourment. Instead of deriving their lyrical themes from fantasy and outlandish gore, they sought to bring a more shocking element by advocating the murder of babies. Their song Baby Killer quickly became a classic among those that needed something more edgy than their prized Cannibal Corpse.

Relapse Records recently picked up Devourment to cash in on this concept. Knowing that it wouldn’t be profitable advocating baby death, Devourment went the Cannibal Corpse route and devised their lyrical themes to be cartoons. Their popularity has already grown. The era of Cartoon Death Metal is overshadowing those who approach the genre as an art form.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjX7tXu_XQ4

 

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