Amon Amarth releases first single from Jomsviking

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLh_CJ4G-0Q

Amon Amarth is basically ‘beginner’ metal, although sometimes it’s very hard for us at DMU to hold that against them. Their latest effort, Jomsviking, comes out on March 25th and is already available for preorder from Metal Blade Records. The provided promotional video for “First Kill” continues Amon Amarth’s legacy of basic rock music with death metal aesthetics, and the fact that the band has stuck to this approach for their entire career (although their first few albums were allegedly a bit more complex) is non-news at best. After this album’s release, Amon Amarth will be going on a lengthy tour of the US with Entombed A.D and Exmortus that will last most of April and May.

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Interview with Condemner

condemner band photo

We covered Condemner’s Omens of Perdition recently and found quite a bit to like in its death metal stylings. When the band reached out to us for an interview, staff writer Corey M rose to the occasion and spoke with the band members.


CM: First, please introduce yourselves and describe your roles in making Condemner’s music.

PB: I am PB. I play guitar and handle drum programming, song writing, and, thus far, most lyric writing.
JH : I am JH and I provide all vocals and bass.

CM: Can you give us a brief history of Condemner? What inspired you to write and play metal?

PB: As an entity, Condemner was formed in October of 2015, but the seeds of it date back to Summer of 2009. At that point, I had been playing guitar for a few years, but everything I wrote was black metal in a harmony-heavy style reminiscent of French bands such as Mutiilation or Haemoth. At the time, I felt that death metal was too limited; I had, incorrectly, perceived it as a sub-genre that was almost entirely focused on immediate facts of what we see in front of us in the world, entirely sacrificing the “spiritual” in the process; focused on the phenomenon, rather than the noumenon, for those who dislike such “religious” descriptions. What changed all of this was seeing Imprecation live for the first time in Summer of 2009. That band’s performances conjure the dark aether in the way that I had only associated with black metal. This revelation, combined with the fact that I felt like my black metal songwriting was a bit overwrought and emotionally overindulgent and needed more discipline, made the path clear to me, and I started writing death metal in the style that you hear on Omens of Perdition. “Reverence Towards the Pernicious Tyrant”, in particular, dates back to these earliest days. Originally, I didn’t have any plans to turn it into an actual band, and was just writing the songs for my own pleasure, with the occasional quick-and-dirty guitar-only recording so I could easily remember my own material, but a friend and mentor in the Texas metal scene who I have the highest respect for told me to turn it into something “real”, and shot down every excuse I made for not doing so, at which point I started learning drum programming, multi-tracking, and the rest of the things that would be required to make a proper recording.

As for what inspired me to write and play metal as opposed to something else entirely — I’m was a hessian before I was a musician, so I was obviously going to write what I love.

JH: I will only speak to my own history in Condemner: I was approached to record vocals on Omens of Perdition in late winter 2015 and took over the bass duties when the individual that was originally going to record bass dropped out of the project. I learned and recorded all of the bass parts on Omens of Perdition in less than a day and completed the vocals a short while later. The demo was digitally released in December and the reception has been very positive in the underground.

The initial inspirations for myself (assuming we’re starting from the beginning) were the usual suspects of ‘80’s Metallica, Slayer, and Sepultura as a teenager which led to bands like Voor and Slaughter (Can.) which led further down the path of death metal, black metal, etc. Inspirations as far as vocal performances for Condemner are Ross Dolan of Immolation, Nick Holmes of (early) Paradise Lost and Chris Gamble of Goreaphobia for their articulation of lower growls. Craig Pillard on the first two Incantation albums was definitely an influence for the demo as well. MkM of Antaeus is always an influence — although I am using my lower range in Condemner instead of my typical higher range, MkM’s intensity is something that resonates with me regardless of which range I am using. Finally, Rok of Sadistik Exekution is an example of the complete primal fury that every metal vocalist should attempt to channel.

CM: Condemner’s lyrics read like actual worship of death as both a real eventual experience and an abstract concept personified by an evil force. Is this on purpose? And if so, how specifically do the lyrics fit with the rest of the music?

PB: This is on purpose, but it’s a means, not an end. Speaking for the three songs I wrote the lyrics to, the key concepts are strictness and severity. Often in death metal, evil and Satan are seen as stand-ins for liberation and freedom, but there’s another side to this coin — not just opposer, but accuser as well. Black Sabbath wrote “Begging mercies for their sins/Satan laughing spreads his wings”, Slayer wrote “Bastard sons begat your cunting daughters/Promiscuous mothers with your incestuous fathers/Engreat souls condemned for eternity/Sustained by immoral observance a domineering deity”, Immolation wrote “Glorious flames… Rise above/Show us pain… And cleanse our world”, and Condemner follows along the same lines, seeing death, evil, and Satan as the whip that justly lashes across the back and the flames that rightly burn the flesh of weak, failing humanity. This is the source of the band’s name, as well as the lyrics — “Condemner” is an antonym for “pardoner”. No forgiveness.

As for how the lyrics fit with the rest of the music, the music is always written first (writing lyrics-first is part of what caused my older black metal works to be overindulgent), and then words are written to match the composition — first, more generally, as a song title, and then, more specifically, as actual lyrics. Some might notice the parallel between the lyrical topics and my own intent for the music here to be more disciplined than my previous works, but this wasn’t intentional; I didn’t notice it myself until long after I had already decided on Condemner’s concept.

JH: I can’t speak so much on the writing side of things, but I would say that I see death as a force to be honored and revered for its might. I prefer to not speak too much on the matter but the lyrics I contributed for the demo’s final track “Blood On The Oak (Death’s Wisdom Great)” are about an experience I had in which I was confronted with that might. It was a triumph of death, to say the least. I relate my own experiences to PB’s lyrics as well, although again I will not speak much on the subject.

I would completely say that the lyrics fit the morbidity of the music — any other lyrical topics would be monstrously out-of-place for an atmosphere like this. Interestingly enough, the lyrics for “Blood on the Oak” were initially written in late 2014 and were used in two different bands that each split up before the song could be recorded, but I would say that it has found a perfect home in Condemner.

CM: The individual riffs on Omens of Perdition are relatively simple when compared to what a lot of contemporary so-called “technical” metal bands are doing. Was that simplistic approach something that you chose on purpose or did that style of having all your instruments playing melody in unison just come about naturally?

PB: The riffs on Omens of Perdition aren’t technical because I don’t like the music that most “technical” metal bands make. With a few exceptions (Demilich!!!), it’s all attention-grabbing pyrotechnics with little portent behind it. It wasn’t a conscious decision — there’s no way that someone who loves Profanatica and hates Necrophagist is going to make something like Necrophagist. As to the instruments playing in unison, that was simply a result of how the songs were written — as mentioned earlier, all of the music was originally written for a single guitar, so the other instruments were always destined to follow the guitar.

JH: For the bass, everything is kept simple and following the guitar parts for maximum force and impact on the listener. I see Condemner as following the Tom G. Warrior school of “less is more”, and I’d say that the end result was successful.

CM: Can you explain (in as great or little detail as you want) the process of writing a song? Does it begin by jamming until new riffs emerge or is there a more structured method?

PB: Generally, it starts with me coming up with a melody in my head, and turning it over in my head for a few days, silently humming variations of it to myself. Once I’ve done that, I can generally pick up my guitar and write riffs that complement the one that I had in my head with little trouble, and then I can work on expanding that narrative, writing contrasting riffs and looping the structure back on itself as is fit. The real meat of the process, though, is simply playing the song until there’s something about it that I dislike, fixing that problem, and then repeating that process over and over. There’s one song on Omens of Perdition that’s an exception to this rule — “Executioner’s Canticle” was built around a structuring technique I had noticed Morbid Angel using on “Maze of Torment”.

JH: Currently PB writes all Condemner material and most of the lyrics (I wrote “Blood on the Oak (Death’s Wisdom Great)”); an arrangement that is working well. PB and I are located several hours apart and lack a human drummer, so “jamming” in the traditional sense isn’t really an option.

CM: Being from Texas, are you part of a uniquely regional style or does your expression of death metal run counter to any regional paradigm?

PB: I don’t think there really is a “Texas death metal sound” in the way that there’s a “Stockholm death metal sound” or a “New York death metal sound”. That said, I think it’s obvious that Imprecation and Blaspherian had an influence on Condemner’s style.

JH: While Texas has some of the strongest contenders to the death metal throne in its ranks, I would not say that Condemner sounds like many acts within our region. I believe that the closest would be in the form of some of the Houston death cults such as Imprecation and Blaspherian, but we are far from clones.

CM: What are the plans for Condemner’s future? Do you intend to gather a full line-up for live shows?

PB: No live shows are planned. I’m not opposed to the idea, but JH and I live about four hours apart, so logistics for rehearsals would be difficult. As for what’s planned for the future, most immediately, physical versions of Omens of Perdition will be coming soon — ZKD, whose work you have seen on the cover of all three issues of “Under the Sign of the Lone Star”, has agreed to do the cover art. A second demo, “Burning the Decadent”, with four more songs written in the period from 2009-2015, is planned; I currently plan on beginning the recording process in the Spring, which means you’ll probably hear it some time in the Summer. What happens beyond that is unknown, and dependent on the resources available and how long it ends up taking me to write new material.

JH: The reception to Omens of Perdition has been killer for sure, and there will certainly be new material. There are plans for a physical format of Omens as well, as the cover art is still in progress.

It would be great to perform these songs on a stage some day, although PB and I are currently separated by a distance of several hours which makes the idea of rehearsal logistically complex. I also maintain a heavy schedule with other bands not named here (as I do not want Condemner to be any “featuring members of X” act – it stands on its own) which adds complications to the idea of getting together to play live. Still, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out in the future, especially since live session members wouldn’t be hard to find within my network.

CM: Any last words?

PB: Thanks to Deathmetal.org, both for the support of Condemner, and for keeping the flame of the DLA alive! As mentioned, physical copies of Omens of Perdition will be available soon– keep an eye out!

JH: Thanks to all who have supported this group in its short existence, including Left Hand Path Designs for the excellent logo. For the unaware, Omens of Perdition may be downloaded for free on the Condemner Bandcamp (a pay option is also provided for the inclined). Nothing more needs to be said — the music speaks for itself.

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Megadeth – Dystopia (2016)

megadeth_dystopia

Megadeth has cycled between obvious mainstream rock pandering and careful imitation of their best appreciated works at an ever accelerating rate since their reformation in 2004. If this trend keeps up, they’ll be changing styles with every strum of their guitars in a few years. Dystopia isn’t quite as quick to alter its own sounds as that rather implausible hypothetical peak, but it’s still obviously colored by two colliding trends; Dave Mustaine’s desire to outsell Metallica, and the fact that even relatively extreme metal can sell enormous volumes in 2016. This makes what would be yet another comeback album into a surprisingly disjointed experience at times.

In general, Dystopia provides its potential listeners with several varieties of vintage Megadeth to peruse at their leisure, ranging from the technical wizardry of the ’80s and Rust in Peace (arguably the musical peak of this band) to the streamlined pop metal that immediately followed such, and even hints of recent albums through conceptual and musical continuity. Beyond the vocals of Dave Mustaine and the frequent guitar leads, though, there’s little that distinguishes this from other poppy speed metal of the mid 2010s, especially since this is one of those dime-a-dozen studio perfect recordings with perfectly appropriate production and instrumentation. One definite problem, however is that Dave Mustaine’s vocal and lyrical contributions have decayed in quality in recent years. Megadeth’s always been political at the best of times, but more often than not the lyrics devolve into political sloganeering that might be appropriate if he actually ran for president of the USA. In song format, though, all they do is annoy, irritate, and pander. Mustaine also relies increasingly on digital processing to mask the age-related decay of his voice, most notably on “Fatal Illusion“. This isn’t an innately bad thing, and you could theoretically make a case for the chorusing and harmonies opening new ideas for Megadeth to explore, but it pushes unneeded emphasis on the vocals, so even the average listener that decides that the technique sounds kind of cool might find it grating regardless. Perhaps I shouldn’t be focusing on the vox too much, but when the rest of the album is competent and yet unremarkable, it’s sometimes the only option.

In short, Dystopia is kind of disposable; most metal albums that try to approximate known classics are. It’s still better than Repentless, but the “Big Four” have all since run out of momentum, which makes Dystopia‘s slick technical competence marred by excessive streamlining even more unremarkable than it would otherwise be. The last time Megadeth tried their hands at this, they cranked out Endgame, which was well received at the time of its release and generally similar in approach, but has since faded from the public eye. Do you still have space in your listening rotation for Endgame? If you don’t, you won’t have time for Dystopia either.

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Upcoming Tours – Tau Cross

So Tau Cross’s debut made our best of 2015 list. That should make their upcoming short tour a worthwhile endeavor; time will obviously tell us whether that was an accurate appraisal. This group (featuring members of Amebix and Voivod amongst others) will be playing a few dates in the USA on the boundary of March and April, as well as two in Canada. Furthermore, they’ll be following it up with a performance at Roadburn in the Netherlands. While this doesn’t provide all that many options for seeing the band perform live, it’s still something to consider if you have an opportunity to see live shows. No supporting acts have been announced yet, but the dates follow:

Mar. 29 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
Mar. 31 – Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge
Apr. 01 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Cativo
Apr. 02 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition
Apr. 03 – Montreal, QC @ Katacombs
Apr. 04 – Boston, MA @ Middle East
Apr. 06 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot and Saddle
Apr. 07 – Washington, DC @ The Pinch
Apr. 08 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
Apr. 09 – Brooklyn, NY @ Acheron

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Brutality – Sea Of Ignorance (2016)

brutality_-_sea_of_ignorance

My experiences with Brutality prior to Sea of Ignorance‘s release lead me to believe that all of their works take a disproportionate acclimatization in order to properly comprehend, only surpassed in my experience by the wall of voodoo that is Incantation’s debut. This album has little to do with Incantation’s style, like most of their others, but it has only reinforced my hypothesis. Brutality’s take on “melodic” death metal consistently contains enough harmonic hooks in the riffs to draw a listener in, but odds are you’ll only find their music truly rewarding if you give it some time to sink in. That’s not exactly suited to the fast paced world of online music criticism (advertising thinly veiled as criticism), but odds are you’ll get more out of Brutality’s latest than your average death metal album even if you don’t give it a proper chance.

In general, Sea of Ignorance varies only subtly from its predecessors, and most of these changes play out on the surface. Brutality settled on their current approach early in their career, occupying the liminal space between their often sparser Florida contemporaries and the emphasis on structural and harmonic complexity of a band like At the Gates. The comparison to the latter has come up on occasion when DMU covers this band’s exploits, but Brutality synthesizes enough disparate influences that pulling any one out is difficult, although in my more comparative moments I might bring up Autopsy, since the band plays around with speed and atmosphere enough to significant enhance their formula. Sea of Ignorance follows from previous works in a fairly predictable way – more emphasis upon melody and simpler, more streamlined song structures than the past, but when they aren’t flat out covering Bathory (“Shores in Flames”), the lineage is obvious.

My opinion on this album is ultimately very similar to how I felt about Skull Grinder, although like most of the comparisons I’ve made in this review it’s a comparison of convenience as opposed to significant musical similarity. Sea of Ignorance is a stylistically appropriate if not particularly ambitious continuation of Brutality’s previous work; while it’s not particularly essential if you own any of those albums, it’s still a valuable purchase for those who want to study the strong points of this sort of death metal, and a good enough release to be worth financially supporting.

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Decapitated releases PV for “Veins” off Blood Mantra

Decapitated from Poland used to be the darling of many a metalhead back in the 2000s; their original technical death metal style reminiscent of Vader and their youth making for many fruitful marketing campaigns. Nothing of that sort remains; the Decapitated of the current decade is modern, sleek, and understandably pretty banal. Recently, they commissioned an animated music video featuring the talents of Lukasz Rusinek, whom on this video showcases a stark and minimalistic visual style to go along with the chugs. I’m not familiar enough with Decapitated’s early work to say whether their formative work had any merit, but I highly doubt that this is an improvement.

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Naðra – Allir Vegir Til Glötunar (2016)

nadra

Article by David Rosales

It is hard to ascertain if it’s pretentiousness or merely a poor appreciation of classic minimalist metal that brings about all these very underdeveloped (or simply shitty) releases. It seems that most of these would-be musicians think that all it takes to put out a folk-melodic black metal album is to write a simple consonant melody in standard time signature, play it in with tremolo picking, use variations of blast beats and mid-paced double-bass drums and a combination of bark-scream-screeches and the now-fashionable “war calls”.

The result of this sort of thinking is, again, surface oriented and only manages to turn what was originally a unique expression that bubbled up from a deep feeling into a list of characteristics to be filled in order to sound appealing to a particular demographic of undiscerning music fans. Rather than beat up another mediocre artist of absolutely no relevance, we must also turn our muskets in the direction of the masses of uncaring metal fans who take no heed of who they “vote up” or what they buy as long as it is mildly pleasing.

It is you, the average fan, that decides what sort of projects receive support and that subpar music is put aside. The old excuse of supporting up-coming acts that may in time improve and write outstanding music is a poor one. Let them struggle, let them first earn their merit. Metal is no aristocratic art that needs spoiled kids to have their ego stroked so that they somehow become musical geniuses. No legendary metal album is the result of undeserved favors, they are all, almost invariably, the result of struggle, of blood and tears.

For the sake of metal itself, if not for the sake of your own mental health and nutrition, throw away and put aside all projects that stand on the same quality level as Naðra Allir Vegir Til Glötunar. This has absolutely nothing to do with production. This has absolutely nothing to do with monetary support for touring. This is about not only creativity but the perseverance, ability and knowledge or intuition to arrange convincing structures that amount to Dionysian calls from the inner man. Allir Vegir Til Glötunar is only dead weight for the metal genre.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature – Vargstuhr – Howlings (2015)

vargstuhr

Article by David Rosales

Musical genres work very much like languages, transmitting information at an abstract level, albeit simultaneously at a much more intuitive and unconscious level, hence its surfacing in the form of emotions. Unfortunately, many musicians fall into the trap of taking forms and cliches merely as that: a formula that is interpreted either as a constraint or a shortcut. Neither approach correctly assesses the real value of so-called cliched forms and expressions.

Vargstuhr’s Howlings presents a pop opera variation of this thinking by making a wolf-pack themed album whose center are the lyrics. All music revolving around it is incidental and it tends to twist around in its particular emphasis while roughly remaining in the area of a third-grade black metal act with very poorly thought-out interactions between the vocals and the music. Like any opera-like production, it tries to keep its eye on themes of some kind, but the music is still too secondary and plays more like an excuse for a soundtrack.

Besides its poor structuring, Howlings also fails at a local performance level, managing to sound awkward in almost each of the instruments at least at some point. We normally do not complain at all about production, but here the music is so bad that the excessively out of balance mix emphasizes the flaws of the album. The only prize Vargstuhr will be winning here is an award for one of the most uncomfortable albums to listen to in recent memory.

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Zloslut – U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama (2015)

zloslut 2015

Article by Corey M

Serbian black metal group Zloslut received some well-deserved coverage on DMU in 2013 when they released their first album, Zloslutni Horizont – Donosilac Prokletstva, Očaja I Smrti, in which the musicians demonstrated a humble and patient method of constructing epic songs based around the simplicity of a few chord changes. This method contrasts (pleasantly) with the typical songwriting method of modern black metal bands, which is to hurl rapid-fire oppositional riff pairs at the listener with the intention of disorienting and distracting from the lack of any coherent musical thread. Zloslut’s music promises a refreshing return to the minimalist style that the best black metal bands of the early 1990s used to produce memorable and effective songs.

U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama moves at a familiar pace for the experienced listener, but the albums dynamics are generally so well-balanced that even someone not engaged in black metal would not be offended or confused by the aural layout. The average intensity of the music is nearer to that of In the Glare of Burning Churches than Pure Holocaust, which means that each song has plenty of room to breathe and the listener never feels battered or overwhelmed by density or speed. Songs themselves are built out of a handful of chord cycles that are aesthetically consistent and highly motivational; never does a chord cycle become so stale that you will actually desire its end to relieve boredom, but never is a riff so complex that it blows by and is forgotten for not having been catchy or repeated enough. Each segment of music is paced accordingly and results in each song becoming a miniature journey of sorts, leading the listener along a path through moments of surprise, anger, despair, hatred, and finally toward some appropriate resolution that can’t be described in text, only experienced sonically.

Zloslut’s success stems from the songwriter’s intuitive sense of balance and momentum. When a song picks up speed, the tension increases but is balanced out with slower-moving riffs played with more major intervals. After a song has expended its motivational energy, the guitars drop down and drag the melody through murky valleys of foreboding and loss. I want to be clear that the dynamic balance maintained throughout this album does not mean that the experience is emotionally flat; rather, that every peak is paired with a valley, and every action has an equal and opposite (or, is it complimentary?) reaction. The spacious feel of the album allows for stretches of melancholic introspection like one might find themselves amidst while listening to Vampires of Black Imperial Blood or the more recent When the Light Dies. But don’t make the mistake of associating Zloslut with the emo-leaning depressive style that has crept into the black metal canon over the last decade. U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama is ferocious and concedes nothing, sparks the listener’s imagination, and encourages one to seek out and confront the obscure biases and phobias that lurk in the far-flung corners of the psyche.

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