Skepticism records Ordeal live in Turku, FI

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Finnish funeral doom metal band Skepticism performed their yet-unreleased fifth full-length album, Ordeal, in a live recording at Klubi in Turku, Finland on January 24, 2015. The event was also captured on film for an accompanying DVD to go alongside the album, in shades of what Empyrium did last years with their first performance in nearly a decade.

The band describes the new songs as “emotion-laden, crushing, and yet beautiful, more than ever before.” Visitors to the historic recording event received an exclusive re-issue of the band’s first 7” EP which was originally released in 1992. Ordeal will be released on Svart Records in May 2015 as a CD/DVD bundle and a LP/DVD set.

Skepticism commands a loyal following who want doom metal to fall neither into the nearly tuneless grinding of some doom-death or warmed over rock stylings of stoner doom, but prefer atmospheric and melodic music that creates a contrast within dark moods and can develop songs for a sense of being transported. The band formed in 1991 and since 1995 has released a stream of quality releases which remain enjoyed by a devoted cadre in the underground.

Tracklist:

  1. You
  2. Momentary
  3. The Departure
  4. March Incomplete
  5. The Road
  6. Closing Music

Plus bonus live versions of earlier tracks:

  1. Pouring
  2. The March and the Stream

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Abysme – Strange Rites

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Death metal tends to get described in terms of its influences among the classic bands, and in the case of Abysme it makes sense to mention Entombed, Autopsy and Dismember when describing the style that cloaks the music of this band. Using the brawny Swedish distortion at full intensity, Abysme creating brooding prowl riffs like Autopsy and put their songs together much in that vein by carefully leading up to a moment of unleashing the riff that defines each song, but that riff quickly mutates into a style of melody like Dismember with the boxy but expressive riffing of early Entombed.

This is a Left Hand Path vision of Entombed, not anything later, and most closely corresponds — in its seeking of obscure moods and labyrinthine, backdoor entrances to the major themes of each song — to the songwriting template of Autopsy, but also has its own voice which is more gearing toward a deepening of moods within a dark mantle. The atmosphere of morbid despair generating an impulse to destroy becomes an assumption and within that framework, Abysme create different moods that transition from relatively understandable basic gut-level instincts to submerged existential questioning. Riffs achieve a voice of their own with a protean tendency to twist on themselves and emerge as a new form which evokes but does not echo the old, solving the mathematical symmetry problem that so many death metal bands find themselves becalmed in. Abysme like to vary between doom-heavy slower riffs that use single chords to hold space and the more phrasal riffs of classic death metal, frequently transitioning into single-note picked riffs to shadow and overlay major themes. As a result, from within a familiar style emerges a new voice.

Sometimes the vocals are overdone and sound more like a guy shouting himself hoarse at a biker rally than a musical instrument but for the most part they provide solid rhythmic backing to the change in guitar riff which is only loosely contexted by percussion, which alternates between doom-death quasi-groove to full-on blasting in rapid succession, managing to avoid leading the change within arrangements while still foreshadowing it and following it closely, like a covert sniper tracking a target among the artificial hills and valleys of an abandoned city. While some riffs originate in extremely basic chord progressions, the theme expands over time and develops into an entity of its own. Abysme create music on their own terms in tribute to the past and show an ability to understand death metal as the unusual but articulate beast that it is.

Download Abysme’s 2009 demo here.

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Torchure re-issues The Essence on Vic Records

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German death metal band Torchure has re-issued its second album, The Essence, on Vic Records. The album was produced by S.L. Coe of Scanner and Angel Dust and comes with very special liner notes, rare pictures and two re-mastered unreleased tracks as bonus.

Torchure formed in 1985 and released three demo tapes before unleashing their debut album through German underground metal label 1MF. Their debut, Beyond the Veil (1992), showed a style of death metal with origins in heavy metal that nonetheless managed to be both intense and moody. Torchure toured Europe to support Sepultura and Pestilence. After the tour founding members and brothers Andreas (guitars) and Thorsten (bass) Reissdorf died in a car accident. The band decided to go on and found two new members who were also brothers and with this new lineup recorded their second album, The Essence (1993).

Vic Records re-issued the Torchure debut Beyond the Veil in 2013 as reported previously. The reissue of The Essence seems to have received much the same treatment with bonus tracks, expanded booklet and a jewel case CD instead of digipak. The reissue can be ordered from Vic Records directly.

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Perdition Temple announce The Tempter’s Victorious release on March 24, 2015

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Perdition Temple, a band composed of Angelcorpse and Immolation members, will release its second album The Tempter’s Victorious on Hells Headbangers Records on March 24, 2015. The album shows the band refining their militant high speed slamming phrasal riffing in a style of death metal similar to Vader and Fallen Christ.

In many ways the underground’s response to the technical metalcore currently in vogue in the above-ground “underground,” Perdition Temple crafts songs from high speed strumming and extensive fills. On the new album, the band intensifies this approach and adds chaotic lead guitars which give it an oddly occult flair.

Simultaneously Perdition Temple announced that the band is slated to play Hells Headbangers’ forthcoming Hells Headbash 2 label anniversary festival on September 4-6 in Cleveland, Ohio (USA). The band will join other such Hells Headbangers-affiliated bands as Profanatica, Archgoat, Deceased, and Cianide.

    Tracklist:

  1. The Tempter’s Victorious
  2. Extinction Synagogue
  3. Scythes of Antichrist
  4. Goddess in Death
  5. The Doomsday Chosen
  6. Chambers of Predation
  7. Diluvium Ignus
  8. Devil’s Blessed
    Personnel:

  • Gene Palubicki – guitars (Apocalypse Command, Blasphemic Cruelty, ex-Angelcorpse)
  • Bill Taylor – guitars (Immolation, ex-Angelcorpse, ex-Feldgrau, ex-Xenomorph)
  • Impurath – vocals (Black Witchery, ex-Irreverent)
  • Ronnie Parmer – drums (Catalysis)
  • Gabriel Gozainy – bass

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Terror Empire – The Empire Strikes Black

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Through the years of scanning endless lists of metal albums one gradually develops an intuition that links band name, album name and artwork to the general nature of what will be heard. Seldom does a tongue-in-cheek name correlate with quality music, since the band designed itself as a stunt. While some serious-sounding names result in pretentious self-important music, most bands with confidence in their ability to produce valuable music choose a straightforward self presentation.

The following question measures heavy metal: what is quality, and how is it measured, including what standard we use? Our answer begins with the often-used but seldom explained (and hence little understood) terms superficial and transcendent as opposite poles in a spectrum. Through the ages philosophers, theorists and artists themselves have made used these terms and in only a handful of instances have they tried to explain them in any way beyong what is deemed self-evident. The young Nietzsche provides us with a useful term and its explanation which can be used to separate the concepts in a way that if not empirical enough at least can be understood as a general concept. The Dionysian, it is said, allows for a connection for the unchanging, eternal oneness. This can mean many things, but guiding ourselves by Nietzsche’s explanation in the context of Greek tragedy and the nature and significance its chorus, we can see that the Dionysian is a subjective measurement requiring the person in question to look beyond the cycles of history and recurring social trends that are a result of the human race constantly altering its surface appearance but not actually “growing” in the sense of improving. Once in touch with this, the artist can represent the essence of things as they always are, not as they appear at this moment in time. On the other hand, being trapped in the temporal interpretation of how something is at this moment, or how it appears to be in its current incarnation is the hallmark of the superficial.

For us to make the distinction between transcendent and superficial in a work of art, we must isolate any insight of human nature that the work expresses. Because all of reality is the same cause, all paths if followed with vigorous examination lead to the same truth. Acquiring the insight that the transcendent artist possess does not mean we ourselves need to have his artistic talents as well. These are abilities of a separate kind altogether. As Nietzsche tells us in the same writing, while the rest of us must use abstractions and complex explanations to arrive at an objective picture of the work of art, in his subjective vision, the artist contemplates the images of his expression clearly and in unexplainable simplicity independently of its degree of superficiality. We can analyze that vision according to what it communicates and whether that address the transcendent, the superficial or the “fake out” of superficial transcendence.

With all this in mind, a first glance at Terror Empire’s album cover and album name is enough to raise some red flags. The cover artwork does not relate to the title. The title further shows a tendency toward cliché and a “cute” manipulation of it. This lack of originality is then reflected in the music itself. The album shows an diversity of approaches ranging from early songs which incorporate related but meaningless constructions with abundant technical acrobatics to late songs which are basically “thrashy” chug-based generic speed metal songs. The former are meaningless in the context that the writers themselves put them in. They make structural premises, but then do not follow them or conclude them structurally. As in many mediocre examples of music, songs end suddenly without being taken to any sort of climax, deviation to a clear point and return. The latter part of the album fails by being an imitation of speed metal (aka “thrash metal”) tropes seen through the modern lenses of retro-thrash.

This book can be judged by its cover, which the band apparently views as attractive to the type of person who will not realize how completely pointless The Empire Strikes Black is as a metal listening experience. Those who seek novelty tend to find it. In the spirit of the master, Bitterman: Vapid. Avoid.

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Morpheus Descends – From Blackened Crypts box set in pre-order

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Dark Descent Records announced the pre-order of a CD/DVD box set of classic underground death metal band Morpheus Descends (formerly Morpheus) featuring two CDs and a DVD including all past material from this formative act which influenced Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse and many other death metal bands from the early 1990s.

The box set will include, in addition to the 2CD digipak, two new and unreleased tracks wich will see issue as a separate 7″ entitled From Blackened Crypts and a DVD entitled Visage of Malady, as well as a 11×17″ double-sided poster and 24-page booklet. The tracklist is:

Disc 1
1. Oozing from the Urn
2. The King’s Curse
3. The Way of All Flesh
4. Corpse Under Glass
5. Immortal Coil
6. Trephanation
7. Proclaimed Creator
8. Accelerated Decrepitude
9. Submerged in Adipocere
10. Enthralled to Serve
11. Ritual of Infinity
12. Trephanation
13. Accelerated Decrepitude
14. Triformed Limbs
15. Stigmatic Crucifixion
16. Residual Kill
17. Cairn of Dumitru demo 93
Disc 2
1. The Cruciform Hills
2. Cairn of Dumitru
3. Autumn Bleed
4. Signs of Gehenna
5. Moupho Alde Ferenc Yaborov
6. Begging for Possession
7. Valley of Undead War
8. Shaitan the Unborn
9. The Horror of the Truth
10. Corpse Under Glass (Live Reunion-Martrydoom)
11. Accelerated
12. Trephanation
13. Triformed Limbs
14. Accelerated
15. The Cruciform Hills pre-release ’94
16. Residual ’91
17. Autumn Bleeds ’93

For more information, see the pre-order page at Dark Descent Records.

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Death Melodies: Fryderyk Chopin

Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist who lived out most of his brief but stellar career in Paris, where he died of tuberculosis at the age of 39.

Chopin mixed with the musical elite of his day, developing friendships with top composers and performers, particularly with the Hungarian virtuoso and proto-Hessian, Franz Liszt. He was not keen on public performance, a fact reflected in the intimate atmosphere of his music. However, he was a very successful piano teacher, and managed to earn comfortable wages by giving lessons to the Parisian elite and their children. His health was always bad, and his short life was troubled, but it was also intensely productive, and his body of work remains some of the most emotionally compelling and technically demanding music of the Western classical canon.

Though Chopin’s technical ability and fluency in classicist forms is undeniable, the most enduring element of his work is the profound musical intuition from which its construction seems to arise. Perfectly capable as he is of constructing a fine piece within traditional forms, his best work seems to occur when he listens closely to his own material, and allows it to naturalistically develop and suggest its own structure.

Chopin wrote most of his works for his own instrument, the piano, intending them for performance mostly by himself, usually in front of a few friends. The organic origin of these works shows in their fluid structure and their patient development; the changes that come at exactly the time where they will make the most emotional impact, not necessarily where they would theoretically make the most structural sense or be most immediately pleasing. This characteristic brings him close to underground metal, music in which there is both no divide between composer and performer and, ideally, little concern for audience expectations, but where emphasis is instead placed on genuine, valuable and intense expression.

A great example of Chopin’s emotional intensity, technical ability and structural ingenuity is his second piano sonata, in b flat minor. Although most of the piece’s movements are written broadly within conventional forms, the first being the expected sonata form and the next two being large ternary forms, Chopin manages to create the sensation that this large scale architecture arose naturally from the material, instead of being imposed on it.

We often find in the work of Romantic composers, even in the some of Chopin’s lesser works, a conscious attempt to hide underlying classical forms through over-extended or jarring transitional passages. This sonata has no need for such tricks: the thematic material and the relationships between it are so strong that the flow is seamless throughout. The material itself is of a mostly lyrical and impassioned nature, the axis for most of the themes being melodic. It is thus that the howling arpeggios of the fourth movement come as an intense shock, especially after the famous “Funeral March” of the third movement (which Candlemass covered on Nightfall). Even more rattling is the movement’s swift and violent conclusion. Though seemingly pointless, placing this little movement here is a stroke of narrative genius; it lets the listener know the piece is irrevocably over, and yet it feels unsatisfactory, it leaves one with a melancholy longing. The technique is similar, although the effect is altogether different, to the one used in Burzum Det som en gang var, also a piece organized in four main sections, whose last riff comes rather unexpectedly and then simply fades off into the distance.

There is another very important element that links Chopin’s music to underground metal: his great ability to be impressively creative within self-imposed limitations. The most evident of these restrictions is of course instrumental, as he chose to write most of his music for the solo piano. Obtaining strong results from a limited instrumental palette is of course a very familiar concept to a fan of underground metal. His spectacular waltzes and mazurkas also show him extending a limited rhythmic format to powerful expressive and structural heights, without ever abandoning it entirely. It is in these smaller pieces that Chopin’s tendency to generate structure from content is at its most alive.

A piece with seemingly unexceptional or bland material, such as the Prelude No.4 in E minor, is turned by clever and patient development into a masterpiece, whose economic simplicity only serves to emphasize the power of each event, however minor it may seem. The piece revolves around the thwarting of tonal expectations, a simple enough technique out of which Chopin carves a funereal dirge of both enormous emotional impact and absolute structural perfection. Chopin transforms formal and instrumental restrictions into challenges, forcing himself to find creative avenues around structural problems. This may be one explanation behind why practically all of Chopin’s best pieces are driven by strong melodies; he leaves himself no place to hide.

The Nocturnes are the obvious place to start with the music of Chopin, and for good reason. My personal recommendation would be Claudio Arrau’s 1978 set. Though not all the Preludes are equally good, the whole set is definitely worth a listen, and Martha Argerich’s 1977 DG recording is one of the finest options out there, and it also contains a marvelous rendition of the second Piano Sonata. Also of note are Dinu Lipatti’s disc of Waltzes for EMI and Krystian Zimmerman’s 1988 DG disc of Ballades and miscellanea. Outside the world of solo piano Chopin shines less, even his piano concertos suffer from a poor understanding of the orchestra. This can only serve as further proof that Chopin’s genius lay in his musical intuition, through which he allowed pieces to develop themselves organically in order to reach greater heights of expression, as opposed to merely accommodating themselves to an abstract formal plan. The kinship between Chopin’s fiercely expressive, instrumentally virtuosic and structurally organic style with underground metal is a clear one, and all Hessians are strongly advised to acquaint themselves with the Polish master.

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