Slayer – World Painted Blood

Slayer came out with their latest and we listened, mainly because if someone has once done something great, they have the potential to do it again.

The good news: It’s Slayer finding a style they can work with, and it happens to be mostly like their old style.

The bad news: epic song structures and Satanic mythologies are replaced by more literal and verse/chorus constructions.

The summary: It’s not old Slayer, but it’s better than anything since Seasons in the Abyss.

Read the review for the full story:

Slayer – World Painted Blood review and samples.

No Comments

Analysis of Darkthrone’s “Neptune Towers”

“Neptune Towers” is a song from Darkthrone’s death metal album, Soulside Journey. In this song the artist’s goal is to paint an alien landscape and tell a story, by intertwining riffs and lyrics until they reach an eldritch keyboard climax, which leaves the listener with a sense of awe for the unknown.

(more…)

18 Comments

Analysis of Suffocation’s “Catatonia”

By the time “Despise The Sun” was released, Suffocation were on top of the Death metal world and had at this point already influenced the rising slam and brutal Death metal styles that would inundate and signal the downfall of the whole genre as the technicality and the percussive nature of the music would be the focal point rather than the incredible songwriting present. This short EP would prove to be the band’s final charge as they would soon break up only to reform a few years later but without Doug Cerrito, the band drifted off into mediocrity and tired attempts at pleasing the deathcore crowd. Catatonia was initially on the Human Waste EP and showed a band that was composing music far beyond the maturity of the individual band members. In the same way as heroes Morbid Angel, Suffocation took songs from the initial recorded output and expanded on it for later works. Both versions of the song are nearly identical and vary only in performance and production.

Introduction and initial motif

A drum intro quickly introduces a simple descending chromatic riff that focuses on pounding the root note on the first beat of every bar as the fast-picked notes rush towards the root note. The drums crash around until finding stability as Frank Mullen’s harsh guttural roar enters and the riff soon leaves for another minimalist power chord sequence that eschews the root note to create an almost atonal melody that resolves first on a minor third then on a major third and quickly finds the root note before evolving into a stream of single notes. These single notes move the composition to a twisted sense of stability as they utilize a consonant leap in octaves but moving through the diminished fifth to form a chromatic ascent. The melody relies on two octave chords but through the added use of dissonant notes it avoids complacency in familiar territory and seeks to explore the possibilities that are now open. In typical Suffocation fashion the melody is moved up a major third as it progresses before ending on the composition’s main motif. The main motif starts with a flow of simple palm muted power chords half a tone higher than the root note which Morbid Angel popularized so that the static progression still creates tension by refusing to return to a place of comfort and stubbornly maintaining its place. This motif is then followed by the ending of the previous section but moved down a whole tone. This returns the composition to stability and allows the band to play with all those previously introduced. A second ending to the riff appears and is almost chromatic but resides within Suffocation’s vicious sense of melody.

Force fed immobilization
Man made liquid controlling my limbs
I want to die, no reason for living
Dealing with complications life brings
A corpse with no thoughts
No feelings or perceptions of life
The pleasures of death I foresee
Nightmares and day mares combining
To torture my being – This torture inhibits my life

Here the lyrics present a victim that has been held in total captivity with no control over his body as he forced to remain in a state of artificial nothingness. The narrator has nothing binding him to life as his psyche is destroyed, and he seeks to attain death as he is burdened by this form of torture. The harsh rhythms combined with the oppressing sense of melody evoke flawlessly how the narrator has been beaten down mercilessly into nothing. The previous single note melody appears in its entirety and this time allows us to delve further into the narrator’s mind.

The world is a graveyard of fools left to cope
With the torment and regret of man now deceased
Ghouls are released to destroy the race
Which we call human beings

Development(1:30)

Humanity has sealed its fate with its actions and there is nothing left to do nor to mourn as mankind is about to be destroyed. The C# root note is suddenly established in this section that appears suddenly with a riff comprised of a speed metal gallop that uses various tremolo melodies as a tail. The whole passage uses no chromatic tones or anything deviating from the natural minor scale allowing a new set of motifs to take dominance in the composition as the previous slow parts had achieved their maximum potential. The first part of the melody consists of a three-note progression played in staccato while dispersed by the endless charge of the low string and uses the major third which has always been an undervalued foundation upon which Suffocation rely on. The major third is the base for Suffocation’s twisted sense of melody and disappeared from the band when Doug Cerrito left and the motifs became much less interesting. The tremolo picked sections of this riff are descending minor thirds arpeggios hinting towards the narrator’s sadness.

Existence is torn from my soul
Perdition is what is believed to be seen
Suffering from the inside
Nefarious is the way
You choose to be – Left with no will to live
My intestinal wall begins to cave in
Trapped as they say
I begin to rot here as I lay

Let us note Frank Mullen’s maturity when comparing this vocal section on both versions on the song. In the Human Waste version, the voice is not yet fully developed and he struggles to maintain a consistent tone and output whereas on the “Despise the Sun” his gruff deep throaty aesthetic is pushed to the extreme and the fast hip hop cadence does not deter the consistency in both volume and tone. A truly remarkable development from an already great singer. Those who would emulate his deep vocals forgot to add the power that conveys the hatred he expresses and sought to reproduce the low tones through pig squeals and inhaled vocals and would sound like a parody of Mullen’s trademark growl. The protagonist is detached from reality as his body can no longer withstand the pain and accepts the end as there is no will to fight. There is no anger conveyed, just misery with no hope of redemption as the narrator awaits his death.
A tremolo picked section appears as the tension continues to increase. The melody is long and very similar to what the Norwegian bands were doing as it is extensively in the minor scale but uses adjacent tones between the more consonant ones to increase anticipation for a resolution. A slight break of half a second shifts the root note again down a whole tone as another speed metal rhythm similar to the last one is introduced. This time we are treated to two different tails as one is a fast almost chromatic power chord assault and the other is a chromatic ascent of two major thirds showing how much mileage and variation Suffocation can create through one simple technique and a strong understanding of composition. The narrator continues his attack in this passage as Mullen emphasizes the stronger beats in the phrase adding more power to the overall part.

Time to take a look
At what has begun to pass before me
Die a slow death
It now begins to take its toll

The narrator has finally closed the chapter on how humanity and himself ended in this situation and now seeks to look towards what is going
to happen in the present. Though the pain of his torture is starting to break his will.

Climax (2:26)

The initial motif as “Catatonia” is growled enters again, and though it may be the exact same riff  used in the beginning, the context is completely different as this is a passing passage that like a catapult transfers all the energy from the built-up tension to an incredibly satisfying climax that engages in all out combat as the song reaches a level that the great majority of metal bands can only imagine. The melody as excellent as it is, is nothing that hasn’t been heard at this stage of Death metal’s maturity but the context and the little rhythmic embellishments are what allows this melody to unleash more than its own potential. The first power chord which works in triggering the rest of the phrase like a set of falling dominoes, is played slightly after the beat causing the listener to lower their guard before being taken by surprise. On the other side the phrase finishes slightly early making the listener crave more. Both tools utilized during the climax make this simple melody incredibly powerful. The melody is caveman like in how it consists of a stream of alternating minor and major thirds two note arpeggios in rapid succession as they then move up and down a fourth. The legato playing which to the uninitiated means smooth and in the case of the case with minimal input from the picking hand allows the notes to be expressed cleanly without the attack of the string modifying the nature of the tone.

Scared as I lay here dead
From this infectious disease
I want to rise from here
To recover what is mine

Now in a complete twist of fate our hero through a combination of fear and the primal urgency decides to deny his fate and to what he has previously expected to happen. Though his body is destroyed and is no longer living there is an unfathomable will to atone the errors of the past and is the essence of what Suffocation conveys. Through hardships and unrelenting trials of this cold heartless world we have created, the human will is the only thing that can redeem of us and not through reason or calculated thought but by the most basic of instincts can we achieve joy in life.

Conclusion (3:02)

A solo erupts as the band turns to a more consonant melody consisting of a variation of minor third, diminished fifth, major third and ending away from the root note progression that the band had now cemented into the listener’s mind. Cryptopsy would base their classic works on the concept of a solo played on top of a consonant tremolo picked melody. The solo sees Hobbs go through a variety of techniques while confining himself in the realm of previously established motifs not to express horror but a rebirth of life or an ascendance to a higher state that signifies the protagonist’s change after the previous outburst and is optimistic of what they final outcome may be. A new riff emerges that is rebellious and defiant while summarizing succinctly the relationship between the chromaticism of the piece and the motifs taken from natural minor scale. A chromatic base that uses the chromatic ending from a previous motif while combining that with the final motif the band introduces here which is just an elemental minor scale ascent that stabilizes the insanity shown here from a musical perspective.

Abdicate your position in life
Now that you lie deceased
Rising from the tomb you own
To take what is rightfully yours

The lyrics urge the listener to give up on past glories and failures and to take control of one’s current situation and all that stops them from reaching their full potential and from that point to retrieve and regain all that belongs to them and what they deserve. Through showing a bleak world that is empty and nihilistic rather than one full of evil, Suffocation perfectly demonstrate their understanding of the real evils of our world and not through mundane examples but through a febrile imagination that is at the very heart of their music. Soon after previous climax returns in full force again showing that the battle is not won once but by attrition and that the will can only be tested by time. As the vocals end and this grandiose composition ends on the climax but with this time chromatic power chords and the right hand in full action as the band conveys one last time that other evils await our hero through the ominous effect created by the frustration of not having a resolution during a short chromatic sequence.

Suffocation create an entirely unique universe within a small set of rules that allows them to find new unexplored paths through those rules where as a lack of these rules may have tempted Suffocation to try the simpler paths that have already been treaded on. The redemption trope has been used endlessly and superficially throughout the existence of pop culture but can any musical artist claim coming this close to create such a horrifying world that truly evokes our own existence and then to find redemption and victory when there is none to be found. For that Suffocation stand on top of the Death metal pantheon with a few other select musicians and  the band represents the ultimate objective in metal. Triumph in the face of this existence that is brought upon us.

16 Comments

Decieverion – Decieverion (2002)

D E C I E V E R I O N

Decieverion

2002 Era Horrificus

Decieverion start out making what can precisely be described as dark metal, an amalgam of death, black and heavy metal techniques underpinned by extreme metal vocals which can be of a variety of kinds. The purpose of this music is first and foremost to take the listener through sights both bleak and destructive, but also moving and pensive. To this end, dark metal, and so Decieverion, adopt a variety of techniques which, while not disparate or incongruous, make it hard for the critic to place them within one style or genre. Unlimited by such restrictions, the music wanders around seemlessly without great contrasts being perceived as outright offensive. On the downside, the lack of stylistic focus gives this music an altogether weak voice, even if execution is enjoyable and profficient. Incumbered by the liberties and confusion of dark metal, Decieverion tread a middle path that allows for the transmission of varied emotionality at the expense of clarity and elaboration towards depth. A final valuation of the present work reveals that the greatest treasure to be found here is one of countless things to say subsumed under a same aura and personality.

Dark metal moves, as its name directly implies, towards themes “of darkness.” In short towards the less pleasant, the less visited, but no less crucial aspects of our lives and minds that are often neglected but which are more decisive to human experience than the parts that are “positive” or “nice,” —human delusions not withstanding. Furthermore, dark metal as a whole tends towards personal sensations of frustration or desperation, rather than the painting of mythological outlooks. In this there is the advantage of being able to raise a sign that says “I have seen and I have lived.” The disadvantage is that in taking up the space and time to represent this subjective, changing and capricious individuality, the comprehensible link that would make the music self-evident through structures and style to others becomes blurred and debilitated. Instead, it is the bleeding emotionality that seeps through the cracks that impressionistically transmits a holistic image that can only be captured by intuition. Furthermore, the commonplace nature of the expressions used ensures that it is the intuition of a human unencumbered by layers of abstractions and “artistic” demands that finds the emotional clarity found herein as the Decieverion’s most important asset.

Decieverion then moves between passages that hint at black metal, at death metal and at so-called doom metal, in a way that many would interpret as a that of an undefined underground metal. But being these stylistic differentiations within an ultimately united genre, a prudent mind can fuse them together without the slightest hint of incongruity. Sufficiently intelligible complexity is achieved by smoothing out the textures of adjacent sections, and using contrasts in this texture as narrative markers, rather than as tools of shock, which would have destroyed the music’s credibility. The rightful complaint to be made is not so much that the styles are mismatching, because they are taken back to the power chord, as well as the multi-purpose percussion style that is founded upon the rock-based extremisms of underground metal. As such, and in order to attain stylistic variety, Decieverion errs on the side of more mainstream genres. To summarize, Decieverion let themselves be understood by choosing the more comprehensible popular aspects of metal, as far as they go, while developing a narrative by extending songs that connect sections through a proper minding of texture and by protecting the integrity of tonality.

If music is to be ultimately interpreted as an art of communicating what words cannot describe, then the art of Decieverion is accomplished at that of the transmission of experience-based insight from individual to individual. While other works leave great impressions of great art, they are ultimately impersonal and lacking immediate relevance to the majority that behold them in awe.

15 Comments

Tags: , ,

Serpent ov Old – Withering Hope (2012)

S E R P E N T  O V  O L D

Withering Hope

2012 Era Horrificus

It is the way of things that genres arise from culture and philosophy, as well as from personal interpretions of that culture and philosophy. In the case of metal, we see its subgenres and styles mingling in different ways to different degrees of acceptance and satisfaction by audience, artists and critics. In the case of Serpent ov Old, this has taken the form of an amalgamation of black metal and power metal, which has surprisingly and graciously bypassed the technicisms of death metal. And while there is word of power metal taking up death metal techniques into its repertoire, the mainstay of power metal has never executed this transition. The truth of the matter is that the melodicity and emphasis on comprehensible chord progressions of power metal has more to gain from the elegant emphasis on melodies-made-flows that the best of black metal has mastered inwardly. At the same time, Serpent ov Old makes music that stands primarily as evocative music elevated above discussions on techniques or style, even if the techniques and ways of expression have been clearly adopted from the sources mentioned above.

Serpent ov Old builds music by stating themes in the fashion of power metal, while balancing —purging— the saccharine effects by the application of black metal underpinnings in percussion, vocalization and guitar strumming. What we can hear is a music dominated by harmonic movement across which significantly active melodic lines move. Tension is built and released and then recaptured by both the melodic-harmonic interplay of lessons learned from black metal here, and those adopted from power metal there. Furthermore, the textural effects of the percussion and how these affect impulse, constriction and relaxation are taken primarily from black metal. The band makes this work by connecting power metal and black metal techniques to their common speed metal foundations, meaning that in many of the cases, the approach of the central riffing and percussion could fall into a nebulous area which both genres share in mature forms of speed metal, although this ambivalence is usually resolved towards black metal. As a whole, power metal is used as a bombastic paintbrush that allows Serpent ov Old to magnify the usually understated dramatism of black metal.

All this has to be accomplished tastefully, and we never find a reliance on trope or techniques: compositions are driven by the central, “invisible” essence of motion and contrast, and fluctuations of power and direction, by and for which the instrumentation exists. The “shredding” abilities of the guitarists in this work are used much in the same way that Trey Azagthoth’s atonal noise solos ripped through old Morbid Angel songs: as hyeroglyphs rather than as pretentious elaborations. These are to be taken as impressionist impressions, and should not be confused as baroque virtuosic displays, for such scale-based quasi noise shreds lack the self-sufficiency of the proper baroque solo instrument that we would hear in a work for viola da gamba by Marin Marais, for instance. And as one listens to the music more and more closely, subsequent spins allow the listener to perceive these relations properly, allowing them to see where the backbone is located, and how the peaks and valleys are formed by the creators of this landscape of poetic rashness.

The music of Serpent ov Old is fierce romantic dramatism akin to powerful forces of nature that destroy yet also create. By adopting and moderating the extroverted expression of power metal and delicately subsuming it under black metal, Serpent ov Old makes the music genres escape the narcissistic trap and makes them serve a transcendent expression of inner experience. Furthermore, this profound experience, if authentic, is one of darkness and anguish; but which darkness and anguish, if contronted and assimilated unto individuation, can presumably lead to the creation of a new type of being. However, the music is still limited by this personal flavor, which still tends to be merely inward looking, but not yet deep enough that a new space is opened up through the self as a gate. We may say that this is ultimately a question of personal experience, reflection and individual meaning. But ultimately, as music, it must be able to develop the ability to somehow come up with an aural language that can communicate a general intimation of what is presenced from beyond.

Note: We might yet see Withering Hope released under the banner of Deathwave Nexion.

1 Comment

Tags: , , , , ,

Hvile I Kaos – Agios O Fotiá (2017)

H V I L E   I   K A O S

Agios O Fotiá

2017 Era Horrificus

We are witnessing the rise of a label that, on the one hand, boasts of being led by personel experienced in different spheres of nefarious action on the ground, and that on the other, shows itself selective at both musical and ideological levels. The conjunction of these creates a unique opportunity seldom seen in the history of metal, a genre in which great artistic potential has been squandered by a lack of comprehension of what is being ultimately held in one’s hands. Deathwave Nexion promises to be one of the first loci of mature metal cultivation on North American soil. We see a far-reaching influence and presence stemming from a source that appears more monstruous the more one looks into it. In its train, the opening of mainstream operations by the nexion has brought to our ears the Hvile I Kaos’ first full album —a grand opening indeed.

For precise descriptions, Hvile I Kaos can be considered a chamber music ensemble, the music of which circles around the cello as the main instrument. As per classical tradition, it is indeed the wielder of the central instrument who leads the ensemble. He is as well the composer of these evocative pieces, to which the rest of these talented musicians contribute their own interpretations and idiosyncracies. The music is, to this writer’s amateur ears, modernist acoustic arrangements built on popular and folk melodies, but taken to a singular level of development in composition where they escape their roots and become the means with which the artist carves forth a new path. It is tempting, and perhaps not wholy unjustified to liken this to soundtrack music, although as far as that music goes, the generalizing comment does Agios O Fotiá a great disservice. As one follows the opening ‘populisms’ of the music, a joyous Pagan defiance that summons Life as much as it does Death communicates the unabstracted existence of human beings in a reality that is truly beyond these illusory poles —in reality, states of being distorted by blundering mundane minds.

A hidden, but effective power of manifest action and the bringing about of evil, not in the form of mythology as in the olden days of underground metal when daydreams and blurry visions led the way, but of an accumulated range of experiences that condense into the sonic efluvion that acquires depth by virtue of hindsight into concrete events. While this music is somewhat derivative in terms of expression, and may artistically show an imitative character of pre-established tropes, great acumen is shown in narrative elaboration, attention to detail —not to mention an intense emotional, even psychical, connection to more than simply music: this is art that extols visceral terror. The sensation is not unlike the immediacy and premonition of survival in danger that the neophyte might feel upon repeatedly calling on Shaitan while uttering his name and beholding his sigil. This is the plain, subtle and direct elating sensation of the edge of a cold blade; the living of eternity in moments of unsurpassed focus and clarity through sheer horrific ecstasy.

While one may at the very outset be dismissive of some or all of these works, especially given their surfaces’ blatant resemblance to mainstream cliches and overly-trodden figures of musical speech, the moment one engages the music thoroughly for what it has to say, the soul is carried away. More interestingly, despite any impressions words or claims might make, the character of the music —the marks it leaves on the heart— are of a humble tone. Echoes resound in the sensitive listener that become humbling to them as well, triggering introspection and self-challenge, or at least the heart’s need of it. There is no pretension, but rather just a well of remembrance, of pain from life and individual circumstance. This is true not only of Hvile I Kaos, but also of other projects linked to Deathwave Nexion in one way or another, such as Decieverion and Serpent ov Old , whose music should also be perused delicately to find the grain therein. [1]

Under a thin skin, we see highlighted here as part of the underground brotherhood relations and influences that come to feed the belly of this beast. Revelry and joy, mixed with blood-letting and pain, all in the most vivid possession by unnamed deities given tribute by those who aspire to join their ranks, by those whose minds reminisce of their non-existing past beyond the stars, to which they must strive to return, unto death, beyond death. The present work hints at this evolutionary movement into and across an abyss out of sight —yet beheld just below our quivering senses, resounding at the base of our skulls— in a path the entrance to which bears the mark of Shaitan, and upon which the Initiate fervently wishes to be blessed by the apparition of the Mistress of Blood. [2]

The reader on whose ears these words find a welcome reception, will perhaps take them as a salutary note for those who need no further justification for self-overcoming. As enactment of magick, a sword of death, Hvile I Kaos’ present, and hopefully its future, work has a transformative effect over those capable of raising themselves above themselves. Let its passionate music fill your heart, listener; let its muliebrial spectre haunt your wake and your dream, seeker. I for one never cease to long for its embrace.

Notes

[1] Recommended works: Decieveiron – Decieverion (2012); and Serpent ov Old – Withering Hope (2012). We must also emphatically commend the new single by Serpent ov Old in 2018, a preview of their next album to be published through Deathwave Nexion. The band has ascended through their own style to a new stage of coalesced beauty and virtuousic emotionality tempered by its dignified adoption of black metal.

[2] Baphomet – An Esoteric Signification : https://wyrdsister.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/baphomet-an-esoteric-signification/

31 Comments

Tags: , , ,

Vargavinter – Frostfödd (1996)

A single-release project from Sweden, Vargavinter play a style of black metal that could accurately be described as melodic and ‘ripping’, ‘pagan’ and ‘symphonic’ without falling into any of those narrow misnomers. By holding its influences together into a pointed lance-tip, the music is able to maintain a dignified character as it preserves a certain aggression. The driving, aggressive impetus is able to stand even major chord progressions without disassembling its unitary momentum into constituent mediocrity.  When such disintegration takes place, subpar passages arise, and the music is no longer black metal, but ‘pagan’ or ‘progressive’, for instance. This process entails a frequent alternation of outstanding and mediocre moments in Frostfödd which make of it a tragedy.
(more…)

1 Comment

Tags: , , , , ,

Blood Stained Dusk – Dirge of Death’s Silence (2001)

Upon listening to this album, the listener familiar with the classic Norwegian black metal albums from the first half of the ninetiess will undoubtedly be reminded of Emperor In the Nightside Eclipse (1994). But apart from the way in which the keyboards are used for effect, the first Blood Stained Dusk is quite distinct in songwriting approach and in the crafting of individual sections. And while less clear and profficient in expression than Emperor, relegating the present release to a lower tier, Dirge of Death’s Silence is still a highly suggestive and imaginative work of black metal.
(more…)

3 Comments

Tags: , , , , ,

Evil Literature #1: Tony Thorne Countess Dracula (1997)

The myth of Elisabeth Bathory is known to us in its most twisted forms, filtered through years of mysoginistic prejudice and augmented further by gothic sensibility for horror that fascinated the minds of the 19th century. Little understood are the full cultural and historical context of the region and its political dynamics. Little is it taken into account that all records of what happened were taken under peculiar circumstances by those vested in Bathory’s demise, and that greater political forces were at work to bring her whole family down. Nor is it a neglible detail that accounts by primary servants of Bathory were extracted by the hand of a magister tortararum especially trained in the ‘art’, and that these same tortured servants were summarily executed after these ‘confessions’ were given.
(more…)

44 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , ,