Classical and Pop Metal – Part 1 (Banishing of Preconceptions)

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Article by David Rosales, 1st installment of a 7 part series
The terms pop and classical get thrown around pretty carelessly, with little regard as to what they actually mean as foreign meanings are imposed on them. It can be shown that most of these distinctions are quite arbitrary, even if they are meaningful indeed. What we should be asking ourselves is which of the definitions may provide a useful distinction that goes beyond the plain appearances or superficial glances at structure.

Music works at so many more levels than bare form (which is only the means and not the music itself) that the analysis typical of academia which focuses on either what I would call brute-force complexity or what they may deem “innovative” is problematic. Music history has proved that mere innovation, which more often than not is little more than momentary novelty, does not bring about long-standing results in itself. It may certainly result in long-standing popularity, but one may see that in these cases the “novelty” in question, as a concept, antecedes any natural reactions and feelings people may have to it.

A good example of this is The Rite of Spring, by Stravinsky. Its fans are usually music majors, more often than not, or amateur posers who are merely shocked by its reputation and how strange it sounds – how “different” it makes them feel. In each of the cases, the most immediate arguments for the greatness of this music will come in the form of cold musical analyses that point out its innovations in rhythm, or how “shocking” the character is. Basically, bombast and syncopated hip movements.

The same is true of metal or any other genre. Innovations and novelty come and go, the former being absorbed into the background as useful processes to express the metaphysical concerns that the particular music has, while the latter makes an impression and is left behind. As we recognize this universal rule of human-made music, or art in general, we come to understand that we cannot base definitions strictly on whether or not innovation is taking place as this also tends to be confused with novelty. Only time — and long spans at that — can truly prove the difference.

Finally, the biggest preconception we must get rid off to properly start this discussion is that the terms we mentioned before are actually defined. There is no complete consensus regarding what “popular music” strictly consists of. Furthermore, the term “classical” seems to be used as meaning both a period in Western traditional music, and what is actually modern academic activity which appropriates the former for itself as if some kind of crowning ceremony had taken place in which Beethoven bestowed power upon Wagner, who in turn anointed the likes of Schönberg. Let’s get rid of all such popular (ha!) assertions and try to arrive at useful terms.

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Conan’s Top 10 Underground Metal Songs

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Growing up as a ruthless barbarian in a desolate and cruel world born made Conan the toughest around. He is the wet dream of every orthodox power metal fan and the unspoken desire of funderground war metal addicts. This is a list of the 10 underground metal songs that this head crusher chose for us:

10. Blood – Sodomize the Weak

Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.

9. Atrocity – Hold Out (To The End)

Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That’s what’s important! Valor pleases you, Crom… so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!

8. Cirith Ungol – Master of the Pit

The riddle… of steel.

7. Iron Maiden- The Duelist

For us, there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm.

6. Bathory – To Enter Your Mountain

He is strong! If I die, I have to go before him, and he will ask me, “What is the riddle of steel?” If I don’t know it, he will cast me out of Valhalla and laugh at me. That’s Crom, strong on his mountain!

5. Manowar – Pleasure Slave

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They’re all sluts! He’s dead already!

4. Rhapsody – Steelgods Of The Last Apocalypse

Crom laughs at your four winds. He laughs from his mountain.

3. Kreator – Carrion

Does it always smell like this? How does the wind ever get in here?

2. Candlemass – Demons Gate

CONAN: You killed my mother! You killed my father, you killed my people! You took my father’s sword!

1. Immortal – As the Eternity Opens

Adieu!

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Metalgate news – Phil Anselmo wavers on racist statements

Phil Anselmo put a sour taste into the mouth of Dimebag Darrell and Pantera worshipers worldwide by making some white supremacist signs at the end of Dimebash 2016. Much to my amusement, he immediately backpedaled and insisted that these remarks were his idea of a joke. Like most of these incidents, the importance is not so much in what Phil Anselmo actually believes, but in how the people around him react. As a general rule, you people have overreacted. For instance, the good folk at MetalSucks (always a bastion of… well… something) struggled to reconcile their simple belief that racism is bad with their other simple belief that Phil Anselmo’s musical efforts are worthy of their time and attention.

Here at DMU, we’ve learned to deal with the fallout of our idols’ actual, provable crimes, such as the arson and murder of the Norwegian black metal scene to the point that we’re perhaps desensitized to thoughtcrimes, especially since we can’t yet peer into Anselmo’s head and accurately determine whether he’s a racist, or trawling for attention, or some combination of both. What matters is that we don’t jump to conclusions based on the unknowable. Besides, we have enough evidence of Anselmo contributing to Pantera.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature – Vargstuhr – Howlings (2015)

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Article by David Rosales

Musical genres work very much like languages, transmitting information at an abstract level, albeit simultaneously at a much more intuitive and unconscious level, hence its surfacing in the form of emotions. Unfortunately, many musicians fall into the trap of taking forms and cliches merely as that: a formula that is interpreted either as a constraint or a shortcut. Neither approach correctly assesses the real value of so-called cliched forms and expressions.

Vargstuhr’s Howlings presents a pop opera variation of this thinking by making a wolf-pack themed album whose center are the lyrics. All music revolving around it is incidental and it tends to twist around in its particular emphasis while roughly remaining in the area of a third-grade black metal act with very poorly thought-out interactions between the vocals and the music. Like any opera-like production, it tries to keep its eye on themes of some kind, but the music is still too secondary and plays more like an excuse for a soundtrack.

Besides its poor structuring, Howlings also fails at a local performance level, managing to sound awkward in almost each of the instruments at least at some point. We normally do not complain at all about production, but here the music is so bad that the excessively out of balance mix emphasizes the flaws of the album. The only prize Vargstuhr will be winning here is an award for one of the most uncomfortable albums to listen to in recent memory.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature – Cauldron – In Ruin (2016)

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This is, without any subtlety, an exceedingly middle of the road work of traditional heavy metal. It’s not particularly ‘heavy’, containing little more than a set of rudimentary melodic rock riffs played at a middling pace overlaid with an exceedingly generic frontman. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the ‘glam’ metal (read: harder radio rock) of the ’80s, although Cauldron’s visual aesthetic is closer to a generic metalhead look. Nothing is particularly offensive here – the vocals are a bit lamer than average for reasons that are hard to quantify, but otherwise this is a vaguely competent albeit unremarkable recording that I am already forgetting as I write this album. You, on the other hand, are probably wondering why I would choose to cover something that’s so devoid of positive or negative qualities. It turns out that listening to this sort of recording places a few important ideas in my head.

By now, our readers should be familiar with how quickly our species as a whole forgets about the… lower tier of media works that are quickly forgotten once something more novel comes along. A sufficient amount of effort and/or financial wizardry can distort this phenomenon, occasionally resulting in an artist who refuses to leave the public eye due to radio payola, or personal misconduct, or whatever reason. Cauldron, to my understanding, is not thusly blessed, although they and associates presumably have enough business resources to create some buzz for a while. Maybe they’ll become one of those “moderately successful” metal bands I talked about earlier that can live comfortably, if not glamorously off their money. I highly doubt, however, that a band this generic is going to make any serious impact on most listeners, though and will probably fade quickly whenever they call it quits. There are two important corollaries here – the metal fanbase Cauldron has to fight for will turn over with time, and similarly so will the metal bands competing for mindshare. There’s definitely a lesson to be learned here about the state of the metal world, although you can also make a case that it’s better studied through either a more notorious band, an objectively worse one, or some combination of the two.

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Rambo’s Top 10 Underground Metal Songs

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Rambo swung by and talked metal over a couple of beers this week. A now spirit-broken idealist, Rambo expressed his concerns for the sad state of modern life in the cities. I could not miss the palpable misanthropy in his tone as he crushed cans with one hand describing the faint-heartedness of limp-bodied SJWs.

10. Sepultura – Sarcastic Existence

There are no friendly civilians!

9. Marduk – Fistfucking Gods Planet

Don’t look at me, look at the road! That’s how accidents happen.

8. Heresiarch – Intransingent

Is there a law against me getting something to eat here?

7. Fallen Christ – Satanas

I’m no tourist.

6. Black Sabbath – Nightmare

Your worst nightmare.

5. Metallica – Fade To Black

Sir, do we get to win this time?

4. Immolation – Those Left Behind

They’re all gone Sir.

3. Blood – Defaced Total Mutilation

I’ve got blood and everything and I’m tryin’ to hold him together! I’m puttin’… the guy’s fuckin’ insides keep coming out!

2. Rigor Mortis – Welcome to Your Funeral

I could have killed ’em all, I could’ve killed you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it! Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go!!

1. Amebix – Drink and be Merry

For me civilian life is nothing! In the field we had a code of honor, you watch my back, I watch yours. Back here there’s nothing!

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On Metal Transcriptions and Metal Music Percussion

Article by David Rosales

This very entertaining cover of Iron Maiden’s song ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’ as performed by a bass clarinet quartet was posted on Youtube a few years ago. The instruments take on the melodic lines of the song, which was aptly selected as it is rich in them. This experiment is not only fun to listen to but interesting in how a different instrumentation highlights one aspect of the music while utterly losing a whole dimension exploited by the original composition.

The clarity of melody and harmony is quite enhanced here and so their study and appreciation by the guitar student seeking to learn and emulate this aspect of the song will greatly benefit from this adaptation. However, the loss of the power chord, and particularly the power chord played on the distorted electric guitar means the loss of an ocean of artificial artifacts that form the bulk of the richness of sound of the instrument and which lend metal and hard rock music one of its distinctive aural characteristics.

The necessary absence of the drum set is seen by the more classically-oriented music fan or musician as, perhaps, negligible, but this is only because of the widespread ignorance (either through pop culture or academic music indoctrination) about the relevance of percussion in metal. Contrary to the now-traditional view of percussion as a less important aspect of music (which, in fact, flies in the face of many traditional folk musics around the world, where it is recognized and studied by academicians yet still seen with derision as “primitive”), this reliance that metal has exhibited in increasing amounts is not a measure of scarcity of content or artistic deficiency, but rather the appearance of an unknown variable.

Metal percussion in its most advanced states, that is, in its use in the more artistically (as opposed to technically) developed subgenres of death and black metal shows a usage and expansion that just does not exist in traditional or experimental classical music. As such, academicians have no precedent by which to measure or qualify this. They should perform field research, they should listen, but they are too comfortable and busy feeling self-important. This is the sad state of the intellectually self-gratifying (and ‘morally’ bankrupt) art that results from two centuries of overarching materialism, corruption and decay.

Many would point to the obvious origin of metal percussion in traditional rock, and that is factually right, yet its use and direction has gone far beyond it and in some cases taken cues even from electronic music (especially in the case of some black metal)and jazz music (in the case of some death metal). Metal percussion incorporates aspects of these and has built a whole new art out of it that could be considered the more spiritual child of the pleasure-oriented and technically-nuanced jazz (Editor’s note: DMU has written about this very hypothesis in the deep past).

The future and refinement of metal this metal percussion should not to reside in the empty groove explorations of fusion as seen in djent nor in the facetious exercises of tekdeth which may even borrow directly from genres such as samba in their search for “entertaining and interesting” bits to play, regardless of how this may affect the character of the music. Also defunct inside are the dead-end and superficial attempts at applications of abstract concepts in nu-black metal and war metal. As in all other aspects of the already-cemented, fully-formed language of metal, the role of its percussion and its abstract concepts have been made known implicitly in the music of the classics. Go, listen, study, learn, apply.

 

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Sadistic Metal Reviews- Mendacious Stork Edition (End of 2015 Series)

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One list of albums dictated by the masses of sheeple apparently does not provide enough self-indulgence and emotional masturbation for the hordes of mental weaklings that yearn to be called metalheads in order to disguise their lack of direction or ideals. Hence, here we are, clubbing away at one of these sorry piles of shit for the amusement of hessians. However, we also hope that the attentive unawakened reader may start to see a glimpse of the truth through outright disrespect for the inherently contemptible. (We have skipped some items in the original list as to not incur in much unnecessary repetition of releases, thus the odd numbering of the items herein.)

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2. Swallow the Sun – Songs From The North I, II & III

The term “doom metal” is again used to justify slow-coming boredom and lack of originality. Swallow the Sun compile alternative metal slow and simple grooves with the alternation of growls and the clear vocals typical of post-cuckolded Amorphis Scandinavian gay ‘hard’ (ha!) rock. There is an obvious pseudo-progressive intent here as discreet radio moments pass us by in a series of haphazardly-stitched, disingenuous grimaces. Radio emotional pandering for the pretentious.

3. Draconian – Sovran

Apparently radio gay doom is popular at MS’ website. Only here we have a much more straightforward, perhaps more honest, attempt at the same run-of-the-mill pop rock opera. Draconian switches between male and female vocals, with duet episodes, themselves interrupted by long harmonized guitar lines reminiscent, at least superficially, of Funeral’s early work. However, Tragedies did not fall into popisms and rather took a more traditional popular music approach to vocals and applied it to a quasi classical level which may make one think of European early music. Draconian, on the other hand, stink of Barbie sex.

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4. Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields

Mediocre and dull ‘doom metal’ seems to be extremely popular. It may be that since the average music listener is a terrible one, and that they seek these sounds as stimulus for a purely sensual experience and so can only identify with very simple-minded works, however contorted their outward forms may be. Shape of Despair provide the pop listener with the ‘doom metal’ experience in the same way that Cannibal Corpse provides him the ‘death metal’ experience. Of course, this is the sort of listener that “listens to all kinds of music”. All is imbecility.

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5. Galneryus – Under the Force of Courage

One day little guitar Syu wanted to find a place for his neoclassical wanking and so created the power metal band Galneryus. Galneryus released a couple of comically-endearing and childish albums until the inevitable sellout moment came. After trying their hand at pandering to a more mainstream audience and wisely switching to writing lyrics in Japanese (realizing, perhaps that their main market was inside Japan after all, and that foreign fans would always be attracted to the sound of a strange and unique language), the band took a wide turn back to a firmly European style inspired on the likes of Manowar-inspired streamlined power metal with augmented structures that balance a manner of unpredictability without ever feeling unsafe and, of course, always remaining singable. Clever and winky, empty as fanservice-crammed anime.

8. Leprous – The Congregation

Groovy, syncopated, modulations disguising poorly-presented repetition, weird clean vocals, just enough electronic noodling and laid-back but ‘cool’ drums. This is the recipe par excellence for the multiculturalist wet dream presenting all forms and nothing but insecurity and hollowness at its center. Here is where the worst overproduced radio pop is peppered with jazz fusion gimmicks. Metal? Music or public obscenity?

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9. Moonspell – Extinct

A horrible blend of modern industrial tropes and a sissy euro-rock basis, accompanied vocals angsty enough to seem edgy but just safe enough as to not scare away the wimps who listen to this garbage. The high school poser solos do not really redeam this first-world, spoiled-kid, macho pretension.

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14. Enshine – Singularity

Basically, the sonic representation of the sparkly, clean-shaven assholes of fans of these music ready to be sodomized by real metal music. Lacking in all natural self-assertion or distinct personality, this is music for the bottom who craves to be dominated. In other words, music for social justice warriors.

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15. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction

This is as ridiculous as pseudo-progressive core pandering can get. What is worse, this band is playing a dangerous game in which they may lose all of their audiences, or perhaps score with New York hipsters. Crammed in under two minutes you may find explicit deathcore and alternative rock passages, power metal leads, nu-black metal runs lead by duets of inhaled low growls and Chester Bennington’s evil twin brother’s whining, without excluding the use of high squeals. Basically, a puddle of diarrhea that clearly gives away the cause of ailment. Unbearably disquieting in its stupidity.

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Metalcore manager Derek Brewer talks touring and finance

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Finance and accounting skills are useful life skills for everyone, not just Derek Brewer.

In response to the “popular” deathcore act Thy Art Is Murder losing their vocalist over finance, an employee of Outerloop Management, a company that handles the finance of several modern popular metal bands, wrote up a budget analysis of a metal band’s touring budget for our competitors over at MetalSucks. Derek Brewer claims that with sound budgeting techniques and by avoiding expensive luxuries like cocaine, a “mid-level” band can make enough money through touring and merchandise to survive and maintain an okayish standard of living while arguably contributing more to society than a retail drone.

There are a few holes you can poke in Brewer’s assumptions, but overall his numbers give me the impression that a band that gets big enough to receive regular coverage on heavily trafficked news sites can reach some degree of financial security. My real emphasis here is on the idea that getting to the point where your band is even moderately successful to the point of even potentially being fiscally self-sustaining is going to be the difficult part. Barring enormous luck (or a potentially lucrative if musically dubious gimmick like adding a flautist to your grindcore band), building up a fanbase for any sort of creative content requires an immense and persistent amount of work over time. Society in general knows that by now, and by traveling this path you’ll also be in competition with an enormous amount of other bands who think they’re going to be the next big thing and are also working long hours to get noticed. The competition isn’t necessarily going to improve the quality of metal works released (at least by our standards, since most bands aren’t writing specifically for our tastes), but it is something to note if you look at Brewer or similars’ figures and think that someday, you could make it as a metal rockstar.

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