Dave Mustaine Wants One More Big 4

Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine has been vocal these past few weeks of pushing through one final Big 4 tour before Slayer hits the nursing home. He believes, however, that there’s no chance Metallica will be in. Mustaine, committed to getting a piece of the Slayer retirement pie, goes on to say he’ll headline a big 3 tour (minus the big 1) or perhaps start a new big 4 with two other thrash metal giants….
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Retirement Tours are Now a Trend

With Ozzy Osbourne announcing his second retirement tour (the first being with Black Sabbath) in 2 years, Slayer retiring, Satyricon retiring (from touring the US, the only country that matters), etc we can safely conclude that retirement tours have quickly become a trend.  This beckons an interesting question- are record execs pushing these as an attempt to cash-in on aging metal bands?

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Heavy Metal In Academia

The last two decades has witnessed an exponential growth of studies devoted to popular music, coupled with a re-evaluation of past theories and models for interpretation and analysis. This paradigm shift has sparked interest in music “at the fringes” which in turn has led to the unlikely emergence of “metal studies”: a multi-disciplinary field of research centered around all things related to metal music.

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Morbosidad – Corona de Epidemia

Hailing from Houston, Texas, home to a few great USBM bands, Morbosidad are more likely known for the Spinal -Tap-like deaths of two of their drummers (one in an explosion in the rehearsal room and the other from falling of a building). Multiple lineup changes have plagued this band as well with the only remaining member being Tomas Stench. Due to such changes all releases differ immensely save for aesthetics and Spanish lyrics. Being released on Nuclear War Now! Productions, it is very easy to predict what this band has to offer musically (or lack thereof).
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Dark Horizons: Upcoming Metal for 02/09/2018

As we predicted at the close of last year, a storm of power metal is coming at last and replacing the soon to be dead genre of post-metal.  With beta-male hipsters turning toward retro rehashes of classic metal they are at last abandoning the pretentious nasalings of post metal.  Let us rejoice in the death of post-black metal!

With Fridays becoming the new Tuesdays for metal releases (for reasons unbeknownst), let’s turn our attention to the next meaty drop of 2018 extreme metal.
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Reverorum Ib Malacht – De Mysteriis Dom Christi

Dark ambient and raw black metal have always held a close relationship in shared attempts to create dark, haunting and visceral music experiences. Euronymous once claimed Abruptum were the ultimate perfection of the black metal sound despite the band being more accurately defined as a venture into the mysterious world of dark ambient. This trend continued onwards over the years as we’ve seen black metal musicians venture into dark ambient projects such as Stallagh or Moëvöt.  Yet despite many years of this alliance, no band has ever formulated as perfect a marriage between black metal and dark ambient to create a chilling, epic masterpiece in the way that Reverorum Ib Malacht has on their 2014 work De Mysteriis Dom Christi.  And- much has their title suggests- they did so by boldly defying everything dark music was known for.
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Portal – Ion

Newer metal bands in the mid-2000s went one of few ways: the competition among users of extreme techniques caused a degree of one-upmanship that obscured the message of the music of “technical” bands, while the desire to get the audience to move caused the compositions of -core bands to be infiltrated by danceable open-note rhythms, and those left outside these groups grew more and more abstract in execution as if to rebel against conventional songwriting.  The issue here is that all three avenues, despite the latter being the most declarative, require an aesthetic sleight-of-hand to mask the lack of authoritative message in composition while the music is steered with the effects on the listener in mind rather than coming from the innate desire of a composer to communicate.  Portal, along with Ulcerate and Deathspell Omega, ushered in a style of metal that is entirely rooted in audience manipulation through a reliance on discordance that borders on desperation.  A challenge in viewing bands like this objectively is that it is difficult to fully understand whether the intent is holistically realized or if the sound and execution is the result of having no spirit of communication beyond purely aesthetic virtues.  Perhaps the evolution in sound was the understanding that metal did need to progress, and although there were surely undiscovered ways to do so, an analysis of all prior compositions reveal that metal was comprised of a multitude of expressions utilizing the same symbols: songs needed intros, various types of phrases that build tension, bridges, climaxes, and resolutions, and the catalog of conventional music that we have is constructed of various shufflings of these elements.  So, although a new act could in theory have a unique approach to music, they were essentially draping a new skin on a tired skeleton.  Metal, and music in general, had to go somewhere and it had to be led by someone that had a clear vision of something to communicate. And most importantly, it had to be done so without a reliance on the tropes that human nature has formulated with respect to the idea of song; ultimately, it needed to cripple it from within.

Is Portal the band to breach these waters, or are the efforts of the band a reflection of a lack of having anything to say intrinsically while still being able to coast on a formulaic command of discordant textures where fully realized phrases once guided the listener through a narrative journey?

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Pestilence Attempts Comeback But Forgets What Makes Death Metal Great

Listen to a track from the upcoming Hadeon from longstanding Dutch band Pestilence, one is immediately struck by the similarity to late-1990s Morbid Angel: the riffs are there, albeit a bit impatient and tightly circular, but the whole experience is not. What is missing? To understand this, we must go to the core of what made death metal what it is.

If you wanted to explain to a normal person what death metal is, looking at the core of its spirit, you might haul out Slayer Hell Awaits, Hellhammer Apocalyptic Raids, and Bathory The Return… because these influenced the techniques, composition, and spirit of death metal. From Hellhammer and Slayer, it got its song structure and aesthetics; from Bathory its themes and riff technique.

Death metal took the original idea of metal, formed when Black Sabbath and others began using power chords to make phrasal riffs instead of harmony-oriented open chord riffs, and developed it further. This is different than doing something “new” or “progressing” because it means undertaking the much harder task of developing an idea further at a structural level instead of just changing aesthetics.

With the rise of underground metal, death metal adopted chromatic riffing and made the interplay between riffs form a narrative to each song. This abolished typical rock song structure and, because the guitar served as a melodic instrument instead of a harmonic one, forced vocals, bass and drums into a background role. How well the riffs fit together and portrayed an atmosphere, idea, or sensation defined the quality of the music.

Pestilence came from a solid death metal background with Consuming Impulse but showed a speed metal styled approach on Malleus Maleficarum, and this tension has stayed with the band for its entire career. The speed metal style of verse and chorus built on a singular theme that is present in the music is easier to jam on and use harmony to complement, where death metal rarely explicitly states its theme, only silhouetting it in the interaction between its many riffs. With speed metal, bands can set up a chord progression and develop it in layers of internal commentary like jazz, and this puts vocals back in position number one among the lead instruments.

“Non-Physical Existent” is a two-riff song with both based on the same note progression. It creates its intensity through the clash between a ripping circular high speed riff and a slower chromatic riff that uses odd harmony to distinguish notes in an otherwise linear theme. The song breaks into a solo section over one of the riffs, and has a type of turnaround the drops into the faster riff as a return. But there is no real interplay nor any narrative.

From the riffs themselves, this is a good song, but unfortunately, it is not death metal. Nor will it last because essentially it is a closed-circuit video of itself, a riff commented on by another, without resembling any particular experience or emotion, therefore being a null journey, more like stasis in space while riffs loop. It is better than not bad, but still not of real interest to the death metal fan.

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