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Topics - Dylar

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Metal / Percussion
« on: July 15, 2008, 01:03:42 AM »
I was listening to Pure Holocaust recently, and I was struck by something I'd never fully appreciated.  The drums on this one are bad ass in the best sense of the phrase.  Immortal's other classic releases - like most of the better black metal from Bathory on down - used relatively simple, unwavering beats to create an ambient effect. On Pure Holocaust, percussion remains ambient in that songs tend to have long passages where the perceived pulse rate remains unchanged, but this is achieved by layering a variety of rhythms and drum textures at once, giving the ambient space vertical 'depth' as well as 'horizontal' uniformity.  Add in that wonderful engineering that renders the tom sound particularly...cavernous, and you have an almost magically immersive tool. Pure genius.  Listening to this really drives home the artlessness that most metal bands apply to drumming.

Metal / Hipsters Talk About Black Metal, Fuck it All Up
« on: November 13, 2007, 11:39:16 AM »

I would encourage members of this website to respond to this article to help guide people toward a better understanding of black metal.  They're trying to grope their way to the truth about the elephant, but it might help is someone with eyes could guide them.

Metal / Mainstream Metaller Writes About Metal and Jazz...
« on: July 29, 2007, 11:18:50 AM »
...underconfidence ensues.

It's the usual vapid mainstream bullshit, tied in with the usual vapid prog nerd inability to comprehend basic music theory. This dork probably wanks it to Opeth.  Nonetheless, it's part of the emerging consciousness of metal as more than stupid, burnout noise.  There are obviously opportunities for promoting real music out there, but glomming on to the dubious credibility of jazz isn't the best way.

The most obvious bullshit here is the assertion that metal is primarily an 'improvisational' genre (though this was merely the most egregious error among many). There was always a tension in rock music between the directionless, improvisational spirit inherited from jazz and the unidimensional focus-grouped polish of commercial pop music. In breaking with previous generations of rock, metal, ambient music, industrial, some hardcore and, to a certain extent, the early generation of 'alternative' rock all made end runs around this dichotomy by making music that was at the same time complex and multidimensional, but also deliberately composed for effect, rather than just being jammed out in the studio. Instead of heaping praise on dumbass postmodern hippies like Steve Vai and Zakk Wylde, the article should have focused on artists like Atheist, Deicide, Morbid Angel or Seance, who borrowed tonal and harmonic elements from jazz to enrich their expressive lexicon without getting caught up in the more defective elements of jazz (i.e. the emphasis on improvisation over rigorous composition). But, of course, this was written by a douchebag who thinks video games lead to musicianship, so we don't get anything so useful.  

Metal / An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
« on: July 02, 2007, 12:46:43 PM »
Several threads here (Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, the various Venom arguments, and the Swedish DM thread in particular) have focused my interest on the question of abstraction in metal.  It seems to me that key factor separating the classic albums that emerged between say 1988-1995 and both the first couple of generations of heavy metal and most of what has appeared since is the level of abstraction the great classics achieved.  

The great inherent weakness of rock based metal was always its insipid literalism.  With bands like Venom, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth etc., neither music nor concept leaves much to the imagination.  Such bands fill their musical spaces with the utterly predictable and their conceptual spaces with lyrics that are painfully self-explanatory.  Metaphor and other more oblique approaches to communication are lacking on every level.

In contrast, death metal bands like At the Gates, Incantation, Deicide, Dismember, Therion, Atheist and Demilich introduced music that worked almost as if according to dream logic, as if calculated to leave an ambivalent interpretive space.  Among such bands, the juxtaposition of seemingly opposing elements (consonance and dissonance, blasting and doomy passages, violence and beauty) served to create an ambiguous sensibility that embodied both the dissolution of the modern age and the haunting possibility of rebirth.  

In black metal, this tendency was even more highly developed, with  many bands projecting their music almost entirely into intellectual spaces defined by ideal rather than by fidelity to the current historical moment.  Some bands did so through an embrace of the heroic past (Bathory, Burzum, Graveland and Enslaved), while others set their music in worlds that exist only in the mind (Immortal and Summoning).

Metal / At the Gates
« on: May 27, 2007, 11:27:43 PM »

At the Gates - The Red in the Sky is Ours
Deaf Records (1992)

Within the history of any artistic genre or movement it is often possible to discern a discreet and predictable developmental pattern.  Its initial emergence is murky and indistinct, with multiple artists groping awkwardly around the edges of what it will later become.  Soon, the inconsistent fumbling gives way to a second stage in which new artists emerge to consolidate and codify, emphasizing the essential and discarding the dead weight the genre founders had carried over from the previous generation.  Finally, yet more artists arrive to build upon the now settled foundation, expanding upon it and ushering in a ‘golden age.’

In death metal these three eras correspond roughly to the years 1983-1986, 1987-1989 and 1990-1993, respectively.  It was during the last of these periods that the overwhelming majority of death metal’s greatest albums were released.  Bands like Deicide, Atheist, Incantation, Amorphis Demilich, Fleshcrawl, Dismember and Necrophobic emerged to push the genre to new heights, but perhaps no band pushed the limits further or faster than Sweden’s At the Gates did with The Red in the Sky is Ours.

At the Gates are often considered the ‘fathers’ of melodic death metal, and while the term itself may be of doubtful utility as a genre tag, it certainly provides a reasonable starting point for understanding The Red in the Sky is Ours.  While its basic approach to instrumentation clearly marks it as a death metal album, there is an underlying awareness of the emerging black metal movement in the fluid tremolo picked melodies (sometimes consonant, sometime dissonant, sometimes built just from the fragments of the chromatic scale - always with the chill of the Void in their depths) that form that compositional backbone and chief vessel for meaning in these songs.

Often these melodies are accompanied or embellished with strings.  In fact, The Red in the Sky is Ours frequently resembles nothing so much as string concerto emerging from the depths of the inferno.  Here, the guitars evoke the demonic, lightning-fingered cadenzas of Paganini (the title track), there a melancholic adagio for cello and double bass (“City of Screaming Statues”).  At other times, the melodic lines are juxtaposed disconcertingly with dissonant counterpoint (“Through Gardens of Grief”), bringing to the mind to dystopian visions of the darkest of Modernist nightmares.

Technically, The Red in the Sky is Ours is breathtaking.  While it doesn’t aspire to the nth degree musicianship of, say, Cynic, the instrumentation is considerably more complex than one would find even among many technically accomplished bands like Deicide or Morbid Angel (and certainly far more advanced than the viscerally primitive bludgeoning of the then preeminent Stockholm scene).  

But what really catches the ear is the vast array of techniques at the band’s disposal and the calculated precision of their employment.  The Red in the Sky is Ours makes use of everything from keyless modalism to polyphony to radical dissonance to elements of serialism and set theory to construct, enhance and complement (and sometimes deconstruct) its central melodies.  The Red in the Sky is Ours may very well be the most compositionally aware album in death metal history.  Still, none of these techniques are applied indiscriminately, and in their seamless incorporation into the broader context of song we are made more aware of the central experience of the whole of the music, rather than experiencing it as a series of constituent parts.

For this reason, The Red in the Sky is Ours distinguishes itself not just in the epic breadth of its vision or the diversity and innovative vigor of its technical execution, but in the totalizing holism and lucidity that mark it a master work among master works.  The mastery of tactical detail is matched and more than matched by a strategic mastery of metastructure in which each brilliant detail is rendered more vivid and powerful through its placement in the overarching narrative of song.  Similarly, each song is enhanced by its placement within the larger context of the album.

Equally impressive is the seeming effortlessness of the whole project.  For all the studied precision of its instrumentation, The Red in the Sky is Ours exudes the sort of intuitive genius that can neither be taught nor achieved through rote practice.  The Germans call it Fingerspitzengefühl – the ‘finger sense.’  It’s a term that strikes exactly the right chord, evoking both the sheer magic the album conjures, and the deft and nearly undetectable touch of the band’s skillful manipulation of the listener.  

Despite the labyrinthine complexity of much of the music, there is very little of the jarring discontinuity the characterized the work of many of band’s contemporaries.  Where artists like Deicide and Atheist built tension through abrupt rhythmic dislocation, At the Gates achieves the same goal through subtler manipulations of dynamics, texture, harmonic shading and melodic development.  As a result, The Red in the Sky is Ours retains a certain grace and fluidity of movement that aestheticizes the violence, rage and alienation at its core without diminishing or obscuring them.

It was perhaps inevitable that excellence of this magnitude would prove unsustainable, at least in the strike-while-the-iron-is-hot world of modern recording.  While At the Gates would go on to release three more albums, none even remotely approached the rapturous levels reached with The Red in the Sky is Ours.  However, the greatness of this album is such that even subsequent mediocrity can in no way dim the glory of a band that once stood at the very pinnacle of their artform.

Metal / Metal as neo-Medieval Art
« on: March 25, 2007, 03:22:47 PM »
For the last couple of months, I've been sending music (mostly metal) to a friend and former adviser of mine from my undergrad days (in exchange, she  scans all the journals she has access to that I would like to read in the comfort of my own home, but don't have the hundreds of dollars required to subscribe to them).  Yesterday, she sent me an interesting comment (apparently percolating for a while, though immediately precipitated by listening to Vikinligr Veldi):

"You know, a lot of the metal you've sent me sounds like medieval music if you pay attention just to the melody lines."

I found it pretty interesting, because it paralleled some of my own recent thoughts.  Metal is often treated as a neo-Romantic artform.  This view has been, of course, popularized within the metal community by Spinoza Ray Prozak and ANUS.com, but outside observers (notably sociologist Deena Weinstein) have also commented on the convergence of metal and Romantic art.  The equation of metal and Romanticism is, I think, fundamentally sound.  However, there's a strong case to be made that metal goes beyond the Romantic fascination with the medieval past to actually embracing ideals that are consonant with the beliefs that permeated the medieval world.

The Dance of Death (1493)

Decidedly medieval themes were central to the genre from its earliest days.  Black Sabbath's classic albums were littered with songs that read more like 14th century sermons adapted to a world of atomic arms and injection drugs than 20th century rock songs.  Songs like "Black Sabbath," "War Pigs," "Electric Funeral," "Hand of Doom," and "Children of the Grave" display a sense, not only of the inevitability of death, but also of its looming imminence.  Like the itinerate preachers of the plague years, metal is keen to remind us that death will come for us all, and it could come at any moment through songs like Hellhammer's "Triumph of Death" and Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

Illustration from Betwyx the Body and Wormes (15th Century)

Metal's treatment of death in general is strongly medieval in its tone.  Where 'death' often appears in Romantic art as a metaphor for social ills or the sublimation of the personal will in Modern life, metal has largely adopted the medieval iconography of death.  Metal is not concerned with death as symbol or allegory, but with the fundamental realness of death.  Like the transi tombs and litanies of the tortures of the damned common in the late middle ages, depictions of death in metal are often focused on the practical mechanics of dismemberment, disease and decay, and shy away from the comfortable euphamisms of a culture in denial of death.

Satan's Tortures (12th Century)

More medieval parallels can be seen in metal's fascination with the occult.  The occult was, of course, also a common theme in Romantic art, but occultism in metal draws on typically medieval archetypes - Satanism and Germanic paganism - rather than the Masonic ritualism and Hellenistic hermeticism more typical of the Romantics (though it should be noted that the arch-Romantic Wagner also made great use of medieval occult imagery).  Despite the occasional penetration of LaVeyan Satanism, for the most part, metal's 'Satan' is the Satan of the medieval popular imagination: a horned entity of enormous power locked in struggle with the deity for domination of the universe, not the urbane gentleman of Romantics or the Rolling Stones.

Detail from the Bayeux Tapestry (late 11th century)

Metal's iconography and ideals are rooted almost entirely in the cultures of the European middle ages.  Metal - like the chivalric codes of the high middle ages and pagan epics of the early medieval period - celebrates the cult of the warrior.  Its virtues are the virtues of a warrior: honor, fearlessness in the face of death, and the heroic will to live out one's purpose in a violent world.  Its vices are the vices of those without the courage to live as warriors: weakness, misplaced mercy, falsity and dissimulation.  Its master icons are war, death and the sword.  Its goal to build temples to transcendent belief from raw materials of the crudest sort.

Interior view, Chartres Cathedral (12th-13th centuries)

Metal / CORRUPTing the Southeast: Infoterror Opportunity
« on: January 18, 2007, 05:04:58 PM »
On Saturday, Jan 27, long time anti-metal crusader Bob Larson will be hosting an "Extreme Warfare Youth Seminar" at the Marriott Northwest in Atlanta, GA.  The topic is "Confronting demonic music, movies and video games."  The seminar is free and open to the public, and is scheduled to run from 10 am to noon.

This is, I think, an excellent opportunity to confront the lyin' in its den, and spread a little infoterror in the process.  To that end, I would like to see if a small cadre (perhaps 5-7) of CORRUPTed souls would be willing to join me in crashing the seminar, distributing flyers and (probably) cd-r's (perhaps copies of "Dissident" and an extreme metal comp of some sort?).

For those who are interested, pm me or email me at [email protected]

Bob Larson proudly uses Just For Christians hair care products!

Metal / Sacramentum
« on: December 17, 2006, 08:11:29 PM »
Sacramentum - Far Away From the Sun

Even in the insular world of black metal, celebrity and sensationalism often serve to shape perception in ways that obscure the actual nature of reality. A classic case in point is illustrated by the relative notoriety of Dissection when compared with other Swedish black metal acts of the mid 1990s (most notably Sacramentum and Dawn). Despite being considerably inferior to and far more conventional than their peers, Dissection is seen as the leading light of Sweden's melodic black metal movement, largely due to the relentless self-promotion of band leader Jon Nodtveidt (who spent much of the 90s making empty threats against Burzum's Varg Vikernes), as well as Nodtveidt's much publicized arrest and conviction for the brutal (and unprovoked) murder of a homosexual. The hype propelled Dissection to a deal with metal major Nuclear Blast at a time when its contemporaries were languishing on small European labels with limited (or no) access to British and North American distribution channels.

As a result, brilliant albums like Sacramentum's Far Away From the Sun remain quite obscure (or worse, simply dismissed as 'Dissection clones') while a mediocrity like Storm of the Light's Bane is widely hailed as a genre-defining classic.  This, of course, could not be farther from the truth.  Far Away From the Sun is no Dissection rip-off, and, indeed, not only far exceeds anything Dissection released, but must be counted among the very best metal albums ever recorded.

That isn't to say that there aren't some superficial similarities between the bands. Like Dissection, Sacramentum developed an approach that focused on the melodic possibilities of black metal, as well as bringing a level of technical precision hitherto uncommon in the genre. However, where Dissection offered a summary of several generations of metal technique through allusions to death metal (percussion), black metal (vocals and riff texture) and heavy metal (tonal consonance and Maidenesque guitar harmonies), Far Away From the Sun finds Sacramentum firmly rooted in black metal while looking back and forward to a more classically constructed expressive form.

Technically, this album is masterful. While the playing isn't showy or athletic, it is highly complex and pulled off with absolute precision by the band. Music like this doesn't just happen, it requires great skill to play and great intelligence and passion to create. Far Away From the Sun is like a Gothic cathedral, a towering monument to darkness and light that yields its secrets reluctantly, but rewards the patient listener with a work of ecstatic beauty (the mix is excellent, making use of a subtle layering of instruments that is both echoing and dense at the same time, while still leaving each distinctly audible). Flowing, labyrinthine melodies with a distinctly classical turn are the order of the day, and this sense is heightened by Sacramentum's frequent use of polyphony and counterpoint (both between guitar lines and between guitar and bass), giving Far Away From the Sun a decidedly ancient aesthetic weight.

Where Far Away From the Sun truly excels is in its ability to create and sustain a sense of unfolding unfolding drama, both internally within individual songs, and holistically, when taken as an album. A overriding tension between creation and dissolution dominates the album, played out through the clever manipulation of contrast: consonance wars with dissonance and ambiguous resolutions, long legato melodic phrases are deconstructed by frenetic bursts of blasting percussion, and the essential beauty of the music is set against the throat shredding vocal performance of singer/bassist Nisse Karlén. While none of the songs are particularly long by metal standards, Sacramentum's mastery of dynamic tension (which emerges not so much in overt variation of volume, but in the more subtle manipulation of riff textures, chord shapes and rhythmic patterns to create contrasts in intensity) renders each song a truly epic mini-opus driving toward a conclusion that is simultaneously hopeful yet ultimately tragic.

Interzone / Chuck Schuldiner: The Pity Party Never Ends
« on: December 12, 2006, 05:49:48 PM »
Tomorrow is the 5 year anniversary of the Death frontman's AIDS related passing.

Don't forget to remind the simpering sheep of the metal community that Chuck was a traitor at every opportunity (and, it's a great way to promote the site in the process!).

Metal / Coherence vs. Parts
« on: November 28, 2006, 10:28:49 PM »
If you read a lot of album reviews, you end up seeing "coherence" and "incoherence" bandied about alot.  But what does it really mean to be "coherent"?

I was thinking about this as I listened to Lykathea Aflame a band a friend of mine has been pimping for years now.  He said, "So what do you think."  And I answered, "You know, this band has a lot of...ah...parts."  It was all superbly played, and the individual fragments of song were well thought out and brilliantly executed.  But there was no unifying concept, nothing to tie it together into a meaninful whole.  Nothing but parts.  Taken individually, each of the riffs 'stands out' - but viewed as a whole they blur together, always going some place, but never getting anywhere.

Our society demands novelty, a freshness of style - something that rolls around in the aisles and announces its uniqueness without the need for us to pay any real attention to discover it.  It puts a premium on parts and kicks coherence - the marriage of meaning and execution - to the curb.  
Ask fans of Drudkh or Sunn o((( or Opeth why their favorite bands matter, and all you'll get is a litany of parts.  Oh, they have folk interludes, dissonant feedback, clean vocals etc. etc. fill in the _________.

But where's the MUSIC?

Metal / Celtic Frost Show Review (Charlotte, NC 10/31/06)
« on: November 04, 2006, 07:09:31 PM »
Halloween night was a real treat for me.  It isn’t often that living legends grace the buckle of the Bible Belt with their presence, so when my girlfriend and I heard that Celtic Frost would be appearing Samhain night at Charlotte’s Tremont Music Hall, we fell over ourselves in our rush to snap up a couple of tickets.

The first band was scheduled to hit the stage at 8, but as this band was Intethod - Pantera clone, retarded, black bassist, Mk I – I arranged for a fashionably late arrival.  We entered the club a couple of songs into national opener Goatwhore’s set, but this timing would prove to be something of a disappointment.  If only I had lingered over dinner a little longer, I could have spared myself the irritation of listening to this band altogether.  Goatwhore’s fans and press releases tout them as a black/death metal hybrid made ‘unique’ by the incorporation of ‘sludge’ influences.  In actuality, their music comes across as an average of a thousand other bands playing similarly styled paint-by-the-numbers hardcore dressed up as extreme metal.  Not surprisingly, the tepid music was met with a tepid response from the crowd.  Apparently unaware that they were an opening act, Goatwhore’s singer and bassist bitched about the lack of crowd response.  Mercifully, the set ended relatively quickly.

Celtic Frost’s entrance was eagerly anticipated.  The band took the stage with fog and a light show, accompanied by the recorded strains of “Totengott” from the new album Monotheist (at least I THINK it was “Totengott”, it was hard to tell due to the drunk indie-fag in a Johnny Cash shirt yelling for “Mexican Radio”).  The band paused on stage, hands raised as if in invocation to the darkness.  It was a dramatic gesture, one that in the hands of a lesser band might have come across as cheap theater, but here, it fit the moment.  The band then launched into a punishingly downtuned rendition of “Procreation of the Wicked.”  

This set the tone for the set, which consisted almost entirely of tracks taken from Morbid Tales, Emperor’s Return and To Mega Therion (with only one song, “Mesmerized”, coming from Into the Pandemonium and three from Monotheist), all played with an updated, dense sound that added a fresh intensity to old classics.  The band exuded a commanding presence, demonstrating an absolute mastery of their art and of the space without needing to resort to flailing gestures or irritating banter.  Thomas Fischer, in particular, is an electric performer in brilliantly understated and sinister way (his corpse paint, which looked somewhat goofy in press pictures, was distinctly unsettling in the dim lighting of the club).  

While the set was jammed with classics (including a stellar performance of “Necromantical Screams), the absolute highlight of the show was the show closer, “Synagoga Satanae” which was also the best track on the band’s latest release.  When I first listened Monotheist, this song immediate jumped out as something special, a sequel of sorts to “Triumph of Death”.  Still, I wasn’t prepared for the live experience, which was nothing short of magical.  The brooding, esoteric, ritual power of “Synagoga Satanae” alone was worth the price of admission.

Set list:

Procreation (of the Wicked)
Visions of Mortality
Circle of the Tyrants
The Usurper
Je.wel Throne
Ain Elohim
Necromantical Screams
Dawn of Megiddo
Return to the Eve
Dethroned Emperor
Into the Crypts of Rays
Synogoga Satanae

Audiofile / Berwald, Franz
« on: October 19, 2006, 08:18:17 PM »
Berwald, Franz: Rapidshare, Blogspot, Megaupload

Franz Berwald

The premier composer of the Swedish Romantic movement.  Dedicated to his art, but not to fame, only one of his (superb) symphonies was ever performed during his lifetime.

Franz Berwald - 4 Symphonies
This was a May 1985 recording of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Neeme Järvi, released on Deutsche Grammophon.

Franz Berwald - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 (Sixten Ehrling, Malmö SO, 1996)
Franz Berwald - Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 (Sixten Ehrling, Malmö SO, 1996)

Audiofile / Disaffected
« on: August 12, 2006, 04:56:37 AM »
Disaffected: Rapidshare, Blogspot, Megaupload


Esoteric melodic death metal, forgotten because it was released on a tiny Portuguese label at the heigh of the Gothenburg craze.

Disaffected - Promo Tape (1992, Mediafire)

Disaffected - ...After... (1992, Mediafire)

Disaffected - Vast (1995, Megaupload)

Audiofile / Miasma
« on: July 17, 2006, 07:13:53 PM »
Miasma MP3s

Miasma - Changes (1992)

Miasma - Changes (1992, Senditz)

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