Heavy metal started when Black Sabbath merged heavy guitar rock with the soundtracks from horror films. They did they by exclusively using power chords, which because they do not contain the notes that mark them as major or minor chords, lend themselves to moving in streams, like a melody played in chords. The result is that Black Sabbath structured their songs around the interplay of these melodies, instead of focusing on a transition between points of fixed harmony like rock music, and invented a new style of music that took nearly thirty years to grow into the musical ideal first suggested back in 1970. Lyrically, Black Sabbath rejected the flower love delusion of the hippies and replaced it with hard knowledge: the obliviousness of individuals creates a mythological form of evil that manipulates and destroys us.
Whenever NPR gets involved, you know you’re listening to state-sponsored propaganda. They also tend to favor any topic that humbles the strong and caters to the weak of spirit.
Other than a few honorable mentions, there are no metal albums here. Only the indie, post-rock, punk, sludge, emo and shoegaze mixture that is popularly infused with a few metallish riffs to become the non-mainstream form of nu-metal.6 Comments
Two awesomely oblivious places to visit. The people here have bought into the plastic facade, but they insist it be covered in granola, life failure, twee sycophancy, social nuance and novelty, and of course the purple-assed baboon showing submission while picking your pocket.
- Hands Up Houston! Alt-rock hipsters sometimes disparagingly discuss metal.
- Shreddit Post-teenage fat losers with soul patches talk about alt-indie metal.
Allahu ackbar!No Comments
With the rock-crit establishment turning up its collective nose at thrash, the task of documenting the Bay Area’s ’80s metal maelstrom for posterity has been left to fans. Brian Lew and Harald Oimoen – two thrash survivors who snapped countless shots of the unruly, burgeoning scene – are doing just that with their recently released book, “Murder in the Front Row,” a photographic odyssey through the inception of Bay Area thrash.
“The thrash scene, as far as metal goes, is one of the most influential scenes ever,” Lew says. With its insistence on pushing metal to new extremes, thrash prefigured all the genres that would crop up in its wake, including death metal, black metal and any other style that ratchets up the revolting possibilities inherent in heavy metal. “A lot of it started here, and it’s not really known.”
With contemporary music fragmenting into ever more insular subgenres, thrash metal’s legacy seems more salient than ever. – SFGATENo Comments
Vallenfyre – Desecration
If you can imagine a cross between newer Bolt Thrower, old Paradise Lost and recent Fleshcrawl, you would have a good basis for the rock from which Vallenfyre carve their death metal hybrid. They use the Swedish buzzsaw guitars and the kind of melodic hooks that would make Watain proud in that these riffs are simple and hard to get out of your head, but then use a layered style of riff and response that comes straight from old Paradise Lost, with fewer of the heavy metal touches. If this EP gets its pop influence from anywhere, it would be Brit electro. The riffs are reasonable, and while sparse in the longer song constructions, the band’s habit of treating them as phrases and thus giving them multiple endpoints creates a sombre and contemplative atmosphere. Looking forward to seeing what the full length will bring.
Pestilence – Doctrine
Attempting to keep up with the times, Pestilence make a Meshuggah-style version of a deathcore album and add in their trademark ecclectic tone-twisting jazz leads. As if thinking that fans now must be blockheads to like such music, Pestilence deliberately dumb down the music with lots of chanting verses and repetitive, ultra-simple riffs based on old heavy metal tonal patterns. They vary these up with breakdowns and interludes, using abundant percussive strumming to shake two chords into forty seconds of constant texture variation. This is well-executed and unlike their previous album, does not feel off-the-cuff; attention has been paid to making these songs flow well and stay together. However, like most djent and textural music, it’s almost binary and thus is exhausting from a mental perspective. If you can imagine Celtic Frost Monotheist combined with Meshuggah’s None and Coroner’s Grin, you have a good idea of what Pestilence is doing these days. As an improvement over the past, Doctrine gives me hope, but I still think these guys are best when making complex, twisted, ingenious old school death metal.
Antidote – Thou Shalt Not Kill
NYHC came in on the punk scale halfway to thrash, being very much based in the more extreme school of UK hardcore. This album of short, straight-up, anthemic songs belts out a paean to working class existence in New York by combining the catchy choruses of punk with the fast, nearly technical riffs of later UKHC. Vocals are eerily similar to what Kurt Brecht did in the same year with DRI, a youthful voice shouting itself breathless and yet managing to capture cadence and through it, the hook of the chorus. Guitars are minimal but pick more challenging rhythms in order to underscore the chorus and its lead-up in the fast ranted verse lyrics, giving these songs like early speed metal an insanely infectious quality that borders on frustration with how the message bores into the brain. This is almost like the Circle Jerks sped up 4x with the middle class faux angst translated into rage at the three-block area surrounding the squat.
Atman – Like Pure Unawaited Magic
This CD would stand a chance if it weren’t so goofy. The intrusion of operatic vocals at random times with maximum pretense and minimal musicality pretty much kills its chances of ever having people want to listen to it, but underneath it are good, simple minor key melodic riffs like early Abigor or Emperor simplified. Huge parts of this CD feel pasted together, as if the artist kept creating as many different elements as possible to extend a song, and many of the melodic riffs are too similar in structure for this to really take the top shelf, but it has moments that match the intensity described by the title.
Evil – Pagan Fury 1994-1996
Probably the only band that can compete with Ildjarn for turning the obvious into the profound, Evil are high-speed pneumatic drums with a languid bass following searingly distorted, simple riffs that rise into sublime three-note melodies. While this is well executed, this is all they have to offer; if you like Ildjarn and Blood, you’ll like this because it sounds like a cross between the two. Songs generally feature two grindcore riffs and a melodic black metal riff to unite them, which produces a sense of high energy potential flowing into a melancholic panorama that encompasses the moods previous.
Aosoth – III
The only underground trend to counter metalcore can probably be blamed on Thorns and the emergence of the 7-string guitar. In this style, open chords or oddball movable chords are strummed in quick sweeps to produce a wash of sonic possibility; this can give great power to a quality song, like the “sonic cathedral” approach of some classical composers, but with a directionless series of riffs it falls apart like later Mayhem. Aosoth strides the line, sometimes sounding like Portal or Molested in the harmonic possibilities unveiled, and other times sounding like an avantgarde acoustic band that somehow got the wrong guitar rig. The tempos and riff styles are compelling but songs often do not pick a direction other than restating their theme, which leaves us stranded in the sonic wash between what could be and what is.
Denial Fiend – They Rise
These guys have a unique intepretation of old school death metal. Imagine proto-death like early Master, but instead of faster tremolo riffs, the kind of muted strum chugging that distinguished bands like Exodus predominates during verses. A Misfits influence rides the vocals and the hookish rhythms of the choruses, but otherwise this is 100% straight-ahead metal. Like many of the caveman bands from the past, no silly punches are pulled here and it is refreshingly free of ornamentation and other artifice for the sake of disguising its basic simplicity. Percussion keeps energy high by creating a forward momentum that catches itself in tidy pockets that drive it forward like tempo changes; vocals are a hoarse yell with the riot delivery of Demolition Hammer or Exhorder.
Nunslaughter – Demoslaughter
This primitive, rhythmic metal is hard to justify as anything but five-note modal stripes bent into song through riffcraft, but for the old school primal style this band is at the top of the curve. Vocal rhythms and the ratio of riff rhythms used in transition resemble Deicide; some riff patterns approximate early Death; many of the more sing-song riffs evoke early Mayhem. Nunslaughter on some level understand the “soul” of death metal, in which a riff puzzle constantly expands in context like a winding journey that descends into profundity. Nunslaughter, despite having many holdover elements from early punk and radio-friendly heavy metal, understand this essence of underground metal. The result is primitive, at types awkward, but represents a surge of energy toward expressing an idea of such magnitude that among the 56 tracks offered here, much as on other micro-omnibus albums like Impulse to Destroy, Expositions Prophylaxe and From Enslavement to Obliteration, a complete vision of humanity and where it stands regarding its ultimate purpose is expressed.
Shrinebuilder – Shrinebuilder
To kill a darling, raise the knife above your head; there is no point pretending contrition or doubt. While sludge and stoner doom metal are the darlings of the industry at this point because they appeal to legions of new fans bleeding over from rock, they are not the heir to the throne of metal. In fact, they are taking it in the opposite direction back down the evolutionary ladder, a man devolving to chimpanzee to mouse. Since the inception of metal, industry has sought in vain for a way to adopt the rebellious image of metal and slap it on music basically indistinguishable from other rock; this way, they maximize profit by using interchangeable parts for the music and handling the “genre” through studio fakery. This album could easily be a U2 album. It is three-riff rock music, with one each for verse and chorus and one for the bridge or jam interlude, and as a result it relies heavily on repetition and basic harmony through which a “melody” (fragment of melodic scale + pentatonics) rambles. If you can imagine early Crowbar and later Eyehategod mixed up with some Sonic Youth or Nirvana, that roughly describes what you get here. It probably helps to be stoned so you have a short memory and cannot notice how repetitive this album is.
NYC Mayhem – Discography
It is not difficult to see why metalheads loved this band. Like Agnostic Front and the Cro-Mags, these guys are a hardcore band that shied away from the simplified rock songs of most punk bands and instead went for metal-like riffs, thrash tempos and a brutally post-human view of the world. Riffs are phrasal and have actual shape, unlike hardcore riffs which were boxier; there are plenty of moments that resemble Slayer or Destruction. These alternate with punk-style riffs returning to a single chord for stability instead of remaining open-ended or slammingly conclusive. Vocals fit the hardcore style of a masculine shout without the bassy tone of later voices. Song composition is closest to early COC, with an effort made to distinguish each song by use of varied structure and introductions, interludes and unique changes in tempo. They write great riffs, but never manage to keep momentum in each song, which causes a process of acceleration followed by breakdown that is somewhat exhausting to the listener. The decrepit garage production merges sounds together into an organic whole, showing us a window into history with grit on the edges.
Calciferum – The Beast Inside
Inside of this old school styled album lurks a new school sensibility: a random collection of riffs, vocals taking over from guitars as the primary instrument, bouncy rhythms and a theatrical sensibility imposed on top of the music not emanating from it. It is tempting to like this, but it’s too linear and too random at the same time. Underneath the slamming exterior is a good sense of binary pop, but its vocabulary is limited, which creates the effect of a listener thrown into a washing machine on spin cycle, ratcheted back and forth by a relentless and circular process.
Anu – Opus Funaerum
The intro to this album captures a vision of chaos rising from order that exists only in one other art form, which is structured noise music from Japan. What follows is pleasant black metal that sounds like Kvist and Gorgoroth had a baby. The band tend to make good use of the harmonic minor scale to achieve a lasting atmosphere, and write some pleasant basic riffs. The problem is that atmosphere is all that is offered here, and it is very 1994ish, right before black metal jumped the shark, meaning that there’s no exceptional direction. If you want competent and pleasant music that does not distinguish itself particularly, this will be OK, but this musical elitist requires more.
Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit
Do you remember positive jazz and lite rock from the 1980s? Hopefully not: it was the crossover between Muzak, or elevator music, and the new jazz fusion and adult rock categories. Industry needed music that it could play in communal areas and not offend anyone, so they took the soul-searching out of jazz and rock and came up with two super-consonant, super-upbeat and uplifting formats that they then used to beat the heart out of us. Post-rock is the new positive jazz (Kenny G) and lite rock (Michael Bolton). However, in order to cater to a new generation of self-pity, the lords of industry have made this both minor-key and self-reflexively super-balanced, so it’s like uplifting music that tells you it’s not your fault and watches Napoleon Dynamite with you. It is impossible to distinguish post-rock from the audience who listen to it, who are indie-rockers and hipsters, or those who have found no meaning in life so they focus on themselves, and accessorizing their personalities with beaucoup “ironic,” “unique” and “different” things. Industry encourages them because they are perfect consumers who will quietly work as web designers their whole lives, stay single and keep buying entertainment products, and despite all their grumbling are only too happy to report to work. Agalloch make an interesting meshing of textures and styles in Marrow of the Spirit, and there are no musical grounds for criticism. Artistically, for all its attempts to be different, the underlying songwriting is more like regular indie rock music and so while it’s “unusual” for metal, it’s actually the usual thing when you look at music as a whole. Summary: Agalloch make great rock music and should drop the metal pretense and just get bigger than Dave Matthews, because their current style panders to insincere people and those so clueless they think novelty in style is more important than clarity and meaning in content.
Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones
Tom G. Warrior, although an artist of great talent, gets sidetracked into trying to “stay current.” This happened to Celtic Frost in the late 1980s, and it now happens with Triptykon, which tries hard to be modern metal with touches of Rammstein and Marilyn Manson yet keeping the underground honest morbidity. This impossible task results in Triptykon dumbing down their music through repetition and really obvious, repetitive choruses that rant out memes in raw form and pound them into our heads. Songwriting is good although directionless because all else has been shoved aside to keep those “catchy” ranty choruses, and some interesting melodies come of this, but I don’t want to listen to it. It’s annoying and reduces consciousness to a background hum because it’s so loud and repetitive. What we loved from Celtic Frost was the atmosphere; Triptykon is the anti-atmosphere. It’s too bad because if Tom G. looked honestly in the mirror, he’d see that he is loved for the quality and content of his music and not its style, so he should get more honest with the style even if it seems 20-30 years out of date. Who cares what the trends are? In three years they’ll be gone along with this album, and in 30 years kids will still be learning to play “Triumph of Death.”
Abraxas – Damnation
Nothing wrong with this band — standard late-model death metal, like Vader crossed with Devourment. Not bad but nothing particularly exciting. Overuse of “intensity” makes this monolithic, like reading a page of zeroes. Like the band named Damnation, it hammers too hard to achieve any kind of variation in which a story or drama could play out, and so the result is like Napalm Death’s “Scum” if the songs had been five minutes instead of ten seconds, and rigid instead of sloppy. Nothing is done wrong here but the whole does not add up to much of enduring power.
Decrepit Birth – Polarity
Someone crossed Cynic’s Focus, Death’s Human and modern technical death metal to get a fruity sounding progressive band embedded in the midst of blast and breakdown. Individual parts are great, the whole is hilarious and absurdly unclear on any kind of direction. In fact, it reminds me of modern society: the salesperson goes through the list and ticks off all that is required, and then it gets passed to the factory floor, where they bolt everything together and hope it flies. The result here is really goofy and entirely misses the grandeur and imagination of metal. Flee.
Bahimiron – Rebel Hymns of Left-Handed Terror
Against all odds, this band have reinvented themselves with a new sound. This new styling works because the band have both stripped-down what they do and focused on making every bit count. The songwriting sounds hasty but as if a very deliberate focus were placed behind each piece, so that the band knew what they needed and fought until they found it, even if it went rather quickly. Combining the Demoncy “Joined in Darkness” cum Profanatica “Profanatitas de Domonatia” sound of fuzzy, foreboding, inverse-march riffs with the remnants of the original Gorgoroth-inspired sound that propelled this band into focus, albeit with bits of the Southern style (Down, Eyehategod) and classic death metal mixed in, the new Bahimiron makes fast songs in the style of hardcore punk but gives them a uniquely metal vibe. They aim at being incomplete; the songs themselves are complete, but the emotional concept they express is one of partial completion. Plenty of speed and power in these riffs; no particularly groundbreaking variations occur, and the noisy lead guitar (Watain “Rabid Death’s Curse” style) creates no enduring atmosphere. Even the EP itself tapers off, bringing in a few speed metal riffs and even modern metal influences toward the end (blame Krieg’s latest) but the riffs wrap up in hard-hitting songs that are not scattered random thoughts and as a result, create a memorable listen. Glad to see these guys returning on a high note.22 Comments
Tags: abraxas, Agalloch, antidote, anu, aosoth, atman, bahimiron, calciferum, decrepit birth, denial fiend, evil, nunslaughter, nyc mayhem, pestilence, sadistic metal reviews, shrinebuilder, triptykon, vallenfyre
Some issues crop up again and again because they are unresolved.
Others crop up because they are stupid, and therefore attract idiots, who want to make drama out of them.
Each year, Revolver publishes a collection of features focused on female bands and band members (and often more inexplicable choices, like tattoo artists or actresses) replete with lots of big pictures splashed across its pages. Ostensibly, the goal is to provide exposure to the women of metal, and celebrate them for their talent and brains as well as their beauty—think Miss America’s “scholarship” competitions with less world peace and more devil horns. But the ladies’ musical backgrounds and achievements often play second fiddle to their luminous cheekbones or dangerous curves.
It usually ends up as Revolver’s highest grossing and most popular issue of the year. That doesn’t mean everyone likes it. Critics—I’m among them—ask why it is that the magazine sees the need to put together a “special edition” once every 12 months, instead of choosing to allocate equal coverage to start with. Revolver seldom gives in-depth coverage to female musicians or bands during the rest of the year; the women are almost always relegated to the now-regular “Hottest Chicks in Metal” one-page feature that graces each issue. The insistence upon segregation, separation, and sexuality has plenty of feminists baying for blood. – The Atlantic
Some women in metal want to have it both ways: they want to be a big deal for being women, and they want to pretend that we should just treat them like one of the boys. Neither is possible. It is impossible to notice the differences between people, including gender. Also, since we are biology, much of our agenda in life is to find attractive mates and if possible, reproduce with them.
“Women in Metal” as a thread or post has now occurred 75,000 times on the internet. Every single time it becomes this: women complaining about not being seen for who they are, while men post pin-ups of women in metal and ogle them like streetwalkers.
I have a suggestion for both groups: men, instead of trying to be all “gender neutral” by noticing women in metal “who are exceptional because not only are they in metal, but they’re women too” (you hear this line or variants of it a lot), stop pretending. Notice women for what they are and unleash your inner beast. You are here to drool. You could do it politely and maturely — well, that’s a bigger topic and out of reach for most, since metal attracts social retards along with the interesting people.
Women, try this: stop being two-faced about your gender. Either make it on your own merits, without the “and she’s a woman too” tag, or be comfortable being cheesecake and realize that it’s part of the rock ‘n’ roll culture. Rock likes easy sex because it’s growing up music for pimply teenagers. Face those facts. But stop trying to milk the woman angle when convenient, and then becoming “outraged” that someone would notice, after you’ve been whoring yourself out for years.
And to the writers at The Atlantic: I miss the old days of your publication, when you insisted that writers have both college degrees and functioning brains.10 Comments
Total hipster doublejargon:
Boris [has not been a] heavy metal band at all. From the first day, we have never called ourselves as heavy metal. However, we are totally fine if everyone calls us a heavy metal band. We have been doing what we like and as a result we welcome if everyone says so, puts a tag on us or categorizes in specific genre. – Phoenix New Times
We aren’t, but if our fans are stupid and insist upon it, then that’s real to them and we are. For dollars.7 Comments
Old school death metal from Paradise Lost, Extinction of Mankind, My Dying Bride and Doom members:
Adrian, the drummer of Vallenfyre, is also the drummer for the band Paradise Lost. I’ve known him for quite a long time, because the European death metal scene a long time ago was quite small and everyone knew each other and traded tapes. It was a little bit incestuous at times because everyone knew each other. Scoot, the bass player, he played in Doom and Extinction of Mankind. He was my roommate back 20 years ago, he shared a house with me. We’ve remained friends since then and I couldn’t think of anyone else to do it when the idea to do this band came up. Hamish, the lead guitarist, he’s another old friend and he’s in My Dying Bride, which was kind of the same genre as Paradise Lost. He’s my drinking buddy and we go out drinking. Mully, the other guitarist in the band, every Thursday night we go listen to old metal and get drunk and we’re all friends so it kind of easy to choose these people.
The main subject is that we’re trying to play it like a proper old school death metal band in the production and the song writing and most elements of it. We also incorporate a lot of other elements we grew up with like the crust punk scene, the doom scene, and like the grind scene. We wanted to make it something that instantly transports us back to ’86 or ’87. Apart from that there wasn’t really a big plan behind it, it was just to get that sound really. – Metal Funderground
From 1995 to about 1999, the old underground tried to live on in a new modern form. Then it collapsed, and what took over was an indie/alt-rock hybrid of metal that lost the raw aggressive spirit of metal and replaced it with self-pity. Starting in 2006 or so, the revival of the underground began. A new radio show is helping blast that door wide open with a solid diet of underground death metal, black metal, grindcore, speed metal, thrash (crossover), and hardcore mixed in with dark ambient and possibly classical music. Meet Devolved, the voice and choice of music behind the show.
What name do you use on the air?
Devolved. Devolution is real!
Why did you pick an old school death metal, black metal, thrash, grindcore, speed metal, heavy metal and dark ambient show?
Metal helped me see the world in a new light, or at least provided a soundtrack. Perhaps it will affect a few of the listeners in the same way. My generation (what they call the ‘Y’ generation) certainly needs a new light and a new path.
Do you think these genres offer something artistically or politically that doesn’t exist anywhere else?
I can’t say that with certainty. But the best metal does contain a spirit which is hard to find elsewhere. A real love of life, and of death. And that youthful desire to analyze all aspects of reality, even if unpleasant.
What’s a typical playlist?
Mostly death metal with forays into other genres. Autopsy, Suffocation, Massacra, Immortal, and Slayer are perennials. I discover more metal music all the time, both modern and old-school, and incorporate what I find stimulating.
How has response been so far?
A few locals have called in and voiced their support. People also listen to the show online; how many is hard to know.
Do you think there’s a difference between old school underground metal and what’s going on now? If so, what is that difference?
Obviously, but I really don’t know much about the modern ‘scene’. It seems that most of the good releases of the past few years have been composed by musicians who have been around since the formative years. It’s possible that people of my generation are simply incapable of creating quality metal, either for innate reasons or because attention is focused elsewhere.
What defines an underground genre, like old school death metal?
Shared ideals through a shared artistic method. The “underground” aspect is probably a conscious choice to avoid decay and assimilation.
Why do you think there was such a peak in output of old school death metal and black metal in the late 80s through early 1990s?
Seems like intelligent, alienated Westerners finally realized that the rot had reached to the very core of our society, and that by that point halting Kali was impossible. Certain individuals had realized this long before, but it takes a critical mass of aware people for an artistic movement to form around such an idea.
Is something similar going to happen again?
That would be cool. What I see with my generation these days is that they’re either totally lost in their own narcissism, or are working their butts off to rise above the masses of this overpopulated planet. That doesn’t leave much time for art.
What advice would you give someone interested in learning about these genres?
Find people you respect and see what they say influenced them (this is why band interviews are great). Death Metal Underground and DLA both introduced me to a lot of good stuff; frankly I often just trawl through Youtube vids until I find something interesting. Learn more about the craft and composition and don’t be afraid to be critical, selective or ‘elitist’.
I was watching the Combat Records Live at Studio 254, NY tape with Venom, Slayer and Exodus. Slayer were getting loaded and talking about how they liked Bach and Tchaikovsky. When I interviewed Quorthon, he was heavily into Bach as well. Do you think there’s a connection between metal and classical?
Absolutely! The simple explanation is that classical (and baroque) music will deeply affect anyone with intelligence and taste and love of art, or even one of those three qualities. Metal bands were not the only musicians affected, but they incorporated these influences into their own compositions in a way that no one else did.No Comments