Molested Blod Draum and Stormvold reissues inbound

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The classic releases from pre-Borknagar death metal band Molested will see re-issue on Dark Symphonies Records in their original form. The 2009 re-issues on Galgenstrang Produktionen and Ars Magna Recordings provoked criticism for their modern, compressed and loud sound that some felt reduced the clarity of the original.

Known for being a boutique label that re-issues classic metal releases on vinyl with collector-friendly exclusive packaging, Dark Symphonies Records and its imprint The Crypt have decided to issue the Molested re-releases as jewelcase CDs. These include bonus tracks on Stormvold and will be faithful to the original recordings. Dark Symphonies Records released the following statement:

DARK SYMPHONIES / THE CRYPT is honored to work with Borknagar mastermind Øystein G. Brun to reissue official stand alone CDs of the brutal, classic debut album “Blod Draum” and the classic EP “Stormvold” from the legendary Norse death metal act MOLESTED.

We are proud to announce that we are working directly with Øystein to obtain a wealth of material. “Blod Draum” will include the original film negative of the cover artwork for best visual presentation, unpublished band photos, lyrics and new liner notes. The CD will include the original 1995 studio recording, which was carefully mastered from the original DAT source as well a revised version of the album, which will be remixed by Øystein from the original multi-track studio tapes. This CD is designed after the original 1995 CD release, taking elements from the original layout with attention to detail, even down to the logo and typeface for a touch of nostalgia.

“Stormvold” will include the band’s “Stalk the Dead” and “Unborn Woods in Doom’ demos. Including the original cover artwork, unpublished band photos, lyrics, new liner notes and the original 1997 DAT tape for the Stormvold audio source and original analog tapes for the DEMO audio sources.

“Stormvold” will be presented as a metallic gold printed insert and will be designed after the original 1997 Effigy Productions release, taking elements from the original layout with attention to detail, even down to the logo and typeface for a touch of nostalgia.

No date has yet been announced for these re-issues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7C0ZU7eZ3w

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Supuration releases “Suffocate Through Asphyxia” from Reveries of a Bloated Cadaver

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Back in the early 1990s, Supuration grew from a gore-oriented grindcore band into a death metal band, and then infused the mix with brainy indie/alternative rock of a progressive nature, carrying forward all three influences in varying degrees of balance.

Two decades later, the band plans to release Reveries of a Bloated Cadaver, a modern recording and high-value re-envisioning of the earlier songs with more technical playing, better production and improved cover art. To tease the fans, Supuration released a video for “Suffocate Through Asphyxia” that shows the direction this album will take.

Interestingly, the band preserve the underground metal focus of this material and take it in the proficient but still intensely violent and alienated direction that bands like Autopsy and Entombed embarked upon toward the mid-1990s. Improved playing and more adept tempo changes distinguish the original material of these songs, which appears somewhat reorganized to present itself more distinctively, and place it into a fully modern death metal sound.

It will be interesting to see what they do with other tracks that had more of a grindcore or alternative rock orientation back in the day. Supuration was the original alternative rock/metal crossover, but was ignored by the media because it retained its metal-ness instead of making metal-flavored Fugazi clones like the recent spate of media darlings. Maybe the band will reclaim its position in history with this upcoming release.

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Idiocracy (2006)

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Some say the role of art is to show us what is in the future by amplifying what we refuse to notice about the present. Idiocracy takes on this task by showing us what happens to a egalitarian, sex-obsessed, entertainment-besotted and distraction-oriented culture over five centuries.

Set in 2505, Idiocracy follows the story of two people chosen for a crionics experiment because they are average in intelligence, physical ability and motivation. Absolutely expendable in the present time, they spend a half-millennium in cryostasis and emerge into a changed world.

Following the long tradition of hyperbolic absurdist comedy, Idiocracy portrays the world in broad brush strokes and basic colors. It does this because if it got any subtler, we would recognize America 2015 A.D. in this mess. In the future, the Dunning-Kruger effect — by which the stupid are arrogantly confident and the intelligent timorously hesitant — leads to a population of morons.

In the future world, society is ruled by entertainment of the most Beavis and Butthead variety, constant sexual and masturbatory stimulus, and the type of consumer hell that was imagined by 1980s thrash bands. People are not only brick stupid, but hopelessly vapid, living in a constant flood of distractions while their world crumbles around them. Idiocracy amplifies present problems to their maximum: pollution, corruption, incompetence and apathy have become not just commonplace, but dominant.

The film shadows past stories on this topic, notably Brave New World. In that novel, eugenics — the science of managing the intelligence of offspring — was controlled by government to produce leaders, artisans and drones. In the idiocratic world all eugenics has been abandoned and people survive through the buildup of technology which manages the world for them, having grown too stupid to do more than press buttons. As in Demolition Man, which alludes to the Huxley book, future authorities depend on maintaining the appearance of order through the absence of conflict. Citizens are threatened by insane police, bribed with sex and money, and kept distracted by Roman empire style circuses with a technological edge.

What this film does well is to show us a vision of hell. It keeps this vision on the line between what we recognize and what we can imagine, but the allusions to our present world are too close to be ignored. The future culture represents a cross between pro-wrestling, redneck culture, barrio living and urban lifestyles. Consistently the lowest common denominator is revealed in everything. The future population seems to be mostly Hispanic and white, with relatively few African-Americans but a health number of people of indeterminate mixed origins. This fits the theme of this movie, which is taking America A.D. 2005 and exaggerating it to reveal the natural end result of the path it is on.

In the intervening decade, the gap between reality and Idiocracy has narrowed to an alarming degree. What cannot be denied is that the future, like the present, is insufferable. People are fools, but if anyone smarter than they are arrives, they call him an idiot and metaphorically crucify him for their own entertainment. Arguing with them is like talking to people on the internet who cite Wikipedia and big media articles, but do not understand them, creating a kind of circular debate where the only people who understand it are in the minority and as a result are ignored. People lack awareness of anything more than their immediate needs in their immediate future, and have not only a lack of empathy but something worse than apathy, which is total obliviousness toward all consequences which cannot be immediately visualized. In Idiocracy, ignorance wins out over knowledge and intelligence every time, and the only way to get anything done is to lie to people and play to their superstitions and ignorance. It is a cynical and yet strikingly accurate view of the future.

Where this movie becomes difficult is that it is a cross between political polemic and cartoon, although it is not animated. There is no subtlety, no depth of character other than vague goodwill, and every scene exists to prove a point on the outline of an essay which might be titled Too Much of a Good Thing: How Humanity Won All Challenges and Atrophied Into Mental Retardation. The underlying pro-eugenics theme does not focus, as most of them do or movies such as Gattaca flirt with, on the production of superior beings so much as on the proliferation of average ones, and how that in turn induces average to consistently lower itself to avoid excluding anyone. The most crushing scene occurs when lead character Joe Bauers attempts to explain simple reality to a group of future-idiots, and is mocked for his trouble by those who rely on supposed “superior” knowledge.

I doubt this movie will find any fans in our established elites, for whom the idiots of this hypothetical — and it is best to put a big fat question mark next to that word — future seem like ideal constituents. Nor will it find many political supporters, since it avoids taking a side and instead points numbly and ardently at the elephant in the room. It is however most effective as a type of conditioning, in that after watching this movie the traits of people around in stand revealed in their full selfishness/narcissism, denial and manipulative distraction. For that reason, it fits within the metal worldview of seeing our society as a hugbox of denial of its own decline, and the rot coming from within and being masked by — not helped by — the rhetoric of peace, love, equality, subsidy and happiness which is the opiate of our fellow citizens as they zone out and wait to become idiots of the future.

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Under the Sign of the Lone Star announces inaugural issue

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As the internet dies a slow death from both information overload and undue concentration (and thus agenda enforced) in sites like Wikipedia and Metal-Archives, many metalheads are returning to zines. Zine editors choose what to focus on and tend to specialize in certain levels of quality and types of metal, so if you find one you like, it becomes a combination learning experience and shopping guide.

Noticing a void of information on Texas specifically, JH (his lawyers insist that no identifying details are used) has started the process of bringing Under the Sign of the Lone Star to print. As part of the new wave of underground metal zines, this Texas-centric zine will focus on that which the mainstream media and internet chatter alike ignore.

We were lucky enough to get a few minutes with JH as he was loading suspiciously heavy blue barrels into a panel truck outside Lubbock…

When did this idea hit you, and what was your intent? What sorts of zines do you admire?

I’ve written on-and-off for years, and about two years ago I had the idea to put my thoughts to print instead of in a digital medium. Life got in the way and since I didn’t have any real focus other than “bands I liked”, the idea fell by the wayside. Fast-forward to the tail-end of 2014 and I found myself staring at a magazine rack full of “metal” magazines with, surprise surprise, no actual metal (or at least, with the actual metal de-emphasized in favor of flavor-of-the-month trash). I found myself compelled to write again as a reaction against those publications and began writing the zine as soon as I realized the concept.

I like my zines the way I like my metal demo covers: black-and-white, fairly minimal layout/presentation, and without pulling any punches if that makes sense. Some of my favorite (and most influential) metal releases are underground demos and I feel as the final result of UtSotLS is a printed equivalent of a tape demo (not that I’m comparing it to something as good as “Evil Metal”, of course). Also I’m not a talented writer in the technical sense, but I do feel a passion for putting thoughts to pen. I see it as similar to older releases that lacked by-the-book musicianship but had a near-tangible fire in their recordings.

Zines that get my support: Codex Obscurum, Slaves (#2 has killer interviews from Lust, Amputator, and more), Trident Nation, Chips & Beer, Zombie Danz, and Serpentscope which gets an A+ for original concept. And Slayer was killer, obviously.

What is the topic of the zine, and what will it cover, and will there be enough material?

The topic of the zine is bands from Texas that people should know about. Lots of reviews (including a few live ones), some interviews, and additional content that will hopefully open a few eyes to the metal that rules in this state.

As for whether there will be enough material; that will be for the readers to decide. Personally I prefer to keep things short and to-the-point rather than drag things out longer than necessary. I’d rather read a 20-page zine with interesting content than an 80-page behemoth with maybe four good articles. I’m finalizing the layout at the moment but it will be over thirty pages which works for me.

What is the Texas scene like? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

The Texas metal scene could probably be summed up in three adjectives: loud, aggressive, and hot. Admittedly I would say that it is fairer to split each city into its own scene rather than Texas as a whole for reasons elaborated on below, but just about every city has killer bands in their own right.

Strengths: The bands. That should speak for itself, but also the abundance of shows. There’s always something going on in at least one city (although you may have to drive for a while, see below). Also a lot of awesome bands from other states or countries play here often. Destroying Texas Fest XI with Blood Storm, Nocturnus A.D., Hades Archer, and Force of Darkness is an example of one that will crush.

Weaknesses: The state itself is gigantic. It’s pretty common to find yourself driving for hours to see a show in another city that would be the distance between states up North, or even countries in Europe. Also the summers are pretty brutal. Any time you’re in a venue and the AC is busted it’s borderline unbearable. But it’s always worth it in the end. Live for metal, get heat stroke for metal.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to get involved with metal? Are there other staff?

I’m a mid-twenties bassist who drinks black coffee and plays faster than he should. I am also a native Texan, if anyone cared. I started with Metallica at age 14 and the first “gaze into the abyss” was Slayer. Progressed through classic metal (Sabbath, Motorhead), then thrash (Sepultura, Exhorder, Hirax), then death/thrash (Voor, Slaughter (Can.)), then death (Obituary, Morbid Angel), then black (Averse Sefira, Emperor), and so on and so forth (this is a rough timeline and far from in-depth). Started consistently going to local underground shows in 2010 with a Hexlust/Birth A.D. show and haven’t stopped since, tinnitus and neckaches be damned.

No staff other than my girlfriend who drew the cover, provided some layout assistance, and took the photo of myself for the author section. UtSotLS is a personal project at the end of the day and I prefer there to be a consistent voice throughout the whole issue.

Why do you advertise as “anti-clickbait”? What does this mean in your own lexicon?

I wouldn’t necessarily call the above an advertisement since it was just a personal statement on my own Facebook page, but I do see it as a relevant approach. “Clickbait” refers to online publications that post eye-grabbing headlines or articles (often misleading) with the intention of bringing a lot of traffic to their site to make money off advertisement revenue (this doesn’t refer to the DMU obviously, haha). I write out of passion for writing and for the music that means more to me than any worldly possessions, not out of the need to fill my bank account. As a reflection of this, no band solicited a single review and there is not one advertisement in “Under the Sign of the Lone Star”: the content is there because I wanted to write about it, 100%.

The full statement “ANTI-CLICKBAIT RAG” was a tribute to Rok from Sadistik Exekution writing “ANTI-NORWAY SHIT” on his chest ages ago and I always love to cite SadEx (and Bathory, for that matter).

If someone wanted to know what bands/zines from Texas that they MUST know, who would you list?

Bands:

– Older: Necrovore, Hellpreacher, Blood Spill, Divine Eve, Dolmen, Absu, Averse Sefira, Rigor Mortis, Imprecation, Obeisance, dead horse, D.R.I, Devastation

– Newer: Hod, Hexlust, Birth A.D., Blaspherian, Morbus 666, Spectral Manifest, War Master, The Blood Royale, Church of Disgust (They’re split between TX and Florida, but that’s good enough for me), Funeral Ash, Whore of Bethlehem, Maiestas, Oath of Cruelty (who have members that are now in Morbosidad who get 666% support), Nexul/Hellvetron/Nyogthaeblisz, Termination Force, Skan, Id, Cleric, and Sigil. I’m just going to stop here since I can’t possibly list everyone – read issue #1 for plenty of examples!

– Zines:

Feral Noise was a killer one, as is Underworld Zine which I believe is based out of Houston if I’m not mistaken.

I understand you’re involved with the Metal Enema radio show. What’s that like? Do you consider yourself a ‘metal activist’?

Metalenema is no-holds barred insanity. I’m somewhat amazed that I haven’t been driven mad over my three-year tenure on the show, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. In all seriousness it’s a blast and one of the key ways that I myself find out about newer music from Undertaker’s contributions to our mixes (otherwise I would probably hole up in my cave listening to nothing but the same four Celtic Frost songs over and over again). We are proud to wave the flag of extreme metal over the airwaves and hopefully enlighten listeners to the way of death/black/thrash.

In all honesty I wouldn’t use the term “activist” to describe the way I live since it makes me think of stereotypical naïve teenagers with well-meaning-but-misguided political affiliations, but I do live for this music that burns inside of my soul. I enjoy plenty of other music, but metal is what set me free. Ad Majorem Metallum Gloriam : To the Death.

Many thanks to DMU for the interview! For the interested, a preview of the zine with a few interview scans is available at the link below:

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Help death metal ascend the throne again

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“If you live under a rock…” the old cliché begins, but the truth is that you can live in a glass house in the center of the world’s biggest city and still miss the obvious. Denial is the most universal of human traits, and without the application of discipline and honesty we are nothing more than “talking monkeys with car keys.”

Unless you live in denial, it is obvious to you that death metal is in a bit of a recession. That is to say: there are too many bands coupled with a lack of quality in all but a very few, which makes for the inflationary but bearish (negative) purchasing that marks a recession. As warned, rock ‘n roll assimilated death metal, the imitators came in, and now you have death metal flavored rock music with lite jazz mixed in to make it seem progressive and “deep.”

Very few people understand this because very few people stop to consider anything beyond their immediate wants. They want to be listening to good music, so they pretend what they have is good, and by doing so blind themselves to what is good and bad. This is a great way to walk right back down that evolutionary ladder, have your legs turn to nubs and then jump in the sea to become a fish. You have literally undone any higher thinking ability you have.

For those who want their music to be of actual quality, these times are grim. A few bands stand out — Blaspherian, War Master, Imprecation, Sammath, and Demoncy — while the rest fade into the background like hipsters, with each one trying so hard to be unique that it loses sight of the ability to express something deeper than aesthetic re-arranging of known ideas. Death metal bands today are like the guy with the beard, glasses, skinny jeans and snarky t-shirt who has ironically decided to wear an Iron Maiden jacket. He thinks he’s being different and unique and showing what a precious snowflake is, but when the camera zooms out he is in a group of special people who from a distance look like chaos. And that is what they are: they have no purpose, because they have replaced the idea of having purpose with the idea of looking like you have purpose.

By now, I have filtered out most of the human species. Very few care about the topic, being much more interested in their desires, judgments and feelings right now, a state which flatters their sense of self-worth, and very few more can handle the flow of words which would have been zero challenge to an eighth grader in 1950 but are complete bafflement and a threat to the ego to your average citizen in the 2010s. I have also pushed away those who want to be hipsters or other self-aggrandizing people, and been cruel to enough hopes and dreams of delusional people to shock and drive away the love-bunnies, kumbayas and other zombies of the postmodern intellectual landscape. This writing will also disturb those who depend on a system of rigid rules and strict obedience to dogma and money for their self-esteem; it requires humans who are willing to go beyond humanity and look toward reality itself, a.k.a. the results of actions by ourselves and others, for their meaning.

For those who remain: it is worth acting to put death metal back on top. It is surprisingly easy to do so. But you will have to get out of your comfort zones. What you must do will be revealed in the second part of this article, coming soon.

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Doom (2005)

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The rise of a new medium catches everyone by surprise, especially those who are trying to make it succeed. In the case of video gaming, the medium existed for many years before it came to maturity with the full-featured video games of the late 1990s, spurred on by the massive success of first-person shooter Doom, itself a followup on the renovation of the classic 1980s video game Wolfenstein with Wolfenstein 3D. Then, for reasons unknown, someone made a movie based in the world of Doom, and… it was good.

At the point in time when Doom III, the most proximate inspiration for this movie, emerged, video games had transitioned into something like a film which required user engagement. With full plot lines, accessories for the characters (we might blame 1980s Star Wars figures for this), ability to use in-game utilities to uncover plot, and complex goals to hide the banality of constant machine gun warfare, the new games hybridized all of the successful tropes of video games of the previous decade with the gestures of action movies that succeeded. This gave them new complexity and made the transition to movie more challenging if the film hoped to differentiate itself from the game. Early efforts were often horrifyingly bad. Doom corrects this with a fast-paced, tight-edited movie that keeps the plot of the game at its center, and pays extensive tribute to the game without becoming a string of in-jokes. This film could be watched without any knowledge of the game and it would be as compelling, as it is in fact brainier and more compelling than the average action film.

Doom begins in California, where a team of Marines are heading out to Las Vegas, NV, where an interstellar portal that opens on Mars has been discovered. Borrowing this idea from Edgar Rice Burroughs, the film mixes in bits of Stargate, Aliens and Starship Troopers to show us a group of hard-fighting colonial marines sent on a mission with few specifics. They discover an outbreak of a zombie-like disease which turns out to be a genetic mutation. The wrinkle is that this mutation does not so much change people as reveal what they actually are, and this creates a layer of character depth to the movie which proves instrumental to its plot and steers around the worst of the endless waves of enemies effect that early first-person shooters demonstrated. That being said, this film is designed as an action movie for young men, and so it adheres to the requirements of pleasing that audience. The hammy Dwayne Johnson delivers his usual stern facial muscles and straining deltoids, but his performance is not as central to the movie as the posters might have you believe. Ultra-gruff cinematic violence expert Karl Urban plays opposite to alternatively plain and striking Rosamund Pike, with whom the filmmakers pander to anticipated audience taste by ensuring that her relatively reserved clothing reveals the outline of breasts and nipples in every scene. That is the pulp fiction nature of both video games and action movies, however, and Doom pulls it off by being good-natured but not obsessive. The characters are part of the scenery, albeit scenery that evolves with the plot. As the film progresses, the character drama takes over, and then in one of the most enjoyable breaks in film history, the movie goes into first-person shooter mode for a finale that pays full loving tribute to the original video game.

Perhaps Doom will never be mentioned in East End coffee klatches or fashion magazines, and it may never attract more than a small die-hard cult audience, but it can be appreciated for its renovation of an otherwise uptight sub-genre of film and its ability to make what might otherwise easily deviate into idiot territory into a thoughtful and suspenseful film. The violence of raw first-person shooters here distills, as in Aliens but with less emphasis on pure suspense, to a game of anticipation in which characters must react suddenly to unexpected threats while in the midst of confusion and incredulity as they discover what is going on. The result is part mystery, mostly action film, and part the oldest type of sci-fi which is the exploration of the human being as revealed by his technology, in this case genetic engineering and 21st century violence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtXFlzZa-QA

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We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

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Often movies address a need for some voice to explore a certain idea, even if the implementation might be a bit shoddy. This movie attacks a necessary topic but does so in a way that while proficient in technique misses an opportunity to make the story come alive.

As many know, screenwriting possesses its own discipline of technique over content much as songwriting does, based on the kind of spreadsheet-logic that shows the sweet spot where 77% of people in a crowd understand and appreciate a gesture, which in aggregate makes the product successful. This “workshop style” of screenwriting arrives at this movie most likely through the book on which it is based, and prevents any wholehearted recommendation of this film. It addresses the mother of a child described as “evil” who is at the very least troubled in the kind of apathetic direction toward sociopathy that arises in children of narcissistic parents. Therein we find the issue, which is the question of what produced this child? His parents are not only narcissistic but have delusions of grandeur and apparently a fair amount of money; the child is also of mixed-race and somewhat gender-mixed as well. Kevin appears in this film as troubled from his youngest days through adulthood, but what is more difficult to watch is the obliviousness of parental response, and it is perhaps in this that the intent of this film rests: people are focused on using others as means to their own ends, and as a result, they raise children in a void of common sense, actual love, concern, discipline, authority and attention. Children are designed to be accessories to the self-importance — measured in career, wealth, social prestige and other external accomplishments — of the parents. As a result, children are left empty and unattended, and sometimes one of those takes that in a hostile direction.

While no spoilers will be given here, the plot is not hard to figure out since it is as said above “workshop style,” which means that it is based on the predictability of things and the reactions of people as if they were simply complex chemical compounds in unique situations. In my view, this is what makes We Need To Talk About Kevin somewhat tedious: it is wholly linear despite attempts of the filmmaker to break up the narrative over different threads in time. The story itself is linear. Narcissists raise child, cannot snap out of their own little worlds to do something about it and then… and then, what you might expect would happen happens, and the viewer ends up without much sympathy for anyone involved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGjjK5SMbJA

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 02-25-15

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What is the human problem? Everything we do is insincere, and any time someone rises above that standard, they are torn down out of the fear that their excellence might offend those who are mediocre, who (conveniently) comprise the majority of humanity. We separate mediocre conformity from people who make realistic, sincere and inspired art out of heavy metal genres, and ignore the blood on the floor and the tears on the fedora because feelings are always less important than truth. Step over the bodies of hipsters, poseurs, tryhards, SJWs, scenesters, day trippers, rationalization hamsters and sell-outs, and welcome to Sadistic Metal Reviews

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Torche – Restarter

What is sludge? It is what failed in other forms slowing itself down and mixing metal into its techniques in order to disguise that it has failed. If you tuned the guitars up, played it at mid-pace and avoiding the metal downstroke technique, Torche would be just another indie rock band in the late 90s style. The focus is on melancholic but egotistical vocal lines which are almost autistic and certainly narcissistic (and aren’t the two degrees of the same problem, which is exclusive self-referentiality?) in their tendency to confirm their precepts with their conclusions, backed by lots of downstrummed guitars and slow drums. In the 1990s, labels tried this style with Fudge Tunnel and later even Godflesh got in the game, but went nowhere, because people could realize the basic “Nirvana + doom” formula used back then. The formula now is even more basic. It is indie rock with metal technique and nothing else. Much of this sounds like outtakes from a Filter or Faith No More album, but updated with the kind of simplistic approach that became popular when music videos faded and became incorporated into mainstream cinema instead. This would be great background music for teenagers smoking dope by the old reservoir or similarly pointless rebellion that ends with them just getting locked into the system harder. This music is a fraud and its fans are idiots.

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Armageddon – Captivity & Devourment

The title refers to the album itself: it lures you in with the promise of extreme metal, then subjects you to the 80s speed metal/nu-metal/melodeath hybrid cooked up by music industry executives looking over Excel spreadsheets of sales successes, or maybe just opportunistic musicians. Either way, most of our species are simple-minded idiots and this music panders to them with lots of Pantera/Meshuggah style violent verses and binary riffs that sort of wiggle around in the space between two points, ending symmetrically on the opposite note from the one that resolves the first half of the phrase. Lots of e-chord rhythm riffing in this style combines randomly with other influences and creates an end result that is not quite as blatantly distracting “carnival music” as Behemoth but more like heavy metal featured in movies: it sounds good when the solo kicks in, but the rest is lead-up to that with industrial music style vocals disguised as metal, and random riffs fleshing out what are otherwise pop songs whose parts barely relate to one another. For all the instrumental prowess of this band, they seem to have no idea what to write, and it shows in this amalgam of label darlings lashed together with rhythm for the brain-damaged.

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Vermis Mortem – Evil Never Dies

The intro to this EP is pointless and should be deleted for being both without purpose and annoying. What follows is very closed-circuit death metal in a style like Angelcorpse merged with Hate Eternal and older Death, which is to say a very modern style, that emphasizes the vocals which lead songs through some rather stereotypical and extremely balanced and basic riffs. The result is painful boredom unless you like the vocals, which enunciate and jump around like a performer at a Shakespeare revival in the park, but this over-acting does not save us from the musical tedium of this release. It is catchy, its rhythms are compelling, but it develops nowhere. Vocal rhythms are obvious like children’s rhymes and riffs represent streamlined versions of what has worked well in the past 20 years, but in this streamlining, the parts of the riff that gave its shape interesting dimension are removed, and we are left with a three-part puzzle with no mystery. Burden a riff like that with the duty to provide support for vocals which are blurting out similarly quasi-catchy patterns and the result is a song which seems to chant in unison the most simplistic elements it has in common, and the listener is back in pop territory where repetition becomes a bludgeon and even small variations seem exciting. For as much as this band wants to be old school, its reliance on the ego — the vocals — forces it into surface-level composition and obliterates whatever of depth it may have hoped to express.

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Pentagram – Relentless

We can all agree that 90% of everything on earth is crap and that most people are merely self-interested, meaning that there is no greater dimension to them, and as they tend to be incompetent they become the type of parasite that takes everything for itself and then destroys it, left blaming others for its “misfortune.” Most people behave this way and because they are somewhat aware of this, they seek material to camouflage their mediocrity with irony, novelty and other “different” and “unique” signals. These signals allow them to defer criticism by showing how they aren’t like the rest, which is a way of saying they are afraid we will find out that they are exactly like the rest. Pentagram has become somewhat of a media favorite and a crowd favorite mainly because it is not metal. This is straight out of the 1960s rock explosion, focused on melodic hooks in chorus and voice acting on the verses. They even made a movie about this band and its strung out vocalist, as if trying to make Pentagram into the doom metal version of Roky Erikson. The problem here is that Pentagram is a step back to before Black Sabbath but uses the muted strum of speed metal and the detuning of a heavy metal band, although its songs really have more in common with the previous generation. Beware of what the herd likes because they are liars trying to conceal their mediocrity, and this applies doubly with Pentagram. This band would not have gone far as a regular rock band but if you add the novelty factor of doom metal plus Satan-ish overtones, people are interested. Stoner doom metal is generally a fraud that disguises failed rock as innovative metal, and Pentagram is no exception. The herd lies and it will destroy anything it can control in its desperate quest to hide its own lack of soul, integrity and purpose. Throw this band in the ditch with the other 60s burnouts and move on to real, actual metal instead.

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Acid King – Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

Heavy metal grew out of many influences including psychedelic music. The challenge to psychedelic music is to make sound that induces hallucinogenic experience in sober people, not to create music which appeals only to the very stoned with cover art that looks good next to a bag of Cheetos. Like most stoner rock, Acid King is a fraud: basically slow jam rock with heavy distortion played with a few aesthetic elements of doom metal, but essentially unchanged from the 1970s jive that sent people fleeing to heavy metal in the first place. This is boring music played slowly to disguise how little actually goes on. A female vocal drones alongside a rock-style riff, with no “shape” as metal riffs have, and then guitars wheedle-beedle and zeetly-zeetly-zeet after prolonged “melodic” solo introductions that are merely repetitive. If you are very high, preferably on the higher grade of cheap weed that deactivates all higher brain function except what is required to order pizza and play NES ironically, you may find this appealing because it is sonically well-formed and texturally distinctive enough. But there is no meaning here, nor even a really good distraction, which tends to be the case with all stoner doom (which we might as well be honest and call “nu-doom” or “nu-heavy” metal).

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Eternal Solstice – Remnants of Immortality

What a horror: death metal styling applied like vinyl siding to what is essentially hard rock with an addiction to uniform conclusions and obvious riff forms. It is just blockhead, paint-by-numbers death metal. At this point, nothing more needs be said except to mention the electronic vocals, which would not be a problem except they sound like a bad American crime show where the bad guy uses a voice disguiser bought from Radio Shack back in the 1970s to hide his identity when calling over a pay phone. The style alone would not doom this band, if they could simply make hard rock in the heavier vein somewhere between early Motley Crue and later Pantera, but their music is just boring. No harmonic or melodic hook exists, and the rhythmic hook consists of the same type of expectation that comes from waiting for the person in the apartment above to drop the second shoe on the floor before retiring to bed for the night. Sometimes, bands like this get miscalled “heavy” because they are numbing through repetition and sheer simplistic mentality to their riff-writing, and Eternal Solstice qualifies in this department. What drives you to listen to this band is the quasi-OCD that people on the internet talk about, which is that if there is a basic sequence of events, you want to see it completed. Other than that, no appeal, and this one should go back to the pits of hell for recycling.

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Recueil Morbide – Morbid Collection

Recueil Morbide takes the fertile music of the late 1980s where bands verged on death metal from speed metal and adds to it a sense of melody and modern metal vocals. The result attempts to fuse the Unique Leader style of brutal deathcore with melodeath and come out with a good result, which this band mostly does, but is limited by the demands of the style that it keep within one level of cause and effect, resulting in pounding riffs and soaring melodic passages being used as effects in otherwise fairly straightforward death metal songs. That is distinct from the classic death metal approach which used structure to express content, instead of doing so on the surface where structure was recombinant and vocals, lyrics, effects, etc. were required to make an impression on the listener. Too much of Recueil Morbide takes the same approach and the result is that meaning and interest — what distinguishes this band from all others — are left on the surface with a feeling of being unexplored. If this band wants to succeed, they will focus less on the stuff everyone else does and more on what they do, taking it from 10% of this album to a much higher figure. As a side note, the melodies that this band writes sound like variations on the James Bond theme, which happens several times on this release. Maybe it’s an allusion.

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Znafelriff – Ruin

Creating melodic death/black with simple song structures, Znafelriff uses a number of influences along these lines — “Ruin” borrows quite a bit from “Mountains of Might” from Immortal Blizzard Beasts — to forge together music which keeps charging energy high but never intensifies the energy itself, leading to a kind of circularity. Songs start, launch into a riff, add a counterpoint riff, and then cycle until they wear down. When the band wants more power, they add blasting drums and more extreme vocals; for emotion, they work in melody. Many parts of this resemble early Tormentor given a death metal makeover. While nothing is particularly wrong here, it leaves no particular impression either since songs are exercises in maintaining a mood rather than developing it, and the style is a semi-unique mix of standard influences resulting in a genericism of low expectations. If this band wants to move further toward excellent, it should rely less on vocals and more on combining riffs to create a focal point at which atmosphere shifts, and to make that atmosphere resemble something other than a vague uncertainty, darkness and rage.

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Nader Sadek – The Malefic: Chapter III

When I first heard this artist, I thought: someone attempting to make something of the Hate Eternal style, itself a smart move by Eric Tucker which tried to harness the appeal of modern metal through a style that still retained the coherence of older metal. The problem artists deal with is that this style brooks no compromise. It demands constant charging vocals ahead of the drums with insistent patterns and those lead the song, which crowds out other instruments as lead, which demotes guitar to a secondary role and thus demotes melody and structure as well, in favor of relatively monotonic vocals. Guitars appear as adornments to this basic style, which is closer to pop than heavy metal, but when the detour is over the ranting vocals resume. This forces the band to cram its best activities into relatively small areas of each song. Nader Sadek struggles with this impossible burden as well. It is simply paradoxical. The interesting parts of these songs are the little transitions and flights of fancy between the “hard” verse riffs with charging vocals and the parts of the solos that are designed to be fireworks for a “wow factor” with the mouth-breathing, fetus-hands and neck-bearded audience. Can’t some label give this artist enough money that he can write songs based on those interesting parts, instead of the parts which we know the herd will clap its little hands without forearms for? The style betrays the artist.

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Ossuaire – “Le Troubadour Necrophageophile” (demo 2014)

For that feeling of old school mid-paced death metal, Ossuaire makes a credible stab: good riff variation, songs fit together well, but with too much emphasis on vocals and not enough on structure, and often too much reliance on riffs that make their hook out of brief interruption of utter predictability. Those disadvantages are minor compared to the overall appeal of this brief recording which is its ability to keep intensity in a death metal style without relying on crutches, and while maintaining a character of its own, somewhere between old Morgoth, Infester and later Suffocation. The challenge for this band will not be to develop its own style, although it will want to go further in that direction, but to edit its material so that it presents its most dramatic elements at the right time after the right build-up, and so creates the kind of mood-shifting experience that made classic death metal great. All of the parts are there and the execution rapidly approaches that place; it would be aided with less reliance on the vocalist, which as many classic death metal bands found out, results in lessening of the influence of other instruments which bends composition back toward the rock/pop standard, which is designed as background music for vocals which exist to blurt out some message of peacelove or happiness, which was generally the point of rock ‘n roll. Ossuaire have done well to escape that, but if they do better, can be a top-flight death metal band.

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Keep of Kalessin – Epistemology

This band went from being a bad black metal imitation to being a thinly-disguised modern metal band that uses melodic choruses to hide its otherwise bog-standard post-Pantera speed metal approach. Their “black metal” combined boring tryhard blasting with purposeless folk-metal styling and fooled a number of people, most notably the clueless NWN/FMP crowd, but apparently eventually the market caught up with them and started over-producing sing-song black metal so Keep of Kalessin switched to what could easily fit into the MTV hard rock of the late 80s with a stylistic upgrade to be contemporary. The melodic hooks are adequate but of well-known forms, and verses emphasize some kind of drama to distract from the underlying purposelessness, and the songs progress according to the formula of friendly verse, dramatic chorus, a brief bridge with noodly solo and then return to the loop. This formula appears in all rock, techno, blues, etc. and serves its purpose well for being background music to the unexceptional lives of the many people out there who, unwilling to step beyond the bounds of self to escape narcissism, flit from one distraction to the next without caring much about content. For anyone with a functional brain or any listening experience, Keep of Kalessin rings hollow and seems as commercial as it secretly is underneath the skin. It would be more honest to pick up an old Def Leppard album where these riff patterns and song forms are crafted with more conviction, and the nature of the music does not have to hide itself behind pretense, subterfuge and illusion.

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Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion by Durrell Bowman

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Canada’s Rush keeps its fingers in many worlds, including that of 70s heavy metal, and as a result often attracts metalheads. Durrell Bowman attempts to explain the appeal of this band through perhaps the best method possible, which is to analyze the music itself and only secondarily and sparingly reinforce what is learned with extracts from interviews. Unlike most rock writers, he focuses on the output from the band rather than the discussion or buzz surrounding it, and as a result is able to pull out intention through the band and its reaction to the changes in the experience of its members of the years and how that translates into artistic voicing.

Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion walks through Rush by eras of the band from its early hard rock days to its more progressive-rock influenced middle period to the later middle period of AOR (although this term is not used) very similar to 80s music like Boston, Asia, ZZ Top and the Eagles. In his analysis, Bowman attempts to answer one of the fundamental questions: is Rush a progressive rock band? If not, what are they? And how does this reconcile with their many different internal influences and the many different external styles, including a technologically-hip 90s format, which have cloaked the music of this band? Bowman gives his conclusions in a short introduction and then analyzes the work of the band song by song, divided into albums and the aforementioned eras. The result is a picture slowly emerging of a rock band with many different influences who wanted to play essentially power pop but with a guitar-driven appeal, like later Yes albums such as 90215. Into this, the self-taught musicians mix material from a wide range of influences as part of a philosophy of the band which Bowman slowly peels away during successive chapters: a leftist-libertarian political outlook, a personal individualism, dogmatic atheism and a studied eclecticism to find support for these ideas across different cultures and disciplines. Like their music, their philosophies are a grab-bag of what supports their fundamental worldview, which Bowman reveals as very much localized to and shaped by their experience growing up.

What Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion offers to the world of music is not so much conclusions, however, as critical points for analysis. The entire book functions as an outline of the output of the artist with vital points addressed such as musical techniques used, including juicy details on time signature and scale/harmony, but also rather intelligently looking into the music as a series of patterns and avoiding a deep immersion in music theory. As a result, Bowman compares abstract patterns found in the music to what they symbolize in life, which works well for progressive rock bands who tend to be mimetic in their approach generally, but works doubly well for Rush, who are differentiated from progressive rock (although they incorporate many of its techniques) by their tendency toward music that is more symbolic or defined in human terms rather than imitating the objects or experiences the humans are undergoing. This rather fine distinction highlights why many progressive rock fans find Rush distasteful, and why many Rush fans find progressive rock inscrutable: the two take different approaches, and the Rush approach is closer to that taken by power pop bands than what progressive rock bands attempt. It both makes the music easier to comprehend, because the meaning in the lyrics is “acted out” by the music, and explains how Rush is able to escape its normative AOR format by incorporating so many different styles as if they were brush techniques in a painting, namely that it uses whatever techniques are appropriate for rendering its vision, much like it picks from disparate philosophies, literature and religion bits and pieces which it can use to illustrate its own philosophy and ideology. Through this insight Bowman stands heads above the other writers on this topic.

Turning from the technical arts of the band to the technique of the writer, Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion shows us what rock journalism could be — some of us would say should be — by digging into this band in the only way that honors their efforts, which is to take them seriously as people by investigating their art for what it attempts to express as a communication between artist and fans. DMU has always taken this approach to death metal which has made us a minority in not just a metal underground but a rock scene which would rather write about where a band is from, their ironic personalities, the production of albums, how much the fans love it, or what trend the band belongs to. This treats artists like simpletons and fans like yeast with credit cards (although some might say this accurately portrays humanity anno 2015). Bowman takes the opposite approach, which is to avoid academic-ese and also rock journalist ideo-jive, and instead to look at this band with an intelligent common sense approach by picking apart each song to see what makes it work, both as a communications device and as an experience to enjoy. With the force of Rush fans behind him, hopefully Bowman can convince more of the music world to join him in this approach, which like the scientific method for materials should be the de facto standard for music.

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