Taco Bell Diablo Sauce

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Those of us who survive in the concrete jungle or the suburban desert live as we must, which often means foraging within the realms of junk food. This in turn means, because too much of junkfood is merely a conduit to “the beetus” or other early death, to have strong preferences for some junk food over other types. Many of us remain enthusiastic fans of Taco Bell because, despite the high salt content and imminent violent defecation, it remains relatively simple, unsullied and realistically-priced compared to the over-sugared varieties of junk food found at the burger joints. It also eschews the pomposity of “down home goodness” and “hippie health food wisdom” which mark, even in small doses, places like Chipotle and In-N-Out.

As part of its ill-advised campaign to be “more competitive,” which is scurrilous nonsense since it has already captured its self-selected target audience of drunks, college students, scat fetishists and budget-conscious consumers, Taco Bell has made tentative stepts toward expanding its menu to include more varied tastes. As a long time observer, I believe this contradicts business wisdom which would be to instead serve its existing constituency such that it expands, instead of trying to capture audiences from other businesses who are more adapted to what those groups expect. However, it has in addition to some hilarious missteps — the soggy Doritos-in-a-burrito was more than gastronomically dismal — this has brought a number of useful experiments, including the new Diablo sauce. From the beginning, this product faces a steady climb because those who really like hot sauce enough for it to be essential with a fast food meal probably have their preferred poison on hand, but it also may gain an audience of those heading past the sauce counter for some slightly new experiences. Much like the market for spicy sauces sold separately, it navigates a fine line between over-processed and sweetened sauces, and perennial favorites like Tabasco which balance spice with flavor such that one tastes more than spice or the sugar, aromatic spices and fruit extracts added to soften the blow or at least give it an ironic, contrarian or contradictory identity (“it’s a hot sauce, but unlike the others, it has fruits and flowers”).

The first taste of Diablo Sauce, as warned by our local Taco Bell proprietor, is of intense spice. A glance at the ingredients shows that it picks up from where Fire Sauce left off but uses a more intense pepper base, feeling like simultaneously more black pepper and a habanero or more concentrated jalapeno-serrano mix. The result, while warming and very useful to pick up the intensity, falls short on the spice-flavor balance: unlike Tabasco, it is more hot than flavorful and, while it avoids the odious boutique spice flavors that insist mixing mango and cloves with Scottish bonnet peppers somehow makes a “new” taste, it also fails to bring with it the optimized mix of flavors that fire sauce does. Perhaps this means that Taco Bell caved to the extremists — who might be conveniently visualized as drunk bearded men with bandoliers full of specially-bred spicy peppers — and forsook its commonplace wisdom as to what its audience desires, which can be summarized as “spicy Southwestern” since Taco Bell borrows more from Tex-Mex than Mex and more from California Tex-Mex than Tex-Tex-Mex.

The question always presented itself as to whether Taco Bell would make a more spicy Fire Sauce, or a spicy sauce, and the sense I get is that they aimed for the latter while guarding their flank with some inclusion of the former, which runs a risk of pleasing neither group. I suggest they defer to interface: mild, medium and fire are variants on the same flavor, and Diablo should be too on that basis, with the possibility of simply adding a “habanero sauce” (or equivalent, since a concentrated jalapeno-serrano or jalapeno-japones mix will achieve the same result) as an addition to the Diablo sauce. Perhaps this was the intent, since of the eight of us eating the three who appreciate spicy food the most ended up using a 2:1 mix of Fire:Diablo sauces to great effect. In any case, it was a joy to experiment with this new flavor and, while it may not be the end-all for spice fetishists, for those who have the time to mix it in with other sauces it makes for a powerful addition to the Taco Bell palette.

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A Comment on Bardic Tradition in metal

leypold-wandererinthestorm

The terms bardic or minstrel metal have often been used to describe bands that usually sing in a clear voice and with anthemic overtones, often imitate medievalesque motifs and write lyrics in the manner of romanticized ancient legends. Generally, the metal subgenre most readily associated with bardic expression is power metal because they advertise themselves as modern-day minstrels and theirs is the kind of catchy and upbeat music most people can latch on to most easily. The bardic spirit along with the culture it transmits, however, requires a sturdier medium that is able to etch its runes indelibly without detracting from the importance of their message.
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Psycroptic To Headline “Bloodletting North America’ Tour

BLOODLETTING NORTH AMERICATOUR

Australian tech-death act to return to the U.S. this summer in support of new self-titled album. During their first North American tour since supporting Nile in 2010, Psycroptic will blast tunes from their brand new self-titled album — which reached #59 on the Australian pop charts and is one of the best-reviewed metal records of the year to date — along with favorites from their five previous releases over the past 10 years. The new album was produced, engineered and mixed by guitarist Joe Haley while being mastered by Alan Douches (Converge, Baroness).

Prior to their venture to the States, Psycroptic will travel to Japan for two headlining gigs before returning to Australia to join The Black Dahlia Murder on tour throughout June. Dates can be found below, and for tickets or further event details, please visit www.facebook.com/psycroptic.
6/7 Osaka, JP – Nanba Rockets
6/8 Tokyo, JP – Duo Music Exchange
6/19 Adelaide, AU – Fowlers #
6/20 Melbourne, AU – Northcote Social Club #
6/21 Melbourne, AU  – Northcote Social Club # (All Ages, Afternoon Show)
6/21 Melbourne, AU  – Northcote Social Club # (18+ Only, Evening Show)
6/25 Newcastle, AU – The Cambridge #
6/26 Canberra, AU – The Basement #
6/27 Sydney, AU – The Factory #
# with The Black Dahlia Murder & Colossvs
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Vod – Tuurngait

tuurngait

Vod is the one-man project of bassist Dave Trembley. Announced as an indescribable anomaly, a blend of interesting ideas in astounding ways, this is a actually a fairly clear mixture of influences that never coalesces into an original voice. Dancing and jumping between general ambient, post rock, and the break-down metal of Meshuggah (mostly in derivative and simplified Djentish manner, for groove more than for percussion wankery). The whole album is nonetheless covered by a recognizable blanket, although it is not a distinct expression but only a consistency in the use of the same collection of styles.
Rather than establish a mood and submerge the listener in it, or take us into a spiraling well of moments to build atmosphere, Vod simply gives us cool-vibe-inducing moments gathered from the aforementioned genres. Heavily relying on the most primal effects of both ambient and Djent, Tuurngait will often fall into a simple ambient drone or into the simplest and easiest to catch syncopated modern groove. Careful and smooth in taking the songs from a whisper to a full-on groove-party, this music is good conversation material as it is easy to digest.

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Sydney Slayer Day 2015

BOBS

Any metal fan should hang their head in shame for missing out on Promotorheads ”Slayer Day”. Pissing down rain, a two hour train ride, followed by a 20 minute bus trip, set the afternoon in motion (no pun intended).

Arriving at the Bald Faced stag for my first time, I must say it wasn’t as pretty as I’d imagined it to be, BUT Damn, what an AWESOME $10 lunch. 3.30pm usually my time to be getting washing off the line, feed our mini zoo, and hear all about the days events in the primary school yard .

First to grace the stage was Billabong of Blood. Their mixture of soft/hard vocals had some boots stomping.

Next was War of Attrition, and holy shit did they have my camera shaking. Vocals to make your ears bleed, and have any good Christian running for their crucifix. I must admit my favourite of the night, and still have me rambling on .

What was to follow, could not be described by mere words. My pen surely is not mightier than the sword. I still can’t believe it myself, the sheer talent, out of this world sound and the stage presence. You’d be thinking “why the hell aren’t we in some big arena worthy of such a musical encounter?” However, looking at the crowd, seeing patch work denim, black leather jackets and more hair than all of Dolly Parton’s wigs put together, made me proud to be a metal head from the 80’s.

Strangers lined the front of the stage, arms over shoulders of strangers banging heads, timing to perfection. As the line moved, knocking an older head banger to the ground, everyone stopped & offered assistance, picked him up and then returned to their original position. Proving yet again, never Judge a book by their tattoos ,long hair or the strange clothes they wear.

Of course no Slayer Day would ever be complete without some actual Slayer being played. That my friends, was where Murder-World would have left Gordon Ramsey speechless. You’d be hard pressed to find any more “”metal horns”” raised by a whole room full of people. Two fingers have never meant so much, nor held so high, as they were during one of the most outstanding kick in the guts covers of Slayer, I’ve ever seen, let alone heard .

Now, no review would ever be complete without a word or two about the Promoter, Promotorhead Bookings . Firstly, Trudy, your knowledge of metal, your way with words, passion, hard work and dedication, holds you at the top of your field. Slayer Day has set the bar so high, others will need a javelin stick just to see what you did. Forget inviting bands to play at your next gig I’m sure they are already calling you.

 

A short clip of Murder World at the show can be watched here.

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Delirium – Tiempo, Limites y Espacio

Portada

Delirium was formed in 1990 as Delirium Tremens. In 1995 they debuted with a self-titled album considered to be a Central American classic. It was a particular style drawing influences from many different styles of metal ranging from NWOBHM, Speed Metal, Thrash to punk and alternative rock without falling into the carnival approach of modern metal bands. The influences blend and boil down to form an almost concrete and new street-dirty heavy metal style. A close look at Delirium’s discography shows how the band has evolved through the years gradually taking in more mainstream influences after having parted from a mixture of early Iron Maiden and Metallica. Looking under the hood of post-debut Delirium one can find a weakening of an original voice and the more obvious influence of 1980s Rush and late, prog-bent Iron Maiden.

Tiempo, Limites y Espacio is a collection of acoustic arrangements of older songs. The band retains a professional musician’s touch for pacing and pausing, showing us why they are still one of the leading acts in central america. We find Latin-styled acoustic guitar leads, understated popular drum rhythms along with Latin hand-percussion in some interludes, bridges and intros. Occasional use of maracas for rhythmic emphasis are use in very limited instances. Verses reduce guitar to chords supporting the vocal melody line. Characteristically 1970s synth effects are used for melodies and even a solo on the track Abismo, while the remaining use of keyboard functions are simple and direct organ and piano chord outlining. The refreshing presence of bow instruments grace brief interludes. The aura these exude may remind one of Empyrium’s Into the Pantheon, a personal favorite of the writer. It is also clear that the singer is consciously aiming to emulate the overt style of Adrian Barilari, of the late Rata Blanca, and by extension the style of Bruce Dickinson.

What we find here are original Latin street heavy metal and alternative heavy metal styled songs fine tuned and made ready for mainstream radio exposure for quick acceptance with a mainstream audience. This acoustic release (as is any faithful acoustic arrangement of metal music) is a highlight of the qualities behind the music and the songwriting capabilities of the band.

The album can be downloaded for free here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wphEkDrQq9Q

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Castrator – “No Victim” (2014)

castrator_-_no_victim

Approaching deathcore like a doom metal band, Castrator mix invariant riff-chorus pairs with extended solos over slower riffing and hybridize the chromatic riffing of their influences with Judas Priest style hard rock riffs. The strength is the melodic soloing which, while very much cut from a conventional metal/rock mold, guides the slowly looping slow-paced riffs to make an interesting atmospheric piece. Their death metal riffs however both conform strictly to archetypes and achieve no variance, so that a wall of extremely similar sound gives way to a solo, then repeats briefly and fades away. Many of these riffs stick to fixed patterns at a single note, which produces the kind of droning that made post-Suffocation clones excruciating. Melodic hooks drape over power chords in a backdoor way of creating a groove, but these become repetitive quickly as well and have the kind of pop tendencies that trivialize death metal. The vocals perhaps provide the strongest point of focus for this band, but that in turn becomes a weakness, because vocals alone cannot unite a loop of similar verse/chorus riffs with breakdowns into a song. The gruff monotone vocals keep a bass-heavy pulse going that drives songs forward with aggression and anger. While the band write catchy songs, the low internal complexity and archetypal riffing detract from the desire to hear this again.

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Deathspell Omega – Paracletus (2010)

deathspell_omega_-_paracletus

The secret to excellent marketing is found in the word “different.” A successful salesperson puts a surface on an ordinary product so it appears new, luxurious or otherwise distinctive. In music, the best method is to put a new surface on whatever is trendy at the time. Thus cloaked, it allows its listeners to appreciate the same stuff everyone else is listening to, but with its different appearance, they can claim they are different and unique special snowflakes.

Deathspell Omega took the idea of the metalcore dominant at its time — mix up dissonant and technical or jazzy riffing with metal riffs in carnival-style rotational song order based on internal interruption — and put a black metal face on it. For black metal, it relied on what Ulver and Satyricon did, which was to create long melodies that start impressively but go nowhere and require the song structure to intervene “dramatically” and interrupt before people realize that the melody is like the rambling of a drunken person. On top of this, they put choppy technical-style riffing and dissonant chords, but keep the focus on the vocals to distract from the carnival music nature of this randomness, tying it together with rhythm and the strong vocal as post-black bands like Behemoth did.

If the vocals were removed, good portions of this album would appear to have come from recent Cynic albums. Often a jazzy break goes right into hard rock riffing that comes from the pop canon, but as if the band becomes self-conscious, a more violent riff intervenes. The real problem here — as in all rock-derived music — is that unlike metal, this is vocal-driven not riff-driven. The riffs tag along for the ride as the voice tells you things it thinks you want to hear. As such, Paracletus is not only a pretender to the black metal throne, but worse, is musically incoherent which results in mental confusion and boredom.

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Marduk – Frontschwein (2015)

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Marduk attempts to return to their past of blasting melodic war-themed ultra-simplistic black metal, evoking Panzer Division Marduk more than the mysterious album which preceded it, Opus Nocturne, which remains arguably their strong point. The band incorporates some elements of tribal-industrial hybrid rhythms, but stays on point with short riffs. Arguably this mature form of Marduk offers more variation in tonal construction and riff form than ever before, but its tendency to use similar song structures and nearly constant exercise-video style tempi wears down the power of this release.

Like later Vader albums, the attempt to make the album fully intense creates a wallpaper effect where all of the intensity flows together because lack of internal variation deprives it of the context to make a truly great impact; in addition, riffs use a very similar vocabulary of rhythm and pattern, which makes songs hard to distinguish. Where Marduk excels is in, while avoiding the standard MTV form most metal bands use, orchestrating a rise of intensity that explodes into a clever use of melody and tempo change to produce a dramatic impression. The theatrical side of this band creates moments of impressive songwriting throughout the album.

Black metal vocals of the type that approach a chant more than a howl decorate this album and while much of listener focus is anticipated to be directed at these, they stand back when the guitars lay forth a mix between sawing rhythm and gentle lifts of melody, much like early Dawn albums or their militant spin-off Niden Div. 187. Frontschwein shows Marduk at their best in recent memory, and in modern warfare they have found a new inspiration, but the whimsy and mysterious nature-mysticism of Opus Nocturne was closer to black metal than what we might call this, ‘melodic war metal,’ and as a result like most rock projects it fades into repetition that becomes distinguished only by vocals and lyrics. Nonetheless good material appears throughout this album.

Tracklist

  1. Frontschwein
  2. The Blond Beast
  3. Afrika
  4. Wartheland
  5. Rope Of Regret
  6. Between The Wolf-Packs
  7. Nebelwerfer
  8. Falaise: Cauldron Of Blood
  9. Doomsday Elite
  10. 503
  11. Thousand-Fold Death
  12. Warschau III: Necropolis (Mediabook bonus track, in cooperation with ARDITI)

Tour
EUROPEAN HEADLINER tour with Belphegor (special guest) and two support acts
19.02.2015 HOL Rotterdam / Baroeg
20.02.2015 HOL Eindhoven / Effenaar
21.02.2015 HOL Sneek / Het Bolwerk
22.02.2015 BEL Vosselaar / Biebob
23.02.2015 UK Plymouth / The Hub
24.02.2015 UK Manchester / Academy 3
25.02.2015 UK Glasgow / Audio
26.02.2015 UK London / Underworld
27.02.2015 FR Paris / Divan du Monde
28.02.2015 CH Monthey / Pont Rouge
01.03.2015 FR Toulouse / Dynamo
03.03.2015 SP Madrid / Caracol
04.03.2015 SP Barcelona / Apolo
06.03.2015 ITA Turin / Cafe Liber
07.03.2015 ITA Brescia / Circolo Colony
08.03.2015 SLO Nova Gorica / Mostovna

HATEFEST 2015 with Six Feet Under, Vader and Hate
02.04.2015 DE – Leipzig, Hellraiser
03.04.2015 AT – Wien, Gasometer
04.04.2015 CH – Pratteln, Z7
05.04.2015 DE – Essen, Weststadthalle
06.04.2015 DE – Saarbrücken, Garage
07.04.2015 DE – Lindau, Club Vaudeville
08.04.2015 DE – Ludwigsburg, Rockfabrik
09.04.2015 DE – Hamburg, Markthalle
10.04.2015 DE – Geiselwind, Musichall
11.04.2015 DE – München, Backstage
12.04.2015 DE – Berlin, Postbahnhof

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A brief history of the Death Metal Underground

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In response to recent questions, I present the following (brief) history of the Death Metal Underground:

The predecessor of the Death Metal Underground, the Dark Legions Archives, started as the project of a hacking group back in the 1980s of which I was a member. Most people did not use computers and saw them as “totally uncool” and for nerds only. A loose network existed of bulletin board systems (BBSs) which were accessed by using a modem to dial over phone lines and connect to another computer. These offered information in the precursor to web pages called “g-files” or “text files” which were ASCII documents containing information cribbed from other sources or written from personal experience. Many of these were of a hacker nature, describing the workings of the phone systems and different computer systems, but others focused on music. Crossover between the hacker community and the metal community occurred frequently since many middle-class kids had access to C-64 or Apple II computers. I describe this event in my article “Hacker Metal”, which talks about how a lack of information prompted hackers to share files about metal.

Free speech became an important issue. BBSs were individual property and system operators (“sysops”) often deleted messages or users that disagreed with them. This was my first glance at the tyrant present in ordinary people and how even the best rules failed to prevent it. For example, some sysops formed an alliance of free speech boards, and their first act — before the digital ink was even dry on the words “free speech” — was to determine what speech was acceptable and what was not. The vast majority of users simply saw the words “free speech” and took it at face value.

This hacking group appeared one evening through the work of a small group of people. We wanted to make a force for free speech and rebellion against the choking society of the 1980s, which was caught between its 1950s commercialism and its 1960s libertinism. While contemporary writers often focus on the political aspects of the 80s, the real story was in the massive social conflict going on at this time. We ran a series of boards on which you had actual free speech. We let anyone post anything. This meant that perfectly ordinary political discussions overlapped with the release of hacked information and any number of radical theories, including anti-government sentiment, violent atheism and blasphemy, racialism, Satan-endorsing metal lyrics, Communism, and holocaust denial. It was like getting launched into the roughest crowd that one can imagine, where self-described intellectuals rubbed shoulders with complete society dropouts who lived under bridges in the light of their monitors. We were fortunate to have as users not only members of one of the most thriving hacker communities in the world but also students from nearby universities and advanced placement style high schools. This was a brainy bunch but they were not prone to following rules. Since that time, I have viewed this kind of “free speech” as essential to actual communication, and it has made me wonder how much privileged information actually needs to stay secret.

The files that I had been writing since the mid-1980s on topics ranging from anarchy to hacking to heavy metal had attracted an audience back in the BBS days, specifically on a type of single-password BBS called an “AE” (for Ascii Express, the software that allowed the standalone mode required to achieve it), continued to find an audience. A site named the “Metal AE” was a world-wide HQ for metalhead hackers back in the day, and I started posting them there. As technology proliferated, I moved the files to an anonymous FTP site, then a Gopher site, and finally to a web site. At first it was a simple server running on one of my computers, but later, it moved to commercial hosting. At this point, the “free speech” notions of our group began to conflict with the need of commerce to control its public image by avoiding the type of “offensive” material that it hosted. For the next decade the site moved constantly as complaints drove us off ISPs and free hosts.

As time went on, I saw that people were reading the philosophy writings as much as the metal ones. I had pioneered “e-zine” or electronic zine publishing, combining 1980s g-file culture with the rising indie music zine scene, with a literary publication called “the undiscovered country” during the early days of the 1990s, but now, I began publishing in a style that would later be assimilated by web logs. I wrote small essay-screed hybrids and posted them to the web site. The essay form took inspiration from early French and American writers who put together pamphlets and newspaper articles in which they argued strongly for a mixture of political and social changes. As a result, these essays did not resemble the kind of conversational material that most people posted to their internet sites, in which they intermixed personal events with political or social analysis, and that enraged people even more, which encouraged me to work with more extreme ideas. This is why the Dark Legions Archive in the early 1990s was a bizarre mixture of occultism, death metal, trolling, blasphemy and realist philosophy.

If you, Dear Readers, have further questions based on the above, feel free to ask them in the comments.

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