On September 3rd, Sevared Records will release Sorrow and Skin from Boston Death Metal Force Scalpel. Unlike most metal music of this time, Scalpel preserves the old school compositional framework and incorporates some modern metal touches.
In style, Sorrow and Skin represents a mix between West Coast dynamism and East Coast rhythmic intensity in the style of metal pioneered by Suffocation and Deeds of Flesh. Working melody into their blasting intensity, the band craft small adventures in power chords.
DeathMetal.org is pleased and honored to be able to live stream a track, “The Black Juices,” from Scalpel’s Sorrow and Skin. As this release works its way through the underground we are convinced it will win over the dark hearts of many a metal fan.
Scalpel – “The Black Juices” – Sorrow and Skin [mp3]
Scalpel – “The Black Juices” – Sorrow and Skin [ogg]
Dark Funeral, the Swedish black metal band started by Necrophobic guitarist David Parland (whose untimely demise this year shocked the metal world), has a long and storied career. The band is now re-releasing its earlier works with the usual remaster and rare tracks treatment.
The important album to look forward, however, is In the Sign…. This one, which features the guitar work and composition of Parland, shows melodic Swedish black metal at its raging best. With the energy of Belial, and the general aesthetic of a simplified Dissection, early Dark Funeral is a more heavy metal take on black metal that often resembles tremolo-picked version of Ride the Lightning.
In the Sign… as re-issued will be almost twice as long, with the original self-titled MCD/EP combined with four Bathory covers to produce an approximation of an eight-song album. These titles will be released in Europe on September 9 and in North America on November 12 via Century Media Records.
In The Sign… (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as CD, LP (plus poster), digital download**
1. Open The Gates (4:36)
2. Shadows Over Transylvania (4:22)
3. My Dark Desires (3:52)
4. In The Sign Of The Horns (3:43)
5. Equimanthorn (BATHORY cover) (3:21)
6. Call From The Grave (BATHORY cover) (4:34)
7. Open The Gates (live 2003) (3:54)
8. Shadows Over Transylvania (live 2003) (3:16)
9. My Dark Desires (live 2003) (3:48)
NOTE: tracks 1-4 are taken from the self-titled MCD (1994), tracks 6-7 are taken from ‘In Conspiracy With Satan’ BATHORY-tribute sampler
The Secrets Of The Black Arts (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as 2CD, Gatefold 2LP (plus poster), digital download**
1. The Dark Age Has Arrived (00:18)
2. The Secrets Of The Black Arts (03:40)
3. My Dark Desires (03:46)
4. The Dawn No More Rises (03:58)
5. When Angels Forever Die (04:06)
6. The Fire Eternal (03:54)
7. Satan’s Mayhem (04:52)
8. Shadows Over Transylvania (03:41)
9. Bloodfrozen (04:20)
10. Satanic Blood (VON cover) (02:12)
11. Dark Are The Paths To Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal) (05:56)
1. Shadows Over Transylvania (Unisound version (03:39)
2. The Dawn No More Rises (Unisound version) (03:40)
3. The Secrets Of The Black Arts (Unisound version) (03:26)
4. Satan’s Mayhem (Unisound Version) (04:48)
5. Bloodfrozen (Unisound Version) (03:36)
6. My Dark Desires (Unisound Version) (03:21)
7. Dark Are The Paths To Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal) (Unisound Version) (05:39)
8. The Fire Eternal (Unisound Version) (03:38)
Vobiscum Satanas (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as CD, LP, digital download**
1. Ravenna Strigoi Mortii (04:26)
2. Enriched By Evil (04:40)
3. Thy Legions Come (04:11)
4. Evil Prevail (04:28)
5. Slava Satan (03:56)
6. The Black Winged Horde (04:37)
7. Vobiscum Satanas (05:00)
8. Ineffable King Of Darkness (03:38)
9. Enriched By Evil (live 1998) (04:43)
10. Thy Legions Come (live 1998) (04:14)
11. Vobiscum Satanas (live 1998) (05:00)
12. Ineffable King Of Darkness (live 1998) (03:28)
Your average person perceives music as good and bad, with a whole lot of bad and some good. The truth is more shocking: truly bad is rare like truly good, but the vast majority is just so-so.
So-so occurs not because an album has too much bad, but because it doesn’t have enough good. And this isn’t a by-the-pound determination. It needs to be good in a number of ways, including structurally and conceptually, or it devolves into chaos. Randomness. Disorder.
The average album usually has no defects. The instrumentation is good, the production is good, and individual members put in strong performances. They can write songs according to the book, and often have a unique concept. It just doesn’t hold together because it lacks a central idea.
Withdrawal is an example of a truly bad album. It is not bad because it is incompetent, but because it is whore. Woe takes the techniques of orthodox black metal and applies them to hard rock with touches of indie. This produces disorder with a face value different from its content.
On the surface, this album emulates Gorgoroth and Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger; a little bit under the surface, you find Ulver and Taake. Dig down deep enough and you find recycled Def Leppard and Quiet Riot riffs, with repetitive use of black metalTM technique like blast beats, melodic drone, bad production, and so forth.
As a product, Withdrawal is great because it’s open to everyone. On the surface, it’s rebellion; underneath, it’s the same complacent crap your parents were listening to. Maybe it’s a good pop album; I got bored halfway through. But it’s not black metal.
Black metal doesn’t hybridize with much because black metal is by itself a distinctive genre. This distinctiveness comes not from its technique, which is borrowed from atmospheric heavy metal and crustcore, but its attitude and outlook.
Unlike almost every other genre on earth, black metal is not about people in the singular. It’s about life itself. It has no pretense of stooping to your perspective, or making itself appealing and interesting like a crooner. It is like the cold winds of winter nights: untouchable, aloof, lawless and immune to human guilt, morality and fear.
Aborym blend black metal of the blasting type — think Mythos, Zyklon-B or Impaled Nazarene — with both extremely clubby techno and 1980s Gothic power pop. The result is compelling but more on the side of those other genres, because the black metal technique is absorbed. To counter this, Aborym create clever song structures out of variations in texture and on top of those drop in additional layers of melody or rhythm.
Like more mass consumption musics, Aborym uses static riffing here, where a chord is used to sketch out a rhythm. This is different from the normal phrasal riffs of black metal and death metal, where chords are used as notes in melodic phrases that resemble the objects of their symbolic role in the song.
The mixture of sheer keyboards and heavily reverbed guitar chording creates an immersion of sound that must be an unholy terror live. It creates total disconnect in the listener and puts emphasis on the voice and excessively front-ended percussion, which causes the overall song to more resemble 1980s rock than 1990s black metal.
On Dirty, the band work hard to keep each song interesting. The initial thrust of the style is overwhelming, but would becalm itself without the quirky variations that the band throw in for later tracks. As a result, it is listenable without being abrasive, but I’m not sure I’d reach for this a second time as a black metal listener. As a Gothic pop or techno fan, most definitely.
Aborym find themselves in a difficult time frame where black metal has burnt its initial thrust and waits for more clarity. Many of us think it is not stylistic, but a lack of ongoing growth in attitude and outlook. By returning to deconstructed roots and hybridizing, Aborym inject the black metal spirit into something else. However, it is a mistake to approach Dirty as a black metal album.
This is a 2-disc release, with the first disc being extensively techno-industrial new material from this band, and the second reworking of older songs and covers.
One effect of the recent uptick in nostalgia bands and reunions is that newer bands have seen the light. This illumination is that if a band simply continues where the past left off, it can both have a unique perspective and uphold the traditions that have made metal great. This escapes the dual ills of false novelty and being a tribute band.
Scalpel combines the West Coast style of blasting percussive death metal, commonly called the Unique Leader sound after the label that signed the innovators of this style, with the East Coast post-Suffocation form of grinding pneumatic explosive technical death. The result is high-intensity percussion mated with simple riffs that proliferate into layered textures that expand in complexity as the song develops.
Sorrow and Skin will immediately call to mind recent Deeds of Flesh and Northeasterners Dehumanized, who made similar percussion-intensive death metal with similar pacing: frenetic, but with lots of pauses and interludes, drawing together high intensity moments like scenes in an atmospheric horror film. Scalpel pair up riffs and let them develop, but keep it simple so that no element rises above the others.
The result is high-intensity music that also has enough internal musical meat to keep the brain occupied and searching for meaning in its patterns, which creates a vertiginous effect of discovery when the unpredictable occurs. Use of melody allows songs to embed moods within previous sensations crafted only by the pattern of riffs.
While Scalpel uses little of metal’s classic phrasal riffing, preferring the more speed metal percussive and choppy styles, these riffs branch out to include different textures and rhythms. The result is a sense of each song like a mini-golf course, where each riff has a mechanism and after you play through, a surprise that reveals its purpose in the whole.
In keeping with the West Coast school of percussive death metal, Scalpel uses the “dog barking into the wind” style of vocals that are both guttural but not exclusively bass-heavy, giving them greater range to match instruments. The result packages a good deal of musical activity within songs that, while made from simple parts, end up being tiny visions of inward journeys that take us to more interesting places than the sum of their pieces.
An interested reader wrote in, and so we continue our discussion of whether modern metal is important at all, and whither the future of metal.
So, metal music is over? Or do you that have a big journey to happen?
No, it’s not over. It needs to find new content. Its form is a refinement of its original form, and it can be refined further, but not by hybridizing it with other genres. Jazz-metal is dead, math-metal is dead, blues-metal is dead, indie-metal is dead, alt-metal is dead because these were always old and tired ideas. Alternative rock is punk mixed with 1980s indie rock. It’s self-pity music. Indie metal is emo and Fugazi mixed with d-beat and black metal. Post-metal is just slowed down indie metal. All of this music sounds more like Nirvana, Jawbreaker, Fugazi, Rites of Spring, etc. than metal. All of that stuff was born dead. What’s alive is the metal spirit. From Black Sabbath through Judas Priest through Slayer through Incantation through Immortal, it’s a continuum. Metal has just finally left rock behind with death/black metal and it needs to continue that transformation. It needs to finally become its own musical language entirely separate from everything else.
What is your opinion about mathcore (Botch, Converge)?
It’s an extension of late hardcore. Black Flag “The Process of Weeding Out” is the grandfather, and they ran it through the Fugazi filter. Neurosis was a better direction but the people who’ve cloned that don’t understand what Neurosis was on about. They can imitate the music, not understand the soul.
And what will happen with the black metal genre?
It died in 1996. Since then, with maybe five exceptions, the new bands have been imitators. Their goal is to make music that’s like black metal on the surface, but like regular indie rock underneath, so they can sell it to the kids for weekend rebellion but not so much that it sets them off-course and they can’t return to school, jobs, watching TV and voting for idiots during the week.
What will happen with metal? It’s over? There new things to create?
See the first question. “Big journey” is more true than “over.”
One of the enduring critiques of modern metal bands is their lack of stylistic coherence. The mashing of various genres and influences over the course of an album with no unifying principle produces a product that is difficult to absorb from start to finish.
On their newly released album Nadia, Cóndor attempt to solve this dilemma by creating what may best be described as contemplative metal. Composed with a purpose, the metal sections of the album album consist primarily of low-to-mid-paced riffs ranging the gamut from doom, death, and black metal. These are complimented by influences from progressive rock, in which tonal contrasts add nuance and a way of connecting differing parts within the album.
What this band does well is elegantly shaping this vast array of influences into a package that is understandable and actually enjoyable to listen to. Everything is structured with care and attention, avoiding the “genres in a blender” sensation that many of their contemporaries produce. Throughout the span of a single track, snapshots of each moment lead organically into the next, while low-pitched vocals provide a sturdy framework and induce continuity. At the conclusion of the album, the listener feels as if he experienced something meaningful, which is at the heart of metal and unfortunately is something that often seems missing among contemporary bands.
Curmudgeons (of which the author admittedly is) will initially be put off by the non-metal elements and unorthodox structure. However, when viewed in context of the whole, these fall into place and do achieve meaning within the album, producing something both the strident Hessian and modern metal fan can appreciate.
Rippikoulu are a relatively unknown Finnish band whose potential was cut short because the band never developed past the demo phase after the death of the main songwriter. The first death metal band to “sing” entirely in Finnish, Rippikoulu saw a significant rise in popularity in the internet age, releasing their second and final 1993 demo on CD and vinyl through Svart Records in 2010.
One of many bands from Finland to realize the potency in doom elements in death metal, Rippikoulu quickly switched gears from the Bolt Thrower Realm of Chaos meets Autopsy style of their first demo into a morbid, down tuned style more along the lines of Lost Paradise stylistically updated by Incantation’s cavernous style similar to many other early 90s experiments like Mythic or Disembowelment, with similarly mixed results.
The music here eschews the ambient gestures of Disembowelment and Thergothon entirely, opting for a more bludgeoning, rhythmic approach. Like Winter, slow doom passages move forth at a glacial pace and are highlighted by macabre lead melodies in a manner similar to early Amorphis or Paradise Lost.
Unfortunately, these parts are the highlights of the songs, as they are sandwiched between often disconnected Incantation-esque blasting sections or Bolt Thrower heavy rhythm riffs. Too often, the excessive down tuned rhythms gets repetitive to the point of going nowhere (tracks one and four) or seeming like an in-between for the “money riff” effect of ponderous doom riffs (track two). Here we hear the weakness of the band in their inability to marry these opposing elements through developed riff sequences like Bolt Thrower on War Master. The other tracks feel more like complete statements but the speedier rhythm riffs are often sparse compared to their sluggish counterparts.
While the band successfully conveys the aura of mystique that made the Finnish death metal scene revered by many, this release was perhaps a bridge to them moving on to doomier terrain as evidenced best by the most focused track, “Pimeys Yllä Jumalan Maan,” sounding more like Skepticism covering Incantation at their slowest.
The good news is that this release functions well as divisions of a singular idea, much like how Belial’s Wisdom of Darkness used repetitive songs with shared themes to their advantage, giving the listening experience a ritualistic quality. It’s a great alternative to what the modern OSDM scene is currently churning out, but much like God Macabre’s The Winterlong, it is more a collection of slight variations on a theme than an album.
Demonic occultist black metal band Profanatica, also known sometimes as Havohej, continues its quest to demolish holiness with impure sexual abuse of the incarnate divine.
This legendary band have been active in many forms since the late 1980s, with founding member Paul Ledney contributing to Revenant, Incantation, Havohej and Profanatica as well as being an anchor of the true black metal movement in North America.
Thy Kingdom Cum will see release on Hell’s Headbangers label in both CD and LP formats on November 26, 2013. This follows up to a series of releases following Profanatica’s Profanatitas de Domonatia, which in 2007 marked the rebirth of this vital blasphemous cult.
In conjunction with At War With False Noise (UK), Jerkoff Records (USA) and Blackseed Records (USA), Unholy Anarchy Records will release a split 7″ by Belgian grind/mincecore gods AGATHOCLES and Pittsburgh power electronics outfit HOGRA.
AGATHOCLES have for over two decades created abrasive but creative grind. During that time, the band has appeared on well over 100 split 7″ releases, as well as numerous comps, EPs, demos and full-length albums. The Agathocles/Hogra split sees the legendary trio take an unexpected departure from their traditional and patented mincecore style of grind and unleash two tracks that were written to complement the power electronics of Pittsburgh’s HOGRA, who have built a solid catalog of splits, tapes and EPs over the past year.
Those who were around in the 1990s may remember Agathocles’ Theatric Symbolisation of Life, an artistic yet not reality-removed album of inventive grindcore. The band have since then continued to tour, release and antagonize, providing us with enjoyable music in the meantime.