Extreme Metal II by Joel McIver

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For a short book that you can finish in an afternoon, Extreme Metal by Joel McIver packs a great density of information of unusual breadth into this deceptively simple volume. Comprised of brief introductions and then combination profile, history and review of the major works of each band, this book applies a flexible strategy to information and dishes out more on the more important bands but refuses to leave out essential minor ones.

McIver released two versions of this book: an original (2000) and this update (2005). With each edition, the book gains more factual information and the writing kicks it up a notch. I first read Extreme Metal I shortly after it came out in a bookstore and noted how some of the writing was boxy and distant, but how (thankfully) it did not drop into the hipster habit of insider lingo and extensive pointless imagery. In Extreme Metal II, McIver writes according to the journalistic standards of the broader media and skips over the conventions of music journalism and especially metal journalism which are less stringent. If there is an Extreme Metal III, the language will be even more streamlined and relaxed.

A good book on metal includes not only information but interpretations; all books filter by what their authors think is important, and one of the strengths of Extreme Metal is its ability to zoom in on not just the larger bands but a number of smaller ones that contributed to the growth of the genre. With each of these bands, McIver presents the information as relevant to a metal fan interested in learning the genre but also in hearing the best of its music. After an introduction by Mille Petrozza of Kreator, Extreme Metal launches into a brief history and afterward is essentially band profiles in alphabetical order. McIver includes all of the big names that one must include especially in any book that wishes to have commercial success, but devotes a fair amount of time to focus on the underground and the odd details that complete its story. He displays a canny instinct for rooting out the important, even if obscure, and relating it to the progress of the genre as a whole.

Written in a conversational but professional style, the book unloads a large amount of information with a low amount of stress and reads much like an extended magazine article covering the growth of the extreme metal genres. Depending on what sub-genres a listener enjoys, parts of the book will be skimmed, much as some Hessians glaze over whenever anything related to nu-metal emerges. McIver displays the instincts of a metal listener and refuses to sugar-coat his opinions, but does not drift into the trendy internet sweetness-and-acid diatribes that afflict those who rage at the excesses of the underground. Instead, the book assumes that its readers are open-minded enough to listen to any good heavy metal and tries to dig out the best of it, even if those standards need to expand when nu-metal or metalcore float by.

Massacra

Massacra was a French ‘neo-classical death metal’ band and was formed in 1986. Three demos landed them a deal with Shark Records from Germany and later, the major label Phonogram. However, the band was put on hold in 1997 when a founding member, Fred Duval, died of skin cancer at only 29. Some members of the band formed an industrial band, Zero Tolerance, and released an album on the Active label.

Recommended Album: Final Holocaust (Shark, 1990)

Among the truckloads of paper published since Lords of Chaos convinced the industry that money could be made in books about underground metal, Extreme Metal distinguishes itself by being open-minded and yet straight to the point. Most books pass over perceived minor bands like Massacra, Autumn Leaves and Onslaught, but this book fits them into context and explains their relevance in a way that is both enjoyable and informative. While major bands like Metallica will always get more coverage, here McIver works to tie his write-ups of those bands in with traits of other bands who both helped make that success happen and carried it forward.

McIver has gone on to write other books including a best-seller about Metallica, a biography of Max Cavalera of Sepultura, retrospectives of Motorhead and Black Sabbath, a band history of Cannibal Corpse and most recently, a book about alternative band Rage Against the Machine. He demonstrates comfort at every level of above-ground and underground bands, but his instinct as a fan makes him a writer worth reading as he tears through metal, sorting the entropy from the growth. While one can write about underground metal to any depth, Extreme Metal strikes the right balance of information and expediency and produces an excellent first step for any fan or researcher looking into these sub-genres of heavy metal.

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Updated version of The Heavy Metal FAQ published

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Version 2.0 of The Heavy Metal FAQ exists within grasp of your browser. This update and addition to the sprawling work that first began in the early 1990s when a group of die-hard metal fans began writing to each other on USENET, first published in full form in 1996, now contains information on the metal years after the turbulent 1990s.

Running over 100 pages of print in length, The Heavy Metal FAQ covers the origins, history, philosophy and artistic purpose of heavy metal and its many sub-genres including death metal, black metal, NWOBHM, thrash, grindcore, speed metal and proto-metal. Its new and more detailed chronicle of the rise and proliferation of heavy metal reveals the development of this genre and its many offshoots.

Written by a former death metal radio presenter and editor of this site, the document aims to address the common questions that readers and listeners have about heavy metal, and then to go one layer deeper so they can see the motivation behind these artists and the social and historical significance of heavy metal. Not for the faint of heart, much like metal itself, The Heavy Metal FAQ could be a gateway to a lifelong habit of heavy metal reading.

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Call for submissions to Folk-Metal: Critical Essays on Identity, Myth and Culture

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A forthcoming journal on folk-metal, mostly in the pagan metal and viking metal sub-genres, requests that those with essays on the topic submit them for publication next year. The journal focuses on metal bands who use traditional musical instruments, lyrical references to customs and mythology, allusions to traditional culture, or displaying of cultural imagery in performer attire and artwork.
(more…)

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Classical and metal experiencing same paradigm shift

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Over the past decade, metal and related genres have shifted toward a highly technical perspective on instrumentalism. Where earlier genres valued the primitive and passionate, bands now tend to begin with a grounding in jazz and progressive rock theory and expand into metal.

This raises the bar for entry into the genre, but on the level of mechanics only. Corresponding, creativity seems to have declined in the genre, perhaps because artists with something to communicate — a.k.a. “content” — now face an uphill path toward technical perfection before that content will be accepted in the genre.

A similar phenomenon occurred in the classical genre as well. Like metal, this niche genre struggles to keep existing fans while making new ones and not becoming “dumbed-down” like everything else in popular culture. As a result, it has become perfectionist on a technical level, perhaps to the detriment of content, notes an article on the evolution in classical music.

Today’s classical musicians are rarely given this choice between expression and perfection. As David Taylor, assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, recently told the Los Angeles Times, “Today, perfection is a requirement. You must have flawless intonation, you must be a machine.” A single missed note or halting phrase could be a musician’s downfall: the end of a job interview, perhaps the end of a career.

This perfectionist culture can crush young musicians’ creativity: they’re too afraid of messing up to take risks. As Thor Eckert Jr. wrote for the Christian Post back in 1982, “the very qualities that made Rubinstein unique have been abandoned in the music world today. Rather than emotion, we now have technical prowess, rather than expressivity and poetry we have accuracy, rather than individuality, we have a bland sameness.”

The article goes on to discuss the impact that technology has had on classical music, namely a lowering of concert attendance and less of a tendency to purchase albums in favor of individual songs. This development threatens the mainstay income of classical musicians, and has driven them toward entrepreneurial ventures including pop music hybrids. While this particular source feels this is a positive development, many of us are not so sure.

When commerce takes over any given form, whether art or music or writing, it tends to increase the tangible factors of quality while decreasing the intangible ones, like content or profundity. This in turn drives artists toward increasing degrees of triviality and novelty in an effort to distinguish themselves, with the result that few focus on quality of expression beyond the technical at all.

Simultaneously, the knowledge of technical precision becomes democratized or spread widely at low cost, which means that soon the genre floods with highly proficient players who may have no ability to compose, improvise or otherwise contribute anything but “new” recombined versions of what previously existed. In metal, this has been a death knell; let us hope that for classical it is not the same.

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Heavy metal and hacking in 2600 magazine

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The Summer 2014 edition of 2600 magazine includes an article by Brett Stevens about the intersection between the heavy metal underground and the hacker underground.

“Crossover: Where Metal and Hacking Met and Mixed” concerns the early years of PC hacking when hackers used the BBS underground and other facilities, some borrowed, to communicate about the nascent underground metal scene. It includes interviews with the leading hackers of that era who listened to heavy metal, including Cult of the Dead Cow and Erik Bloodaxe.

The article follows up on an earlier article published at Perfect Sound Forever, a long-running music e-zine, entitled “Hacker Metal.” That article introduced the concept of hacking and how hackers used BBS culture to stay informed about heavy metal and work around low media coverage.

Although a small portion of the metal community, the crossover between hackers and metalheads provides a fertile ground for the outlook that seeks to defy pointless rules and pay attention to the mechanics of power instead. 2600, named for the signal that allowed hackers to dial out on a line to which they were connected, provides a nexus for the hacker community who may now discover its inner Hessian.

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Death Metal Angola in theaters this fall

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Death Metal Angola tells the story of Angolan couple Sonia and Wilker who want to put on the first national rock festival in their country. They hope that this will unite a people broken by constant warfare, unrest, poverty an corruption.

In the trailer, Death Metal Angola lets us hear some of the music from Angola. It has death vocals, but sounds more like a hybrid between blues and grindcore riffs, with lots of lead fills and a more relaxed rhythm. As death metal and related genres seem to adapt to local cultures and musical preferences wherever they go, this provides an interesting insight into Angolan music.

The film will see theatrical release in early November and is being described as both a film about death metal and a film about war.

DEATH METAL ANGOLA TRAILER from CABULA6 on Vimeo.

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5 metal bands that took their blasphemy seriously

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Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation. — Mark 3:29

Many metal bands feature occultist or Satanic imagery and lyrics. However, some metal bands took this Bible verse as a challenge and created blasphemy on a theological level, denying God with a philosophical basis.

Since metal has always been fervently anti-dogma and a firm believer in a boundaryless existence, the notion of sin is, in itself, a sin. Here are five anthems of rejection that took the final step and committed the unpardonable sin.

Incantation – “Rotting Spiritual Embodiment” (Onward to Golgotha)

Taking a mortalistic approach, Rotting Spiritual Embodiment claims that the Holy Spirit dies with the body that it inhabits, thus affirming an absence of all metaphysics and a sheer physical basis to life itself. This form of materialism proves more dominating than even atheism as it denies the basis for a holy presence and argues instead that it is mere physical illusion. The crushing and darkened power chords seem to compel the embodiment — the physical form of the spirit — further and further into obscurity.


Holy apparition, seeking death to save.
Sins of the flesh, the cadaver is unfit.
Penetrate the mind and body, spirit is incarnated.
Spiritual entrapment.
Spiritual deformity…

Foolish ghost of god.
Embodied with the putrid corpse.
Trapped within the flesh.
Forever rots in misery…

Morbid Angel – “Blasphemy” (Altars of Madness)

A call to arms for blasphemy and a declaration of a life free from the clutches of religious dogma, this song takes a straightforward approach to blasphemy through invective condemning God and arguing for his invalidity. It also directly blasphemes the holy spirit in the chorus. Complete with Satanic and Thelemic philosophy, this is a sonic symphony straight from the fiery depths.


I am the god of gods
Master of the art
I desecrate the chaste
Writhe in the flesh

Blasphemy

Chant the blasphemy
Mockery of the messiah
We curse the holy ghost
Enslaver of the weak
God of lies and greed
God of hypocrisy
We laugh at your bastard child
No god shall come before me

Blaspheme the ghost
Blasphemy of the holy ghost

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law
Rebel against the church
Drink from the chalice of blasphemy
Rise up against the enslaver

Immolation – “I Feel Nothing” (Here in After)

Immolation, while anti-religious, never took much of a Satanic approach to their opposition. They present their views from a more atheistic standpoint, and in the pulverizing song, “I Feel Nothing,” Immolation pose the question: Where is the Holy Spirit? The song describes a person who cannot feel the Holy Spirit within them and they refuses to force themselves to believe, so they reject its existence along with the rest of the trinity.


Your prayers,
I don’t feel them in my heart
It is not hate
That I stare coldly at the son of god
I can not force the blood of Christ
To flow through me
God is love and his love is dead

Drown your sorrows in prayer
But your prayers will never change the world
I separate myself
From those who chase the spirit
I can’t fall to my knees
And pretend like all the rest
This is a soul that doesn’t need saving

Their paradise not mine; an illusion I will not believe
Divine presence of perfection, turns sour in my gaze
Why should I feel compassion for the suffering of your God
For all the pain he allows, I give him what he deserves

In the name of the Father,
In the name of the Son
Where is the Holy Spirit, I feel nothing
As I stare upon the crucifix, I feel nothing for a God I never knew
I refuse to embrace, and live by his word

I take not of his body
I take not of his blood
I don’t need salvation
Or his forgiveness
I don’t want his kingdom
My kingdom is here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEb8S49w-Oc

Deicide – “Behead the Prophet (No Lord Shall Live)” (Legion)

When you think of blasphemous death metal, Deicide undoubtedly comes to mind among the first few entries. Not only does the band name advocate the murder of God but the entire approach of the band denies any form of inherent or mystical order. In “Behead the Prophet (No Lord Shall Live),” Deicide describe the Holy Spirit as foredoomed and proclaim a devilish victory over the holy.


Deny resurrection, behead the Nazarene son
Foredoomed holy spirit, our war at last be won
Legion crush Jehovah, see through the faceless dog
Untie our world from Satan
You know it can’t be done

Wipe away this world of unworth
Decapitation, Satanic rebirth
Off with his head to sever his soul
Beheaded prophet the suffer is yours
“Forever…..”

Virgin, mother murdered, once warned but now is dead
Destroyed heaven’s kingdom, in flames the righteous fled
Legion, thou has waited, to face the sacred dog
Satan’s revelation, this world will always be ours

End of god the way it must be
Behead the prophet, let Satan free…

No god, no lord shall live
What always has should never been
No god, no lord shall live
Behead the prophet and we win

No man to begotten, infant Jesus dead
End of god forever, cast among the souls of Hell
Thou who has imprisoned, suffer by your own demise
Execrate the revelation, MASTER SATAN RISE!

Deny resurrection, behead the Nazarene son
Foredoomed holy spirit, our war at last be won
Legion crush Jehovah, see through the faceless dog
Untie our world from Satan
You know it can’t be done

No god, no lord shall live
What always has should never been
No god, no lord shall live
Behead the prophet and we win

No man to begotten, infant Jesus dead
End of god forever, cast among the souls of Hell
Thou who has imprisoned,
Execrate the revelation,
MASTER SATAN RISE!

Havohej – “Dethrone the Son of God” (Dethrone the Son of God)

Concluding this list is a cold and blasphemous sermon from the great Paul Ledney of Profanatica, Havohej, Incantation and Revenant among others. To go too far in depth about this piece would be to undermine its experiential value to new listeners. I’ll say only this: “Dethrone the Son of God” is the spirit of rejection translated into a litany embracing hell over the “pure” but delusional spirit of believers.


Rip the sacred flesh
Sodomize the holy asshole
Drink the red blood of the mother of earth
Masturbation on the dead body of Christ
The king of Jews is dead
and so are the lies
Vomit on the host of Heaven
Masturbate on the throne of God
Break the seals of angels
Drink the sweet blood of Christ
Taste the flesh of the priest
Sodomize holy nuns
The king of Jews is a liar
The Heavens will burn
Dethrone the son of God
God is dead
Holyness is gone
Purity is gone
Prayers are burned
Covered in black shit
Rape the holy ghost
Unclean birth of Jesus Christ
Heaven will fall
Fuck the church
Fuck Christ
Fuck the Virgin
Fuck the gods of Heaven
Fuck the name of Jesus

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Why listen to metal when all it gets you is funny looks

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Every metal fan knows it: the look of incredulity on someone’s face when halfway through a conversation you mention that you listen to heavy metal. It’s a look that says, “Hmm… He seemed otherwise sane and cultured when we were just talking… Didn’t notice he had any problems understanding society’s unspoken rules on personal space or (sniff) hygiene… Why would he listen to that neanderthal drivel?”

That look presupposes a tired old trope of modern culture which is that the enlightened listen only to sensitive indie bands who sing about either love or “social issues.” These bands sing softly and semi-ironically about real world things like love, heartache, drugs or the quest for world peace. In contrast, metal embraces comically violent and magical subjects fit only for basement-dwelling neckbeards who play D&D on Saturday nights and rednecks who wear kitschy looking t-shirts with pictures of wolves howling at the moon on them. This “enlightened” mentality is similar to the trendy outlook that presumes all smart people should care about the same fashionable political causes.

I listen to metal music with its fantastic lyrics and imagery — rather than music with lyrics about real world stuff or political fashions — because it’s an escape. After I’m done hearing about the dramas of my friends, co-workers and families the last thing I want to do on my own time is listen to someone else croon about all their problems. Real world subjects are depressing to hear about precisely because they’re so commonplace and everyday. This includes the political, because the only reason people talk, sing or demonstrate about political issues is to make themselves look cool, which is a way to get new girlfriends, meet drug connections and gather around a social group.

Metal to me is anything but escapist. It is metaphorically accurate where the idea that human drama describes the universe is solipsistic. Nature is mercilessly hostile to human life, which can be snuffed out at any minute and one day inevitably will be. I spend much of my time contemplating the finality of death and the implications it has for our everyday choices and morality. Metal music by focusing on the bigger things — and by having an often ruthlessly dark sense of humour about human frailty — reminds me of the bigger questions in life and reflects the topics I think are really worth talking about.

Even more, metal gives a certain hope by expanding our view of the world beyond personal drama and political fashion. In a society where secularism and scientific rationalism have all but won out, it’s nearly impossible to believe there is anything magical or esoteric about the world. Whilst I am quite happy we live in a time when backwoods superstitions are not the basis of our science and medicine, there is something nonetheless dispiriting knowing there’s no such thing as miracles, no demons or sorcery, and no great cosmic quest to set ourselves to, just the weekday commute and a beer in front of the TV whilst watching sports on the weekend. That we live in a universe ordered by mathematics and the office timesheet. I think most metalheads recognise this and secretly yearn for an excuse to be able to see their world in terms of something grand and magical, whether that be through the prism of The Lord of the Rings style epics or by believing that reality is all ultimately a battle of wills between God and Satan.

H.P. Lovecraft, who is not surprisingly the biggest influence on metal lyrics in literature, articulated this kind of feeling about the modern rational age better than anyone else. A fervent advocate of the secular and scientific way of thinking as the only way to understand our universe, Lovecraft nonetheless posed his fiction as a great cosmic gambit: what if we’re wrong and the universe is in fact populated by powerful forces and beings beyond our control and far beyond the possibility of our comprehension? In other words, what if what we think is “rational” is in fact our own human projection and nothing else, and we will not find out until something dark and unseen attacks? Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

For me, what begins as a question of why someone would listen to Ildjarn and not The Smiths ultimately boils down to how one views the world: either to see everything as knowable and within the grasp of human understanding, if we only figure out the maths behind it; or through the metal lens which views humans as tiny, arrogant and probably doomed. The former to me seems painfully dull and conformist, whilst the latter is dangerous but leaves plenty of possibilities open and ready to be explored. This is not a dichotomy between science and religion, because metalheads accept science, but a question of forward decisions: looking to what is important, what paths we should explore, and what might inspire us to be “better,” instead of merely safe, logical and inoffensive as science can advise us to be.

This conflict exists between a worldview that is hubristic about the capabilities of humanity (“Peace, science and John Lennon CDs will save the world!”) and a worldview that is more suspicious of straight and narrow paths. This second worldview that thinks there is always an undiscovered frontier over the next hill, always a need to veer off the well-trodden path, always going to be a reason to have to get your hands dirty. A worldview that embraces the inconveniences, imperfections and overall strangeness of being alive as actually part of the beauty of it. It rediscovers humanity by escaping our notion of humanity as perfect and instead looks to a universe of perpetual conflict and destruction for meaning. This is the world of metal and it is more real than your safe and trendy indie rock will ever pretend to be.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 08-18-14

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What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? People engage in the pretense that they are gods who can determine what is true because they want it to be true, instead of what is obvious. They deny reality to make themselves seem important like the pointless egotists they are. Instead, we put the metal before our personal needs and pick the best. Those who cannot handle this, leave the hall!

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Morbid Slaughter – Wicca

Comprising two tracks of punkish early black metal tinged with the energy of a Motorhead or Impaled Nazarene, Morbid Slaughter aim to make music within the 1980s style of catchy simple music that also calls to mind Necrosanct and Slaughter Lord. Songs invoke melody for choruses and guide themselves with necrotic gasped vocals that sound like invective of an evil overlord conveying his legions to covert and merciless deeds. Songs fit the format of most proto-death bands in that there is verse, chorus and then a transitional or conclusive detour which returns to the immensely catchy chorus. This band will find its toughest competition is itself, and when they do a full-length will find themselves challenged by the need for songs to be distinct enough from each other to develop a personality to the album and each song. Clearly this band knows the early works of the years before death metal and black metal finalized themselves and can exploit that riff lexicon to great effect, albeit simplified by the punkish forward drive to simplicity.

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Ramhorn – Lykophobos

With one foot firmly in past and present, Ramhorn attempts to integrate 1980s sounds like those of Kreator and Metallica with modern metal styled vocals, but manages to retain the sentimentality and passion of the earlier form and use it to constrain the otherwise more linear tendencies of current metal. Like Kreator, this band is chorus-heavy with emphasis on interlocking vocal rhythms to propel the sound forward, and borrowing from a wide riff lexicon it mixes a punkish sound with melodic speed metal riffing to contrast its more rigidly rhythmic hooks that underscore choruses. Vocals tend toward the black metal shriek with more clarity of enunciation and while certain riffs embrace a more modern sense of rhythm molded around the vocals, a strong old school influence mediates them. Much of the album centers around mid-paced tempi to accommodate this sound but varies riff form enough that the similarity contributes to the overall emotional atmosphere of the music. The old school parts, ranging from Iron Maiden through death metal at its peak, resonate well with this approach but the black metal-ish vocals seem out of place. On the whole, this album puts forth a solid if not dramatically exciting effort that has more integrity and consequent actual musical enjoyment than most of its contemporaries.

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Hod – Book of the Worm

The Texas horde return with another assault of high-intensity multi-genre metal. On its surface, this band resembles Angelcorpse hybridized with Watain using some of the riff tendencies of the newer post-Nile/Behemoth charging death metal and blackened death metal bands. Underneath this however a wide variety of riffs simmer, quoting from and expanding upon speed metal, heavy metal, punk and early proto-black metal bands. The constant charging blast, reminiscent of Fallen Christ, allows the guitars to change riffs regularly in the rotational style that Behemoth perfected. Where Hod has really improved is in the vocals which take the whispered spoken style to a new extreme, borrowing the internal rhythmic variation of modern metal styles and giving it a more sinister air. The vocals guide the song and riffs change to accent those words with atmosphere. If anything, this band could benefit from both more variation and less; it would be great to see some of these death metal riffs explore different riff forms than the 4-5 the band has nailed, and it would help focus the music for it to pick a genre and grow more specifically in that direction, even expanding it as these musicians do with contemporary forms. While internal riff complementary behavior could be better, the randomness that plagues most local bands has not visited Hod. Of note also are the early-Deicide-ish chaotic but rhythmically varied leads which add depth to the songs.

Obscure Oracle – Roots of Existence

Obscure Oracle homebrews metal that combines liberally from many influences but keeps a focus on a NWOBHM/progressive metal hybrid enriched with late speed metal and some death metal technique. The band faces a challenge in trying to wrap these influences into a compositional voice that is consistent enough to communicate. Vocals chase the death metal style rasp with higher and lower register versions accompanying one another. Lead guitars explore not only diverse styles of music but the harmonization that NWOBHM made famous, which in addition to numerous classic riff archetypes places this band firmly within that zone. In addition, the band borrows and expands upon tropes from speed metal, notably Testament and Metallica. Much of Roots of Existence verges more toward melodic metal that avoids the Scandinavian style and instead uses complex song structures and the rhythms of 1970s progressive bands to flesh out the parts of guitar melody, but transitions between passages with death metal-styled tremolo riffing. The band could work on integrating its different styles more smoothly into a voice so that oil-on-water separation does not occur, and with some of its detours into progressive and blues territory might make sure that it avoids all known templates, including progressive ones. On the whole this album shows the creativity and idiosyncratic combination of styles that fueled the early years of death metal, but packed into a power metal infused style that keeps the band both current and coherent with the traditional spirit of metal.

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Blood Urn – Unchain the Abhorrent

Creating within the old school death metal that favors vast internal contrast, Blood Urn craft songs which culminate in musical vistas composed of riffs leading up to decisive moments of conflict and differentiation. Riffs use extensive chromatic fills but not exclusively so as wrappers for rock rhythm as most of the nu-death post-Nile bands, and songs achieve enough internal variety to suggest purpose. The high degree of internal balance results in collections of riffs that are picked for their place in the song, not a song made of the riffs, for the most part, with an internal process of equalization bringing highly disparate riffs together. Vocals take on the older style of deep chanting independent of the rhythms of drums or guitar that gives an arch feel to the material. The sense of otherworldly power and removal from the mundane is borne out by the higher density of this demo than most contemporary metal albums because although the newer material has more detail, it also has less internal communication, and thus the detail appears as on the surface only, like a form of adornment and not structure. Like other newer old school bands such as Herpes, Blood Urn focuses on atmosphere, in this case enhanced by its competent and somewhat more rock-star guitar than older school bands tried. If these adventurers are able to keep up the underground spirit of distrust for all things that pacify and satiate the thundering herd, the solid groundwork of this demo could blossom into a potent style.

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5 albums that sold out and damaged metal

selling-out

When a band is accused of “selling out,” the first instinct most people have is to attack the definition of that phrase. In reality, “selling out” is easily delineated: changing your music/art/writing to reflect what the audience expects.

In metal, selling out usually consists of making the music happier, simpler, less tormented and more pretentious. This allows the people who are dedicated to not noticing anything real about their world to listen to it and have it confirm their existing bias that the best course in life will be to “keep on keeping on” by shopping, voting, bragging at the water cooler, watching television, eating fast food and otherwise being oblivious to everything.

Selling out can be compared to the difference between a home-grilled hamburger and a fast food burger. The home-grilled burger uses real meat, spiced and cooked with care, and does not look elegant but is a good balance of taste and nutrition. The fast food burger is made from ground-up bits of animals, filled out with soybeans and sugar, and most people prefer it because it tastes more like candy and nutrition, lol.

When a metal band sells out, it makes the conscious decision to alter its music to appeal to some audience. This can include an “outsider” audience that only likes ultra-lofi two-chord bands, or the usual meaning, where the music gets closer to big radio pop. When metal bands sell out, they damage metal by bringing in all the stuff metal tried to escape in the first place.

These five albums represent some of the worst sellouts in metal history.

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At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul

The first At the Gates album took our breath away. A weird mix of metal, folk, progressive and classical, it achieved an idiosyncratic voice of its own the way early death metal was prone to do. Then the band faltered, losing a key member and recording albums that did not feel with albums. Suddenly, this new album burst onto the scene and the old school death metal heads rushed forward to find… the exact opposite of what made this band great. Instead of inventive death metal, Slaughter of the Soul brought a warmed-over version of Metallica Ride the Lightning that had been given the Swedish melodic metal treatment. Songs swung easily with simple melodies that would have fit better in a television commercial or schoolyard song, and song structures fit an entirely predictable mold. Nothing challenged the listener; everything was sweetened, like biting into a hot glazed donut with extra icing. It made you feel icky inside, as if you had just been assimilated by the vast mass of people in modern culture who forcibly ignore any incoming ideas which do not fit into their own ego-worship and denial. However, the album was a stunning commercial success and inspired the metalcore movement, in which post-At the Gates band The Haunted applied this template to late hardcore and created a whole new audience.

metallica-metallica

Metallica – Metallica

When metalheads first heard “One” on the radio, the general sentiment was worry. We all knew of the temptation of radio metal where bands toured in luxury buses and got loads of cocaine, chicks and fast cars. But …And Justice For All had its musical moments despite the awful rock-style drumming and simplified catchy songs, so the hope was that Metallica had gotten it out of their system. Then came the self-titled monstrosity. The first hint was the choice of eponymous name late in the career of Metallica, which suggested a break with the past. Then, the new logo: silver foil-embossed, stylized and slick. Then we heard “Enter Sandman” on the radio and fears were realized. Gone were the complex song structures and innovative riffs, but the use of melodic composition on guitar persisted from …And Justice For All, albeit in a form that fit well into the MTV lineup. Songs backed away from topics that might unsettle people into fairy tales about fears and personal drama, including the rage drama that Pantera was making famous. Metallica fans hung their heads, neatly folded their tshirts and put them at the back of the drawer, and covered their tattoos with black bars. Metallica had finally sold out.

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Death – Individual Thought Patterns

As the 1990s progressed, death metal emerged as the clear next big thing. This came after nearly a decade of the music industry denying its existence, mocking it, and doing their best to conceal it. A number of them made overtures: if you could just drop the scary alienation, anger and post-human view of the world, maybe The Industry would work for you like it did for the Crue, AC/DC, etc. At this point, Chuck Schuldiner of Death was putting a lot of effort into making himself the founding father of death metal, and he fired his previous band for a mostly new group who came up with a heavy metal/death metal hybrid. That alone would have been bad, but what was worse was that he changed the music artistically as well as stylistically. The rage at a numb, callous and selfish world was replaced with personal drama, overplayed public compassion, and the kind of hollow rage that people sitting in air-conditioned homes direct at a world that “just doesn’t understand me.” Even worse, the music itself became saccharine. The wild lion of death metal became a neutered animal dependent on daily feedings of peer group approval. Not surprisingly, people loved it then and hardly mention it now.

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Morbid Angel – Domination

After the public hounding that Ilud Divinum Insanus received, most fans forgot the previous great Morbid Angel disappointment that essentially fragmented the band. Thousands of death metal bands languishing in obscurity perked up when they saw Far Beyond Driven flirt with Exhorder-styled extreme metal and still make hordes of money. In the timeless and impeccably insane logic of record labels, it was suggested that death metal bands take the same route even though it would mean abandoning their fans and yet not being able to fully dumb down enough for the brocore generation. Morbid Angel came out with this disaster of a fourth album in order to try to bridge the gap and ended up (predictably) failing both. Where previous Morbid Angel albums showed inventive songs, Domination featured one interesting riff per song slowed down and mated with another couple of sludgy, partially doomy, and unforgivably bouncy Pantera-styled riffs. To accommodate the injection of nonsense into death metal songs, Morbid Angel broke them down into simpler songs that resembled the happy go lucky “beer metal” songs of the past: verse-chorus, chanty foot-tapping title of song repeated, and an artistic outlook which more resembled wounded anger than any kind of delving toward a hidden truth. After this album, the band fell apart and reconstituted itself in new forms, trying to recapture some vein of composition that might appeal to lots of MTV-reprogrammed listeners and yet still be death metal. Much like Bigfoot and the perpetual motion machine, it might be out there somewhere, but as of yet Morbid Angel has not found it.

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Dimmu Borgir – Enthrone Darkness Triumphant

As soon as black metal hit the newsstands with stories of church arson and murder, record company stooges devoted many hours of thought to the simple question of how they could re-package it for the Hot Topic kids. Dimmu Borgir found the first workable solution with Enthrone Darkness Triumphant which mixed mall-goth, Cradle of Filth, and carnival music to come up with a style that reveled in its own randomness and made its listeners feel profound for having picked up an incoherent but inscrutable mess. The lush keyboards of mainstream Gothic dance music mixed with the darker rhythms of Nine Inch Nails and guitar influences from rock/metal/rap hybrids in order to interrupt the occasional black metal riff so it never came to fruition. The result became the artistic equivalent of a pop tart: thin bread crust around mystery ingredients mixed with sugar. Naturally, people loved it because it allowed them to “be black metal” (ist krieg!) without leaving behind the same digestible pap they had been swallowing for years under the rock banner. But the CDs seemed to fly out of stores, and black metal fans changed from lonely dissidents to bloated mall denizens looking for a new thrill to blot out the days of tedium as they tried to pretend they wanted to even be alive. Even more importantly, this album opened the door to “black metal” as a container for whatever you wanted to throw in it, which made the truly dark hearts of the record company execs jump with joy and visions of bank transfers.

Image: would you trust a cigarette company with marijuana? Most likely, they would do to it what they did to tobacco, which is remove variety in flavor and replace it with innocuous but consistent brand-perfect sensations.

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