Firespawn – Shadow Realms (2015)

Firespawn - Shadow Realms (2015)
As I suspected in September, this is a patronizingly stupid work of deathpop (reminder: straight up pop rock/metal with death metal aesthetics and instrumentation) of such simplicity that it will probably worsen the quality of discourse here at DMU for a few days by virtue of having been released. This sort of thing should probably been relegated to the level of Sadistic Metal Reviews, but part of having greater volume on this site is going into depth on why the chaff is chaff, as opposed to the cream of the crop. Shadow Realms is the type of album that could very easily be commercially successful if it got the right marketing push, but I don’t think that’s actually going to happen, and no amount of sales is going to secure this album a place in your mind for very long.

All the stereotypical elements of a deathpop album are here in full force. The instrumentation and production is “perfect” in the sense that everything here is appropriate to the 50% Stockholm/50% Gothenburg mixture that was used in this album’s construction. Shadow Realms is slightly melodic, not particularly Bossy, and generally built from fast, somewhat technical instrumental performances, but the end result is that each musician is playing something solely because if they didn’t, there would be no album. Some songs might slightly, almost imperceptibly bend towards other substyles at times, but the actual songwriting is as formulaic and rudimentary as it can be. L.G Petrov’s extremely simplistic and almost sing-song vocal performance continues to be the main emphasis on this album. Everything else is subordinate to the point that it severely inhibits the rest of the band’s ability to contribute anything beyond the banal and overdone.

By slamming together a roster of musicians with so much experience, Century Media has ensured that Shadow Realms sounds like death metal, even to those who give it more than the most superficial of listens. It’s still unfortunate that the musicians don’t have anything interesting to perform. All of the bands mentioned in Firespawn’s promotional materials have released better material than this, although not necessarily in a similar style. Stylistic specifics, though, do not take precedence over quality and coherence of output, and thusly listening to Shadow Realms is a complete waste of your time.

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Slaughter of the Soul‘s 20th Anniversary of Awfulness

"Mud cake" - delicious.
Article by Daniel Maarat

Twenty years ago to the day, At the Gates completed their descent into Fredrik Nordström-produced, commercial pop garbage with Slaughter of the Soul. Since the Death Metal Underground does not celebrate mediocre Eurotrash speed metal (Go listen to Artillery instead), we will be blowing out the candles for a more significant release for the underground featuring many of the same musicians.

Grotesque – Incantation (1989)

The "In the Embrace of Evil" compilation contains, amongst other things, the entirety of the Incantation EP.

Grotesque’s legendary Incantation 12”, 45 rpm EP turns twenty-five this year. The only studio release of the progressive black death madhouse features the twin guitar and songwriting talents of Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin (perhaps better known for his contributions to the visual arts) and Alf Svensson. The melodically flowing compositions and shifting time signatures present on At the Gates’ The Red in the Sky is Ours (see former editor and continuing author David Rosales’s excellent article) appear in a more bloodthirsty, thrashier form on the first three songs. Following those are two earlier compositions of simple but very well done speed metal ensure the appreciation of even the most Neanderthal headbangers.

Most probably first heard Grotesque on the Projections of a Stained Mind Swedish death metal compilation or on the remixed and rearranged In the Embrace of Evil career anthology from 1996. In the Embrace of Evil has been quietly reissued this year by Hammerheart in a limited digipack format and Candelight in the standard jewel case with the original mastering intact for the first time. There is no ridiculous overuse of dynamic range compression for the sole benefit of losers with Apple iPhones and earbuds excruciating everyone else. Buy the CD, not the hipster reverse needle drop LP; In the Embrace of Evil was only released on CD back in the mid-nineties and an LP pushing fifty minutes in length can only have poor, distorted sound. Hear Grotesque’s journey from Satanic, Sepultura -worshiping first wave maniacs to black leather trench coat-clad, death metal exceptionalism.

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Leviathan – Scar Sighted (2015)

Leviathan - Scar Sighted (2015)
Review by Corey M

USBM (United States Black Metal) as a term encompasses such varying sounds as the primal war chants of Von, the uncompromisingly precise assault of Averse Sefira, and the operatic mewling of Weakling. Scar Sighted, Leviathan’s newest release, is still USBM but typically is categorized by fans as “depressive suicidal black metal,” along the stylistic lines of Sweden’s Shining and fellow American Xasthur.

Unlike the epic and powerful surge of teeth-clenching energy that one feels from black metal ne plus ultra like Sacramentum, Immortal, or Darkthrone, Leviathan’s music is more about… who knows? Something relatively vague but generally negative, self-loathing, and frankly boring. Take this line of lyric; “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” This line seems assertive and confident; you may wonder what meaning this cryptic passage may hold. And wonder you shall, forever, because placing it in the context of the rest of the song does not reveal any clearer meaning. There is no point other than the expression of narrow-sighted negativity. This is the unifying theme of Scar Sighted; a gross misdirection of self-contempt projected toward any and all things outside the self, with uninformed “occultic” references mixed in for good measure.

My contention with Scar Sighted is not just with the lyrics, though. The composition of each song reflects the fragmentation apparent in the lyrics, throwing out one cool-sounding line after another, but leaving the observant listener with a stark sense of having witnessed a slide show of barely-related images. Melodies come and go with nary a whimper as the listener gets deeper into each song. Certainly, a lot of blustery riffs throughout the album got me excited and interested in hearing where the music would lead me next. But that makes the album all the more disappointing, as one song can throw a series of two or three engaging riffs at you and then switch tracks completely and strand you amidst a wash of dissonant non-melody that, rather than moving the song forward, just wallows within its own two-or-three chord cycle that doesn’t relate to any other part of the song.

To Wrest’s credit, a lot of the riffs are very cool, and he has a refined sense of how long a riff can be exploited before it becomes too boring for repetition. Sometimes, he makes the right choice and heads into a complimentary riff to accentuate the previous one. However, more often than not, the last riff is shrugged off and a whole new feeling is admitted, complete with a disparate drum beat, a new scale, and, too often, a new vocal style. Wrest has a very intense low-end growl that synergizes with the grimy, slimy, bass-heavy sound that is wonderfully mixed on this album. Wrest is clearly a craftsman that takes his work seriously and not a lazy writer. However, the result of his work is an incoherent collection of songs, some of which sound like they could come from a post-hardcore band on Level Plane in the early 2000s. With that in mind, Scar Sighted wouldn’t be a bad album by any means if it weren’t marketed as black metal. But when contrasted with the standards of black metal and the techniques employed by the best bands, we find that the intensely personally-focused introspective meanderings of Leviathan fall apart.

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Perdition Temple – The Tempter’s Victorious (2015)

Perdition Temple - The Tempter's Victorious (2015)
Article by Daniel McCormick

The Behistun Inscription of King Darius was carved approximately 2,500 years ago in what is present day Iran. It includes a multilingual narration (the veritable Rosetta Stone of cuneiform) and a relief which depicts the Great King before nine men whose hands are tied and necks roped. These nine doomed men symbolize the leaders who dared challenge Darius I’s power and the inscription narrates how the Great King and his army “utterly smote” all opposition time and again. It is a monument to masculine preeminence, violence, and revenge; elitist and cruel it is typifying of what is great in life: victory. These are timeless aesthetic values which parallel a modern metal ethos and embody its philosophy of power – as Nietzsche once wrote, “The excess of power only is the proof of power.”

Slavoj Žižek writes in his 2008 book ‘Violence’ that most of us are “caught in a kind of ethical illusion”, which is ingrained in our instinctual reactions and that “This is why shooting someone point-blank is for most of us much more repulsive than pressing a button that will kill a thousand people we can not see.” (e.g. Milgram experiment) This is the same evolved psychology as William Blake inquires questioningly about in ‘The Human Abstract’, as Baudelaire’s “unmoved hero” lends counterpoint to in his “Don Juan in Hades”, as Byron attempts to exploit in “The Prisoner of Chillon”. The general innate effect induced reflexively by cognition of some negative state from which either sympathy, empathy, or indifferentism commands our attention. Through this, the deduction or normalization of altruism and pacifism as the commonality can then be contrasted to the induced (or conditioned) opposing hierarchy of predation, hegemony, and misanthropy. Herein we see where a great form of power lies, where the aesthetic values of works like the Behistun Inscription draw their wealth; here we define the base sum from whence the antithetical, or negative, values arise and thus saturate a work of art through mechanisms of visceral response. There is a physical relationship stemming from reality to the values and ideas I am speaking of that is inseparable: our minds.

From an inseparable form in understanding come values, or categorical variables, which define much what draws me to a piece, or genre. These categories tend to revolve around my intuitive response to, or interpretation thereof, distinct drama/ representations characteristic of the grander ideals which germinate visceral responses. From this negative inclination much has been cultivated in the form of artistic tributes, both modern and old, to the glory of death, ruin, victory, and the mental states which are the highest peaks of emotional experience; an impact to psychology like arousal to a sex organ. Because for all the waxing upon the beautiful as an ideal one can happen upon it becomes self evident that that which is ugly, deformed, sickly, unclean, or of choleric temperament, can bring about a much more physical reaction. Watching executions, hearing cries of agony, observing the emaciated, the diseased, the exploited, the broken, the deformed, in even the briefest of glimpses the effect can be very real and intimately innate, as a substance that holds unending possibility for suffering which the light of creative ambition shines upon.

The one I have before me now is Perdition Temple – The Tempter’s Victorious. It is an eight track onslaught of blackened death metal for the modern day exterminationist. There are general themes of mass death, satanism, and morbidity, the sort of abstracted fantastical storytelling common the genre, and though there may be some weakness in the textual substance the incorporation of the ideas is well executed. The sound carries an approach to structure that focuses on an unceasing attack of technical riffing at a tempo evocative of full auto fire backed by vocal and percussive dynamics arranged with the structural integrity of a M1 Abrams. There is a detectable formula to the album as a whole, e.g. a crushing and sometimes chaotic guitar sound matched to blasting drums and Impurath preaching hate, but such is the style and the elitists expectation towards consistency. The musicianship displays high caliber and the black, thrashy, satanic death format feels natural and engaging, as opposed to coming off as contrived.

This album falls far more into the Florida death metal stereotype than one typical of USBM. The music predominantly builds on precise, aggressive, density and a sort of rapid oscillation between heightened tension and resolution that is ever running at full tilt. Considerably inaccessible, or lacking in the common musical expectancies of harmony, contour, etc. The Tempter’s Victorious plays a familiar style that reminds me in many ways of bands such as Angelcorpse, Blasphemic Cruelty, Diabolic, etc., and others whom have shaped their music to be the antithesis of traditional demands from the listener. However, as an educated devotee, this material is appreciated all the more for the respite it provides from the hell of popularist modernity and the industrial scale by which accessibility is mass replicated. Perhaps that is also a commentary on the infuriating nature of refinement, and while it may be true to conclude that Perdition Temple present little in the way of new frontiers and that this may not be the most memorable of albums it is nonetheless a solid product of extreme metal.

Released by Hell’s Headbangers and available for limited free streaming, I’d suggest checking out the title track, “Doomsday Chosen”, “Scythes of the Antichrist”, and “Devil’s Blessed” which should give you a working idea of what you can expect from this band, e.g. heavy usage of palm muting, tremolo picked arpeggios, varied meters, dissonance, endless blast beats, shredding solos etc. Should you be of a similar mindset to myself, you’ll no doubt conclude this is a worthy black/ death release created by established musicians. The strongest aspect of this band is the quality of death metal put forward, e.g. the most important part. I believe what is really lacking is a stronger or more developed voice, vision, or intentionality behind the imagery and topicality of their expressions. The use of black metal themes and attributes does well to fill this void, but when you draw contrast to the strength of the music the actual thematic purpose of the album becomes exceedingly generic. One needs only a cursory reflection on the lyrical content to realize this has an identical failing of many black metal albums inasmuch as the lyrics center around bizarre satanic fantasies, using odd/nonsensical word combinations, and words seemingly chosen merely for dramatic effect. By looking less superficially, one overcomes this short coming, as analyzing the value system producing the content affords one endless range by which to indulge the emotions of hate, violence, and victory.

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Personal Device – En Puerto (2015)

personal_device_-_en_puerto

Like the band with whom it shares members, Cóndor, the hardcore/thrash band Personal Device — the name refers to “antipersonnel devices,” not Fleshlights — makes music with a lot of promise that sells itself short by demonstrating theory instead of creating experiences.

Art contains ideas as much as any essay, and those who deny that are morons, but it is encoded through the sensual, emotional and intellectual experience of appreciating something of great beauty and power. This is how metal makes beauty out of ugliness and reveals to us the forgotten ideas of ancient history in a form we can now recognize. It is also why Christian, Nazi and SJW music falls short, because it is preaching and illustrating theory more than it is taking us on a magic ride through the world of its ideas in application.

Personal Device thrives when the band members get in touch with their inner rebellious but sensible youth. They bash out hardcore-based tunes with metal riff framing, sounding like Emperor covering Iggy Pop or G.G. Allin sometimes, and put these in songs with some breathing room a lot like early Suicidal Tendencies. Riff quality is very good. So is their ability to know when to bring on the power and when to let a rhythm ride to its natural conclusion. Moments on this album, like on Cóndor’s works, are so good they burst with potential and make you think you have discovered a new classic.

It is interrupted however by a tendency to demonstrate. Either they show how they can fit in a blues part, use an unnecessary spoken word piece, or expand song structures to include the non-relevant for the point of making a point, but it breaks the flow of the album and adulterates the good stuff. This also blighted Cóndor Duin: theory is only good when put into practice, in a way that converts the cerebral into the existential and experiential. At the risk of ruining this review by doing the same, I will step off that soap box and summarize.

This is a great album within another album. Many good ideas ooze from the fabric of En Puerto. Their first album however had more of a feeling of a garage project designed just to be music that the musicians — enlightened as they are by theory, and their theoretical background is known to me and quite substantial — found themselves liking, not just in “body” (how it feels and sounds) but in “mind” (what it delivers) and possibly in “soul” (how it makes poetic the condition of life). The best albums do all three, and their first was closer because it was less obsessively engineered in the front-brain and more unleashed from within. Moments of En Puerto do the same, and if they cut the rest out, they’d have an album on par with DRI’s Four of a Kind or Cryptic Slaughter Money Talks. Here’s hoping for album three.

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Lugubrious Burial – “Rehearsal” (1989)

lugubrious_burial_-_rehearsal_1989

This track calls to mind the more underground edge of the 1985-1987 period. Its roots lie in speed metal and hardcore crossover, with much of its riffing relying on the type of heavily-downpicked recursive patterns that Metallica would have used if they, like hardcore bands, wanted to quiver on the edge of dissonance. The trudging riffing picks up the pace and is balanced by full-on necrotic underground metal vocals, dropping into a mid-paced groove with lots of chromatic riffs with more abrupt changes that you would see in speed metal. The vocals tend to carry this with a full mucosal drip distorted as if shouts after a bombing raid as the city burns. Would like to hear more from this band.

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Enforcer – From Beyond (2015)

Enforcer - From Beyond (2015)
Enforcer has colonized 1983 and created an album that synthesizes much of that era’s above-ground metal, along with some careful additions from early speed/power metal into a coherent and musically proficient, if not particularly inventive whole. When you take into mind that there was just as much disposable crap being released then as now (at least by ratios), this probably pulls ahead of much of its inspirations for taking advantage of the historical perspective granted by 30 years of hindsight. Whether or not that’s enough to make it worthwhile is one of the questions I had on my mind as I evaluated From Beyond.

In general, my reason for judging Enforcer’s work by this criterion is that many of the bands in their lineage had some affinity for extending and elaborating on their songwriting. Iron Maiden is an obvious choice, with their occasional ’80s diversions into progressive rock inspired content. Enforcer, however, also heeds the call of their more commercial ancestors, showcasing slightly glam-tinged vocals and the occasional straight up rock riff or progression. It seems that the various tracks on From Beyond are separated by substyle – compare fast but simplistic tracks like the album lead-in (“Destroyer”) to the longer and more elaborate ones that end LP sides (“Below the Slumber”, “Mask of Red Death”); this variety between tracks may very well be inspired by a variety of influences, but even Enforcer’s antecedents managed to incorporate many disparate musical ideas into their own works. Enforcer manages to retain some stylistic consistency while doing so, but that’s such a basic requirement that this review would be far more negative if the band failed to do so.

But I digress – From Beyond is ahead of most of the traditional/speed metal revivalists, and at the very least it succeeds as a modernization and synthesis of the various movements in early 1980s metal, without falling too deep into the trap of pandering to its audience. I feel it would be better still if it further built off its style to create more elaborate and varied works still, but based on what they’ve done already I’d put Enforcer on my list of “bands likely to improve over time”. Furthermore, I’d recommend this album on its own strengths – its virile and musically talented performance, its strong production, and overtures towards expanding on the stereotypical ’80s metal sounds, although I don’t know how long it’ll stay fresh compared to the brightest lights of the past.

 

 

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Dakhma – Astiwihad-Zohr (2015)

Dakhma cover
Article by David Rosales

What is up with this sudden influx of nonsensical war metal? Is this some sort of epidemic? Is there no end to subpar minimalist death metal clones? Dakhma’s Astiwihad-Zohr is one of the many albums that, once weighted and considered in the light of everything that has come before, forces one to ask if it was really necessary that someone waste any kind of resources recording it. While not outright offensive, it is lukewarm, at best while at worst, it is comical in its unabashed mediocrity.

It appears that anyone with a penchant for occultish themes and an appeal for the underground metal most superficial aesthetic feels entitled to put out one of these turds that the supporting community, the “scene”, considers an invaluable contribution to the ever-growing stack of EPs and albums nobody will give a second listen to. This needs to stop now. This metal funderground is destroying everything underground metal meant as an artistic refuge for true expression, even though uneducated and rough on the edges. No, it isn’t “cool” that we are immortalizing any of this shit in vinyls. No, it isn’t cool that nowadays there are so many bands to choose from when most of them are not worth a second of your life and they only drown and even suffocate those with actual potential.

With no heads or tale to speak of, these songs meander between heavy minimalist riffs, meaningless silences and long growls and grunts for “the feels”. This is all part of the idiocy of postmodernist thinking that falls into the trap of awarding relevance only to individual, ultra-subjective feelings towards passing moments in the music, and meaning to nothing in art. This is psychobabble for morons trying to feel smart. They forget that although human rules of social engagements are, indeed, “constructs”, this does not mean they are less relevant. They forget that all spoken or written language is also a “construct”, yet it is not any less meaningful because of it. This understanding that requires a journey into complexity and back again into perspective seems to be out of reach for most. Enslave the masses. Take away their means of assailing our senses with this display of mental retardation.

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Diavolos – You Lived, Now Die (2015)

Diavolos - You Lived, Now Die (2015)
Review by David Rosales

Band and album names often reveal the character of the music contained in detail, but the art of discerning or intuiting these things requires some experience as well as conscious and active attention to correlations. A tongue-in-cheek and mainstream-friendly name like Diavolos already conveys an ironic attitude towards the genre itself. A empty and virtually meaningless album name like You Lived, Now Die lets through the stink of missionless, anarchist fun.

All that said, Diavolos does excel in its technical application and configuration of riffs and riff compendiums as a progressions. But this is only skin deep and it is right after middle of songs that their lack starts to show in the need for solos sections that break off from the initial idea only to connect with a speeding outro. These songs are built and pieced together as IKEA furniture. Cheap and convenient.

Diavolos’ You Lived, Now Die will prove an entertaining listen to those with a weakness for eighties Teutonic speed metal, but will probably not be spun more than once or twice as it provides little that cannot be found in older bands. I am guessing that the bet of a label on this is just to keep presenting the same thing in a new package. This works only because most are too lazy to explore and actually listen to the music, which would reveal most of this second-rate vanity as completely redundant and even more importantly, unable to achieve valuable communication.

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Triumvir Foul – Triumvir Foul (2016)

TF_frontcover
Review by David Rosales

All exteriors, no soul. All pretension, no content. These are the sort of comments that are hard to back, especially in the light of the predominant materialist paradigm that chooses to ignore or reject the validity of any metaphysical judgements on.. well, anything. This includes music, which among the arts is the least given to materialist interpretations and whose nature lies wholly in the experience created within the triangle of producer, product and receptor/consumer. That is to say, the intention and thought of the composer codified into the music and its interpretation, the qualities of the product itself, and the reception of the same work by an audience with a singular background.
Some take this harsh judgement to mean that the writer is implying that the person who wrote the music had no intention or feeling for the music, but it is not so much that as the fact that a music veiled in unoriginal styles (which are in any case the words of the classic role models being imitated) cannot possibly convey the unique mental states of this imitator. Now, this is not a matter of requiring everyone to be 100% “original”, having to reinvent the wheel at every corner. This would entail failing as innovation hipsters do, at grasping the value of working on the work of the greats before you. But, your own work should precisely build on and not just use exactly the same expressions. In other words, bands such as Triumvir Foul sound very similar to Christian fanatics who cannot resist the compulsion of quoting three verses from the Bible for every dull sentence they babble.
In other words, the discussion on whether a music is superficial or not is usually a complex one and must be examined on a case-by-case basis, since the reason why this Triumvir Foul fails as art is completely different from the reason that, say, Ara, utterly fails and burns as a Hindenburg full of fireworks. While many metal albums may give you the specific tropes in techniques, tone and even riff-arrangement styles, only a very talented composer and original thinker can provide you with the most worthwhile aural experience. Triumvir Foul definitely is not up to that task.

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