Dismember – Indecent and Obscene (1993)

Dismember Indecent And Obscene

Almost all metal bands eventually run out of ideas and revert to imitating their influences or repeating themselves. The former usually results in songs that are Frankenstein’s monster mashups of old ideas hoping to hop across the finish line without their sutures bursting leading to loss of limbs. The latter have no raison d’être beyond releasing the expected new record every eighteen months or so to put a product on the shelves that the label can push and the band can tour to support on a James Bond series type release schedule. Even a teenager saying “I want to kill everyone, drink beer, masturbate, and be as fucking metal as possible” shows more purpose than such aimlessness.

Indecent and Obscene was Dismember proving that in 1993 they had became at least as proficient musicians as their seventies and eighties idols. Dave Blomqvist took over the leader guitar duties from Nicke Andersson and added Mercyful Fate-like sweep-picked leads to the bluesy, Ritchie Blackmore-influenced solos. The songs continued in the vein of filthy Pieces EP with verse chorus verse bashers. The problem was they were slowed down, less distorted, and more lazily constructed: Beneath the Remains Sepultura minus a standard deviation or two in IQ. Every time Dismember play an interesting riff on this album, they allow it to wear out its welcome through repetition in brain-dead pop song structures. That is only when they have a good, counterpointed Carnage/Dismember riff. Most of the rhythm riffs are generic Autopsy riffs; riffs Autopsy stole from Celtic Frost, who stole it from Metallica, who stole it from some NWOBHM band who took it from AC/DC or The Stooges. These riffs were used just so Dismember could construct a basic d-beat song and sweep pick Guitar World readers’ faces off.

Matti Karki sounded just as rabid as ever but in every song sprouted off the title of the song in the chorus of the song as a vocal hook. This is the same as an awful Hollywood action film script containing dialogue saying the name of the movie in the movie, eg: “This is Con Air!” or “You Only Live Twice Mr. Bond!” Idiotic bridges kill off any tension too. “Why don’t you just kill yourself?” followed by breakdown of the main rhythm riff so all the hardcore kids for whom Suffocation was too heavy could slamdance before the air guitarable solo.

Dismember on Indecent and Obscene was Nuclear-Blasted into Cannibal Corpse before Nuclear Blast mandated all their bands sellout into death/black ‘n’ roll for the Bic-flicking festival crowd. While superior to most of the later work out of Sweden, Indecent and Obscene never approaches the transcendent Dark Recollections and Like an Ever Flowing Stream. The only praiseworthy aspects beyond the superficial icing are Fred Estby’s creative tom fills on songs such as “Sorrowfilled”. His underrated percussion is the only part building and resolving tension in these mediocre songs. That’s simply not enough to hold hessian attention. Decent material must still be composed and Dismember didn’t bother writing any worthy of repeated listening here.

 

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Interment – Scent of the Buried (2016)

Interment Scent Of The Buried Cover

Article by David Rosales.

We tend to be skeptical when receiving a promo of a retro Swedeath band given the history of the style, but we can’t help but feel a vague and healthy excitement for the raw feeling this improved grindy sound can offer when done well. Despite the long history of shams, Dismember and Entombed followers receive an enthusiastic and welcoming reception here every time. This is also, perhaps, the reason why they also get beaten down with the most derisive of tones when found ‘guilty’.

Interment‘s Scent of the Buried is one of the best cases of the usually-unfortunate retro Swedeath we have seen in the last few years. While much praise is due, it is also interesting to try and understand when and how blatant such style appropriations fall short of the excellence of the originals. The band does a very good job at creating a flowing narrative in the style of Entombed, taking the best from the older band and approaching Dismember’s power chord and tremolo melodies in low tones while discarding the most overt poppisms of the first. After the first half of the album, the B-ness (the quality of being a B-grade album) of Interment’s release becomes obvious, after which it is easy to see that the band ran out of things to say.

While for some this has to do with style itself, and a superficial appreciation of music leads some to want stylistic variety, this is not what is meant here when pointing out the bands shortage of meaningful content. It has to do with a narrowness in the variety of patterns in melodies and riffs, not stylistic divergence itself. This is something that does not happen in the seminal works of Entombed and Dismember, whose style is natural-born from themselves, hence their whole effort is bent on trying to say something. In the case of stylistic followers and clones, which encompass the likes of Interment, there is a conscious will towards adhering to the stylistic conventions those older bands laid out.

This is much more confining and goes beyond genre style; these b-bands are not trying to reflect abstract ideas but the most superficial traits of the music. Hence, Scent of the Buried has enough excellent material for a 3-track EP, but not a full album. Despite the technical re-production of this vintage style being a success1, Interment doesn’t have much more to offer other than a passing pleasure for those who enjoy the hell out of the Swedeath sound.

Scent of the Buried may be listened to and purchased from Pulverized Records’ Bandcamp.
The CD may also be purchased in the US from Dark Descent Records.

1Scent of the Buried was actually recorded by Tomas Skogsberg at his legendary Sunlight Studio were most of the Swedish bands recorded back in the early nineties. – Editor

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Zloslut – U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama (2016) Re-Review

zloslut 2015

Article by Lance Viggiano.

U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama presents a longing, melancholic, and nostalgic view on black metal ripped straight out of the playbook that enabled artists such as Alcest to score big with the empathetic loner crowd. On the surface, this music is presented as your standard affair of devil music yet it is bereft of even one note of existential weight or tantalizing, decadent forbiddance which typically characterizes Faustian gambits with the dark. The music swings, bounces, pops, and dances in the light. It is so light in fact, that gravity actually helps uplift these sounds.

Then there is the overwhelming familiarity which strikes the listener immediately. These are well-considered compositions that look backward for source material but otherwise fail to provide new meaning. The past is alive but it is practicable and pedantic. Zloslut shamelessly flaunts catchy and immediately gratifying candy culled from across the metal spectrum. A delicate and emotive arpeggiated tremolo-picked melody ripped right out of Norsecore will be seated right next to a Rotting Christ-style heavy metal motif. Burzum and Gorgoroth have their post cards along route 666 through the use of ringing bar chord breaks.

This is one of the rare albums where sloppiness, uncertainty, and disorganization could have been a boon as it would have colored the music with a wild charm and sense of adventure. The riffs are supposed to add up to a meaningful experience but the stark reality is that this is a Now That’s What I Call Black Metal! recollection of genre hits. Quite possibly the most radical statement this album could have made would have been allowing the genre-verboten blues to blossom into a David Gilmour solo on the first proper track.

Listen to and download U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama for free from Zloslut’s Bandcamp page.

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Olkoth – The Immortal Depths (2016)

olkoth the immortal depths

Article by Corey M.

Whatever the musicians of Olkoth are physically doing with their instruments is nothing extraordinary but the idiosyncratic placement of notes and the resulting higher-level structures that emerge in their songs are truly something to behold. “Rollercoaster” and “Labyrinth” metaphors abound when writers try to describe metal with this sound. The most appropriate real-world visual analog would be an ancient sculpture, specifically what can be found in Mesoamerican architecture: Vivid figures and images symmetrically organized and actually making up the architecture itself rather than being mere aesthetic reliefs. Hearing this music is much like view ancient reliefs: there is an obvious narrative even though the specific symbols belong to alien cultures and distant epochs. The representations ring true by striking a Jungian chord deep within the recesses of our collective unconsciousness. However, these super-emotive runes are not activated at will; the listener must cultivate a passive mindstate to avoid projecting their own idiosyncratic symbolism onto the music. That will only serve to obfuscate the encoded messages just waiting to be decrypted.

Listen to and download The Immortal Depths EP for free from Olkoth’s Bandcamp page.

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Zealotry – The Last Witness (2016)

zealotry-2

Article by David Rosales.

On their tantalizing debut album, Zealotry showed charm that often characterizes first releases. Debuting bands earnestly try to capture the aura of the music as they juggle with the technical aspects of playing it. First albums often come off as awkward or even flawed but there still containing endearing and thoroughly captivating elements. Many groups lose this enchantment in their sophomore album only to recover it with the third. This happened to Sepultura, who reached the pinnacle of their transcendental contributions on their only death metal album, Morbid Visions. They followed it with a boring mass of riffs with no heads or tails. Their much superior 1989 speed metal album, Beneath the Remainsfortunately corrected this.  Hopefully, this will be the case with Zealotry as well.

The Last Witness plays like an extension of The Charnel Expanse‘s final track, “The Unmaking”, the least structured song on the album. The band tangentially explored the technical ramifications found by playing their particular style. From the creators’ perspective, this seemed like a clear path. In taking this choice to focus on a narrower voice, the evocative deficiencies of that streamlined, tremolo-picked, sequence-of-riffs approach had to be compensated for. This was completely ignored and instead there is a heavier emphasis on playing the technical parts of the songs correctly.

Musically, there is a lot of worthwhile content here; It just doesn’t tell a story as much as give scattered visions that are not arranged properly, do not have clear beginnings, and even less conclusions. The painstaking composition in a self-conscious style with a corrective attitude is extremely promising. This is admittedly the hard route as it requires extreme discipline; it is the classical composer’s way for reaching to perfection on all fronts. However, composers need many, many errors before turning trial into triumph.

As it stands, The Last Witness is a collection of exquisite details into which a very attentive reader can dive. He will discover many forms but nothing solid enough to materialize a clear vision. In part, this is due to the tendency towards extreme variation and superficial indulgence of musicianship, and too much escapism in the codas. Follow the title track attentively to hear what I am referring to. The problems here mirror those of Monsieur Tougas on his side project except that Zealotry has a much more individualized voice.

Zealotry would also do well to stay away from the death and war metal influences with atmospheric pretensions seen in the empty music of Phobocosm. Instead, they should work on their motific death metal,  develop the themes to establish long-range links, and fully utilize their proper sense of breathing space. Zealotry should play to their strengths instead of diverging horribly and incoherently as in the final track, “Silence”. I am sure with practice and discipline, the time will come when this band will dominate a wider range of expressions. For now, shaping up this very narrow music into that which breathes, lives, and envisions a story is still a goal.

Readers may listen to The Last Witness on Zealotry’s Bandcamp page.

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Harley Flanagan – Cro-Mags (2016)

Harley Flanagan - Cro-Mags (2016)

“Punk’s not dead,” goes the old joke, “It’s only sleeping.” Since the mid-1980s, very little of interest has come from the punk community as it has struggled to deal with its popularity. Teenagers want rebellious music, but they want it to be safe enough that they can use it for those difficult teen years, then move on to lite jazz and album-oriented rock as they age.

As a result, punk became a market, and that market favored brain-dead angry rebellion that did not shake any actual foundations but simply attacked socially-acceptable enemies with a more angry approach. Punk went Leftist in the 1980s, but it is more accurate to say it “went bourgeois,” or searching for targets it could bash without really offending anyone. It is always acceptable to target cops and Hitler, but not so much to mention anything which could make us all doubt our participation in society.

The Cro-Mags were a breath of fresh air in this dying scene. Like other classics of hardcore punk — Amebix, Discharge, The Exploited, Black Flag — they paired a Leftist distrust of the profit motive with a right-wing view that human culpability at the individual level was destroying our society from within. This complex view makes for uneasy coexistence with people who depend on both profit motive and patriotic views of strong defense and economy.

Harley Flanagan, bassist and founding member of the Cro-Mags who identifies Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead as his greatest influence, drove his band to create a form of punk that was actually rebellious. For many of us, “World Peace” was an early Red Pill, awakening us to the fact that the most cherished values of our society were in fact moronic illusions that were consequently quite popular. People love an excuse to turn off the brain and go with the flow.

Nothing as intense as the Cro-Mags could last, and after a brilliant first album (The Age of Quarrel in 1986) the band struggled with internal instability, putting out a speed metal influenced album (Best Wishes in 1989) and a softer, more contemplative and Hindu-influenced take on punk with Alpha Omega (1992) and Near Death Experience (1993). One version of the band released a followup in 2000, and several compilations have tried to resurrect the early material, most notably the demo/live compilation Before the Quarrel (2000).

Cro-Mags, the most recent solo offering from Flanagan, channels quite a bit of rage at the personality conflict behind the collapse of this once-great band, but also at the collapse of hardcore itself. Interestingly, it merges the speed metal era Cro-Mags with their earlier intensity to come up with a metal-influenced (but not metal-flavored) blast of rage and melancholic isolation.

Songs on this album take a form of simple riff loops with introductions and interludes, often fading out in explosive and sometimes bluesy solos. Musical focus targets a good solid riff and a strong chorus that plays off the tension in that riff, guided by the vocals of Flanagan which vary between angry riot shouts and a type of unnervingly emotional but aggressive singing that has never been done successfully in hardcore before.

Like most return albums, this is a foray that tests different waters. The band experiments with — or mocks — Pantera-style riffing on “I’ll Fuck You Up” and revisits punk and metal riff archetypes with earlier songs. None of these are off-the-shelf however; in each one, the riffing remains distinct enough to be its own entity, a hybrid of Motorhead and punk hardcore and the aggressive speed metal from Slayer, Exodus and Metallica with a voice unique to itself.

The question before the reviewer is not whether Cro-Mags is a decent comeback album or an acceptable substitute for the Cro-Mags, but whether the music stands on its own. Over the course of several listens, I have concluded that it deserves listening on its own merit. These are aggressive but thoughtful songs with a core of dissident outlook not toward politics, but toward humanity and its default impulses as a whole, and in so doing it continues and enhances the best of what hardcore punk had to offer.

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Autechre – AE_LIVE (2015)

AE_LIVE

Article by Lance Viggiano

Autechre began their lifecycle inspired by Kraftwerk’s robot-pop composed of complex layers of simple motifs transformed into dialogues in which each layer of sound appeared to be communicating with each other, resulting in intricate music that often sounded emotionally distant yet alluring and rewarding. This approach has been refined through later work by removing the individuality of each motif, stripping it of meaning and self-purpose; and instead crafting living wholes out of simplistic cells. With the AE_LIVE release, Autechre present a novel concept that was originally released as a four-part series and since has been expanded to nine separate compositions averaging around an hour each. For the sake of sanity and brevity, this review will focus on the original four performances.

Each performance is procession of distinct tracks whose form and aesthetic are pre-composed. The basic structure and sonic palette unfold in a live setting through improvisation resulting in a collection of compositions which are distinct but unified. The thing-in-itself is inaccessible and can only be approached through a variety of perspectives. Autechre manifest the underlying urge of each track through indeterminate duration, rhythmic and harmonic variance. The compositions contain no narrative arcs which may frustrate the listener however life itself is equally devoid of historical arcs, shapes of time, purpose, and rationality. If we can abstract a theme out of each manifestation it is the inner and outer turmoil of living a human life. The subject-object relationship to this work is different between listeners, therefore the meaning of the art is subject to variety since we do not have access to the inner contents.

1. AE_LIVE_KRAKOW_200914

Man’s primal, aggressive, and marauding nature is the subject of this composition. This experience is the most immediate of the original four and simplest to grasp for those used to musical tour de force. Exuberant synth erupttions are followed by moments of hesitation through cascading bass creating an abstract representation of threat, uncertainty, and sudden response. The rhythms often invoke a steady elevated heartbeat over which sharp patterns clash and dissolve. Autechre explore their early dialectic style in the compositions coda but instead of a conversational tone, invoke a confrontational quality. Elements compete with one another, increasingly at odds and less integrated as the whole piece winds down into an uncertain and exhausted conclusion.

2. AE_LIVE_BRUSSELS_031014

The most dance and groove oriented take is predominantly physical in nature. The focus is on the body and its motion. Autechre push the limits of danceable rhythm which in turn challenges the body to remain in step with the ever-shifting cadence of life.

3. AE_LIVE_UTRECHT_221114

The most sparse and introspective variation. Track transitions are less abrupt while the whole retains more interdependence than the other pieces fitting for a contemplative journey. Autechre sort their mental contents in a relaxed meter. However, the character of the patterns are no less tumultuous and bombastic than the others.

4. AE_LIVE_DUBLIN_191214

External and visceral. Washes of ambience linger in the background giving off an impression of a subject traversing a landscape. This contains the most abrupt and forced transitions. A lack of fluidity is reminiscent of the rush of chaotic and divided sensory imagery washes over listeners who find themselves in unfamiliar places, isolated, without familiarity or a rational center.

AE_LIVE may be purchased from the AE_STORE

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Kawir – Father Sun Mother Moon (2016)

kawir - father sun, mother moon

Article by David Rosales.

Kawir’s Father Sun Mother Moon strikes one as simple and mediocre pagan pop metal. From the recycled tunes to the standard, swinging rhythms of the genre that make actual metalheads cringe, Kawir has collected and presented them all to us on their new album. Kawir debases their music, pandering in the same way as those worthless politically-correct pop-dressed-as-metal bands like Turisas do. It really does sound like these Greeks could have been hanging out with Congressman Freddy Lim and Jesse ‘Djent-Black’ Liu of Cthonic, or drinking beers with the geeks from Tengger Cavalry. All these accusations are well deserved. The album therefore deserves to be dismissed as third-rate pap. Despite this, it is useful to look at this inconsequential list of boring tunes in terms of their de-evolution from Kawir’s previous album, Isotheos.

The concrete symptoms of banality and mediocrity can be found in the overall decline in richness of melodies and rhythms. Melodies have been shortened: they return much quicker to the root tone and rely more heavily on simple-silly rhythms ‘typical’ of Pagan pop. The variety of the types of melodies (that is the different arrangements of the motifs and their variations) are much less in number. Exactly the same with the rhythm guitars: less variety and where there was minimalism (which by definition, cannot be further simplified without loss of value), we now find a dumbing-down. The strict cyclic structures are far more evident in this album, replacing the quasi-linear Eastern European black metal which was used on their 2012 release. This uncreative disaster reaches unbelievable proportions when we encounter a dull track where after subjecting the audience to an ad nauseam repetition of a melody over a beer metal rhythm, Kawir simply fades out to avoid any shock to casual radio listeners in order to make it easier for the corporate broadcaster to place advertisements right after it.

While Isotheos melded melody and rhythm into a phrasal motific force, Father Sun Mother Moon clearly separates the paradigms of melody and rhythm. This in itself does not mean the end of the world but nothing is done to balance the combined simplicity. In fact, repetition plays an even greater role in filling out the runtime of this album: variations are less frequent, variation distance is smaller or unrelated, and single melodies or rhythms contain less content (movements from the tonic, manner in which they return to the tonic, temporary movements to different tonics, and even number of notes). Some sections on Father Sun Mother Moon reach the heights of the previous record but the overall quality is definitely lost.

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Liers in Wait – Spiritually Uncontrolled Art (1992)

liers in wait spiritually uncontrolled art og cover

Article by Lance Viggiano

Liers In Wait cast chains of non-random riffs in the legato style of metal pioneered by Morbid Angel to no effective artistic purpose. Spiritually Uncontrolled Art comprised of rationally woven re-contextualization of familiar death metal patterns which never manage to take on a distinct character as individual tracks. The album as a whole doesn’t begin to approach a definable emotive personality because the subject of this work is the personality of the composer: a master of phrasing with an encyclopedic knowledge of metal so adept in his craft that self-editing would diminish the efficacy of his work. These streams of coherent yet cold consciousness are hewn to Necrolord’s own sense of bravado; made concrete by a vocal delivery that proffers dominance rather than dread.

This is neither music for music’s sake nor music for the sake of expressing a transcendental idea. It is entirely about the composer’s ability to write coherent music out of the first thing that comes to mind – a mind that is very much a wellspring. In some ways this album is analogous to Eighties shred which existed as a pure demonstration of superiority over its contemporaries by parasitizing familiar content that was then latticed to the listener through overly sentimental melodic hooks. Antithetically, Necrolord eschews hooks entirely as they would constitute breaks and disruptions in the stream by deploying recognizable moments and thereby give the impression of emphasizing the better material, and consequently highlighting the lesser ideas of which there are none to be found. Conceptually this seizes the middle ground between tuneless noise and the summa cum laude of ten-mile-long cock rock.

Lasting impressions, significance and meaning is for the sensitive feminine types, not the fucking overlord. In this sense, Liers in Wait is a resounding success. Those lamenting the fact that this music does not “Do something” gravely miss its point.

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Ripper – Experiment of Existence (2016)

ripper_-_experiment_of_existence

The Americans invented speed metal with Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, which came out the same year as Slayer’s Show No Mercy and early European projects like Bathory, Sodom and Hellhammer. The European scene fused these together into a speed metal that used proto-death riffing as exemplified by Destruction, Kreator and Merciless.

Ripper picks up in the Merciless vein and keeps that Swedish landmark as its guiding force. This band keeps the attention of listeners however through its spirit and its refusal to adopt clichés. It uses riff forms found before, but keeps them specific to the song so that they relate to the other parts, preventing songs from being “grab-bags” of former ideas.

Its weakness comes in one of the hardest tasks for any metal band: distinguishing songs from one another when they have a similar approach to tempo and vocal patterns. Here, Ripper lag behind their mentors. This is the only flaw. The Instrumentation is top-notch and creative: the riffing reflects the theme of each song and displays competence and wrestling complexity from simple power chord clusters while vocals are both harsh and complement the music.

Incorporating melodic and instrumental elements, Ripper keeps the intensity high. This creates the type of listening environment that bands like Angelcorpse perfected: both intense like aerobic activity in the presence of terror, and somewhat monolithic because so much of it hits the same sweet spot of rhythm and motion. But its spirit never flags and the resulting enjoyment of the music, for listener and musician, forms a bond that far surpasses what most of the underground has been doing for the past 20 years.

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