DMU Song Contest #3: King of the Serfs Edition Part 1

The third edition of the DMU song contest has finally returned and a staggering amount of contestants are ready to prove that they can escape the curse that confronts the modern musical landscape. The DMU team has united in reviewing this large field of hopefuls. Each writer will review a selection of songs and then nominate the two best songs from their song list to the finals where we shall form a panel to determine which of these bands can escape futile serfdom.

Onwards to war!

Throne of the Black Room – “Frozen Tombs”
The song starts off very well in the Greek style of chaining together consonant Heavy metal riffs while using tremolo picking to expand the “tail” of each iteration. A few subtle key changes allow the melodies to lead with much more finesse into other melodies to create this triumphant song. Eventually all the ideas are merged together signalling a push towards a release but the song decides to cut for no reason before synths lead into a second part that is unrelated to the first part and loses all its Heavy metal styling for a few bland riffs that don’t make much sense against constant blasting. Later on some better riffs do appear but its far too late and the damage is done. An excellent beginning but a lack of ideas and a desire to push the running time longer than necessary destroy what could have been a great composition.

Ceremony – “In a dark time”
Almost twenty-six years later after releasing “Tyranny From Above”, DLA recognized Ceremony return with a much more modern version of their past material, this time with a much stronger Black metal influence. The same affinity towards Floridian Death metal is still present but more often than not crumbles in front of the more recent Black metal influences. The modern influences are far too strong and randomly insert themselves in between some great passages. When the band sticks to what they know and expand on that with the help of their impressive technical acumen, the song really drives forwards within the labyrintihne arrangement. The ultimate issues are the very awkward choices that include pristine drums that just blast constantly against meandering melodies and the overall lack of direction within the songwriting which destroy what could have been the greatest revival for an older band in this sad time where legends continue to disgrace themselves. The potential is still there but it is waiting for the band to return to what they can do best.

Kalmo – “Mustaa”
Finland has always produced high quality Death and Doom bands yet apart from Rippikoulou, none of them have sung in their native language and even then the bellows were so deep it was hard to make sense of it all. Kalmo embrace their language and seek to make it the central point of their music. The vocals are sung in a throaty rasp that soars over the music which mainly consists of a simple bass drum pounding away and a short power chord sequence. Later on during the song the power chords disappear in favour of a chromatic riff underneath a well performed solo that then return to the chorus. Though the chorus is catchy it feels redundant in the context of this song as it makes every progression quite obvious though the band do utilize a fairly interesting short conclusion after the final chorus that leads back to the annoying bass drum. The band had a few ideas and should have adopted a more narrative arrangement rather than letting the vocals lead back to familiarity. A decent effort for a few listens but there is much more that can be done with the ideas present here.

Chupacabra – “Glimt”
Previous finalist Chupacabra shows a completely different aspect of his compositional skills as he opts for a minimalistic approach that may sound ambient at first but pushes forwards with small sets of piano motifs while the percussion develops from small chirps to full on breakbeats in a disturbing climax before finding tranquility in a conclusion that just drifts of into subtle madness. At times the breakbeats seem a bit inappropriate against the bare bone piano melodies as they try to impose a rhythm that isn’t there though it shows a more ambitious to song development that can be refined over time. Of note is the fragile relation between the climax melody and the accompanying bass melody that counter each other yet subtly perform counterpoint during the brief moments that they are superposed to create powerful harmonies. Chupacabra has written a great song that shows tremendous flair and expertise but the climax and conclusion could have been improved with a slightly more maximalist approach that would have worked due to the narrative nature of this piece.

Dratna – “Shadow of the Mountain”
Dratna shows a very idiosyncratic method to composition as the piano loudly states the chord progression of the guitar which tremolo picks the note. At times there are complementary melodies that come and go but don’t do that much to break the monotony. Eventually we are treated to another segment that works quite well by straying away from the initial chord progression with some ethereal arpeggios that allow the vocals a bit more freedom in creating a memorable hook. The piano solo that then takes the lead against the simple riff is very effective at adding some more interesting melodies and actually pushing the song forwards. It doesn’t ever fall into excessive masturbation as the same melodies are constantly reintroduced with the left hand varying the bass line to change the context of each melody. The piano lets go for an uninteresting conclusion and returns to accentuating the chord progression. Dratna completely fail at creating Black metal but can make some soothing piano music suitable for the car journey after a long hike.

Underlight – “naibu no kage”
Instrumental synthwave that functions in layers with one layer appearing on an established melody before that melody disappears and another layer is added. This makes every transition fluid and seamless while allowing Underlight to reintroduce pre-existing ideas in a very interesting way. Percussion comes and goes at will and is only there to emphasize more malicious sensations in this music. There are a lot of ideas at any moment competing for their presence and this can get nauseating at times but the interplay between some of these melodies is incredible. Long stretches of minor scale motifs against a static bassline arrive at a chromatic climax with a selection of notes that would be quite complicated on a string based instrument. The only problem is that the breaks that occur in this composition tend to have a negative effect on the overall flow.

Listen here

Celestial Shadows – “Water’s Edge”
A very raw methodology in aesthetics works with a very modern sense of Black metal composition. The band stay stuck to one motif and seek to create small islands of ambient riffs that only transition once the riff has been repeated many times. The main melody that is repeated comes in a few iterations that keep the same base which is a three note unresolved progression and then choose a different ending consisting of one or two notes to complement it. Leaving that melody unresolved and then chaining it with some of the better and shorter melodies that appear here. The flirtation was some major scale melodies and the static arrangements push this close to the realm of post rock than actual metal and at this point in time has become redundant.

deepspace23 – “Ambient3”
deepspace23 returns with another entry that opts for a purely atmospheric experience with the use of white noise. This time the complete lack of melody actually works in the song’s favour as that all that matters now are the swells and the occasional infra-bass that is added. The use of dynamics is mastered for this genre but like all noise this remains limited despite showing much more finesse than most people who try to “discover” new textures. A good listen to block out surrounding noise and to relax too but with the hints of ability displayed here something better can come from this.

Furor Brevis – “Under”
beginning with a simple chromatic descent that slowly builds in intensity until reaching a fairly interesting riff that uses a dissonant motif to add fury, that riff than expands before a brief break and another even more agressive variation of it appears that slows down in order to build up more rage and to create tension towards what should have been a Deicide like explosion. Unfortunately that never happens and the band falls into a slow ambient riff before ending on a chord. Possibly the biggest waste of potential as modern Deathspell Omega inspired metal is utilized in a simple Death metal format to create this straightforward and vicious song that escapes the trapping of similar artists. A quick and to the point conclusion would have done wonders here.

Two victors emerge from the rubble of the first battle!

Chupacabra who once again breaks through to the finals due to a strong understanding of composition but will he emerge as the victor on his second outing?

Underlight with their ability to create melodies and to harmonize them on top of each other, yet will it be enough to rise above the other challengers.

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2 thoughts on “DMU Song Contest #3: King of the Serfs Edition Part 1”

  1. Nobody says:

    That Underlight-track is really cool.

    I liked the last album ‘Flimsy Whimsy’ a lot too.
    ‘naibu no kage’ sounds like a more refined approach to the same basic concept.
    Sounds like a cross of video-games and the emergence of some obscure muti-dimensional archetype from the dephts of the collective psyche to me.

    I recommend the album if you like this. It’s on Bandcamp.

  2. canadaspaceman says:

    Dratna and Celestial Shadows are the only bands I would consider purchasing.
    The rest did nothing for me.

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