Pop is a sham

Someone else pointed out what we know — mass culture is a product disguised as individual self-expression:

In the sphere of luxury production, to which popular music belongs and in which no necessities of life are immediately involved, while, at the same time, the residues of individualism are most alive there in the form of ideological categories such as taste and free choice, it is imperative to hide standardization. The “backwardness” of musical mass production, the fact that it is still on a handicraft level and not literally an industrial one, conforms perfectly to that necessity which is essential from the viewpoint of cultural big business. If the individual handicraft elements of popular music were abolished altogether, a synthetic means of hiding standardization would have to be evolved. Its elements are even now in existence.

The necessary correlate of musical standardization is pseudo-individualization. By pseudo-individualization we mean endowing cultural mass production with the halo of free choice or open market on the basis of standardization itself. Standardization of song hits keeps the customers in line by doing their listening for them, as it were. Pseudo-individualization, for its part, keeps them in line by making them forget that what they listen to is already listened to for them, or “pre-digested”.

The most drastic example of standardization of presumably individualized features is to be found in so-called improvisations. Even though jazz musicians still improvise in practice, their improvisations have become so “normalized” as to enable a whole terminology to be developed to express the standard devices of individualization: a terminology which in turn is ballyhooed by jazz publicity agents to foster the myth of pioneer artisanship and at the same time flatter the fans by apparently allowing them to peep behind the curtain and get the inside story. This pseudo-individualization is prescribed by the standardization of the framework. The latter is so rigid that the freedom it allows for any sort of improvisation is severely delimited. Improvisations — passages where spontaneous action of individuals is permitted (“Swing it boys”) — are confined within the walls of the harmonic and metric scheme. In a great many cases, such as the “break” of pre-swing jazz, the musical function of the improvised detail is determined completely by the scheme: the break can be nothing other than a disguised cadence. Here, very few possibilities for actual improvisation remain, due to the necessity of merely melodically circumscribing the same underlying harmonic functions. Since these possibilities were very quickly exhausted, stereotyping of improvisatory details speedily occurred. Thus, standardization of the norm enhances in a purely technical way standardization of its own deviation — pseudo-individualization. – Theodor Adorno, On Popular Music

This doubly applies to nu-metal. The whole essay is worth reading.

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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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Obituary drummer feeds feral cats

I’m almost too cynical to think the news is anything but press releases, yet:

Donald Tardy has two passions.

His music – he’s the drummer for the death-metal band Obituary. And his cats – more than 140 of them.

They live in woods, behind shopping plazas and in dumpsters. They scrounge for food, scavenging rodents and trash, and fend off raccoons.

They’re feral cats, and according to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, they’re among an estimated 200,000 roaming Hillsborough County.

Tardy tends to more than 20 colonies, some with as few as two cats, others with nearly 30. He carefully protects their locations; some people are capable of unimaginable cruelty, while others find colonies a convenient place to dump unwanted cats. Every day he checks on “my gang,” feeding the cats and, when necessary, getting them veterinary care. – TBO

This makes me feel better about the time I went on a bender and re-purchased all those old early 1990s albums (and the Judas Priest catalog up through 2004). Some things just get better with time.

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Adam Gadahn may turn al-Qaeda into a death metal band

At least, I hope he does. A few mainstream metal journalists have finally noticed that Adam Gadahn, now ascending in al-Qaeda thanks to the untimely assassination of Osama bin Laden, wrote about death metal back in the day:

DAMNATION – Volume Two (demo)
San Diego, California trio DAMNATION have been playing together since
late 1990, and Volume Two, their second effort (naturally), is a
professionally done, musically mature release that, unfortunately, is
lacking in the songwriting department. The two-song tape features rather
boring lyrics about insanity and nightmares, generic Sodom/Kreator style
thrash/death, and monotone Jorgen Sandstrom-style vocals. That said, the
songs do grow on you after a few listens, but I haven’t had the urge to
constantly replay them, as I did with, say, Timeghoul!! As I said, the
cassette is pro-packed and recorded, with excellent production (this is
the sound Timeghoul should have had) courtesy of a 24-track studio and a
great purple logo on the cover! Fans of Possessed and other early
Death/thrash will dig this.

GENERAL SURGERY – Necrology EP (Relapse)
Although this was recorded in November, 1990, this was only recently
released by Relapse Records. This is basically a Swedish “supergroup” of
death, featuring members of Dismember, Afflicted and Creamatory, plus
Exit-13. The 5 songs on this musically draw a lot from old Carcass, but
with a more direct, straight-forward feel and much better production
(courtesy of good ol’ reliable Sunlight Studios and good ol’ reliable Tomas
Skoksberg). Lyrically, the quote on the back cover pretty much sums it up:
“Murder is the only way to kill time”. “Severe Catatonia in Pathology” is
the sickest on the disk, with the happy overtones. Also the opening
instrumental “Ominous Lamentation” will be of interest. With nice
packaging and production, this is a worthy addition to any Death/Gore
metaller’s collection!

HELLBOUND – Apocalyptic Visions (demo ’92)
Although New York’s Hellbound call themselves a Death/thrash band,
I tend to disagree with that. To my ears, they sound more like a thrashier
version of Atheist or Sadus, possessing the prominent bass guitar &
screaming vocals, respectively, of those bands, but with the simpler, less
technical approach of bands like Vio-lence, D.R.I., or Exodus. Their
drummer, however, has his own very cool style that “demands to be
heard”! Amazing that this is their debut! Hellbound showcase their
professionality in both instruments & songwriting throughout the four
tunes on Apocalyptic Visions. The last two songs, “My Guilt is Silence”
and “Infernal Ecstasy”, absolutely rage!!! And the icing on the cake is the
stunning production – recorded on a 16-track machine, all instruments can
be heard clearly, with drums and bass shining through especially! Quite a
debut! HB should have a new demo out by the time you read this, but get
their brutal first effort by sending a blank tape and return postage

ENRAPTURED – 7 Song Demo ’92 (Demo)
This is actually a combination of the unreleased 5-song Reconstrued
Malfeasance demo and a new 2-song demo. Although the “Reconstrued”
tunes, recorded as a 4 piece (Tino Lesicco on drums/vocals, Pierce Totty
on Bass, Jason Smith on guitar and Justin Jones on guitar) and “included
as bonus tracks because of the poor sound quality”, the 2 newsies with 2
new members (Dan Stoops, vocals and David Smith, 2nd guitar) actually
have about the same sound and production. While Enraptured improved
their musicianship in the 4 months between recording “The Downfall of
Christianity” and “Abortion Consumed”, they show a decrease in
songwriting skill, The older tunes like “The Execration” and “Probe the
Flesh” contain headbangable Slayer/Carcass type riffs and deep, growly
Karl Willetts/Barney Greenway style vocals. The new tracks, however,
are generic highspeed Cannibal Corpse or Obituary-esque noise with
annoyingly loud vocals and incessant double bass drumming. My advice:
pick up this demo for the 5 excellent bonus tracks and ignore the 2 cheesy
commercial fag songs.

TIMEGHOUL – Tumultuous Travelings (demo)
Perhaps the best demo I’ve heard since I began listening to Death
Metal/Grindcore less than a year ago is Timeghoul’s debut 4-song,
Tumultuous Travelings. Mixing elements of Immolation, Cathedral, Brutal
Truth and Suffocation, this Foristell, Missouri quartet rage through “Rain-
wound”, “The Siege”, “Gutspawn”, & “Infinity Coda”, with unmatched
intensity and style. All the songs run over 5 minutes (“The Siege” is the
longest), and much variation is contained within. Drummer Tony Holman
can go from a high-speed “blast” beat, to a slow rhythm, and back to a
fast part in the blink of an eye! Jeff Hayden’s vocals are brutal but
different: Check out the singing part on “Siege” and the special FX on
“Infinity Coda”! The band’s instrumental ability is second to none, as are
their song writing skills, but this otherwise top-notch tape is marred by
bad sound. There’s much flutter and warble, and the volume is rather low.
With Timeghoul’s excellent musicianship, it’s a wonder that they haven’t
been signed yet!! So hey! If anyone from Earache or Relapse or whoever is
reading this, come on!! Pick up a pen and ink ’em right now! It would be a
shame if Timeghoul broke up before recording at least one album
professionally! But until then, we’ve got this masterpiece!

These are from Xenocide Zine, an old school death metal zine from 1992-1993 which featured many of the bands we regard today as the canon of death metal. Do you want to find out more about the origins of this music? Hit the Xenocide Zine page and check out their blasts from the past.

While you’re at it, you might be able to enjoy something new from the editor of that zine, Jon Konrath. He took his death metal fueled angst and criticism of modern society, and channeled it through a William S. Burroughs/David Foster Wallace/Neal Stephenson filter to come up with gonzo postmodern flash-fiction. You can read his latest novel, Rumored to Exist, in print or on your Kindle.

Konrath went on to write for Metal Curse, along with Vijay Prozak and other old schoolers. We wish Mr. Konrath luck in his literary career, especially since he crams more internal references to death metal lyrics into literature than anyone since… well, anyone. Not too many people write about the metal o’ death.

As for Mr. Gadahn, who is remembered fondly around here, we hope he takes over al-Qaeda and uses his new power to fight modern civilization. If Samuel Huntington is right, al-Qaeda is part of a “clash of civilizations” where those who want traditional society oppose the modern type of liberal democratic consumerist society, which death metal also seems to hate (with good cause: plastic trash is poison). This could give more people insight into what dissidents from Nietzsche to al-Qaeda are all about.

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How Heavy Metal Is Keeping Us Sane

The Atlantic delves into how heavy metal, through its (a) honesty and (b) desire for epic meaning to life, keeps us from going overboard:

Black Sabbath, from Birmingham, England, was heavy metal. No joy here, nor any wisp of psychedelic whimsy. From the first note, this band sounded ancient, oppressed, as if shambling forward under supernatural burdens. With his use of horror-movie atmospherics—the tension-building tritone or flatted fifth—and the leering majesty of his riffs, guitarist Tony Iommi redirected the spiritual drag of the blues into an uncharted world of bummers and black holes. Bassist Geezer Butler, a mystical vegetarian, wrote the lyrics. Raised Catholic, Butler as a youngster had entertained thoughts of the priesthood, and for all the band’s occult trappings, his view of things was essentially orthodox, if a little on the medieval side: God over here, Satan over there, man flailing and biting his nails in the middle.

[…]

Culturally, metal has lost its boogeyman privileges, having been superseded in infamy first by gangsta rap and then by Britney with her shaved head and her dangerous umbrella.

[…]

Nu metal, the big metal noise of the ’90s and early ’00s, has come and gone. Metalheads never really went for it—too much rapping in there, and not enough warlocks. Where was the dread? The moral-astronomical scale?

The great scholar of heavy metal Robert Walser, doing research for his 1993 book, Running With the Devil, interviewed a Twisted Sister fan who told him that the easy-listening music favored by her mother had made her paranoid. In Walser’s words: “It so obviously seems to lie to her about the world.” – The Atlantic

It’s good to see the mainstream give this some thought.

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Cursed Productions interviews Amon Amarth

Our old friends and comrades at Cursed Productions just interviewed one of the bands to take death metal mainstream, Amon Amarth.

While this band personally has no interest for me, being “too busy” as if trying to run away from life itself and sounding too much like a metalcore version of Dark Tranquility, seeing a quality metal journalist get some recognition is always a bright spot.

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Why care at all

A reader writes in with one of the big difficult questions:

For more than a year, I’ve been into heavy metal. Being an atheist i listened to bands that mocked religion. As i don’t have any knowledge of structure or how a riff is good or bad, I listened to anything that whose lyrics read well, but soon nihilism struck me and I started losing faith in people and the mainstream. I felt a sudden urge for good art as an outlet of my emotions, but then my idea of art was shattered.

So my question is: what is art?

In 1917 Duchamp took a urinal and turned it over, signed it ‘R. Mutt’ and submitted it to an art show! His ready-mades weren’t meant to be admired in an aesthetic sense and because of this he challenged the belief in art as something holy and placed on a high pedestal, art as something distant and divorced from life during the dada art period

later in 1692 neo dada art was emerging,Duchamp did not agree with the attitudes and direction taken by Pop Art and Neo-Dada

In a letter dated November 10, 1962 Marcel Duchamp wrote: “This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblages, etc., is an easy way out, and lives on what Dada did. When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics. In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them. I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.”

Why is one band better than other? How do I judge?

I’m badly confused which metal CDs I should buy; I also see that one thing you consider while judging a band is you learn the philosophy of the members and the environment they came from, but when the band is so underground the data of their members is not available, what is true metal?

1)one which is highly technical
2)or that maybe immature in technicality but have a strong…. philosophy…and what is more important or inspiring to you
a)lyrics
b)structure
c)or other things…

Is art just too overrated?

Let’s take them one at a time:

What is art?

Art is that which expresses a meaningful view of life; it is a communication from artist to appreciator (listener, reader, watcher, viewer). True cynics like myself view it as a dual natured beast, expressing both aesthetic enjoyment (showing that life has significance) and some form of philosophy, vision, emotional context or other worldview (the end goal that author found meaningful for that signficance). Art takes many forms, and there is no equality between forms or between artists or even between works; some express something that can be said through no other medium.

Which is the true metal band?

Technical, or philosophical? you ask. I respond with this concept: the band that is artistic, and exemplifies the spirit of metal (a Romantic yet warlike notion of transcendence through worship of power, not moral good) is good metallic art.

If the technicality is used in service to this goal, it’s great. But technicality for its own sake is boring, as 100,000 starving nu-jazz musicians in America can tell you.

Does the band need to have a philosophy? Not really — their music needs to show the presence of some organized thought (many would call that a philosophy) and to express it in a way that is artistic, and compelling. If it doesn’t do all of that, it may be art but I don’t want to listen to it.

Lyrics… I have forgotten about these, for many years. Some are inspiring. Most are stuff that rhymes and bounces in the right places with the right number of syllables. For me the archetype is Deicide: their lyrics “sound like” an occult vision of war in reality. Sometimes they’re incoherent. But they always sound awesome.

I don’t worry about trueness; that which is true turns out to be good, amazingly enough. So I pursue quality, because life is short and if you love metal, you want the best stuff.

I am probably an atheist; if God must be singular, anthropomorphic and moral, I am definitely an atheist and a blasphemer. (See my short monograph entitled, “If your human-like God can do anything, can He fuck Himself?”)

I am a nihilist. I believe in nothing but that which can be derived from observation and thought.

At the same time, I have seen more that I and science cannot explain than what it can… and my thoughts have led me to a kind of mysticism that is compatible with quantum physics, esoteric hermetic philosophy and even higher math. Others have found similar paths.

Unfortunately, this leads one to become a realist (in the vernacular, not philosophical, sense) or rather a consequentialist. Back to art above: life has significance. If so, we don’t want to screw it up. So we treat life as a laboratory, and keep the ideas that produce good results, and throw out the rest until we can test them.

This in turn should address your underlying question which seems to be: why care about what has quality over what does not? Why measure quality at all?

The answer is simply: if you love life, you want something that can complement it, and yourself, and that means you seek the authentic, the thrilling, the interesting, the beautiful and the amazing. And that is why, if you’re gonna listen to metal, throw out the shit and seek out the greats :)

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Marketing versus descriptive writing

We always talk about how here on ANUS, we try to describe the music as it is, not assess it in some “social” way (that easily lends itself to selling the music to dummies). People doubt us. So here’s a brief comparison:

Marketing

Q: What’s the title of the new Slayer album?

A: World Painted Blood.

Q: What’s it sound like?

A: What on Earth do you think?

Nine studio albums, thousands of live shows and nearly three decades into a career that’s made them one of the biggest and most important metal bands in the world, the members of Slayer know exactly what kind of music they make—brutal but beautiful, punishing yet precise. A fresh Slayer record is a thing of terror but also one of trust: You can depend on what you’re getting—even if you’re unprepared for it.

As guitarist Jeff Hanneman says with a sly little chuckle, “At this point I think a Slayer album pretty much speaks for itself.”

And yet there are some interesting things you should be made aware of regarding World Painted Blood, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2006’s Christ Illusion, which debuted inside the Top 5 of Billboard’s album chart, a career best for Slayer. Let’s start with the fact that its fury, believe it or not, was born out of fun.

“The interaction between all of us on this record was really something special,” says Hanneman of his work with the band’s three other founding members: singer-bassist Tom Araya, guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo. “Rather than trying to get something done,” Hanneman continues, “it felt like we were just having a good time. We were discussing things, giving things a go. The prevailing attitude was, ‘Let’s try it!’ It wasn’t even work, really—it was play.”

For the first time ever, Slayer entered the studio—in this case, The Pass, in Los Angeles—without an entire album’s worth of material already written and rehearsed. They’d booked a preliminary chunk of studio time in October 2008 to see how they liked working with producer Greg Fidelman, who’d been recommended to the band by their longtime pal Rick Rubin after the two worked together on Metallica’s Death Magnetic. “While we were in there recording the couple of songs we had, things were just really clicking with Greg,” says Araya. “So we thought, ‘Why don’t we try to write the rest of the record in the studio?’ We weren’t sure what was gonna happen; we just kind of did it, and the music kept on coming.”

Not only did it keep on coming—first during that initial session, then in a second period of work stretching from January to March 2009—but it came in a way it hadn’t before, driven by a new degree of collaboration. For Slayer’s last several albums, Hanneman would write his songs, King would write his, then the two guitarists would bring their separate material into the studio, where the band would put it to tape. “This time,” says King, “everyone was talking about what we were doing. Everyone had a say and was involved—like, ‘Maybe we should go faster here or stop there or whatever.’ It was cool.”

Hanneman is succinct when asked how or why this cooperative spirit took root. “I have no fucking idea,” he admits. “The chemistry was just good.” The guitarist does note that Slayer “weren’t rushed, and that makes a lot of difference with the music. I don’t like being rushed, and on this record we had plenty of time.”

You can hear the effects of that creative freedom throughout World Painted Blood, which Lombardo says fits in with such classic Slayer slabs as Reign in Blood and Seasons in the Abyss. “The rhythm riffs on this one make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” says the drummer, who describes his determination to make his parts sound human and natural, rather than like the product of a machine. “It does it for me the same way those older records did.” King agrees: “I think it has kind of a retro vibe to it,” he says. “It sounds like the stuff we wrote in the ’80s.”

Did this renewed enthusiasm brighten Slayer’s worldview? Not exactly. “We have a tendency to follow a theme, and I think on this record the theme is more apocalyptic than usual,” says Araya, pointing to songs like the title track, a meditation on what the year 2012 has in store for humanity, and “Public Display of Dismemberment,” which King says is about whether or not certain “vulgar but effective” law-enforcement measures might work as well in America as they have elsewhere. “That’s kind of the running concept here,” Araya adds, “but aside from that it’s the usual Slayer topics of death, murder and serial killers.”

Usual, perhaps, but far from ordinary, World Painted Blood is one of Slayer’s most impressive efforts yet—a vicious, uncompromising look at what’s broken in our society and how frighteningly powerless we are to fix it. King says World is “more well-rounded than the last couple of albums.” Lombardo calls it “a speed metal record with emotion.” Anyone with ears will think it’s an accomplishment of a major kind. – Amazon.com Slayer Store

Notice what’s missing: they don’t talk about the music. They talk about the people, how many albums the band sells, how vicious it is, the topic of the lyrics (which is not necessarily the same as the topic of the song), and how shocking it is. In essence, what other people will talk about when they talk about it. Real information? Minimal. Now of course, this piece comes to us from Slayer’s reps via Amazon.com, and is not exceptional in any way. In fact, Slayer resisted doing this shit for decades. Now they’ve got a big label behind them demanding they do it because everyone else does it, and it’s effective, which means that if Slayer doesn’t do it, it’s like fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.

Here’s another:

In junior high, there were three albums whose covers scared the shit out of me, and which I consequently kept in a desk drawer out of immediate view: Reign in Blood, Blessed Are the Sick, and Arise. While the former two remain all-time favorites, at the time, Arise hit the spot best. All three albums are primers on blazing speed coupled with powerful atmosphere, but Arise possessed a stronger melodic quality that never came off as cheesy or compromised. Andreas Kisser’s solos are oases of respite from the Cavalera brothers’ unrelenting, dystopian riffage. As a son of the ’80s and a disciple of films like Brazil, Robocop, and Blade Runner, I really appreciate the post-apocalyptic imagery in Cavalera’s lyrics, an aspect that he’d continue to hone on Chaos A.D.

Speaking of that album, I got shit in an earlier post about saying Chaos A.D. is the album where Sepultura “become men”. I still think that’s true, but paradoxically, I must qualify that Arise presently edges it out as my favorite Sepultura album. Ultimately, it’s a less fully-realized sonic world: the production is flat (what the fuck is wrong with those drums?!), the guitar tones are not layered in any meaningful way, and are almost fatiguingly mid-rangey. While Arise represents Sepultura at their apex as a speed/thrash/death band, Chaos A.D. is them being the band they were always meant to be. You can hear it in the confidence of the songwriting, and you have to hand it to a band when they reach that point in their lifetime; so many don’t.

So why does Arise edge it out? To paraphrase my friend Anson, MY GOD, those riffs. From “Arise” to “Infected Voice”, there’s not a dud in the bunch. It’s also worth noting how deftly they did the speed thing, especially considering they pretty much forsook the blastbeat after this record. It’s the end of an era in Sepultura’s evolution, and they closed it with all guns blazing. Arise still takes me back to a time and place, and that album cover, for all the fear it instilled in me, remains a favorite. Like the riffs, it reminds me of what I love about my favorite superhero comic books: metal, like comics, sometimes functions on more is more. – Invisible Oranges

These are all marketing, because their point is to convince you how cool something is, and not give you a sense of its broader relevance. The individual and the social sphere are the same thing in varying degrees; if something panders to your lower functions, it will do the same for others and thus be popular. Reviews that talk about how popular something is, how influential it is, or how “unique” it is are not commenting on the music — they’re talking about the scene, the fans, the market — and as such as tangential.

Descriptive

Oh look, someone talking about the music.

Pandemic Genocide doesn’t stray too far away from the established Vader/Behemoth territory, although perhaps slightly simplified in execution and with a hint of Immolation mixed in, as well. This is not exactly a problem, in my opinion, as that is prime real estate to explore, and there are 666 metric tons of great, memorable riffs here. To carve out a more unique identity, PG occasionally slows down and gets a little atmospheric, which maybe works the best in the excellent “Arcana Mortem.” These guys also have no problem with faster tempos, as is evidenced in the amazing title track, and really all over the place, with surgical precision. – Metal Curse

Here we have a description of the aesthetics of the music that’s succinct and complete. We know what we need to know about the style. Some assessment of how well it pulls that off, and how the riffs are written and how the song structures work, and most importantly, what sort of artistic content (narrative of moods, progression of ideas) is enclosed, …well, that would be nice. But it’s not going to happen in a one-paragraph review, which is the smart format to do if you’re going to write 5000 reviews like that writer has. He covers every area of metal in a way few can.

And another:

One could have sworn Verhern and fellow label mates Kargvint are the very same band; both sound and musical approach of these otherwise twin bands is almost identical, and even though they do not share any band member between them (Kargvint being a one-man show), Verhern’s self-titled album is so much like Kargvint’s excellent Seelenwerks Fortgang (reviewed on Diabolical Conquest not long ago), it’s uncanny. Verhern, unlike Kargvint, is comprised of three members; the usual classic metal ensemble of a couple of guitars, bass, vocals, a drum set as well as some distant keyboards, buried so deep in the mix, they are ghost-like, hovering above the music occasionally, adding to it an eerie flair, not unlike Burzum’s key work on Filosofem’s opening track Dunkelheit. Again, as was the case with Kargvint’s album, dismissing Verhern’s debut is almost a natural response upon listening to it for the first time; shallow, hollow and derivative, uninspired at best and primitive at the very worst were the first impressions registered by this reviewer who was ready to tear this album apart a second before he actually listened to this musical work carefully, with unbiased ears and clear mind. This is good music in the sense it emanates emotions in abundance; from the heartfelt vocals to the sensual, despairing riffs, the whole creates a thick, relentless atmosphere of pain and sorrow, and a sense of transcendence. The metal of Verhern is fleeting and intuitive, not your usual gut-wrenching heaviness and sonic violence; on the contrary, here the music walks the more humble, insinuative paths, always distant and estranged, touching-not-touching, creating waves of black ambiance and generating almost erotic beauty. – Diabolical Conquest

While this reviewer is almost certainly overpraising this album, he’s making an honest and clear attempt to talk about what’s inside of it. The style is well-known enough that he dismisses it with a sentence or two, then launches into a description of what the music attempts to evoke. For example, Pantera likes to evoke righteous rage and a desire to hump fenceposts. Slayer used to evoke a mythic sense of occult warfare. Opeth evokes a desire to become pacifistic, navel-gazing, sensitive and on bottom during violent gang anal rape scenes. The review contrasts the techniques used in the music to what it attempts to evoke; the only weakness is, perhaps, that the description of emotions is too inclusive and thus vague.

You can see how some people are out there being “successful” by hyping stuff; they’re also not elitists, they’re egalitarians, for the most part. In their view, albums are not good or bad, but “different” and perhaps niche-bound. Other people are more hellbent on describing the music and so, by the natural process forced on them by the writing they do, they’re finding out which music stands above the rest by not being “unique” in some random combination, but by having something interesting to express and expressing it well.

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Romero’s ‘Dead’ trilogy: An autopsy

Each of the three films that made up George A Romero’s conceptually linked ‘Dead’ series were quite enigmatic, and now stand as some of the most influential memes in modern cinematic history. This feature for Deathmetal.Org need not explicitly make side references between the musical subculture of which we write to this realm of celluloid, as its popularity with many of death metal’s listening base is well known to those who have insight.

The Night of the Living Dead

Mankind eschews the macabre and the horrifying and in so doing never fully realizes, learns of or utilizes his whole nature. With the exception of a few brave souls, many people prefer to lead idle unchallenged and unexamined lives, if only because the contrary adventure is difficult and exposes one to multifarious existential realizations, including the reality of the ephemeral nature of ones existence. This I conclude is one reason why the horror genre is generally held in such contempt by modern man, when utilized effectively, not only does it confront the eschewed amoral primordial concerns of mans essential being, it does so in a way that is urgent and demanding of ones attention. Having set up his ever safe concrete abode, modern man now hibernates, avoiding existence and its deeper philosophical puzzle’s in favour of sugar coated half-truths such that soothe and reassure him of his “equality” his “individual uniqueness” and his “inherently universal importance”.

The legendary, provocative and incendiary “Night of the Living Dead” does the exact opposite as it confronts, plays on, and plays with the innate primal fears, dynamics and concerns of mankind. Although loosely conceived as an apocalyptic encounter with the forces of the “living” dead, a profound level of psychological insight and evocative symbolism permeates George A Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” and thus qualifies this work as a true modern masterpiece and a generally overlooked piece of art.

With no little genius Romero effectively lulls viewers into a world viewers can easily relate to by evoking and mirroring significant aspects of our everyday life. Each detail, from the realistically portrayed incompetence of societal authority figures, the naive adherence of people to the demands of the television, the undeniable emotional bond between brother and sister, to the familiar sounds of everyday life, including the incessant chirping of crickets, allows the viewer to fundamentally relate to and plunge into Romero’s world. In fact, the capacity to create a world or setting that so closely mirrors not only a Cold War world obsessed with science and technology but also a timeless, comfortable and familiar, although eerily de-contextualized reality represents perhaps the most important aspect of Romero’s film. These considerations in conjunction with Romero’s capitalization on further cinematic realism, forces the viewer to take seriously the events unfolding within it. Rather than questioning the veracity or possibility of the events unfolding viewers are drawn into reacting, along with whichever psychological archetype they most closely identity with, to the horrifying and challenging events that are taking place.

Although shot in black and white, Romero’s masterpiece lends itself to such profound levels of interpretation that a mere moral and linear evaluation of the film, the characters, or the actions and events therein becomes impossible. To suppose that the contrast between the black and white film and the various gradations of interpretation the film lends itself to was an intentional decision does not appear as dubious as one may suppose. In fact, it seems to coherently present an ingenious tongue in cheek and subtle level of social commentary on a society that was, and still is, increasingly seeing the world in simple morally absolutist ways amidst an inherently complex reality that disdains simple moralistic evaluations.

Through an ingenious development of the story, viewers, while perhaps horrified at the attacking zombies, are not given the pre-requisite moral education or signifying variables that would make it intellectual honest to morally condemn these purely instinctual flesh eating parasites, whose origin can be laid at the feet of man alone. This of course increases the profundity of the film as Romero brilliantly turns the story away from the simple and exhausted “us versus them” or “good versus evil” theme. Viewers are thus forced, beyond the categories of good and evil, to search for, construct and perhaps impose upon the film a more profound meaning.

Romero’s ability to vividly explore, amidst an environment whose intensity is heightened due to the proximity of death, the nature of human relationships, tribal power dynamics, and the capacity for the characters to deal with the prospect of their immanent demise reveals an attempt on part of the film to explore and highlight some of the fundamental aspects of mans primal nature. The intriguing and dynamic character relationships, for example, reveal and augment the inherent antagonism between virtue and vice and we witness concretely the poignant disparity between courage and cowardice, shortsightedness and wisdom, emotion and reason, optimism and pessimism. Viewers also witness the psychological development of each character as they are confronted with possibility of death, themselves symbolizing at a more significant level various timeless psychological archetypes with which it is difficult for the viewer to not identify with.

Additionally, the revelatory and intrinsically personal antagonisms that define each character bear witness to a decisively human element within the film, such that it becomes difficult for the viewer to not empathise with the manifold and sometimes dubious decisions and reactions of each character. This thankfully increases the level of interpretative depth and challenges the viewer; cowardice contextualized instead becomes the instinctual protection of the father, co-operation and perhaps courage resemble stupidity, pessimism becomes realism, optimism becomes fantasy, and so on. In contrast to many latter day films which celebrate an easy and crowd friendly reality that is typically one dimensional, “Night of the Living Dead” successfully transcends this pitfall and successfully mirrors the complexity of the human condition and the multiple variables that determine its structure.

Moreover, “Night of the Living Dead” includes the uncanny capacity to raise an array of questions that unsettle and challenge the mind: Who exactly is Romero referring to as the “Living Dead”? In what ways does technology bring about mans apocalyptic future, has our technological hubris undone us? How does the theme of technology relate to the zombies aversion to fire? How do we relate to and mirror the zombies at an instinctual level? Indeed, a plethora of questions, paradoxes and insights awaits the discerning viewer.

However, in the end what is horrifying about “Night of the Living Dead” is not the flesh eating zombies, it is the capacity for this film accurately reflects man’s condition on so many levels, and to expose the viewer to his or her own primal nature. Above all, what meaning one extracts will depend on each individual’s capacity to plume the philosophical depths implied by one of the main conceptual tenants that drives this movie forward: Only Death is Real.

-TheWaters

Dawn of the Dead

Combustive, feverishly paced and exploitative almost in an infantile way are some of the qualities of the first follow-up to Romero’s original terror classic. By 1978 merciless killing, cannibalism, pile-up of corpses and explosions of gore had journeyed through the forbidden territories of ‘grindhouse’ B-movie theaters all the way to the brink of mainstream as it seemed already the norm to distrust the ‘establishment’. This is satirically extrapolated by the first few minutes where a cop operation gone awry climaxes with a spectacular scene of shooting a person’s head completely off as if it was no big deal.

The colorful but dimensional 35 mm cinematography, financed with the help of Dario Argento’s Italian team, lets Romero to indulge in more ‘hi-tech’ action than before with plenty of fast tracked views from helicopters but also conduct long and gritty depictions of places and people (and of course the zombies) as if we were watching a documentary. He did not originate this technique, but especially in ‘Dawn of the Dead’ mastered it so far that if there is one movie that seems to truly reveal the morbid but ordinary facets of disillusioned 70′s life in the United States, it must be this. The fantasy elements do not seem to be such when immersed in the logical and natural unfolding of the events.

‘Dawn’ is the first of the movies where a point is made of the zombies being less than authentic enemy but rather pathetic victims of a disastrous failure of civilization. The hard boiled soldiers’ execution of zombie families with children is chilling, echoing the amoral vigilante mentality that pervaded a myriad of cult classics of the era. When the supermarket setting allows the script to use both the human characters and the masses of the dead as two ‘classes’ of consumerism, the dimensions of the movie become delightful and tormenting – especially as it is conducted with the flair of a movie magician without an ounce of excess political rant.

Ultimately the angle is cynical since the characters seem very happy with their boring and cyclical existence in the safety of the supermarket, shielded from the dangers of the outside world and appropriately only at the moments of danger does an enlivening sparkle permeate their mind and hands. The intrapersonal dynamics are still reminiscent of ‘The Thing from Another World’ (1951), a veritable science fiction classic where the alien ‘thing’ was deemed almost irrelevant because of the all-around devastation wreaked by social and personal problems of respected figures such as scientists and soldiers.

Despite the passed decades of pushing all-around borders, the gore in the movie still repulses in its humorous viciousness. Besides the more didactic ‘Salò’ and the more amateurish ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, it’s one of the earliest full-fledged exercises in movie brutality, of the bombardment of visual ugliness. It is entirely in parallel with syncopated, jagged, atonal and growled music as medium; it forces the mind to make certain choices while most mainstream entertainment attempts to unify people with hypnotized neutrality and smooth edges.

It’s hard to pick a favorite from the trilogy but there are nuances and an all-out spirit of warfare in this one quite unmatched by the others, which do raise different points of abstraction by themselves. The battle of solitary but teamed individuals against the masses of horrible biological abomination strikes a note which can seem scarily familiar. The message is cryptic but it is spoken loud – there is no more room in Hell… 

Devamitra

Day of the Dead

Undoubtedly the most cynical and dark of Romero’s ‘Dead’ trilogy, ‘Day Of The Dead’ continues the concepts explored in ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ and ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ which to the social anthropologist fall perfectly within the societal contexts of their decade, both in terms of appearance and issues dealt with. 1985′s ‘Day Of The Dead’, the intended third of George A Romero’s trilogy for the most part tackles Cold War paranoia dead on, and conveys a sense of isolation, disorder, and internal conflict that 1978′s ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ hinted at.

Whereas ‘Night Of the Living Dead’ contaminated the countryside, and ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ contaminated greater consumerist society, the third of these films now brings the viewer to a conclusion in where all previous facets of Western human society have been fully violated, with the few to emerge unscathed hibernating in underground shelters where in spite of a common need to survive, greater in-fighting occurs. This film is a much more dramatic affair than any of the previous two, and as a result its subject matter becomes more obtuse. Science and anatomy play a greater role in this film, in which the chief lab technician attempts to find means as of how to reanimate the once living, or do bring about a reversibility to the impulse-only movement of the undead. The soundtrack is mostly synthesized, having an emotive depth not unlike a cross between the scores to Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ and Argento’s ‘Tenebrae’.

The graphical element of the third of these films is more prominent, the gore more repulsive, the atmosphere more repulsive and suspensive. Some would suggest that the quite lengthy build up of this installment is detrimental to the overall quality of the film, but in the opinion of the reviewer gives an excellence not seen in the previous two installments, the most intelligent and and serious of Romero’s zombie films. 

Pearson

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Deicide – Legion

It is often asserted that some of the best works of the death metal genre arose as if by accident. A better assertion is that by the early 1990′s, many artists prominent within this musical form found themselves at a level of impassable momentum; a culmination of instrumental violence, a taste for profound and subversive ideals and a sadistic will to power. The year 1992 found death metal at its most potent, chaotic, destructive and virile, just as speed metal was in ’86, and black metal in ’93. Legion sets itself in a league of its own, giving each musician a distinct elemental voice. Glen Benton’s cthonian barking is at its most virulent and savage, guttural yet dynamic, having a rhythmic cohesion that is comparable to that of David Vincent, but separable in tonality. His bass playing is clearly audible, sandwiched in between the juxtaposition of the trebly guitars, which are thankfully never distant or uninterpretable. The drumming of Steve Asheim is insanely over the top yet disciplined, as if one were battering cakes laced with grenades.  The musical influence of Slayer is the clear template for Deicide’s work, and in terms of compact intensity, Legion is to their self titled debut what Reign In Blood was to Hell Awaits. A parallel can also be drawn to Slayer in the musical interplay in the dissonant soloing techniques that see the best ideas of Hanneman and King taken towards a polyphonic atonality. The album radiates just under half an hour of pure blasphemous momentum, and communicates through spiraling, chopping guitar riffs that sit in perfectly with a multi-faceted rhythm section. Structurally Legion emphasizes a highly proficient musical backdrop, which advances what was exhibited on their debut and compresses it into a greater density that is both a pleasure to listen to and gives Deicide a platform on which to construct their most unique and standout work. Virtuosity echoes the best work of Atheist and Voivod if the melodic and progressive rock tendencies were eschewed, whilst the pattern language and aesthetic is in league with the best work of Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Massacra and Suffocation. This is Deicide’s pinnacle, one they would never surpass. A fundamental cornerstone of death metal, one of the all time best.

-Pearson-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F1J_4GA1s4

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