Trophic levels in metal

From the forum:

Metal riffing is usually most successful when there is a large transfer of energy from one riff to another, as this is how the song communicates.

Multiple riffs or layered riffs in the best metal often manage to achieve complex intertwining tension trade-offs, whether it be the battering complexity of tracks like “Fall From Grace” or poignant riffing of “My Journey to the Stars”. Melody, rhythm, and just about everything play into this structuring of music.

Trophic levels seem to be a good metaphor for this:

       -A-
     ---B---
  -----C-----
-------D-------

(Losing energy as you travel up the food chain)

Something like that. Much like how trophic levels have certain amounts of energy being transferred from one member in the food change to the next, riffs have that power as well. The main difference is that riffs are not locked into certain energy transfers, but rather by manipulating this, we can see varied results.

For example:

If we take a band that has very high net energy transfer, we get something like this.

-------A-------
-------B-------
-------C-------
-------D-------

(Energy is transferred totally from level to level; sturdy structure technique can fail if not enough energy spread throughout. Unlike later FAIL in that it has a large amount of energy that maintains interest.)

In this case, we have a song that transfers all energy from one riff to the next. This tradeoff creates an intense song, maintaining power throughout.

Now let’s take something more complex:

-------A-------
   -----B-----
       --C--
    ----A----

(Repetition of A riff later on is given more poignancy by putting in two riffs which help magnify its later recurrence.)

Now, we begin with a riff, before cycling into a riff with a distinct lack of power in comparison to the first (C), but this riff paves the way for the more powerful riff following it, and to cap it off, the initial riff is repeated, creating a sense of importance.

This structure would be a “journey” as ANUS puts it, as the same riff is used at both the end and beginning, but the last one is more important due to interaction in between. (Mind you that there can definitely be more than 3 riffs, this is just an example.)

Now for ambient, it’s different:

                      -----
              ----            ----
        -------               --------
----------          A           ----------
        -------               -------
                 ----      ----
                      -----

(Different in that the idea is “framed” inside the music, as stated somewhere else on forum)

Now these are the ways you can FAIL.

-A-
-B-
-C-
-D-
-E-
-F-

(Loads of riffs, but there is no journey or real kinetic friction, so something like Necrophagist could be likened to this, “riff buffet”. NO difference in energy levels, and very little to start with)

--A (It's probably C in disguise actually)--
--B--
 -C-

(metalcore, AKA caveman structure. Very little variance, and the small jump in energy from C to B is pretty pathetic anyway)

Metal is interesting in that it can use both the ambient and riff like structure to great effect.

Let me know what you think, what can I fix, I know I ignored some things. Is this an oversimplification?

razorfield9

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61% of metalheads also listen to classical music

The “20something neckbeards who get paid $60k/year to lardass around ‘programming'” on Reddit did a metal survey, and the results were interesting. While not much was revealed about how people enjoy metal, the data on what other genres are also enjoyed was a nice wake-up call, with classical music coming in second place to classic rock.

According to the Reddit metal survey, 61% of metalheads out there also listen to classical music.

You can see the full results of here.

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Interview with Alan Moses and Brian Pattison of Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991)

Alan Moses (Butterface zine) and Brian Pattison (Chainsaw Abortions zine) are the death metal zine editors who compiled Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991). They also promote the A Day of Death series of concerts and have been active in the death metal underground up through the present day.

Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991) covers the formative years of the death metal underground in the words of its participants and as a result, is not a slick product designed to hype the drama of the scene but an in-depth exploration for those who care to exert themselves to learn.

We are fortunate to get a few moments of their time and to hear how Alan and Brian got into metal, ended up starting their zines, and almost two decades later resurrected it all with Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991).

When did the idea hit you for this book, and when did you think, “this might actually work”? I understand that both of you published paper zines, and that you Alan worked for Morbid Angel (gods among men) and that you Brian had a radio show and promoted live shows, including the infamous A Day of Death. Would you have undertaken this book without that background?

Brian: The idea came about in an off the cuff remark Alan made in an email to me in May or June of 2009. He mentioned having a photo album on his coffee table with old pics he had in a collection. I like that idea, then just thought it would be cool to have something like that in actual book form. In later discussions we agreed it would be even cooler to have stories from friends (the bands and ‘zines of the era) to go with the pics. I would say by possibly early Sept of 2009 we thought the book might sell some. We had begun getting emails from bands we didn’t contact ourselves and other people who had heard what we were doing and wanted a copy for themselves – originally we intended to print two copies, one for Alan and one for me and that was to be it. it’s hard to know if we would have done this without having the backgrounds we do. it would have been a lot tougher for sure. doing what we did back then made people remember us so it was easy to get stories from Chris Reifert, Kam Lee, Henry Veggian, etc.

Alan: I was probably a world more skeptical than Brian about it. After all it was an off the cuff statement I’d made in an email to him, a single email among I don’t know how many others. I forgot about the subject, but Brian went away and mulled it over for a while. He doesn’t just step into things blindly so he’d been thinking of all the hypotheticals before he came back to me with his thoughts of actually making a physical book, beyond just 2 overpriced copies via an online publisher, which was the original idea.

My mindset was way more cemented to the ideas about digitizing our combined audio tape and video collections, than any book concept, at first that is. When he came back to me with “oh I have been thinking about….” and went into details, I remember thinking “holy f%!k the guy’s gone nuts” haha but the more he argued the case (so to speak) the more I warmed to it.

It’s hard to say whether those things from our pasts played any part in it or not, I don’t know how much background the creators of any other books had in this music – so I have no idea what their drives are. In the past I’ve often been asking about doing a book of some kind – but laughed it off, or even if I may have entertained the idea for a couple minutes at best, my life was not the sort to support any such endeavour until recently.

Maybe our collective contacts proved helpful in doing this, but then again many old friends have ignored or turned down the chance to be a part of GT as well, and some times it seems to me that an unknown newbie off the street has better success these days of reaching OUR old cronies than we do, especially if they have tits and whorish looking myspace profile photos haha.

What advantages does a cut-and-paste or photocopied zine have over its electronic counterparts? What disadvantages? Are paper zines still relevant in the same way, now that we have blogs and mp3 trading to make life easier?

Brian: A big advantage is price. Making a ‘zine the old way you didn’t have to print thousands; you could just run off a few copies and assemble them yourself, sometimes as needed. Biggest disadvantage to me would be all your pics would be in the lack of color for cheaper copying. Paper ‘zines could still be relevant if people bought them. The paper ‘zines of our day were often put out by people who became fans of their local scene first, so those ‘zines were great ways to find out about bands that didn’t get national exposure.

Alan: Well, for a start, paper zines can be brought to the shit-house, so for most men, that’s the place they get to read in peace anyways hehe – if they have a family anyway.

They can be brought back out at leisure, wherever, and don’t dictate the need for all this extra technology or internet connections to read – especially in countries that have the system dictating how much bandwidth you can have and at what speeds you can use it, such as Australia and other third-world-internet-countries.

In many ways the print zine might be making a comeback, or seems to me to be making one, as people are beginning to leave the textureless internet and return to a more biological physical based enjoyment of all the trappings that come with this music. On the other hand though, as many print zines as I see flyers and adverts for – how many do they sell? Is it the same concept as when we made them, the concept being that we didn’t even care about sales, it was a labor of love and devotion.

The disadvantages of printing and postage costs and garnering physical mailing addresses as opposed to email are the main issues I guess, whereas today anyone can be a blogger and start a webzine or start trading mp3 with little to no background in this music. Contacts were hard to come by back in the day, and it was an investment to buy cassettes and establish a good stable of quality traders – it was based on hard work and faith, and that was evident from the list you had to offer trades from.

The bottom line is though that for the most part, only glossy magazines get the business and they cater to the borderline or fully blown corporate bands and their fans, that’s where the money is. That type of fan would snub their nose at a photocopied zine without a doubt – they only know glossy music and images, so there’s not much to be done on that front but leave them to it. To transcend the money issues on an underground level, ofcourse digital means greater speed and coverage – but we are sacrificing an entire facet of the experience in so doing.

Do you think mp3 trading is superior to tape trading? Does it help people find music, overwhelm them with too many options, or both?

Brian: HELL NO, mp3 trading is not superior to tape trading! For one thing you’re dealing in crap files, anyone who truly loves music would not listened to their stuff in a crapped down format like mp3. Tape trading was great, you’d get the stuff you requested and then usually a little bonus material as tape filler. In ’89 that bonus stuff could have been short demos (like Immolation’s ’89 demo) or live stuff or rehearsals of new bands like Mortician and Incantation who didn’t have demos. With mp3 downloads you just get the tracks you’re looking for. MP3 trading may make it faster to get stuff, but it has help destroy the scene. The personal touch and friendships that were made through tape trading just don’t exist in mp3 trading.

Alan: No, I don’t think it’s superior per se, not for the most part.

The exclusiveness is totally gone now. Grandma can plug her dentures into any USB port and now obtain live audio which was reserved on trader lists as “not for trade” like the old Genocide recordings (pre-Repulsion) were and is instantly metamorphosed into an old school Genocide fan. Now that exclusiveness has been sacrificed, yes, it certainly does immeasurably help people find bands they really like, whatever the style is. I wouldn’t have found totally kick ass bands like Punch or Question otherwise (both amazing hardcore punk bands) – stumbling into a blog lead me to “try” them out, like you would that unknown band on a trader list, or put on a trade at the end to fill the blank tape and see if the recipient liked it or not – that’s the same concept, so it does works.

It’s only when they start mass messaging you to “vote” for them to become the next reality-concepted band and “win” a Myspace or whatever label contract that it gets abnormal. Conversely – from a corporate mentality you want to market what the plebs want to hear, so you want that newest Kelly Clarkson or Mr. Hanky band brought to the table, by the very plebs you want to fleece with it anyways.

Then we get to the whole push-pull thing, and face the issues of whole albums being ripped and copyright and the rest of it.

It has the capacity for both effects though, no matter what, and the serious adventurer into this music better be prepared by wearing a shit proof suit – because they are going to swim in shit before they find the gems.

What kind of audience does old school death metal and Glorious Times have, and how many of them are carryovers from the original days?

Brian: Old school death metal seems to be regaining favor, thankfully. As a guesstimate I would say roughly 1/3 of the people who bought our first printing were people from the old days. Our sales pretty much ran the full spectrum of fans, we sold to a few in their early teens and a few that were over 50 yrs old.

Alan: We have people from our era and younger, although the younger are far less represented. Mainly, we gather, because we haven’t had any corporate mechanism behind us to promote things – only the really attentive youngsters caught on so far, because we are out of their more cashcow oriented world at this time. Unless you really use myspace ALOT or saw a quick blurb at Blabbermouth one time, we would have missed GT pretty much, that’s because we had no money to promote and people are guarded about what they throw their money at.

If we had Shane Embury ‘endorse’ the book, haha, we would have been picked up by most of the publishers of metal oriented books probably before the thing was even out of the draft stage haha.

Musically speaking, there’s so much more folks drifting back to the old bands and the old feel of things, since they’ve got a bit wise to the genericisms of the music today. Don’t get me wrong, some of the bands coming out with stuff these days are phenomenal (cough Malignant Tumour cough Master cough) – but we see letters every single day from a vast array of age ranges wanting a return to the Glorious Times, and there is an undercurrent of feeling disatisfied with what the state of affairs has become.

No matter what, death metal fans have always been really die hard. I think most people realize that there’s more dedication in general, compared to other music styles. Hardcore and the derivatives is the same ofcourse. They might have dropped out of sight due to life’s circumstances, or come back and become more active, and the old classics are still classics to them. Some may continue to venture forth to try to find good bands from the newer generation, which is what Brian and I do (although we are both as into hardcore as well as other extreme music, not just death). But we are not so sure the new young bloods adopt a similar philosophy because the whole shebang is different for them. They have ease of access but the exclusiveness is tainted by their having been spoiled by the technology.

We rest well, in the knowledge that so many old hands at this have stated publicly that GT is something no true death metal fan should be without, and so far only the hardest core have it. We have yet to be able to change that, and give other people, with as keen an interest, a chance to check it out. Most of GT’s appreciation base understands the importance of hearing the individual memories from the very people who lived them rather from a stale 3rd party who either wasn’t really active back then, or was simply too young or not even born. I am the sort of person that would rather read an autobiography than a biography, and GT fans respond to the concept really well, they are whom we made this book more available for anyways. Nobody else.

What’s the difference between then and now in terms of what fans expect, how bands act, and what people expect from the music?

Brian: Most fans today expect everything for free. They won’t spend $3 to buy a band’s demo because someone else will and that person will upload it to a blog. Bands act differently, some just stay backstage and don’t mingle with the fans forgetting that they are nothing without the fans and that they too were once just fans. Some bands don’t though, Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) still goes out and mingles with the crowd and will talk to anyone. Nowadays with the rise of digital recording people expect every recording to be of great quality, which is a shame. There’s some special about getting a rehearsal tape or poorly recorded demo, you know the band is in it for the music/for the fans, not to try to get signed and make money.

Alan: I can think of a few major household names today, from the old days, whom have made a 360 degree turn around from their former mindsets, and have totally turned their backs on their old fan bases, in favour of the adorations of a generation raised on rock star worship again – like the thing got killed by the underground and has been brought back in some sort of grandiose version of itself. Similarly, others from the same fold are still as grass roots as ever in their mindset and haven’t been poisioned. Then there’s some that are just as indifferent to their fans as they were then, and have atleast remained consistent on that level.

The fans I think, have made a major political shift – because the bands are more accessible to them, yet the rock star worship has been elevated – you’d think that would be the other way around? It wasn’t like that before, there was more of an even playing ground between a band and the fans usually.

I guess that is a symptomology of having years and years of success that eventually there is another generation born that sees things with a different set of eyes, with different value systems. Entertainment-wise anyways.

Do you have any insight as to the relative importance of fanzines in different parts of the world, if any? Who were/are your favorite foreign correspondences?

Brian: Fanzines back in the day were hugely important. those were the early years of death metal so it didn’t get coverage in the glossy music mags. If you wanted to read an interview with Immolation, Prime Evil, Insanity, Nokturnel, etc you had to find it in a ‘zine. You didn’t just want ‘zines from your area or your country either, you wanted them from all over so you can discover new bands, remember it was before the internet and myspace so to discover a band like Death Courier from Greece you had to either read about them in a ‘zine or happen to get a flyer of them from a tape trader. now of course my favorite correspondence is Alan, back then it was probably Walter Garau (Ass Ache) from Italy.

Alan: Certain zines were vitally important. Blackthorn from Denmark, Uniforce, Total Thrash etc from the USA, Decibels Of Death and Ultimate Speedcore Dislocation from France, and the legions of zines from South America were vital in exposing bands from everywhere yet still had enough from their own countries to be interesting – well there were an abundance of interesting bands though back then too. I had penpals in so many countries and it was always magnificent to hear from them all, I used to hear from most of the editors from the zines above, and traded with a number of them directly – and they are just the tip of the iceberg. My favourite correspondences would have been Lars Sorbekk (Vomit (Norway)) and Trey back then, but that’s a bit unfair because I truly reveled in hearing from EVERYONE. It’s the same today really, but Brian is the doss because we are doing so much together there’s usually something exciting or frustrating or whatever every single day.

Did you expect the exposure to bands you received when starting your respective zines?

Brian: When I started my ‘zine I just wanted to expose local bands to people elsewhere and have something of my own to put out to give me access to bands from other areas to interview and to expose to my locality. In the end my ‘zine did much more than that for me, it created life long friendships.

Alan: Yes I did, because most of the contacts were already made well before I started Buttface. Things were really taking off in 89 and 90 but by 1990 everything was put on hold because I relocated to the US and Buttface was never kept alive either there or in Australia by my co-editor Stuart Maitland. It’s been funny explaining to 3 kids why people still call their Dad ‘Buttface’ haha

You’re planning on mailing a live CD with bands playing the A Day of Death festival to people who pre-ordered the book. Can you tell us more about this CD, what it sounds like, and what these performances will reveal to those who hear them now, especially fans who weren’t there for the original underground?

Brian: We had several ideas for CD companions to the first pressing of the book, all of which fell through because we were never able to get material from the bands. we did the A Day of Death download to go with the blog, not every band from the show, but a solid five. We were provided DVDs that John Verica recorded that day, since he only recorded some bands that’s all we had to work with. If we had every band it would have made one hell of a CD. Fans who weren’t there could have expected to hear bands that became legends playing in their infancy.

In other interviews, you’ve mentioned the negative presence of corporate labels, of glossy magazines and hype machines — in short, the nasty end of consumerism as it turns music into a product. Do you think it’s harder for bands to be authentic, sincere or legitimate when they go corporate? With people raised on corporate rock and slick radio pop, is there an “awakening” process as they leave behind that world? Do you think corporations will simply buy out the anti-corporate movements and make them “niche” markets?

Brian: The big labels have always done that. They find a fad, latch onto it then just kill it. In their view if one Entombed is great then 30 is even better. If one band makes it big after using Scott Burns as a producer then every band starts using him. It all became a big machine, bands getting signed that should not have been. Lots of cheese being passed off as the latest greatest when they were just shabby clones of the original. Some people are just sheep and don’t want to be awakened to what is out there; they’re perfectly happy being told what they should like. It’s hard for some bands to stay sincere after signing with a big corporate label because of a few things…they feel the pressure to sell more, they start writing stuff in studio instead of in rehearsals, they have people (A&R guys) to answer too, etc.

Alan: Definitely, if they were sincere at all to begin with, which really 99.9% of the founding fathers WERE. There’s definately an awakening process to be had, if the person has the right mental dexterity to unlock it though, alot of people simply don’t possess it and have to be told what to listen to or how to think on every single issue, it’s the nature of the sheep that must be herded. There’s a small percentage that slip through the gaps and they tend to crave more direct expression and more enthusiastic music – like extreme metal or punk. While I don’t think corporations could buy what the youngin’s call “d-beat” now days and have grandma shopping in a Besthoven shirt like she does a Slipknot or Morbid Angel shirt today – anything is possible, and with the correct conditioning and the appropraite funding they could possibly do it – let’s face it – they can convince people to buy and eat a s%!t sandwhich if they put their minds to it.

One of the topics bands seemed to mention in the book, but only directly, was the rarity of these glorious days you describe. After all, death metal was then like a young child growing up, and now it’s a well-known and accepted adult, so it can never be “re-discovered” in the rise from obscurity like it once was. Were those glorious days singular and limited to that time, or will they happen again?

Brian: You can get something similar to those days, but it can never be the exact same. It can never revert to being as fresh and uncontaminated as it was. It was a singularity: 1984 was the big bang with the next few years of dramatic growth being the formation of the heavier elements and then the years up to 1991 would be the planets forming and so on. Late 1991 and into 1992 would be the birth of man and as he did with the planet man ruined a good thing.

Alan: There’s no returning, and that’s not what we call for either. We’d simply like to see a recognition of the era, no different than all the weenies running about and calling this “classic rock” today. Personally I am gun shy of all the bands that the glossies really push and have been anyways – they spat at Morbid Angel back in the early days, but now stop short of getting on their knees infront of Trey’s pants. Makes me sick.

Alan, you talk about leaving the mainstream as a gradual process, like a seduction. What is it like to live with a mainstream consciousness, and how does your outlook on the world change when you go underground? Is mainstream music different in consciousness, spirit or idea, and is that what makes it “sound” different and have different effects on us than underground metal?

Alan: I don’t think mainstream music as such is the same since it’s created with an alien mindset to begin with. Music created by a bunch of kids today – or 30 somethings even – that is written with, how do they state it in their bios? “looking for a recording contract and world wide touring support” – that is laughable. What’s worse is that the label’s consciousness has infected them into thinking they are even remotely good enough to create such music. It’s feeling, and you have to wade through alot of junk to get anything of substance. The process of leaving the mainstream is usually gradual I think, or else it’s jumping on another band wagon. As much as “sound” is importan t I think it’s feeling that’s as important – music of any kind without feeling is piece work, and shallow and therefore mainstream.

Is death metal music different in consciousness/spirit/idea, so that when different people hit on that same idea, they make music that sounds similar, even if they haven’t heard each other? Did that happen in the underground (parallel evolution)? Do you think people have to be ready for metal before they find metal, or vice-versa?

Alan: There was definitely evolution and hybriding – out of respect and pure influence, like the infamous Scot Carlson bass on Shane or the Kam Lee wipeout on Barn to name 2 influences. It was pure though and not a contrived means to cash in, like viewing a cupped vocalist in a photo today and knowing that 99.9% of it will be Suffocation’s 2nd generation music, clone based upon a band’s success 20 years after they made a ripple in the waters. They definitely need to be craving something on a deeper unconscious level I think – much of what we enjoy appeals to the baser instincts, and those lay in the Id. On the other hand so many of the bands, whilst being into whomever they were really into, still evolved to their own standards and were not clones at all. So there was evolution but being paralleled can be argued I guess. Perhaps we can say no to that statement since nothing is equal or the same in nature, evolution embraces difference not similarity and clones are not evolved, they are premeditatedly produced.

You’re planning to re-release Glorious Times in a wider fashion. When’s this going to happen, and are we going to see it in bookstores across the world? Why did you decide to release it in a limited fashion first?

Brian: We don’t have a set date yet. I’m getting a new publishing program and we’re redoing every layout, changing some pics, adding some bands to improve the book. We’d love to see it in book stores, but given it will still be just 2 guys doing it that’s not likely. We will print more this time so people will find it at places like Century Media and other metal distros. The first pressing was so limited because it had to be. We had $0 starting balance and to get it printed at all we had to take pre-print orders and the money from those orders paid for us to print books for those orders. So, we had roughly 150 pre-print orders and that gave us the funds to print 153 books. This time it will be much different, no pre-print ordering, wewon’t make the books available for sale until we have them. Now we just have to raise the cash to reprint it.

Alan: Brian has hit this on the head and there’s little I can say to complement it other than indeed, it was limited out of sheer having to be since we had no money and we were turned down by every single publisher. Period. We’ve heard every rejection reason in the book now. We owe everything to our contributors and supporters – without them, there would have been 2 books nobody saw but me and Brian. I personally do not forsee any reprint in the near future.

I remember this being something talked about a lot: how musically literate were the early bands?

Alan: Most bands were self taught. That’s a fact. Self taught and on a learning mission. They pulled it off though, you can have some kid sent through private music school for 10 years and grows his hair out, buys a trendy t-shirt from Hot Topic and they still produce garbage.

Brian, A day of Death was in my view the ideal death metal concert; how did you get up the gumption to organize it, and death with the business side of things, and get the bands to agree? Do people ever contact you who were there?

Brian: First I have to say, my old friend from those days almost always gets overlooked for this and he should definitely get his credit – Joe Pristach (Mosh Central ‘zine). It didn’t take much gumption at all, remember at that time most of those bands were still just demo bands. The idea Joe and I had was just to get a show of out of town bands that we wanted to see and that we were for the most part friends with. I didn’t deal with the business end, the club did that. Joe and I just handled the promotions side of it. Getting the bands to agree was no problem at all, any band of the day would have killed to play with Autopsy on the east coast. I don’t get people contacting me out of the blue about that, but once they find out I did Chainsaw Abortions ‘zine and hand a hand in the show they ask a few questions or make a few comments.

One of the big fears I have, as a death metal freak, is that the record of our glorious times will perish. CDs are going out of print, and memorabilia and documents fade and disappear into attics or worse, dumpsters. Is there any way to keep the spirit alive?

Brian: The old spirit is still alive, it’s just on a much smaller scale. bands like Fondlecorpse, Swamp, Druid Lord and some others still do things in the old school ways. There are still a few ‘zines that do things like the old days – Deathrasher ‘zine as one example. It would be great if there was a sort of museum or storage facility where people could send their pics and flyers and memorabilia that they no longer wanted, that way it would be preserved for future generations – people could donate or lend materials to it (a sort of death metal smithsonian) then everything document could be scanned to a high resolution and saved to multiple discs, then as if it also acted as a library people could do research there or ask about things in the catalog.

Alan: Brian has hit this too – and all I can say is GT stands amongst the real few striving for rememberance the way we feel it should be, not just a few pages in a magazine as a result of us doing the book.

Brian, you say you haven’t heard any bands that grab you the way those 1980s bands did — is that because they have a different consciousness/spirit/idea? What about the late 1980s and early 1990s made that consciousness or idea so clear for these bands? Was it something random, or were they responding to the time around them? Do you think this spirit will rise again?

Brian: What made those times special was the music was new. Each area, each band providing a new take on extreme music. The 1st and 2nd generation death metal bands had different influences than the bands of today. todays bands are influenced by death metal, but of course the original bands weren’t influenced by that because it didn’t exist before them. I don’t know if i’d say it was clear for the bands of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, they just all wanted to go heavier or faster or slower than their idols.

The spirit is still there; it’s the scene that’s gone. The internet has made some things easier and perhaps better, but it has also done a lot of damage. Almost all of the personal relationships that happened back in the day don’t happen now. Kids today will visit a myspace page and download songs so they don’t get to build relationships with bands like we did way back before the internet. I still have letters from bands from back then, will kids today save their emails and myspace messages to look back upon in 20 years — I don’t think so.

Do I think things will become as great as they were? With all honesty, I would say no. Is it possible, sure, but it requires a lot. The bigger bands have to stop doing 4 and 5 band package tours and go back to doing 1 and 2 band tours, leaving room for local openers at every show. Bands have to stop making their stuff available for download for free and either just release CDs or charge for the download (made available in flac and empty3), they have to wean fans off of expecting free stuff.

The free stuff should be a bonus, not a given. People have to start realizing that supporting a band doesn’t mean just friending them on myspace or hitting the “like” button on facebook, you need to buy their demos, shirts and other merch, you need to go and support your local scene, not just when the nationals come through.

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Transcending “metal” as it is now

Black metal is in the process of being legitimized. This is what Until the Light Takes Us and Hideous Gnosis represent. This is not inherently bad, as long as we remain critical of these outsiders. Its growth will allow for us to split off again and continue down the dark path. Black metal’s path to transcendence is in leaving metal behind.

Black metal’s real problem originates in its desire to stay true to its roots. The reason for this is that the roots transcended metal, but bands are over and over again attempting to recreate that by following the exact same musical structure. This is absolutely the wrong way to approach it. What made black metal great was not distorted guitars and gremlin vocals, but the spirit that led to those musical choices.

I think the problem isn’t too much black metal, but too much metal. The “metal” that most people know is bought and paid for, an image sold to them by Hollywood movies, satellite radio, and record labels. With the existence of the internet and file-sharing we are now able to reach a whole new niche with music, the ordinary educated middle-class person. Let this new crowd reject the leather jackets, drug dependency, and zero social mobility of the metalhead primate.

If we want for metal to transcend what metalness means in the hands of those groups, we need to take two steps:

First, the music itself needs to change. This is not nearly as complex as it may seem. All the arts are simply sets of limitations; the artist works within the limitations to create something profound. The limitations of the art-forms drastically change the potential of the works within. These limitations are referred to as structures, such as the verse-chorus structure of rock, or the strict syllable rules of a haiku. A simple enough change will completely alter the genre of black metal. Let us remove percussion entirely. This is not a superficial fix. In fact, its tendency to take away the value of vocals and percussion is what originally gave black metal its power. This was the path Darkthrone took in the simplification of its percussion in Transylvanian Hunger. Let’s continue down this road and remove the drums entirely. Listen to Burzum’s Dominus Sathanas or Judas Iscariot’s The Clear Moon, and the Glory of the Darkness. Both songs greatly transcend most of the other works of the artists. By removing drums, artists are forced to compensate by improving the other elements of the songwriting and make them more complex, and in this way this kind of music will further focus upon and emphasize where it shines in the first place and that is in melodies and atmospheres. Alongside this it will clearly distinguish itself from those metal artists who are not capable of creating powerful music without the use of drums. This will distinguish the fans since most of the meatheads in the metal crowd wouldn’t be able to appreciate such music.

The next step is to create a backing mythos. This is absolutely necessary to allow the genre to gain steam and helps the artist to enter into the transcendental creative state. What I mean by backing mythos, is something, anything that can exist behind the work itself, giving it depth. Dante had the cosmology and widespread acceptance of the Bible. Tolkien had history, maps, and languages behind the adventures of his characters in Middle Earth. Lovecraft had the hostile cosmic worldview that allowed for entities infinitely different from us, of which nature equipped us with no means of comprehension. Black metal has a rich mythos of crimes and political statements backing the music. It doesn’t matter what it is, but there needs to be something behind the music if it’s going to really stick. I personally feel that the best backing mythos for this new transcendent offshoot of black metal should be intense philosophical discussion of some sort. With the internet we now have a platform for giving and receiving enormous amounts of information. This could allow the artists to explain and discuss their works and the works of others to try and penetrate the meaning and discover which works have real power and which don’t. Also this sort of discussion will captivate the imagination of the audience who wants something real. If they see that the artists actually care enough to participate in philosophical observation of their art-form, then they will be much more inclined to take it in at a deeper level.

Metal turned away from the conventional path of music. It decided to be adventurous instead of entertaining, and that led it to some strange places. Then black metal took hold, and it was no longer about adventuring in the fun, dangerous places; it was now about stepping into the cold, dark, and hostile unknown. We can continue on that path if we’d like. We must now reject the comforting foundation of percussion and see where that takes us. It will undoubtedly touch upon even more powerful extremes of horror and beauty than black metal ever did, but will also take more effort from us to comprehend and integrate (not to mention for the artists to create). Transcending black metal will only happen by our own effort and bravery.

by Andrew

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Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991)

Click on the cover picture above to see the flyer featuring Chris Reifert for the new edition of “Glorious Times”.

We reviewed Glorious Times: A Pictorial History of the Death Metal Scene 1984-1991 before, describing how it is a collection of first-hand retrospectives on the formative years of the underground metal scene that is motivating people to restore these older values in newer metal music.

Thanks to the rising interest in the book, what was once a limited edition has returned as what we hope is a regular product. Check it out:

After MUCH tenuous effort, we are extremely proud to announce that our revised and extended edition of ‘Glorious Times’ is currently finished, and now in the hands of our new printer.

Bigger and better than before! 160 pages of massively rare and mostly unseen photographs, tied together with sentiment and reflections from the very people who lived the era – the GLORIOUS TIMES.

Bands featured: Acheron, Autopsy, Baphomet, Brutality, Cannibal Corpse, Cryptic Slaughter, Dark Angel, Death, Deceased, Deicide, Derketa, Disharmonic Orchestra, Exmortis, Groovy Aardvark, Hellwitch, Hideous Mangleus, Immolation, Impetigo, Incantation, Incubus, Insanity, Lethal Aggression, Malevolent Creation, Massacre, Massappeal, Master, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Nocturnus, Nokturnel, Nuclear Death, Overthrow, Paineater, Possessed, Prime Evil, Revenant, Righteous Pigs, Ripping Corpse, Sacrifice, Slaughter, Soothsayer, Terrorain, Tirant Sin, Unseen Terror, Vomit, Wehrmacht and Where’s The Pope?

Price per copy is $30 plus $3 shipping and handling.
Payment can be made by PayPal to glorioustimesdeathbook@gmail.com

Full story at the Glorious Times blog and Mobile Metal Examiner’s recent article.

This book is not designed to be perfect or even convenient armchair reading for the detached casual audience. It’s for the diehards. It’s power is in the content; not all of it, because some metal bands cannot even be edited into coherence, and the coverage of the evolution of the first generation of death metal. After this, death metal picked up steam, became a known style and had a different set of challenges. But if you want to watch it emerging from the primordial soup of speed metal, punk, thrash and extra-musical influences (Lovecraft) here’s a good chance.

I find it interesting — and I mean this in a good way — how nerdly and awesome these early founders are. Some are partying/mayhem types, but most of the rest strike me as intelligent, curious, introspective people who got failed by modern society because it’s a dying shroud of a pleasant illusion. These people aren’t hipsters and literati, but they think about life, and find meaning in concepts and art. That puts them ahead of most of this moribund species.

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Metal: a holdout against temporary culture

The mainstream media stumbles up against everything, so it’s no surprise they hit on valid ideas sometimes:

With the Beatles finally on iTunes, Garth Brooks and AC/DC are among the few notable acts that continue to staunchly hold out, unwilling to agree to Apple’s restrictive pricing schemes and loath to see their albums chopped into singles.

Angus Young of AC/DC, another act with an exceptionally lucrative catalog of music, once insisted that AC/DC doesn’t make singles, “we make albums.”

“If we were on iTunes, we know a certain percentage of people would only download two or three songs from the album,” Young told The Daily Telegraph in 2008. “We don’t think that represents us musically.”

Young has said AC/DC’s sales haven’t suffered as a result. The band’s last studio album, “Black Ice,” released in 2008, sold more than 6 million copies worldwide. – AP

The problem with digital music is that it’s licensed content, not something you control. If their DRM goes down, or their download site goes away, what do you have? A license to download — but only from them, in the formats specified.

If we find something better than MP3/MP4(AAC) to compress music, what happens? You buy it again.

If Apple goes bankrupt, which it has come close to many times, what happens? You buy it all again.

CDs may not be ideal, but for a certain segment of the market, they’re perfect. We don’t want to muck around with an account on Apple.com. We want a physical object, we enjoy purchasing it and taking it home, and we can do that because we’re selective about what we buy.

You can’t say that about Lady Gaga or whatever other trivial crap most people listen to.

Metal is one of the few genres that is holding out in this way. Instead of making purchasing easier, we argue, make it harder and more expensive. Make the choice count for more as a result. Make people think harder about what they buy. Make them touch a physical representation of it, and keep it around the house.

Sure, I hate the mountains of landfill produced by CDs going into the dumpster. But for the most part, these are CDs for terrible music that should have never been signed, or CDs of trivial music that people “got tired of” a month later.

AC/DC and heavy metal represent the opposite principle: buy a few things you’ll want to hear for a lifetime.

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Under a Toltec Moon – Memories on Mexican Metal

1. Introduction
2. A desert walk
3. Nahuatli steel
4. Pactum: M.O.D.L.
5. Mortuary: Blackened Images
6. Transmetal: Amanecer en el Mausuleo
7. Cenotaph: Riding Our Black Oceans
8. Shub Niggurath: The Kinglike Celebration
9.  Sargatanas: The Enlightenment
10. Aztec rites of darkness
11. Xibalba: Ah Dzam Poop Ek
12. Funereal Moon: Beneath the Cursed Light…
13. Avzhia: The Key of Throne
14. Demolish: Remembering the Cabalisticae Laments
15. Argentum: Ad Interitum Funebrarum
16. The Chasm: Conjuration of the Spectral Empire
17. The resurrection of the necrocults
18. Necroccultus: Encircling the Mysterious Necrorevelation
19. Yaotl Mictlan: Guerreros de la Tierra de los Muertos
20. Infinitum Obscure: Sub Atris Caelis
21. Denial: Catacombs of the Grotesque

Written by DevamitraObscuraHessianPearson and Xavier with Eduardo (Shub Niggurath / Necroccultus), Demogorgon (Avzhia), Marco (Xibalba) and Joel (Mortuary)

Introduction

In Mexico the god appears; thy banner is unfolded in all directions, and no one weeps.

The Hymn of Tlaloc

Goedel’s law tells us that no logical system can anticipate all of the demands of reality, because reality as an inarticulated mass of events and causes is naturally bigger in scope than any description of reality. The fallout from this is that every society loves to have a no man’s land, an anarchy zone and a lawless frontier. It’s hard to talk of Mexico as a singular entity when it is comprises so much more. It’s a former Spanish colony, containing the vestiges of two of the greatest empires to walk the earth — the Aztec and Maya, both of whom were warlike, enjoyed human sacrifice, and compiled more learning that any modern group would voluntarily undertake. In addition, it’s also part very learned place, part chaotic third-world disaster, and part anarchy zone. From this ferment comes some of the best metal to grace the earth. After Scandinavia and the US, Mexico produces the most quality underground music. And even more, the Mexican bands seem to “get it”: they can reconcile a nihilistic morality, technological warfare and even gutter-level fighting sensibilities with the arch, elegant and imposing formality and bravery of the past.

A desert walk

Muerte. That word, in Mexican art, embodies religious and historical streams of life so much more than the anglosphere’s clinically worldly emphasis on death as medical phenomenon. This muerte is a gate to antiquity, a divine storm, a holy mystery – contemplation of its secrets connects the Catholic superstition, still so powerful and affecting to common people, to the cruel and decadent rituals of the Toltecs and Olmecs, when no purpose higher could be envisioned than to bleed for the gods. Glimpses into Mexican tradition most often involve the morbid signature of supernatural belief in a strange form of unearthly life, represented by the skull worship of the Day of the Dead and the various devil masks and bizarre colourful monsters decorating the fiestas, as in embodiment of death metal aphorisms such as “the past is alive”.

It would be fairly easy and obvious to point out social ills, crime rates and poverty as motivating factors for religiously oriented fatalistic thoughts, but for the psychologist and the occultist the pathology of the morbid mind is not only a reaction, it is also a cause itself, deeply ingrained in behavior and culture. To go into this sphere in depth would require another kind of a broader study and it is hardly of interest to most of our readers, so we shall mostly be occupied with the mythical, visionary image of Mexico, closest to us who are far away. It is the land of the eagle and the scorpion, of the peyote cactus and tropical steam, of the sea and the canyon. As we see everywhere in the world, the landscape becomes the structure of the mind, which gives life to stories and archetypes showing the apparent chaotic complexity of nature in symmetrical solutions. And musically, what can offer better representations of the occult-mathematical beauty of life than the hymnals of muerte: Death Metal and Black Metal?

To this day, Mexico has not produced vapid mainstream metal sensations nor hard rock imitations to speak of, at least not ones that would have entered our awareness. It’s as if the inward drawn nacional spirit shuns the idea of establishing false identities and masks of life through exports, but instead entertains the Mexicans with whatever art or entertainment the local masses wish to be produced – but this is a realm mostly obscure to outsiders. Even in order to scratch the surface of Mexican rock and metal, one needs to stress the importance of such luminaries as Luzbel and Transmetal, names mostly unknown even in cult metal collector circles. As a more recent example, the astral and progressive death metal of The Chasm has certainly been gathering well deserved praise and attention in the underground, but as a phenomenon it’s still far from gracing the cover in Terrorizer or Decibel magazine.

Nahuatli steel

As the youth of the world tripped in the pseudo-spiritual chemical bliss of the 60′s, the seeds were sown in Mexico as well with an interest towards Rock music merged with esoteric and mystical themes, but true to its violent century, the nation oppressed its bravest minds, declaring them “communist”. Thus was quenched the initial surge of Heavy Metal, as clubs were closed, magazines censored and subversive content in radios minimized. Everywhere else the initial 70′s where the pivotal time for the realization of all kinds of “satanic” and “occult” music manifestations, so in the case of Mexico it took at least a decade to recover from vandalism espoused by the government.

As the wave of Americanization hit Mexican youth culture in the early 80′s, it was inevitable that some unique voices would rise against manipulation and show their own kind of “metal mass”, inflected with the Catholic superstitions and violent streets they saw all around them with innocent, idealistic eyes. Two names especially can not go unmentioned: the original thrashers Death Warrant from Ciudad Juarez and the more classical but frighteningly psychic Luzbel from Mexico City, one of the greatest metal institutions to rise from the sand of Mexico and a prophet of Doom Metal themes and aspirations.

Huizar, the maniac behind Luzbel, managed to also put forth with his comrades at Escuadron Metalico label a series of compilations which in the mid-80′s showed the sounds of the new metal generation inspired by, mainly, American thrash metal and European speed metal. These “Proyecto” vinyls featured Transmetal, Ramses, Six Beer and practically everyone else who dominated the end of the 80′s when finally Mexican metal was too strong to be quenched by sporadic police raids and random accusations of blasphemy and iniquity. These troubles were akin to an anvil upon which the hammer of the light bringer shaped and pounded the minds that were to break free of the shackles of social upbringing and even “humanness” itself.

Eduardo: Well, to have a live appearance was not easy at all, because many people in Mexico (until this day) are a very difficult audience towards the Mexican bands. But we showed them that we were true about our ideals and that we gave 666% in every show! So we got the support of all the metalheads and they gave us in return a total storm of headbanging and full support. These were unforgettable moments to Shub Niggurath.

Joel: There was a small metal scene hungry to hear more extreme metal, so we always had great support from the beginning. I think there were more people supporting the scene than there is now supporting new metal bands, it’s a weird thing! Authority and “normal” people, as usual here, they didn’t understand our music. Sometimes the police were around looking to bother us, came up to the rehearsals and trying to get us, but never had luck, hahaha! And the people, those normal people, were the ones to send the police. I remember a show in Guadalajara or Leon in which the flyers had a circle in our logo and said: Watch out, Catholic, don’t assist! That was really funny.

Already before the decade was over, the most evil of the bands inspired by Thrash, namely Mortuary, Pactum, the inimitable Toxodeth and Transmetal (who tightened their sound album by album and still continue to do so after more than 20 years of career) had overtaken the gap between the international underground and the Mexican one. Suddenly the Judas Priest and Scorpions influence as the mainstream Mexican sound was replaced by a streetborn brutality and occult gore visions that would have made Slayer shudder. Studio and recording conditions were hardly ideal, but creating an easily digestible sound was hardly the intent of these iconoclasts, who repeated the slightly anterior efforts of the Brazilian scene in unleashing a torrent of noisy darkness easily mistaken for hardcore punk as the antithesis to forgetfulness and ignorance in adult human life.

Joel: Musically, our influences were basically Slayer, Venom, Possessed, Celtic Frost, and some classical masters. Lyrically important were the things inside my mind, my way to see this life, and obviously some great writers like Nietzsche, Poe and Lovecraft influenced us. Before Mortuary, each of us were playing in various bands songs of the bands that influenced us. When I was a child I studied some basic piano as well.

Eduardo: Also I had musical experience before Shub Niggurath: we created the Death Thrash Metal band called Tormentor. This was the origins for the unnameable abhorrence later known as Shub Niggurath.

Pactum – M.O.D.L.

A mob of confusion, alike crawling insects, attacks the strings as early blasphemists Pactum struggle to make sense of violent, anti-religious ideas called forth by their satanic subconscious in Mexico City’s extreme response to Bathory and Sarcofago. While the anally raped vocalist rants meaninglessly on, the guitars manipulate suggestive, dischordant layers of picked notes and speedy runs that often sound chaotic but on a closer listen reveal an affinity with classical construction much like the early methods of Burzum and Ildjarn to call forth elegance from pieces of degeneration. Be it dissidence, incompetence or imagination that made Pactum to mangle the pieces of thrash they built upon nearly inrecognizable, the originality and harsh, spontaneous electric discharge that carries these songs onwards makes for a curious and surprising listen for those who are able to listen to the nearly unlistenable. In “M.O.D.L.” the band has discovered one of the valuable early lessons of black and death metal, that of desecrating the sanctity of rigid social structure by defying musical conventions and bringing the expression closer to the fractal noise of nature.

Mortuary – Blackened Images

The elaborate and malign death metal of Mortuary is one of the most recognized funereal voices of early Mexican scene in cult circles and totally deservedly so, as the melodious and grinding old school sound hasn’t dated one bit but preserves the vital energy field of the times when death metal was not taken for granted, the quest for the ultimate density and sobriety. The rhythmic intensity brings to mind the debuts of Morbid Angel and Vader while the gloomy melody disposed as the interconnector of the more thrashing riffs is without question Central or South American in character (think: “INRI”). Joel Alanis’ voice escapes the trap that caused problems for many a thrasher, holding the rhythm of the syllables in position when reciting the blasphemies in English, and his powerful roar commands the fast, climactic and concise songs effortlessly to their logical conclusions. Even today Mortuary’s short but perfectly articulate album could serve as a protocol for building enjoyable but deep death metal, one that incites both head-banging and heart-scrutiny as the ultra-infectious “Reign of Dead” and “Asphyxiation” attack your brain with sensations from beyond and memories from the depths of the layers of mental programming.

Transmetal – Amanecer en el Mausuleo

As the inaugural saints of muerte spread their leathery wings over Michoacán and the 80′s were drawing to a close, Mexico’s silence was ruptured by these mangled, hellspawned shouts and nearly arbitrary riff structures envisioned by the scene’s godfathers Transmetal as the path leading to the aerie of the future. Simple and pitiless like a less experienced Sepultura or Slayer debut, this early collection sees Transmetal attempting to bludgeon their way through a barrage of speed metal in an endless call-and-response of rhythm riff and hoarse barking. Germans had invented most of these figures and refrains as early as 1984 but the untamed desert frontier of their homeland does bestow Transmetal with a rancor bringing it closer to the most subterranean and spontaenous garage punk bands that had the chance to practice their instruments on brief relapses from fighting social corruption. The sketchy but decisive melodies of “Temor a la Cruz” and “Fuerza Invisible” hardly represent an international or even local pinnacle of art, but they were enjoyed by a legion of punks and metalheads for their absolute breakup with the more mainstream appealing qualities of traditional heavy metal.

If there is a style of metal one thinks of in regards to Mexico, it must be Death Metal, in its brutal but most oblique forms, the sonic heir to Aztecs’ solar blood rites and Toltecs’ shadowy sorceries, an amalgamation of heretical thought inspired by Crowley and Lovecraft with a deep respect for the sacred and universal forces of nature which permeates the continuity of godforms in Catholic religious language in shades of traditional paganism which it overtook in surface but never in spirit. The first of these classics was undoubtedly Mortuary’s famous “Blackened Images” (also one of the earliest important Mexican releases sung in English) but no underground Death Metal maniac would forget the splendid, churning visions of Shub Niggurath (“Evilness and Darkness Prevails”, “The Kinglike Celebration”) or Sargatanas (“The Enlightenment”) either, not to mention the virile luminary Cenotaph (“The Gloomy Reflections of Our Hidden Sorrows”, “Riding Our Black Oceans”) whose lifeblood still runs in the veins of the most prized names of today’s underground (The Chasm, Denial and Hacavitz among others feature former Cenotaph members).

Demogorgon: Our ancient strain of blood has always been important to us, as on it are real human sacrifices and that is something we deeply connect with. We are proud of it and it deserves all of our respect. But anyway, we are mostly influenced by European Black Metal.

Joel: Definitely the legacy of our past has been influential in what we do, also the current situation in which the country has plunged. All the ups and downs of the past of our culture influence us directly or indirectly. The difference is the window from which we look at it, it’s definitely not the same as for the rest.

Eduardo: Mostly these bands’ message is about Death, destruction and occultism. If I’m not wrong, only Xibalba took our cultural roots into his concept – they even wrote “Unique Mayan Black” on their debut album. Cenotaph, Mortuary, Shub Niggurath, Tormentor, Deus Mortis, Deadly Dark, Necrophiliac and Pentagram among others were influenced by the Florida and Scandinavian scenes when they built Death Metal during the late 80′s and the early 90′s. My influences have always been bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Bathory (old), Sodom (old), Nihilist, Therion (demos), Thergothon, Winter, Necroschizma, Bolt Thrower, Slayer (old) and H.P. Lovecraft’s masterpieces. In Shub Niggurath, Arturo (who handled vocal invocations) was always in charge of the lyrical concept. Regarding “Evilness and Darkness Prevails” I only did the guitar solos, after that I had to leave the band. I have nothing to do with “The Kinglike Celebration” – for me this is not the real Shub Niggurath. For me, this was just some kind of project, without Arturo there, I am not sure about the result.

Cenotaph – Riding Our Black Oceans

Coming off the back of an excellent debut in the form of ‘The Gloomy Reflections Of Our Hidden Sorrows’ and losing a prominent member in the form of Daniel Corchado, Mexican horde Cenotaph radically altered their sound aesthetically and showed a refinement of production and to a smaller extent, musical technique. Whereas the first full-length resembled a prototypical version of Nile, with an exotic though nonetheless esoteric and original take on New York death metal (think Incantation, Morpheus Descends), ‘Riding Our Black Oceans’ owes its musical framework, when speaking of instrumental technique, to European metal, most notably the first two albums of At The Gates, with a much more classicist approach to melody. With the outgoing of previous throatman Corchado a new vocal makes itself at home, not far from the tortured howls of Anders Friden. The same sense of aggression is also present in this work, but is less of a catharsis than the aforementioned Swedish band or the German act Atrocity, and has a motive towards evoking a nostalgic depth, rather than a psychological-emotional one. The percussion is chaotic and structurally brings to mind a more rigid and maze-like ‘Beneath The Remains’ by Sepultura, with more adventurous battery that evokes their ‘Morbid Visions’ record. Acoustic guitars embellish and interlock with these intricate arrangements, and are an obvious nod to Mediterranean and Southern European music. This stylistic admixture works brilliantly, rather than being a work that is merely imitative of an established style, it works the more obvious traits for its own ends, borrowing rather than copying. Cenotaph make a very distinct and profound work here, one of the finest releases to come out of Latin America.

Shub-Niggurath – The Kinglike Celebration (Final Aeon On Earth)

From the extra-dimensional plane of unspeakable horrors that’s revealed in our nightmares by black, arachnoid creatures, prying open our sub-conscious to witness terrible visions, comes this brutal classic of Lovecraftian Death Metal. As a later album in the old-school tradition, ‘The Kinglike Celebration’ has the strength of dynamic and coherent composition under the unmistakeably nefarious atmospheres that could only come from the first generation to be instructed by the likes of Possessed and Sepultura. Unlike more recent acts such as Portal that also delve into the Non-Euclidean realm of Howard Phillip, this work remains an highly geometric one, as if to frame the malevolent world of the Ancient Ones within the scope of human cognition, enabling the sensations of fear and awe and involuntary submission to the higher, evil will. The symmetrical structure of these songs oversee a central melodic theme being deconstructed with the horror of trembling and ominously churning, Deicidean riff-work that builds to a majestic revelation of cosmic power, usually embellished by eerie synths. From this expanse, the band reintroduces the central riff, re-contextualising it through powerful lead overlays and purposeful percussive and rhythmic enunciation, with the crescendo-inducing prowess of a Classical symphony. Shub-Niggurath advance the pulsating Slayerisms of Deicide’s first album to encompass thoughtful formulae of occult melodicism and awaken the unspeakable entities of the grand, cosmic hierachy.

Sargatanas – The Enlightenment

These blasphemers from Guadalajara were around as early as 1986 according to their biography. Only denizens of the infernal layers know what they must have sounded like back then, but their full length revelation is also nothing less than ancient and horrific, of deeply atmospheric and disturbed vision of extended, simple and dragging death metal torment. Shunning the eloquent melodies of Cenotaph and likewise the rhythmic energy of Mortuary, Sargatanas withdraws into ascetic and morbidly elongated tremolos pillared by blasphemous growls mostly maintaining the emotionless, yet commanding tone of satanic artifice, as a stone statue summoned to unholy life and crushing Christians with no haste or passionate compulsion – determinate, almost peaceful. The meditative quality is carried to the extreme in mid-paced or even slower songs such as “Fear and Suffering” or “The Proclamation” (featuring drum patterns motivated rather by ritual ambient than Dave Lombardo) making it even somewhat plodding. The band barely animates for a gloomy rendition of Possessed’s “Satan Curse” in a version that sounds like bubbling lava or tremors preceding an earthquake and one of the most delightful tracks on offer, the chaotic “Satanist” whose main riff recalls Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” and as many other tracks on here, is seemingly randomly interrupted for a mock satanistic prayer. In any case, this inward bound attraction and solitude of vision will open only to deepest underground death metal cultists and fans of subtle terror based on psychological expectation and illogical mood cues, examples of which are found plenty in Mexican horror movies and early black metal in the vein of Samael and Barathrum, which undoubtedly heavily weigh on Sargatanas’ study list regardless of this band’s origins being placed even further back in the dimension of time.

Aztec rites of darkness

Without prior knowledge it would be easy to assume that the Black Metal biosphere of Mexico would have been overtaken by bulletbelted battalions fueled by alcohol and sexual lust, but instead some of the most purely mystical and meditative classics of the 90′s underground arose from under the wings of Guttural Records, the all time prime supporter of Mexican occult metal who still keeps cranking out occasional re-releases of material whose quality is, occasionally, simply beyond our dreams. To name some, if you have not heard the most moving moments of Xibalba, Avzhia, Funereal Moon and Shub Niggurath, you don’t know how astral and insane Black Metal can simultaneously be while resorting neither to “progressive” nor “raw” clichés, instead being alive with the fervent force of Mexican demons that feast on the souls of succumbed sorcerers, the experience and experiment being total.

Marco: We have been listening to Metal music for a long, long time. We began by listening to a lot of ’70s bands (Purple, Priest, etc), we experienced the radical change and the explosion of the new bands from the ’80s (Venom, Bathory, etc.) and we just grew with the evolution of this music through the end of the ’80s and the beginning of the ’90s. I think all of this music has influenced us a lot. Books that have inspired us throughout all of this has been ancient literature from the pre-Hispanic cultures of our homeland – with special focus on the Mayan topics mainly, though we also like H.P. Lovecraft’s books. In those days, there were not many bands like us around. I remember that on the few gigs we had, some people were just staring at us, and some other were just enjoying the sound. It was really small and we just seem to get more attention from other countries than ours. Sometimes, regular people were inventing silly stories about bad things happening to them simply because we were about to play on that day. I don’t think the media was focused on this kind of extreme music back in those days, as it is now.

Demogorgon: Avzhia was formed with influence from Death, Thrash etc. Metal, absorbing and swallowing the blackest of these styles of Metal to form a dark and melancholic sound. Musically we were influenced by the old school of Black Metal, bands such as Bathory, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, etc. and ideologically for example Emperor, Dissection, Satyricon, Black Crucifixion, Grand Belial’s Key, The Black, Tormentor, etc. We were never schooled musicians, we started doing it simply like we felt at the time in the earlier 90′s and we’re still doing music the same way. Avzhia was the only Black Metal band playing in the midst of a lot of Death Metal bands, we remember brutal mosh pits and hostility… so when Avzhia took the stage the audience seemed to be taken by a great fucking depression! In the early 90′s it was a big challenge to keep moving forward into the majestic world of Black Metal.

Xibalba – Ah Dzam Poop Ek

Like Cenotaph, but in the context of a Nordic black metal band, Xibalba take obvious cues from mid-period Darkthrone and Burzum’s ‘Det Som En Gang Var’, and use various aesthetic tricks to distinguish the artistic and ethnic context herein, whilst also succeeding in not letting grandeur overwhelm the beauty of their work. Flowing, harmonic riffs, much like an upbeat version of ‘Panzerfaust’ work their way through catchy, waltzing rhythms that would fit nicely into balladic pieces, sounding just as apt as an interpretation of ethnic, triplet based patterns, transferred onto the modern drumkit. Samples to introduce particular songs use ancient Mexican folk music to accentuate the ‘Mayan’ character of this record, this is done sparingly and is non-excessive, charming and ensnaring. This album is strictly traditionalist in its execution, but successfully incorporates unique, exotic elements into its framework, retains its dignity without compromising it’s honesty. This was released in 1994 and was a time where many metal acts were on the verge of signing artistic death warrants by trying too hard to be different. Xibalba continued the legacy of black metal’s orthodoxy and breathed new life into it.

Marco: I think “Ah Dzam Poop Ek” is a great album, we express the essence and the atmosphere of our past in every song. Maybe it could have had a better production, but in the end that is the sound that captures the environment we are related to. And it’s good to stay away from a trite, standard and expected programmed sound. We hope to release our new album soon.

Funereal Moon – Beneath the Cursed Light of a Spectral Moon

Easily one of the most obscure and horrifying symphonies ever composed on the Mexican soil, the drug-addled, hypnotic and twisted black ambient scenarios of Funereal Moon despite the Guttural Records connection bear little resemblance to the warm crusted ground of Xibalba or the quasi-Nordic beauty of Avzhia – or any other formal black metal for that matter. If you have heard some of the unsane abstractions concocted by the French black legionnaires or Texan congregation of Equimanthorn on their mostly private tape mayhem, you might have an inkling of what to expect. Subsonar synths throb, cheap reverbs multiply growling voices to comical intensities, layers merge into a ritual cacoon of violent concentration in a macabre crescendo of not-so-subtly erotic (especially in the hideous “Vrykolkas (White Irish Eyes)” backed by whiplashes and female moans) palpitations begging for release through the dagger of the proponent. When synthetic guitars and mechanically stumbling drumscapes kick in to approximate occult metal architectures, the effect is close to what Black Funeral evoked years later in the industrial black metal revivals of “Az-i-Dahak” and “Ordog” – here achieved without any excess stylistic measures, simply thrown in your face in the name of blasphemy and contempt. Cheesy and immature to the extreme, but at the same time mercilessly compelling like an exploitation movie, these desolate voices of sorcery seem somehow one of the closest to the alienation and horror of the Mexican “Nocturnos dominion”, where immoving cacti stand upon the chaparral as guardians of twilight and coyotes raise their chant to the bloodred moon, all ensorcelled by the forgotten spells of Tulan sorcerers.

Avzhia – The Key of Throne

From out of Mexico City’s chaotic and concrete urban sprawl arose this monumental Black Metal album as a statement of militaristic and natural order, inextricably linked as they would have been to the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan, the former capital of the great Aztec civilisation. Avzhia here develop the ritualistic and prolonged, ‘Pentagram’ by Gorgoroth-like phrasing of ‘Dark Emperors’ into even grander arrangements panning across vast battlefields and landscapes, bringing keyboards to the foreground for a sense of epic melody that resembles Graveland’s ‘Creed of Iron’ being guided by the expansive compositions of Emperor. There is none of the lead guitarwork that’s central to ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’ in forming esoteric musical themes, so the symphonic majesty of ‘The Key of Throne’ is simply and effectively accompanied by the fullness of sweeping powerchords and this approach brings a lot of primitive but intelligent flavours to the sound and the composition as far as bringing the themes to a successful conclusion is concerned. When stripping away the keyboards from the guitars to reveal the simple beauty of an idea, almost Punk-like riffs of the sort Impaled Nazarene are infamous for are unleashed in a warlike clash of thought and action. With the inclusion of the keyboard, there’s a sense that Avzhia might have heard Skepticism’s ‘Stormcrowfleet’ as the same feeling of ethereal beauty and earthy power is evoked. The bass plays an important role as well, during the drawn-out riffing, reminiscent of Primordial’s ‘A Journey’s End’, folkier parts can be heard echoing underneath like a dormant race building its power to strike, and strike it does as the full instrumental ensemble combines to reiterate this idea. Perhaps this is Avzhia’s vision, like the Norwegian Black Metallers once possessed, of Satan’s adversarial power conquering the modern, Christian lands, once again appeasing with the blood of fallen enemies the ancient gods who had long ago died for their race.

Demogorgon: To analize this album, well, it contains too few tracks but each one of them satisfies us and yes, there’s both ideological and musical evolution – but as always, firmly obscure roots that define Avzhia.

As the populist variants of Nordic Black Metal and Gothenburg Death Metal grew in volume and number, so did the attempts at “romantic” or “psychedelic” sound in Mexico, mostly misguided through a lack of coherence and real inspiration beyond the mundane wish to belong in a clandestine good-looking cult of gothic clothes; an unfortunate occurrence of middle class commercial mentality in a society otherwise unnaturally divided and polarized (the shades of civil war never left, nor the even deeper bloody roots of muerte culture). Prominent American label Full Moon Productions signed Argentum for their one interesting album, “Ad Interitum Funebrarum”, while many in the vein of cloak-and-hood-gothic Demolish and the rather interesting Black Vomit toiled in obscurity. The Chasm, a masterful brainchild of Cenotaph alumnus Daniel Corchado, advanced from Mexican beginnings to dominate the forthcoming decade (now in Chicago) with a progressive (structural, non-gimmick) Death Metal tour de force. Another relocator was the grinding, blasphemous and simplistic “bonehead black metal” group Morbosidad, whose several drummers died in accidents.

Demolish – Remembering the Cabalisticae Laments

To be honest, and there is a reason to be because we are not here to create empty hype and false promise, most of Mexican metal of the 1990′s was comprised of worthless copies aping whatever neo-gothic metal trend was looming in the world at large and it’s nowhere more clear than in this compilation of the successive 1995 and 1997 demos of Demolish and the progression from mediocre to bad influence. The bouncy, hyper-emotional and lethargic black groove of the first part “Reinforcement Laments from the Lamb” (That’s just about what I emitted halfway through this concoction!?) is an incriminating example of heavy metal dressed as black metal, enveloped in saccharine keyboards which occasionally would inspire a vomitous reflex from even that top hatted abortion of Dimmu Borgir (old). Suffice to say there’s a lot of Anne Rice-y occult romance and affective screaming and bombast with hardly any musical surprise or moment of interest, as they would probably distract from the singular intent of securing the attention of fat gothic Wiccan bitches. I guess you might be into this if Covenant’s mercifully forgotten “In Times Before the Light” or earlier Cradle of Filth was the best thing that ever happened to you in black metal. The older more creeping old school death metal influenced occult metal in the earlier recorded second part “Artis Cabalisticae” includes violent moments of hope, but not enough to convince any further than, say, that first EP from Portuguese womanizers Moonspell. Hardly any Toltec spirit here, so move along.

Argentum – Ad Interitum Funebrarum

Hooded Wallachians prowl the crenellated wall tops of ancient castles, Mediterranean bards wield their lutes as metallic Paco de Lucias and some thin, wimpy goth called Philix Pherboreon (is this a Harry Potter character?) attacks the cheap Roland determined to reign as nocturnal dominion over every Mexican black metal wannabe circa 1996. With surprising class and flair, Argentum’s hymns to darkness remind one that the atmospheres descended part from “The Principle of Evil Made Flesh” and part from “Goetia”, might not stand the highest in today’s black metal elitists’ repertoire but today, sounds more exciting and unique because of their severe emotional and dimensional indulgement in a nearly forgotten quest – to compose music, not meaningless random noise or robotic riff patterns. The band is undoubtedly at their peak with the sustained moods of “Enter an Encysted Hibernation” and other slower pieces such as “The Serpent’s Lament” which traces the ethereal scents of the black lotus much as My Dying Bride would have if they had obsessed with black metal during the time of their first album. When the bands decides to thrash onwards in speed, and yet retain the “gloomy” keyboards in “Mortuus Infradaemoni”, it’s undoubtedly a bad choice, sounding ridiculous and swamping their intentions of occult credibility observed with “Lections on texts including English, latin, Catalan, Creol, and Ancientdark Language & Spanish”. The question mark imprinted by this upon one’s brain is better than mere satisfaction, though.

The Chasm – Conjuration of the Spectral Empire

The Chasm’s fifth album in a productive and populated discography continues their journey through the astralic realms of the dead, traversing a heterogenous soundscape much like the cultural topography of Mexico itself. Where Corchado’s work with Cenotaph was inspired by the rhythmic power of Swedish Death Metal, this album is more in tune with not only the melodicism of old troops from Gotenborg like At The Gates, Unleashed and Dark Tranquility but the morbid disharmony of Norsk Black Metal classics ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ and ‘Under A Funeral Moon’, which owe much to the Latin American primitivism of Sepultura that also goes into the sound of ‘Conjuration of the Spectral Empire’. The expansive melting pot of sounds and styles is guided by Shamanic visions that peer into the inpenetrable abode of Mictlantehcuhtli, coloured and contrasted by the opposing principles that intersect this psychic plane, giving this album a vast sense of direction proportional to the longing for ancient wisdom in a world torn from the continuum of tradition. From the very outset of ‘Conjuration…’, the winds of the Chihuahuan desert are conjured by guitars and effects, bringing to mind the main theme composed by Ennio Morricone for the nihilistic Western classic, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. Each song develops from or towards a single, clear and always beautifully poignant melodic idea, fusing the structural framework of early Dismember with the technique of Technical Death Metal bands like Cynic and Atrocity and their insistence on rhythmic and melodic interaction, although the use of inverted powerchords amidst the South American chaos and Melodeath flourishes, to create a more sombre atmosphere recalls the obscure Black Metal of Mütiilation’s second album. The Chasm avoid the pitfalls of Melodic Death Metal by having this focus, removing themselves from the tendency of bands to resemble a Scandinavian folk riff-salad with no conceptual reasoning behind it. Instead, songs qualify as movements and the phrasal development therein demonstrates an awareness of Classical music that restores the grand aspirations of the Swedes and therefore stands alongside the likes of ‘The Red In The Sky Is Ours’ and ‘Like An Everflowing Stream’ as monuments to the primal, cosmic darkness of our true, inner nature.

Through the international contact and amalgamation of principles brought about by simultaneously World Wide Web access and the extent of educating the young generation in English language (movies, videogames and music being elemental and important here) the new millennium saw Mexico closer than ever to its northern neighbour. Youth factions such as the hated “emo” culture would have been out of place in 1980′s conservative Mexico, but despite clashes between groups they are widely approved today. All in all, it seemed to weaken the unique characteristic of the Mexican underground which was the tough rebelliousness in speed metal and occult/mystical lyrical tendency in Death Metal. In other words, too many corpse painted posers (such as the unending repertoire of Azermedoth Records) and uneventful, funny “goregrinders” (Disgorge, the original of this style, still continues to exist) infected the underground.

Eduardo: Certainly this isn’t an easy way to get money, fame or groupies. If that’s what a band is looking for, it’s just a bunch of shitty losers. You should work because you love what you are doing, and doing this just to be a sell out and gain a living from the people who manage you is a completely Shitty attitude. Underground Death Metal is for true warriors who eat, shit and talk metal, and love it as a son! To know all the underground beasts that still dwell on the catacombs of the worldwide scene and support them as brothers… In Europe it’s awesome how the Metal way of life is still the way for the chosen to die with their boots on. Metal in Europe is bigger than other music styles without the need of being in a popularity contest. Metal is for metalheads and that’s it.

On the other hand, in Mexico, Metal has been taken as a trend. Every single metal subgenre such as death, thrash, black or speed has been invaded by stupid bastards with childish ideas and only commercial purposes. This is not only certain individuals, as even labels have mutated into money makers – signing bands created to give a commercial and false name to metal. They think that they know everything and even take the image of the old gods as costumes. Please! All those denim jackets full of patches from Possessed and Slayer, just to name a few, worn by kids of 18 years and claiming to be “thrash ’til death”! Jajajajajajajaja! Or the new trend of “old school death metal”? Please, when those bands were out, nobody cared about them! But now everybody is looking for those bands, jajajaja! Only the true ones we’ll meet at the end of the road. The other ones will escape to the next trend, because they never really belonged to us!

The resurrection of the necrocults

This is not to say Mexico’s soil doesn’t still bleed black at the desolate fullmoon hours. Old bands all the way to Luzbel are still sporadically active and the promised Avzhia offering “In My Domains” is one of our most awaited forthcoming releases in several years. Infinitum Obscure featuring The Chasm’s Roberto Lizárraga is a throwback to the days when death metallers weren’t afraid to expose religious mysticism, supernatural fervour and psychological “dark” addiction in one package, while Hacavitz and Yaotl Mictlan bring back the Aztec themes but do not retain the climactic level of Xibalba’s “Unique Mayan Black Metal”. Satanists who preach the ontology of Self and the theurgies of netherworlds remain plentiful, Denial and Necroccultus (both featuring scene veterans such as Supplicium’s Isaíah Huerta, Shub Niggurath’s Eduardo and Cenotaph’s Oscar Clorio) being probably the best of the bunch, and also for example Ravager enjoys wide exposure and releases on prominent European metal labels (while Avzhia sadly toils without a record deal).

Demogorgon: Look out for “In My Domains” – this album is strong in itself, riff by riff. It’s raw while plentiful in melodic interludes, grim voices and depressive atmospheres. We do what satisfies us, then other metalheads can satisfy themselves with Avzhia’s music. It’s great to meet true people when we do shows. Avzhia is always going to exist in the dark side of true Black Metal and we will keep doing our work full of darkness of our Lord Sathanas. Grim, cold, melancholic and depressive are characteristics of what Avzhia is! Only the true emperors live, eternal life to Black Metal! See you soon wherever you are… on “In My Domains” tour.

Marco: We just like the sound of a good song, no matter what style it is. As long as it reflects honesty and passion, clearly away from the rules of the mainstream. We have made this music since the ’90s, and still I can have ideas for a song that sounds great, even when there’s hundreds of bands around. You just need to find the right notes and stay focused on the path. This music has been really distorted from the original roots. What makes it worth I don’t know, but maybe just to know the right path is still there and the fact that we’re contributing to it. I think it depends on the integrity and personal convictions everybody has. It’s all part of finding personal freedom or spiritual release.

Joel: We are satisfied with the music that we did. It represents the things we felt at that time, and it’s a real condition that still prevails. Songwriting for us has been a natural change in the evolution of the band, as new songs have the seal of Mortuary but are definitely not the same. We have an evolutionary progress, you’ll see.

Necroccultus – Encircling the Mysterious Necrorevelation

On the footsteps of Irapuato bands such as the Paradise Lost influenced Supplicium and the Chasm-ic A Perpetual Dying Mirror the mad inverters of music decided to go for an irate, warlike sound most akin to Vader’s most brutal incantations. For a fan of Sargatanas and earlier Shub-Niggurath, there are plenty of morbid mental cavities to succumb into in atmospheric death-thrashing of “Mirage of Death” or the more Northern sound of “Descent To Requiem”, actually close to Absu’s early efforts in mingling Swedish death metal and the more ritualistic and sensual sound of ambient black. As regrettably is the case with neo-death metal, there is a great temptation to succumb into a patterned safe manifestation of used riffs, which no longer have the capacity to shock or inspire but the most fresh and innocent listeners. One can only imagine what impact “The Necrosphere Within” would have had in 1987, but the lack of a honest exploration of death metal horizons arouses the question how long can “formulaic death metal” be “death metal” at all, since the genre was incepted to scare the listener into an acceptance of devious un-life. In a hodgepodge of riffs, the social instinct takes over and the music loses the “death-feeling”. A slight rescue is obtained by preserving much of the doom character of the members’ earlier bands, as well as wicked and proficient guitar solos. In total, “Encircling the Mysterious Necrorevelation” is far from bad, but it also lacks the essential magic and forceful intellect characteristic of Mexican metal peaks.

Yaotl Mictlan – Guerreros De La Tierra De Los Muertos

Yaotl Mictlan in a similar respect to Xibalba borrow stylistically from European black metal. Their debut full-length contains a battle-hardened ferocity not unlike Graveland’s ‘Thousand Swords’, and in attitude resembles a less esoteric version of the classic Polish black metal acts. Musically this has the precision and sharp execution of Enslaved’s ‘Frost’ album, but with is overlaid with meandering, arpeggiated guitar forms that bring to mind a more rock-inclined take on Burzum’s first album. True to backdrop, the band bring elements unique to their Mexican heritage to the fore, in the form of wind instruments, percussives and acoustic guitar passages that are distinct within flamenco music. This is no doubt a unique approach, and firmly grasps a sound it can call it’s own, though lacking the cohesion and charge to put them in the same tier as Xibalba or Avzhia. As a result of this, ‘Guerreros De La Tierra De Los Muertos’ comes across as a tiresome listen, but not without the occasional flourish of excellence. Now signed with Candlelight records, it will be interesting to see what results their next release will artistically yield, as there are moments of promise here.

Infinitum Obscure – Sub Atris Caelis

Often referred to as a clone of The Chasm, Infinitum Obscure do indeed share more than a few identifiable traits with their fellow Mexicans, most notably the tremolo picking and those galloping triplets that lend so much power and vigour to the rhythm. There is something that ultimately separates the two bands, however; that being the conceptual direction each band embarks upon: while The Chasm invokes a strong, dark atmosphere that emphasizes the mystical, esoteric passage through some evanescent portal, Infinitum Obscure are far more direct in organizing a forceful rhythm in such a way as to remain concentrated on a single, grounded idea, often reinforcing this focus by frequently returning to familiar themes. So, while their main inspiration might take flight into stranger landscapes, Infinitum Obscure are quite content to portray the lost chasms of this world with an evocative atmosphere of imaginative melodies and, most importantly, direct and uncompromising riffing. On ‘Sub Atris Caelis’, Infinitum Obscure’s sophomore album, these points are emphasized more clearly, making it their definitive accomplishment to date. The need to shake off the burden of being a mere clone band is eminently present; the band tasks itself with creating something altogether their own, resulting in a real sense of the epic emerging from the patterns interwoven throughout the record; each song is striking at something profound, grasping wildly in the search for solidarity. The consequence of these compulsions is an album that sounds like it is still very much in The Chasm camp; while really it has taken several progressive leaps forward, leaving us with a work of art brimming with the self-confidence of autonomy.

Denial – Catacombs of the Grotesque

Some of the most impressive new death metal from anywhere in the world, this churning, impactful and bodily animalistic accomplishment from former Cenotaph and Shub Niggurath madmen is not a joke. What Cannibal Corpse always intended with their chromatic, bass-heavy and relentlessly rhythmic one dimensional stream of riff becomes an amalgamation of melodic motifs and devastatingly experimental squeals in the hands of these  perpetrators, as the background noise boils and envelops much as the classic “Onward to Golgotha” did, while the constant, FX enhanced, ridiculously monstrous voice of Ivan Velazquez intones all the perspiring tension of underworld nexus, the twilight threshold of life and death where sorcerers and demons whisper secrets to the warrior, offering true and false guidance, representing the violent archaic generations that waged war on Mexico’s bloody soil and continue to make many lives into living hell. I have alluded to the monotone nature, which is probably intentional and it hardly detracts from enjoying this cryptic abomination for further and further listenings, as the heights such as “The Pestilent Pits of Disgrace” or “Necrotic Invocations” are deceptively complex mazes of chords and melodies disguised as straightforward infernal metal by the tight manner of production and the guitarists’ sparse use of leads or interludes. Most importantly, the unrelenting hopelessness of these afterworld visions will force the listener to abandon the illusion of safety and immortality that makes the common man succumb to faulty, immoral decisions from day to day, thus achieving one of the highest principles of death metal: mental change (abomination). One would hesitate to lift such a recent work to the hallowed pantheon of Cenotaph and Mortuary after a brief listening span, but if a candidate is chosen from this tournée, this must be it.

It can be said that while Mexico’s metal offerings are not especially plentiful, they are generally interesting and spirited while the best of the country are just about the best these genres have ever seen, on an international scale. Mexicans’ natural groundedness coupled with the mystical tendencies is an excellent standpoint for witnessing the oblique directions of Death and Black Metal from an unpretentious, furious, “Luciferian” angle. It’s almost a surprise there isn’t so much more of it, even though I’m surprised if any reader of this article gets a sense of scarcity regarding items of interest in Mexican metal. So, that being said, it’s about time we leave you to contemplate the mysteries of Toltecs and Satan in the consummation of the extreme, Romantic and evil compositional systems of these modern Mexican warriors and dreamers.

Marco: I think this music is very individual and very personal, and it can take you to a spiritual level, if you listen carefully. Our ancient cultures are based on spirituality, so that’s the point in our just making this weird mix. One song can take you to the top of the pyramids, and reach for the skies, and another one could take you to a scenario of a war against the conquerors. In the end it’s all about finding your own roots, it’s some kind of, another, resource to open your eyes and to step away from the enslavement of social rules and moral unconsciousness (Christian superstition included). In the end the people in power need a dormant society, so they can keep on corrupting, spreading corruption in every corner, and people are just playing the game. Only the connection to your roots will set you free.

Joel: It’s a matter of self confidence in all the things we do, the feeling of greatness inside, the feeling of power, to reach new levels in the extreme brutal metal music we make! I’m not here to convince anyone to do anything, we are selected persons, we the whole scene… the others, the weak, must die!

Highest hails from Deathmetal.Org to Joel of Mortuary, Marco of Xibalba, Demogorgon of Avzhia, Eduardo of Necroccultus and last but not least Noe of Guttural Records for providing in-depth thoughts from the original perpetrators of real Mexican Metal! All of these bands are active so look out for forthcoming events of true massacre of the highest order.

Once you decided to come to Mexico you should have put all your petty fears away. Your decision to come should have vanquished them. You came because you wanted to come. That’s the warrior’s way.

– Don Juan Matus

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 09-25-10

Empyrean – Resurrection Engine: This is really one of the more musical things to cross my desk, but these guys are on heavy drugs if they think the audience for this genre will reward them. First they try to do some metalcore, which I’m now convinced is basically emo (an offshoot of hardcore, originally popularized by Fugazi, then becoming its own genre) with metal riffcraft: songs are three-riff, with one riff for verse, one for chorus, and one a melodic interlude that happens every third repetition of the others and can be expanded upon without moving the fret hand much. As a result, their straight-ahead songs have a very cookie-cutter sound; the band really shines when they take post-rock literally and make spacy ballads that are as much folk music or ambient in spirit as they are rock (think Agalloch), and are very removed from metal and doubly so from punk. When the band launches into this type of material, my ears perk up. It has been dumbed-down a bit for the high school audience, most of whom are still trying to decide whether to dedicate their suicide to a girl, or nuclear warfare. However, a great sense of harmony underlies these songs. I think the band should chuck all the metalcore/post-metal horseshit and just do what they do best, which is atmospheric folk post-rock like Hawkwind crossed with Laurie Anderson or Brian Eno. I say do it you boys because metalcore/emo-core is like all rock music a giant aggregation of styles, which ties you down with so many conventions that soon you’re just repeating cliches in “new, exciting” forms. Empyrean have a chance to break free. Do it.

Herpes – Doomsday: This band make facile doom/death with underscorings of punk, shadowing early work by Autopsy and Cianide. They like to launch into songs with rough skeletal riffs, then develop those with their most grind/punk-influenced verse riffs, and then rotate through variations on that theme before concluding with a circuitous “descending into the dungeon” style resonant doom riff. This makes for an engaging mixture: just hookish enough to lure you in, twisted and cryptographic enough to keep your attention, but mostly these old school death metal tunes just immerse you in a dark atmosphere and then let it soak in, saturating you in a morbidity and empty despair that mirrors the purposelessness of modern life. Some influences from modern metal appear in the riffing but not in the song structure or tempi. Percussion is excellent and to these ears sounds solidly in the Chris Reifert tradition, both energetic and holding back just enough to keep the sensation of being in the midst of a dirge. This 2010 demo portends a bright future for these French old schoolers.

Glaukom Synod – The Unspeakable Horror: The industrial/metal fusion has been attempted many times since the Killing Joke/Ministry/Godflesh triumvirate back in the late 1980s, and it rarely comes together as anything other than industrial music with random riffing. Glaukom Synod do better than that, setting up a form of droning EBM that takes the bounce and happy right out of its percussion not by eliminating swing but by hammering offbeats only as a secondary role to the abrupt rhythm of whatever sample or keyboard riff dominates even the drum machine. On the whole this is more on the Ministry side of things, with catchy beats and intermittent appearances by noisy guitars, but like many industrial projects has difficulty closing a song. Songs more than anything else just fade out, reminding this reviewer of the Godflesh reworking “Love and Hate in Dub” which was literally dub: sonic wallpaper that rotated past, gaining a little momentum each time, and then evaporated. It’s quite competent and makes for good listening if you like this range of styles.

Impureza – Inquisition – The demo years: If you like Nile, you’ll like Impureza, because they share an approach. Riffs are not fluid rapid motion using chords like notes in a melody, as occurs in death metal; riff development is not riffs counterpointing one another like a conversation that only makes sense after you’ve heard both parts, as in death metal. Instead, as with Nile, riffs are designed around a chord repeated at a particular rhythm with a few melodic offsets, more like progressive rock or guitar AOR (Rush) than death metal, but still quite musical — in fact, more conventionally recognizable as music. This album starts with classical-styled acoustic guitar and gradually integrates this grinding progressive indie death metal into the mix, then tears through over a dozen songs of high-intensity material. These songs are technical but not in the sense of “completely losing site of having a topic.” They’re a layer of technical on top of regular songwriting, which instead of distracting from the song fleshes it out and gives it more momentum. In a world of “technical death metal” that’s basically really repetitive, sweep-happy metalcore, Impureza is a refreshing blast of sanity.

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Metal as religion

Some good stuff to chew over:

Lyrically, early black metal fused virulent anti-christian politics with Nietzschean-inspired satanism and ecological mysticism. As the scene grew into the 1990s, however, satanism became a problematic notion and several figures tried to find new ideological backing to their music. One solution, adopted by figures like Ihsahn, the vocalist for Emperor, was to treat satanism as merely a metaphor for Nietzschean individual freedom. Another far more problematic move was that taken by Varg Vikernes of Burzum, who dropped satanism in favor of nazism, and emphasized themes of mystical ecologism in opposition to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The third path was to reject satanism for a return to traditional Scandinavian paganism, a move made in the early years by Enslaved and one which has since spawned a new sub-genre: pagan metal.

What is fascinating here is the consistency with which black metal has pursued religious forms. Satanism is replaced, not by a basic materialist atheism but with almost anything else: Occultism, Nietzsche, paganism, mystical nazism. Such religious pluralism begs the question as to whether these are just new and interesting attempts at youth rebellion, or whether something more is playing itself out.

What if metal is drawn to the religious because it aspires towards a similar goal? What if it is not in opposition to religion, but in competition with it? In the 2005 documentary Metal: A head-banger’s journey, a fan is quoted as saying: ”Is heavy metal a sacrament? For some people it is. If it keeps kids alive, if it gives them hope, if it gives them a place to belong, if it gives them a sense of transcendence, then its a spiritual force and I believe it is a pipeline to God.”

Metal’s obsession with religion is part of its obsession with living at the limit. The goal of metal is extremity—to push music to the boundaries of noise without concern for the comprehensibility of the final product. Black and death metal groups in particular manipulate time structure, tonality, tempo and production quality to ensure that anything resembling a traditional rock, jazz or classical sound is deformed beyond recognition. Of central importance to this manipulation is the need to be heavier, faster, more technical, more “brutal” or more “true” than the past generation. – James Robertson, “Death Metal: A Pipeline to God?” Social Sciences Research Council blog “The Immanent Frame”

While I agree with much of this, I think metal’s conception goes back to the word heavy, the idea of horror movies, and a rebellion against the counterculture.

Metal sprung from the counterculture… but in opposition to the peace and light, it was the dark and heavy. It wasn’t music for taking life non-seriously or coming up with with trivial answers like “love will save the world” (you truly have to be fucking stupid, delusional or corrupt to believe that).

Metal’s message can be found in the song “War Pigs”:

Now in darkness world stops turning,
ashes where the bodies burning.
No more War Pigs have the power,
Hand of God has struck the hour.
Day of judgement, God is calling,
on their knees the war pigs crawling.
Begging mercies for their sins,
Satan, laughing, spreads his wings.
Oh lord, yeah!

While humans distract themselves with trivial shit, including the hippie con about love and light, the cruel manipulators are profiting behind the scenes and laying the seed of mythological levels of destruction.

While every popular music act except metal is espousing the “it’s all about you, have some fun, we’re all important, it’s about humans being individuals” karmic snake oil, metal was telling you to look at history, look at bigger patterns, realize that technology and “good intentions” were not going to save the day. We are insignificant, it said. What matters is not that we’re alive, but what we do with the time.

In other words, metal is an entirely different existential coping strategy than Christianity (an inherent God judges you based on your deeds) or hippies (if you just make happy socially, you’ll be OK and part of the group). Metal’s idea is this: the world is out there and it’s very real, which makes life very intense, so make sure you have an intense life, in part by not doing the stupid self-defeating shit that has dogged humanity like an expert parasite through the modern time.

It was only when black metal came around that this got fully Nietzschean, and people started talking about how equality was bunk, how most people are too oblivious/distracted to have any competence in making political or social decisions, and how we’d be better off if we slashed down the weaker/stupider and handed glorious victory to the strong, rising above the herd and exterminating them so humanity would evolve to a new level. Eugenics, Social Darwinism and natural selection as a purification of the artificial, sterile, “everyone wins” equality-based world of both the Church and the liberals (1789: “liberty, equality, fraternity”).

But this is an extension of the horror movie theme, which in turn derives itself entirely from the work of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. Here’s the basic plot: something from a foreign culture or undiscovered part of our world emerges and starts wreaking havoc. People panic and the dumb sheep screw it all up by not only failing to respond to it with any intelligence, but also by shouting down anyone who tries to deal with it as a real, functional question instead of an emotional/technological one. Finally, the loners re-invent technologies to defeat it — or not — and the few beat the threat, so that the many live. But it’s not democratic. The point of horror movies is mainly to make you hate your own species as you see that all but a few cannot discipline their minds to respond to new stimulus. They panic, they make excuses, they steal now-worthless cash, they get drunk, they run away, they flake out. What they don’t do is achieve any effective action at all.

If you want the origins of metal, I think that’s it — modern society grips our society like a plague, and as years go by and the decay gets more advanced, people are still unable to do anything about it because they’re caught up in their own emotions and drama. But that point is far too realistic for any academic.

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History of death and black metal

I want to say that I will start with the year 1984. Death metal had been around since 1984/1985 depending on who you ask. Mantas, Genocide, Deathstrike, Possessed, Slaughter and others had started years earlier and wanted to make music that made Slayer sound like Wham. “Black metal” had already started with Venom and Mercyful Fate. Then Bathory and Hellhammer came along. The term “death metal” was more widely used back then. Hell, there was even a compilation called “Death Metal” that had Running Wild and Helloween on it! Although I do dig both of those bands, they are hardly death metal! But the comp did have Hellhammer as well. So there was a back and forth there for a while. Even Sodom came along and called themselves “witching metal” to start off with! hahaha. But bands jumped back and forth and it was common for bands to be called both at times. Once Massacre, Repulsion, Death, and later Xecutioner, R.A.V.A.G.E., Morbid Angel and others started getting going with demo tapes flooding the underground, death metal was really starting to spawn. My comment about Slayer was a joke. Slayer upped the ante, so to speak, on playing faster and more aggressive. Slayer was influenced by D.R.I., Cryptic Slaughter and the fast hardcore punk that was coming out. Just like those hardcore bands became influenced by Slayer and other metal bands later on. So these death metal bands took the Slayer formula and made it even more aggressive and even faster and heavier than ever before. Black metal was kind of regulated to the same bands for a while. Possessed had the imagery of a black metal band, but were total death metal/thrash. Mercyful Fate broke up and Venom and Bathory started getting a little different in their musical direction.

Flash forward to 1989. I was already a couple years deep in the metal underground, but this is when I really got into the DEEP underground scene with the tape trading and fanzines and all of that. ALL KINDS of underground bands, that played different “styles” were all in the same fanzines and on the same compilation tapes. The black metal of Samael, Beherit and Blasphemy was featured right next to the death metal of Autopsy and Nihilist. The thrash of Merciless and Sindrome was right next to the grind of Agathocles and Anarchus. Everyone seemed to get along in one, big happy underground metal family! Then over the next few years, death metal then broke as a worldwide phenomenon. Everything either had a Swedish guitar sound or was recorded at Morrisound Studios with Scott Burns producing it. And had Dan Seagrave doing the artwork on the cover. Morbid Angel became mainstream, Carcass and Obituary started getting play on MTV more often. It seemed EVERYONE was familiar with “death metal”! But then weird stuff started happening with these bands. In Sweden and Finland, some of the old death metal bands started getting more rock or gothic (or both) with their music. Opeth and Katatonia followed suit with a progressive rock or gothic rock sound. Entombed did a horrible mix of death metal and rock and roll. Therion got weirder, then went all show-tunes. In Finland Abhorrence became Amorphis and ended up having more in common with classic rock. Disgrace went punk rock. Xysma went hippie. Convulse went “death and roll” (PUKE!) There was a disconnect that started and some bands and members of the scene felt slighted. But it was felt that death metal went cheesy as fuck. Some people grew tired of all of this, and decided to form a new thing. And the leader of this new movement was Euronymous of Mayhem.

Flamingly interesting post, on Metal Maniacs of all places.

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