Beer Metal Label Goes Broke, Starts Ponzi Scheme

witches brew

Blockheaded beer metal label Witches Brew is bankrupt from releasing beer metal and the owner’s bottom feeding A&R at German beer halls and rethrash bands’ MySpace pages. Many record labels are passion projects or Ponzi schemes. Witches Brew is openly the latter now. Their failure proves that experienced Hessians would rather buy actual beer and Obsessed by Cruelty reissues than sub-Little Caesar’s pizza thrash.

State of the Brewery address 2016. Despite having maintained a super positive attitude since our rebirth in 2013, the current state of Witches Brew is that the label is broke/bankrupt. Having invested nearly 90% of my job income into the label and in the end now being in debt over 7000 EUR, reality has hit me that it’s just not possible to keep going at the level I’ve been trying. Especially not in light of the fact that I will be jobless at the end of this month. I took a lot of chances, invested a lot of money in bands that in the end basically used me for a free ride. Disappointed is how I have felt in the last weeks. I’m NOT stopping the label, I’m just downsizing to a handful of bands and releases will be a few a year, because I’ll need to raise the money from sales in order to pay for the releases since my job money won’t be there anymore. I also have to get myself out of the damn debt somehow.

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Death Fortress – Deathless March of the Unyielding (2016)

death fortress deathless march of the unyielding

Article by Corey M.

Death Fortress play a truly bellicose version of black metal but not in the Blasphemy war-metal style aped by pointless tribute acts. Deathless March of the Unyielding is minimalist in that it eschews all excessive instrumentation like all the best black metal. Guitars slash out streams of elegiac tremolo melodies or simply strummed chords (there are no leads or trippy guitar effects). The drums either play blasts or dominant marching rhythms. Vocals orate battle commands or agonizingly recount Pyrrhic victories. The overall theme of the music seems to be battles with no heroes and wars with no victors. It’s a deconstruction of Graveland‘s or Bathory‘s style that brought forth the glorious aspect of defeating and conquering: war is still the object in question but the subject isn’t life; it is sorrowful, lonely death.

The melodies are crafted with a tenuous balance between intense grimness and clouded dejection. This is music about warriors and war but not in the fantastical sense that black metal usually takes: no witchcraft or frozen forests are to be found here, only shredded tank tracks, bent artillery barrels, crushed bodies of hapless infantry infused in twisted heaps of smoldering slag, and blackened holes gouged into the earth itself. A useful comparison would be Sammath‘s mid-period output of Dodengang and Triumph in Hatred, though those albums reveal a deeply heartfelt motivation to illustrate the gruesome carnage of warfare without completely abandoning the near-romantically empathetic ties to the fallen fighter. Death Fortress take a more distant, aloof approach, neither glorifying nor condemning the act or outcome and treating the soldier as another soulless statistic. Both bands approach the horrific topic with a sternly wide-eyed, unflinching resolve, giving us the opportunity to witness visions far more stark and distressing than the cartoonish swords ‘n’ sorcery take on combat that black metal too often peddles.

Yet this album suffers from a major drawback: the musicians share the contemporary tendency to disappear up their own asses in wringing all emotive potential from a line of melody. There aren’t any comically awufil or idiotic chord progressions but some of them are inappropriate and others repeated for far too long. The songs have plenty of breathing room and the band never seem to be at a loss for direction or trying to cram in too many lyrics before their riffs overstay their welcome. At times, it’s too easy to become impatient while waiting for the band to introduce the next segment. No amount of drum fills or effects trickery would fix this; the fat needs to be trimmed and the compositions made more concise. A leaner, more refined Death Fortress could easily rise above the better-than-average position in which they sit now.

Readers may listen to Deathless March of the Unyielding at Death Fortress’s Bandcamp page and purchase a physical copy from Fallen Empire Records.

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Actual Death Metal Band Booked to Play Maryland Deathfest 2016

deathfest speedoman

Incantation have replaced Australian beer metal stalwarts Deströyer 666 at Maryland Crustfest 2016. The social justice warrior-ran parking lot sludge fest has attempted to branch out into the hipster, Coachella festival mainstream in recent years, abandoning its death metal roots and highlighting the divide between metal and the mainstream’s attempts to co-opt it. A band such as Arghoslent would present the perfect compromise between melodic speed metal catchiness and underground credibility to please both crowds. Hopefully, the Sludgefest organizers will not find out that Craig Pillard was once in Incantation.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Monday Mastications

FeedingPenguin
Oh here she comes. Watch out boy she’ll chew you up. She’s a maneater. – Darryl Hall and John Oates, 1982.

black tusk pillars of ash
Black Tusk – Pillars of Ash (2016)
A fusion of party rock, screamo, and hardcore punk, Pillars of Ash brings a risible contribution to the rock/punk spectrum that many a beginner is prone to confuse with metal. The relevant question here is whether or not Black Tusk have anything worthwhile to offer to the listener that may not be found in higher quality elsewhere. The answer is a resounding NO. The album plays like a tenuous stream of echoes of 1980s hardcore bands rearranged with Mario Paint.

tombs all empires fall
Tombs – All Empires Fall (2016)
Tombs is described in some places as black or post metal, and while there is some borrowing from black metal techniques in the use of some blast beats and an imitation of traditional black metal vocals, Tombs isn’t isn’t black metal. The post-metal is correctly applied in that this isn’t much more than a poor excuse for pseudo-ambient experiments with haphazardly connected sections being paraded as composition. There are strong references to doom metal, cheap and stompy heavy rock, with post rock being added as the way to get away with 3rd rate writing. All in all, boring, generic, unfocused, and unoriginal background music. Tombs is lounge music.

howls of ebb third eye
Howls of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows (2016)
Entirely random pastiche of metal clichés loosely held together by psychedelic interludes and a drunk vocalist feigning faux lunacy. If a blend of Voivod, galloping heavy metal, canned black metal and fuzz drenched noise rock wah wah soloing wasn’t pointless enough, the band commands and impressively dissociated catalog of occult vocabulary to match.

nucleus sentient
Nucleus – Sentient (2016)
Nucleus have fun in the studio and they want you, dear listener, to have fun at home with them. If you like Demilich but thought it was too strange, too serious, or too weird to play around your sister then Sentience is the record that delivers all the thrills of Finnish extradimensional insectoid death without danger of unthrashability. All the more perfect for fucking your sister behind the dumpster at the skatepark.

candelabrum necrotelepathy
Candelabrum – Necrotelepathy (2016)
Two twenty minute tracks of spooky landscapes, sad vampire vocals, and canned drum patterns. If the goal was to stride the line between hysterical and uncomfortable, this record is a resounding success. Necrotelepathy is more Vampire Diaries metal.

abyssus once entombed
Abyssus – Once Entombed (2016)
Another pizza thrash band with a veneer of death metal fronted by a Greek John Tardy fan. The album art and song titles make adequate use of Death Metal Band Generator. Perfect comedy for those Saturday mornings when you are drunk with fellow “scene veterans.”

clawhammer abortion slaughter campaign
Clawhammer Abortion – Slaughter Campaign (2016)
This band took every criticism levied against death metal and wrote an album of it. In order to get through, I turned it into a drinking game: Hear a cliché, drink. The only problem is I passed out drunk after three songs and the Editor took over. He heard so many Sodom breakdowns and generic grindcore riffs that he kicked my ghetto blaster into the campfire. Only the most calcified kidneys and fattiest livers prevail in the Eternal War.

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Embalmer – Emanations from the Crypt (2016)

embalmer - crypt cover

Article by Corey M.

Too many death metal bands these days are attempting and failing utterly to convey the more obscure, ghastly effects of Onward to Golgotha or early Gorguts rather than the grisly, gory, in-your-face ripping and grinding style that was more prevalent at the time of those classics. Emanations from the Crypt is revitalizing to these ears as there is no effort made whatsoever to “enhance” the “atmosphere” of the music with excessive reverb or eight-hundred layers of guitar tracks; there is only brutality and aggression. Early Deeds of Flesh is an obvious inspiration for this juggernaut album as the guitar riffs squirm and shred through gnarly contortions, while the drums attempt to restrain and sensibly contextualize their wild leaps and bounds. The vocals are very convincing growls and gurgles that switch up just when needed to suggest a shift in dynamics, much like Infester used theirs and never attempt to take control or drive the music. Also present is some of Deicide‘s spirit announcing itself through the jittery, psychotically antagonistic riffs that seem to only represent melody tenuously. Embalmer’s Emanations from the Crypt some of the best death metal on the brutal end of the spectrum since Scalpel‘s Sorrow and Skin.

Listen to and purchase Emanations from the Crypt on Hells Headbangers’ Bandcamp page.

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Metal Versus Classical

slayer classical dueling

Article by Lance Viggiano

Metal, like nearly every form of contemporary western music, carries legacy traits from western classical music. Noting these inherited qualities and their contribution to metal’s identity is a fruitful venture worth study. Yes, some artists such as Emperor created music that may as well have been performed by an orchestra. Nevertheless there is a distinct tendency among metalheads to validate metal through this heritage. The logic behind this is eloquent and simple: Classical maintains an esteemed position and metal retains compositional/artistic characteristics of classical; therefore metal is good (insert adjective for good: High Art, Quality, etc.). This does a disservice to metal however as it forsakes the baroque for the succinct while deriving much of its power from textural aesthetics. Metal needs to be qualified and judged according to its own merits.

Both forms of music arrange motifs according to an underlying narrative. The pathos of western classical music is derived out of experiments in harmony that attempted to imitate a well ordered and intricately planned cosmos. The composer embodies the role of the One God who conceives and executes a nature in which each of its parts cooperate in accordance with divine law  or in the case of music: its score and story. Metal however is all about the riff; not just its position in the score but also the way it sounds and the way it feels. Downtuning a guitar, plugging it into a bass amp, and dialing the gain knob to its upper limit are not trivial or accidental decisions. The textural component gives the music body which allows for succinct motifs to achieve significance out of relative simplicity. On the other hand, classical must take on a ”notey” characteristic to give the music weight. The roar of an ensemble is a force of its own, yet it is comparatively tame next to the bludgeoning delivered by an amplifier and a few pedals.

Classical entices the mind with intricate and ornate patterns while metal ignites the heart by delivering an unabashedly barbaric, vitriolic and brash force of will. With each occupying distinct but equally valid dimensions of the human experience – The mind and the heart, respectively – it becomes clear that using one to validate the other does a great disservice to each form of music. Unplug metal and survey its patterns next to classical and one will find that it sounds as if it was composed by intellectually immature children. Plug classical patterns into metal and one finds that the need to make tonal sacrifices to retain clarity while distilling patterns down so as to be performed by fewer instruments results in sterile powerless wank which exists without proper support.

The Romantic movement turned its gaze back to the primacy of nature from the perspective of the civilized man who took all of his habits of thought with him; retaining his clear, distinct abstract patterns and hard mental boundaries. He walks at a distance from the forest so as to keep his boots from the blemishing mud and his coat from the shearing thicket. The Romanticism of metal walks barefooted against the cold soil, barely managing to escape the weather but never the bonds of nature. His damp stone refuge is aerated by a primate musk so thick that the festering gobbets and searing tendons of his kill cannot penetrate it. The civilized man understands nature as an idea from which he is blissful detached and divinely endowed to understand while the uncivilized man understands nature as an irrational outpouring of desire against which his only freedom is attained by projecting his own will against the world. Each vantage point offers a unique view of the same landscape. From that summit the artistry of metal ought to be discussed and ultimately, loved.

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Hooded Menace – Darkness Drips Forth (2015)

hooded menace darkness drips forth

Article by David Rosales.

When music is taken as communication, as a nurture of the soul, or even as a kind of magic then small details such as the name a band chooses for itself can forebode promise or ultimate triviality. The reason for this is that music, when taken as an integral enterprise, exudes the intention and capabilities of those who give birth to it. Hooded Menace’s name does not show much imagination but perhaps a rather superficial or commercial line of thinking. The title of their album, Darkness Drips Forth, isn’t much better. These suggest a lack of definition or the non-existence of a deeper wealth of thought.

In any case, the music comes first; prejudices must be set aside so that the stream of notes can dance unhindered. The structural approach of Hooded Menace’s doom metal is actually fairly convincing, and technically speaking, the composer-like qualities of whoever is writing the songs are sharp. The music is flowing, the passages never overstay or pass by too quickly, the dynamics of adjacent sections make sense together and their discourse feels natural enough. Individually, each section is tasteful though none is particularly original or distinctive. At first it may appear as if Hooded Menace may be the exception to the rule that one is supposedly bound to bump into sooner or later. Or are they?

Listening through this release and keeping in mind what has “happened” minutes before in the song, one starts to see that the content kept changing, but somehow hasn’t really gone anywhere. What is the problem then? Intuitive alarms such as this, when justified, must be grounded in concrete causes. The band had effectively avoided the carnival syndrome, it made use of motifs in linking sections — but only locally. This isn’t bad on its own, magnificent works based on the variations template have graced our ears in the past.

The problem is slightly different from song to song. The songs are not bound together by a common aura. They may go from a lethargic groove to a happy melody, but this is minimal. Some to flounder between a nondescript extreme metal counterpoint between the guitars to a Disturbed-like groove, only to return to something more characteristic of typical of doom metal. Far more detrimental to the aura is the relatively static sense of the harmony, constantly returning to the root and never, even for a second, leaving that tonal space  except for overt and obvious effect. This is predictable and even vulgar. When you put these two together — imprecise style and weakly phrased, boring harmony — you have a recipe for subversively monotonous and superficial music.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Fishy Friday Fornications

Troy McClure fish

Article by Corey M.

Deathcult cover
Deathcult – Demo 12 (2012)
Critically indistinct Entombedcore complete with oversaturated guitar fuzz, random d-beats and weirdly laid-back vocals coming from the distant corner of a dirty, empty, boring warehouse interior. From a pop-rock songwriting position, there is a lot of good to find here, as songs have clearly defined segments that are never too long or too short, and there are lots of brief build-up bits that anticipate a transition into a section with a different feel than whatever was last heard. Goldilocks metal – never “too” anything, always “just right” – shows that the musicians are not so drug-addled or retarded that they can’t put together songs better than your average punk band. However, since Deathcult play death metal, the listening experience is extremely boring. Death metal lends itself to whiplash-inducing extreme dynamic shifts in tempo or key because the overall intensity and tone of the music holds the songs together and covers the different modes of expression that an imaginative band can explore. Like a deadly car chase, death metal speeds up, slows down, and takes drastic turns in disorienting routes, but all for the sake of accomplishing something. Deathcult would rather take a leisurely Sunday cruise.

feral
Feral – For Those Who Live in Darkness(2016)
Feral play very modern black metal that gracefully sidesteps any overtly “post-” tendencies. Techniques range from long, blasting, tremolo lines of melody ala early Dark Funeral, to third-wave-era slightly heavy-metal(ish) rock-out moments, but these are not disparate components and actually transition from one to another quite smoothly. With this apparent lack of negative aspects, how could For Those Who Live in Darkness be bad? Surely it would be inoffensively mediocre at worst, wouldn’t you think? Perhaps, but this is actually worse than outright bad metal. While black metal can be a wellspring of energy that the listener may draw from strength in solitude, this music only presents a void, a vacuum that sucks in energy and emotion, leaving the listener not just dissatisfied but drained of spirit and motivation. The obliviously anti-Christian rants, tortured-artist vocals, and paint-by-numbers minor chord patterns are as impotent and flaccid as a male to female transsexual’s surgically inverted “penis”. The target audience of Feral are early-twenty-something, excessively made-up women who can often be seen chain-smoking outside of music venues when they are not posting soulless monochrome photos of their favorite (local) bands on whatever social media platform is hippest at the moment.

Phalloplasty - Necrophagic Funeral Ritual (Reissue)
Phalloplasty – Necrophagic Funeral Ritual (2012)
Somehow, this (presumably) one-man goregrind/brutal death metal act comes off as even less intense and brutal than NOFX or Lagwagon. The obviously programmed drums cycle through various irrelevant beats sequenced with all the imagination of a mineral or other inert object. The guitars, which are typically the highlight of even the worst knuckle-dragging brutal music, are bright and featherweight-sounding, completely nullifying any intended brutality. I give the composer/guitarist kudos for at least making the guitar riffs audible but in this case it works against the music. The chord sequences are pop-punk-simple and amelodically bland. There is barely any low-end in the music subverting the brutal paradigm again for the worse. Truly it is baffling that a musician who at least has the capacity to program drum sequences and record guitar riffs would fail this hard at making music in the one genre that demands so little of its participants. Phalloplasty should immediately check himself into a group home or a mental institution. I will happily fund his care with my tax dollars so long as nothing of this sort gets released again. I recommends a hollow-point bullet to the back of the skull. -D.M.

Qrixkuor Three Devils Dance CD
Qrixkuor – Three Devils Dance (2016)
Qrixkuor cut-and-paste various subterranean, tremolo-picked riffs and wailing, atonal leads from early ’90s death metal but lack the ability to convincingly replicate the intensity of Morbid Angel or Immolation. What we get instead is a pleasantly nostalgic but grainy and not particularly detailed mashup, “low-resolution” in that you can zoom-in and discover that what appears to be a detailed image from afar breaks down into incongruent little bits when viewed up-close. This style of production (or reproduction, as it were) has already been used to little effect by the likes of Mitochondrion and Antediluvian, two of the better bands that wrote effective riffs but buried them in intentionally obscure mixing methods. Unlike any of the aforementioned bands’ releases, however, Three Devils Dance leaves one with a distinct non-impression, and the poor mixing is only one cause for this. The other is the autistically organized compositions which run for far (FAR) too long: The first track is nearly ten minutes in length and the next two make up a half-hour together. The band’s goal to disorient the listener with an overwhelming inundation of indistinct waves of riffs.  It worked as after several back-to-back listens, I could only remember one or two segments of melody with any clarity. Qrixkuor should take another cue from their idols and realize that death metal songs have the most impact when everything is said succinctly. Suffocation packed more information into a four-minute song than you hear in the entire forty minutes of Three Devils Dance.

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Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)

genesis-the-lamb-album-cover

Article by David Rosales and Johan P. This article is the second in our 1970s Progressive Rock for Hessians series initiated by Johan.

Released in 1974 and signaling the departure of Peter Gabriel from Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway brings the classic era of the band and the genre to an end. It does so rather inconspicuously with a profound accomplishment that is not easy to summarize in such few words. The album materializes the several tacit goals of progressive rock: the incorporation of classical music methodologies into the making of pop rock music, stylistic expansion within coherent boundaries, to the neo-romantic mystical allusions boiling up from vague lyrics into aural explosions in sound.

Musically, it makes use of straightforward pop rock expression expanded with a nod to classical-era structures, while ambients range from avant-garde noise to ambient instrumentals. We may even see the precursor to the post-rock aesthetic but Genesis takes the music somewhere rather than moronically dancing around in the same place. The use of themes throughout songs and the album itself is prominent; it holds the album together and is a direct consequence of that proper classical influence. The lyrical theme of the album is based on Judaic mysticism, with references to the Kabbalah in song titles, concepts, and even the number of total tracks of the release.

The influence of Genesis as per their style at their pinnacle in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway virtually defines a whole generation of the pseudo-prog we see today in the likes of charlatans to which Steven Wilson belongs, or supreme posers Dream Theater and their numerous unoriginal underlings. Opeth cannot be counted among the superficial fools living off the greatness of Genesis as they are a more eclectic collection of disparaged sources poorly sewn together and because the very little prog rock influence they displayed comes from Gentle Giant. With all certainty, almost any decent-sounding, so-called progressive outfit today that leans towards a pop rock sound with unconventional sound structures is probably directly or indirectly defined by (not merely “influenced” by) classic Genesis.

Particularly outstanding is the elite drumming that underscores the thematic progressions of the rest of the music. At each point it answers to needs in the music, while not shying away from dramatic or even amusing additions to the mix. Jazz percusion technique here is used with taste, forwarding the music, rather than becoming an instrument for divergence into hedonist egotism. Despite this, in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, none of the elements actually jumps out at the listener: the technical merits are so perfectly fused with the living flow of the music they may be overlooked. In this we may find great contrasts with Yes, whose brilliance was always a close-neighbor to instrumentalist prowess, threatening to and eventually taking over precedence of deeper motivations that move true art (as we see in Relayer).

To finish our brief discussion on this definitive album for progressive rock, we would be remiss in failing to attend to the reasons it achieves such excellence. Considering Nietzschean Apollonian versus Dionysian interplay, a reasonable speculation might start by pointing out that the most superficial and recognizable sounds in this album are distinctively ground in their seventies era. Even the use of avant-gardisms remains within the framework of the experimentation of its time and exemplifies what Pink Floyd were never able to properly approximate. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway does not reject its contemporary influences, but through them accepts the band’s chronological appearance in history and maximizes their channeling of ulterior and less ephemeral reasons.

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Apokalyptic Raids – The Third Storm (2005)

apokalyptic raids the third storm

Article by Corey M.

At the beginning of this album, I thought I was in for some ironically incompetent Venom worship with affectations of naivety: “Metal about metal” as it can be rightly called. The drums are played in a bare-bones punk style. The guitar(s) loop punk riffs in predictable verse-chorus style structures while the vocalist rants in a smoke-shredded voice about typical metal stuff. No virtuosic leads or even harmonies are present. However, as the record progressed, the raw efficacy of the chords overcame my cynicism and my head began to nod to and fro of its own accord. Maybe these guys are a throwback or tribute act. Maybe they have actually never heard anything more recent than the first Bathory album. Either way, their riffs have an undeniable ability to hook energy-pumping tentacles into your brain and stir in your heart the desire to get off your ass and be a living, bleeding, raging human. When it comes to music, is there anything better than that?

Listen to and purchase the vinyl reissue of The Third Storm from Hells Headbangers’ Bandcamp page.

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