Xendra – Xendra

Xendra

Xendra was a heavy metal project from the Central American country, Honduras. Rumor has it that their only album was recorded within one week around the turn of the century. The simplicity of the production would never put this into doubt as it is just barely satisfies the requirements of the music to be listenable.

 

As Brett Stevens said in a previous article, one could make the experiment of imagining music played through a primitive or simple device or format like a midi output and then see how interesting the music becomes then as a measure of the actual resulting power of the composition. It is in this respect that the barely satisfactory production in this album becomes a test for the music. Despite the production, the compositions’ musical qualities shine through, modest as they admittedly are in the very-large scale of music appreciation.

 

Xendra’s brand of late heavy metal also takes on speed metal characteristics with melodic tendencies. This is a typical 1990s mid-paced, simple melodic heavy/speed amalgam that is exemplified today by Cruxiter. Most of the most iconic and prominent Central American metal bands played in this style. Its raw yet singable character being particularly apt to work as a channel for a kind of urban folk style. I often use a word callejero(“of the street”) to describe the particular brand of heavy metal that developed in Central and northern South America. It is a folk heavy metal not because it makes use of old aboriginal melodies for motifs, but rather because it is the language of the young people in touch with the crudest reality of their modern countries. As such it tends to be be full of socio-political protest, prone to melancholic bouts and occult visionary prophecies. We should stress that the latter is appropriate and perhaps even mandatory for any respectable underground metal genre. As a kind of folk music, a few simpler songs in verse chorus manner are sparkled throughout the sixteen tracks of the album. These do not sound pandering as indulging themselves or the singer but are veritable laments voiced impersonally.

 

Claiming to be influenced from the more mainstream rock and hard rock progressive outfits like Rush and Dream Theater, someone listening in a slightly distracted manner would miss where and how Xendra makes these influences manifest. While we hear Dream Theater making technical acrobatics and the contrasts from one section of the music to the next the main point of the music, a more sensible and humble band like Xendra uses them in key points as tools towards smooth expansion or creative and beautiful articulation between sections. The rendition of the heavy metal callejero as presented in 2000’s Xendra is one of the best of its kind. Displaying elegant songwriting, subtlety and the restraint of talented instrumentalists using their technical abilities where the music needs them, rather than when their ego fancies it.

 

The full album can be downloaded here.

 

 

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Infernal Execrator – Add Infinitum Satanic Adherent

INFERNAL EXECRATOR - Ad Infinitum Satanic Adherent - cover

An incredibly brief, foggy, quasi symphonic intro with Marduk-like vocals pronouncing some indecipherable gibberish, followed by minimalist and recklessly fast riffs could fool one into thinking this is precisely a Marduk clone. In truth, there are mid-paced sections interspersed here and there to mitigate the onslaught of the indecipherable and impetuously fast sections. This upgrades this release to a later Marduk clone. Although probably upgrade is not the most accurate descriptor here.

The best and undeniably valuable product of extremely fast, loud and unrelenting black metal has been contributed in the last few years by albums like Advent Parallax and in the veritable modern classic Godless Arrogance. Marduk, on the other hand, was always wild abandon to mindless, truly mindless, speed and minimalism for the sake of it and more importantly for the joke of it.

But while Marduk are explicitly joking about everything they write about while staying somewhat seriously offensive, Infernal Execrator manage to sound like a joke more easily acceptable among the Godflesh Apocalypse extreme metal crowd. The words Ad Infinitum Satanic Adherent themselves are more than enough warning that this should be placed besides the likes of Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz. The only difference is that Impaled Nazarene triumph in the same way that Sharknado does: by embracing the joke and being happy with it. These Singaporeans purport to be more (by calling posers out) while not being able to take themselves entirely seriously. Fans of the Marduk, Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse will find this release palatable and fashionable.

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Terra – Untitled (2015)

terra

Advertised as a black metal release, Terra contains each and every one of the traits people might identify the genre with. The raspy vocals eclipsed by the distortion of the guitars, the dominating use of tremolo or simple strumming on the guitars and the steady and smoothly changing pace of the songs, and even a folk melody or two.

 

A few tell-tale signs tell us this is more in the vein of post-rock with progressive pretension. The inclination towards plain major-scale melodies can be considered superficial, but more often than not does separate black metal from the foreigners who are only borrowing its tools. The alien scent is most offensive in the blatant filler of Dj-groove sections which almost bring to mind Periphery’s Matt Halpern.

 

The importance of dissecting Terra lies in the relevance of knowing how to separate black metal’s “atmospheric” tendencies versus post-metal and the lesser (most) ambient music whose sole point is to “create atmosphere”. Black metal creates atmosphere and that atmosphere becomes a tool to what it is saying. Terra’s music is atmosphere.

 

Music is not about pointing out different elements.

Music, a work of music, is about integrating all the elements.

If you are able to say “this is a very rhythmical part/this is a very emotional part/this is a very technical part/this is a very atmospheric part”, you are not making music.  You are, maybe, only producing some (could be also very interesting and very beautiful) sounds.

— Daniel Barenboim

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Exhumation – Opus Death (2015)

EXHUMATION - Opus Death - cover

When receiving descriptions of new releases from labels, one can read all sort of outrageous and preposterous claims on par with “the beginning of a new era in metal”, “unprecedented innovation”, “I’m tougher than Vladimir Putin” or “We went to Afghanistan to bring democracy to the people”. It wasn’t all that surprising, then, to read the first introductory line and find that young Indonesian band Exhumation was being hailed as a classic. I rolled my eyes at this and proceeded to get my face punched.

Exhumation plays a violent proto-black metal in the vein of Sarcófago and an aftertaste of Blasphemy. I will stress that they play in the vein of those bands. But they escape the clone-curse and give the listener a familiar but altogether new and original experience. As underground metal styles death and black have moved well past the initial stages of formation and definition, most bands have turned to simple rehashing or attempts at innovation. Unfortunately innovation is often perceived superficially. We should talk about progress and not innovation, which is often confused with novelty. I would not hesitate to call this album true progress. Albeit a conservative, cautious progress in this particular style.

Opus Death, a silly title which made me seriously doubt the album at first, is Exhumation’s second album. Exhumation understand the language and are proficient users of the same, knowing how to formulate their own statements. Not only are they original in what they say, but they also learn from the classics by avoiding their errors and carefully expanding where there is potential to expand. Ideas and the riffs they span let the listener become familiar with them as is required in the black metal tradition, but they do not overstay their visit nor overstep their roles. Transition riffs are adequately unstable and work effectively with drum patterns to create the gasping effect so that the listener can breath before the music goes on, unrelenting.

Both highly chromatic, Slayeresque solos as well the simple, rough and tonal melodies make an appearance in the record without sounding disparate in any way. The balance of taste and style always carefully preserved. Much can be said of the placing of the solos which is always optimal and contributing to the emotional upheaval they cause within the emotional predictability of this kind of music.

Another feature of this album that should not be overlooked or underestimated is the use of piano and guitar interludes right at the middle and at the end of the album, respectively.  It is hard not to draw a parallel with Blessed are the Sick, but I am willing to venture and say that as to their contribution to the album as a whole, they are much more powerful and relevant in Opus Death. Both beautiful in their minimalist rendition of the harmonic skeleton behind the ripping black metal of the band, they contrast the slaughtering slashes of the rest of the album and serve as inverted climaxes.

Trying to praise this as uncompromising is an insult to Exhumation. Rather, the mature and sensible compromises Exhumation incurs in are what account for the steady and sure steps of their music. It might be too soon to call it a classic, but it sure feels like one. Far from naive or wanting in any technical respect, Opus Death shows us that even though traditional and true underground metal may be difficult to carry on whilst being original, it is not impossible, but we need to look beyond juvenile feelings of rebellion to do so. Metal is not young anymore, act accordingly.

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Obsolete – Riven

obsolete

“Why?” you ask. Why indeed. “Why is this on a website called deathmetal.org?”. Because to promote ideals, what must be avoided must also be examined. Obsolete gives us plenty of material to work with in this respect. It has the gimmicky over-emotional vocals and the string unrelated catchy and head-bob-inducing sections that would not be out of place in a Coheed and Cambria record.

With the all-too-common excuse of being a progressive band, Obsolete give little thought to whether the ideas they are pasting together actually make any sense as a whole. Not only is the whole unconvincing but the individual ideas are also echoes of the past in a series of bland reincarnations of alternative rock voices. Often voicing social protest in Latin American music, this style of music is used by Obsolete to speak of plain and obvious things as if they were the most mysterious enigmas of the universe. Such is the power channeled by this music.

Riven represents the lowest common denominator for the casual music fan. By definition, there is no shortage of these, so that this album is sure to find a substantial audience ready to talk about how deep and emotional this music and its lyrics are.

The reader can help themselves to this profound music here.

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Zealotry – The Charnel Expanse

zealotry01

Boston’s Zealotry made a startling contribution to death metal in 2013 with their debut album The Charnel Expanse. Plodding, grim death metal inspired on the vague harmonic coloration of Immolation, the watery flow of tremolo-picked melodies of Adramelech and the syncopated off-feeling of Demilich. A non-explicit disciple of the abstract concepts underlying the strong and clear structural construction in the death metal of At the Gates’ Gardens of Grief, Zealotry’s offering makes strides in the direction of the ideal and whole technical death metal.

A superficial glance over the record can give the impression that this is a retro band and that this is an “old school death metal” record. The only truth in that remark lies solely on the fact that Zealotry picks up where old school bands left off before death metal hit rock bottom in the mid 1990s only to branch out helplessly in a multitude of retrograde subgenres. Zealotry shows us the way the obsession with technique and extremity in performance of the genre at the time (which became its focus roughly after 1992) could have been channeled into the sculpting of true works of art rather than demonstrations of narcissism and inadequacy.

Condensed into one sentence, the reason why this effort falls short of its mark is related to the how monumental that goal is. Were they to pull off the record they were looking for, it would have single-handedly given the current death metal landscape an example to follow and at the same time it would have marked the end of a chapter in the genre.

But the naivete that cripples The Charnel Expanse gives the metal student a clearer study of death metal construction. The way each riff and section is rounded off and resolved makes the record overbearingly predictable. The thoughtful enchantment of each next riff is what allows the listener to pull through despite the somewhat conclusion-less songs. Here is where the influence of The Chasm is made most clear. It is as full of fervent candor as it is clueless regarding to how to close off ideas or give them more than a transitory character.

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Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden

out_of_the_garden

Heavy-Doom Metal, as I like to call everything that is merely slowed down heavy metal, is not known for being fertile ground for originality. It is a rather narrow sub-genre (more like sub-subgenre) which gives its adherents a very specific and rather primitive set of tools to work with and is at this point a retro-worship of classic and original acts like Candlemass. Hailing from Pennsylvania, USA, Crypt Sermon make no attempt to break off from this role of obvious emulation.

Out of the Garden should by no means be simply reduced to Candlemass-worship, but the influence is unmistakable. This is encouraging as one listens to the album for the first time and finds all the bells and whistles in the right places. The big, epic, long-drawn choruses, the guitar melodies, the climatic solos. It all harks back to the “catchy” selling points of Candlemass.

Once the brume has dissipated as the winds of repeated listens blow in, one realizes that this is everything Out of the Garden has to offer. This makes it a great release for those who want Candlemass without the trouble of having to digest all the meat of acts like Atlantean Kodex. The casual fan of epic heavy metal will have a blast with this new release.

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Rush – Permanent Waves

Rush_-_Permanent_Waves

Emerging from a hard rock background, Rush made increasingly ambitious attempts at being on par with the European progressive acts of the early 1970s. Although dubbed a progressive rock band, Rush’s music would be best described as a “poor-man’s” progressive rock. A naive and straightforward attempt at emulating the workings of the music of more refined bands like Yes or King Crimson. As such it has been one of the most easily comprehensible progressive bands to the general public.

Released in 1980, Permanent Waves is the Rush album that most closely approaches the ideals of the by-then defunct progressive rock movement. Being the highlight of the band’s technical competence, here we find Rush at its most bombastic and dynamic. As a preamble to later so-called progressive rock and metal (henceforth referred to as pseudo prog), this album features songs which make use of elements of contrasting musical styles (the listener will even find a reggae-styled section) to break the spell of a mood. In doing so it aligns itself with music appropriate for listeners who prefer a casual but engaging distraction.

Despite this stylistic digressions ,Permanent Waves manages to be generally constant in its artistic voice. Rush’s expert and moderate use of synths, the ease of transitions, and the satisfactory clarity of the goals in their structure-building-oriented songs make this release the peak of Rush’s works.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV6k1JRMgN8

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Demoncy – Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion)

demoncy_-_empire_of_the_fallen_angel_eternal_black_dominion

Demoncy originally recorded Empire of the Fallen Angel in 2003 and a dozen years later has re-recorded and re-issued these compositions as Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion). Having thought for years that the original release deserved a second look, it was great to see it ride again.

Recorded solely by Demoncy creator Ixithra without the benefit of a band as happened on the original, this new edition includes four new compositions which will be of a style familiar to listeners of Enthroned is the Night: more melodic than the classic Joined in Darkness, but still furious in intensity. The re-created older tracks feature better vocals and better production, giving the guitars greater power and fitting songs together more tightly. Empire of the Fallen Angel came out when “depressive black metal” was first a trend, and represents a response to that in the form of black metal that is often doomy: slow, morbid, and atmospheric. While the traditional powerhouse Demoncy riffing that sounds like all the savagery of Incantation and Profanatica undergirded with melody is present, much of this release also resembles the mood-oriented immersive pieces of bands like Black Funeral or even Ras Algethi. This album was always a more sensible method of expressing that sensation in black metal than the “depressive” variant, which amounted to essentially Burzum ripoffs that never changed riff, and now with more powerful production it reveals its strength. A listener might also note pervasive influences from Gorgoroth throughout this material.

Much of the album also uses faster material of the type seen on Enthroned is the Night: fast angular riffing that preserves melodic affinity between internal phrases, keeping a sense of mystery and ongoing discovery vital in the music. The new vocals have all of the whispering abrasive sound that made Joined in Darkness sound like a communication from dark gods hidden underneath the earth, but with the intensified production both float above and complement the guitars. While this album is not as intensely violent and confrontational as Joined in Darkness, nor as death metal influenced and energetic as Enthroned is the Night, it captures both the esoteric fury of American black metal like Black Funeral and the melodic intensity of European acts, all within its own voice. This classic not only rides again, but does so with a new life of its own.

Tracklist:
1. Invocation To Satan
2. Risen From The Ancient Ruins
3. Scion Of The Dark
4. Eternal Black Dominion
5. Sepulchral Whispers
6. My Kingdom Enshrouded In Necromantical Fog
7. The Enchanted Woods Of Forgotten Lore
8. The Obsidian Age Of Ice
9. Night Song (Apocalyptic Dawn)
10. Empire Of The Fallen Angel
11. Shadows Of The Moon (The Winter Solstice)
12. Warmarch Of The Black Hordes
13. The Ode To Eternal Darkness

Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion) will see release on June 29, 2015 via Forever Plagued Records.

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