The trends finally die

Metalcore is dying.

Oh, don’t ask — I can’t prove it. But watching what goes on sale, how little the labels are investing in promotion (or even cover art!) for releases from the big metalcore bands, and how little fans seem to be responding… it’s dead already.

Even more, the trend in bedroom window black metal and death metal has died. This comprises the third through fifteenth waves of black metal and death metal, which are distinguished by not being about anything. Instead, they’re about people wanting to be like their favorite bands, as if watching Immortal play outside through a bedroom window, then firing up Pro Tools and saying, “I can make my own version of that!”

For the last year, the big record labels have been shoveling the new stuff out the door at absurd discounts. They wrote the contracts, so they’re obligated to keep churning. But they’ve cut investment because they know it’s a loss. They’re also purging all the older death metal stuff for a simple reason: they intend to re-master and re-release it.

For great profit!

Heavy metal was born in 1969, and it took it until 1994 to really mature. Death metal and black metal are two sides of the same coin, one chromatic and one melodic, but the point is the same:

  • Long, through-composed, discursive song structures
  • Epic, warlike, vir-heavy Romantic themes
  • Unpopular truthfulness and musical intensity
  • Unwillingness to be co-opted by rock music, rap or The Industry

Black metal and death metal are the ultimate form of metal. Metal probably no longer needs to worry about form. What it does need to do is worry about content.

We could use more bands that wrote lengthy riff-fests with bizarrely sensible song structures, like early Incantation. Or narrative compositions like Burzum’s “My Journey to the Stars.” Or even the gently developing motives of The Red in the Sky is Ours.

We don’t need people bringing us a hype-y “new, improved” style that amounts to mixing rap, rock and copious doses of bad hardcore into our metal. The result is carnival music that doesn’t have the balls to pick a direction.

We want the good stuff back. And what makes it good is that in style and substance, it’s timeless. With each day, the new trends of metalcore and bedroom-window metal die a little more. More old school death metal and founding black metal bands are reforming and dropping the gimmicks to continue the music they made in the 1990s. More labels are re-releasing classic death metal and black metal albums.

That means, as a wise man once said, “Let the good times roll!”

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Metal bands you love to hate

If you love metal, you hate what destroys it. Like a cancer, bad metal destroys from within. However, it’s often quite popular with those who want to be bad boys and like metal, but want to dumb it down to be the same old stuff. Here’s a list of bands to hate if you really love metal.

Metal bands to love to hate

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Metal bands to love to hate

If you like anything, you hate what destroys it. The worst are things that destroy it from within. These usually pretend to be it, then use it for their own purposes, corrupting it. Like a cancer or disease.

The best example in our time of course is the hipster. The hipster is the eternal party of one: he or she does everything to make him or herself look good to others. They “like” music because they want to look like the image of that music. They then have to be a very big deal, so they make their own art or music which is shallow and surface-oriented, but they trick it out to make it look cool.

In metal, we have the equivalent. They come in many forms. Some like to think they’re smart, so they like dumb kiddie music tricked out like prog rock. Some like to think they’re cool, so they like angry pointless three-chord bands with weird names and gimmicks. Some like to be political, so they pick bands that are anarchists or Nazis. They’re not thinking about the music; they’re thinking about how cool it makes them look. The best music to make you look cool is basically the same crap you get on MTV, but with a cool image. They are a cancer on metal.

And they have some favorite bands. Not coincidentally, these bands are the worst depthless and pointless stuff to hit metal. Note bene: This list is about music I hate, not people I hate. Some people whose music I like hate me, and some people I hate make great music. Some people who I like also make terrible music. I can only tell it as I see it and hope the pagan gods sort out the fracas.

Here’s the list:

Dethklok

How can you hate a cartoon? It’s supposed to be funny. It makes fun of metal’s weaknesses. Ergo, by the passive-aggressive inversion, if you dislike this you’re afraid to laugh at yourself. And who likes someone who can’t laugh at himself? Except that joke bands have always been stupid, with the joke/hype/trend coming before the music, and Dethklok is no exception. Recycled riffs. Moronic pop song structures. TV commercial jingle-like melodies. And bad guitar playing that dumbs metal down to MTV levels. Let’s turn it around on them: who has a need to look like they can laugh at themselves? Why, people who cannot, of course. But they don’t want you to know that.

Cannibal Corpse

When I was a wee liberal, I never thought much of Cannibal Corpse until I read their immensely misogynistic lyrics. Then I decided to hate them. Upon reflection, however, what I really hate about this band is its falseness. They studied metal in the early 1990s, and came up with a pre-chewed version. Taking their style from Suffocation, and their songwriting from Malevolent Creation, they bashed out these simple hymns and instead of having an idea behind them like “only death is real,” they just tried to be offensive and gross. How junior high school! Even more, they have gotten more repetitive and grind-you-down-with-simple-stuff as they years have gone on. I couldn’t hate this band more. But, having met them and seen they are nice intelligent fellows, my only conclusion can be that this band is a pure money-maker — and they about admitted as much.

Opeth

Life isn’t fair to you. You have few friends. You haven’t succeeded at anything, school or otherwise. Even your parents think they consumed too much Bisphenol-A before conceiving you. But you’ve found a new weapon; you’re going to show everyone you’re better than them. Enter the fake progressive rock band. Opeth take very simple songs and dress them up with prog rock lite flourishes, and “unexpected” changes like ZOMG going from acoustic to distorted on the chorus, because they know that all you low self-esteem cases want a reason to seem smarter and more profound than the rest of us. Well, now you have it. Opeth “sounds like” prog even if it has none of what made prog great: real musical development, song structures that build upon themes instead of being random, and truly mindblowing chops. Instead, you get watered down Rush riffs and random songs, all with a lot of guilt and bleeding-heart sympathy because they, Opeth, know you are a loser. Stop comparing homosexuals and Mac users to Opeth. It’s an undeserved insult to homosexuals.

Meshuggah

I was talking with a Texas technical deathgrind master and he wrote a formula for me: Meshuggah = lots of clueless fans x lack of musical knowledge. If you have played guitar and learned theory, you know how trivial this band is. It’s basically a jazz percussion approach to metal rhythm guitar. Lots of offbeats within offbeats, if you know what I mean. No melody, no song development. In fact, song structures are linear in that they follow the sub-division of beats to a riff, expanding over time in a circular fashion. It’s really boring. But if you want to seem like you got the ultimate in technical metal, you’ll think you’re really cool for liking this distracted, random, artless band. Same critique applies to Necrophagist. They both attract people who want to be cool and smart, but have no knowledge of how the world works, which is why people are Meshuggah fans for exactly two years and then go on to liking Deerhoof and Yoko Ono.

Cradle of Filth

What’s the best new thing? Something that’s the old thing… but “sounds” new! You can make anything sound different with different production, playing at different speeds, using black metal voices or more distortion. And so if you take Iron Maiden, throw in some fast melodic death metal riffs, but keep it nice and tasty pentatonic, you’ll have the perfect product. People can be undercover conformists. They can look like rebels for listening to this angry sounding music, but underneath it, there’s that same old happy Iron Maiden that millions of people the world over like. Cradle of Filth is the perfect product and millions bought it, then immediately forgot them, to the point where you don’t hear about them at all. But this was a huge trend and basically boring music with a lot of drama surrounding it.

Ulver

In theory, I would like this band as they have a formal background in music and clearly know theory. However, they have no souls. They made the plasticine “Nattens Madrigal” by imitating black metal bands, but playing indie rock songs in the black metal style. Sweet, twee, poignant, ironic melodies and pop song structures defined that CD. Ever since then, Ulver has made a career out of being “different.” They make electronica that sounds like an angrier version of all other electronica! They make concept albums that sound like two indie rock CDs with the lyrics re-written! They make bold public statements and image changes like Bono of U2! What they don’t do, however, is understand metal and what makes it great. Instead, they try to make metal into the genre they belong in, which is indie rock, and dumb it down accordingly. Again, conformity disguised as non-conformity, because if you tell everyone you’re a non-conformist, you can’t possibly be a secret sheep, amirite?

Necrophagist

Musical illiteracy is a ripoff musician’s best friend. People do not understand how melodies should develop over the course of a song, and how technical playing without a goal creates chaos and fragments your consciousness, not builds on it. Necrophagist play melodies, all right. They play short blasts of melody over and over again, very quickly. Then the song jumps to something unrelated and obviously “different.” It’s like a sampler plate at a restaurant, a little bit of everything so you don’t have to choose what you want. Then it jumps back. And back again. And then it’s over. The vocals are like the chant of an auctioneer. The riffs are advancing guitar exercises. Drums are what you’d expect from a failed jazz drummer on tons of meth trying to cover Nine Inch Nails. The end result? A lot of distracting, directionless crap. But people like it because it’s more technical than what you are listening to, therefore they must be smarter. QED, muddafugga.

Baroness

If your douchey alt-rock band fails, throw on the distortion and play really slowly with obvious stoner themes. Now, thanks to the magic of record company marketing, you’re the latest metal trend! Work hard before your 15 minutes (or 18 months, at which point all your fans get promoted to head waiter) of fame evaporates. You’ll make money by making them feel like they’ve discovered the one secret rebellion that will really upset their parents. It’s like a giant tribe of stoners, descending on the world, man. They’re going to make everything right or at least feel all-right. Do you realize you’re listening to the same sad crap your grandparents grew out of in the 1970s?

In Flames

First there was At the Gates, who made The Red in the Sky is Ours, and blew us all away. Then came black metal. Then came Dissection. Then someone wondered what would happen if you took Dissection and dumbed it down, made it a little more like regular rock ‘n’ roll, and claimed it was new and exciting. I guess that person was a genius because people still take In Flames seriously, although at the time their first CD came out metalheads universally viewed them as clueless, wimpy and latecoming carpetbaggers. These guys are ripping off Iron Maiden on every album. They get away with it because their fans want to think they’re new and fresh and evil, not warmed-over 1978 heavy metal. These retreads from the mid-1990s keep puking out the crap and for some reason, people still discuss them.

Rammstein

Once there was a band called Ministry. They realized that no one had done IDM with guitars yet. So they made this style of really simple metal/punk/rock with industrial beats and weird background samples, and a huge audience went crazy for it. The same year, Nine Inch Nails made an album that was equal parts dance and hatred, with lots of keyboards and some buzzy guitars. Ever since then, people have been trying to recapture this audience because they’re still out there. Rammstein is the industrial hard rock version of Mickie Krause, with a heavy dose of Tool in the backdoor. They like to be shocking. It’s really a tiresome play that happens every generation as kids try to shock their parents and teachers. But you can’t shock the world at large because it doesn’t care. It’s more apathetic, cynical, nihilistic and cruel than any candy-industrial rock band is going to be. So Rammstein are in the big picture like greeting cards. They tell you a little bit of truth, put some flowers and kittens around it, and you pay a 1500% markup and go home happy, but confused. Just go listen to Ministry already.

Cynic

This band started out really well with a solid demo that sounded like it was one third speed metal, one third death metal, and about a third jazz fusion. No problem; we all want to be Atheist. But then immediately the neurosis started. First they tried to get more fruity sounds in their instrumentation, then they added the harmonized vocals, and finally, they just admitted they didn’t want to be death metal and quit, after a decent first album, Focus. Then in 2009 they decided to really ruin their reputations except among morons. They piled together a bunch of jazz cliches and metal cliches, and threw them at each other, then overplayed the rest. This is because they know their fans know little about music but want to seem like they do. If you take a few guitar lessons, you really want to show you’ve got that knowledge, so you start listening to Big Important Concept bands and genres like jazz, which is sort of like degraded classical music for people who need ideas pre-chewed. Cynic fans like to act outraged that anyone cannot see the greatness and complexity of Cynic, and use that to imply that the rest of us are stupid, when if they took the time to tab out these songs, they’d see that they are random bits stuck together with excessive guitar licks.

Wolves in the Throne Room

You’re at home listening to your new outrageous indie rock CD when your Mom comes home and catches you. It turns out she has the same CD. In the car. She and her friends listen to it, your Dad likes it, even your grandfather thinks it’s OK, because indie rock is the same crap they’ve made since 1952 or so, just with more wailing and self-pity (and minor chords). So you storm out of the house thinking, “I’ll show them!” You go to the record store and decide to skip past all the music for healthy people, you’ll get metal. And then you find Wolves in the Throne Room. It’s like that outrageous metal, but it’s safe. It contains safe moral opinions that people at your church and Democratic fund raiser would agree with. It’s basically indie rock, but they play it like it was black metal. And it’s totally boring, so you can have it droning in the background while you wonder if anyone ever anywhere has suffered as much as you have.

Boris

Wait — it’s Yoko Ono! No, it’s Deerhoof! No, it’s another chick wailing her head off with the coordination of a trisomy 21 patient. She wants us to think this is profound and progressive and new because normally, people don’t try to repackage SUCKS as SUCCESS. But that’s her gimmick, and the gimmick of most modern art. This is unusual because it’s illogical. If you don’t understand it, you’re little people — fetch me a sandwich. Only the enlightened pure and true understand our indie rock that we play (occasionally) as if it were black metal. Nevermind that black metal already existed. We want to remake it in our new and improved style. Which suspiciously resembles normal indie rock, but did we mention, there’s a chick wailing like a burnt Down’s syndrome kid? The fans can’t tell the difference because they learn to play guitars and basic music theory, but never think about what gives music meaning, because that would require they look into their own souls. And you can’t look into your soul, and still think you’re the whole world. Hipsters love this music because each one of them is a party of one and the rest of the world just doesn’t exist! So they call it brilliant. On and on, South of Heaven.

Sunn o)))

Stephen O’Malley is a fantastic person, a great artist, the world’s best stoner and truly, an insightful individual. However, he sold his soul to the devil with this hipster project. If you live in Austin, or are intimately familiar with the apps on your iPhone, this might be for you. It’s concept art. That means that they think up an idea that would be unusual, and make it in musical form, even if it’s boring, because it has symbolic value that us peons cannot decipher because we have tiny peon brains. So when someone plays a guitar really slowly for ten minutes and never develops a song out of it, you either get it because you’re a genius, or you’re an intolerant backward moron with a peon brain. They even get funky and throw in “found sounds” and sometimes have an orchestra show up and try to riff on the two notes allotted for each song. The word “sophomoric” describes people who take a little knowledge and use it to pretend they understand the world. It also describes all Sunn o))) fans.

Pantera

We’ve saved the best for last. Rocket back to the late 1980s with me. Your hair metal band just failed because you look gay even to homosexual rights activists, and not in the good way. In the supersonic stupid way. You’re out of money, and this band named Metallica has just raised the stakes for metal bands by being harder and faster. They’re harder and faster, while you’re prancing and pouting. So what do you do? Turn that fear of your masculinity outward, and become a tough-guy version of Metallica. This is what Pantera did with their first “real” album, Cowboys From Hell. Metallica riffs in simple songs with lots of ‘roid rage posturing. It got worse after that as Pantera added more trends to their faux metal charm bracelet, dabbling in death metal and blues rock, until their music ended up a mishmash of completely random influences. People like this band because it’s a good introduction to basic rock guitar. They can understand it, and it also appeals to their wounded masculinity. If you buy a Pantera album, the thinking goes, you’ll become more tough and angry like Phil Anselmo. People from the real world know that’s not true, which is why most of Pantera’s fans are skinny teenagers trying to figure out which fraternity will be most likely to help them score someday.

There you have it: a catalogue of fail. Or rather, fail that is highly praised by those who know not much of anything. Naturally, products designed for idiots that make idiots feel like geniuses are big sellers, so you’ll have to suffer seeing this bands around for a while yet. But as time goes on, it’s amazing how the crap gets filtered out and the really powerful stuff endures.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 1-31-10

So much of what we do in life is politics. Telling people things they want to hear and making warring parties proffer the olive branch. But metal should not be about politics. Metal should be about pure spirit, both inside of us and in the world at large, meaning that we know ourselves and we know reality. With that kind of background, we don’t need politics. We don’t need drama. We don’t need to be flattered. We want adventure — musical adventure, preferably with tragedy and triumph, violence and vengeance, sodomy and satisfaction! Meet this week’s Sadistic Metal Reviews, where sacred cows get sodomized and we find satisfaction in the diamonds among the cluttering turds.

Fenriz’ Red Planet/Nattefrost – Engangsgrill

We’re going to talk about the first band here, Fenriz’ Red Planet, because Nattefrost is forgettable 1970s punk rock dressed up as early 1980s black metal. This band is a hybrid between doom metal, 1970s heavy guitar jam, and what they call stoner doom now but was recognizable in St. Vitus, Pentagram and Sleep for many years. The production approach and song style is closest to 1970s heavy guitar rock, like Cream or even Led Zeppelin, in that songs are verse/chorus works with a big fat diversion stuck in the middle that may run through a couple of riffs but comes back into key and rhythm so the cycle can spin again. But over half of the riffs are straight out of old school 1980s doom metal, and that would be St. Vitus and Pentagram but also late-blooming NWOBHM with a doom edge like Witchfinder General and Budgie. It’s not exciting; if anything, it sounds like a demo where the band hasn’t yet finalized direction and aesthetic. However, it is good; these songs have character and a spirit to them which you cannot get anywhere else. You can hear a few lifts from Fenriz’ folk/metal project Storm and one or two similar themes to Darkthrone, but this CD doesn’t need to namedrop to stand on its own. They named it “Engangsgrill,” which apparently is a type of disposable barbecue, which fits exactly the kind of sloppy rock/metal hybrid you have here: pickup trucks headed to the country with a keg, a bong and some friends, followed by a weekend of the best neighborhood bands jamming, society gets forgotten until on Monday morning you drive back with a mouth full of ash and the kind of diluted hangover that comes from cheap beer in constant consumption.

Baroness – The Blue Record

Oh neat, an emo/stoner metal hybrid with lots of indie and punk rock touches. If you can imagine Neurosis and Jawbreaker making sweet love with newer Sleep, and throwing in tons of stuff from the heavy metal and indie rock canons, you’ll have a good image of what this cheeseball release has to offer. From the way the labels and the big industry reviewers — who have about five minutes to hear each CD, and put them on in the background while socializing for two weeks, then forget about them — went on about this CD, you’d think it was the second coming of innovation itself. Instead, it’s stale and completely loses what’s good about metal and punk, converging on a mean that’s closer to your run-of-the-mill hipster band. This is awful.

Despised Icon – The Ills of Modern Man

Metalcore is rock songwriting with technical death metal technique, and a desire like punk music to string together radically “different” riffs as if it can surprise us, and since it’s random in structure, built around what’s left: vocal phrases that end on the expectation of the offbeat like a sales pitch. Despised Icon is as a result about 80% the fratboy-pleasing, gurgling, blasting, very simple riffs played in difficult time of technical death metal, like Immolation, and the rest is bouncy moronic rock music that I got into metal to escape. Consequently, it has no attention span and cycles like carnival music between different styles and tempos, then crams it all into a barely-disguised verse/chorus structure. What is the point of typing this all out? To point out how to fail at metal. This is the abyss of music and is every bit as stupid as your parents claim your music is. If you want to fail at life, try listening to this random accumulation of parts — each part is in itself OK, not great, but together they add up to a conversation made by borrowing a phrase from 30 works of literature — and as a result project a scatterbrained, neurotic, pointless and non-constructive view of the world. No wonder people hate metalcore; it’s the nadir of underground music.

Cryptopsy – The Unspoken King

This is what’s left of the band that made None So Vile? The neatly structured, compact death metal has been replaced with blasting metalcore. Metalcore, as you may know, is kind of a garbage plate for underground metal and punk. Based around the interpretation of technical metal into punk structures that Human Remains showed us, metalcore loves randomness in circular song structures, so you get ten minimally-related riffs linked by a breakdown and a few slow chants, and then the whole thing repeats, and then the song ends. It’s music for a fragmented mind and as a result, has the IQ of a headless chicken watching daytime TV. Cryptopsy utterly fails to make coherent music out of this style as their countrymen Neuraxis eventually did, and instead defecate this collection of random riffs based around an egodramatic vocal track. It’s total garbage for morons.

These Are They – “Who Linger”

Imagine Iron Maiden doing a simplified version of 1990s Demigod or Amorphis. This CD is unique in that it successfully applies both (a) the old school death metal style and (b) a heavy metal, harmonized-guitar, bouncy riff style — and does it by coming up with a melodic phrase and answer, and using these to make layers of verse and chorus. Play riff; play notes of riff in variation of rhythm; harmonize guitars and repeat, then cycle. The choruses do the same. Nothing sounds out of place, and the deep guttural voice guides it along, but it seems entirely out of place when the heavy metal riffs and trills come into play. In addition, the riff salad of death metal isn’t here; like rock or indie, this rides one pattern for verse and one for chorus, and much variation is not to be found, which probably places this out of the range of old school death metal fans. Still, these are quality riffs and excellent use of basic harmony, which makes this easy listening and because it is not random, a great improvement on the metalcore-heavy stuff we hear daily. For albums like later Bolt Thrower, which tried to make a heavy metal/death metal hybrid, this is probably the best so far.

Vreid – Milorg

Black metal was about writing unique melodies and building song structures to fit them. Vreid is about mimicking the past with more intensity in each riff, but relying on predictable melodic strips and linear song structures in circular repetition, resulting in songs that are binary like nu-metal: a softer part, then a harder part, then a response to that which softens the hardness, then a restatement at full blast, fade out and win. Most of these riffs come from the 1970s and 1980s generations of metal and get a “black metal” treatment, so end up sounding like rock music in its Sunday black metal evil clothes. The music is driving by a chanting vocal which rides the beat like the shouts of the drummer commanding the slaves to row. Every now and then they launch into an extended melody like a pentatonic version of early ancient, and they have the raw rhythmic power of an early Marduk or Zyklon, but it doesn’t add up to more than most rock music, and considerably less than the formative works of Nordic black metal.

Black Funeral – Az-i-Dahak

Throbbing notes rhythm a rhythm that then reverses, examines a portion of itself in detail, and then picks up in a new direction which dovetails with the old; the throb remains, like symbols etched in the air with a torch caught on the slower memory of film. In this way, Black Funeral achieves an odd ambience similar to that of Impetigo, where a higher note is strummed repetitively at an offset rhythm where most bands would hammer a lower note on the beat, but by the nature of the larger melodic structure of the riff, this throb does not bounce jauntily like a rock rhythm; it hangs, like a reminder of mortality. Vocals are chant-ish black metal rasps and the mechanistic pedaling of the drum machine fits this sound like a glove, getting further inhuman as it distances us from musical expectation and clean aesthetics. Like the humming beeps of an alien machine exploring the night, this album rediscovers humanity by removing it from the picture and showing us the empty space in which we must construct as inevitable death closes in. While most experts agree “Vampyr” is the height of this band — and who am I to disagree? — this perhaps less proficient album is more haunting and bizarre, yet fits it into a pattern similar to our reminiscences of isolated nights when the future angled away from us like the shadow of an unknown doorway.

Decrepit Birth – Diminishing Between Worlds

If the recombinant album name and band name didn’t clue you in, here’s the skinny: this band is totally postmodern, meaning that they fit together all sorts of random influences and then link them together with the basics of rhythm and harmony. As a result, it’s like a fast ride at Disneyland: constant changing stimulus of radical difference so much that after a while you lose any idea of where you are, and end up thinking you’ve come very far, when at the very end as the buggy slows you realize you’ve been circling around the same relatively small space. Unlike most bands of this type, which I’m going to call crypto-metalcore because it’s (a) without death metal’s style of organization, preferring instead the hardcore method of having riffs have as little in common as possible and no narrative (b) of mixed riff styles and (c) depends on rhythmic buildup/breakdown for tension because you’re not going to get it in contrast between riffs, Decrepit Birth is good — it’s like an Iron Maiden album hidden in Deeds of Flesh with Blotted Science and Negativa offering critique. However, I can’t listen to this carnival music; it breaks down concentration and replaces it with elaborate versions of territory trod long ago.

Funebrarum – The Sleep of Morbid Dreams

What happened here? Eight years ago — before old-school “revival” was even a blip on the radar — this band had the apparent potential to give proper life to archaic death metal form. Their first album/demo was a brooding, infectious and grimly cohesive piece of work, enough so to make this sound almost brazenly cheap by comparison. Toss in every imaginable death metal riff style coined between 1989 and 1993, lay them out on a rhythmic smorgasbord and put them through enough mood changes to make a pregnant teenager blush and you’ve come damn close to this; add enough embarassing Bloodbath-sounding material (listen to the opener) to something otherwise “authentic” and you’ll never want to hear “old school” again. – kontinual

Star Fucking Hipsters – Never Rest in Peace

There are some of us who believe that rock and roll music, instead of being a thing deliberately created, is an aggregate of what was left over when we tested everything else against a captive audience. Star Fucking Hipsters prove this by carefully absorbing everything they can into the great sponge of melancholy indie pop. These songs usually start off with fast punk or speed metal (Slayer) riffs, and then pass through a few exciting transitions borrowed from anything industrial, black and reggage or between, but then we get to the core: darkish, self-pitying, somewhat helpless indie pop. True, it’s in pop punk format like The Descendents meets Blink 182 with Jane’s Addiction advising on behalf of the emo CIA, but basically, it’s pop. And when we get to that point we see this album is like a confused and lonely person in the city, covering themselves with newspapers or whatever fashions they can yank out of the wind, hoping no one will ever get a glimpse inside. If that’s its goal, this is supreme art, but more likely it is the emoting of such people hoping we’ll justify their existence for them. As pop, it’s not bad, a little toward the “poignant” side of minor key melodies sliding into major key to give you a sense of hope. But it’s really the same old thing, or the latest incarnation of it in whatever styles have stuck over the past twelve years, and so I can’t imagine why you’d listen to this instead of any of the 100,000 other albums this “good” in the rock style.

Ahab – The Divinity of Oceans

Funeral doom of a style similar to Skepticism if merged with Esoteric, with a tiny bit of Paradise Lost or Sleep in the wings, Ahab is a studied take on the slow and depressive atmospheric music that many people seem to enjoy. Stylistically, it is probably the most advanced of its kind; musically, it is perfectly competent; artistically, it is not particularly compelling. Its melodies have less of a sense of mixed emotions than do those of Skepticism, and its songs develop in predictable cycles within cycles, leaving us with atmosphere by default once all else has been blocked out. Like American rock bands, Ahab also has to throw in that sense of “contrast” where any dominant idea gets a contrarian voice thrown up against it, where bands like Skepticism bear down with enhancement and variation inside their major ideas. Few want to be the voice to stand up and say this, but most doom metal is boring, and not just because it’s slow. Ahab, while better than most, falls under this umbrella.

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine – The Audacity of Hype

Purists will kill me for this, but this is Biafra’s best work — it’s musical. Where the Dead Kennedys sounded disorganized and messy without really building on that as an aesthetic, he’s slowed down to a pop-punk combo that uses hardcore riffs (Discharge, Exploited) to balance its melodic lead picking (Circle Jerks, The Plugz). That, plus Southern Fried guitar solos and lead guitar noise, forms the underpinning for a more interesting Biafra performance than has ever been heard before. On this CD, Biafra develops his vocal lines both melodically and in timbre, giving the performance of his life with verve and energy. You’ve heard these riff types before, and many of the note progressions are “pop culture” stalwarts that show up in movie soundtracks and commercials, but here Biafra and his band develop each into a song that’s half-rock and half-hardcore, creating a foundation that will introduce a new generation to the sounds of hardcore punk.

Akitsa – La Grande Infamie

Most of us love the idea of black metal: a few totally socially alienated people, armed only with the truth, pick up guitars one weekend and make a simple mind-virus that helps slay all of the vastly powerful illusions that make our modern world miserable. The problem is that this is far from the truth: most of the people who have made great simple black metal were expert players or at least savants who self-schooled themselves in a unique and powerful style, and their work is very deliberate and designed to make us enjoy life as much as convey some idea. But as in all things, each generation picks up where the previous generation appeared to leave off, so the source of the idea is always lost. Akitsa sounds like a cross between The Exploited and early Dark Funeral, with simple melodic riffs offset against sawing basic power chording; the melodic riffs are too candy-sweet and the power chord riffs are too much of a style we can get anywhere. “Silence” appears to be heavily influenced by “Thy Winter Kingdom” from the first Behemoth CD. The rest of the CD is alternating Burzum influences with later model droning melody. It is both not bad and not really compelling enough to want to hear again.

Orthrelm – OV

I wish this album were a joke, but like most modern and postmodern art, it’s an attempt to “demonstrate” an “idea,” and that idea has no correlation to the reality of an artist both entertaining and informing his listeners. Instead, you get a lot of fast chromatic playing over serial drumming with occasional breaks into jazz-style breakdowns that are either sloppy or misinformed about music theory. The result is a dissonant atmosphere after the band lulls you into contentment with repetition. Over time, the basic pattern increases in a period-doubling format, creating a linear expansion on a basic idea that resembles holy books that write about the universe expanding from a breath, except here the expansion leads to nothing but a reflection of itself. When Burzum did this with Det Som Engang Var, it built a mood that gained resurgent power of time; here it is purely deconstructive and fragments the listener’s attention span by forcing it through a narrow slit of musical awareness. People will like this because it’s unique, and talk about how genius it is because no one else “dared to be different” to such a degree, but as a work of meaningful art and a listening experience, it is worthless.

Blood Mortized – Blood Mortized

This band claims “active” status in the early nineties, with zero material to show for it. It may very well be true; current personnel have some of the more run-of-the-mill Stockholm bands to brag about in their ancestry. Excited yet? This falls somewhere between Amon Amarth and Dismember’s Massive Killing Capacity, smothered in the “soft” mimicry of the Sunlight sound that seems so common for these fence-sitting bands. The plod is painful and simple and the song development as bluntly screwball as the song titles, lending an air of crafted irony to the whole presentation lest somebody seriously stack it up against any of its predecessors. One wonders whence this stuff keeps coming — I’m wont to call this the “Swedish mid-life crisis” and leave it at that. – kontinual

Junius – The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist

What is post-rock? For most, it’s slow atmospheric rock beats with emo, punk, indie and noise riffs slowed down to provide texture. On this CD, Junius blend in a modern taste of the ancient with a Dead Can Dance influence. The result is like a river, winding around obstacles to rejoin itself, but only suggesting a topography. This music is comforting and melancholic, but not really exciting. It is pretty, but will find it hard to escape a lukewarm rock underpinning that reigns in its tendencies to escape for the outer limits. A reasonable comparison might be if Danzig decided to do a space rock album: you can appreciate it aesthetically, but sense how the voice isn’t really there, and how as much as these guys want to be ancient, they’re stuck in a modern paradigm.

Virus – The Black Flux

For the last time: if I wanted indie rock, I would have gone to a different part of the record store. Take your Sisters of Mercy gothic vocals, your bad indie rock open chord guitar riffs, and your basic song structures interrupted by dramatic outbursts, and put them there. I don’t want to fall into the old trap of saying “this isn’t metal,” because what I really want to say is that this is indie rock and should be integrated into that genre for the modicum of black metal stylings and ideas it still possesses. Sure, they’re going to call it a “post-rock” influence, but other than a little flexibility of rhythm, what’s going on here is the same stuff emo, indie and shoegaze bands were pumping out in the early 1990s.

Mefisto – The Truth

This CD resembles death metal in no way other than the vocals, which are the kind of reverbed whisper shout that made the first Sepultura EP so memorable. But the music… well, it’s stranded in the 1980s. Throw a lot of Metallica, Kreator, Slayer and Destruction in a blender — like every other band from that era — and you’ll get this mismash of riffs very similar to both the aforementioned bands and a huge heritage of heavy metal. To their credit, this band string them together well rhythmically but otherwise seem entirely random. Before someone convinces you this is a forgotten classic, ask them if classic means “good” or just that it was around in the early 1990s.

Sarke – Vorunah

We all want to love anything with the enigmatic Nocturno Culto on it. In fact, many of us were hoping he would pull off a Nemesis Divina where his skills converted an unexceptional band into a relative masterpiece. Not so on Sarke — his performance is phoned in, mainly because these songs are sparse, undeveloped, and entirely derivative of their influences in a 1989 way. In fact, the whole CD has the vibe of a collection of songs that have been kicked around since they got written in the 1980s, finally put onto vinyl years after the genre has passed them by. You’re familiar with these chord progressions and general rhythms, since many of them come out of punk rock and hard rock, and you’re probably not unacquainted — unless you’ve been under a rock labeled BLACK METAL GO HOME for the last two decades — with Culto’s interpretation of them. It’s all quite vanilla; nothing to really be appalled at here except how little you care about this flat regurgitation of the past.

Drautran – Throne of the Depths

We live in a time of fools. Given no real truths to chew on, they raise themselves on lies, and make competing lies so they can be heard. Then they tell us what metal bands to listen to, and they cannot tell the difference between good music and derivative shit. They will, for example, convince themselves that Drautran is folk metal, when really it’s indie rock songs dressed up in black metal chord forms with a little extra violence. Unlike metal songs, where riffs fit together and make sense, these are rock songs with some metal riffs dropped in between the sing-song verse chorus. They take their riffing inspiration from Enslaved’s Frost but none of the compositional coherence is here. Listen to this if you want to distract yourself, fragment your concentration and dull your possibilities of ever understanding the difference between good music and crap.

Moëvöt – Abgzvoryathre

Every now and then, people who lack direction in life and so pay attention to surface features more than anything else, hoping to use these to justify their emptiness, will try to tell you how good a band is because it’s unique and nuanced. Usually this includes some kind of infantilism, like extreme minimalism or incoherence. This tedious little recording fits the bill. People like it because it’s obscure, kvlt, whatever… the truth is that it’s melodically simplistic, goes nowhere in song development, and showcases no really unique ability except to waste your time. They try to eat up as much tape as possible with intros, chants, and very basic keyboard melodies, but basically there’s nothing here. Maybe that’s the artistic point — emptiness — but then again a blank tape would have been more effective, and pleasant.

Black Vomit – The Faithful Servant

Interesting approach by this Mexican band: take a more technical version of the full speed burst style semi-melodic black metal that Sarcofago made, and intersperse it with flowing keyboard-enhanced choruses in the style of countrymen Xibalba and Avzhia. The result suffers from the radical shift between two very identifiable poles, but the music although very basic develops gently through this style, and as a result is more credible than most of what we get sent here at the Dark Legions Archive Metal Reviews and CD Recycling Center. This is a band worth keeping an eye on.

Archgoat – The Light-Devouring Darkness

I’m convinced that a lot of death and black metal is music designed for children, because not only is it painfully simple and repetitive, but it also uses gentle rhythms of chord change — while playing at top speed. It’s like listening to a fan slowly playing an early Mozart piece. This album is similar. Sounds a lot like Blasphemy meets Impaled Nazarene, with the lower register production and slamming tempo changes of Belial. So as a retrospective of Finnish metal technique it’s great, but for anything else, it’s kind of a droning lullaby. What excuses it is that this CD shows purpose in its songwriting, and captures a mood, but for many of us the droning outweighs its significance.

Cruciamentum – Convocation of Crawling Chaos

During the past two years, underground black metal shifted from emulating the early 1990s — fast melody — to emulating the late 1990s, specifically Demoncy’s “Joined in Darkness.” The Convocation EP does its best to revive that sound, with an injection of Finnish death metal and possibly American doom/death like Incantation, Winter and Infester. Although it keeps its goals limited, which is appropriate for a demo, this release shows promise in songwriting in that (a) every piece works together (b) together they create a vision of some idea, experience or emotion we can recognize from life itself and (c) while a good deal of it covers known death metal archetypes, it does so without borrowing straight from one source and so gives us a sense of exploring these ideas from a new angle. Low rasp voices, downtuned rigid guitars, and drumming that sounds like it’s straight out of drone/hardcore punk fusion gives this CD a sense of growing out of the past toward something even more ancient.

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Declare Heavy Metal your religion

From Brokeback Island:

Nine years ago, during the last census, a grass roots campaign urged the British to list ‘Jedi Knight’ as their religion. Everyone was shocked, and not a few appalled, when 390,000 people signed on. According to census results, there are more Jedis in England than Jews. Jedi-ism is the fourth largest religion in Britain, after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

Metal Hammer first searched out a face for their campaign. Biff Byford, the lead singer of Saxon, agreed to act as “World Metal Peace Ambassador.” Then they set up a Facebook page: ‘Heavy Metal for the 2011 Census’. One week in, they already have 10,000 fans.

Everyone who signs on is being asked to put “Heavy Metal” in the entry under ‘Faith’ in next year’s census.

The Star

You can join and support the Facebook groups here:

Get the word out!

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Morgue Supplier – Constant Negative

If you visualize the modern death metal genre as a knightly tournament with splendid banners adorning the tents of the contestants on an ancient Briton field, you can’t escape the prominence of the progressive camp espoused by Necrophagist and the obscure evil camp belonging to hairy South Americans and occult woodland Finns. Then there are the loved and the hated “brutals”. The unfortunate Morgue Supplier goes all the way to the leaden territory of mechanized grindcore, brutal blastbeat and convulsive gore that is best epitomized by Cryptopsy’s and Cannibal Corpse’s groundbreaking albums Blasphemy Made Flesh and The Bleeding (or your favorite other pick from that mostly dubious discography). The speed is astounding, the songs careen through slashes of riffs like the beak of a vulture on the prowl, injecting pinch harmonics into mono chord chug while vocals are the dual growl-and-shriek statement we have heard enough times in this beaten substyle. A couple of minor gems arise though. The cover version of Metallica’s “Fight Fire By Fire” is an entertaining lecture on the genealogy of early speed metal and how it almost by itself mutates to something close to Possessed or Sepultura if played with intensity, distortion and malevolent speeds. On the side, the title track Constant Negative has a smudged enough texture to operate as a chasm of interlocking layers similar to Gorguts’ fusionesque work on the mighty Obscura. Perhaps a hint where brutal death metal might develop if given enough care and attention? I personally could do without the mosh parts, but those who were disappointed by the wimping out of Cryptopsy should perhaps check this release out.

-Devamitra-

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Windham Hell – South Facing Epitaph

Darkthrone managed to conjure something far more stimulating to the imagination when they were inspired by horror and science-fiction movie soundtracks to create vast journeys of cosmic Death Metal. Windham Hell’s first album also follows from the deeper recesses of popular culture and cinema, fucking with the senses and expectations of the Metal listener through this Lynchian maze of psychological horror and ominous mortality. The first thing that’s evident about the musicians at work here, particularly the late Eric Freisen on guitars, is the uncustomary level of formal training demonstrated in these pieces, which bear close stylistic resemblance to the famous concertos of Antonio Vivaldi. The riffs that make up the bulk of actual Metal songs on this erratic album are nothing spectacular or unconventional but formed with the lead guitar in mind, acting much like the movie samples and vomitory vocals do to provide a kind of ambient feeling of suspended horror and panic that the leads then magnify through their virtuoso performances, building on the looming fear with sporadic outbursts of mental excitation. The rest of the album is a feast for those who would enjoy the subversion of popular culture through a post-modernist cutting and pasting of morbidly curious voices bridged with Classical flourishes, although may lose the attention of others. There is enough tastefully executed technique on show to keep this as engaging as possible, and a far superior album to the following Window of Souls.

-ObscuraHessian-

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Interrogations

Correspondence of Tranquility – Interview with Disaffected
The Putrid Stench of Gnosis – Interview with Grave Miasma
Nocturnal Transcendence – Interview with Midnight Odyssey

Correspondence of Tranquility — Interview with Disaffected

The early nineties was replete with Death Metal bands that are now legendary, contributing to the cult’s creative height, but largely from the now infamous concentration zones of northern Europe and across the Americas. This left several adjacent scenes with relatively little notoreity and condemned some first-rate albums to obscurity. Our review of Disaffected’s ‘Vast‘ touched upon one such example from Portugal, so we decided to uncover this legendary band even further by talking with their evil bassist, António Gião about the past, present and future of Disaffected and Portuguese Death Metal.

ObscuraHessian: As Disaffected are still unknown to many, despite the legendary status of ‘Vast’ as a pillar of Death Metal wisdom, could you give a brief history of the band and what led you to join?

Gião: Disaffected were formed in 1991 by drummer Joaquim Aires and Sergio Paulo (guitar/vocals), as a Death/Thrash metal band. Later adding Zakk (guitar) and Sergio Monteiro on bass, the band released ‘…After…’ demo in ’92, and later that same year we were included in ‘The Birth of a Tragedy‘ (MTM ’92), a vinyl compilation of Portuguese Metal bands with the song ‘Echoes Remain’. In 1993, the line-up changed; Zakk and Sergio Monteiro left the band and I joined the band, invited by former bassist. Later, vocalist Gonçalo Cunha and guest vocalist Nuno Loureiro (Exiled) joined the band and we performed a lot of shows with this line-up.

In 1994, keyboard player Fatima Geronimo and vocalist Jose Costa (Sacred Sin) joined the band and with this line-up our music had become more progressive and complex. In 1995 we got signed by Skyfall Records (Portugal) and released ‘Vast’ full-length album in October 1995. This album was recorded at Namouche Studios (Lisbon) and produced by Marsten Bailey. A videoclip for the song ‘Vast – The Long Tomorrow‘ was recorded to promote the album ‘Vast’, and was aired on MTV, VIVA, MCM and RTP (Portuguese Television) and we’ve also covered ‘Seasons in the Abyss‘ for the Slayer tribute album ‘Slatanic Slaughter II‘ (Black Sun Records ’96). In 1997 due to internal problems, we stop activity.

But in 2007, me and guitar player Sérgio Paulo, decided to reunite the band after 10 years of silence, and after a few meetings with the band members discussing a possible band reunion, the decision was “Let’s do it!!!”. A lot had passed with the band and the band members during these inactive years. Each had gone their own way in music and life. Due to the tragic accident of Sergio Paulo (guitarist) in 2004, all members got together again for the purpose of supporting a good friend. Sergio was lucky to survive a coma sleep of 2 weeks. His force of living had made him come back to us, and he had (literally) to restart his whole life, like being born again. He recovered most his abilities, and even his guitar mastery is back in 99%. A lot of things he had lost in his memory due to this accident, but he had never forgot DISAFFECTED music and his friends!

…And its coming back to life! Keyboard player Bianca and drummer O joined the band and the reunion happens! In 2008, the song ‘Vast – The Long Tomorrow’ of Disaffected’s debut album ‘Vast’ was included in the ‘Entulho Sonoro 5‘, a compilation CD of the April ’08 edition of the Portuguese underground magazine, ‘Underworld‘. Now we are structuring and putting the finishing touches on 10 songs that will be part of our next full length album, which will be recorded in Urban Insect Studios (Olival Basto, Lisbon) in May 2010 with producer Fernando Matias (F.E.V.E.R., Target35, Moonspell), for a late 2010 release.

ObscuraHessian: The Iberian peninsula is not very well-known around the world for its Metal. Was there a strong Death Metal scene in the early 90′s and how have things changed for this underground music cult in your country?

Gião: Portugal in the 90s had very good bands in death metal genre, but due to geographical location, away from the centre of Europe, away from the circuit of tours, ended up having a premature end. National labels betting little to promote domestic and internationally, and it was very difficult for bands to play outside the country. At the present, here, there’s a good movement, good Death Metal bands with great quality and with the technological evolution of media and the internet is easier to promote. There is more publicity and recognition on national and international levels…no such thing as the days of the ‘Vast’.

ObscuraHessian: So are any other good bands hidden from the rest of the world that we should know about?

Gião: I could list many good bands from Portugal, but wanted to leave a great name in Portuguese Death Metal scene of the 90s…Thormenthor!

ObscuraHessian: ‘Vast’ is one of those albums that moves away from the morbid and violent dimension of Death Metal, but unlike many other bands of the same generation, it remained as uncompromising and brutal in its exploration of deeper consciousness. Can you talk a little about the musical and philosophical influences of this album?

Gião: ‘Vast’, as the name implies has a very large extent on the level of composition and musical influences. All the musicians had the most varied musical influences and backgrounds, from Classical music to Jazz, through the dark and obscure, but always with the intention to give a personal touch and unique style to progressive Death Metal. We tried to invent the style Disaffected, and I think that we did. At the level of the lyrics, the theme was dreams, illusions, human condition, cosmos and man’s interaction with the universe.

ObscuraHessian: During the quieter, contemplative moments of the album, we hear a lot more of the bass. Is your background in Jazz? What other music influences and inspires you on a personal level?

Gião: Yes, I’ve a musical background in Jazz. I began playing bass guitar at age 16. I studied musical formation at Sinatra Music Conservatory in 1990 and during the years of ’93 and ’94, I studied electric bass at the Jazz School of Hot Clube Portugal. I have many musical influences from Metal to Jazz, through to Funk and Rock. I also have several musicians in a variety of musical aspects as a reference, but there is a Jazz bassist who definitely impressed and inspired me: Jaco Pastorius. Guitarist Sergio Paulo also has musical background of Jazz and is currently musical teacher. And the other band members also have musical formation knowledge.

ObscuraHessian: Could you give a round-up of your work in other bands? I’ve been trying to track down Exiled’s ‘Ascencion of Grace’ with no luck!

Gião: I’ve played with many artists and bands as a studio musician and as a performer too. At the present, I play bass guitar with Disaffected and Target35 (Progressive Rock Experimental). In the past, I played bass guitar with Papo Seco (Hardcore) and recorded a 4-track demo tape, produced by Luis Barros (Tarantula) at Rec’n’Roll Studios (Valadares, Porto) in March ’92, and later that same year the band changed name to Grito Suburbano before we split up. Since ’93 till ’94, I played bass guitar with Exiled (Death Metal) and recorded Exiled’s album ‘Ascencion of Grace’ (Slime Records ’94), produced by Zé Motor at Tcha Tcha Tcha Studios (Algés, Lisbon).

In 1994, I played bass guitar with a Jazz sextet featuring vocalist star Patrícia Fernandes, and we performed a show at Festa do Avante’94 (Seixal) in September of that same year. During the Summer ’97, I played bass guitar at Flood (Alternative Rock) as the support band of Santos & Pecadores Summer Tour ’97. In March ’02, in the aftermath of our Death Metal project Skinblade (1999-2002), me and drummer O decided to form a new band called Sybila, based on avant-garde style, and in December ’04, we entered Studio G22 (Feijó, Almada) with producer Paulo Vieira (Firstborn) to record the promotional song ‘Cycles’. The band split up in 2008 due to professional commitments of the musicians.

During the year of 2006, we at Target35 performed a lot of shows to promote our first promo CD, which was recorded in May ’06, produced by Makoto Yagyu (If Lucy Fell) at Black Sheep Studios (Mem Martins, Sintra). In the fall 2008, we at Target35 recorded 5 songs at Urban Insect Studios (Olival Basto, Lisbon) with producer Fernando Matias (F.E.V.E.R.). These 5 songs are included in our new EP ‘Post Rock Mortem’, self-released in May ’09. Briefly, this was my work as a musician in other projects as well as Disaffected over all these years.

ObscuraHessian: The great news you mentioned is that Disaffected will return to the studio and unleash new disharmonic soundwaves upon the world. What is the band trying to achieve with the upcoming release?

Gião: Musically, we intend to continue with the style that characterizes Disaffected, trying to explore new levels of music, sometimes melodic sometimes dissonant. In this new album the lyrical context consists in two parts. Part 1 with dark and obscure lyrics, showing the route of the band from the stop until the meeting, and then in Part 2 we will try to depict the rebirth of the band with lyrics more encouraging and positive. We’ll sign a new label contract too, but for now, we have nothing confirmed yet.

ObscuraHessian: No similar deal with Skyfall Records again, then? Hopefully, you’ll have a better distribution this time round.

Gião: No. The contract with Skyfall Records ended a few years ago and we currently have no label. But it is guaranteed that the label who launch our next album will have to give us guarantees a good distribution and promotion. After we sign a new deal and release the album, we can also confirm tours and other kind of promotions.

ObscuraHessian: Any other subliminal messages you’d like to convey?

Gião: Support Death Metal all over the world!

The Putrid Stench of Gnosis — Interview with Grave Miasma

With the advent of another grim Autumn, half of the world retreats into glowing boxes of warmth and comfort to preserve the sickly and feverish Summertime langour. In a time where the seasonal rituals of harvest survives only as a novelty for urbanites and other moderns, for the sinister few, this is the season to step out into the growing shade of night and harvest the souls of the damned for they will be reborn into a new, unholy dawn. Such apocalyptic ends have necessitated a gathering of gargantuan proportions and could not be more appropriately named as the third ‘Black Mass Festival‘ in Helsinki later this week. Nefarious and astralic cults known to Hessians the world over, like Necros Christos, Sadistic Intent, Cruciamentum, Neutron Hammer, Lie in Ruins, and Death Metal legends, Demigod will be devastating the city and delivering winter even earlier than the Arctic already experiences it. Among such legions and Deathmetal.Org personnel in devout attendance will be London-based Death Metal occultists, Grave Miasma, making a similar journey to myself, but before our paths would re-intersect on the shamanic land of ancient Suomi, I posed a few questions to their guitarist and vocalist, the acronymious Heruka C.C.O.T.N., who seeks to re-ignite the dying embers of Death fucking Metal’s true fucking spirit on the very soil of the wider genre‘s birth.

ObscuraHessian: The change from Goat Molestör to Grave Miasma seems to have been a real metamorphosis, as the former atmospheres of graveyard desecration are, on ‘Exalted Emanation’ imbued with a deeper sense of occultism and morbid mysticism. What was going through the mind of the band during this transitional time?

C.C.O.T.N.: Quite simply, the band evolved without the necessity for conscious thoughts mapping a direction for this metamorphosis. There was a lengthy period of exchanging ideas and writing material following the ‘Realm of Evoked Doom’ recording sessions. I would say that this enabled us to define the Grave Miasma sound, with the name change not being an important contributing factor.

ObscuraHessian: Interest in more archaic forms of Death Metal is growing all around the world, as if returning to first principles and rediscovering our primordial selves. Consequently, as evidenced in your EP, the music is becoming esoteric like it used to be, wrapping dark and cosmic imagery in death-worshipping ‘theological’ statements. How important is esotericism in such a style and scene as Death Metal? Is it just a ‘thematic choice’ or something more?

C.C.O.T.N.: Esotericism is the driving force behind Death Metal. Many bands attempted, and unfortunately succeeded, to reduce the genre to a brainless parody. For Grave Miasma, riffs and rhythms are not just music for the sake of existence, but the key to unlock inner mysteries of the subconscious and beyond. Only the contents of bands’ recordings can separate those who utilise such imagery for thematic choice from the genuine.

ObscuraHessian: You invoke everything from Vedic, Greek and Egyptian deities to Qabbalistic designations in this suffocating EP. Why do you connect these symbols, like building a temple filled with antique curiosities to stand before the Abyss?

C.C.O.T.N.: Whilst not professing to have any cultural link with the Vedic, Greek and Egyptian deities alluded to, studying the esoteric traditions through the ages, it is clear that there is a principle of unwritten transference of intrinsic principles between epochs. For instance, one can find similarities between some of Crowley’s thoughts and doctrines of certain Mesoamerican shamanic cults. Through making and meditating upon such connections, one can discover only a fraction of the eternal laws of this universe.

ObscuraHessian: There’s a lot of sounds from ‘Joined in Darkness‘-era Demoncy that surface in the music of ‘Exalted Emanation’, which adds a Black Metal flavour to it. Is this a favourite album of the band or are you more into Death Metal? Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?

C.C.O.T.N.: A highly astute elicitation, as ‘Joined in Darkness’ was perhaps the most instrumental album in spearheading the Black/Death ‘revival’ of last decade. It was and is a major staple in the listening habits of all four members. Concerning musical influences, our earlier era was characterised by inspiration confined to Death and Black Metal. As the band and our selves developed, we draw from the source of many wells. I would go as far as saying that elements found in Ambient/Cosmic and Near-Eastern music are of greater importance than Metal when it comes to obtaining conscious insight and ideas.

ObscuraHessian: How strong is the Death Metal scene in the south of England, right now? Are there many other bands have you listened to or played alongside with the potential to crush the skulls of mortals?

C.C.O.T.N.: There are very few bands in the UK generally who play Death Metal with the old coffin spirit. Whilst completely detached from Death Metal, one newer band I worship are The Wounded Kings.

ObscuraHessian: London is an interesting city, with a lengthy and diverse history represented by ancient Mithraic temples, Medieval Christian architecture and modernist hubs of rabid consumerism. How does living in this capital play a part in your music, if at all? How does life here compliment or conflict with an existence aligned with occult knowledge?

C.C.O.T.N.: To draw inspiration from my surroundings, I go out of London – often far indeed. Man is attuned with his surroundings, and living in this city is not congruent with the contemplation needed to collate this stimulation. I do find desolate urban areas during the dead of night to exude such sinister ambience, however. Whilst there are locations of Occult interest in the capital, other provinces of England are more relevant whether in regards to tangible brooding atmospheres or unseen power currents.

ObscuraHessian: Are there plans for an album as yet? Having released ‘Exalted Emanation’ last year, what is the vision for the future of Grave Miasma?

C.C.O.T.N.: The next step will be a full length album. We are not a band who place deadlines upon ourselves, as creativity often has no limits and needs time to bear fruit. Should the forthcoming material not meet the ‘standard’ of ‘Exalted Emanation’, then it is most likely we will cease to exist as a band.

Hail to C.C.O.T.N. and Grave Miasma for answering these questions and contaminating this urban wasteland with their noxious, cemetary fumes. The ‘Exalted Emanation’ EP and re-release of ‘Realm of Evoked Doom’ MCD can be obtained directly through the band or Nuclear Winter Records.

Nocturnal Transcendence — Interview with Midnight Odyssey

As much of the northern hemisphere is being overwhelmed by the onslaught of winter, the flames of Hell are rising to consume the south at summer’s peak. Still, the hardened souls of Black Metal warriors remain unfrozen, and Australia‘s Dis Pater from Midnight Odyssey is no exception. A recent arrival on the scene producing beautiful and mature music demanded one of our interrogations, which revealed some of this artist’s thoughts on ambience, patience and experience.

ObscuraHessian: We thought ‘Firmament‘ was among the best albums of 2009, and I was pleased to hear that I, Voidhanger is doing the good deed of re-releasing your old material within the next couple of months! Looking back at your first Midnight Odyssey work, with its exhibition of diverse influences, how would you describe your mindset as an artist back then, compared to putting tracks together for the more streamlined ‘Firmament’?

Dis Pater: Hello, thank you for your compliments. I, Voidhanger is in fact re-releasing “Firmament” which shall be out early March hopefully. The Forest Mourners was for me somewhat of a transcendence between the music I used to write and record privately and the Firmament release. I had a lot of influences which I wanted to incorporate into the project, and I guess I wanted to keep the door open as much as possible to prevent being labelled any one genre of music.

ObscuraHessian: In addition to hearing the obvious traces of bands like Burzum and Summoning in the demo, the ambiental feeling seems to quote some of my favourite ambient output, from Jääportit to ‘Dark Age of Reason’-era Arcana. What’s your relationship with ambient music and what’s your recipe for ‘Ambient Black Metal’?

Dis Pater: I have long been a fan of Cold Meat Industry bands, particularly early Arcana, Raison D’Etre, Ildfrost, Mortiis, Deutsch Nepal, In Slaughter Natives, etc, etc. Ambient music was the first music I ever tried to record, and it’s something I have worked on as much as black metal, so combining the two seems natural for me. A recipe? Well A lot of modern bands do a fantastic job of mixing ambience and black metal – Paysage D’hiver, Coldworld, Darkspace, Marblebog, Vinterriket, etc, I think it’s just being able to use keyboards with metal in a not so pompous way.

ObscuraHessian: I like to imagine that an entire Black Metal album could be recorded one day without percussion. Midnight Odyssey’s proclivity for ambience demonstrates as well as a ‘Filosofem’, ‘Winterkald‘ or ‘Antichrist‘ how this could actually work. Do you think that there’s enough scope in ‘Black Metal composition’ to eschew drums completely? Maybe an artist should just go and make electronic music like so many warriors have done?!

Dis Pater: It’s funny you say electronic music. I too have delved into the electronic side of things in the past, and find a unique way of writing music there that seems to work well with the way I write for Midnight Odyssey. Bands like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, all the way up to Trance and Industrial Electronica all have some unique element for repetition and layer building. I try to do the same with Midnight Odyssey, but with guitars and bass. I think it is possible to record an entire album without drums, it’s something I have thought about, and think I could achieve in the future, without going too far down the line of electronic music.

ObscuraHessian: On ‘The Forest Mourners’, there is a subtle but still more continual folkiness to the music. Some of it reminds me of the folk/ambient images that A. Tolonen produces with Nest, but other times are a little more Celtic? as is the case with the opening track – which makes me think of a more contemplative Himinbjorg. Did you use such folk stylings as a conscious expression of ancestry, or is this a direct manifestation of musical influences? Being an Australian, is such a tribal connection even possible, in the manner of the Norwegians from Helvete, for example?

Dis Pater: The folk element is something deliberately incorporated into the music. I have good friends who are in a celtic folk band here in Brisbane, so their influence on my music is sometimes present. Also I enjoy folk metal, and some heavy metal such as Gary Moore’s Wild Frontier album, where there seems to be a lot of celtic folk/rock influences. So yes in Brisbane it is possible to still maintain some connectivity with a European heritage, probably more-so than say America because Australia is a much younger country, most of us have parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who weren’t born here. Also my music is about a time long ago in the past, and thus folk music has its meaning there.

ObscuraHessian: There is as much mention of ‘spirits’ in the titles of songs from ‘The Forest Mourners’ as there is of nature, but the ideas of the subsequent album seem to suggest that this reflects more than just an animism of some sort. You talk about ‘Departing Flesh and Bone’ and of course, the whole work is underlied by this connection between the active and earthly, and cosmic and eternal. This is an idea which is really interesting to me because it seems to get lost in modern discussions of both natural science and populist, Judeo-Christian religion. Could you explain how you came to terms with this understanding?

Dis Pater: To me, this entire area has been corrupted by Judeo-Christianity and most modern monotheistic or dualistic religions, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, etc. The album Firmament is based on the moment of death, the moment a soul leaves the human body and what supposedly comes after. This is based on a somewhat personal experience which I have attempted to migrate to a more populous and general theme, set back in a time which I believe has been erased from human record, a time when humans were a little more in touch with their spiritual and carnal natures, when everything wasn’t so easily divided into what’s good and what’s evil. I like the moral ambiguity of everything, that to me is what existence is about, it’s not about the ultimate battle of good and evil that religion tells us to believe in.

ObscuraHessian: Even with your influences on your sleeves, so to speak, the music of Midnight Odyssey is very imaginative and this rapid-fire consistency at this point of your career makes it feel very ‘lived out’! How would you describe the way in which the actual sounds that you produce are a representation of the aforementioned ideas or feelings? I mean, with most popular music, it seems to be fabricated in such a way to prioritise the broadest demographics, but obviously, good Black Metal wouldn’t be composed with such vagueness in mind!

Dis Pater: Yes my music is rather spontaneous actually. I won’t write anything for months, then do an album in three days, then sit back a few weeks and let it mature, perfecting it. When the time comes to write music, I am completely obsessed, engulfed in this strange atmosphere, it’s kind of like walking out before a summer storm, you can almost feel the lightning seeking you out ready to strike, it’s almost panic. It’s usually after hearing a certain song somewhere, an idea will come into my head, and I won’t be able to sleep, I usually don’t eat or drink anything for a day or so. I listen to a lot of music, and I know what I like and I only release music that after a while I can still listen to and not feel embarrassed or ashamed about, to me it has to envoke those same impulses and manic trances that I got whilst recording the music. I know the exact tones, the exact reverb levels, the exact production levels I like and desire, so my music is always a mixture of new creative forces and learned processes, which has taken me nearly 10 years to get to.

ObscuraHessian: The sound of the full-length is naturally better as there’s more space between instruments but you still managed to reflect an enclosed feeling which sounds like the music is passing through a million leaves and branches before it hits the listener. Did the demo receive any remastering before sent to be pressed for its forthcoming distribution?

Dis Pater: The demo, actually both demos which will be re-released, (The Forest Mourners on Kunsthauch Records in Russia, possibly as a split) But neither are going to re-mastered, they are being kept the same, the only difference is with the new version of Firmament, the songs will be made to cut out less at the end (i.e. the music fades a bit before ending abruptly) and the last track From Beyond The 8th Sphere is being renamed simply Beyond the 8th Sphere (We noticed I used the word From a bit too much haha).

ObscuraHessian: Are you still working on music for an album to follow ‘Firmament’?

Dis Pater: Yes there are a couple of things. One is a split with Wedard, which will be two songs from the Firmament sessions, actually one was written in between Forest Mourners and Firmament and has a bit more of an epic folk, and the other was written after and is not really a metal song). The next full length is recorded (except the vocals) and is a continuation of Firmament. Musically I think it is similar, but maybe a little bit more epic and ethereal in feel.

ObscuraHessian: Could you tell us a little about your activities outside of Midnight Odyssey, including any other musical projects?

Dis Pater: Other than Midnight Odyssey, I have a project called Fires Light The Sky. I had recorded two songs but have changed the style a bit of the band and am set to release 4 songs (which are actually old old Midnight Odyssey songs reworked and re-recorded, I think three of them I wrote in 1999, and one in 2001, so it’s a more aggressive and standard black metal but nonetheless I feel I have to release them just to get them out of mind, it’s like holding on to a secret that you want to tell everyone and can’t do anything else until you tell someone. Also I have plans for a funeral doom project at some stage this year.

ObscuraHessian: What was the last awesome book that you read?

Dis Pater: The last good book, well strangely I don’t read much, I think the last good thing I read was a book on Early Greek Philosophy, it was interesting to see just how fragmented records are and the work that goes into fitting the pieces of history together. It was interesting too to see these people from thousands of years ago try to describe something, and doing it relatively correctly, but just not having the correct terminology and understanding to fully comprehend it.

ObscuraHessian: What was the last piece of music you heard that resonated most with your own thoughts and feelings?

Dis Pater: The last music would definitely be the Polish band Evilfeast, I got some cds on the way and I can’t wait to hear the whole albums, a couple of songs I’ve heard of them blew me away – epic, atmospheric and very depressing dark music.

Hails to Dis Pater for answering my questions and all the best for the future of Midnight Odyssey!

Written by ObscuraHessian

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Totten Korps – Tharnheim: Athi-Land-Nhi; Ciclopean Crypts of Citadels

South America holds a very unholy place in the minds of Death Metal legions around the world, with the Brazilian scene of particular note for unearthing a bestial and blasphemous mode of Death Metal worship that drew inspiration from the mightiest warriors of Satan known to them: Bathory and Slayer, and would infuse these ideas with a level of wreckless primitivism and rawness unheard before. Chilean veterans Totten Korps’ music is an advancement of this style, assuming the forms of infamous Speed/Death barbarians like fellow Chileans, Pentagram and Brazilians, Holocausto and Vulcano within a cleaner soundspace that allows for more exploration of sinister melody in a winding, maze-like structure that is symbolic of the album’s perpetual struggle for primordial knowledge and occult powers. This is what separates Totten Korps from the trendier bands like Krisiun who have little taste for well thought-out narratives, preferring a collection of soundbites that cleave to a roughly Death Metal template. The band also knows how to keep the South American atavisms of bouncy and rhythmic passages that are punctuated by a vague melodic pattern in line with the greater whole of composition, often reflecting a central, recurring theme. There’s almost a Kataklysm-ic sense of grandeur in this method, although it sacrifices the flair of such precision for the fragmented and impulsive butchery of a good, old school Death Metal album from the land of condors and corpses.

Havohej, maggot
They are going to drag
Yourself in the dust
Ethereal orb
Let your thought go

-ObscuraHessian-

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From a different planet

Letters, we get letters:

Dear Dark Legions Archive,

Sometimes I feel like I am from a different planet. The people around me like mundane and boring music, but if there’s something quirky about it like being from Kuala Lampur or having a flute, they think it’s genius. I listen to it and realize there is nothing being communicated. The musicians are making music, and they’re doing an OK job, but it doesn’t convey any experience or emotion. It’s just there and the only way to appreciate it is by the techniques they use, the quirks it has, or how blasphemous it is. I seem to be the only one who sees this. I will be in a crowd of people who are headbanging to something so stupid it’s painful. They think the best part of death metal is the breakdown. They also fervently believe that Ulver’s “Nattens Madrigal” was actually recorded in a forest, probably one with lots of electric outlets. I don’t think they’re stupid, but they seem to be oblivious. Help — what do I do?

Signed,
Metal UFO
Portland, OR

We live in an age where image is more important than reality. Because we are all equal, we can only get ahead by convincing other people to use their equality to support our more-than-equal-ness. So being able to sell things to people, or make them like you, is really more important than doing anything productive. This is why our jobs are boring and our currently is losing altitude faster than Flight 93. As part of this, people listen to music in the same way they shop — to buy things that make them look good to others. So the short answer is that they’re not really paying attention to the music. Even if they were, they listen to it on their iPods while doing a million other things, including watching TV and IMing, so it’s not clear they have the mental focus to even know if they like it or not. But no mind: they don’t care if they like it. What they care about is that their friends like it, and think they’re hardass (kvlt) or educated (prog). It’s all about status climbing. Your solution is to be very selective about what you listen to and stop going to concerts with people who still believe in this dying civilization. Good luck, because realists are the ultimately minority, making up less than 2% of the population, and few of them have any time for metal, rock or pop culture at all.

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