Hardcore punk band Survival offer us a humble release that although meager can give us a lesson on several album-writing guidelines that any metal band should follow. Shayda is a good example that riffs that are usually attributed to this or that subgenre of metal can be used in different contexts to different effects and reach. These Californians also show us the value of self-control, avoiding self-indulgence in favor of a juvenile honesty that is only fitting for a band in their genre.
There are a few moments in Shayda where one will recognize the predominance of an influence from 1908s hardcore punk bands , but then one will stumble over a happy punk riff, and then one or two brief moments that will flash by with the taste of deathcore breakdowns and even a little 90s hard rock. These are encased at very specific points and are only used extremely measuredly to push the song forward or twist it for a moment with a different taste only to warp back into focus. Their are also a few samples from a movie or a narration that are used as introductions or interludes in the middle of the album with incredibly effective results.
A major highlight of the album from the songwriting point of view is how aware these guys are of the “useful life” of an idea in the context of a style. According to its nature, punk is a genre of simple, direct and clear expression which does not lend itself to infinite variations of the pseudo-mathematical Bachean type. To remain fresh yet not start diverging, the length of the songs is necessarily short. Each of them gives the listener a very clear and single-minded idea. But as a whole Shayda provides a multifaceted experience that remains both consistent and coherent.
Like big brothers Blood, Survival dominate their tools of choice in their genre and work well within their limitations, creating a memorable and musically solid work that can and should be appreciated regardless of taste.
Opening with a piano section that is completely out of place within the context of their music, Suppuration give us brutal meets groovy streamlined and uneventful death metal with croaking vocals whose creativity and character borders on the comedy of pornogrind. A major cause for this might be the production which sandwiches everything into a very narrow frequency range. The drums feel as if they were behind everything else, the guitars and the voice almost superimposed. But the production is not to be blamed for the composition blunder this whole affair represents.
Devouring Your Prayers shows several marks of incompetence. In this album we can find distracted riffing and drumming that doesn’t completely match, it is as if the musicians where just doing their own thing and they assumed that as long as they were playing in the same tempo and time signature everything would be fine. Second the interludes are completely extraneous to the album, from the musical point of view. Even worse, we find the modern tendency to move from one idea into a completely unrelated one in order to move the music forward. This is a metaphor for denial of reality, not progress.
The band manages to sound both overt yet devoid of character and completely lacking an individual voice. Presenting us with the fireworks, bells and whistles aimed at casual listeners of “the brutal”, Suppuration exemplifies the mediocre, the sell-out and the moronic side of death metal all at once.
Genital Grinder’s Abduction is one of those albums whose main goal is to punch the listener in the face. They are not the wanker posers of so-called tech death. But they only aim slightly higher: pure brutality. In this case technicality in the service of brutality. There are two angles we should approach this before reaching a conclusion. The first is a lenient way of judging this work on “its own terms”. The second is judging if the overall result is meaningful in the least.
To an insider, that Genital Grinder is a band bent on brutality — on giving the listener a rush based on violent imagery and blunt sound– is a self-evident fact. If in doubt we can take each song and try to describe what is the most salient feature. It is almost always how direct and intense the sections are. The band does insert some brief moments of almost mid-paced trudging without which this would be unbearable on a physical level even for their own fans (although they would still praise it as mind-blowing-ly “br00tal”). The album comes out as a single-minded effort that remains in style while providing enough variation of themes and coherence in songs for them to be distinct. A simple goal has been achieved: another super brutal album has been made.
Regarding the more relevant issue on ranking Abduction on the overall quality scale of music. The songs built around clear ideas and are built around them. The band’s composition limits are revealed when we observe that they are unable to produce major explorations within their music without destroying the idea they presented at first. When they attempt to do so, they are reduced to grooving sections or cliche short melodic riffs with simple 3rds or 5ths doubling.
An incredibly limited release that is monochromatic at all conceivable levels, Abduction will be a solid although uneventful item in the collections and playlists of those either looking for a casual brutality fix or the Homer Simpsons of death metal who think Cannibal Corpse is “the shit”.
Watching the greats fall is always painful. But watching Darkthrone go from Transilvanian Hunger to The Underground Resistance is not half as painful as seeing how Enslaved defile their name in a pseudo-prog mainstream pop metal album like In Times after knowing they were capable of something like Vikingligr Veldi. Even without drawing a comparison, the contrast-oriented sequence of scenes posited by the modern metal of In Times as an excuse for music is in itself enough to throw this out the window.
The sort of failure that an album like this represents is one of the most pervasive maladies that afflicts modern metal, but it was born long before the metal itself developed. The pseudo-prog musical fallacy of either stitching unrelated sections with disparate characters and contrasting ideas or merely repeating riffs and similar ideas with no subtlety was born as soon as progressive rock became a “thing” and paper-thin rednecks like Camel and Rush were confused with the real-deal bands like Yes and King Crimson which require much more subtlety to appreciate. This is a sickness that metal has to overcome if it is to have an artistic future and if the absorption into mainstream pop music is to be staved off.
This absorption is always taking place, and there are always pockets of resistance. Enslaved is showing us the most dangerous example of this watering down. It is the most dangerous because it gives the superficial appearance of attaining greater complexity. But it is a trivial complexity. It is no real musical complexity as it only consists in stacking elements that sound appealing in passing much in the way Michael’s Pink Frothy AIDS constructs for the intellectual, sensitive hipsters. This music is painful to listen to for any discerning listener looking for coherence and meaning in art and should be avoided by any fan or musician looking for excellence except as an example of a common pitfall of the pseudo-intellectual metal movement.
Playing a mixture between the primitive South American black metal of Sarcofago, the unrelenting and mindlessly simplistic assault that borders on comedy of Marduk and something of its own, Deiphago’s Into the Eye of Satan is both a highlight and representation of half-cooked modern nostalgia metal. The references to the influences are pretty clear for someone to see and even though Deiphago escapes them and proposes something of their own, the sections in which we hear the older voices are two transparent. Rather than an integration of influences, we hear quotes to other composers in the midst of Deiphago’s maddened ramblings.
These raptures proper of a madman that Into the Eye of Satan exposes us to are as endearing as they are nonsensical. It makes one think of the epileptic attacks that Colombian’s Parabellum subjected the listener to. The difference is that the Latin American savant band actually produced coherent music within the wild and often disorienting music that nonetheless had a clear large-scale plan. Deiphago on the other hand attacks the listener with pure chaos, subjecting it to passages that border on noise improvisation and structures that appear to consist of haphazardly placed extreme-sounding sections. The theme here is chaos, the destruction of music and ideas themselves while the picture is not completely given up on. While not incurring in the sin of trying to become atmosphere itself nor becoming self-referential symbols, Into the Eye of Satan sadly still falls short of a year’s highlight due to what I perceive to be compositional laziness and/or lack of controlling musical notions in spite of a solid artistic vision.
So, Atreides, another power metal band. Why review a mediocre power metal band? To warn the newbies and upcoming artists against possible blunders. To show in which these blunders are built, how they are constituted and why is it that they suck so much. Playing according to a tradition in any subgenre of metal is not a sin itself, it is blind copying of ideas without any noticeable voice to set you apart what represents an insult to metal.
Atreides embodies everything that is wrong with most metal from Spain and Latin America: self referential music that is more concerned with appearances than with musical development. This is not limited to heavy and power metal, although these are the two most violated subgenres in those countries, but can even be applied to death and black metal from the same areas as well. The songs end up being paper-thin collections of tropes belonging to the subgenres they claim to adhere to. Despite their almost transparent epic metal guise, Atreides’ Cosmos has more in common with glam metal than it does with Candlemass or Iron Maiden.
Coming from the depths of that technical death metal with strong bases in metalcore, Alustrium’s A Tunnel to Eden is perhaps intentionally misleading with its title and an intro that could make anyone think one is about to listen to a power metal album of the cheesiest saccharine minstrel metal. However, what they give us is a view of the most easily dismissed metalcore. What makes this album so pedestrian is its blatant reference to genre tropes on the one hand and the upholding the worse sins against music that this genre perpetrates on a common basis.
First of all, there is no intention of creating a theme for the songs, nor is there any intention to maintaining any sort of musical coherence. Every section is aimed at creating a rhythmic hook, while relation with adjacent sections and riffs is not important at all, only the shock induced by the change is important. Basically, this is a pop attack. The fact that it is “extreme” music does not hide its candy-ass popular nature to the discerning listener.
Aion’s music falls into that territory between war metal or atmospheric death metal mistaken for black metal on account of its superficial attempt at creating atmosphere that results in simple meandering. As metal, for reasons that have been explained before on this website time and again, this release fails catastrophically. So perhaps we are listening to this in the wrong way. Perhaps as listeners we are not judging the music on its own terms. Since this does not accommodate the requirements of traditional metal of any kind, how about we take this as ambient music? How does this compare to Biosphere’s Substrata or Klaus Schulze’s Cyborg? Very poorly indeed. Verses of Perdition cannot be compared to Schulze’s work because the man’s work is too goal/conclusion-oriented.
Perhaps a more impressionistic interpretation is more apt for this sort of straight-up repetition of passages for atmospheric effect. In my view, this type of music still fails even if its criticism is taken that far away from metal, since impressionist music still needs a build up and a direction of some sort. Even Debussy’s pictorial approach is not reduced to such self-absorbed attempts at making the music become the atmosphere itself. The problem runs deep and a safe advice for any band is to avoid this route as it will only create vague visages and excuses for music.
Abyssion is an industrial metal band hailing from Finland, a land that typically has been cradle to some of the most pensive underground metal. Abyssion plays music in that same spirit while remaining pretty accessible, making transparent music that can be absorbed on first listen by any experienced listener. There more of the indie and the Oi! than the traditional black metal in this music.
While some may feel the temptation to describe this in relation to Burzum based on the music’s most superficial traits and on passing and distracted observations, Abyssion’s Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä liekki has a lot more in common with Darkthrone’s early black metal albums. The difference with either is still clear to anyone intimately acquainted with Burzum or Darkthrone. Burzum’s developmental variations have no parallel in Abyssion’s music, which works with straight-up repetition and synth distraction. Even in contrast with Darkthrone’s dense riffing, Abyssion appears more sparse as it is a more blatant attempt at creating atmosphere.
Here in lies the trap: the artist is not trying to create music but the effect of the music. When music becomes about the effect, an imbalance is created through which the music is no longer solid, nor is the effect lasting, since it is self-referential and insincere. Still, Abyssion’s offering is consistent in style and faithful to a spirit. Recommended as a gateway band for fans of Muse into the spirit of underground metal.
Skillfully bringing together doom/death, modern atmospheric and war metal styles, Unorthodox Equilibrium is more than a fitting name for describing the musical approach used in this album. Bands playing in any of the aforementioned styles have typically fallen prey to different misconceptions. Some have failed by attempting to adopt an orthodox position simplified to the precept that genre cliches guide songwriting and that the result will be good if it “feels good”. Others have taken a route that attempts to bring more original ideas into the mix but whose ultimate goal is still that each section gives them a certain feeling, an “atmospheric/ambient” effect. We can summarize the cause of these blunders by saying that their approach has been too pleasure-oriented.
In Unorthodox Equilibrium we can hear familiar voices bearing the mark of Worship in Last Tape Before Doomsday, Disembowelment (I refuse to follow ridiculous indications as to what letters should be written in uppercase format) in Transcendence into the Peripheral and Esoteric in Paragon of Dissonance. Unlike them, though, Shroud of the Heretic only slightly avoids falling into complacency with the immediate effect of their arrangements and instead channels these as methods used measuredly. The band manages to promote a sense of movement in each section while maintaining atmosphere without depending on stagnating in the harmony within one section or getting anchored to one kind of texture or intensity level for too long. This makes the album an incredibly varied experience within the non-restrictive but focused confines of a florid and eloquently coherent language.
Independently of whether this was a conscious decision or not, the heterodox and non-monolithic composition route taken by Shroud of the Heretic avoids this atmospheric metal trap and represents an excellent indicator of an artistically healthy direction for this subgenre of metal.