Tom G. Warrior agrees with our review of Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

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As always, Warrior is self-deprecating and honest to a fault:

At any rate, I, too, think Melana Chasmata might be the most deficient post-Celtic Frost reunion album I have been involved in. I have made uncounted such statements within the band during the extended time we were working on the album, and there exists a long string of very unambiguous mails to this effect, addressed to the band’s management and to our partners at Century Media.

Melana Chasmata was an exceedingly difficult and complex album to make, and that is never a good sign. There were reasons for these difficulties, and they were far from superficial, on more than just one level. In the end, I couldn’t have worked on this album for even one more day, even though I seriously pondered at least a remix, if not far more drastic revisions. But I eventually felt I needed to wrap it up and thus also conclude the entire emotional landscape attached to it.

Frankly, I personally am utterly puzzled by the extremely favourable opinions the album has garnered from most in our audience as well as from reviewers, record company, management, and fellow band members. My own stance is far, far more critical, and I have so far been unable to listen to the album as a whole. The faint light on the horizon, for me, is that I felt the same way about To Mega Therion in late 1985. Only a few years down the road did I begin to digest that album and its production, eventually enabling me to think of it as one of Celtic Frost’s most significant albums.

The difference perhaps is that To Mega Therion encapsulated what many were feeling but did not yet know how to say, where Melana Chasmata encapsulates what many are saying, but not what they are feeling.

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Sadistic Intent announce May tour dates

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Sadistic Intent became known for their brand of intense death metal that carried the dark, foreboding atmosphere of speed/death metal bands such as Possessed and Slayer to its logical conclusion. Later, the band further developed its technical capacities into a style of death metal similar to Morbid Angel. After years of relative silence, Sadistic Intent have announced the itinerary for their Lurking Terror Crusade 2014 tour:

May 2 Detroit, MI (The tangent Gallery)
May 3 Chicago, IL (Cobra Lounge)
May 4 Lakewood, Oh (The Foundry)
May 5 Buffalo, NY (The Rocking Buffalo
May 6 Philadelphia, PA (The Milkcreek Tavern)
May 7 Wallingford, CT (Cherry Street Station)
May 8 Boston, MA (Sammy’s Patio)
May 9 Brooklyn, NY (The Acheron)
May 10 Hyattsville, MD (Schizophrenia)
May 11 Chesapeake, VA (Roger’s)
May 15 New Orleans, LA (Sitheria)
May 17 Houston, TX (Mango’s)

Sadistic Intent‘s legacy consists of short-players and compilations, never having recorded a full expression of the band’s artistic merit. This is a great shame in that few bands were able to fully leave speed metal behind and adopt the style that bands like Morbid Angel, Massacra and early Sepultura did, which allowed the full promise of death metal in intricately-knit combinations of riffs which each symbolized meaning through their shape and in combination told a tale of successive revelations. Possibly this sort of joy in perception can be yours as you catch Sadistic Intent on tour.

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Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

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Back in 1990, Celtic Frost released Vanity/Nemesis. This album was tasked with redeeming the fans’ respect after the affair that was Cold Lake . Straddling the gap that existed between that album and the style of inventive proto-death metal that had made Celtic Frost worth hearing, Vanity/Nemesis was a rather mediocre album. It was reasonably competent and it attempted to blend in with its contemporary milieu, but the album was artificial and uncomfortable to listen to.

In many ways, Melana Chasmata is the linear descendant of that album. First, this is an album with an astute grasp on the market it is attempting to exploit: like Triptykon’s debut, production is crystal-clear, uniform, and decidedly modern. Tom Warrior’s vocals have continued their changing form begun on Monotheist and now share the monotonous, ranting tone more in common with nu-speed metal bands such as Pantera. Riffs, as well, have “progressed” in a similar fashion. Although Eparistera Daimones‘ riffs were minimal, single string sequences, some intriguing melodies arose. For the most part, these are missing on Melana Chasmata, at least on the traditional metal tracks.

Where this album genuinely attempts an artistic statement is during attempts to merge noir-electronic music with the aesthetics of metal instrumentation as was introduced on Warrior’s last two albums. These tracks are worthwhile in that melodies are allowed to develop in a subtle, restrained manner before the climax of the tracks strike, in contrast to the uniform faux-aggression of the rest of the album. Greater tonal variation as evidenced by clean vocals, mildly pentatonic clean guitar sequences, and melodies confirm Warrior’s avowed interest in artists such as Gary Numan. (For a similar, contemporary album in spirit, one might point to the comeback album from Amebix , which also attempted to merge post-90s metal with popular, but slightly “outside” music). These tracks, while superior to the other fare, ultimately lack in the same core way as the others: there is no great resolution, or purpose inherent in them.

For those who hoped that Eparistera Daimones would be but a stepping-stone back to a more traditional Celtic Frost type of composition, they will be disappointed. If death/black metal is one’s primary interest, Melana Chasmata will almost undoubtedly not be worth listening to. However, for those who will admit to being Warrior fanboys (such as the author) or those who are interested in the other aspects of music on this album, it may be worth investigating, if only for curiosity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOAuzx3zdp0

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The danger of obscurity bias

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Obscurity bias arises from our desire to discover hidden essential influences in the past. In metal, it is the search not only for concealed gems but for lost ancestors of our favorite music.

This thinking is a variation on our perpetual quest for more alternatives. We look at what’s there and think we want something better. This ignores the basic rule of life that usually what’s wrong is a lack of quality, not need for another alternative.

When we look back for historical alternatives, we are seeking to avoid the obvious historical truth: there are few ancestors because few necessary steps lie between 1969, when Black Sabbath recorded the first proto-metal record, and today.

Metal, punk and prog evolved in the 1968-1969 period in parallel, and since then have been trying to find a hybrid equilibrium that preserves the heavy worldview of metal, the intensity of punk and the complexity of prog without falling into the bluster, one-dimensionality and incomprehensibility that are the downfall of each respectively. With underground metal, arguably the last genres with any intelligence in metal, we ended up with metal riffing, punk strumming speed, and progressive rock song structures with underground metal, and that worked pretty well.

What happened after the initial invention was a hiccup. The music industry invented proto-glam by trying to make Deep Purple/Led Zeppelin bands “heavy” enough for the new Black Sabbath audience. What happened was that they made rock-metal, and while it was popular, it didn’t satisfy the core audience. After the hiccup metal retaliated with NWOBHM, most importantly Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The next generation combined those to make speed metal; the generation after that mixed in the punk that arose after Motorhead, hardcore punk, which was far more extreme and less musically related to rock music than anything which had come before.

In 1982, Discharge released Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing. The following year, all hell broke loose. Metallica unleashed their first album, starting speed metal. Slayer took off on a separate tangent. While both these bands were partially inspired by Venom, it was more in an aesthetic sense than a musical one, because if you remove the rough playing and bad production, Venom is basically Motley Crue. Slayer in particular took more from the punk side of things and made chromatic riffs and elaborate internal song structures where Metallica followed more of the rock format harmonically and used fairly standard song structures, except for their prog-influenced instrumentals.

Thus by 1985 we had Slayer, Hellhammer, Sepultura, Bathory and Sodom making proto-underground metal; by 1986, Morbid Angel had formalized the style. If anything, the Death and Deicide assault of the next two years brought death metal back toward the speed metal — Metallica, Exodus, Prong, Nuclear Assault, Overkill, Testament, Megadeth, Anthrax — of the previous five years. Death metal took on a life of its own when it escaped that with releases like the first Incantation, Massacre, Morpheus Descends, Massacra, Carnage and Pestilence releases with the turn of the decade. These brought metal back to its Slayer-Hellhammer-Bathory nexus, with tremolo strumming and labyrinthine song structures, and away from the more speed metal song structures of Death and Deicide. Black metal grew out of the melodic death metal bands who started structuring their songs using melodies, not riffs alone, and thus needed less of a drum-dominated approach. That brought them closer to the original punk sound, but kept the metal method of making riffs.

So what’s with the search for missing ancestors?

Black Sabbath creating proto-metal in 1969 was no accident. The band sought to find a new sound. They also realized the hippie movement was in the process of grossly selling itself out, having gone from a form of protest to a lifestyle of dissolution through mental obesity. It was time to kick over that false figurehead and do something new. Coming from a prog-tinged background, they invented something that sounded a lot like progressive rock, if it weren’t addicted to a dark and foreboding approach.

The message of Black Sabbath more than anything else was that truth is staring us in the face. People make a lot of noise to cover everything in flowers, sex and brotherhood, but really underneath it all a darker reality threatens. Most people are crazy. Most ideas form mass delusion of the herd. And these people have nuclear weapons, and control of economies, and other methods of taking these screwups to an exponential level. Every teen rock ‘n’ roll band sings about how the world is crazy, in part because it is crazy. Punk bands expanded upon this with an outlook of total nihilism at first, and later a kind of comfortable anarchism combined with genteel progressivism. These outlooks helped drive the evolution of genres to express a sound that was more rootless (punk) and more apocalyptic (metal) as time went on. This made it clear to each generation what the next would sound like.

The scary fact is that we can navigate metal based on a few nodal points. First, Black Sabbath, King Crimson and Iggy and the Stooges; next, after the proto-glam years, the NWOBHM triad of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead plus the punk music that simultaneously wracked the UK (Discharge, Amebix, The Exploited) and US (Cro-Mags, Black Flag). Death metal would have arisen from these alone, but Venom accelerated the process aesthetically, although took a step back musically toward the bad old days of proto-glam. It was natural that death metal bands would experiment more with melody, and so black metal was an obvious outgrowth of this.

All of that leads me to today’s topic: Terminal Death, whose 1985 demo and other recordings have been released as Terminal Death by Shadow Kingdom Records. Their press release states:

TERMINAL DEATH: One of the first DEATH METAL bands 1985!!!!!

When you talk about the earliest Death Metal bands, we think of SEPULTURA, DEATH, POSSESSED (all stemming from VENOM) right off the top, but there were a few ripping bands that quickly fell into obscurity and TERMINAL DEATH is one of those bands. This is not just an obscure band; they could have been a HUGE Death Metal band if they were signed to the right label back then. They certainly had all of the talent the aforementioned bands did. Their 1985 Demo tape screams with energy and intensity! This is a re-mastered collection of their complete and very short-lived career. The CD booklet is massive with a very in-depth and lengthy interview done by Laurent from Snakepit Magazine. There aren’t that many Death Metal bands can come close to how amazing these songs were. This collection is another snapshot of that amazing early Slayer-esque Death Metal. Co-founder Shaun Glass, whom also co-found SINDROME later joined the more well known classic Death Metal band BROKEN HOPE in the early 1990’s. Shadow Kingdom Records teamed up with Hells Headbangers Records to release this lost gem as a Double LP. If you’re into vinyl, keep your eyes peeled for it will be a glorified presentation.

Let’s look at this historically. By 1985, the big three of death metal — Slayer, Hellhammer and Bathory — had already recorded. Then we listen to Terminal Death. For the most part, this is simplified speed metal at a punk pace, more in common with early Sacrifice than the death metal to follow. Not only that, but Deathstrike had already beat it to the punk/metal hybrid of that era. OK, so what? I don’t consider that important, other than that it somewhat contradicts the marketing. Let’s look at the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s also not very inspired. Lots of chromatic riffs, drums kind of struggle to keep up, and heavy repetition with standard song form. There’s a reason this band took a back seat to the other influences on the rising death metal movement. It’s not bad, but it’s not great.

The DLP doesn’t look bad, but it’s unnecessary. It’s basically the 1985 demo plus three unreleased songs and several other versions of the demo songs. It might make more sense, since the album is appealing to people who want early proto-death metal, to release the 1985 demo with the three unreleased songs for a CD that presents this band at its best. Hopefully SK will do that in the future. But the question for metalheads now is why to buy this. Its historical significance is not really that great, and the music is not exceptional either. With that in mind, I’d say Terminal Death is something we can bypass.

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Another take on the Hellfest porn angle

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By now, you’ve probably heard that France’s Hellfest had been planning to team up with a porn site to provide entertainment at the show. Naturally, two sides have formed, the pro side who think either this might be cool or it should be allowed, and the con side which thinks it’s a bad idea.

I’m going to join the con side at a meta level by saying that I think we should be very careful about involving any industry with metal, including the “metal industry” (which should be an oxymoron) itself. Industry wants the opposite of music quality; it wants a tractable fan-base that will buy whatever comes out so long as it has some “new” quality, like using a trombone or a different singer.

Pornography is many things. There’s a moral argument against it from conservatives, which is that it debases the family; there’s also a moral argument against it from liberals, which is that it degrades women. Probably both are true to some degree, but it’s also true that women and men both voluntarily join up to participate both in the films and in purchasing the eventual product. Either it’s not debasing/degrading, or some people want that experience or at least don’t mind it.

But the real issue here is economic. People are already leery of Toyota’s Scion imprint sponsoring metal shows, or past sponsorship deals with alcohol companies. There’s no reason we should be less skeptical here just because porn is an “underground” industry (like the “metal industry”). It will still try to infiltrate and use you for its own ends, metal fans, because to it you represent dollar signs. Does the money go into the music, or the… ah… you know?

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Explore alternative religion: Hail Satan

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One of our readers sent this in, and in the interest of exposing our readers to alternative religions and expanding all of our horizons and being open-minded, we present this manifesto:

Bathed in the Black Sun – An Initiation

Welcome to the gateway of The Grotto of the Ibex Glade, a group of Satanists that celebrate the entropic gift of life for its own reason alone. Here we have a conglomerate of positive humanistic convictions that we assert, but in respect of the individual reserve for suggested option to our members. Our primary goal is distinctively humanistic, in that we support the isolate, psyche-centric convictions and growth that covers all domains of the individual. Such love for freedom has been damned by religious organization, within and without, for too long of a time. Though our philosophical meta-theology may cover a portion of needs, the way of Satan will always boil down to the elemental responsibility of yourself to yourself.
I would refer to our specific branch of Satanism as “Atavistic Satanism,” in that we oftentimes revert to our ancestral roots of the Black Arts. We launch from a paradigm that is paleo-Pagan in approach, since Satan is far older than the Christianity and Judaism that we all know so well. Throughout the ages of man, the adversary has been the nucleus of all mythic tales that revolve around the will of man breaking the bonds of tyranny. Since reflexively we can judge that the organized structures of man are counter-stratified, rewarding the least merited with wealth and hierarchy, we can view the adversary, and its effect on man in a purified, atavistic sense within the context of these tales- the maxim of elevated mythic study has always viewed the trickster as the culture hero. A full etymology would be inappropriate in this introduction, therefore we will reserve that for a separate piece of writing.
The world was born from the primal soup of the chaotic void, and before the orphic cosmogenesis of the cross-cultural creation, it was this power, this Dark and Balancing Force of Chaos that is Nature that called itself into order- and for what purpose? Satanism is concerned with life. Life itself can loosely be defined as movement, going against the grain and flux. The heart pumps the blood, and the neurons fire in the brain – we can observe life. Satan is life, and Satan is death. Satan is the Dark and Balancing Force in Nature. Therefore, we as Atavistic Satanists actively work to destroy all useless and programmed philosophic binaries, including light/dark, good/evil, life/death. We all must share in the experience, since death is a process in life – it is unavoidable, and therefore not separate.
The Grotto of the Ibex Glade relies heavily on the writings of Anton LaVey, specifically with The Satanic Bible being our primary doctrine. The reason we are not affiliated with The Church of Satan is because the atmosphere and scene in the Church of Satan has changed with nearly every decade, in that its original purpose seems too far different from its current approach. We however do not discourage membership in the Church of Satan. We are highly appreciative of its historical function, and recognize many figures in its priesthood, including its current High Priest, as highly intelligent, influential key-players in the culture of Satanism. We do not restrict dual-membership with any other group, inside or outside of The Grotto of the Ibex Glade. This is a cabal of like-minded elites that are courageous enough to view life as the great adventure- which is the self-identified function of the trans-folkish culture hero- Satan.
We refuse to subject our members to masonic degrees of recognition. A simple, uncomplicated admission of nature and man’s cooperative office is all that is necessary to view Satan within a favorable light, cogniscent or not of its symbolism. We offer a Left-Hand Path oriented program of a heavy occult praxis, in active and passive currents. Though our system is influenced by Kabbalah, the Thelema of Aleister Crowley and the Witch Cult of Western Europe, we are uniquely and unabashedly Satanic above all other adjectives in magical expression, regardless of how hermetic and pagan our theology goes.
Our teachings come free, and at no cost other than your own willingness to dedicate yourself to the Left-Hand Path. By following the Left-Hand Path you are by proxy serving yourself and mankind as a whole. If you’d like further information of how to get involved, contact the Satanist who has been assigned for public relations in your geographic area listed below.

In nomine Dei nostri Satanas Luciferi excelsi!

Contact: [email protected]

In his spare time, Sig Laufey Jarson composes for Bacchanal:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUQyNG060GI

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Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus – Synkka Tuuli

Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus - Synkka Tuuli

This is a release showcasing a band in stylistic conflict: on one level are the structural regimentation of black metal and consequent song arrangements which must be followed for the sake of coherence; and on the second level is a tendency towards minimalist neo-classical composition. The divergence of instrumentation on this album makes that divide quite apparent, and confronts the listener with the question of consistency.

Tremolo-picked strumming make up the black metal sections of the album, with a focus towards melody without dulling the raw edge of the sound. The band executes this competently, but not in a novel or as-yet-unheard manner. It does not excite, but neither does it degrade.

Where they strive upwards are in the other parts of the album, which may best be described as similar to the ambient/neo-classical style first explicated through black metal by Burzum, along with the additional development of more studied composition. These are brief pieces, created by grounding a moving arppeggiation with a melodic progression, whether induced by a second instrument providing tonal contrast or alternating between single-notes and chords. This is obviously where the band’s talent lies and this is reflected in the level of these compositions, which comes through even though they are briefly introduced and never fully concluded, which is the general bane of the album.

As a collected whole it does not provide enough value to be of lasting contemplation; but as a compendium of potential points to develop in the future, Synkaa Tuuli is worth considering. If the band is able to parse its future and develop itself in a stringent manner, it will have found a unique take on the genre worth exploring.

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Documentary Lone Survivor – Paul Speckmann and the story of Master soliciting funds

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Way back in the early 1980s, a band in the Chicago area began making the transition from speed metal to a proto-death metal style. It transitioned through punk and oddly retained a lot of elements of 1960s rock, but was part of the formative path toward death metal along with Bathory, Slayer, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Sepultura and Sodom before Death or Morbid Angel had ever recorded.

Three decades after that rocky start, two metal journalists are attempting to record the life and times of Paul Speckmann with a documentary entitled Lone Survivor – Paul Speckmann and the story of Master. The filmmakers bill the film as not just a Speckmann history, but “the story of anyone who has chased a dream and endured the victories and defeats that come with the journey.”

Filmmakers Jeff Tandy and Will Wulff are tackling this project from a zero-budget start. Wulff is a UC Irvine film graduate who attracted the attention of Paul Speckmann with a graduate project short film. Tandy is a 20-year music veteran and freelance metal journalist with extensive experience in the death metal field.

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Record Store Day 2014

International Record Store Day, an attempt at preservation by celebration for the category of independent record stores, kicks off this week on April 19. The general idea is that indie record stores offer up some vinyl and rarities on sale and hope for higher attendance.

Some of the participating stores are offering metal (such as Vinal Edge Records in the Heights, above). If you don’t mind fending off the hipsters with a machete and elbowing aside diehards (nostalgia buffs), you might be able to find some good deals and fight back against the digital encroachment on record collecting at the same time.

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Thou Shell of Death – Sepulchral Silence

Underground metal musicians have always intensely observed ambient, no-classical, and avant-garde genres. Recognizing the same desire to merge the ideals of classical composition with modern technology and popular song structure, some merge these strands in their own metal-based music.

Debut album from Estonian band Thou Shell of Death, Sepulchral Silence drives itself with the keyboard through a duality of background arpeggios, alongside simple single-tone sequences which generate the main melody of each track. Tempi fit between the plodding pace offered by orchestral doom bands and more upbeat neo-medieval black metal, staying within the realm of death/doom metal that preserves the structure of that genre without incorporating melodic variation. Harmonically logical, the band is more learned in its composition than the typical death/doom band, though more in the sense of ambient or pop music than classical music; as guitar chords and vocals follow the same line as established by the keyboard, rendering them mostly as accompaniment devices.

This produces a result that is easy to comprehend and appreciate, but misses the full weight that a more varied and diverse album would have produced. Tracks are difficult to individually distinguish and due to its melodic uniformity, Sepulchral Silence is well suited for background music perhaps while writing a work of fiction, but for listening for its own sake it does not evoke any lasting sensation beyond a mild but indistinct appreciation.

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