Interview: Turner Scott Van Blarcum (Talon, Sedition, Pump’n Ethyl)

From 1986 through the early 90s Turner Scott Van Blarcum was easily the most recognizable, outspoken, memorable, and talked about local singer and figure of that that era. During those years Sedition became one of DFW’s earliest underground-breaking Metal bands as they helped this area’s Metal scene reach an all-time peak. I sat down with Turner one afternoon in March at the Bar Of Soap and we reminisced about those good ole band days he experienced with Talon, Sedition and Pump’n Ethyl. We even rapped about his enormous bone collection that would lead to him designing stage sets for the bands Ministry and Cypress Hill. He also talked in depth about that infamous night back in 1991 when he had an unforgettable confrontation with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (RIP) at Trees in Deep Ellum.

When did you first get into metal? What were some of the early bands that were an influence on you?

I was listening to Black Sabbath and Kiss and this and that. But, fucking… I gotta give props to Casey Orr man. Rigor Mortis dude… Haha! He turned me on and fuckin’ got me going… opened my mind up. That’s when we all started fuckin’ getting harder and faster.

Right, I agree… I mean I was always into the older stuff, too, until I started hanging around with those guys.

Yeah man, he turned me on to Motorhead, Riot, and Destruction and a lotta bands. Hey, Rigor Mortis is my influence.

So I know you were a drummer there for a while. Were you ever actually in any bands?

Oh yeah man, I played in bands. I played with my brother’s country bands. Me and Mike Scaccia did this uh… I think it was… I can’t think of the guy’s name. But anyway, we played with this Elvis impersonator cat. It never got off the ground… but that was about it.

Ok, so I remember it was probably around 1984 when you moved over there off of Hard Rock Road in Irving. You formed a new band with brothers Pete (guitar) and Phil (drums) Lee. Hard Rock Road became the temporary name for the band. That was when you first decided to become a singer. Do you remember what made you just say, “Man, it’s my turn to get up there and I wanna become a front man.”?

Well, I think I came to the rationalization that I was a shitty drummer… and I wasn’t getting any pussy… Hahaha! I figured I might get laid if I started singing…. Hahaha!

Y’all started out playing mainly covers in that band right? Like Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf and Black Sabbath right?

Yeah and Dio, Iron Maiden, and then we started doing Metallica right when Metallica started fucking poppin’.

Do you remember when y’all decided to change the name of the band from Hard Rock Road to Talon and started working on original songs?

Yeah, that was the high point. That was probably one of the best gigs we did, man. We opened up for you guys at New Year’s Evil … with Gammacide, Morbid Scream… I got the flier still on the wall. Anyway, we changed the name to Talon in 86/87. We were still doing covers but fuckin’ uh… ya know we started writing original music. But by the time Sedition rolled around it was all originals.

I know you started with Pete Lee (guitar) and Phil Lee (drums) and then you added Eddy Carter (bass), right?

Yeah, Eddie Carter was the original bass player. Then we got some kid… red-haired kid from Waco named Scott something… that was near the end of it. And Mike Dunn on drums, I forgot Mike Dunn joined up after Phil left… ya know everybody fell apart.

When you guys decided to change the name to Talon and go heavier, that was around the same time period after Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” came out and the underground thrash scene was starting to kick in. So do you think you guys were at the right age and right there at the right time to go along with that movement? Would you agree with that?

Oh fuck yeah… we fell right on in man. Also, Punk Rock started crossing over into metal… D.R.I. and all of that.

You released a demo under the name of Talon. What were some of the songs, lyrics and subjects on that demo?

I wrote one about Charles Manson. “Summer Of Hate” was the name it. There’s lines like uh… I actually took it from the actual words of Charles Manson right… that book about him talking about himself. {Doing an impression of Manson with his voice… Turner then begins to give me some lines from the song} “At the age of thirteen I raped the Preacher’s daughter and choked her little brother for snitching on me.” … Hahaha and that kind of shit. One song Pete Lee did called “Pestilence” was bad ass… he sang on that one. We were fuckin’ writing about all kinds of crazy shit. We didn’t start getting political until Sedition hit. That’s when we started seeing everything.

I am sure you remember the Deep Ellum scene back around that time. It was a lot different than it is today. There was a big Punk scene going on in some areas. There were also the more trendy types of bands like Edie Brickel and The New Bohemians in other parts of Deep Ellum. But there was no metal scene at all at the time. What are some of your memories back then as metal first started making its way into Deep Ellum?

Shit man, I will never forget the first time I saw Rigor Mortis play at the Circle A Ranch, man. That was before you joined the band and it was still a three-piece band. Man, that night was just intense, ya know? I had never seen all of that shit before. It blew my mind. I knew I was at home. That was when me and Mark Oberlander (RIP) started doing a sound company and running sound down there. But the most intense show that I saw was Rigor Mortis and Samhain. When Rigor Mortis played the cops showed up. The cops were outside busting everybody. Then when Samhain came on and they had two songs left, the cops came in fully armed, riot gear, Batman shields, all that shit and they stopped the show. But I have to say the best one we ever did was with you guys at the Arcadia Theater man… New Year’s Evil. That was the bomb! Do you remember that guy Gonzo? That was his nickname… we can say this because that was his nickname. He came up to me that night and said, “Man, I sold over 350 hits of acid tonight. We’re gonna have one hell of a party… I made a lot of money!” I was like, “Right on, now I can fuck with these motherfuckers.” It was fun man… that was the bomb back then. That was a great gig too, man. That night… fuckin’ Mike and Casey came up and played and Phil Lee sang a GG Allin song… “Now We’re All Gonna Die”.

Do you remember when and why you decided to change the name from Talon to Sedition?

Yeah, because when we released the Talon cassette there was a band in Europe called Talon. That’s when me and Pete Lee got our publishing company set up and we were trying to get the name copyrighted. Then we found out somebody else had already released a record under the name… some Glam band from Germany or something. So we had to change the name and the name Sedition just fit, because during this time period, ya know, Ronald Reagan was fucking things up and it was just a mess. It was time to secede. I used to say, “Man, if Texas would secede from the Union, I would fight every day and wouldn’t take a lunch break… Hahaha!”

After the band changed the name, you recorded two demos as Sedition, right?

Yeah, that was in ’87 and we recorded it out in our driveway in a mobile studio. To me the first Sedition tape… we call it “Sedition White”… because it was white and just said “Sedition”. That had only like 4 or 5 songs on it… that tape was the bomb to me. It had “Road Kill” on it, “Sedition”, “Product of Your Faith” and uh… I can’t remember the rest of ’em. Anyway, that was the shit! The second demo we did at Crystal Clear Studio with Keith Rust. I think that was also in ’87 around the same time period. We didn’t last very long, ya know? It sure seemed like a long time though.

When did Mike Dunn come into the band and replace Phil Lee on the drums?

That was in 87′ after Phil left. Mike Dunn did all of the Sedition stuff. Eddie Carter (Bass) was on the Talon and both Sedition demos. Then he quit ’cause him and Pete were fightin’ man, ya know? That was the whole deal. That is why Phil quit too… his brother… Hahaha! And that’s why I quit too! You can print that. I don’t give a fuck.

People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over.

– Jim Morrison (The Doors)

How would you describe yourself back then as a singer and your stage persona?

Pissed off… Hahahaha! Pissed off, man… but having fun, though… fuck we had a blast back then. I don’t know man… it’s kind of hard to say. I know that at that time period, man, music was changing… there was change in the air. Punk Rock was crossing over into Speed Metal… Speed Metal was crossing over into Punk Rock. Yeah, I’d say I was pretty pissed off. I didn’t like what was going on with the government and to this day I don’t. I definitely had an attitude back then… Hahaha!

You used to take knives or swords or both on stage back then and cut your arms during the show. Was that something you thought about doing or did it just come out one night on stage?

No, actually, man, where I got that from is fuckin’ I remembered when Mike Scaccia and Rigor played at the Circle A Ranch, Mike carved an A on his arm. No, I’m sorry, somebody else did it to him. I thought… “Man… Fucking A!” Then, ya know, we all carved A’s on our arms. Then we started playing Tick Tack Toe… me and Big Jim Dolan, we were always playing with knives, man, ya know? Back then… do you remember that shit, man? … if it was your birthday everybody got beat to ever how old you were. Dog piled… taking a beatin’… playing Tick Tack Toe with knives…that’s where it all started. But carving an anarchy symbol on my arm, that’s where my mind was, ya know? Anarchy… and it’s still there too. It’s just the difference is… I’ve mellowed out a lot. Hey, you gotta pass the guns down and let somebody else do it. Let some young bucks come up and kick some ass!

What are some of your best memories of that time-period back then and some of your favorite places you played at?

Man, I thought the Tombstone Factory… regardless of what everyone wants to say about Jerry Warden… that was the shit! That was about as close as fuckin’ gettin’ to Hardcore… Punk Rock… Metal as you can get, man… and I fuckin’ dug it. It was alive… it was fun, and man… fucking hot chicks… it was all good… Hahaha!

It seemed like there was always some crazy shit happening at shows back then. Is there any wild shit that happened at any of y’alls shows that really stands out in your mind?

Well, not that much with Sedition, but with everybody else…Hahaha! What I would say sticks out in my mind is when that motherfucker stabbed you in the back at fuckin’ Goddamn Joe’s Garage. That was pretty much the highlight and the peak of stupidity.

Yeah, it was… and Harden getting stabbed that night too and also Dave Spivey. Y’all beat the shit out of that dude that did it and Shane ran over him in his truck… remember? Hahaha… That was some crazy shit…

Hahah… That was it… that was the highlight.

{After pondering for a second to realize how funny it is that my highlight in life was almost getting murdered… I continue with the interview} Soooo… when and why did Sedition come to an end?

I had had enough… I couldn’t fuckin’ take it no more. We couldn’t replace Eddy Carter. The truth of the matter was, when Eddy Carter and Phil Lee quit the band, that was it. That was the band. And everybody had problems with Pete Lee because of his attitude and this and that. There was no replacing Eddy Carter and the reason why he quit was that Pete was all about money. And what money? What money did we make? It was all about writing the music and whose name was gonna be on what. Ya know, when ya cut it down like that… I mean… it was just stupid… so Eddy quit. After Eddy, there was no replacing the guy… same way with Phil. Well, Mike Dunn filled Phil Lee’s shoes… big time! ‘Cause we were going in the direction of getting faster. But after Eddy quit, it just got stupid and I had enough of it, so I quit. That was in ’89 when everything busted up. The last gig that we did was with Agony Column and Dead Horse at Trees. Remember the big fight broke out? Out front with all the skinheads and all that shit and I was up there on stage getting a blowjob from a titty dancer. Please print that… thank you very much… Hahaha!

Did you ever get any label interest before the band broke up?

Oh, yeah. Oh, hell yeah, man. Metal Blade… man we were big overseas… we sold more tapes overseas, ya know… underground shit. And Hell…fuckin’ over here ya didn’t have enough to get a Popcorn fart, ya know?

Speaking of Dead Horse… what are some of the other bands that you guys did shows with back then?

Oh man, we had a blast. We had a blast playing with you guys. As far as local guys, we played with Gammacide, Rigor Mortis, Arcane, Utopia, Bliss, Shitface. Like as far as opening for major bands… Flotsam and Jetsam, Suicidal Tendencies, Circle Jerks and D.R.I. Yeah, it was a blast… you should have been there, kiddies!

After a few years away from being in bands you started singing for a Punk band called Pump’n Ethyl in the 90s. How did that band come together?

Well, man, I got sobered up, I quit drinking. I’d went out on the road with Ministry in ’91 and ’92 during the Lollapalooza and Psalm 69 tours and I about drank myself to death. I mean I had the time of my life… no regrets… it was a blast, man. Fuckin’ money was rollin’, hot chicks, the whole Rock N Roll package. But when I got off the road and got sobered up, I was itchin’ to play. Pete Lee and Casey Orr were playing with GWAR by then and they played at Dallas City Limits. It was after Pete Lee got shot and they did a benefit for him. Some crackhead shot him in a car or something. Anyway, I got up on stage and sang with The V Suckers… with Hank Tolliver… the future guitar player of Pump’n Ethyl. I got up there and sang a song with them and we did “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Cherry Bomb”. And man, it just felt so fucking cool just to be able to play again, because I hadn’t played in so long. I had got burned-out on it and I went out and did other things, ya know? So we started doing Punk Rock. Ya know, I just caught the tail end of Punk Rock… I got the see the Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, Exploited and this and that. But I wasn’t a Punk Rocker back then, man… I was a Metalhead and still am. But fuckin’ we started doing this Punk Rock stuff, and man, I just dug it. It was a total different thing. Instead of being agro or fighting, man, we were up there partying and throwing beer on everybody. And man, fuckin’ I got more pussy in that band than I did in Sedition…Hahaha!

I remember the band was originally called Ethyl Merman. How did you come up with that name and what year was the band actually formed?

Ethyl Merman started up in ’94 and that was a blast. We couldn’t come up with a fuckin’ name. We had beaten ourselves up for a name. And I had been working out, I’d gone sober and quit drinking. As you can see, under this party ball there is a 6 pack, but I was working out and wasn’t drinking then because my liver had gotten fucked up. But I am alright now… knock on wood. Anyway, we was watching “It’s A Mad Mad Mad World”… Jonathan Winters. We thought about calling the band Jonathon Winters. But we were making a joke about Ethel Merman. Ethel Merman was starring in the movie too, and I was singing like Ethel Merman, ya know… I can sing that song “I Don’t Wanna Go To The Betty Ford Clinic” like Ethel Merman… Hahaha! So we decided to go with that name, and we never thought in a million years that anybody would give a shit. We never thought in a million years that anybody would ever give a shit… PERIOD… about this band… and then we get signed… ya know? With Sedition, we fuckin’ya know, Goddamn did everything we could do to get signed. Then we form a band and nobody gives a fuck, it’s all a joke, then we get signed…Haha! And we got fucked on that deal too!

When the band got signed y’all had to change the name from Ethyl Merman to Pump’n Ethyl, right?

Yeah, we had to change the name because the estate of Ethel Merman was gonna sue the record label… or whatever the hell David Dennard was lying about.

What was the name of the label you signed with?

It was Dragon Street Records. It should be called Draggin’ Feet, is actually what it should be called. When we put our second record out he [David] goes, “Man, this is punkier than the first.” I was like, “Punkier? Like Punky Brewster? What do you mean ‘punkier’, man?” It was heavier, it was harder, and it was faster, ya know? It was more metal, ya know. So come out and say it. But he didn’t. And that album was called “Lone Star Police State”. And there are only a few of those still floating around. In which, eventually I’ll have a web site going and I’m gonna release all the Sedition, Talon and everything we’ve done… get it out.

You had 2 releases under Pump’n Ethyl and when were those released?

Actually three… The Ethyl Merman demo in ’94, Pump’n Ethyl’s “Thank God I’m Living In The U.S.A” in ’95 and “Lone Star Police State” in 97. To me, that was the fuckin’ shit! Hank Tolliver, Mark Schafer and Phil Lee… I mean it was like playing with MC5 or something. It was a lot of fun, man.

What are some of the cooler bands that Pump’n Ethyl did gigs with and did the band ever tour?

The best one we did was with Fear. We played with Fear, Rich Kids On LSD, Suicidal Tendencies and Chaos UK. We did a southern tour but we never got it off the ground. It was like a Bat bouncing its butt trying to get off the ground ya know? Bad luck was hittin’ every angle on that aspect. But you can still get Pump’n Ethyl’s “Thank God I’m Living In The U.S.A” off the internet on the Dragon Street web site. But, like I said though… we’ll be releasing our own shit soon enough.

Why did Pump’n Ethyl come to end?

Oh man, it was a fuckin’ freight train of doom… Hahaha! Everybody was all fucked up on drugs and alcohol except for me and Hank… we were sober. And the other two were all a mess and it just fell apart, ya know? Nobody gave a shit. Actually it came to an end in ’99 when me and my bro Larry Rosales were working WWF and got blown up by a concussion bomb explosion, so I had to step down. I got tinnitus in the ears from it, so I can’t do live music anymore. I can do voiceovers and I can do stuff in the studio, but you know that doesn’t come very often with Hardcore music. Because nobody has the money for that kind of shit, unless you’re fortunate enough to have friends in a rock band that’s making money. So I quit because my ears were racked and hopefully we’ll go to court and settle up. And start a management company, is what I’d like to do.

But currently, you are working on doing some vocals for a Blues project, right?

Yeah I’m doing some vocals for a guy named Jack Morgan. His project is called Whip N Shack and Hank Tolliver is playing in it. I’m sorry I don’t remember everybody’s names that are involved in this, but there are some heavy hitters from the 80s and 70s… guys that fell through the cracks. What this guy is doing is he is giving everybody a CD of his music to different musicians of different genres. I was honored, ya know. I couldn’t believe that he handed me one because I don’t have the blues. But this sounds like The Doors meets ZZ Top. Ya know, it’s faster. It’s not really Blues… it’s heavy Rock N Roll, rhythm Rock ‘N Roll, I guess. But it’s kind of hard to describe… it’s different and it’s good… I’ll tell ya that. But uh… he handed it out to different musicians and everybody is gonna do their mix on it and apparently he liked what I had the chance to do, ya know. I wrote three songs for him… one is about gambling, one is about a whiskey drinking woman and the other one is about about stepping up to bat… ya know?

So what are you doing for a living these days?

Man, I am doing the same thing I’ve been doing since you met me, man… doing stage work. But I finally joined the union back in ’87… a union stagehand. I’ve got a union card and I’ve worked with all kinds of bands. Nearly every band that’s came through Texas I’ve worked for.

How did you get started collecting bones and did that lead to you designing sets for Ministry and Cypress Hill?

That all started as a kid… I found a Beaver skull in Colorado. But in Talon and Sedition we were doing a song called Road Kill and I’d take actual road kill and throw it on the crowd. Ya know, I had bones and I would tie it on everything. And then when Mike… when Rigor Mortis disbanded… Mike hooked up with Ministry, they were saying, “Man, this crazy fuck has got all of these bones”, and this and that. So I did their set for Lollapalooza. Then that took off and I did a set for Cypress Hill. I did their set and I did their video set for the “Insane In The Membrane” video. Then I did the Psalm 69 tour with Ministry, and now I’m doing their new tour. I don’t know the name of the record, but ya know we’ve been listening to the new music today… and it’s off the hook!! Oh man, the new Ministry is off the fucking hook! They got John Monte from Mindfunk, the bass player… this guy is incredible. They might have Scott Ian from Anthrax, I am not sure if that’s the lineup or not. But [Dallas native] Mike Scaccia is on guitar, Al Jourgensen is on guitar and vocals, Mark Baker is on drums and Kol Marshall is on keyboards. I am gonna make this set so fucking creepy, ya know, you guys gotta come see it. I don’t wanna describe it… just come out and see it. And you definitely gotta buy the new Ministry record, man. I mean it’s the dawning of a new era in Punk Rock/Metal. It’s like MC5 meets Iggy Pop meets Rigor Mortis… BAM!! I mean right in your face when you hear it. Anybody that’s into Metal and into Speed Metal that knows about Rigor Mortis and knows about where Metal came from is gonna dig the shit out of this, man. It’s off the fucking hook!!

From what I have heard I agree. So do you know how many bones are in your collection, and what are some of the wilder bones that you have?

Oh man, I gotta shit-load of bones… never enough. On the way up to El Paso going to the Sonic Ranch where Ministry and Mike Scaccia from Rigor Mortis are recording their shit, I found a Bobcat, and the head on this Bobcat is the size of the head on my Pit Bull named “Pardner”… man, wait until you meet him.

Now I wanna hear your side of the story about the Kurt Cobain incident at Trees in 91.

Nooo problem! I was doubling and doing security for Trees, plus I was working for Creyton from Peak Audio. And he just got this brand new monitor board… paid 45 hundred bucks for it… state of the art shit and he was so proud of it… so happy with it, ya know? And then Nirvana shows up, and I remember I had worked one of their shows at Club Clearview. And I didn’t realize that they were that big. This was when they were just starting to take off. And I remember the record “Bleach” was bad ass, ya know? And believe it or not, I liked Nirvana. I liked their music. But the guy was a fuckin’ jack-off… but he was off, and he’s dead… God rest his soul. Ya know, I hate to talk shit about a dead man.

Yeah, I know. But of course you had no idea when this happened that he was gonna commit suicide later.

No, I had no idea what was gonna happen later. Anyway, that night he smashed the monitor board and he beat it with his guitar. He just smashed it and broke the guy’s hand… his own monitor man. First he was complaining that the kids were all over the stage. So they wanted me to double as security to help keep the kids off the stage. I made a lot of money that night… Haha! And then he got mad at his monitor man and smashed the monitor board, and then he jumped out into the crowd. Well, he had smashed the monitor board and I couldn’t believe he did it. So, ya know, I’m standing there and Creyton comes up to me… the owner… and he’s like, “Turner, what fuck!?” I was like, “Man, don’t worry about it… these guys aint getting out of here without paying for it. Ya know, even if I have to personally whoop all of them… because I am pretty sure I could take ’em all on… ya know?” But anyway the little bastard fuckin’ dove out into the crowd and was kicking his feet into the monitors. And I yanked him up by the hair of his head and tried to pick him up and throw him back on stage. And the kids were pulling his clothes off… they had a hold of his hair… everybody’s ripping on him. Right then the little fucker hit me on the head with a guitar. After he did that it knocked me out, so now I am going by the video footage. It knocked me out and I pulled back a handful of strings off his guitar. But he gets up and ya know, I see the blood on my head… so I fucking nailed his ass and kicked him. I think I kicked him in the head…to be honest I couldn’t tell if I had landed a good kick or not. But I waited in a parking lot afterwards for his ass when they were about to leave. Russell Turns is the monitor man down there… I think he’s the sound man now… I don’t know. He came up and said, “Turner, he’s going out back!” So I go running around the back and I hear… “Get in… get in cab… GET IN THE CAB!!” Ya know, they’re telling him to get in the cab and all these people just dog pile me man, and hold on to me. And I was watching the cab go and he was trying to get on Elm Street and I see the brake lights and the cab stop. So I go, “It’s cool… it’s cool, man…I’m alright… I’m alright… I’m dizzy.” Because I was bleeding profusely from the head. So uh… when they let go of me I went running across parked cars and I went over there and started kicking the cab and I kicked the taillights and headlight out of the cab. My plan… my objective… to take control of the situation… like our Nazi President George Bush does. And I was gonna kick the headlights out… and get the cab driver out… kick his ass… get the keys and then start workin’. Well, that didn’t work and I’m runnin’ around and there were a bunch of kids with us, too. I can’t remember this kid’s name, but he had real long hair… a Hispanic kid… a heavy metal kid… and he was right there, man. I wish I could remember his name. Man, I punched that cab’s window and it fell. I went right though it on top of them.

You smashed the cab’s windshield with your hand and what was Kurt Cobain doing?

Yeah, I went right through it… I mean I went in… all the way. He gave me a peace sign and that’s when I said… “Fuck it!” That mad me so fucking mad, I went through the window on him. I bit his nose, man… Haha…and I fuckin’ had his nose in my teeth and I’m telling him that I’m gonna walk through his dreams until he’s fucking dead… right. And everybody pulled me off of him and I got out of there unscathed. I thought I was gonna get sued by… I kept receiving letters from Geffen Records… this and that ya know and I’d throw them away. Then I talked to Jeff Liles… Jeff Liles, ya know the guy that worked with Rigor Mortis. He wrote this real sweet juicy letter to Geffen. And I kept thinking they were gonna sue me. Well, they sent me three grand to shut me up… and I wasn’t about suing this guy… I didn’t give a fuck… I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire.

Didn’t the video end up on one of those tabloid talk shows like Inside Edition or Hard Copy or something?

I have no idea… I know that asshole… well, the jerky that filmed it… I gave him a reenactment. I can’t remember his name… oh yeah… Brad Featherstone. I gave him a bitch-slap… fuckin’ when I saw him. He’d released it without telling me nothing … ya know? All I know is the next thing I know it’s being shown in Deep Ellum. It got released… all that kind of crap… because of that Brad Featherstone guy… I gave him a good slap. I wish I had some royalties off of it, I’ll tell ya that. I’d like to see… well somebody’s got footage of me pumping the window out… I’d like to see that… I don’t know who has it.

It looks like you landed a couple of good punches in the video… and he went down.

Yeah, I clocked him one good one…I didn’t throw it off the hip or off the shoulder…if you see it you can see… I was out…he knocked me out… I didn’t remember doing any of that. He clocked the shit out of me with that guitar, man. I had to go get staples in my head. I looked like Herman Munster with 13 staples in my head. It cut a vein on my forehead and it wouldn’t quit bleeding. So I remember when I came home and Biker Marc is like, “Man, did somebody shoot you?” I go, “No, man… some junkie Rock Star hit me on the head with a guitar.” So the next day they are waking me up going… “Dude, you’ve got to go to the hospital, man… you’re white…you look like you’re turning blue.” So they took me to look in the mirror and I had lost a lot of blood. So I go down there and Biker Marc is going, “Yeah, that’s right…it was Kurt Cobain from Nurvaana.” Hahahaha!

The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.

– Hunter S. Thompson, Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s

Interview conducted by Bruce Corbitt

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Austin’s own Birth AD Joins up with WTF Fest

Incredible Hardcore Thrash Crossover masters Birth A.D. have just been added to the roster of amazing performers at the upcoming WTF fest coming to Austin, TX on March 14th.

The trio plays “crossover” metal, not unlike the classics like DRI, or for the younger generation think Municipal Waste, but with a harder edge. Timeless songs about what a mess the world is, are catchy and angry – ‘Equal Opportunity’, ‘Parasite Die’ and so many more. Their CD is called “Stillbirth of a Nation” and though unsigned they have already done a highly successful tour of Japan, and opened for DRI, Rigor Mortis, and others.

To see Birth A.D. share a stage with famed 60s revolutionary John Sinclair, musician and poet Mike IX, comedian Rick Shapiro, hip hop artists Broken and Input, and many more, will be a once in a lifetime experience, and not to be missed.

WTF is coming to Austin TX to put those corporate shills at SXSW in check, and give the people what they really want – Brutally honest words, spoken beautifully and delivered by some of the biggest names in the underground, crossing three generations of infamy and outspokenness.

More artists and performers to be announced.

And, in the spirit of Metal up thy ass, filmmakers Shane and Amy Bugbee will be releasing behind the senes footage featuring Dark Funeral mauling a porn star – IF the WTF kickstarter program hits $1000 by this weekend (feb 5th). Here’s 30 seconds of the 5 min video: http://youtu.be/2g36TvcvfvI

WTF Fest
March 14th, 2012
@ Ruta Maya Coffee House
‪3601 South Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78704-7250‬
‪(512) 707-9637 ‬‎

More to be announced, check our website for the latest:
http://www.wtffest.com/

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Metal Styles and Techniques

“Styles” are divisions of a subgenre not pronounced enough to warrant a new subgenre. “Sounds” are aesthetic variants of a subgenre. Just as “doom metal” means music that is either heavy metal or death metal played slowly with morbid/gothic surfacing, “sounds” differentiate groups of similar musical approach from each other. The evolution of “sounds” can be viewed as a hierarchy of specialized technique and aesthetic within a genre, the technique creating an effect that reveals the intent of the creators as communicated to the listener.

Technique and “Sounds”

Rhythm

Melody

Aesthetic

Structure

Vocals

Aesthetic and “Styles”

Heavy Metal

Ambient/Prog

Punk

Death

Black

 

 Heavy Metal

  Speed Metal

 

 Ambient

 

 Punk/Hardcore

 Thrash

 Grindcore

 

 Death Metal

 

 Black Metal

 

You can understand the styles of heavy metal by looking at the musical techniques and theory used, the aeshetic created, and the patterns of underlying structure pursued (as you can do in differentiated not just genres but types of music). Styles of death metal, black metal, heavy metal and crossover metal divide into “containers” for stylistic and compositional tendencies which reveal the interpretative structures in the music evoking the larger meta-perception or “life philosophy” beneath.

Aesthetic — or styles, arrangement, and production decisions — “works” where it supports the internal compositional structures of whatever music it encloses. Technique and production and performance come together to produce an aesthetic, which matches a compositional style, which in turn reflects the ideas that inspired the artist to communicate with his or her audience.

Heavy metal, in general, is music of loud, intense, nihilistic, feral, atavistic sound that reduces the individual and places them in a context of history where they are nothing (some would call this realism or nihilism). Accepting the reaction of despair to the violence and paranoia and insanity of human world living in denial of fear/death, and turning it into a living, willful, and distinctive nihilism that affirms nothingness as a gateway into more profound realms of thought — this is the goal of heavy metal, and it has many voices, or styles.

Rhythm

Syncopation

By playing off of internal rhythms, metal bands achieve syncopation — the inversion of stress in a passage. Normally strong beats are weak and the weak are strong; this effect is often achieved through polyrhythmic overlay by double-bass in death metal bands or by the chaotic, threshing blast beat of blackmetal drummers.

The variation enables an excited internal sub-rhythm to drive the song, as many bands do with double bass drums, letting snare and high hat/cymbal disassociate for key structural textures.

  • Slayer
    “Hell Awaits” and beyond featured the granddaddy of double-bass technique.
  • Deicide
    “Deicide” featured songs with anti-synchronized pump-beat percussion similar to the “Jaws” theme.
  • Suffocation
    The master planners of moving syncopated air and bass drum integration.
  • Unleashed
    “Shadows in the Deep” used this technique to warlike effect via guitar player forearm.

Polyrhythm

Using multiple rhythms to enhance layering effects bands create multiple dimensions of rhythmic space, using a normally linear framework in new shapes and often long or indeterminate phrases. This can occur in the dominant rhythmic instrument (guitars) or the background rhythm (drums/bass).

Some bands have taken this to extremes of chaos piling into itself, revealing an inner consistency and beauty, where others have interpreted this in the way of more contemporary ambient composers and have layered counterpoint or complementary rhythms in complex neo-electronic compositions.

  • Immortal
    “Pure Holocaust” features raging chaotic polyrhythm and ambient melody.
  • Burzum
    “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” layered repetition to create epic meta-structures.
  • Morbid Angel
    “Altars of Madness” began with an inverted polyrhythmic beat.
  • Mayhem
    “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” used high-speed polyrhythms under ambient guitar.

Percussion

Explosive or definitive notes in a phrase are accentuated by percussion in drums or stringed instrument. Most often in guitars this occurs in the bands who muffle chords and strum staccato or interplay phrasing for conclusive effect, more than open-ended styles.

  • Metallica
    “Master of Puppets” used emphatic muffled chords for percussive centering in riffs.
  • Suffocation
    “Effigy of the Forgotten” used intricate polyrhythmic progressions to center complex songs.
  • Sepultura
    “Beneath the Remains” combined speed metal percussive strumming and death metal speeds.

Texture

Often bands give texture to rhythms by playing multiple levels of rhythm. For example, a guitar changing chords has a dominant rhythm in the beats on which the change occurs, but the chords themselves have a layer of rhythm in the speed with which they are strummed, or in death metal technique, at which their two most essential notes are varied through strumming or hammering. Even further, often the strumming itself has an independent texture which moves with the composition as a whole.

  • Slayer
    “Haunting the Chapel” invented the flying wrist technique of achieving hummingbird tremelo strumming.
  • Unleashed
    “Shadows in the Deep” featured slow masterpieces of micromotion and precision.
  • Morbid Angel
    After their monumental “Altars of Madness” which used this technique to create ambient melody and rhythm, Morbid Angel used it for prog-rock precision in the details of their epic “Blessed Are the Sick.”
  • Mayhem
    “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” features ambient strumming over Bathory-style rigid percussion matrix.
  • Rigor Mortis
    “Rigor Mortis” and more significantly “Freaks” built this technique into classical melody and structure.
  • Cadaver
    These Norwegians made rhythmic expectancy a part of their half-sliding, half-paused progressive metal.

Melody

Consonance

“Normal” melodies are used by older styles of heavy metal and sometimes by progressive bands integrating a jazz or rock influence. They are built around the scales used by these forms of music historically and in present essence, and as such are more easily recognized by listeners familiar with more mainstream music.

  • Atheist
    “Unquestionable Presence” built jazz harmony into a style of melodic progressive death metal.
  • Metallica
    “Kill ‘Em All” brought metal’s separate blues legacy into focus with new styles and heavy metal essence.
  • At the Gates
    “Slaughter of the Soul,” this band’s final work, made use of mainstreamification in the death metal sound.

Dissonance

Using dissonant alignment of notes in melodies produces a mournful yet technical sound, so many bands use this technique in both melodic and harmonic construction.

  • Voivod
    From “Dimension Hatross” onward Voivod have built songs around dissonant melodic tension.
  • Obliveon
    “From This Day Forward” established the ability of dissonance and atonality to build complex jazzlike compositions.
  • Immortal
    “Pure Holocaust” and “Blizzard Beasts” feature dissonant melody and use of inversion contra rhythm.

Atonality

Atonal arrangements of notes produce bizarre and perverse melodies, causing instigation of uprising in the mentality of the listener. The “not tonal” nature of this etymology comes from the lack of a fixed scale, or use of an cycling scale of arbitrary tones.

Most metal musicians use this style of composition in conjunction with chromatic scales, dynamically acquiring tone centers through counterpoint and experimenting with classical music theory in key-less anti-melodic architectures.

  • Morbid Angel
    “Altars of Madness” through “Covenant” used atonal solos to great effect over dissonant compositions.
  • Deicide
    “Legion” used atonal lead guitar to emphasize the nihilism of chromatic composition.

Layered

In the style of classical composers from years past augmented with an focus geared more toward an attention span “in the now,” metal bands often use modal layers to create songs.

These layers, each forming a portion of the main melody in the song which changes over time to narrate song development, create a resonant harmony which the composer can change to develop the complex matrix of emotions required to manipulate atmospheric mood.

This style easily succumbs to being only technique, but is useful for developing a language of melody in which harmony serves a subordinate role.

  • Burzum
    Simple in outcome but complex in how far it varies from predictable in conception, the music of Burzum unfolds longer narrative by manipulating environmental depth to melody.
  • Ildjarn
    Short deranged pieces create atmosphere through two or three melodies sequenced in different orders to form narrative, with layers of two-note modal complements influencing direction in mood.

Harmony

Classical

Classical harmonic formations stay within the same key and manipulate different registers of mode or tone. The chromatic scales and intricate arpeggio formations of death and black metal lay their ancestry here and develop into a more direct sense of musical motion.

  • Morbid Angel
    “Altars of Madness” evolved this technique into fast-picking and ambient relationship to beat, accentuating it with atonal lead guitars.
  • Deicide
    “Feasting the Beast” demonstrated this technique in an ambient but violent setting.
  • Burzum
    “Det Som Engang Var” built simple classical music out of power chord arpeggios.

Jazz

The freedom and complexity of jazz harmonics attracted many metal composers, who have worked in that area to create bizarre and startling freaks of brutality.

  • Atheist
    “Unquestionable Presence” built jazz harmony into a style of melodic progressive death metal.
  • Metallica
    “Kill ‘Em All” brought metal’s separate blues legacy into focus with new styles and heavy metal essence.
  • Demilich
    “Nespithe” built bizarre harmonies from rudimentary fusionesque randomness

Rock

Oftentimes rock-n-roll influences creep into metal bands and are easily identified by their influence on the dominant rhythms, and by the more mainstream tonal ideas of the pieces. Since rock is essentially blues filtered through the cowboy hobo country music eyepiece, these bands often bear a lot in common with jazz-influence acts.

  • Metallica
    “Kill ‘Em All” brought metal’s separate blues legacy into focus with new styles and heavy metal essence.

Structure

Cyclic

Most rock songs come of the verse-chorus tradition and consequently so does unstudied death and black metal, as well as most grindcore. The tedium of this technique is sometimes temporarily alleviated by adding another structure or riff pattern on top of the double elements of cycle but even this is transparent.

Narrative

When many riffs are joined to form a progression of ideas not as much concerned with creating a piece but a sequence of moods a narrative composition occurs; others call this “riff salad” or “grab-bag metal.”

Architected

Music created with massive conceptions in mind often builds entirely unconventional structures to serve the individualized needs of each song. At this level of composition, nothing is as fits the norm as each piece has an entirely custom use in unique and intricate compositions where details matter.

  • Emperor
    “In the Nightside Eclipse” featured drifting and meandering songs built around central melodies.
  • Burzum
    “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” used bafflingly simple and distinctive riffs in layers to create epic compositions.
  • Morbid Angel
    “Altars of Madness” often sequenced seemingly jarring changes in the smoothness of compositional integration.
  • Metallica
    “Orion” from Master of Puppets introduced this technique to the metal community at large.

Vocals

Sung

Like rock and blues before it, people sing these. With melodic voices and enunciation of words. Though sometimes it seems bizarre now, most people like ALL of their entertainment to sound this way.

  • Helstar
    A mid-eighties hybrid of Slayer metal and Iron Maiden rock, their album Nosferatu used sung vocals to pragmatic effect.

Shouted

Hardcore punk brought us angry shouting for vocals and it re-appears from time to time in death and black metal but is limited by the clarity and monotone of vocal it produces through uniform emphasis.

Distorted, Guttural

The majority of modern metal works utilize this style, yet it arose from crossover music like grindcore after being inspired by the grand old growler of metal, Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead, whose membership in both heavy metal and punk communities affirms his historical importance.

Metal originally adopted the gravely cigarette-burnt and alcohol-eroded voice of punk rock’s more deested vocalists, favoring its obscurity and the difficulty of marketing such an indistinct image in the world of concrete images concealing nebulous actualities and negligible rewards.

By reducing timbre from absolute tone to gritty, naturalistic, distortion and shearing melody to textural variance only, this style de-emphasizes vocals while making their presence fit into the texture of the music, allowing more dynamic variation in composition.

  • Napalm Death
    “Scum” revealed extremes of this technique for their potential in disturbing the aesthetic sensibilities of listeners.
  • Possessed
    “Seven Churches” brought the voice forth in primal form.
  • The Exploited
    With a sequence of groundbreaking hardcore albums the Exploited let the voice get growlier each time.
  • Morbid Angel
    Death metal cofounders Morbid Angel implemented this technique to great effect on “Altars of Madness” and beyond.

Distorted, Rasp

A more fragile sound, more like a warning than the guttural vocals of death metal, this high pitched muffled shriek is distorted so that it sounds like warnings from the dead.

  • Emperor
    Used vocals to accentuate melody in majestic pieces of speedy production and demonic drive.
  • Darkthrone
    Fragments of melody in vocals harmonized with miminalist riffing to expand mood.
  • Antaeus
    The master of searing growls with both texture and punctuation in rhythm, MkM paces each piece with violence and depth.
  • Mütiilation
    Droning melodic vocals within distorted chaos frame the structural changes in this music.

Heavy Metal

NWOBHM

Taking over from Black Sabbath when too much Led Zeppelin clonage invaded the airwaves, NWOBHM bands used more punkish riffing with more precise, technological structures in phrasing. The imagination ran wild and fantasy/mideval concepts in lyrics developed here.

Doom Metal

As Sabbath was slow, the doom metal genre demanded slower and more dramatically manic depressive songwriting. These bands bridge power chords across glacial rhythm for atmospheric impact. Often accompanied by drugs, esp. marijuana.

Narrative

Probed right after NWOBHM made its appearance, narrative bands strung together collages of riff and transition to make unfolding retellings of experience. This style is eternal and re-emerges every generation.

Stadium

Viewed by many as the nadir of metal, stadium metal is influenced by post-progressive rock atmospheric bands who used instrumentalism and pure pop hook to make sentimental but explosive songs. In metal this translates to an epic ballad flavor to everything. Once again, an eternal style which recurs with each new cycle of metal.

Hardcore

Punk

Punk is simplified 1950s rock voiced in power chords and sequenced to a pulsing basic rhythm. Vocals and aesthetic emphasized dirt and unsteadiness, and disregard of musicality freed bands from the form and compositional dynamic of rock music. Often bouncy or humorous, punk music moves with a friendly but simple motion.

Oi

Anthemic workingclass punk with often abrasive sounds mixed with guitar work reminiscent of surf bands from the generation before, Oi came into its own as its own influence in the next generation of hardcore.

Melodic

Building tension through emphasis on melodic notes within otherwise rigid progressions, a subset of the hardcore community made music with constant unchanging percussion and fluidly shifting riffs.

Grinding

The earliest hardcore to secede from normalcy became truly a handful of power chords grinding against one another in conflicted progressions and interrupted rhythm. This music is essentially similar to grindcore after the first generation.

Speed Metal

Percussive

The major innovation of speed metal was the muffled, explosive strumming of power chords to produce a sound of impact and resurrect the power of rhythm guitar in rock music.

Trance

Bands like Prong produced the first hypnotic rhythm “mellow” metal which while violent in methods of creation produced an atmosphere of calm and allowed emotional aspects of the art within to emerge.

Epic

Some bands aspired to the fantasy- and progressive-inspired works of NWOBHM and toward that aim produced neoclassical and often lengthy works. The most commonly known example of this is Metallica’s “Orion.”

Progressive

From the 1970s progressive bands metalheads began making larger structures and wider gains in technique in the rendering of intricate but impact-oriented music. While power chord riffing remains predominant, many progressive metal bands moved beyond the accepted “progressive” sound and created theoretically literate avantgarde works.

“Thrash Metal”

Misnamed speed/death metal hybrid bands were called “thrash metal” because of their violent and self-conflicted music, aggressive attitudes and thrash-based ideological assertions. The origin of the term “thrash metal” is European big corporate media magazines trying to sell speed metal as something more extreme than what it was.

“Power Metal”

A style that emerged as the speed metal genre was dying, power metal is speed metal riffing played either in an epic heavy metal or tuffguy pseudo-death metal style.

Thrash

Thrash, punk

One branch of thrash reveals more of its punk influence, and in bands like MDC or COC expressed itself with loosely hardcore songs played quickly with a metal influence in phrasing, but in punk song structures and major keys.

Thrash, metal

The other half of the thrash tree demonstrates a more metallic approach and is a proto-death-metal hybrid subgenre, found most clearly in the early works of Cryptic Slaughter and the later works of DRI.

Grindcore

Rigid

Open intervals and precise furiously fast structures distinguish this variant. Bands like Repulsion and Terrorizer defined this style.

Disassociative

The schizophrenic out of time rhythms and blurry, organic, lavaging rush of this style produced disorientation and loss of individual characteristics in the rising phenomena of chaos.

Crustcore, melodic

Loosely derived from Discharge, this genre worked melodic hardcore into a blurring ripple of speed and fury that unleashed itself in short bursts of anger.

Crustcore, rhythm

In the style of the mighty Assück, these bands created pounding furious rhythms from even intervals of the fretboard, roaring forth in some complexity but mostly disassociative, violent, random, disorienting music.

Death Metal

Phrasal

From the pure origins of death metal, the faster styles took after bands like Slayer, early Sepultura and Massacra in making architectures of intricate rhythm and melodic construction.

Percussive

Derived from the slamming, explosive street-level speed metal of Exodus or Exhorder, percussive death metal evolved from the New York Death Metal and Tampa Death Metal sounds to become a generic style of impact-oriented, explosive muffled strum death metal.

“Hate” is mastery of this style.

New York Death Metal (NYDM)

Explosively percussive and equal parts speed metal and angst-ridden New York Hardcore (NYHC), this music flew from the depths with guttural vocals, edgy rhythm riffing and essaylike song structures. In two styles, one of which is more percussive than its longer phrased variant.

Florida Death Metal

Some of the most “heavy metal” of the death metal movement, the Florida bands mated bold rhythm to the pulsing rhythm of early percussive death metal and created the most defiant, monstrously simple and direct metal of the era.

Swedish Death Metal

The first major evolution of theory occurred within the Swedish Death Metal movement, where Sunlight Studios/Thomas Skogsberg(tm) fuzztone production and longer phrases contributed to a melodicity fully evolving with At the Gates.

Progressive

Continuing the progressive tradition in metal, the progressive death bands adhered to a style which was part rock with jazz and classical influences, and part the wily fingered “technical” death metal of a previous generation.

Jazz/death metal hybrid.

Later albums: jazz/metal.

Harmonically rich, offtime rhythms.

Became highly technical.

Innovators/technicalists.

Technicalists and romantic artists.

Used violin and lead diminishing melody guitar work.

  • Deathgrind

A stylistic hybrid, deathgrind is death metal using the simpler song structures and rhythmic expectancy riffing of grindgore. So far, nothing of stature has emerged from this style.

“Death Thrash”

This term is marketing slang for retro bands making faster speed metal music using death metal picking technique and vocals.

Göthenburg metal

From Göthenberg, Sweden, came a series of bands emulating At the Gates by making technical, jazz-and-rock influenced death metal. This only became a problem after “Slaughter of the Soul,” when At the Gates sent out the word to become commercial rock music hidden within death metal stylings.

Pre-At the Gates.

Template for this style.

Black metal that is heavy metal derived from this death metal style.

Doom metal

The moribund, self-pitying and sentimental style of doom metal has emerged in both heavy metal and death metal genres, where it is essentially the same music played with an emphasis on slow chord changes and resonant, recursive resolutions.

Black Metal

Deconstructivist

Chaotic and nihilistic blasts of short information in three-note riffs founded this style, which through reduction of assumed musicality focused on the information of its communication.

Melodic

Early experiments in structuralism allowed melody to serve as a fundamental principle and therefore emphasized use of the melodic sound in riff construction and chord voicing.

Melodic, heavy metal

Some relapsed to a former style and made melodic stadium metal of NWOBHM era with black metal vocals and technique.

Blasting

For the few who sought more extremity a style of grinding metal with nihilistic clipped emanations of information in abrupt explosions of riff was created, with variants moving closer to grindcore or pure unleashed melodicity.

Epic

Descended from the devotees of Bathory “Blood, Fire, Death,” this genre works folk song nationalism and epic narrative of multi-generational movements on the level of a people, creating symbolic black metal with lengthy melodies.

Trance/Ritual

Minimalism taken to the furthest extreme hybridized with metal produced an electronic music influenced genre which favored unchanging simple beats (similar to Discharge) under shifting melodic context- and lexically-sensitive phrase evolution.

“Transylvanian Hunger” is the best of this style.

Ultra-minimalist.

“Pure Holocaust” is a related idea.

  • Drone

Focuses on matching rhythm to expectation of a tone and then wearing it out, like the tedium of living in a dying society, anticipating radical change.

Ambient

Technopop/IDM

The music of Kraftwerk and its descendants, this is long melody evolving over a complex beat structure, often without human vocals.

EBM/Industrial

Emphatic and pulsating dance music that was a fundamental influence on developing techno and industrial genres, EBM sounds like what Nine Inch Nails would be if executed by Godflesh or Beherit.

Ritual

Influenced by throwbacks to mideval and music from before recorded history, ritual ambient uses simple melodic patterns in evolution and a primal sense of rhythm to emphasize its constructs.

Neoclassical

Somewhat of a summary of the genre as a whole excluding most popular music influences from EBM, neoclassical ambient/industrial uses technological instrumentation and song structure to emphasize classical influences in melodic construction.

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The Best Metal of 2011

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

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Death Metal

Death metal uses tremolo strummed power chords in phrasal riffs, creating an internal dialogue of melody to project a narrative which takes us from a starting point through internal conflict to an ending radically removed from the start. This often complex music relies heavily on chromatic scales and solos that resemble sonic sculpture more than a reliance on scales or harmony, and use “modal stripes” or repeated interval patterns (such as a half interval followed by a whole) to maintain a mood. Inherently structuralist, death metal can be recognized by its “post-human” perspective, seeing the world through biology, history, warfare and mythology instead of the “I/me/mine” viewpoint of a modern society.

House recommendations: Morbid Angel, Slayer, Monstrosity, Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Therion and Vader.

BEST EVER

1. Massacra – Final Holocaust
2. Deicide – Legion
3. Morbid Angel – Blessed Are the Sick
4. Therion – Beyond Sanctorum
5. Sepultura – Morbid Visions
6. Incantation – Onward to Golgotha
7. Morpheus Descends – Ritual of Infinity
8. Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence
9. Obituary – Cause of Death
10. Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten
11. Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
12. Dismember – Like an Ever-Flowing Stream
13. Amorphis – The Karelian Isthmus
14. At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
15. Demilich – Nespithe
16. Asphyx – The Rack

COMPILATIONS

Projections of a Stained Mind (C.B.R. Records)
Harmony Dies Vol. 1 (Slayer Magazine)
Pantalgia (MBR Records)
Live Death: Vol 1 (Restless)
Sampler Volume I (JL America)
Deterioration of the Senses (Morbid Metal)
Book I: Induction (Hits Underground)

Reviews have mp3 sound samples for each album, coverscan, tracklist and label contact information.

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Warbeast needs your votes

The Dallas Observer has set up a democratic poll to very democratically elect a local band as “Best Metal Act” of the year.

Naturally, every band and their dog’s dogs are gaming this system, in tribute to the true nature of democracy (buying votes with lies).

That means that in order to compete, all contestants need to rig the vote… see where this is going?

Warbeast is the latest band of Rigor Mortis vocalist Bruce Corbitt, who is also interviewed on our site.

He could use your votes.

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Death Metal FAQ

1. What is Death Metal?
2. Who invented Death Metal and when?
3. Why do most Death Metal fans wear distinctive t-shirts?
4. How to understand Death Metal lyrics?
5. Why does Death Metal have such a morbid visual style?
6. Are Death Metal bands satanic or occultist?
7. Does Death Metal possess an ideology?
 

What is Death Metal?

Death metal is structuralist heavy metal that borrows heavily from classical and industrial music. Its heritage is equal parts neoclassical heavy metal from the 1970s and hardcore punk from the early 1980s; if you throw Discharge, Judas Priest and King Crimson into a blender and set it on “high,” you might get something like death metal. It took from roughly 1983-1988 for death metal to fully evolve, and at that point, it experienced six golden years of fruitful growth before lapsing as black metal eclipsed it in popularity.

The original underground musical genre, death metal was completely unknown to most people until 1997 when it became fodder for mainstream commentary after several school shootings. During the 1980s and early 1990s, it was impossible to find death metal in normal record stores and chains; most people ordered it from small mailorder companies, or “distros,” that stocked underground metal exclusively. The underground in fact replicated every aspect of the normal music industry, including journalists and radio stations, to avoid being tainted by “commercial” or “mainstream” music.

We say death metal is “structuralist” because, in contrast to rock music, its goal is not a recursive rhythm riff that encourages constant intensity through verse-chorus structure; death metal, like black metal after it and prog rock and classical before it, uses “narrative” song structure, or a string of phrases connected in such a way that they effect musical and artistic change throughout the song. While rock music aims to find a sweet riff and ride it, and much of older heavy metal does the same, death metal is like opera: its goal is to use riffs to introduce more riffs, and through those, to create a treelike structure of motifs which resolve themselves to a final dominant theme. In this, death metal (like the progressive rock and synthpop bands that influenced it) is closer to classical music than rock music.

The history of rock music has been written by commercial promoters who have tried to establish its “authenticity” and uniqueness, and therefore, almost all mainstream publications are hostile to death metal. Death metal reminds us that rock music, blues and jazz did not arise autonomously in America, but were based on centuries of European popular music (the I-IV-V chord structure of the blues is derived from European folk music, and its “blues scale” is a modification of Asian and Celtic scales). Rock music is a scam, and its marketing makes it seem to be something greater than what it is, which is the same old music dressed up as a product. Death metal more than any genre before it broke from the rock tradition, and therefore is a threat to the rock establishment and its profits.

Like most musical genres in the modern time, death metal is constantly under assault not only from external interests, but from within, as self-interested people try to make rock music and dress it up as death metal. These attempts to simplify the genre would benefit those who attempt them, as they would both be able to make a saleable product (being similar to established musical tastes, it sells easily and broadly) and be able to claim the “authenticity” of belonging to an outsider form of art such as death metal. These false death metal bands have polluted the genre with the same mainstream dogma and musicality that death metal sought to escape. Like all human social breakdown, this breakdown occurs through the selfishness of individuals who are unwilling to admit that the health of the genre is more important than their personal profit.

Death metal flourished from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and then was for most purposes replaced by black metal. Where death metal was structuralist with heavy emphasis on chromatic phrasing and hence rhythmic, black metal used narrative construction based on melody (an innovation of later and progressive death metal bands as well, such as At the Gates, Atheist, Gorguts and Demilich). As such, it is often hard to tell where death metal ended and black metal began, although in their mature form they are distinct genres. In this, and in the aesthetic components of death metal borrowed by mainstream bands as varied as Slipknot and Nirvana, death metal lives on.

References:
The History of Metal

Who invented Death Metal and when?

Death metal arose from the end of hardcore punk colliding with a desire to renew the spirit of metal; launched in 1969, proto-metal like Black Sabbath had become lost among hard rock (Led Zeppelin) and progressive rock (King Crimson) and needed redefining. The aggressive, oversimplified, and disconnected from contemporary music sound of hardcore punk was apt and therefore infused into heavy metal. In the process, because hardcore punk relied on streams of power chords or phrasal instead of rhythmic competition, metal became an entirely new animal.

This change can be heard first in speed metal bands like Metallica, Slayer, DBC, Rigor Mortis and Nuclear Assault. Phrases got longer, songs got more intricate, and the type of riffing that repeated a rhythm using a single chord got rarer; a new form of music was in the forging. However, these bands were still too entrenched in many of the rock-influenced tendencies of metal; death metal made a clean break from these. (It is interesting to note that the ultimate point of breakaway was thrash, or hardcore punk crossover bands who wrote punkish songs with metal riffs; these reduced music so much to its essence that it had to reconstruct itself, and having grand ambitions, reached toward narrative composition instead of the hackneyed rock styles.)

During the years 1983-1985, a style emerged that was between death metal, black metal and thrash, and from this all of the succeeding genres were to derive their musical inspiration. Bathory, Sodom, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost formed the basis of this style, augmented in the Americas by Possessed, Slayer and Sepultura. From these founding acts styles diversified into death and black metal. While many give credit to Venom for the term black metal, musically speaking they were rooted firmly in the heavy metal tradition.

The golden years of death metal were from 1988 to 1994, during which time the classics of the genre and all of its variations formed. Percussive death metal thundered from the industrial east coast of America; Texas produced a harsh and grating otherworldly sound; Florida created the rhythmic and alienated Tampa style of death metal. Progressive bands from the USA and melodic bands from Sweden rounded out the style, as did innumerate hybrids, including doom metal and speed metal crossovers.

However, by 1994, the genre reached a decision point: where to go so as to keep up with black metal, which had expanded into melody as quickly as death metal had expanded into rhythmic structure, and now threatened to become more popular? The death metal genre had become calcified between diehards who insisted on a narrow definition of style, and “innovators” who wanted to make it into rock music, but both groups in their efforts to control external factors forgot internal factors, and the ideology and artistic spirit of death metal as lost. As such, it appeared senile and was forgotten for some years.

At the time of this writing, death metal is practiced by a few holdovers from the late 1980s who continue to put out quality music, but their numbers decline each year. The general health of the metal community is poor because it focuses on uniqueness of external appearance and not composition and artistic integrity. While we hold out hope for a death metal revival, it is more likely that it will simply take its place in history and we will be left with recordings.

References:
The History of Metal

Why do most Death Metal fans where distinctive t-shirts?

In the underground death metal subculture, the shirt you wear — bearing the logo of a favorite band or organization or concept — defines which strata of social accomplishment to which you belong within the death metal community. Your taste identifies your level within an intellectual hierarchy based on what its members are able to comprehend, or withstand, perhaps, musically.

For example, a guy in a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt might be neglected by someone wearing a Beherit t-shirt because Beherit has a more esoteric and theoretically-adventurous audience than the low-brow blockhead churning of Cannibal Corpse; t-shirts determine what bands your brain can accept and thus often, a type of caste identification within the hierarchy of fans. Those who try to forge this identity often find themselves answering difficult questions under unpleasant circumstances.

In the inverse situation, someone in an Atheist t-shirt might laugh off someone wearing a Sarcofago t-shirt as a philistine. This allows multiple communities to exist in a hierarchy within the death metal community and identify each other by sight, as well as differentiate metalheads from the hordes of drone normals who do nothing but buy Creed CDs and singing plastic fish.

How to understand Death Metal lyrics?

Death metal bands tend to use complex, Latinate language to describe the world in terms of its function and technologies, leaving the emotional terminology for rock music and blues. Its goal is not to affirm the emotions of the individual, but to point out the effects of structural change in the surrounding world. Not surprisingly, as a musical movement, death metal is also structuralist.

Unlike rock genres, there is a near total absence of gender words and love songs. Death metal is not about emotional escapism. Death metal is about reality.

Why does Death Metal have such a morbid visual style?

Symbols serve as an important anchor between the way a music sounds and what it represents aesthetically, including the ideas of the musicians as inspirational to their work. In death metal, there are several main categories of symbolism: the “occult,” the morbid, and the technological.

Death metal art — as seen on tshirts, album covers, flyers, patches, pins and stickers — includes all of these. The occult represents an opposition to morality; as a “nihilistic” genre, death metal musicians tend to be realists and recognize that no matter how much we classify something as morally bad or good, reality is unaffected, and whatever object is in question will serve reality at the level of function and not morality. The morbid represents another nihilistic outlook, which is that not only is death more real than our moralizations against it, but it will inevitably happen to us and we must be reminded by that. Where the occult uses pentagrams, ancient script, sigils and demonic imagery, the morbid uses disease, horror, submission and bodily corruption (including the mind/body turned against itself, as in zombie films) as its palette.

Technology makes an odd bedfellow with death metal art, as it is commonly used to modify one of the other two categories. Much as at the end of the Black Sabbath song “War Pigs,” Satan is shown as laughing and spreading his wings at the slaughter of young men for profit, technology is portrayed as amoral and therefore something that can turn on humanity at any minute. Combined with morbid imagery, we have art revealing human beings as both dependent on and captive of technology; combined with the occult, we have either technology in the power of the occult, or the occult as naturalistic and opposing technological humanity.

Art Death Metal bands satanic or occultist?

Death metal bands are occultist in that each of the founding bands and most to follow had an occult focus or research interest evident in their lyrics. However, few practise mysticism and most seem to use it solely as metaphorology for their works. This is convenient because our moral society, even when secular, bases its morality on Judeo-Christian mythology.

Any academic study of occultism in death metal must also take into account the range of occults employed. Judeo-christian, Babylonian, Far East, Nordic and indigenous American symbolism and ideologies appear in the lyrics and conceptual positioning of death metal bands.

References:
Satanism as Metaphor in Metal Music

Does Death Metal possess an ideology?

When heavy metal evolved in response to the hippie culture around it, it took darker themes to a new intensity and warned of apocalypse. Fifteen years later, speed metal bands were wailing about Armageddon. But as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is different from George Orwell’s 1984, death metal had accepted that the apocalypse would be a whimper, and not a bang, and that its progress was inevitable.

This paranoid and soul-wrenching logic created an immediate need to overcome the superstition and self-pity of a complacent age. In consequence, as if approaching Nietzsche’s “abyss” and going under instead of over, these bands have embraced a philosophy of nihilism and a delight in the intellectual, sensual and spiritual extremes of a dying age.

From this, much can be learned about a human future: nihilism frees us from much of our fear by confronting it head-on. Death metal bands have created an epic change in American subculture from one of morality to one of existential self-assertion, but further, the “gore” lyrics of many bands have targeted social denial of collective fear of death.

Ideology serves an important place in the generation of lyrics and concept to each band. for most, the personal is political in choice of music, intellectual aspirations within it, and values as expressed in themes of darkness, death, the occult, war, genocide and suffering. Death metal reflects a lineage to hardcore music, yet its heavy metal side shows in the use of the personal rather than collective as a means of communication.

That death metal has not collapsed on its own inertia, or become morality-driven and thus socially conformist like emocore or “life metal” bands, is a small miracle in a time of overwhelming commercial motivation to human efforts. Its underground remains strong and defiantly independent. As more people in society feel the need to withdraw from decaying mainstream values and behaviors, death metal’s ideology offers a glimpse of a nihilistic but impressively un-neurotic future.

References:
The Philosophical Tradition of Heavy Metal

Written by Vijay Prozak

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Thoughts of a Metal Hipster

If you don’t like CYNIC, you’re homophobic.

If you don’t like ARCH ENEMY, you’re misogynistic.

If you don’t like GOJIRA, you’re racist.

If you don’t like NILE, you’re Anti-Semitic.

If you don’t like SUFFOCATION, you’re classist.

If you don’t like LAMB OF GOD, you’re religiously intolerant.

If you don’t like CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, you’re elitist.

If you don’t like CRADLE OF FILTH, you’re closed-minded.

If you don’t like OPETH, you’re not intellectual.

If you don’t like MESHUGGAH, you’re not one of the good guitarists.

If you don’t like DEVIN TOWNSEND, you’re arbitrary.

If you don’t like JIMI HENDRIX, you’re uncultured.

If you don’t like SIX FEET UNDER, you’re not in touch with the common man.

If you don’t like BORIS, you’re unimaginative.

If you don’t like JESU, you’re insensitive.

If you don’t like ANIMALS AS LEADERS, you’re unintelligent.

If you don’t like MASTODON, you’re unartistic.

If you don’t like BARONESS, you’re uptight.

If you don’t like THE SWORD, you’re celibate.

If you don’t like WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, you’re just no fun.

If you don’t like ULVER, you’re uneducated.

If you don’t like ISIS, you’re illiterate.

If you don’t like BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, you’re shortsighted.

If you don’t like KVERTELAK, you’re antiquated.

If you don’t like SUNN O))), you’re obsolete.

If you don’t like AGALLOCH, you’re one-dimensional.

People like you who sit around listening to classics like DEMILICH, INCANTATION, MASSACRA, OBITUARY, INFESTER, DEMIGOD, IMMOLATION, ATHEIST, THERION, HELLHAMMER, BATHORY, SLAYER, DISCHARGE, AMEBIX, DARKTHRONE, BURZUM, EMPEROR, IMMORTAL, ENSLAVED, GORGOROTH, RIGOR MORTIS, MAYHEM, MERCILESS, BOLT THROWER, SUFFOCATION, NIHILIST, CARNAGE, AT THE GATES, SKEPTICISM, WINTER, DISEMBOWELMENT, MORBID ANGEL, POSSESSED, NECROVORE, MASSACRE, GROTESQUE, DISSECTION, ILDJARN, BLOOD, MASTER, CIANIDE, BAPHOMET, BEHERIT, SUMMONING, BELIAL, DBC, COC, DRI, FEARLESS IRANIANS FROM HELL, DEAD HORSE, LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN, MALEVOLENT CREATION, GEHENNA, FRANZ SCHUBERT, ANGEL WITCH, JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, BLITZKRIEG, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, EXODUS, NUCLEAR ASSAULT, ASSASSIN, CORONER, SAMAEL, FALLEN CHRIST, ANTON BRUCKNER, OBLIVEON, GORGUTS, SUPURATION, LOUDBLAST, KONG, WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART, NUNSLAUGHTER, NUM SKULL, SEPULTURA, SARCOFAGO, MOTORHEAD, PRONG, ROBERT SCHUMANN, IMPRECATION, BLASPHEMY, NUCLEAR DEATH, MOLESTED and UNLEASHED are just bitter, old, gray, ugly, failed, burnt-out, dumb, uneducated, trailer-dwelling, smelly, unsociable people that no one really likes and no one will have sex with, so you’ll die alone in the stench of your own waste.

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Chronological death metal

From “Cambyses” over at Ultimate-Metal, here’s a list of death metal releases by year during the glory days of 1988-1995:

’87:

Sarcófago – INRI
Massacra – Legion Of Torture
Nocturnus – Nocturnus
Death – Scream Bloody Gore
Napalm Death – Scum

’88:
Rigor Mortis (US) – Rigor Mortis
Pestilence – Malleus Maleficarum
Incubus (US) – Serpent Temptation
Death – Leprosy
Nihilist – Premature Autopsy

’89:

Morbid Angel – Altars Of Madness
Dead Horse – Horsecore: An Unrelated Story That’s Time Consuming
Obituary – Slowly We Rot
Rigor Mortis (US) – Freaks
Repulsion – Horrifed
Autopsy – Severed Survival
Carcass – Symphonies Of Sickness
Pestilence – Consuming Impulse
Dr. Shrinker – Wedding The Grotesque
Nihilist – Only Shreds Remain
Terrorizer – World Downfall
Morgoth – Resurrection Absurd

’90:

Incubus (US) – Beyond The Unknown
Carnage – Dark Recollections
Disharmonic Orchestra – Expositionsprophylaxe
Massacra – Final Holocaust
Cadaver – Hallucinating Anxiety
Tiamat – Sumerian Cry
Baphomet – Inheritors Of The Dead
Entombed – Left Hand Path
Deicide – Deicide
Master – Master
Atheist – Piece Of Time
Merciless – The Awakening
Death – Spiritual Healing
Benediction – Subconscious Terror
Nocturnus – The Key
Cancer – To The Gory End
Impetigo – Ultimo Mondo Cannibale

’91:

Blasphereion – Rest In Peace
Megaslaughter – Calls From The Beyond
Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
Death – Human
Demigod – Unholy Domain
Master – On The Seventh Day God Created… Master
Revenant – Prophecies Of A Dying World
Unleashed – Where No Life Dwells
Gorguts – Considered Dead
Entombed – Clandestine
Death Strike – ****in’ Death
Edge Of Sanity – Nothing But Death Remains
Carcass – Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious
Therion – Of Darkness…
Suffocation – Effigy Of The Forgotten
Benediction – The Grand Leveller
Pungent Stench – Been Caught Buttering
Morbid Angel – Blessed Are The Sick
Broken Hope – Swamped In Gore
Corpus Rottus – Rituals Of Silence
Dismember – Like An Ever Flowing Stream
Autopsy – Mental Funeral
Asphyx – The Rack
Immolation – Dawn Of Possession
Authorize – The Source Of Dominion
Massacre – From Beyond
Massacra – Enjoy The Violence
Ripping Corpse – Dreaming With The Dead
Grave – Into The Grave
Demilich – The Four Instructive Tales …Of Decomposition
Suffocation – Human Waste
Lemming Project – Extinction
Cancer – Death Shall Rise
Immortalis – Indicium De Mortuis
Gorefest – Mindloss
Cartilage – In Godly Flesh
Pestilence – Testimony Of The Ancients

’92:

Incubator – McGillroy The Housefly
Morpheus Descends – Ritual Of Infinity
Mordicus – Three Way Dissection
Incantation – Onward To Golgotha
Seance – Fornever Laid To Rest
Baphomet – The Dead Shall Inherit
Cianide – The Dying Truth
Mortuary – Blackened Images
Atrocity – Todessehnsucht
Demilich – The Echo
Torchure – Beyond The Veil
Rippikoulu – Mutaation Aiheuttama Sisäinen Mätäneminen
Altar/Cartilage – Split
Disharmonic Orchestra – Not To Be Undimensional Conscious
Edge Of Sanity – Unorthodox
Epitaph – Seeming Salvation
Therion – Beyond Sanctorum
Asphyx – Crush The Cenotaph
Adramelech – Grip Of Darkness
Cenotaph (Mex) – The Gloomy Reflections Of Our Hidden Sorrows
Lemming Project – Hate And Despise
Torturer – Oppressed By The Force
Cadaver – …In Pains
Solstice – Solstice
Eisenvater – I
Unleashed – Shadows In The Deep
Grave – You’ll Never See
Necrosanct – Incarnate
Transgressor – Ether For Scapegoat
Monstrosity – Imperial Doom
Impetigo – Horror Of The Zombies
Necrophiliac – Chaopula – Citadel Of Mirrors
Sinister – Cross The Styx
Amorphis – The Karelian Isthmus
Demigod – Slumber Of Sullen Eyes
Vital Remains – Let Us Pray
Deicide – Legion
Disastrous Murmur – Rhapsodies In Red
Miasma – Changes
Depravity – Remasquerade
Malevolent Creation – Retribution
Fleshcrawl – Descend Into The Absurd
Pathologist – Putrefactive And Cadaverous Odes About Necroticism
Brutal Truth – Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses
Merciless – The Treasures Within
Phlebotomized – In Search Of Tranquility
Totten Korps – Our Almighty Lords
Asphyx – Last One On Earth
Infester – Darkness Unveiled
Liers In Wait – Spiritually Uncontrolled Art
Adramelech – Spring Of Recovery

’93:

Brutality – Screams Of Anguish
Mordicus – Dances From Left
Utumno – Across The Horizon
Rottrevore – Iniquitous
Wombbath – Internal Caustic Torments
Disincarnate – Dreams Of The Carrion Kind
Demilich – Nespithe
Depravity – Silence Of The Centuries
Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence
Torchure – The Essence
God Macabre – The Winterlong
Depravity – Phantasmagoria
Benediction – Transcend The Rubicon
Broken Hope – The Bowels Of Repugnance
Ceremony – Tyranny From Above
Seance – Saltrubbed Eyes
Supuration – The Cube
Pestilence – Spheres
Misery – A Necessary Evil
Gorguts – The Erosion Of Sanity
Kataklysm – The Mystical Gate Of Reincarnation
Phlebotomized – Preach Eternal Gospels
Cancer – The Sins Of Mankind
Carbonized – Disharmonization
Grave – ..And Here I Die… Satisfied
Amorphis – Privilege Of Evil
Cynic – Focus – Remastered
Electrocution – Inside The Unreal
Unleashed – Across The Open Sea
Death – Individual Thought Patterns
Rippikoulu – Musta Seremonia
Sadist – Above The Light
Resurrection – Embalmed Existence
Suffocation – Breeding The Spawn
Morbid Angel – Covenant
Atheist – Elements

’94:

Morpheus Descends – Chronicals Of The Shadowed Ones
Brutality – When The Sky Turns Black
Cianide – A Descent Into Hell
Phlebotomized – Immense, Intense, Suspense
Banished – Deliver Me Unto Pain
Fleshcrawl – Impurity
Gutted (US) – Bleed For Us To Live
Incantation – Mortal Throne Of Nazarene
Pavor – A Pale Debilitating Autumn
Brutal Truth – Need To Control
The Chasm – Procreation of the Inner Temple
Oppressor – Solstice Of Oppression
Uncanny – Splenium For Nyktophobia
Cenotaph (Mex) – Riding Our Black Oceans
Abramelin – Transgression From Acheron
Hetsheads – We Hail The Possessed
Infester – To The Depths… In Degradation

’95:

The Chasm – From The Lost Years…
Sepsism – Severe Carnal Butchery
Suffocation – Pierced From Within
Agony – Apocalyptic Dawning
Solstice – Pray
Vital Remains – Into Cold Darkness
Adramelech – The Fall
Incantation – Upon The Throne Of Apocalypse

I wouldn’t say all of these are worth getting, but most of them are, and it’s fun to track the development of the genre.

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Sadist – Sadist

sadist-sadist

Many people, upon reading what we have posted here, assume we’re anti-progressive death metal. People note how much we squirt used nutrients all over Opeth, the latest Cynic or abortions of taste like Origin, and in order to justify their outrage, claim we don’t like prog metal. In fact, the opposite is true: we love prog metal, and go hog wild for bands like Atheist, Obliveon, Voivod, Gorguts and Pestilence. We even love classics of alternative progressive metal like Supuration. But what we don’t like is pose-prog, which is music that “sounds” progressive but is actually at blockhead levels of disorganization. Like Opeth. Like the new Cynic. Fake prog is bad prog, and because anyone who tries fake prog is probably a delusional and deceptive moron, is also usually bad music.

Today’s band isn’t death metal, and it’s “progressive lite” like Rush, in that there are difficult techniques and longer compositions at work, but not as much theoretical squirreling around key signature. From Italy, Sadist are a progressive death-ish metal band who love their keyboards, acoustic interludes and longer songs — just like Opeth. And like Cynic, they incorporate a ton of jazz-fusion technique, most notably in drums and bass.

On the whole, Sadist’s self-titled album is a lot like Obliveon’s Nemesis: beaucoups speed metal, some death metal, a lot of prog, some newer (“nu”) influences and then a sound all their own. What makes them different is that they are working in the genre split between speed metal and death metal where bands like Kreator, Destruction, Rigor Mortis and Slayer exist. Even more interesting is that by going progressive, they’ve approximated a sound halfway between older Sadus and newer Coroner.

The majority of the riffs on this CD are straight out of the speed metal canon, but on its rougher, more experimental edge, like those on Coroner’s “Grin,” and although they later merge with arpeggiated clean playing or lengthy keyboard interludes of a beauty not seen since Dimmu Borgir decided to rip off all that video game music for “Stormblast,” the songs follow a speed metal pattern like early Sadus: riff/chorus with divergences, but ultimately, returning to a fist-pumping foot-stomping chorus rhythm to complement the rhythms of drums and guitar.

The first track seems to me a fusion of the first and third Meshuggah albums, and that influences stretches throughout this album which made me at first want to avoid it, but the underlying music is of quality and fits in among other prog speed/death bands like Coroner, Sadus, Creepmime, later Voivod, etc. Vocals unfortunately show influence from nu-core (or more likely, Meshuggah), or all that metalcore-derived stuff (punk with speed metal pretensions and influences from metal, rock and jazz) that demands a ranting vocal rhythm that recurses every four syllables, causing out-of-the-closet assholes like me to wish we could make the vocal track Go Away for the remaining duration of a song.

These aesthetic concerns aside however, the music is quite good. What it isn’t is simplified enough in core, or theatrical enough, to stand out as well as the songs of, say, Atheist, so it’s less memorable. That isn’t to say less bad or less complex; in fact, it has more detail tied toward its core themes, but the core theme isn’t refracted throughout the details.

On the whole, this is a good album from an undernoticed band that has a better overall sense of metal going for it than its obvious competitive influences — Cynic, Meshuggah, Opeth, and Atheist are all influences here — with more of a sense of musicality than the newer “technical” bands that specialize in blockhead riffs at mind-bending speeds. It makes good rainy day listening, when the listener is already in a quiet state of mind and simply receptive, will find all the good this has to offer behind its somewhat cryptic aesthetic.

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