NME “Unholy Death” re-issue

Dark Descent Records will release the CD version of N.M.E’s cult album “Unholy Death” + “Machine of War” demo complete with original 1986 recording plus the 1995 Moribund CD mix with the Machine of War demo, original artwork, lyrics, unpublished band photos, unreleased rehearsal tracks and new liner notes by original N.M.E. vocalist Brian Llapitan, also of GODSPIT.

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July 16th, 2011 – A Day of Death, Buffalo NY

When the stars are right, when the planets of alien coordinates align in perfect syzygy, when the arcane progress of dark matter warps the cosmos into gravitations of sinister consequence, the Dead Gods may once again rise from their eonian slumber… but only if the proper rites are set in motion by those giftedly prescient of mortals. Chainsaw Abortion-ist Brian Pattison was one such a prophet who had succeeded before in the act: 1990′s Day of Death, an atrocity survived by none but a fanatical few, and the tale obscurely recounted within the scripture known as Glorious Times. Now 21 earth-years after that most notorious of receptions in the death metal saga, a wiser but no less maniacal Pattison determined the time was ripe for another extra-dimensional conjuration, with no less a death-god than Kam Lee in mind as his ultimate summoned entity. Naturally, the Buffalo territory of New York would again provide the setting, with the chosen temple for this installment being the rather profoundly-named Club Infinity.

An unprecedentedly cavernous venue, Club Infinity can house up to 500 or so bacchants before it becomes a legal deathtrap — yet attendance for the day must have been less than half of that numeral. Apparently, the local Buffalonians who would normally haunt the premises for their fix of alcohol and loud noises had absconded to a different corner of the land, lured up and away by the promise of an outdoor barbeque/live music festival of some sort. As it were, only the blackest-hearted diehards heeded the call to this cursed slice of suburbia, where memories from beyond time would once again climax in a lurid celebration of the horrific, the macabre, the rapacious and warfaring facets of existence from which fleeting mortality truly derives its meaning. Our lives — and indeed our deaths — would bear the distinct and indelible imprint of this Day as a scar that never heals, and whose free-flowing ichor blazes a sanguinary trail across ages…

Lethal Aggression: New Jersey’s crossover-thrash godfathers themselves had been the honorary headliners for the pre-Day of Death celebration, which of course had been successfully realized the previous Friday night; but for Saturday’s Day of Death proper, Lethal Aggression actually re-emerged from their dens — bleary-eyed and wracked with raging katzenjammer — at an ungodly brunch hour to be the very-fucking-first band in the proceedings, which was a display of tenacity mostly lost on the scant gathering of earlybirds. What followed was a forthright little blitzkrieg of their trademarked “drugcore” anti-anthems, which was made all the more special for the occasion with the return of classic-era guitarist Dave Gutierrez (though he may have been initially unrecognizable due to his new blue-dyed and bespiked hair), who additionally was commendable for drawing the wicked Lovecraft-inspired design for the Day of Death T-shirts. Towards the end of their timeslot, though, it became clear that vocalist John Saltz had most anticipated getting to the last song on the list — “No Scene” — as he had accidently launched into that whole vocal line during the beginning of penultimate song “Spooge”, causing the band to screech to a stop and start all over. In retrospect, the mixup should not have been too surprising, as the apathy-decrying, poseur-scourging lyric matter (the key verse being, “All you do is come to shows, sit around and stare”) was uncomfortably relevant enough to boil our blood. And this was an absolutely necessary kick-in-the-ass to start everything off on the right track.

Hubris: Being the first of four local bands to open up a 13-band procession is a task about as unpleasant as serving in the infantry during a foray into an uphill battle, and yet the cadre known as Hubris still mobilized for their set like the hungriest of mercenaries — corpse paint, wicked demeanors and all. Though they are a relatively new constellation in our Northern skies (to wit, all of their embryonic recordings thus far feature a drum machine because they could not, until recently, secure a faithful skinsman) Hubris’ style of black metal extrapolates directly from the most abrasive entries in the classical Scandinavian school, falling into a nebulous scape between Marduk’s Opus Nocturne and Immortal during their soulraping halcyon years with Demonaz. But at 4 p.m. in a sun-baked, poorly ventilated enclosure, the band’s blizzarding invocations of carnage-strewn battlefields and holocausted settlements were all but guaranteed to a tepid reception. Frontman Hellskald vehemently refused to let the standers-by off easily, however, and at numerous intervals demanded choruses of quasi-fascistic fistpumping from every slouched, beer-nursing figure in the near and far vicinity. It would be difficult to not be impressed by the young band’s charisma, and Hellskald’s exiting exhortation to “Rape angels! Drink their blood! Castrate God!” would basically set the tone for the remainder of the rituals to follow.

Seplophile: Attribute it to that everflowing stream of youthful vigor if you will, if that would most efficiently explain how Seplophile had the mettle to burn through one of their own setfuls of brutal death, just a few hours before they would entirely re-animate the godlike monolith of morbidity ‘From Beyond’ with living legend Kam Lee. Despite Seplophile’s ostensible “newcomer” status, they are a band that follows “The Old School Spirit” as their unshifting lodestar, and their drive is incited by memories of the vital role that the Buffalo scene had once taken in the death metal genesis (that is, before everyone and their grandparents emigrated to Florida). Their discography to date apparently features none but a single demo ‘…And Death Shall Have His Dominion’, so the boys did not exactly have a hell of a lot of material to choose over, but their formulas exhibit a certain potency of form and execution that echoes the advanced blastations formerly mastered by the early incarnations of Cannibal Corpse and Cryptopsy. If anything, the set was a reassurance that this fledgling local band had talent in abundance for the daunting role of Kam Lee’s backing band, and that would only further whet our bloodlusts for the Massacre to come.

Resist Control: Reportedly one of the all-time favorite newer Buffalonian bands of Brian Pattison himself, Resist Control followed swiftly on Seplophile’s heels with high-octane, classic hardcore-thrash madness that veers more towards the vehicle of purposeful, distinct narrative rather than uncontrolled paroxysms of angered words and misplaced epithets. This is the type of band that would incite violent, all-consuming pits amongst any gathering of punks and skins on a normal night, but of course since Resist Control were haplessly saddled on the first quarter of a 12-hour-long engagement, they were mostly just gawked at by those who weren’t caught up at the bar or the merchandise tables with all the luminous death metal celebrities. Still, the band gave voice to outrage as sonorously as a good “canary in a coalmine” ought, and it would be well-off if they could soon branch forth from their hometown Buffalo circuit and reach more disenchanted ears out in the rest of the Amerikan wasteland.

Sam Biles: Caught in similar circumstances with antihero-of-the-day Kam Lee, Sam Biles is an illustrious frontman who for some reason or other stands separated from his classic backing band — Hideous Mangleus, in this case — and so performed his best-loved songs at Day of Death eponymously, with the aid of youthful and capable hired hands. Somehow, Biles had managed to secure and implausibly import a star-crossed trio of Texan luminaries to stand in as his henchmen: on guitar, Francisco of HRA; on bass, Dave of PLF; and on the drumthrone, Matt of Blaspherian. This ad-hoc convocation had actually never before rehearsed with Biles, and yet their set for the evening came together with such natural beauty that a blind man would no less envision the old gang of Feev and the Brothers Bonde back at their respective spots (except — dare we say it — with tighter musicianship?). Preposterously outfitted with all of cast-iron armbands, leather pants and a fucking Ratt T-shirt, Biles prowled the peripheries of the stage like a caged beast whilst animating every disturbingly hilarious lyric with guttural prowess — and of course, the Tejas Squadron behind him did not once skip a stroke, faithfully re-enacting the catchiest death-throes behind material like “Question Your Motives” and “Burning Children” (“Remember kids, don’t play with matches! Aaaaaargh!“). If the audience gathered for the night had any doubts about Biles’ solo appearance, their apprehensions were completely quashed before the first song even ended; and by way of analogy, it could be correctly assumed that Kam Lee wouldn’t need Rick Rozz, Terry Butler or Bill Andrews to pull off the old Massacre songs with masterful [dis]grace.

Avulsion: The final of the local marauders to be showcased for the Day, Avulsion are elder guardians (est. ’92) of the Buffalo death metal tradition, though their essence is thoroughly imbued with eclectic dosages of hardcore and grind. Shrewdly tongue-in-cheek yet convicted in their anti-humanist manifestos, this band effectively mimics the torments of alienation through truncated songs patched together from ambiguously buzzing tremolo riffs. But perhaps their most distinctive asset is the uncanny throat-power of their frontman, who is able to switch so rapidly between a strident punk shout and a rattling growl that it was easy to be fooled into believing there was more than one lead vocalist at work. After completing a formidable listing of original compositions in record time, Avulsion thought well enough to conclude their set with a cover of Carcass’ “Empathological Necroticism”, which certainly tweaked the ears of all those yakkers in the vicinity who were only half-listening otherwise.

Goatcraft: The horned and cloven-hooved brainchild of keyboardist Jason “Lonegoat” Kiss, Goatcraft is purest piano metal unbounded from the conventional backdrop of screaming strings and timekeeping clangor, essentially comprising foreshortened sonatas that weave narratives and paint airs with bleak minimalism — obviously, this performance would be the one looked upon as the “oddball” on the bill by a large portion of the audience, if only for their bewilderment over aesthetics! Matters were not made much more agreeable due to the fact that The Lonegoat did not have access to his personal keyboard for the night, and thus had to make do with a rented piece of junk that would hiss and sputter at loathsomely frequent intervals. Though the technical difficulties as well as the piss-drunken interjections of certain audiencemembers shot through any semblance of good ambiance for this listening session, the one-man-band remained steadfastly transfixed at his post, only uttering a few words of exposition when necessary, or still more rarely betraying a glare from beneath a heavily corpsepainted and bloodsoaked brow. It may be a sad inevitability that those few ambitious souls who elect to play solo, ambient Metal in a concert setting will never have the right kind of audience, as people who walk the hessian path between Classical and Metal appreciations are still unmercifully uncommon, especially in regards to the U.S front. But for any matter, Goatcraft is still a promising work in progress; expect to hear more from this satyrid maestro in further compositions both personal and collaborative.

Druid Lord: The newest creative vehicle of former Acheron axemen Tony Blakk and Pete Slate, as well as their skin-hammering Equinox comrade Stephen Spillers, Druid Lord is a death/doom affair that draws its most prominent tributaries from the sludge-tainted fountainheads of Winter’s Into Darkness and Autopsy’s Mental Funeral, with perhaps the faintest hints of vintage Cathedral coursing noxiously through the solution. But whatever feeble combinations of band names one chooses for describing Druid Lord, it remains that this band gathers its purpose in delineating true imageries and sensations of Horror: the same inspiration for all music branching from the germinal genius of Black Sabbath. For their Day of Death appearance, Druid Lord had driven up north nonstop from their vantage point in the opposite pole of the country (Orlando, Florida), which might have added an honest dimension of bodily-excruciation to their already torturous live show. Though their 2010 LP Hymns for the Wicked lists Druid Lord as being a three-piece, they have since added Ben Ross as a rhythm guitarist, allowing The Great Slate to solo to his evil heart’s content whilst dense riffing frequencies are maintained. Bassist/vocalist Tony Blakk, already bedecked with plenty of frontman’s credentials for his years in Equinox, was practically thespian here in his snarled descantations of grisly fates. But for the song “All Hallows Evil”, he stepped aside to allow Kam Lee to take over on vocals — a very honorary guest appearance that would only be shared for the night by Derketa. Speaking of which…

Derketa: As of late, reunions in classic death metal have occurred on such a frequent scale that even the over-sanguine among us are becoming rather desensitized; an entity like Derketa, however, is so improbable a phoenix to rise from the ash that only the ignorant could fail to take notice. Formulated in the foundational ’80s era by Sharon Bascovsky and Terri Heggen, Derketa holds historical leverage alone for being the first female death metal band; of course, they earned their musical leverage by their demo recordings and the ‘Premature Burial’ EP, which featured decelerated-tempo, incredibly growly songs that sounded somewhere deep within the realms of Hellhammer and Nihilist. But the immediate intrigue that the band’s output garnered seemed to cause the very pressure that broke them apart, although Bascovsky put forth several honest attempts to keep Derketa’s name alive over the years, finally succeeding in a full reunion by 2006. Only five years later did the revitalized cult feel strong enough to begin live outings: the first three in their native Pittsburgh, and the forth to be Buffalo’s Day of Death 2011 — significantly, the girls (minus current bassist Robin Mazen, who was busy with Demonomacy back in Florida) had been in the audience for the fest’s 1990 edition. When it was finally time for Derketa to commence with their first out-of-state appearance and the opening sequence for “Premature Burial” was sounded, practically the whole fan-populace in the venue came flying to crush in front of the stage. Guitars sounded appropriately huge and menacing (although in the beginning only Sharon and Robin could be heard, as Mary Bielich’s distortion pedal had shorted out), and it’s apparent that over the years Sharon has trained her vocals to be even more fearsome. It was especially uplifting, though, to see Terri reprise her role as the original female death metal drummer — still the rarissimus avis of the genre — and as she was able to borrow Rottrevore’s massive drum kit, her blows were as sonorous as they could be. A brand new song called “Rest in Peace” (dedicated to Seth Putnam and others in a growing list of “dead metal guys”) was showcased: it could be the most doom-influenced track they’ve composed yet, which probably hints a lot at the overall aesthetic to expect on the imminent debut LP, In Death We Meet. And, as mentioned before, Kam Lee made one more guest appearance for the song ‘Last Rites’, growling along with his brightest female disciple for what must have been a very high point in the band’s lifespan.

Rottrevore: After Derketa and Sam Biles-technically-Hideous Mangleus, Rottrevore were the last in a series of revitalized Pennsylvanian cults to preside over Day of Death with their characteristically Northeastern, bowel-wrenching odes to the evil in man. Known best amongst the underground for their solitary full-length opus Iniquitous — an onerous, eldritch epitaph crafted after the most primeval echoes of the Stockholm and New York schools — the band almost inexplicably vanished from the scene shortly after the release, issuing no signs whatsoever from under their official banner save for the ‘Disembodied’ compilation pressed by Necroharmonic some time ago. This being so, their sudden resurgence back into action this year — signing with Spain’s Xtreem Music, dusting off unreleased songs, logging studio time with Erik Rutan for a new EP — is more than remarkable, and Day of Death would be honored with the first Rottrevore performance in nearly two decades. Frontman Chris Weber did not at all contrive much fanfare and flamboyance about the distinction, however, and preferred to be businesslike in his dispensation of aural punishment. Their set of course included all the choicest bits from Iniquitous (this humble narrator was partial to ‘Unanimous Approval’ and ‘Incompetent Secondary’, but everything honestly sounded true-to-form), and there was also a peppering of the new material which sounded to be very close in spirit to the classics, which is a very good thing indeed. This reunion show turned out to be a success in any respect, and the fact that it was all only a preview of what is to come can only confer the best of prospects.

Deceased: Who could have imagined that our most beloved Virginian bizarro-deathmeisters Deceased would be the only holdovers from the first incarnation of Day of Death? Granted, in the 21 years that have elapsed since then, the band has metamorphosed into an almost entirely different beast: the latest album Surreal Overdose features a tightly-crafted continuation of the ripping speed metal that has become their standard since the mid-’90s; and of course, King Fowley now vocalizes at the helm rather than behind the drumkit, backed by a quartet of mostly drafted-for-the-live-show mercenaries (including, for the very first time, guitarist Danzo of New York City-area hilaritythrashers Vermefüg). With a varied listing of the old savage classics mingled with everything up to the newborn creations, Deceased had a canonical time-travelling drama to offer their audience, although their stage time had to be disconcertedly hurried along due to some fascist schedule-policing on the venue’s part. This constraint was especially bogus for a born raconteur like King, who barely had an adequate moment to address his audience between songs, yet he still strived for those full Deceased theatrics we’ve all come to expect, complete with fucked-up monster masks and all such related tomfoolery. Perhaps, in recognition of the spirit of Day of Death, Deceased should have traded out some of their later-period songs for more selections off the early milestone ‘Luck of the Corpse’ and so on, since the audience was uniformly comprised of old-school hessians hellbent on tradition. But whatever the case, it was gratifying to have one of the original fest participants return for the second incarnation — and how many bands other than Deceased truly demonstrate the longevity of the underground death metal practice?

Insanity: It would not at all be a droll exaggeration to nominate San Francisco’s Insanity as the least fortunate band in all of death metal, following from their absurdly tragical biography as the one-time most promising vanguards of the newly developing extreme style, poised at the very cusp of self-realization yet cruelly denied their seat in the pantheon due to terminal illnesses, crippling accidents, and the ever shifting sands of label-backed patronage. Fate is a bitch, as superhumanly tenacious frontman Dave Gorsuch knows only so well at this point, and Her cantankerous whims sure enough wrought hell on Insanity’s maiden voyage across the Northeast. The very first tour date in Toronto had to be cancelled due to issues with bordercrossing policies, and during that same time bassist Falko Bolte was sniffed out for drug possession and was summarily locked away in a local jail, for as long as it would take for his sentence to be issued. Shaved down to a trio with no low-end support, Insanity nonetheless soldiered onward to Club Infinity intent on following through on the warpath they had carved. Guitarist Ivan Munguia took over Falko’s vocal duties on the spot, and both guitarists turned up the bass on their amplifiers with the hopes of plastering up the frequency gap in their wall of sound. It was evident then that failure was decisively averted once the opening strains of ‘Attack of the Archangels’ sounded out across the hall, electrifying the East Coastal audience who had before only dreamed of bearing witness to California’s most mythical entity. Since Insanity’s complex, many-riffed compositions emphasize guitar theatrics over everything else, the lack of Falko did not distract too much from the live reenactments, and the normally-silent Ivan’s backup growls turned out to be commendably feral, especially for the newer material which draws more than usual from call-and-response vocal forms. But the high point had to be marked by the song “Fire Death Fate”, which might be declared the most well-known of all Insanity songs if mostly for the fact that Napalm Death did a cover of it on their ‘Leaders Not Followers’ tribute album: a rather late piece of evidence concerning the remarkably deep-rooted influence that Insanity exerted on British extreme metal. In all, Insanity’s appearance was laudable in spite of the hindrances that seem to perennially plague them, and your humble narrator would go on to follow the band for two more dates of the tour, which were similarly sublime beyond all belief and yet met with shockingly low turnout. But that, friends, is a story for another odd time and place…

Nokturnel: After Goatcraft and Sam Biles’ One-Off Backing Band, Nokturnel were the last of the fiends who flew up from Texas to play a set — although, most old-schoolers remember the band from when they were still based in their native New Jersey, rattling out an intriguingly odd permutation of Voivodian death-thrash on the oft-overlooked opus Nothing But Hatred (another lamentable victim of the doomstruck vessel that was JL America Records). But sadly, nothing at all from the back catalogue was to be on the menu for the night: Nokturnel were quite literally debuting a new drummer and it was simply not in their longterm interest to teach him anything other than their contemporary songs, which are structured and conceptualized out of a much different mindset than the ’90s fare. It was a let-down for the diehards — come to think of it, *everyone* who was gathered for Day of Death was essentially a diehard in some way (especially that magnificent bastard who adamantly demanded to hear “Nuke Seattle”: may you have Satan’s blessings) — but sets will be sets, and it was still fun to watch Tom Stevens shred like a maniac (until his guitar strap came flying off its peg in the middle of everything). We were, however, treated to some completely new material: “Demonic Supremacy” and “Ancestral Calling”, the latter of which was astonishingly pulled off despite the drummer’s inexperience of ever rehearsing it. But at the end of it all, when Tom and the gang were packing it up, the restless energy in the room very palpably spiked to the critical mass: with Nokturnel down, the strike of the fatal hour was fast approaching with the grand finale…

Kam Lee/Seplophile: Primogenitor, mastermind, chieftain, elder god — in death metal, these honorary titles can only officially be coronated onto one Kam Lee. As vocalist for the overwhelmingly foundational bands Death and Massacre, it was Kam who devised the guttural vocal approach closest associated with the genre; and — as is only natural for a Samhain-born son — it was also Kam’s profound knowledge of literary and cinematic Horror, as well as the darker facets of world history that gave concept and soul to an artistic movement. Though his deathgrowls became the stuff of legend early on in the ’80s tapetrading network, his best known contribution is arguably the full-length Massacre album From Beyond, and the fact that this meisterwerk would be fully re-concerted for Day of Death [or should it have been called “Asscrack-of-Morning of Death” at this point?] imparted a dizzying sense of disbelief on the intimate, rabid crowd clinging in front of the stage. But indeed, it wasn’t a collective delusion: the familiar hearkening of “Dawn of Eternity” resonated true through us all, and surely enough Kam Lee stepped forth from the shadows, with Seplophile’s instrumentalists trailing close behind. Previously, Kam had worn a Bone Gnawer shirt for lounging around with his fans and peers off-stage, but for this set he switched to one bearing a “Herbert West: Reanimator” logo — of course, very appropriately referring to the film based on the Lovecraft novella of the same name, with its central theme of profligate science hideously inverting the laws behind life and death. What followed was a set that went by a true-to-album, track-by-track order of those nine anthems we all know better and love better than family; Kam’s live execution captured the full, terrifying intensity of the recordings of his youth, and his ribald yet quickwitted banter in between is always prime entertainment. All the while, the axemen of Seplophile darted to and fro across the stage like winged nightgaunts, and considering how the band had only three rehearsals with Kam to prepare for the night, their performance was almost too good to be true. When “Corpse Grinder” finally ground everything to a halt, Kam and the boys made a hasty exit… but everyone knew the slaughter couldn’t possibly be over yet! And in no time, of course, the spotlights flickered back on and Kam had indeed returned with a few bonuses in store. There was “Provoked Accurser” from the fabled single of the same name, a cover of Impetigo‘s “Boneyard”, a ridiculously fun cover of “Skulls” by the Misfits (which Kam introduced with a paean to punk’s crucial relation to death metal’s genealogy), and finally the ‘Inhuman Condition’ EP’s cover of Venom’s “Warhead” (similarly introduced with reverent words for the Newcastle trio, and how they were responsible for Kam’s fateful crossover from punkship to metaldom). Kam also took advantage of his stagetime to relate some news concerning future exploits: apparently, he has rekindled his alliance with veteran Massacre/Obituary guitarist Allen West, and the duo are in the midst of a scheme Kam has decided to name “Corpse Rot” — a portmanteau of the Massacre song “Corpse Grinder” and the Obituary song “Slowly We Rot”… naturally! And with that, the stars again shifted into benign coordinates and the glorious spell was broken, yet the harrowing tale would be scribed immortally within the Necronomicon of death metal’s saga. For this Day would surely be the last Day that Kam Lee would perform those classic Massacre songs live in concert, and those who missed it, have missed it for all eternity.  

-Thanatotron-

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Death Strike – Fuckin’ Death (Re-Issue)

Death Strike – Fuckin’ Death (Re-Issue)

Like a glass-bottomed boat sailing over the submerged remains of an ancient city, this re-issue lets us voyeurs peer into the past of death metal. Master/Deathstrike/Abomination represented one wing of the early hybrids, sounding more like the aggressive uptempo hardcore of the early 1980s as crossed with the attitude that had been consisten in metal since its earliest days.

To wit: a straightforward absence of quirky changes, an emphasis on cadence instead of alternating syncopation, a historical view of the world that subsumed politics to a whole view of the human experience, and songs made by fitting riffs together in an internal dialogue that not only kept the song coherent but propelled it forward. These distinguish Death Strike as well, which packs them into punch songs of high-intensity fast tremolo punk riffs.

Our original review of this Death Strike masterpiece still stands. Like its associated band Master, Death Strike represents an early form of death metal that was nearly contemporaneous with Slayer-influenced bands like Sepultura and Possessed, as well as European-style proto-death/proto-black bands like Bathory, Hellhammer and Slayer. All of these re-interpreted punk hardcore in metal a different way than thrash (DRI) had done, and as a result, achieved a unique sound that was later highly influential to scenes as diverse as Sweden and New York.

The re-issue is beautiful. Quality pressing, good photos, elegant disc. The inclusion of demo tracks is always dubious, since you get more primitive versions of what you just heard, providing only academic interest; it’s better to release a historical issue like Immolation did. However, in this case, the rehearsal of “Pay to Die” is truly worth hearing to see how far this band came in the early 1980s.

Seeing this classic ride again in general availability is a sight for sore eyes for any true old school metal fan. If you want to know the origins of this music, pick up this CD and explore the first releases of the other bands mentioned above. While the know-nothing music press trumpets Venom, it’s good to see that contemporary acts were exploring other avenues for metal with the power of hardcore punk, and from this fertile ferment, death metal was born.

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Overview of obscure Finnish death metal

The arch-wizards over at DEATHMETAL.ORG summon forth an article covering the breadth of Finnish underground metal, and cap it off with a hour of music in a compilation of Finnish bands both well-known, and totally unknown.

We are proud to present a sequence of tracks collected by Fenno-American Death Metal connoisseur Benjamin Tianen in tribute to Finland and its strain of artists and conjurers. This compilation of obscure quality Finnish Death Metal is recommended for listening in the twilit hours of day, preferably in rather uninhabited locations as most of Finland is. If there is one teaching one must bring home from Finnish artists and Finnish school of mental exploration, it is that one must not love happiness as much as one loves truth.

Forgotten Death Cults from Finland: an Overview

Includes all the classics: Demigod, Abhorrence, Beherit, Adramelech, Sentenced, Cartilage, Belial, Necropsy, Unholy, Phlegethon, and more.

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Echoes of the Kali-Yuga: death metal honesty

One of the things I love about death metal is that it took a middle path, between the “life is evil and we must reform it” progressives and the “just keep earning money and all will be fine” conservatives; instead, it pointed out the underlying truth, which is that civilizations fail and someday will be our day, and perhaps it’s sooner than we think.

“Hot desire, staggering passion Craving completion and perfection Made us blind Greed of completeness made us, man To subject and vassales of ourselves Presumptuous creatures How narrow are you ? Self-aggrandized, destructive individuals The believing in yourself Growing up to selfishness Egoism discards moral and ethics” – Atrocity, ‘Godless Years’.

  • Atrocity – Godless Years
  • Revenant – Prophecies of a Dying World
  • Therion – Future Consciousness
  • Immolation – Nailed to Gold
  • Monstrosity – Suffering to the Conquered
  • Napalm Death – As the Machine Rolls On…
  • At The Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours

No god to punish us, and yet we suffer
– At the Gates, Gardens of Grief

When the foundations to our existence
Begins to crumble one by one
And legislations protects its breakers
And he who was wrong but paid the most won

Even the gods of countless religions
Holds no powers against this tide
Of degeneration because we have now found
That there is no thrones up there in the sky

Run from this fire
It will burn your very soul
Its flames reaching higher
Comed this far there is no hold
O, all small creatures
It is the twilight if the gods
– Bathory, Twilight of the Gods

Forgotten children, conform a new faith,
Avidity and lust controlled by hate.
(The) Never ending search for your shattered sanity,
Souls of Damnation in their own reality.

Chaos rampant,
An age of distrust.
Confrontations.
Impulsive habitat.

Bastard sons begat your cunting daughters,
Promiscuous mothers with your incestuous fathers.
Engreat souls condemned for all eternity,
Obtained by immoral observance a domineering deity.
– Slayer, South of Heaven

We like to think it can never happen, at least not to us. But it must happen because everything must end. And if you add up all the signs, it’s sooner rather than later.

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Interview with Alan Moses and Brian Pattison of Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991)

Alan Moses (Butterface zine) and Brian Pattison (Chainsaw Abortions zine) are the death metal zine editors who compiled Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991). They also promote the A Day of Death series of concerts and have been active in the death metal underground up through the present day.

Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991) covers the formative years of the death metal underground in the words of its participants and as a result, is not a slick product designed to hype the drama of the scene but an in-depth exploration for those who care to exert themselves to learn.

We are fortunate to get a few moments of their time and to hear how Alan and Brian got into metal, ended up starting their zines, and almost two decades later resurrected it all with Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991).

When did the idea hit you for this book, and when did you think, “this might actually work”? I understand that both of you published paper zines, and that you Alan worked for Morbid Angel (gods among men) and that you Brian had a radio show and promoted live shows, including the infamous A Day of Death. Would you have undertaken this book without that background?

Brian: The idea came about in an off the cuff remark Alan made in an email to me in May or June of 2009. He mentioned having a photo album on his coffee table with old pics he had in a collection. I like that idea, then just thought it would be cool to have something like that in actual book form. In later discussions we agreed it would be even cooler to have stories from friends (the bands and ‘zines of the era) to go with the pics. I would say by possibly early Sept of 2009 we thought the book might sell some. We had begun getting emails from bands we didn’t contact ourselves and other people who had heard what we were doing and wanted a copy for themselves – originally we intended to print two copies, one for Alan and one for me and that was to be it. it’s hard to know if we would have done this without having the backgrounds we do. it would have been a lot tougher for sure. doing what we did back then made people remember us so it was easy to get stories from Chris Reifert, Kam Lee, Henry Veggian, etc.

Alan: I was probably a world more skeptical than Brian about it. After all it was an off the cuff statement I’d made in an email to him, a single email among I don’t know how many others. I forgot about the subject, but Brian went away and mulled it over for a while. He doesn’t just step into things blindly so he’d been thinking of all the hypotheticals before he came back to me with his thoughts of actually making a physical book, beyond just 2 overpriced copies via an online publisher, which was the original idea.

My mindset was way more cemented to the ideas about digitizing our combined audio tape and video collections, than any book concept, at first that is. When he came back to me with “oh I have been thinking about….” and went into details, I remember thinking “holy f%!k the guy’s gone nuts” haha but the more he argued the case (so to speak) the more I warmed to it.

It’s hard to say whether those things from our pasts played any part in it or not, I don’t know how much background the creators of any other books had in this music – so I have no idea what their drives are. In the past I’ve often been asking about doing a book of some kind – but laughed it off, or even if I may have entertained the idea for a couple minutes at best, my life was not the sort to support any such endeavour until recently.

Maybe our collective contacts proved helpful in doing this, but then again many old friends have ignored or turned down the chance to be a part of GT as well, and some times it seems to me that an unknown newbie off the street has better success these days of reaching OUR old cronies than we do, especially if they have tits and whorish looking myspace profile photos haha.

What advantages does a cut-and-paste or photocopied zine have over its electronic counterparts? What disadvantages? Are paper zines still relevant in the same way, now that we have blogs and mp3 trading to make life easier?

Brian: A big advantage is price. Making a ‘zine the old way you didn’t have to print thousands; you could just run off a few copies and assemble them yourself, sometimes as needed. Biggest disadvantage to me would be all your pics would be in the lack of color for cheaper copying. Paper ‘zines could still be relevant if people bought them. The paper ‘zines of our day were often put out by people who became fans of their local scene first, so those ‘zines were great ways to find out about bands that didn’t get national exposure.

Alan: Well, for a start, paper zines can be brought to the shit-house, so for most men, that’s the place they get to read in peace anyways hehe – if they have a family anyway.

They can be brought back out at leisure, wherever, and don’t dictate the need for all this extra technology or internet connections to read – especially in countries that have the system dictating how much bandwidth you can have and at what speeds you can use it, such as Australia and other third-world-internet-countries.

In many ways the print zine might be making a comeback, or seems to me to be making one, as people are beginning to leave the textureless internet and return to a more biological physical based enjoyment of all the trappings that come with this music. On the other hand though, as many print zines as I see flyers and adverts for – how many do they sell? Is it the same concept as when we made them, the concept being that we didn’t even care about sales, it was a labor of love and devotion.

The disadvantages of printing and postage costs and garnering physical mailing addresses as opposed to email are the main issues I guess, whereas today anyone can be a blogger and start a webzine or start trading mp3 with little to no background in this music. Contacts were hard to come by back in the day, and it was an investment to buy cassettes and establish a good stable of quality traders – it was based on hard work and faith, and that was evident from the list you had to offer trades from.

The bottom line is though that for the most part, only glossy magazines get the business and they cater to the borderline or fully blown corporate bands and their fans, that’s where the money is. That type of fan would snub their nose at a photocopied zine without a doubt – they only know glossy music and images, so there’s not much to be done on that front but leave them to it. To transcend the money issues on an underground level, ofcourse digital means greater speed and coverage – but we are sacrificing an entire facet of the experience in so doing.

Do you think mp3 trading is superior to tape trading? Does it help people find music, overwhelm them with too many options, or both?

Brian: HELL NO, mp3 trading is not superior to tape trading! For one thing you’re dealing in crap files, anyone who truly loves music would not listened to their stuff in a crapped down format like mp3. Tape trading was great, you’d get the stuff you requested and then usually a little bonus material as tape filler. In ’89 that bonus stuff could have been short demos (like Immolation’s ’89 demo) or live stuff or rehearsals of new bands like Mortician and Incantation who didn’t have demos. With mp3 downloads you just get the tracks you’re looking for. MP3 trading may make it faster to get stuff, but it has help destroy the scene. The personal touch and friendships that were made through tape trading just don’t exist in mp3 trading.

Alan: No, I don’t think it’s superior per se, not for the most part.

The exclusiveness is totally gone now. Grandma can plug her dentures into any USB port and now obtain live audio which was reserved on trader lists as “not for trade” like the old Genocide recordings (pre-Repulsion) were and is instantly metamorphosed into an old school Genocide fan. Now that exclusiveness has been sacrificed, yes, it certainly does immeasurably help people find bands they really like, whatever the style is. I wouldn’t have found totally kick ass bands like Punch or Question otherwise (both amazing hardcore punk bands) – stumbling into a blog lead me to “try” them out, like you would that unknown band on a trader list, or put on a trade at the end to fill the blank tape and see if the recipient liked it or not – that’s the same concept, so it does works.

It’s only when they start mass messaging you to “vote” for them to become the next reality-concepted band and “win” a Myspace or whatever label contract that it gets abnormal. Conversely – from a corporate mentality you want to market what the plebs want to hear, so you want that newest Kelly Clarkson or Mr. Hanky band brought to the table, by the very plebs you want to fleece with it anyways.

Then we get to the whole push-pull thing, and face the issues of whole albums being ripped and copyright and the rest of it.

It has the capacity for both effects though, no matter what, and the serious adventurer into this music better be prepared by wearing a shit proof suit – because they are going to swim in shit before they find the gems.

What kind of audience does old school death metal and Glorious Times have, and how many of them are carryovers from the original days?

Brian: Old school death metal seems to be regaining favor, thankfully. As a guesstimate I would say roughly 1/3 of the people who bought our first printing were people from the old days. Our sales pretty much ran the full spectrum of fans, we sold to a few in their early teens and a few that were over 50 yrs old.

Alan: We have people from our era and younger, although the younger are far less represented. Mainly, we gather, because we haven’t had any corporate mechanism behind us to promote things – only the really attentive youngsters caught on so far, because we are out of their more cashcow oriented world at this time. Unless you really use myspace ALOT or saw a quick blurb at Blabbermouth one time, we would have missed GT pretty much, that’s because we had no money to promote and people are guarded about what they throw their money at.

If we had Shane Embury ‘endorse’ the book, haha, we would have been picked up by most of the publishers of metal oriented books probably before the thing was even out of the draft stage haha.

Musically speaking, there’s so much more folks drifting back to the old bands and the old feel of things, since they’ve got a bit wise to the genericisms of the music today. Don’t get me wrong, some of the bands coming out with stuff these days are phenomenal (cough Malignant Tumour cough Master cough) – but we see letters every single day from a vast array of age ranges wanting a return to the Glorious Times, and there is an undercurrent of feeling disatisfied with what the state of affairs has become.

No matter what, death metal fans have always been really die hard. I think most people realize that there’s more dedication in general, compared to other music styles. Hardcore and the derivatives is the same ofcourse. They might have dropped out of sight due to life’s circumstances, or come back and become more active, and the old classics are still classics to them. Some may continue to venture forth to try to find good bands from the newer generation, which is what Brian and I do (although we are both as into hardcore as well as other extreme music, not just death). But we are not so sure the new young bloods adopt a similar philosophy because the whole shebang is different for them. They have ease of access but the exclusiveness is tainted by their having been spoiled by the technology.

We rest well, in the knowledge that so many old hands at this have stated publicly that GT is something no true death metal fan should be without, and so far only the hardest core have it. We have yet to be able to change that, and give other people, with as keen an interest, a chance to check it out. Most of GT’s appreciation base understands the importance of hearing the individual memories from the very people who lived them rather from a stale 3rd party who either wasn’t really active back then, or was simply too young or not even born. I am the sort of person that would rather read an autobiography than a biography, and GT fans respond to the concept really well, they are whom we made this book more available for anyways. Nobody else.

What’s the difference between then and now in terms of what fans expect, how bands act, and what people expect from the music?

Brian: Most fans today expect everything for free. They won’t spend $3 to buy a band’s demo because someone else will and that person will upload it to a blog. Bands act differently, some just stay backstage and don’t mingle with the fans forgetting that they are nothing without the fans and that they too were once just fans. Some bands don’t though, Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) still goes out and mingles with the crowd and will talk to anyone. Nowadays with the rise of digital recording people expect every recording to be of great quality, which is a shame. There’s some special about getting a rehearsal tape or poorly recorded demo, you know the band is in it for the music/for the fans, not to try to get signed and make money.

Alan: I can think of a few major household names today, from the old days, whom have made a 360 degree turn around from their former mindsets, and have totally turned their backs on their old fan bases, in favour of the adorations of a generation raised on rock star worship again – like the thing got killed by the underground and has been brought back in some sort of grandiose version of itself. Similarly, others from the same fold are still as grass roots as ever in their mindset and haven’t been poisioned. Then there’s some that are just as indifferent to their fans as they were then, and have atleast remained consistent on that level.

The fans I think, have made a major political shift – because the bands are more accessible to them, yet the rock star worship has been elevated – you’d think that would be the other way around? It wasn’t like that before, there was more of an even playing ground between a band and the fans usually.

I guess that is a symptomology of having years and years of success that eventually there is another generation born that sees things with a different set of eyes, with different value systems. Entertainment-wise anyways.

Do you have any insight as to the relative importance of fanzines in different parts of the world, if any? Who were/are your favorite foreign correspondences?

Brian: Fanzines back in the day were hugely important. those were the early years of death metal so it didn’t get coverage in the glossy music mags. If you wanted to read an interview with Immolation, Prime Evil, Insanity, Nokturnel, etc you had to find it in a ‘zine. You didn’t just want ‘zines from your area or your country either, you wanted them from all over so you can discover new bands, remember it was before the internet and myspace so to discover a band like Death Courier from Greece you had to either read about them in a ‘zine or happen to get a flyer of them from a tape trader. now of course my favorite correspondence is Alan, back then it was probably Walter Garau (Ass Ache) from Italy.

Alan: Certain zines were vitally important. Blackthorn from Denmark, Uniforce, Total Thrash etc from the USA, Decibels Of Death and Ultimate Speedcore Dislocation from France, and the legions of zines from South America were vital in exposing bands from everywhere yet still had enough from their own countries to be interesting – well there were an abundance of interesting bands though back then too. I had penpals in so many countries and it was always magnificent to hear from them all, I used to hear from most of the editors from the zines above, and traded with a number of them directly – and they are just the tip of the iceberg. My favourite correspondences would have been Lars Sorbekk (Vomit (Norway)) and Trey back then, but that’s a bit unfair because I truly reveled in hearing from EVERYONE. It’s the same today really, but Brian is the doss because we are doing so much together there’s usually something exciting or frustrating or whatever every single day.

Did you expect the exposure to bands you received when starting your respective zines?

Brian: When I started my ‘zine I just wanted to expose local bands to people elsewhere and have something of my own to put out to give me access to bands from other areas to interview and to expose to my locality. In the end my ‘zine did much more than that for me, it created life long friendships.

Alan: Yes I did, because most of the contacts were already made well before I started Buttface. Things were really taking off in 89 and 90 but by 1990 everything was put on hold because I relocated to the US and Buttface was never kept alive either there or in Australia by my co-editor Stuart Maitland. It’s been funny explaining to 3 kids why people still call their Dad ‘Buttface’ haha

You’re planning on mailing a live CD with bands playing the A Day of Death festival to people who pre-ordered the book. Can you tell us more about this CD, what it sounds like, and what these performances will reveal to those who hear them now, especially fans who weren’t there for the original underground?

Brian: We had several ideas for CD companions to the first pressing of the book, all of which fell through because we were never able to get material from the bands. we did the A Day of Death download to go with the blog, not every band from the show, but a solid five. We were provided DVDs that John Verica recorded that day, since he only recorded some bands that’s all we had to work with. If we had every band it would have made one hell of a CD. Fans who weren’t there could have expected to hear bands that became legends playing in their infancy.

In other interviews, you’ve mentioned the negative presence of corporate labels, of glossy magazines and hype machines — in short, the nasty end of consumerism as it turns music into a product. Do you think it’s harder for bands to be authentic, sincere or legitimate when they go corporate? With people raised on corporate rock and slick radio pop, is there an “awakening” process as they leave behind that world? Do you think corporations will simply buy out the anti-corporate movements and make them “niche” markets?

Brian: The big labels have always done that. They find a fad, latch onto it then just kill it. In their view if one Entombed is great then 30 is even better. If one band makes it big after using Scott Burns as a producer then every band starts using him. It all became a big machine, bands getting signed that should not have been. Lots of cheese being passed off as the latest greatest when they were just shabby clones of the original. Some people are just sheep and don’t want to be awakened to what is out there; they’re perfectly happy being told what they should like. It’s hard for some bands to stay sincere after signing with a big corporate label because of a few things…they feel the pressure to sell more, they start writing stuff in studio instead of in rehearsals, they have people (A&R guys) to answer too, etc.

Alan: Definitely, if they were sincere at all to begin with, which really 99.9% of the founding fathers WERE. There’s definately an awakening process to be had, if the person has the right mental dexterity to unlock it though, alot of people simply don’t possess it and have to be told what to listen to or how to think on every single issue, it’s the nature of the sheep that must be herded. There’s a small percentage that slip through the gaps and they tend to crave more direct expression and more enthusiastic music – like extreme metal or punk. While I don’t think corporations could buy what the youngin’s call “d-beat” now days and have grandma shopping in a Besthoven shirt like she does a Slipknot or Morbid Angel shirt today – anything is possible, and with the correct conditioning and the appropraite funding they could possibly do it – let’s face it – they can convince people to buy and eat a s%!t sandwhich if they put their minds to it.

One of the topics bands seemed to mention in the book, but only directly, was the rarity of these glorious days you describe. After all, death metal was then like a young child growing up, and now it’s a well-known and accepted adult, so it can never be “re-discovered” in the rise from obscurity like it once was. Were those glorious days singular and limited to that time, or will they happen again?

Brian: You can get something similar to those days, but it can never be the exact same. It can never revert to being as fresh and uncontaminated as it was. It was a singularity: 1984 was the big bang with the next few years of dramatic growth being the formation of the heavier elements and then the years up to 1991 would be the planets forming and so on. Late 1991 and into 1992 would be the birth of man and as he did with the planet man ruined a good thing.

Alan: There’s no returning, and that’s not what we call for either. We’d simply like to see a recognition of the era, no different than all the weenies running about and calling this “classic rock” today. Personally I am gun shy of all the bands that the glossies really push and have been anyways – they spat at Morbid Angel back in the early days, but now stop short of getting on their knees infront of Trey’s pants. Makes me sick.

Alan, you talk about leaving the mainstream as a gradual process, like a seduction. What is it like to live with a mainstream consciousness, and how does your outlook on the world change when you go underground? Is mainstream music different in consciousness, spirit or idea, and is that what makes it “sound” different and have different effects on us than underground metal?

Alan: I don’t think mainstream music as such is the same since it’s created with an alien mindset to begin with. Music created by a bunch of kids today – or 30 somethings even – that is written with, how do they state it in their bios? “looking for a recording contract and world wide touring support” – that is laughable. What’s worse is that the label’s consciousness has infected them into thinking they are even remotely good enough to create such music. It’s feeling, and you have to wade through alot of junk to get anything of substance. The process of leaving the mainstream is usually gradual I think, or else it’s jumping on another band wagon. As much as “sound” is importan t I think it’s feeling that’s as important – music of any kind without feeling is piece work, and shallow and therefore mainstream.

Is death metal music different in consciousness/spirit/idea, so that when different people hit on that same idea, they make music that sounds similar, even if they haven’t heard each other? Did that happen in the underground (parallel evolution)? Do you think people have to be ready for metal before they find metal, or vice-versa?

Alan: There was definitely evolution and hybriding – out of respect and pure influence, like the infamous Scot Carlson bass on Shane or the Kam Lee wipeout on Barn to name 2 influences. It was pure though and not a contrived means to cash in, like viewing a cupped vocalist in a photo today and knowing that 99.9% of it will be Suffocation’s 2nd generation music, clone based upon a band’s success 20 years after they made a ripple in the waters. They definitely need to be craving something on a deeper unconscious level I think – much of what we enjoy appeals to the baser instincts, and those lay in the Id. On the other hand so many of the bands, whilst being into whomever they were really into, still evolved to their own standards and were not clones at all. So there was evolution but being paralleled can be argued I guess. Perhaps we can say no to that statement since nothing is equal or the same in nature, evolution embraces difference not similarity and clones are not evolved, they are premeditatedly produced.

You’re planning to re-release Glorious Times in a wider fashion. When’s this going to happen, and are we going to see it in bookstores across the world? Why did you decide to release it in a limited fashion first?

Brian: We don’t have a set date yet. I’m getting a new publishing program and we’re redoing every layout, changing some pics, adding some bands to improve the book. We’d love to see it in book stores, but given it will still be just 2 guys doing it that’s not likely. We will print more this time so people will find it at places like Century Media and other metal distros. The first pressing was so limited because it had to be. We had $0 starting balance and to get it printed at all we had to take pre-print orders and the money from those orders paid for us to print books for those orders. So, we had roughly 150 pre-print orders and that gave us the funds to print 153 books. This time it will be much different, no pre-print ordering, wewon’t make the books available for sale until we have them. Now we just have to raise the cash to reprint it.

Alan: Brian has hit this on the head and there’s little I can say to complement it other than indeed, it was limited out of sheer having to be since we had no money and we were turned down by every single publisher. Period. We’ve heard every rejection reason in the book now. We owe everything to our contributors and supporters – without them, there would have been 2 books nobody saw but me and Brian. I personally do not forsee any reprint in the near future.

I remember this being something talked about a lot: how musically literate were the early bands?

Alan: Most bands were self taught. That’s a fact. Self taught and on a learning mission. They pulled it off though, you can have some kid sent through private music school for 10 years and grows his hair out, buys a trendy t-shirt from Hot Topic and they still produce garbage.

Brian, A day of Death was in my view the ideal death metal concert; how did you get up the gumption to organize it, and death with the business side of things, and get the bands to agree? Do people ever contact you who were there?

Brian: First I have to say, my old friend from those days almost always gets overlooked for this and he should definitely get his credit – Joe Pristach (Mosh Central ‘zine). It didn’t take much gumption at all, remember at that time most of those bands were still just demo bands. The idea Joe and I had was just to get a show of out of town bands that we wanted to see and that we were for the most part friends with. I didn’t deal with the business end, the club did that. Joe and I just handled the promotions side of it. Getting the bands to agree was no problem at all, any band of the day would have killed to play with Autopsy on the east coast. I don’t get people contacting me out of the blue about that, but once they find out I did Chainsaw Abortions ‘zine and hand a hand in the show they ask a few questions or make a few comments.

One of the big fears I have, as a death metal freak, is that the record of our glorious times will perish. CDs are going out of print, and memorabilia and documents fade and disappear into attics or worse, dumpsters. Is there any way to keep the spirit alive?

Brian: The old spirit is still alive, it’s just on a much smaller scale. bands like Fondlecorpse, Swamp, Druid Lord and some others still do things in the old school ways. There are still a few ‘zines that do things like the old days – Deathrasher ‘zine as one example. It would be great if there was a sort of museum or storage facility where people could send their pics and flyers and memorabilia that they no longer wanted, that way it would be preserved for future generations – people could donate or lend materials to it (a sort of death metal smithsonian) then everything document could be scanned to a high resolution and saved to multiple discs, then as if it also acted as a library people could do research there or ask about things in the catalog.

Alan: Brian has hit this too – and all I can say is GT stands amongst the real few striving for rememberance the way we feel it should be, not just a few pages in a magazine as a result of us doing the book.

Brian, you say you haven’t heard any bands that grab you the way those 1980s bands did — is that because they have a different consciousness/spirit/idea? What about the late 1980s and early 1990s made that consciousness or idea so clear for these bands? Was it something random, or were they responding to the time around them? Do you think this spirit will rise again?

Brian: What made those times special was the music was new. Each area, each band providing a new take on extreme music. The 1st and 2nd generation death metal bands had different influences than the bands of today. todays bands are influenced by death metal, but of course the original bands weren’t influenced by that because it didn’t exist before them. I don’t know if i’d say it was clear for the bands of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, they just all wanted to go heavier or faster or slower than their idols.

The spirit is still there; it’s the scene that’s gone. The internet has made some things easier and perhaps better, but it has also done a lot of damage. Almost all of the personal relationships that happened back in the day don’t happen now. Kids today will visit a myspace page and download songs so they don’t get to build relationships with bands like we did way back before the internet. I still have letters from bands from back then, will kids today save their emails and myspace messages to look back upon in 20 years — I don’t think so.

Do I think things will become as great as they were? With all honesty, I would say no. Is it possible, sure, but it requires a lot. The bigger bands have to stop doing 4 and 5 band package tours and go back to doing 1 and 2 band tours, leaving room for local openers at every show. Bands have to stop making their stuff available for download for free and either just release CDs or charge for the download (made available in flac and empty3), they have to wean fans off of expecting free stuff.

The free stuff should be a bonus, not a given. People have to start realizing that supporting a band doesn’t mean just friending them on myspace or hitting the “like” button on facebook, you need to buy their demos, shirts and other merch, you need to go and support your local scene, not just when the nationals come through.

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Interview: Mike Perun (Cianide)

Cianide are massive stalwarts of American death metal for whom little has changed in twenty years. Their impact is a bludgeoning and brute force one derived almost wholly from the genre’s progenitors; Slaughter (Canada), Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Slayer are touched with the plodding heavy metal of the previous generation to shore up their unwavering sound.

Interview originally from Heidenlarm e-zine #5.

When you formed Cianide, how did you describe the music you wanted to create?

Always was, is and will be: DEATH METAL. Granted we’re probably not the exact textbook definition of the genre, but that is what we’ve always set out to be. Could explain why we’ve managed to outlast a lot of more “popular” or “successful” of the bands that started around the same time we did. Our vision has always stayed the course and to play any other kind of music would just be stupid.

Of the artists who influenced you, which most directly affected your conception of the style of music you create with Cianide?

Of all of our influences the bands that immediately come to mind are FROST/HELLHAMMER (of course!), SLAUGHTER and MASTER/DEATHSTRIKE. Bands that incorporated various speeds/tempos as opposed to just speed for speed’s sake 100% of the time. Another band is POST MORTEM. “Coroner’s Office” is a fuckin’ classic!

The first Cianide album seemed to me to be more grinding than death metal, straying into the ambiguous and underexplored territory where Bolt Thrower, Blood and later Napalm Death wander. a) Do you think this perception is (semi-)accurate and b) what do you see as the differences emerging on later albums?

a. I guess you could say it’s accurate, though at the time we were just doing what we were able to do and not giving a fuck. Looking at the big picture, not a lot of bands call themselves Death Metal and play the sick, slow, dirgy stuff. I guess they call it gay “stoner” now. Remember when it used to be called DOOM METAL??

b. Well obviously we’ve picked up the pace a bit!! Theres only so many times you can hit an open E chord over a slow drum beat. Now were doing open E over faster beats!! Har Har! Seriously, slow heavy shit was just the order for that time for us. Mainly we got Andy on drums and he was more capable to handle faster stuff after Jeff left, so things just got faster from there. We haven’t completely abandoned our death-dirge roots though.

Over the course of development, Cianide has landed – for lack of a better phrase – into the category of “old school death metal,” joining luminaries such as Asphyx and Morpheus Descends. How do you think this music is different in its aim from other forms of death metal?

For us, we’re just playing the music that WE want to hear. If people call it “old school” well fuck, we are old school! I can’t speak for any other bands, but for us, this is the only way we know how to do it. It’s hard to pin down because nowadays bands like Cannibal and Morbid Angel are labeled “old school” but I think you must be referring to an actual “old school” sound. If that’s what you mean, you could say a band like CIANIDE is sort of a preservation of very early death metal. We’re not looking to break any new ground with this, nor do we have any aspirations for commercial success (though that would be nice if it came along!!), just trying to emulate the sound and style of the ancient GODS OF DEATH.

Someone once drew the distinction between hum-along metal like Motörhead or Venom, and “subversive metal,” meaning stuff that tries to be avantgarde, progressive or regressive. It seems to me that no band since Venom has captured the sense of popular and hum-along (really, is there a better term for this? songs that stay in your head and are relevant to aspects of everyday normal life) metal in the same way Cianide has, with bouncy, heavy, catchy songs hammering home simple ideas in smoothly integrated structures. How did you achieve this, and what are your thoughts on the accuracy of these statements? (I am no big fan of the hacked together terms like hum-along and subversive, but for now am not sure what I’d use in their place except extensive tedious descriptions)

I agree with the statement and take it as a compliment! Again we just write what we like and want to hear. Every riff we write has to fucking kill, no filler songs or parts with CIANIDE as far as I’m concerned. Bands with catchy choruses is the style of metal that we grew up with so it only makes sense that we would emulate that. Even stuff like early Death, Terrorizer, Repulsion, Massacre and even Morbid Angel had choruses that you could consider “catchy”. I can appreciate bands that play overly technical, but most of the time I prefer something that sticks in my head and kicks my ass.

Cianide seems to have stayed with no single label for more than an album. Is this true? Are there reasons the band had for doing this, or was this a product of what I call the “usual label chaos,” e.g. labels falling apart, dropping bands at random and going bankrupt?

Our first label, Grindcore merely changed their name to Red Light so our first two releases were basically on the same label. They went chapter 13, so we did DDD with Lost Horizon. That label was basically two friends of ours wanting to do a label. They were flipping the bill and nobody was asking us to dance at the time so we said, “what the fuck”. They went belly up also. Merciless re- released DDD on vinyl and did our latest, Divide and Conquer and are all set to our our forthcoming “The Age of Hell’s Rebirth”. So far so good.

Someone once told me I was not “open-minded” for automatically hating some band that attempted to merge alternative rock and metal; what do you think?

Liking different styles of music is actually just a matter of taste and really has nothing to do with having a so-called “open mind”, which has been such an over-used term ever since the 80’s that it is now pointless and irrelevant to label anybody as such (closed minded). What this egotistical person actually means is, ‘my opinion in music is much better than yours because I have no real convictions and simply like what is deemed “cool” by the mainstream, even though I think I’m hip and into new and crazy things just to impress ditzy college girls’.

Tell that person to stick his alternative/metal/rock/bastard hybrid up his open-minded ass.

Metal has changed in demographic since the so-called “glory (hole) days” of 1988-1994, with a broader and bigger audience now tuning in to even the most antisocial black metal. What changes do you think this demographic has caused to occur in the music itself?

From what I can see, when a band achieves some sort of success be it either underground or commercial, the band will try to write what it thinks is popular in an attempt to “keep up with the times” (ie. Entombed, Morgoth, Mayhem). On the other side of the coin, if a band is successful and stays true to their original ideals, they still will get dismissed by all the death-metal weenies and black metal trendies who are only into listening to shitty bands that YOU never heard of. So in essence, nothing has really changed.

Will you ever work to re-release the old Cianide albums?

There has been talk about re-releasing the first two on vinyl but nothing serious as of yet. We are planning on putting all our demos out on a double cd, with all kinds of extras and shit. Should rule.

A Descent Into Hell seems to me, sonically, to be one of the “heaviest” albums ever created, and not just through production – how did you achieve this, and what was your aim in creating that album? (see disclaimer above about hacked together terms again)

Again, we just do what we do. I think at that time we were tuned to like Z or something. We did all of those songs live, most only in one or two takes. The kicks and snare were sampled though. I remember after we got done doing the first song, the engineers came in and they were like, “everything sounds good guys but we do need more bass” we thought they were serious. Then they started laughing at us and they were like, “jeezzzzus, you guys are FUCKING HEAVY!!” “Decent…” is also a personal favorite of mine. I think it’s impossible to get that sound back again but who knows…………..

Has Cianide toured, or is it more of a band that you do when not leading a normal life?

Tour?? Shit, we’re lucky we play out once a year!! The time for touring is past. We’re smart enough to realize early on that playing underground metal, be it Black, Death or otherwise, wasn’t going to be a very lucrative career choice. Insecure “we’re truer than thou” hard-on’s would probably classify us as hobbyists, and they may be right. A hobby is defined as any activity that one enjoys in their spare time. Though I guarantee you this, we’ll still be doing what we do long after today’s hip-name-to-drops have changed their style/names/haircuts and end up in the washed up file cut-out bins.

To put it bluntly, what are you guys like in real life? Are you closer to maniacs who live out the lyrics to cianide songs, or artists who metaphorically describe what they perceive?

We’re just your above average beer swilling metalheads. What you see is what you get. No tattoos, no gay piercings. Dirty, Ugly, loud and proud!

One other thing about Cianide that is gratifying: a sense of humor. What do you see as the role of humor in “serious” metal? Do you consider Cianide a serious band? If not, what motivates you to have the standards you do in the creation of the music?

I’m not really into “joke” or “message” bands. Injecting humor into Metal can be tricky. It’s hard to do it correct without sounding lame. Obviously we’re not a joke band, but we like to inject some humor, like our thank you lists are always filled with jags. POST MORTEM were the originators of that. At least that’s who we stole it from!! I love who I am and love being a Metalhead. But there are some people out there who take this music and themselves way too seriously who are just rubbers. It’s just music after all. Who know’s though, I’m sure to some people it looks like I take it too seriously. The grass is always greener……………

If you could tour with any two death metal bands in history, which would they be?

Slaughter – original line-up
Master – original line-up

What do you think of the following:

1. Asphyx – I have “The Rack” on cassette…..good heavy death metal
2. Master – The early stuff is immortal…the new stuff ain’t so bad
either
3. Suffer (SWE) – never heard them
4. Kittie – never heard them
5. Carnage (SWE) – Entombed clones

Do you have any views on religion? How religion effects politics? How this affects us now?

Religion and politics are needed to keep the general population in line. I think they’re both brilliant. You can’t have people just running wild, doing what they want. It sounds good on paper and makes for a lot of cool lyrical ideas, be it Metal, Punk or otherwise, but when you return back to the real world the majority of people out there simply cannot handle the responsibility of being an individual, and I don’t want to deal with them. It’s not my job.

Religion, of course, does make some men better, and perhaps even many men. There can be no doubt of it. But making them better by filling their poor heads with grotesque nonsense is an irrational and wasteful process, and the harm it does greatly outweighs the good. If men could be made better — or even only happier — by teaching them that two and two make five there would be plenty of fools to advocate that method, but it would remain anti-social none the less. If the theologians could only agree on their doctrines their unanimity might have some evidential value, just as the agreement of all politicians that the first duty of the citizen is to obey them and admire them has some evidential value. It may not be true, but it is at least undisputed by all save a small fraction of heretics, which is certainly something. Fortunately for common sense, the theologians are never able to agree. Even within the sects, and under the more rigid discipline, there is constant wrangling, as, for example, between the Jesuits and the Dominicans. Thus the cocksureness of one outfit is cancelled out by the ribald denial of all the rest, and rational men are able to consign the whole gang to statistics and the Devil.

– Henry Louis Mencken

What are your views on wealth, and its ideal relationship to individual humans?

People who go around saying, “money isn’t everything” are usually already rich and never had to work hard to achieve their wealth/success. Give me enough money so I don’t ever have to work again in my life and I’ll show you one happy, fat little man!!!

Do you support or reject anti-bestiality laws?

Hey, whatever blows yer skirt up!

What in your view are the a) strengths and b) weaknesses that metal took on by going “underground” instead of attempting to be a mainstream genre?

For one thing, since all true metal is underground it is not scrutinized and kept in check by the politically correct mainstream. Bands can say and write whatever they feel without any pressure of pissing this one off or offending others. Imagine how lame your favorite metal bands would become if they had to kow-tow to the whole music industry just to create music. I have one word for people who may disagree with this: METALLICA!! I love the fact that metal is underground. The people who want it know where to get it. It sucks for the bands who I’m sure need to play to eat, but that’s not my problem.

What do you think of nu-metal? Can metal ever be in the mainstream, like it was with Black Sabbath?

Any band can get big if marketed properly and shoved down the masses throats. For instance, if MTV tells their audience that Christraping Black Metal is “cool” and says that the bandmembers are “cute”, all Black Metal bands would get huge and you would not like them anymore. Sabbath were/are huge, but in their day, they never got any radio airplay (except for “Paranoid” late at night), let alone videos. They just did it through word of mouth and constant touring. As for nu-metal, it’s just like the 80’s. Instead of big- hair you have buzz-cuts. Instead of eyeliner you have piercings. Instead of glamed out clothes you have tribal tattoos. The music is just a watered down, bastardized, marketed and hyped version of the real deal.

Does metal keep evolving, or is it cyclic?

Everything is the same, just different haircuts!!

What’s the next Cianide album going to be like?

Just like the last one, except HEAVIER!!

Will you ever do a live album?

Hopefully someday. Guess you need to play live to do that!!!

What is your stance on mp3 trading of rare materials?

It doesn’t affect me either way, if I hear something I’ll just go out and buy it.

I’m the same way, if I like something, I’ll go and buy it. I have other things to do on my computer than sitting there waiting for a song to download, like looking for porn!! I do think it’s good for people to hear what a band sounds like from their website etc before they go out and buy it. It’s just another medium.

Did Cianide have any demos? If so, what were they?

We did three official demo’s: “Funeral” in 1990, “Second Life” in 91′ and “Cianide Kills” in I think 1993. We also had 2 different three-song promos for DDD and Divide……, but those weren’t really for sale. Everything will probably be on a single release for CURSED PRODUCTIONS if we can get off our lazy asses and get started on it.

Are reactions to Cianide different in Europe and Asia versus the USA?

Reactions seem to be pretty much the same everywhere. We’re regarded as throwbacks from all over!!

Are there any metal zines or websites you read, and, if so, what makes them useful to you?

The only zines I’ll plug that come to mind are Metal Curse and Midwest Metal cuz they are cool!

Will metal survive the wave of hip-hop music in America?

It already is as far as I can tell. Rap is already regarded as a joke whose core audience is rich, white, suburban kids. Hip-hop and rap do provide a very important service to us Metal fans however for which I’m truly thankful: BY KEEPING A GREAT MAJORITY OF ALL MORONS, MEATHEADS AND FUCKUP’S OUT OF OUR SCENE!!!! Every time I happen to turn on some MTV special or video, I get a big smile and feel great inside. That’s right dummies, keep being spoon-fed your entertainment you mindless fools! Yo Dawg!!! Bling Bling!! Comedy!!

Does metal’s being different from jazz, blues, hip-hop make it a cultural or political statement?

The fact that underground metal is the only form of rock and roll that has yet to be turned into a marketable mainstream commodity surely says something. It almost happened to death metal in the early 90’s. Then Nirvana killed that, thankfully!! STAY UNDERGROUND!!!

Anything I forgot you’d care to add?

I think you covered it all my man!!

Thanks for the interview. Visit the official CIANIDE WEBSITE at www.cianide-metal.com

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The Best Metal of 2011

I’ve just completed reading the 2011 “best of” lists from a number of popular websites. The results are predictably dismal. Are these people incompetent or just deaf?

These lists tend to favor the nu-style of metal, which is to say a mixture of indie rock, post hardcore, shoegaze, emo, alternative rock and popular metal influences.

This new style is especially noisome when disguised as “underground metal” (Krallice) or letting its alt-rock roots hang out (Boris). Since this stuff is not metal at all, but rather a sad old product dressed up like some “new” version of metal, it appeals exclusively to over-educated idiots, and so these pathetic reviewers throw in some “old school” metal, but they invariably pick the one-note derivative ripoffs that ape the past but never come close to its attention span or clarity.

To save you from the fools and their delusion vision of music, we present this year’s list of especially violent music because the metal audience of today needs to experience metal of actual integrity and power, not pretenders of either commercial or faux underground types.

Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance

Minor key dirge pace lamentation defines this funeral doom album on which Esoteric discover a new exhaustion that enables them to winnow their approach. At the cadence of a nocturnal mausoleum tour, the band alternate between spacious chord progressions with internal harmony, and grinding chromatic intervals. Chords collide and abrade one another slowly, letting distortion hang over the listener like curtains of lead, and then a second guitar fills the space with gentle sweeps to bring in a sense of melody. Semi-circular song structures take frequent detours, providing the most listenable and organized album from this band.

Gridlink – Orphan

Napalm Death deconstructed music by transcending scale, key, tempo and even intelligibility. What cultural purists of the 1950s said about rock ‘n’ roll came true in Scum, but with Brutal Truth grindcore shifted from deconstruction to a postmodern imitation of information overload. Gridlink picks up this mantle by throwing many different influences together into a high-speed stream of sound that mocks modern life by flinging at us an extensive lexicon of riffery in minute-long songs that never relent from their sprint. The ensuing rush holds together because these diverse riffs are variations on a not-immediately-visible common thread, delivering a cryptic but satisfying listening experience.

Death Strike – Fuckin’ Death

For the past 40 years musicians have sought the elusive metal/punk hybrid, but few have come close to the power of Paul Speckmann’s series of bands (Master, Death Strike and Abomination). Merging angry hardcore with streetwise heavy metal, these bands created simple songs with energetic riffs that avoided the rock cliches for the day to become a form of resistance music directed at modern society. This re-issue shows the songwriter at his best. Like punk, these songs construct themselves around simple riffs of a constant rhythm, but like metal the riffs fit together to drive tempo and structural changes. The result is plain-spoken but infectious and captures the spirit of metal in an instant of screaming anger.

Cianide – Gods of Death

Having contributed fundamentals of the doom-death genre, Cianide return with a late career album that shows them casting aside expectations to make the metal they enjoy, which is a cross between Hellhammer and Motorhead that thunders through the skull like an avalanche. They keep their riffs bold and simple so the resonating repetition can change over the course of each song as transitions change the nature of each song. Unlike most old school revivals, this album comprises changing moods that are startingly “mature” in that they are not polarized anger but moral ambiguity and relish for the morbid and aggressive. By escaping the self-conscious nature of most retroactive metal, Cianide land a slab of explosive power.

Deceased – Surreal Overdose

People want speed metal back and Deceased have listened. They replaced death vocals with a hoarse shout and upped the pace but otherwise this album comes straight from the days of Metallica and Rigor Mortis. Riffcraft shows familiarity with forty years of metal but for every couple of driving riffs, Deceased have thrown in something sweet like the candied fruit in a fruitcake: melodic interludes, doomy detours and passages of mixed emotion wrought in adroit lead guitar. If they want to take it to the next level, they can slow it down like Doomstone and make better use of dynamics, but as it is, this album is both more musical and more powerful than most of contemporary metal.

Heresiarch – Hammer of Intransigence

If you crossed an old school death metal band like Morpheus Descends with an energetic blasting terror like Angelcorpse, you might have something like Heresiarch. Chromatic riffs hammer you while war metal drumming races to keep up. Each song stays focused on a throbbingly catchy rhythm which it counterpoints with oppositional textures. Like a constant counterattack, this album is as primitive and amusical as possible, verging on the relativity that defined free jazz and noise. Rhythmic hooks and a pounding intensity make this EP a compelling effort from a newer band.

Morbus 666 – Mortuus Cultus

Going back to the roots of black metal, this album attempts to unify the melodic sound with the feral atavism of rhythmic violence that defined the birth of the genre. Showing familiarity with the wide range of melodic black metal riffs from the past, Morbus 666 nevertheless veer away from the noodly “Iron Maiden” style riffs for the kind of austere rigid blasting that early Gorgoroth and Impaled Nazarene made fly. Vocals vary from rasps, to shouts and Attila Csihar-inspired operatic singing with possible inspirations from Benedictine chants. Nothing too complex occurs here but it organizes itself around a singular intent, giving it a power most music lacks.

Nunslaughter – Demoslaughter

This two-disc retrospective reviews the career of this immensely prolific and influential band. This is primitive, rhythmic music that barely touches on concepts of key or harmony. Nonetheless, it uses vocal rhythm and riff to create strong themes that are distinct between each of the many songs from this band. If you like shades of grey in your riffcraft and emotions in the range of terror and despair, this highly creative band offer what are like horror movie soundtracks distilled to the barest of elements and infused with a rage for order that no human civilization can tame.

Ungod – Cloaked in Eternal Darkness

Back in the 1990s Ungod crafted primitive black metal from elementary guitar riffs and catchy choruses. Twenty years later and they return to do exactly the same thing. While guitar playing has improved, using more awareness of harmony and some influences from other metal subgenres, the basics remain unchanged. These songs are like the whispers of a devil who knows the simple self-referential phrases will stay in your mind and corrupt it. Songs emerge from a basic verse-chorus idea to mutate and discover new territory before returning to form, packing a lot of complexity into what seems like a basic form. The result is compelling.

Apocalypse Command – Damnation Scythes of Invincible Abomination

The approach of this high-energy outfit may be familiar to Angelcorpse fans since with songwriter Gene Palublicki is a founding member. If you combined early Bathory and early Slayer, you might have this constant stream of fluid riffs strummed at humingbird pace over drums which clatter to catch up. Songs charge through several interludes on top of the a circular structure of paired riffs, creating a discourse that is overwhelming by sheer energy and singular purpose. If you found yourself wishing that Fallen Christ would make a new album, and stretch out those hard-hitting riffs into pure ripping rhythm textures, then this will appeal.

Blotted Science – The Animation of Entomology

Despite the recent influence of faux progressive and technical death metal in the form of warmed over post-hardcore, Blotted Science start with later King Crimson-styled musically literate rock and add to it the ability to weave seeminly unrelated riffs into a narrative that made death metal great. Like Jarzombek’s other projects, Blotted Science use counterpoint and diatonic melodies to create a broad spectrum of emotions that transition through the course of each song. Aesthetically, the band eschew vocals and like to have a “kitchen sink” approach, but underlying that seeming chaos is strong technique. As they do not forget the metal soul in doing so, this band remains a favorite for those who seek additional dimensions of musicality in their metal.

Bahimiron – Rebel Hymns of Left-Handed Terror

After starting out as a band attempting to make black metal both feral and melodic in the style of Gorgoroth or Zyklon-B, Bahimiron detoured through a series of new sounds — swamp metal, raw and fast war metal, and chaotic rising of the Id — before finding their voice again with this most recent album. These songs are composed of only a few riffs, some variations of each other, but each has a topic idea that it expresses fully, giving this album a pleasant sense of being whole. Despite having a rushed second half that holds together less palpably, this album possesses songs that have a sense of being about something, even if an undefinable emotion. The result combines technique from the different eras of this band into a hard-hitting, ripping package.

Vallenfyre – A Fragile King

Using songwriting techniques from melodic doom metal, this band up the tempo and make a Swedish-style old school death metal band. Crude-hewn riffs are boxy and sparse but capture the death metal style of phrasal composition with a tantalizing melody buried within and emerging through hints, creating powerful mood pieces. While the riff tropes are simpler and fewer riffs are used than in proper death metal, if you view this album as sped-up doom metal it becomes a new experiment in mood music using old school death metal as a tapestry. It is more interesting than the death metal revivals which use nothing but disorganized rhythm riffs, and at times refreshingly beautiful.

Cruciamentum – Engulfed in Desolation

Working in the style of continuous long-phrase old school death metal like early Incantation, this newer band craft riffs of great potential energy and for the most part triumph into making them into onrushing apocalyptic songs. If they want to make it to the next level, they will drop some vestiges of pre-death metal genres — to be supreme in this form of music one must sound inhuman, arch, abstract and disinterested in petty human concerns like foot-tapping rhythms — but at present, the band create a reality distortion field that allows the listener to see past the ruined industrial horizon into the dark forces gathering in the future. Ominous, this release thrives on powerful riffcraft and vocals that sound like occult rage shouted from the depths of a funeral shaft, and portends great things from this UK band.

Rudra – Brahmavidya: Immortal I

Unlike most underground bands, Rudra embrace a highly musical approach as exemplified by their construction of riffs with a melodic basis to their structure yet without the surface element of “melodic” caused by overuse of fast strum and certain repetitive intervals on the higher strings. Over the course of songs, simple riffs develop into themes which then subdivide and evolve in linear progressions within the overall cycle of each song. Vocals are higher-pitched like black metal, but riffing is reminiscent of Demigod as fused with Afflicted’s first album. On the whole, this is an impressive work of music that includes some influences from progressive alternative rock within its death metal but never loses its direction and perhaps as a result makes more interesting music than all the “top ten” lists of commercial sites combined.

Abhor – Ab Luna Lucenti, Ab Noctua Protecti

This Italian band combines the open-string drone of Graveland Following the Voice of Blood with a seemingly horror-influenced, frequently melodic older black metal style. Vocals follow the Graveland model but the band alternates this homage with melodic riffs from other areas of melodic metal. As if forecasting a future for black metal, songs specialize in the transition of moods, suspending the listener in the midst of a dreamlike trance state based on more fluid harmonic motion. While not unique in style, this band makes up for it in spirit.

Primordial – Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand

Working in a hybrid between metal and celtic rock, Primordial craft a sound that is not unlike Iron Maiden using slower and more doom-metal style chord progressions for its choruses. Over this, a man bellows and then curves his straight enunciation into singing. This music is thoughtfully not noodly, and while repetitive, gains intensity from the building of a mood through a trope, and knows when to break the verse-chorus with profoundly musical variation. This is what U2 should have been: an emotional appeal to the common sense of land, heritage and history as expressed through dark songs which allude to rather than reveal their soul, which is a maudlin determination to resurrect the energy of creative destruction in all humans.

Beherit – At the Devil’s Studio 1990

For years, Beherit’s first “album” — a collection of noisy demos pressed onto CD by the label — have been a source of contention. Many love their devil-may-care chaotic burst of raw enthusiasm and dark, Blasphemy- and Sarcofago-inspired morbid rage, but others point to later material by the band and show a discontinuity. However, through their career Beherit have shown a fondness for noise, ambience, ambient noise, and highly structured experiences that like Wagnerian mini-operas walk us through a transition of realizations. At the Devil’s Studio 1990 shows us all of these influences in nascent birth from the noise into a more austere, deliberate and subversive vision of evil. This album gives these songs new life and black metal new dark energy.

Sorcier des Glaces – The Puressence of Primeval Forests

This unabashedly sentimental melodic assault creates a melancholic beauty through its two opposition parts, which are dark minor key wanderings and a counterpart in soaring powerful melodies that expand through variation on theme. The result is like Summoning a transition state from black metal in which the verse-chorus grouping has been replaced by a sense of unravelling or a story being told. While this is more polished than early Norsk black metal, it preserves that intensity with some of the lush melodic development of the Greek and French varieties integrated for a new sensation of possibility.

Obsequiae – Suspended in the Brume of Eos

Fortunately, this release replaces two odious variants of contemporary “black metal.” First is the faux progressive style which insists that a series of fast riffs with offtime picking of notes from “unexpected” chord shapes somehow constitutes interesting music. The second is a tendency to milk any boring three-note melody into “folk music” by playing it without distortion while beating on an ox-skin. Obsequia belt out a Celtic music hybrid not unlike what Celtic revivalists did in the 1970s by combining their music with jazz fusion and progressive rock. The songs sound very similar and by their focus on depth of musicality, often obscure the direction of melodic development or song structure, but are technically adept and offer a better vision of Celtic black metal than most of what has come before.

Amebix – Sonic Mass

In their return after two decades of absence, Amebix create a hybrid of their original crustcore, speed metal and shoegaze. If you can imagine Killing Joke, Prong and My Bloody Valentine in some kind of bizarre collision with UK pop, you will be able to envision the style of this album, which varies quite a bit as it tends to be ad hoc adapted in order to express what each song calls for. The hidden influence seems to be an influence as in early 1980s music on making songs that correspond to a visual idea (for an MTV video), much like the ancient Greeks combined poetry, music and theatre. This album wisely does not try to re-live the past. Instead, it gives us tuneful music that can compete with the best from the slick mega-media bands, and replace their quasi-truths with a more insightful vision of reality.

War Master – Pyramid of the Necropolis

The new style of old school death metal that War Master brings to the table wears its influences on its sleeve, from the expected Bolt Thrower influence to other notables like Obituary and Suffocation. The resulting fusion is a thunder of bassy power chords piled on each other in a series of inventive riffs, with song structure following along as best it can. Like a good puzzle or maze, the passages make sense when they connect but not before, and War Master avoid riff salad by judiciously using repetition of several main themes per song, some conforming to verse-chorus and some more abstruse in nature. Purists will appreciate the low end open-throated growl and the warlike percussion, as well as the range of tempi from doom-death to the more energetic grinding of later death metal. The end result is low-tech but powerful and brings a new language to the ancient art of old school death metal composition.

Blaspherian – Infernal Warriors of Death

Among those who still yearn for the epic power of old school death metal, Blaspherian deliver a satisfying cavernous descent into the dark netherlands of the subconscious. Drawing from older Incantation, Deicide and songwriter Wes Weaver’s previous efforts in Imprecation, Blaspherian sculpt songs out of a few chords twisted into protean riffs like bent wire, stringing it together with a sense of inexorable rhythm. Over this roars an unrelenting guttural growl and the decimating battery of militant percussion. No guitar solos mar the insurgent tunnel of destructive sound, but through its internal consistency it creates and then selectively textures a mood, creating a constantly changing experience that like the winding passages of a subterranean fortress leads through confusion to clarity.

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Metal “journalism”: incoherent garbage

This reviewer noted something many of us have seen — that of the multitude of blogs, sites, magazines, etc. no one actually knows much about the music. They take two lines and a concept from the press release, and then blow that into a chatty review, in the meantime missing the point.

Here’s Ray Miller from Metal Curse on the incompetence of metal journalists:

I am fucking sick of reading bullshit reviews of this album written by clueless dickholes who all seem to think that this is the first time Cianide has ever played at a pace any faster than Godzilla’s slow march to Toyko to rape the Diet building. Satan’s speed is Cianide’s speed, you hydrocephalic living abortions! Go listen to “Human Cesspool” or anything from 1996’s Rage War (I don’t think anything here is faster than “Deadly Spawn”) onward for examples of Chicago’s Most Brutal kicking 666 spectrums of ass at whatever tempos they see fit. Almost all of the band’s previous album, 2005’s Hell’s Rebirth, is this fast or beyond. – Cianide – Gods of Death

This is him writing about the new Cianide (which is great) that has gone over the heads of most reviewers who have no idea why it’s (a) good and (b) deserves attention, but most of all are easily distracted and so have wandered over to the metalcore band that uses a harp and a female vocalist and are gushing over its mediocre music (but excellent production! ironic instrumentation! groovy name! good back-story!) instead.

Metal journalism is incompetent because record labels simply imported a new audience — hipsters — to replace metalheads. The new people have no clue and so they gush, drool, and gibber excitedly over trivial stuff. The labels don’t care — they just want a nice easy extension of their press releases. They might have had opposition back when metalheads chose magazines carefully, and read informative websites only; now, the endless sea of blogs is excited chatter with no substance, and that’s perfect for marketing.

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New reviews: BEHERIT, CIANIDE and Ejacula radio

Some new reading for y’all:

  • Beherit – At the Devil’s Studio 1990: more like the later EPs, a sonically-experimental take on these songs that were more Blasphemy like on The Oath of Black Blood but gained some power in their austere, minimal, aloof presentation on the second album.
  • Cianide – Gods of Death: A big improvement over Hell’s Rebirth; a more self-conscious album, this one deliberately merges their Motorhead, Celtic Frost and Master origins in a new, streamlined form of the oldest of old school.
  • Ejacula radio on KPFT 90.1: for those of you in Houston and awake from 3 am – 6 am on Friday mornings, this is the dark and shadowy metal show that has stalked this realm for 19 years.

These made it to Examiner to keep that source alive; despite having terrible software, distant editors and mostly celebrity content, Examiner is a great place to promote metal and make it into mainstream news.

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