Humans are by nature delusional. They overestimate their importance and demand that reality fit their simple expectations. And yet, they are very good at mastering known skills, so they are highly proficient, but void of purpose. This hollowness is the left side of the metal Bell Curve, and to separate it from the good stuff, we have Sadistic Metal Reviews!
Toderlebend – Day Of Resurrection
If you crossed old Autopsy with some of the German speed/death metal of the late 1980s, you might end up with something like Toderlebend: a bouncy, exuberant take on death metal that brings out the goofy and experimental sides of the genre without losing the basic sensation of doubtful, atavistic anomie that good death metal communicates. Verses tend to follow the speed/death format, with rushing drums and foot-tapping vocal and drum hooks, but choruses are more like the Tampa and Northern California death metal bands in that they like to build up an unconcealed progression of increasing dread like that used in horror films. A few parts here are too obvious, and overplay their hands, but on the whole, this is enjoyable basic death metal with a sense of humor that does not replace its basic mood of austere morbidity. There are numerous experiments, including layering of keyboards and other sounds, and the band enjoys making a transition between a detuned hard rock riff, a speed metal riff adapted, and a death metal riff that might have come off the second Atrocity album, all within the same song, as if trying to see how far they can push the envelope and still hold together. For most, the crepitant Autopsy style vocals will be the selling point, but what makes this album more than a passing retro-aesthetic fad is that these songs fit together and have an energy and personality all their own, despite being made from recycled parts in a new order.
Autokrator – The Obedience To Authority
Someone hybridized Teitanblood, or the simplest extreme of the Incantation clones, with basic war metal, and then gave that war metal the pacing more of Sacramentary Abolishment than the all-ahead-go thinly-disguised punk clones which later war metal adopted. The result calls to mind Portal in its use of a wall of sound and diminished interval internal harmony, but is more like Teitanblood in its approach: a single rushing rhythm, told three different ways, and then a counterpoint pace with a different sonic texture to give it some context. The result is not particularly convincing because while it is not one-dimensional, it is not far removed, maybe like 1.5 dimensions, but then again, it intends nothing else. This is pure musical aesthetic trying to catch the listener up in a sensation of a wave of chaotic sonic information catching them up and bearing them away. In that way, it is more like early Napalm Death than black metal or death metal, and has about the same lasting power. The difference here is that the higher level aesthetic gives it an air of profundity, after which the emptiness is even more cutting. Like Teitanblood, this ultimately rings hollow: two aesthetic concepts stacked up in a song make for an impressive beginning, but go nowhere, much like your average dot-com startup.
Cortege – Touching the Void
This death metal comes from the school of death metal which, from a fully mature (1991-1994) death metal perspective, re-incorporated some of the intensity of speed metal, much like the second Vader album. As a result, Touching The Void relies on speed metal style rhythm and tempo changes for its song structures, but incorporates a fair amount of death metal technique and aesthetics in order to give this more energy and coherence than it would have had otherwise. The savagery relies quite a bit on what was once considered “technical,” or timing and combinations that are hard to finger, regardless of their level of musical theory. The precision rhythm guitar is its main weapon, but a lack of chord progressions that stand out from the others and from the norm, and a tendency to fall back onto speed metal rhythms with a relentlessness that quickly equalizes all extremes tend to lessen the impact of this album. Still, for those who want to revisit the glory days when death metal took on the previous generation and made it more intense, Cortege offers excellent musicianship, tuneful solos and extensive highly adept riffing to expand on the ideas of the past.
Serpent Ascending – Ananku
Serpent Ascending has mashed up the ambient indie rock of Fields of the Nephilim and Gothic stylings of bands like Sisters of Mercy with the occult mythological metal of later Therion and Sentenced, then injected its own type of atmospheric death metal, to produce a new style of music that is as much indie rock as metal without losing the metal spirit. This is much like how Queensryche and Iron Maiden made very metal albums out of styles that were more geared toward hard rock during the 1980s. The aim of Ananku is to produce a bewildering suspension of reality like how geographical layout is flexible in dreams, and you can step from your childhood bedroom into the capsule of an Apollo rocket without feeling any dislocation of spatial awareness. Like later Therion, this album finds its roots in slowed-down power metal restructured to use occult symbolic relationships in number and riff phrase shape, but then adds to this the pervasive atmospherics of both dark Gothic rock and atmospheric death metal like related project Desecresy. On that the composer layers levels of percussive texture, oddball vocals, and guitar accents which build harmony like a tapestry from its roots to extremities and back again. The result will please Goth rockers and 1980s fans more than death metal fans, perhaps, but the death metal is there, just translated into abstract idea instead of concrete technique. This allows Serpent Ascending more flexibility in tempo and tone, which in turn allows them to use contrast as more of a weapon, creating songs which feel like a transition between a series of underground cities while searching for the soul of humanity. A lot like Danzig or Tau Cross, this album aims to create an emotional sense paired to an awareness of subject matter, in this case through a hermetic filter. It brings back the thrills of the 1980s, when profound and jarring material made it onto the radio in a form that high school kids could appreciate alongside casual music fans of adult stature. This album will be a sleeper favorite much like later Queensryche in the 1980s in that it will appeal to extreme metal fans but in a form that ordinary people can also appreciate.