Deathgasm (2015)

Theatrical poster of Deathgasm

The combination of metal and horror films presents a challenge because you cannot have two strong forces without having one trigger the other. In Death Metal Zombies (1995) it was a recording send from an on-air contest; in The Lords of Salem director Rob “Zombie” Cummings features a terrifyingly enigmatic piece of music that, played over the radio, invokes demons. In Deathgasm, a downtrodden teenage metalhead in New Zealand uncovers an ancient hymn for summoning a dark deity, and launches (nearly) the end of the world.

As with all in the genre of New Zealand horror, Deathgasm features a tight integration of absurdist humor with its horror plot. Like reading Mad Magazine, watching this film requires the viewer to be attentive to background details for extra laughs, but there are also outright comedic lines delivered at pivotal points in the plot. Much like the best underground films of the 1980s, Deathgasm also serves as a revelation of society from a metalhead’s point of view: boring, pointless, disorganized, with people already possessed by ideas before the demons even get the glimmer of personality transubstantiation in their beady little eyes.

Once having accepted that the plot will revolve around a teenage metalhead, his band, and an ancient curse, the viewer can proceed to enjoy this film for what it delivers: buckets of gore, wry laughs, and an honest sense of terror for these characters caught in an absurd world gone even more nonsensical. Protagonist Brodie just wants to make it through high school and away from his horrible foster parents, maybe picking up axe-slinging sweetheart Medina along the way, but his world has collapsed… and then the demons arrive.

Tightly scripted, and filmed with an eye for the natural beauty of New Zealand as well as as a pervasive creepy suspense that makes ordinary settings look threatening and surreal, Deathgasm applies perhaps the lightest touch working metal into the film as both topic and soundtrack, immersing us in the world of the metalhead facing a demonic horror that, like the adult world around him, is both incomprehensible and threatening. Look for the classic metal tshirts and other details of the underground metal world.

Unlike many horror films, Deathgasm follows more of the adventure movie plot (think: Die Hard, the apex of the genre if you ask me, which you didn’t) in that it involves humans attempting to surmount disbelief and low self-confidence to take on supernatural forces. Its characters, while caricatures, also reveal some of the truth of our varied social roles in this wonderful modern society. Rising to the inevitable conclusion, this film spills buckets of blood and guts and makes its audience identify with the struggle for survival against forces beyond our control.

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Dismember – Under Blood Red Skies (2009)

Dismember - Under Blood Red Skies (2009)

Review by Daniel Maarat

This DVD set of two filmed concerts and a documentary was the final release from “death metal legends and fucking idiots” Dismember. The sound quality and performances of the concerts are adequate, but fans will be disappointed that they aren’t from the prime period of the band in the early nineties; both were filmed after the departure of drummer, primary songwriter, and producer Fred Estby before the final, lukewarm album. Not entirely filling in his shoes was Thomas Daun of Repugnant and Ghost. Shitting in his shoes. I only made it all the way through both concerts and resisted the temptation to play Dark Recollections with the help of a six pack of Coors Banquet. More interesting is the included documentary, Death Metal and More Mental Illness. This also lacks contribution from Estby except for some footage from the 2006 Masters of Death tour with Grave, Entombed, and Unleashed. The performance of “Pieces” is better than the two included shows. The interviews with the Best Voice in Death Metal* Matti Karki and lead guitarist Dave Blomqvist provide good information for die hard fans.

Blomqvist says that Dismember never cheated with quantization, cut and paste digital trickery, or drum triggers while playing live. Live, they constantly had to stomp on the dimed Boss Heavy Metal 2 pedals at the end of guitar parts to prevent their ridiculous tone from frequency masking everything else. The only time they turned down the distortion was on their Nuclear Blast mandated sellout as death metal “was not in anymore” album, Massive Killing Capacity, which they admitted “sounds like shit.” Otherwise, Dismember never followed trends and kept true to their Autopsy, Sepultura, Repulsion, Morbid Angel, and Iron Maiden influences; Mental Funeral was their “riff bible.”

Karki reveals that most of his lyrics were written at the last minute; his vocals are from higher in the vocal registry than traditional Cookie Monster death growl, almost a harsher hardcore punk bark. Performing them in the studio “killed and devastated” him. We feel his pain through the presented footage of an overweight Swedish man in his underwear.

The drunken goofiness that satiated Dismember’s touring bleeds: A dozen minutes of the band headbanging, set lists written on bare backs, Swedish imitations American, and British accents. The film climaxes with a hen on the side of the road. Recommended for boredom.

*http://www.deathmetal.org/news/new-york-times-on-the-best-voices-in-heavy-metal/

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Orcrypt Mercenaries of Mordor (2015)

orcrypt_-_mercenaries_of_mordor

This style is emerging as the new front for underground metal: a Paradise Lost-style lead rhythm melody laced doom metal as if played by a war metal band at death-doom paces. This takes last season’s favorite, the Incantation-derived “cavern metal” band, and adds to it melody and more distinctive traditional riffing, but keeps the same morbid subterranean atmosphere.

Orcrypt add to this formula that ability to wield classic, catchy choruses in the style of Pyogenesis or later Sodom, so that like war metal songs rumble through a series of riffs and then break into a clarity that resembles the moment on Pink Floyd album when storyline and music united. This is done within a riff vocabulary that would fit alongside later Emperor, early Mayhem, Revenge, Blasphemy and Order from Chaos. The result avoids the off/on hard/soft approach of bands from Pantera through nu-metal, and instead works up to the catchy choruses with embedded melodic rhythm leads among the surly and rapacious war metal/black metal riffing. This creates a haunting anticipation that flowers in the choruses, which are less frequent than with purely verse-chorus bands.

Pacing follows that of a doom-death band: breaking from slow to fast, to return to a mid-paced option that leads into the slow. This perpetuates the dark ambiance and enriches it with a sense of internal motivation. Orcrypt know how to remove everything but the essential in songs and then later, where it has no negative impact, work back in noisy leads and vocal accents. The result is both dark underground and has the power of traditional heavy metal.

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Taphos Nomos – West of Everything Lies Death (2015)

Taphos Nomos - West of Everything Lies Death (2015)

Review by Maxton Watchurst

Taphonomy is the study of fossilization. Interesting that a death metal band would utilize this in their lyrics.

Hailing from Pennsylvania, Taphos Nomos is a very young band that comes hammering with their lyrically-fitting brand of death metal on their 2015 EP West of Everything Lies Death; the music takes on a very dry and decaying atmosphere, which feels just as if the music itself were slowly and painstakingly fossilizing. Besides the aesthetic it generates, the instrumentation itself shows clear influence from both Incantation (whilst thankfully staying away from the usual ‘cavern-core’ cliches) in addition to bands from the Swedish scene such as Unleashed and Grave. The clean vocals and some accentuation in the melodies are reminiscent of what one would find in ‘traditional’ doom metal bands. An interesting combination, but does it come to a cohesive whole? Thankfully, yes. It’s not the utmost zenith of creativity, but it’s a satisfactory style nonetheless.

Across the entire work, the music develops in ways that are decently dynamic; despite there not being many distinct instances of interplay between the members, there is a sense of momentum generated that keeps the overall musical narrative flowing. Canyon Shifter (real name Nick L) is generally the source of the interplay on this release. To elaborate, his layered guitar work (multiple voices, not pointless aesthetic walls) makes use of recurring themes to advance the narrative of the music in addition to having a clear idea as to how to build tension, especially in the case of some sections where the various melodic voices build some basic yet effective polyphonic phrases. That being said, there are some parts that hold back the music from flourishing. Taphos Nomos’ sense of rhythm doesn’t match the momentousness of the guitarwork. This doesn’t mean that the rhythm section cannot keep up, but when listening to this EP, it’s clear that your focus is going to be directed solely towards the melodic aspect.

The overall result is somewhat memorable, but with the previously stated issues, it becomes evident that only certain aspects stay in mind post-listen. The music’s quality itself may not be truly exceptional, but in both competence and  stylistic integrity, Taphos Nomos show clear signs of potential on West of Everything Lies Death.

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Hades Almighty – Pyre Era, Black! (2015)

Hades Almighty - Pyre Era, Black! (2015)

Review by Daniel McCormick

According to the FBI, 90% of arsonists are male, and usually white. Studies show that these perpetrators are young, angry, and often acting out of a belief of revenge. The founder of Hades Almighty, Jorn Tunsberg, was 22 when he decided to make a “statement to breakdown Christianity” and proceeded to torch the Åsane church in Bergen, Norway on Christmas Eve in 1992. This flair for dramatic communication, based in anti-Christian sentiment and pride for heritage, is still forging quality metal after all these years. Enter Pyre Era, Black!, the first album released by Hades Almighty in nearly a decade and a half. This EP clocks in at just under twenty minutes and consists of three tracks with rather ambiguous titles. Because of the ambiguity I didn’t know what to make of this prior to actually hearing it, but I was skeptical. Luckily, upon my initial play through, I was happily surprised while also finding the direction had gone somewhere unexpected.

The music is reminiscent of prior Hades material, but with a diminished black metal feel, and a greater focus on cleaner texture and ambiance that lends a modern body to the traditional Hades sound. This is embellished by a well mixed depth in the structures that actively engages the listener, and by building within the repetition via a variety of ideas that keep the experience from growing dull. This is backed by a crushing rhythm section that is a perfect fit to the style. The vocals on the album are consistent, well laid out, but done in a mostly folk/viking style with very little in the black metal voice of old.

Of the three songs the final track seems the most interesting and developed, and I hope to see Hades advancing more in this direction. It differs from previous works of Hades by incorporating greater accessibility, a more stylized tonality, and also by incorporating a sense of abstraction into supporting ideas. Despite its less than ingenious title this track has an extremely creative mixture of things going on: from stand out bass work to well dispersed acoustic/ clean guitar to a peculiar industrial break to oddly melodic screaming etc. I find my tongue nearly tied to explain the diversity, there’s a progressive, folk, black, viking, original thing going on here that is just beyond the scope of a great number of generic modern acts. Which is more to say that it doesn’t try, but is; a sound denoting inspiration not aspiration. The arrangement seems an orchestration with an ‘inner law’ as Nietzsche defines, “relative to an individual culture.”… …in this case, to true Norwegian metal. Particularly in the main portion of the final track, running from about 01:00 to 07:00, one finds a mix of nontechnical riffs with hammering aggression in accentuation, and an emotional, black ponderance arising in the revolving tonic chord which therein is impressed with a number of tension inducing, numinous evincing, foreground embellishments.  A fine example of song writing prowess, and the best track to check out to decide if you should pick up this release.

Overall, I’ve been a fan of Hades since ’98/’99 and I’m proud to say this heathen is still one. So go pick up this record now(!), blast it on eleven, and burn down a church for the glory of Odin.

 

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Cryptopsy – The Book of Suffering (Tome 1) (2015)

Cryptopsy - The Book of Suffering (2015)

Would it be too brief to say that The Book of Suffering is like older Cryptopsy, but not quite as good? Probably not. Cryptopsy’s legacy after 1996 appears to be one of steady decay and loss of focus, although you could be forgiven for placing too much importance on the aberration that was The Unspoken King. Bands that aren’t able to jump to a new trend successfully often retreat to what they know, hence this utterly safe and sterile EP. It’s almost as if Cryptopsy wasn’t merely imitating None So Vile, possibly with some brief intrusions from more recent albums, but that the only song they’d heard by previous band lineups was that album’s introductory track (“Crown of Horns”), and that this EP was an effort to imitate that specifically.

Cryptopsy wastes no time in trying to forge the appropriate links in your brain. The spoken intro to “Detritus” (which is so obviously self-referential that it will probably insult you) made me suspect that the band was about to blast and scream, and from then on not a moment passed that wasn’t analogous to something off None So Vile. The overall effect evenly splits between being more orderly and more chaotic than this EP’s obvious inspiration. 20 years of studio experience understandably make for a more precise performance, as does the apparent use of a template. On the other hand, the Cryptopsy of the past had a better understanding of how to glue riffs together to create narrative and contrast in their songs. This incarnation of the band isn’t quite there yet and often uses breakdowns laden with pinch harmonics instead. Furthermore, None So Vile drew on a greater palette of musical language; part of this is that Lord Worm was a more versatile vocalist in his prime than Matt McGachy; a greater part is that Cryptopsy wasn’t relying merely on themselves as a template. Funny then, that this problem should also happen to another one of today’s reviews

In summary, the main problem with The Book of Suffering is that it’s uninspired, more than that it’s pseudorandom. Cryptopsy knows how to sound as if they are about to collapse into random noise at any moment without actually doing so, but they don’t do much of interest with this approach. Maybe if they hadn’t burnt themselves playing with the metalcore fire, this wouldn’t be a problem, although the amount of people looking forwards to a second The Unspoken King has to be rather less than those who will nonetheless accept The Book of Suffering as a continuation of form, if not necessarily substance.

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Grave Ritual – Morbid Throne (2015)

Grave Ritual - Morbid Throne (2016)

Review by Corey M

Grave Ritual released their debut album, Euphoric Hymns From the Altar of Death, on Razorback Records in 2010. I picked up the album after a cursory listen online and have been steadily listening ever since. It is based on the sort of whirlwind style of composition in which contrasting, visceral riffs are injected in rapid succession into the listener’s stream of consciousness, but the band keeps just enough pressure on the brakes to keep the songs from becoming haphazard and disorienting, and they know when to reign in the multi-directional melodic excursions and wrap up their exploration in a satisfying resolution. Grave Ritual are a well-oiled machine who are foremost concerned with playing death metal just the way death metal is “supposed” to be played. That is the strength and the weakness of this band.

Five years after their first release, Grave Ritual have given us Morbid Throne, which begins with an unnecessarily long intro track (“Baleful Aversion”) that is evidently designed to ease the listener into the aural aesthetic of the album. This is not a bad musical technique necessarily, but I find that being tossed right into the fray of warped chords and unexpected rhythmic shifts of traditional death metal is a much better introduction to the hopeless terror that is death metal’s specialty (aside maybe from an unironic ’80s-sounding synth). Listening to “Baleful Aversion” feels like I just exchanged a ticket for access to a “haunted” fun house and am leisurely strolling down the walkway that leads to the entrance, hearing electronic sound clips of spooky bat squeaks and creaking floors, passing “DANGER!” signs stuck in the nearby ground intended to give the appearance of haphazard placement and long-term neglect, but obviously carefully placed and maintained. Meanwhile the opening track of, say, Effigy of the Forgotten gives me the sense that I’ve been strapped into an unguided rocket and the engines have just ignited. In other words, there is a sense of carefulness on the part of the band to avoid getting “too crazy,” and this is the overall sense of the entire album, usually for the worse.

At the risk of using the “it’s 2015, we should be past this by now,” argument, Grave Ritual seem to be doing themselves a disservice by sticking so closely to established death metal tropes. The album is evidently supposed to sound like it was recorded in 1992, including the guitar, drum, and vocal techniques. We need only reference Immolation or Atheist to see that there isn’t necessarily an established canon of techniques that define that era; rather, it was a time when bands were pushing the limits of metal in terms of what was physically feasible to play on an instrument, and what sounds were psychologically jarring without going to the point of unlistenability. Grave Ritual play riffs with the same intervals and scales and power chords that the death metal bands in 1992 used, but they play them like rock riffs, which at some point need to cycle back to the original chord that began the riff in order to resolve. Grave Ritual, however, instead of truly resolving a section of music and allowing the next section to develop, will just drop a riff after it gets played enough times (before you can get bored with hearing it, to the band’s credit) and a new riff arises out of the same scale but in a different rhythm or at a different tempo, to give the appearance of motion and development. This means that, if you listen closely with attention paid to the beginning and ending chords of each riff, you’ll notice that the guitarists will stay on a single chord pattern for a very long time, occasionally switching up the speed or pattern of notes but only changing how the notes are played, not what notes are played.

Grave Ritual use an effective but dated method of riffcraft: 1. Pick a dissonant interval. 2. Play some scattered, atonal riff to jump between the two notes. 3. Play basically the same thing on a different place on the neck, but slower. This worked very well for Incantation, but Incantation’s music is grounded by an intuitive sense of motion and tension, probably because the guitarists knew that they had to move on to a different riff and aimed toward it, rather than milking each riff for all its worth by cycling through indefinite rhythmic mutations before the riff expires. Meanwhile, the two-chord back-and-forth riffs on “Morbid Throne” do not build tension as they are repeated over and over; their main purpose seems to be providing a rhythmic hook to anchor the rest of the inoffensive-but-generally-unremarkable two-chord riffs that make up the meat of most songs.

And hooky, they are. The best parts on Morbid Throne are very cool sounding; imagine Autopsy riffs played at half-speed while authoritative drum patterns are augmented by a very deep and grisly voice chanting spells of suicidal vengeance. It’s a dependable aesthetic formula because it has held up against the scrutiny of generations and has continued to sell in a rapidly shifting industry for over thirty years. Unfortunately Grave Ritual’s dedication to this aesthetic has made them a slave, rather than master, to it. One prime example is the guitar lead that comes in just before the minute mark in “Lewd Perversities”; we hear string bends and rapidly tapped melodies, but that’s all there is to hear. It’s just an exposition of technique. There is nothing being expressed through the technique; the only expression is of the technique itself, which is a backward way to write and play death metal.
The best death metal albums work by pairing musical sections that are unlike on the surface (being in a different key, or of a different rhythm or tempo) and then eventually tying them together by offering more transitions and comparisons until the listener’s stubborn insistence that unlike sections conflict is broken and he submits to the song as a whole rather than a collection of contrasts. Grave Ritual understand that pairing incongruent riffs haphazardly makes the music an incongruent shuffle. This lets them gracefully avoid the two major pitfalls of modern death metal; one being that overwhelming percussive impact will convince the listener that they are hearing something extremely “brutal” and the other being that “atmosphere” is the goal of any album and bizarrely-voiced dissonant amelodic progressions are the most appropriate take on a death metal “atmosphere”. For this, they are to be commended. Yet in the end, this album has no teeth. There is no sense of danger or tension throughout. The product is a death metal album designed for easy listening, and in this way, it succeeds.

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Deathrow – Deception Ignored (1988)

Deathrow - Deception Ignored (1988)
Guest post by Maxton Watchurst

We live in an alienating society. I speak not of mere platitudes referring to ‘the elite’ or ‘the powers that be’, for they are mere symptoms in the overall system. Whether it was born with intent or unconsciously, the modern individual is mentally thrown off by paranoia, surreality, and above all else an apparent lack of purpose. This is not to say the past holds what we seek. On the contrary, nothing has quite changed in this regard, but it has become distorted and confused to such an extent that all we can wonder about when considering an actual meaning in our world is… why?

The underlying story of Deception Ignored is more important to understanding the album than one might realize. Each song details a different aspect of life, linearly progressing in time, that has been assaulted by this society’s entropic alienation all from a nameless man’s perspective. It would likely be best to lay out a brief explanation for this supposed macrostructure, would it not? Thus this lays out the ‘journey’ of the nameless man through the unconscious order of the world:

  1. Inception: Immersion in society’s paranoid mindset
  2. Depression born from inability to end this alienation, but overcoming desire for death
  3. Contemplation on the self’s meaninglessness versus holding onto an ideal within sleep
  4. Internalization of routine and coping with the world
  5. Comprehension of the world’s apathy
  6. Defeatism through distracting oneself from the events of the world
  7. Finale: Realization of the breadth of the system and struggle to change

A rather depressing story, eh?

Beyond just the conceptual outline of this album exists its wonderfully constructed music. Despite repetition of lyrics within the tracks, the unconventional construction makes it apparent that these tracks do not simply follow a cyclic pattern. Through-composition integrated in with the unorthodox chorus usage renders the choruses’ purpose as a means to express the thematic development; it is not so much a mere return to a section as it is reintroducing melodies for the next section to work off.

Uwe Osterlehner, who joined the band in 1988, is responsible for much of this. Prior to then, Deathrow’s sound was stylistically within the Teutonic thrash metal scene, albeit with their own quirks here and there. Uwe played a role similar to that of Alf Svensson (of At the Gates) for Deathrow, acting as a guiding hand and showing the true potential bound within them as a group. His intensely neoclassical compositional style, bringing the music to the utmost technical extents of thrash, was essentially a transcendental conception of that which is speed/thrash metal. Melodies are interwoven in every which way across each point within the overarching structure of this work; each song expresses a theme, develops it in seemingly every way possible, and brings it all to a conclusion. Yet it seems as if the songs themselves don’t have traditional climaxes, eh? The overarching structure is quite important to recognize. Just as Alf Svensson talents transcended ATG’ abilities through taking command up until 1993, Uwe Osterlehner was the mastermind behind Deception Ignored.

“Triocton” itself deserves a mention. It is the third track, and despite its instrumental nature, the music speaks for itself and contributes to the narrative. The complexity of the album is brought to its zenith, and it bestows on us an inimitable display of thematic interrelationships. To the listener, this may appear at first to be a ‘riff-salad’ due to the seemingly ridiculous amount of thematic introductions within this track. Disregarding it as such a meaningless term would be foolish, however. Several thematic melodies all centered around one overarching melodic phrase which is constantly subject to variation itself. Such a labyrinthine structure is truly daunting.

Uwe, as the primary guitarist and songwriter, and assisted by the other guitarist Sven Flügge, used a heavily nuanced and technical melodicism in his compositions that expressed simultaneously two predominant emotions found within the story: a sense of mechanical alienation and the triumphant will to overcome. This dual embodiment gives a feeling of uncertainty across the album, but not in the sense that it’s directionless. The narrative is in fact enhanced by this emotive confusion as the two emotions embodied in the melodic elements carry each other through each passage, as ebb and flow, to demonstrate the complex emotional structure inherent – a fine balance of order and chaos.

The basswork of Milo (also the vocalist) and the drumming of Markus Hahn provides far more than simply an adequate rhythmic backing to the complex melodicism acting above. Myriads of time changes, winding exchanges between the dueling guitars and the underlying rhythmic patterns, and (even beyond mere technical aspects) the tremendous aggression expressed all show the sheer power underlying the melodies within Deathrow’s sound. The cryptic time signature changes do far more than the typical progressive metal band does with such things; the time is constantly altering itself to suit the emotional context of each present moment and to develop each track’s narrative. Far from technical masturbation, Deathrow utilizes the utmost technicality to express far more than sterile proficiency.

Bizarrely enough, Deathrow (likely not including Uwe) disowned Deception Ignored. Despite its sheer immensity, they perhaps felt that Uwe’s direction was not what they desired. It’s a shame since his genius resulted in this masterwork, even if their talents allowed Uwe to express his ideas. It always confuses me when bands disown their works…

Regardless of this nonsense, Deception Ignored stands high as a daunting yet beautiful expression of both alienation and will within the framework of metal.

 

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House of Atreus – The Spear and the Ichor That Follows (2015)

House of Atreus - The Spear and the Ichor That Follows (2015)
Review by Daniel McCormick
House of Atreus, a four piece hailing from Minneapolis, are a relatively newer melodic death metal act. 2015 saw the release of their first full length, The Spear and the Ichor that Follows, and the overall reception appears to be quite positive. The lyrics and imagery focus on Greek and Roman  mythology, though, much like the band Baltak’s Macedonian premise, this is not necessarily easily derived from the music alone. I have mixed feelings about this release – it has grown on me a little, but I find there are a few flaws worth noting.

Nearly every review I’ve read cites Arghoslent as a similar artist followed by the obligatory, “but they don’t refer to African Americans as cargo.” It is easy to see where this reference comes from, but I’d clarify that there is a difference in so much as House of Atreus sound more like something polished coming out of Sweden than the American raw, brutal, rough, and bloody variety. Perhaps it is an issue of production, which lends a full presence and solid mix, but take for example the song ‘The River Black’. I’m drawn more towards citing Kalmah, Amon Amarth, or At The Gates over anything I’d actually seek out to listen to. I realize there is a large audience for this type of sound, but as a strident, hateful elitist, I’m left unmoved.

That aside, the musicians are competent, the songs are all accessible, and the album is generally inoffensive. This is aided by incorporating aspects of melodic black metal and modern thrash in the riffing, with an overarching aim towards catchy melodies. Song structures are mostly straightforward; they’re developed and creative, but I’d have appreciated greater diversity to maintain my attention over the course of an entire album. The vocals employed give the dynamics a pleasant emphasis, with thoughtfully constructed patterns, but I do wish more of the context of each song shone with more clarity. The percussion is thunderous and solid, it elevates the progressions nicely and I’ve no real criticism to offer.

I’d like to be positive, to recommend this with gushing enthusiasm out of my affinity for antiquity, but unless you’re predisposed towards fanaticism to this genre you’d likely fail to see what unique niche this album fills. To me it sounds like dozens of other melodic death metal works released over the last fifteen years, few of which actually struck me as necessitated additions to my collection. So I’ll leave you with that, to decide for yourself.

 

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Horrendous – Anareta (2015)

Horrendous - Anareta (2015)
Horrendous is evolving. They’re not content to merely be one of our masochistic metal victims, so they’ve been gradually and haphazardly incorporating more jazz fusion and djent influences into what was previously a Heartwork inflected sound, and what continues to partially stink of it. What entertains me so much about Anareta is how neatly compartmentalized these two styles are and therefore how little they interact, making for perhaps two EPs stitched together and all sorts of increasingly implausible hypotheses about the band’s songwriting and tracking process that distract from the main issue at hand. Neither half of Anareta is exactly a sterling example of what already are difficult styles to pull off well in a metal context.

The “progressive” side of Horrendous leads off the album and appears to occupy significantly more of its runtime. This part of the recording emphasizes its internal rhythms – it is midpaced, replete with offbeats and odd time signatures, and it showcases some complicated interplay with the local guitarwork. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the band is at least trying to make something interesting and complicated, but there are a couple of problems with their approach. One admittedly trivial (but strangely attention-grabbing) flaw is that they have no idea how to write introductions to their tracks; therefore, many of Anareta‘s tracks begin with a minute or so of pseudo-random gassing. More importantly, the emphasis on surface rhythmic complexity isn’t matched by a willingness to expand the percussive textures that underlie it. Furthermore, the guitar tracks above this, while benefiting from the rhythmic prowess of the band, rarely allow their actual riff content to escape from the traditional metal and rock tropes that hold the band back. At the very least, Horrendous will need to severely edit their tracks and develop a better sense of narrative composition in order to master this substyle.

While it’s pointless to judge whether vaguely “progressive” metal is better or worse than generic melodeath and Stockholm syndrome, the gradual shift in emphasis towards the former over the band’s career suggests that if they keep going, they might have a genuinely good album on their hands in a few years. Anareta definitely hasn’t reached that point yet, being too haphazard and scatterbrained in its ambitions to really hit home, while still occasionally lapsing into straight up generic guitar pop.

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