US black death metallers Lucifers Hammer have landed a deal with Destro Records to reissue their long out-of-print albums. The first release will be “The Mists of Time MMXIV” album. It will consist of the original 1997 album, “The Mists of Time” untouched and unspoiled, and also include demo bonus tracks. Naturally there will be new artwork, lyrics, commentary and more.
Lucifers Hammer formed in 1986 and their career ended roughly in the early 2000s after releasing a second album. The band are excited to be part of Destro Records, and believe in quality over quantity. “The Mists of Time MMXIV” is slated for a March/April release date.
At the moment the focus for the label is this release and news regarding other material by the band will come shortly.
There will be a bandcamp site launch for Destro Records very soon, physical and digital copies, and other special deal announcements soon.
Destro Records is a NY-based label with a long history of producing quality releases, including through the association of its management with their own musical projects such as Ceremonium and Thevetat.
Crushing old school death metal band Imprecation have unleashed new merchandise upon the world, but it takes a bit of old school engineering to get your hands on it. The new merch is specifically a tshirt designed by notorious underground artist Mark Riddick, a tshirt featuring the cover of last year’s Satanae Tenebris Infinita, and a logo patch for your killcoat or backpack.
Alex Hellid of Entombed is offering a contest which puts a challenge to his listeners: make something of Entombed, and possibly win free stuff.
Here’s his statement:
Here are three instrumental demos. Take them and do something…add your own flavor…lay down the vocals…be the voice…remix…cut it up…add samples…do an animation…shoot a video clip…anything…and let us see it! Then post it on our facebook page.
At a time when most crosshairs were aimed at Tampa, FL or Sweden as being “death metal capitals” some of us trained our sights further afield to places like Canada and Brazil which to their credit were home to a great number of pioneering bands. Headhunter D.C. are one such band who built a fanbase in their homeland of Brazil but are generally not known outside South America.
With …In Unholy Mourning…, the band crafts the same type of music it made in the 1990s but with better production it can compete with releases from bigger labels. This is part of the ongoing process by which bands from the 1990s are finally availing themselves of more powerful aesthetics. Folks tend to forget that in the 1980s we often found ourselves thinking, “Wouldn’t it be killer to hear so-and-so with a professional production?”
…In Unholy Mourning… may be the most mature release of Headhunter D.C.’s long career, exceeding even the high standard set by the fertile Brazilian scene. Abundant excellent riffs and arrangements pervade this recording and show what we have been missing out on all these years. The second track “Dawn Of Heresy” follows the introductory non-musical piece entitled “Rotten Death Prayer” with classic Acheron-esque opening rythms that chug into the punky skank beats which made death metal the natural bastard-child of metal and punk during the pioneering era.
The album varies pace throughout, accompanied by the vocals of Sergio Baloff which are likely the best output of his career. Guttural death metal howlings spend most of their time at the low end, fluctuating to higher mid-pitched expressions indicative of reading a piece of prose; there’s no monotone drab cupped vocals to be found here and no need for a lyric sheet. Baloff keeps the natural Brazilian flair to his voice and pronunciation yet enunciates the words so they can be easily deciphered. This creates an unusual vocal clarity in a genre where instruments or some other factor normally pollutes the ability to understand the words. He has faced criticism for making his vocal delivery dynamic in this way, showing that perhaps a large part of the listenership would prefer hearing the same thing ten times on the same album.
Magnifying this idea is the inclusion of the almost PERFECT cover of Thrashmassacre’s “Into The Nightmare,” which is more of a deathrash tune saluting the 1980s pre-death metal evolution within Brazilian extreme metal and although obscure became a highlight of the album. You would not immediately think of it as a cover, as it fits well into an album which is replete with tropes of its region, including the group vocal choruses on “Hail The Metal of Death” which are a nod to the glorious times era of Brazilian metal.
Headhunter D.C. deserve praise for coming up with a rewarding end result after obviously throwing their blood, sweat and tears into this effort, especially in a time when metal is so sterile, safe, consumerist and bland. …In Unholy Mourning… is not as slick and geared toward being a product as the new releases you find in glossy magazines and on big internet sites, but instead this is honest music with a fervent message that has finally gotten the production it always deserved.
Through the decades, metal has always been more like a crossroads than a cul-de-sac, with the intersection of punk and industrial as well as metal’s own internal genres, divided roughly between above-ground (heavy metal, nu-metal, glam metal) and underground (NWOBHM, death metal). The different threads feed back and forth into one another and cross-influence, but too much influence from any one would assimilate the whole genre.
Thus Caliban wanders into difficult waters. This band fuses Eskimo Callboy-style techno-influenced metalcore with post-metal and alternative metal, mixing in a fair amount of speed metal technique as well. The core of this band is the stadium hard rock of the 1980s and the alternative rock of the 1990s, which gives it a wistful and yet highly personal sound, like a nobody suddenly placed on national television and told to defend his life through a life history. Thus per its metalcore heritage it is highly emotional, as emo is a huge part of metalcore, but Caliban meld that 1980s stadium rock grandeur into the tendency of techno and industrial bands to make ceremonial moments out of their raging music. As a result, songs tend to rage along with metal riffs, then go into alternative rock choruses, and after a while expand into a bigger “meta-chorus” that sounds like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and a Chemical Brothers set.
Much of the focus is on the vocals which admittedly produce 1990s throwbacks, sounding a lot like a cross between Foo Fighters and Coldplay. They tend to use soaring melodies almost like those found in inspirational music, designed to contrast the distorted vocals which tend to chant in Pantera-style confrontational mode that got lifted from NYHC and Biohazard. This is a lot like what the more aggressive nu-metal bands do, but Caliban turn the volume up to ten with more melodic vocals and angrier chants. Although this leads to a binary focus in songwriting, where the soft conflicts the hard and fades out to an emotional finish, this is what makes for perfect radio/MTV hard rock. It delivers a ballad-like finish to an equal balance of aggression and sensitivity which is what today’s sophisticated audiences desire.
If you’re looking for something that is on the aboveground side of metal and in fact leans toward the rock side, which combines the raw emotion of 1980s stadium rock with the world-weary cynicism of 1990s alternative rock and the social aptitude of techno and metalcore, Caliban Ghost Empire offers something new you might want to check out. It’s like a Foo Fighters or Filter or Devin Townshend for this generation. Ghost Empire will not appeal to underground metalheads but might be a good introduction to the genre for people raised on the MTV-style emotive rock of contemporary fame.
Imagine you’ve returned to those magic years between 1985 and 1987. Thrash exploded, followed by speed metal and then the nascent proto-death/black bands are emerging. Almost everything is tinged with Metallica since they are looking like the first band of this ilk to make it out of the underground and into mainstream record stores.
Pentagram (CL) comes to us from those formative years but with two different versions of that time. The first is the second disc in the set, which re-records seven classic tracks using modern production and instrumental know-how. The second is the “first” disc in this set, which is thirteen new songs. While both derive from the fertile era of the middle 1980s, they each take different approaches, with the first disc actually showing more of what this band can do.
At their core these songs have not yet transitioned from speed metal to death metal. These are fundamentally based on the rhythmic riff, not the phrasal riff, and are oriented toward using choppy sounds not booming or columnar ones. However, this enables Pentagram (CL) to layer lead guitars over rhythm guitars, vocals over drums, and then to suspend them selectively, creating what is effectively a technique of adding textural depth to regulate intensity. What that requires is a fairly constant rhythm, thus both verse and chorus riffs and their various transitional riffs use very similar patterns. This pattern applies to both discs.
The second disc may be the more anticipated in the underground as these songs never made it out of the demo stages back in the 1980s when they were written. While we like to be production-agnostic as underground metalheads, because the nature of being “underground” is that you cadge production and promotion where you can, not where is optimal, it is often hard to hear what’s going on. These re-produced songs show a gentle hand in keeping their nature intact while playing them as they were always meant to be played, which is with some technical flair amidst the straightforward riffs and aggressive vocals. It is great to hear these songs ride again and to hear them in the context with demos from Possessed, Sepultura, Kreator, Destruction and Rigor Mortis who were at roughly the same time exploring a similar sound.
However, ultimately this reviewer found more to listen to in the first disc. It reminds me of the moments after a party where, the excitement having faded, analysis kicks in — and it’s from that, and not the frenzy of the moment, that emotion really comes. This is a retrospective of the 1980s not in terms of its surface traits but an attempt to get to its root, which is the massive sense of being in transition. These songs deliberately hover on the edge of death metal, and also on the edge of returning to the days of Venom and Motorhead, but also gesture at something else. A sense of suspended belief, the potential for anything to emerge from any moment, and an instability that calls forth primal conflict suffuses these songs. They use styling that may be from the farther side of that 1985-1987 window and apply it in a way that is not “modern” in the sense of metal now, but more fully mature, like the death metal to follow while retaining their speed metal core.
Hearing these two discs together is not the ridiculous time machine sensation of Hollywood movies but more like a re-visitation of the events that made the time so much of what it was. The first disc, showing newer songwriting, has a steadier hand. It would benefit from the tighter assembly which threw out anything too repetitive or tangential shown by the second disc, which has songs stripped down for bear as if played by a rogue guerrilla group wandering in the mountains, pursued by a vastly better equipped army. While these songs use the distorted vocals of underground metal, it is more accurate to see this band in the context of the generation before, when nothing had quite taken form and the bands wanted to make a statement underscoring the wisdom of that principle.
Some modern “black metal” is superior to others; and not all of it is created by flannel-wearing, latte-drinking hipsters (just around 70%). Thankfully, there are some albums around that will not turn the listener androgynous after a single spin.
Greek black metal band Burial Hordes’ recently released album, Incendium, takes a death metal flavored approach to the modern black metal problem. Carrying on the early Incantation/Profanatica and Demoncy single-string riffing style, the band updates it to the millennium’s expectations: production is clean, ambiguous arpeggiated deviations abound, and linear tremolo-picked guitar lines rise above the churning mass below. Vocals have more in common with death metal than any other genre.
Doubtless this album will achieve some measure of success, as it adequately fulfills several niche roles: death metal riffs for “old-school” fans, whilst the newer will be entertained by experiencing a presentation that challenges them while simultaneously remaining in a place safe enough to understand.
Indeed, that last part is the most damaging criticism of this release: it does not attack the listener in the ways the aforementioned bands did; it remains heavy, but essentially pleasant music to listen to. For that reason it remains unclear how long this album (and genre) will endure, as the less dedicated fans will eventually leave to whatever new release is in the press next week, consigning each modern black metal release to a week of interest before being retired to a dark corner on the shelf.
The crossover between metal and keyboard music is vast and well-documented to the point that the well-dressed death metal site simply ignores instrumentation and picks the keyboard bands that sound as evil and nihilistic as death metal. Whether that’s works by Neptune Towers, Beherit, Jaaportit, Goatcraft, Burzum or Danzig, evil metal has crossed over to occult keyboards.
Another entry into this world is Khand, made by lifelong metalhead and now synthesizer jockey Arillius. Describing his music as “cosmic ambient,” which overlaps with black ambient and dark ambient and neoclassical, Arillius started Khand back in 1998. Influenced by medieval, space and fantasy themes, Khand’s demo “Interstellar Dominions” was released in 2006 and immediately attracted an unusual but dedicated audience. Seven years later, Khand released The Fires of Celestial Ardour which is now available on tape for those who wish to order it.
The Fires of Celestial Ardour shows Khand having refined its style and narrowed its focus, which enables the band to train its resources on a certain type of deep space exploration sound. For those who want to experiment, the album is available as a free download from hi.arc.tow records.
Crushing Tampa, FL football death metal band Massacre announce today their release of Back From Beyond, a new full-length album for 2014.
The album will be released on March 24th in Europe and on April 1st in North America via Century Media Records. Returning to the roots of their early 90s trademark sound, Back From Beyond was recorded and mixed by Tim Vazquez of CGM Studios, Florida, and features original MASSACRE members Rick Rozz (guitars; ex-MANTAS/DEATH) and Terry Butler (bass; OBITUARY, ex-DEATH/SIX FEET UNDER), as well as Ed Webb (vocals; ex-DIABOLIC/EULOGY) and Mike Mazzonetto (drums; ex-PAIN PRINCIPLE). The cover artwork was created by Toshihiro Egawa (CRYPTOPSY, KRISIUN, DEVOURMENT, etc.).
Formed in the wake of the breakup of an early Death lineup, Massacre quickly distinguished themselves by approaching old school death metal with creative basic riffs but, instead of relying on the percussive chugging or blasting techniques common to Tampa bands, Massacre used a constant tremolo strum and a big burly warm and fuzzy wave of distortion. The result created an otherworldly album that at the time sounded like nothing else, although it has been widely cloned since.
Back From Beyond has a lot of promise, with a caveat. The lineup is good and the clarity about the mission is good. However, self-referential statements by bands usually make for disasters, and while 2012’s Condemned to the Shadows showed much of their older promise but with more of a heavy metal/hard rock flavor. Hopefully the full-length will head in a more OSDM direction.
Today, Jeff Hanneman would have been fifty years old. The man who helped invent the sound that underlies all of underground death metal did not, as the people around him in the LA suburbs tend to do, waste his life away in repetition. Instead, he forged his own path and we celebrate him for it and the results of it.
Way back in 1983, as now, the holy grail of alienated music was the fusion of any two of its genres: metal, punk and industrial. Specifically there was great interest in using its guitar-based genres to create a new sound. Many people attempted to fuse metal and punk, and many credible sounds came out of it. One path was speed metal, which Metallica unleashed with Kill ‘Em All. Another was thrash, which DRI cut loose with Dirty Rotten LP. But still another was the foundation of death metal and black metal which was introduced by Slayer and refined the following year by Bathory, Hellhammer and Sodom.
Slayer took two things from punk and injected them into the prog-influenced songs structures of NWOBHM: they borrowed the constant tremolo strum, used by punk for drone, and the open drum patterns that allowed guitar to take the lead. Now a new style of music emerged. Rhythm guitar became the lead instrument, rapid-firing changing riffs at the audience while drums framed but did not lead the development. Riffs did not have to perfectly fit the drums which kept going in the background as a kind of timekeeper but not, as in most bands, a way of signaling the guitar to change. Further, riffs became phrasal, building on the longer chord progressions of Black Sabbath to become fully small melodies, developing in response to on another like classical motifs.
Music teachers, who were raised in the rock/jazz idea that drums lead and riffs should emphasize harmonic and a static melodic role, with the primary melodic role and lead instrument (and thus impetus for song “development”) being the voice, found Slayer to be unmusical. The record industry was appalled at this creation that unleashed the demonic side of life in such clarity; they make their money from selling happy illusions, not grim realities translated into elaborately conceived mythologies.
And yet it is this mythological tendency, dating back to “War Pigs,” that saves metal from self-consuming and burning out like hardcore punk. It is not literal; it is imaginative. It turns our focus from ourselves to the nature of power, history, nature and other forces larger than the individual, and then lets us imagine the greatness of participation in those. Where punk turned reality into a protest weapon and source of alienation, metal has turned it into a source of individual desire to do something epic with our lives. Slayer gave that mythological tendency a new voice, not just by singing about demons, vampires and The Holocaust, but by translating the sound of raw power into something you could throw on your bedroom hi-fi and be transported to a different world.
For this reason, Slayer captured the imagination of a generation and continues to enthrall us today. The early albums, which are completely written in horror movie mythology, incite in us a desire to see the hidden possibly occult underpinnings of a society gone insane. The Reign in Blood and afterwards material shows us a more punk-like grasp of all that terrifies us and sends us searching for reasons why, and if not why, how to use such things as war, murder and sadism in some constructive way. Slayer is not protest music; it acknowledges the horror, but doesn’t want to band us together into a drum circle to “stop” these horrors. It recognizes they are eternal. Instead, like the religion it loathed, Slayer drives us to find a way to accept these things as part of life itself, and look for a philosophy that shows us a reason to survive despite all these horrors.
Jeff Hanneman’s influence pervades the Slayer story. He wrote many of the band’s most epic and enduring songs, contributed the mythological outlook, and invented the musical changes described above. While he may be slighted by the Grammy’s, or ignored by a world of people seeking Shakira tunes instead of imaginative but realist metal, to those who can understand his trip — already a naturally elite group — Hanneman’s work is not just a source of wisdom, but of inspiration. In a world asleep, he stayed awake. In a world of imitation, he took his own path. Where most just wanted to participate for reward, he took on life at its most basic level and triumphed. For that reason, we’ll always celebrate his life and work.
An age of distrust.