Gama Bomb – Untouchable Glory (2015)

untouchableglory
Review by Corey M

Having never heard of Gama Bomb before this album, after the first few moments of music I was afraid that I had gotten ahold of some sort of the modern-faux-thrash-revival that is somehow cool to people who don’t listen to thrash bands. But I was wrong; Untouchable Glory is not a forced revival or a rip-off; it’s just dumb music. This not to say that the guys in the band are dumb, because they clearly have practiced their musicianship and are attentive to the dynamics and compositional symmetry in their songs. But the result of what they do is still dumb, and apparently they want it that way.

The basis of Gama Bomb’s style is made up of high-speed two- or three-chord minor riffs over which a vocalist rants and chants cleverly cadenced lyrics with just enough emphasis that his voice never becomes a full-on yell but keeps up (barely) enough energy to avoid sounding bored. A typical Untouchable Glory song starts up at full-speed right out of the gate and rushes through a verse, then hits you with slightly bouncier, chunkier variation of the same riff you just heard (but transposed a few steps up or down) as the drums switch from dense d-beats to a sort of swaggering rock rhythm. After that comes the chorus, which is usually not made up of a more interesting riff but does have some very catchy vocal pattern that, coupled with the rapid-fire lyrics, creates a hook powerful enough to snag a whale. Some songs have guitar leads and these are mostly made of 16th-note blather with no discernible direction other than back and forth because that’s the extent of the movement of the chords. There are a couple of times where the chords underneath the lead shift unexpectedly and the lead follows (which undermines the purpose of a lead! Maybe I shouldn’t be calling the guitar antics “leads”…) and resolves the progression in a viscerally satisfying way. However this satisfying resolution is all too rare and the guitar leads rather serve as marks of distinction among the generally formulaic songs.

So far, I’ve only pointed out common failings of metal albums – probably more than 95% of all metal commits the transgressions that I’ve detailed above. So what makes Untouchable Glory worse than a mediocre album is the purpose mentioned in the first paragraph? Gama Bomb is made up of competent musicians, but they have no ambition. Every song sticks to the same method of structure and dynamic manipulation. Every lead begins and ends in the same way. The band must rely on their vocalist and his method of delivery, which does a great job to augment the repetitious rhythm of the guitars, but this only exposes the weakness in the guitar and drum composition, because the vocals never let up or give the music a chance to expand beyond its immediate template. Typically I’d refer to chord progressions when describing song structure but the chord patterns that make up the songs on Untouchable Glory don’t progress, they just recycle. This tendency in the composition reflects the band’s attitude toward metal (and presumably music) as a whole.

The ultimate failure of this album is not in its compositional shortcomings but in its intentional stupidity. Song subjects cover kitsch and cliche topics such as getting high, getting drunk, hating authority, burning witches, being a ninja, and being undead. That these topics are dealt with is not enough to warrant criticism, but the self-consciously ironic attitude that Gama Bomb takes towards the topics is what separates them from quality acts that they are aping. Metal and punk bands have been covering these topics for decades but they didn’t have their tongues in their cheeks while doing so. Since those topics were taboo, metal bands explored new methods of song construction to fit with such uncomfortable or repulsive themes and great music was created as a result (and I always refer the uninitiated to Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” or Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” for an example of how musicality and lyrics support one another to establish and expand on a theme). Meanwhile, Gama Bomb have nothing new to say about any of these topics and so it would logically follow that they needn’t invent any new music to support their take on the topics. Thus all we get to hear is basically a parody of speed metal and thrash. If you think that type of music deserves to be joked about, then Gama Bomb might be right for you. If, however, you appreciate and honor the innovators who brought extreme subjects into popular music and brainstormed methods of expressing them musically and lyrically, then you’d best move along, because Untouchable Glory is an affront to honesty.

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My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery (2015)

my-dying-bride-feel-the-misery
Regardless of how you might feel about My Dying Bride as a whole, you could make the point that their earlier, more death metal oriented works gave them more musical breadth to work with. Feel The Misery mostly tosses the ‘death’ part of the band’s legacy and doesn’t replace the holes with anything. To be honest, I found it quite depressing, but I don’t think it was really for the reasons that the band intended. By trying to stretch out a minimum of musical ideas to just over an hour, My Dying Bride has turned their latest studio album into an exercise in tedium and predictability.

Like many a doom band before them, MDB takes a style of metal (on this album, really basic traditional Black Sabbath type stuff) and plays it especially slowly. The emphasis is generally on the vocal performance of Aaron Stainthorpe, who on this album seems shackled by the sluggish pace and constant atmosphere of the recording. His combination of both proficient growls and a clean baritone register give him some versatility that would certainly come in handy on an album with enough diversity of musical language to accommodate his talents. The emphasis on the traditional, mainstream sorts of metal, though, come with a troublesome burden – permanent consonance and conventional pop music language mean that anything the band introduces often lasts for a very long time or is callously discarded without much in the way of elaboration. The songwriting here isn’t completely stagnant, but it certainly meanders, and the inability to properly develop on anything makes an already lengthy album feel even more drawn out than it already is.

The obvious point of comparison is not necessarily to death-doom or even more mainstream forms of doom metal as a whole, but to other drawn out, minimalist/ambient works. The best works of that sort (sparse as their construction often is) tend to trace out a sort of musical “journey” by building up a logical connection between every aspect of the music. Compared to more conventionally structured music, it’s simultaneously easier and harder – the former because there’s less elements to work with, and the latter because listeners would therefore have more opportunity to inspect and scrutinize what actually is there. It seems, however, that My Dying Bride doesn’t even attempt this on Feel the Misery, which is content to wallow in its own sorrow. If you want a miserable navel gazing experience, it would fit just fine, but as a work of metal, it is a dismal failure.

 

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Black Vul Destruktor – Beyond Time and Portals of Death (2013)

black vul destruktor
The Argentinian (Patagonian) city of Neuquén is an important regional industrial and agricultural center, but it’s still in a relatively remote part of the world and probably analogous in some ways to living in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada. If this compilation by Black Vul Destruktor is to be believed, knowledge of extreme metal has made its way to the region. The material on Beyond Time and Portals of Death seemingly takes more after the proto-underground; its mixture of stereotypical black and death metal technique marks it as a descendant of the Bestial Devastation school of metal, but more often not trading pure chaos and insanity for some level of refinement.

Since Beyond Time and Portals of Death compiles both the band’s Bestial Obscure Metal Kaos demo (from 2012) and an older demo from 2008, there’s a clear split in sound, but not necessarily in composition. The old material is understandably much rougher in production and mixing (although it’s still intelligible), but it shares much of its DNA with the new material. Both recordings showcase Black Vul Destruktor writing loosely structured and performed songs composed of fluent chromatic tremolo riffs over initially sloppy and later more coherent drumming. Everything’s a bit amorphous at the best of times, but this extremely stripped down method leaves enough wiggle room for the band to experiment with structure a bit. The material seems to generally work better on the more primitive demo, although Bestial Obscure Metal Kaos does achieve a higher level of satisfying rhythmic prowess. Everything feels a bit more charismatic on the earlier material, at least in that ineffable early Blasphemy/Beherit/Sarcofago/good “war metal” way; especially in its vocals, which have little regard for meter or prosody. It’s nearly the exact antithesis of how I compose, but the style admittedly has its value.

The end product is far from original, but it showcases some careful study of what made the simpler, more hardcore-inflected black metal work, and it occasionally throws in some threshold-expanding ideas of its own (see the goofy melodic outro of “Slaves”, or the constant variety of tempo and texture on the later material). It is very much of its scene, showcasing a great deal of techniques and stereotypes I’d associate with the South American underground, but what it does, it does well, even seemingly responding to the common criticism of underground metal (that it’s limited to mere worship and aping of the great classics) by pushing for some innovation within its adopted framework.

This album can be streamed and purchased from Bandcamp thanks to the services of Blood Harvest Records.

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The Unbearable Boredom – On The Irrelevance of Ares Kingdom’s Music

Ares-Kingdom-The-Unburiable-Dead-2015-flipped
Article by David Rosales (read the original by Dan McCormick here)

Ares Kingdom has brought yet another stillborn child into this world. It has all the ingredients, but somehow it is not alive. It possesses such an unbearable need to be metal that it becomes so self-consciously metal that it could be considered tongue in cheek, but it isn’t. This makes it painfully embarrassing to listen to, the annoyance it causes being staved off by a feeling of uncomfortable pity. While this will entertain and even have the superficial effect of caffeine on the young metalhead, it will translate into a sure headache for anyone expecting the music to say something besides “I am so cool”.

The Unburiable Dead is the sort of album that a band with a lot of metal in its “system” but altogether too few neurons could put together in about a month or so. It suffers from a reliance on rhythmic riffs completely divorced from strong themes that it is borderline nu metal. As it replaces concrete content with emotion, this music is a huge mess. In order to counter the effects of its own unfocused babbling, Ares Kingdom resorts to the simplest means of keeping the music on some sort of track, namely, bringing the song back to early riffs and verse-chorus appendages within the incongruous mass of wacky solos completely out of context running over riffs with little to none motific connection most of the time.

The previous review on this site placed the album squarely in an ultra-musical context to better appreciate it. This is very appropriate and we could argue that it is the best way to appreciate music. Music nonetheless must deliver powerfully, especially from within its intended context and mentality! If it fails to exploit the ground from which it grows, expanding from the idea to musical moods concretely and coherently expressed, then it simply has failed as music, no matter how interesting the original idea was. Rather than a metaphysical reflection of the world thrown into chaos, I get a picture of a drunken brawler swinging an axe at imagined foes in the middle of a forest. Perhaps this picture is also an accurate representation of civilization’s thin veneer, after all. Perhaps Ares Kingdom has succeeded in portraying the self-deceiving nonsense and purposeless chaos they criticize in civilization through the literal mediocrity of their music.

While at first one could be tempted to say that Ares Kingdom speaks a language of its own, that it has stylistic coherence, the microscope reveals something different. Their music, not only on this last fiasco but throughout the band’s play discography, is namely an extremely distracted riff salad in which the individual riffs can be brought in from sources as different as galloping power metal to thrashy death metal to alternative nu and groove “metal”. This is headbang-core for beer metallers and other social metalheads (those who listen to metal in social contexts only and are not actually addicted to it).

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Another perspective on Satan’s Atom by Atom

The cover of Satan's latest album flipped vertically
Review by David Rosales (read the original by Gabe here)

First things first – let’s get the obvious clear and out of the way. Satan is a band of not only competent instrumentalists, but songwriters with an ear for balance, color and dynamics. The previous review written for DMU on this album emphasized and praised this point as much as the band deserves. As it remarks, the attention to structure in the composition throughout the record and its faithfulness to its chosen style is worthy of praise. The only thing being suggested here is going one step further in our observations.

Sure, from the point of view of a purely academic critique, this is an outstanding work as it plays within its own style with dexterous flexibility, maintaining a certain cohesion and strong sense of flow throughout as colors and transformations are shown and removed. But metal goes beyond the formalities of technical music. Metal is about the the essence, hence it is about the ritual that directs a focus in the listener towards a certain attitude. But with Atom by Atom it sounds like we are gaily riding at full speed to the circus. At this point, we may question whether we are not making the mistake of placing something else besides or outside the music before the music itself. The answer is no; this is still about the content of the music, however non-objective it may seem, and is of the utmost important to a genre that claims to be more than fireworks and self-gratification (both on the artist’s and the listener’s sides).

We could go about explaining this with a loose inductive argument. Humans all tend to hear unisons and fifths as being more in repose and in balance than minor seconds or sevenths. This is because these correspond to very different and constant relations between sound waves at different frequencies, and their effect on the human brain on the physical level is, then, also constant. The way the appreciation of these changes and is trained through the exposure to different types of biases is a different matter, although equally important. Suffice it to say, that at the end it is a matter of the relation between the objective characteristics of sound and the conditioning by the environment of the subject.

Different systems around the world base their music on different philosophies, parting from these facts, even though they may not identify with exact things such as what Western music calls “perfect” or “imperfect” intervals. In the case of metal, it arises from the system of traditional Western tonality of the 19th century with a tendency towards terraced dynamics similar to those of Baroque music. The emphasis on content and delivery over flare that distinguishes metal from rock music also brings it closer to minimalism and one could even say, to early European music.

These are systems based on premises that are not just there as illusions, and serve as the objective sense on which this tonality is built. Certain intervals and progressions, certain melodies contrasted or complemented by the underlying chords, as well as the different rhythmic patterns (predominance of longer notes followed by shorter ones in bars and riffs) all possess distinct auras and characters. And although these cannot be pin-pointed with words, which would then obviate the need for music, we can generally define nebulous areas which range from what we know as human feelings to mental images and even divine morality (hence we have music that is predominantly described as ‘pure’, and music that sounds ‘evil’).

In the case of Satan’s 2015 opus, it’s as if the band had disregarded all sense of meaning in tonality and the character that the interaction between rhythm and melody projects onto the listener. In bouts of pure excitement and fanciful excess, Satan colors this album as a circus clown’s gala suit. Vocals are as emotional as in the first album, except that in here they seem even more disconnected from the music as the music veers into some sort of progressive speed metal akin to Helstar’s.

Although not as degradingly vulgar as Surgical Steel, Satan Atom by Atom results in a pretty tacky affair. This is an album that can serve as study case for guitar players when it comes to technical details in arrangement but falls short of a purposeful metal work. Its lack of heavy theme (from which the term heavy metal comes from) or any particular topic the musical level except the fun-funny carnival mood places it squarely outside any consideration for outstanding albums.

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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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