Rigor Mortis releases Welcome to Your Funeral: The Story of Rigor Mortis documentary

rigor_mortis_-_documentary_-_welcome_to_your_funeral

Texas speed metal band Rigor Mortis, famed for their fast strum and melodic but savage riffs, have released Part 1 of the documentary about the band, Welcome to Your Funeral: The Story of Rigor Mortis, which covers the formation of the band up through 1987.

During their time, Rigor Mortis slashed out three albums and an EP, and influenced both death metal and black metal bands with their style and technique. The band describes the release with the following:

A film by Michael Huebner of 12 Pound Productions
Directed by Bruce Corbitt
Narrated by Philip H. Anselmo.
Running time is 110 minutes with 33 minutes of bonus material.

This is the story of North Texas-based Rigor Mortis and the meteoric rise of one of the most original and influential speed metal bands of all time. The stranger-than-fiction rollercoaster ride that has to be seen to be believed. This film takes you back to the earliest beginnings of the band, through their highly controversial signing to Capitol Records in 1987. The infamous Rigor Mortis…
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Of Metal!

Cast in Order Of Appearance
Mike Scaccia
Bruce Corbitt
Casey Orr
Harden Harrison
Jerry Warden
Jeff Dennis
Rick Perry
Philip H. Anselmo
Wayne Abney
Jeffrey Liles
Walter Trachsler
Scott Shelby
Sal Torneo
Turner Scott Van Blarcum
Rachel Matthews
John Perez
Stuart Taylor

Plus of course we can’t forget… featuring the music of Rigor ‘Fucking’ Mortis!

You can acquire your copy through the Rigor Mortis Documentary Store.

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Deathfests went wrong way on Disma

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Nothing makes a big deal out of something faster than making a big deal out of it. – Martin M. Jacobsen, Ph.D.

It’s old news that the Maryland Deathfest, California Deathfest, and the Netherlands Deathfest removed New Jersey death metal band Disma from their shows, citing vocalist Craig Pillard’s association with the Nazi band Sturmführer and his public embrace of right-wing positions.

The fests had the right to remove Disma. I’m not really writing about that. Pillard has the right to embrace any position he wishes. I’m not really writing about that either. I have no sympathy for Nazi thinking, and I’ve noted a wave of Nazi apologia flying around the net lately, which may have contributed to Disma’s difficulties. I’m generally put off by overtly political bands that place ideology of any kind before musical expression. But I’m not really writing about my positions or political bands either. I’m disinclined to discuss SJWs or criticize the fests or Pillard or Sturmführer.

This editorial addresses the imbecility of the outcome of banning Disma from these fests or other shows. Since removing Disma from the playbill has become a bandwagon phenomenon, Sturmfuhrer and Nazism have benefited. If these fests would have let Disma play, it stands to reason that fewer people would have been “affected” than have been reached by the news of banning them. As Pillard and countless other have correctly pointed out, Disma is not invested in political stances. They’re a fairly standard death metal band offering fairly standard death metal lyrics and themes. In fact, they’re so standard that the Netherlands Deathfest said this:

We feel that Funebrarum is an adequate replacement to make up for this, but if for some reason you purchased a Sunday ticket to see Disma, you may request a refund.

Funebararum may or may not be equivalent (ironically it shares a drummer with Disma). But the passive-aggression in the second part of this statement typifies the mindset here under discussion. What they really mean to say is “If you wanted Disma, you’re a Nazi because now that the story is out you couldn’t possibly like Disma because they are a relatively middle-of-the-road doom/death band-you must follow in lock-step the condemnation of what we condemn.”

Sound familiar?

Disma fans who know of Pillard’s association with the aforementioned band and ideas are surely not legion. Other fans who like Disma as Disma may not have known much about it at all. While there’s no way to know how many of the latter would be ‘reached’ by the former, the number of people ‘affected’ by ‘exposure’ to Disma and their fans surely would not have been overwhelmingly unsettling.

But banning Disma has had a reverse effect. Rather than disassociating themselves from the problems listed above, the actions of these promoters have generated a wave of ‘reporting’ in the metal press that has carried the ethos they sought to exclude to an audience far larger than any fest would draw. As the ‘news’ spread, so did the imagery and ideas that the fests claimed to oppose. As often happens in a media frenzy, the reporting of the ‘problem’ results in the promotion of it.

MetalSucks, Metal Injection and other cut-and-paste journals wasted no time spreading the story, modeling their best bandwagon morality, adding their outrage to the outrage. But for reasons that do not make any sense to me at all, they chose to splatter a swastika-clad CD and screen shots of Pillard’s statements all over the internet. Undoubtedly the purveyors of this story would argue they are being accurate and thorough, but the proliferation of these ideas in any form actually incites the very mania these people claim to fear. They hate these ideas, they say, and yet knowingly make them available to a larger audience than letting Disma play at all the fests would ever have done.

And I’m guessing that people who advocate for Nazi or right-wing positions are not terribly afraid of MetalSucks or Metal Injection being outraged about anything, but they are undoubtedly delighted by the idea of these images breaking into a medium that they would never be included in otherwise. It makes these fest promoters and ‘journalists’ accessories after the fact.

After all, somebody once associated with propaganda said that people will believe a square is a circle if you repeat it enough. Circling Disma like vultures circling a carcass has drawn far more attention to these ideas, repeating the unintended message as much as the intended one. Being so against something that you expose its artifacts to the entire world in an attempt to lessen their impact is about as logical as believing in God.

Correction: the wrong image was used with this original post against the author’s wishes. We regret this oversight.

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Triumvir Foul – Triumvir Foul (2016)

TF_frontcover
Review by David Rosales

All exteriors, no soul. All pretension, no content. These are the sort of comments that are hard to back, especially in the light of the predominant materialist paradigm that chooses to ignore or reject the validity of any metaphysical judgements on.. well, anything. This includes music, which among the arts is the least given to materialist interpretations and whose nature lies wholly in the experience created within the triangle of producer, product and receptor/consumer. That is to say, the intention and thought of the composer codified into the music and its interpretation, the qualities of the product itself, and the reception of the same work by an audience with a singular background.
Some take this harsh judgement to mean that the writer is implying that the person who wrote the music had no intention or feeling for the music, but it is not so much that as the fact that a music veiled in unoriginal styles (which are in any case the words of the classic role models being imitated) cannot possibly convey the unique mental states of this imitator. Now, this is not a matter of requiring everyone to be 100% “original”, having to reinvent the wheel at every corner. This would entail failing as innovation hipsters do, at grasping the value of working on the work of the greats before you. But, your own work should precisely build on and not just use exactly the same expressions. In other words, bands such as Triumvir Foul sound very similar to Christian fanatics who cannot resist the compulsion of quoting three verses from the Bible for every dull sentence they babble.
In other words, the discussion on whether a music is superficial or not is usually a complex one and must be examined on a case-by-case basis, since the reason why this Triumvir Foul fails as art is completely different from the reason that, say, Ara, utterly fails and burns as a Hindenburg full of fireworks. While many metal albums may give you the specific tropes in techniques, tone and even riff-arrangement styles, only a very talented composer and original thinker can provide you with the most worthwhile aural experience. Triumvir Foul definitely is not up to that task.

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Invocation Spells – Descendent The Black Throne (2015)

invocation spells - throne cover
Article by David Rosales

Downward strums; rock-like, minimalist d-beats; a repetitive, constant duple-time cadence that becomes a familiar entrancing device. These are all the hallmarks of eighties Hellhammer inspired evil speed metal plus plus. What we hear in Descendent The Black Throne is, basically, what we would hear if Tom G. Warrior were more “progressive” minded and less careful about creating a strong atmosphere of darkness (Editor’s note: Tom eventually got around to that in a fashion on Celtic Frost’s Into the Pandemonium, although such is certainly not Hellhammer inspired).
It is precisely the feeling that Invocation Spells seem to be more bent on the “evil of fun” rather than the “fun of evil” of a Hellhammer. This can be seen in the fact that songs focus on the variety of rhythms rather than in respecting motifs and emphasizing them. Now, this is not the mindless progressive obsession that refuses to produce any sort of repetition as sections are, in fact, reused, but the different sections seem to bear little relation to each other outside stylistic coherence. This forward momentum that emphasizes rhythmic acceleration and intensification over clarity makes Invocation Spells’ Descendent The Black Throne akin to run-of-the-mill “infernal”, pseudo-black, speed metal of the eighties.
While I could recommend this for fans of this particular style of metal, what I would actually recommend is that you download Hellhammer’s full discography, as well as Bathory’s and Celtic Frost’s early output and make this the sole repository of your attention to this spectrum of minimalist evil metal. Nothing you find out there rivals them, and if you want to get acquainted with excellence and not just flooded with quantity, you have a choice to make. Oppose irrelevance. Oppose mediocrity. Avoid mental indolence.

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Abysmal Lord – Disciples of the Inferno (2015)

abysmal lord - disciples cover

Article by David Rosales

Yet another sludgy, heavy-treading death metal album with Sarcofago pretensions arrives at our shores. All the production candy is present, from the attenuated, dry fog that takes away the annoying reflection of shiny exteriors to the thick and bassy tone of the instruments that gives them presence but is not impertinent. Abysmal Lord Disciples of the Inferno fills all of the requirements for your average death metal fan’s enjoyment and seal of approval. But it is ultimately irrelevant, and moreover, it is definitely an unnecessary accessory.

Listening to Disciples of the Inferno reminded me of listening to one of those post-Haydn Classical or Romantic-era composers who were certainly above average, but never truly found their own voice and rather latched on to the conventions of the time. You’ve probably heard one of these many Mozart clones (I’m talking to you, Kuhlau) who produced decent works of great technical competency that never rose above their models in artistic merit. This is the sort of album that is good enough an imitation that you want to go listen to classical albums that influenced the origins of their style.

Abysmal Lord Disciples of the Inferno proves an entertaining listen during a couple of tracks, although as I said, it mostly just urges one to go listen to classic giants of the genre. Furthermore, past the first of the album, the music is decidedly samey and rehashed riffs along with uninspired progressions mark the early death of the music.

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Necrosemen – Vglns (2015)

necrosemen - cover
Review by David Rosales

Necrosemen play the kind of war metal going on death metal that has become increasingly popular in recent years. There are several reasons for this, and popularity being what it is, none of these are particularly flattering. This style of music concentrates on the texture generated by the sheer, gross output of a good amplifier through high-quality effects, a deep voice and blasting drums. The most prominent value – if we may call it that – this music has is the shock of its production quality and the immensity of its sound. It’s “darker” music for the average moron. Then, there is the fact that this sort of music is extremely easy to write. Very little artistic insight is needed and minimal technical competence (learn a few key pattern styles, be able to play them with a metronome, and that’s about it) suffices to come up with a couple of these songs.

In terms of its composition, this Vglns could not possibly be more derivative than it already is. Not only are the patterns tired and tried, patterns that never really were spectacular to begin with, but they’re also lazy riffs that rely on the impact of distortion and big sound. The problem here is that these tremolo-laden riffs are “atmospheric” in the same sense that a constant blast beat barrage becomes a blanket and background. When you have a uniform set of these parading one after the other, with minimal variation, what you have is a blanket of guitars with “cool tone” over a blanket of pounding drums, and an occasional growl here and there. Now, very few changes are all right when you have a long composition whose aim is literally to create an atmosphere, and when, in the grand scheme, a real journey is traced from beginning to end. But Necrosemen give us between 4 and 7 minutes of utter sameness while expecting to be taken seriously as metal.

For those who would dare point fingers at bands like Incantation who also play a minimalist style of death metal, I would point out that the difference lies in that the classic band presents an articulate differentiation of songs within a relatively homogeneous style. Such differentiation between riffs and their combinations into mega riffs are varied enough to constitute different meanings as the music slows, speeds up, the phrase is inverted, is cut off, or is extended. At the same time, the similarity is such that they stay within range of the aura of what was expressed before and is cohesive with the “topic” of the album (and band) as a whole. In the case of these new bands, what we have is riffs that are virtually the same being played again and again through the song and through different songs in the album. The only difference between them is the particular notes played. In short: there is not enough vocabulary to actually say more than a sentence.

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Field Reporting: Legion of Steel Metalfest & Conference Academic Presentations

An auditorium in Sacramento
Article by “AR”

The weaknesses of the San Francisco Bay Area “metal scene” have been in full display this October. The anticipated California Deathfest was thrown into disarray when death metal band DISMA was kicked out for political reasons – namely due to a past musical project of vocalist Craig Pillard (INCANTATION) which utilized imagery of the Third Reich. Besides the headliners of AUTOPSY and IMMOLATION, and a few less notable exceptions, this left the lineup of the “metal” nights filled with the grind/crust/punk mixture that is popular among a less discerning crowd. This suggested to outside observers that the interests of the promoters lay more with political agendas and popularity contests, than appreciation of metal music.

It was with interest that I heard of the “Legion of Steel Metalfest & Conference”, held over the course of four days this week and consisting of a “metal market”, “academic conferences” about heavy metal, and two night of music featuring most notably San Francisco death/speed metal stalwarts INSANITY, rock/heavy/speed metal band STONE VENGEANCE, and punks FANG, bands who never quite “made it” but who have been doggedly performing since at least the 80s. Only able to attend one night, I chose the night headlined by INSANITY, and showed up around 1PM to catch part of the conference, speculating that it might be some sinister affair where effete academics plot how to force their agenda on innocent hessians, but also open to more positive possibilities.

Missing the first three presentations, I arrived for “Becoming Death Itself: What Heavy Metal Offers Biblical Scholarship” presented by Charlotte Naylor Davis, of Great Britain. Her short presentation focused on the lyrics of METALLICA’s “Creeping Death”. Most interestingly, she pointed out that METALLICA presents the biblical story of an vengeful tribal god killing first-born children as a celebration of the power of death, and invites the audience to assume the role of the Angel of Death during the chanting climax of the song. This embrace of what is unpalatable or uncomfortable in “polite society” is part of what makes metal music powerful, and sets it apart from the happy illusions of most popular entertainment. Ms. Davis was a knowledgeable and enthusiastic presenter and I was disappointed the topic was not continued for longer.

Next was Mr. Shamma Boyarin of the University of Victoria, who first talked about Israeli “oriental metal” band ORPHANED LAND, who utilize the imagery of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. My ears perked when he mentioned how metal bands freely use themes from many different religious and occult practices, but in “obeisance to none”; i.e aesthetically, not dogmatically (paging Fred Nietzsche!). However, Mr. Boyarin chose to switch tack and talk about how ORPHANED LAND’s music was “breaking down barriers” between the religions and cultures of the Middle East, which seems to be a happy fantasy, if even desirable at all. Next was discussed an Indonesian band, MANRABUKKA, whose lyrics delve heavily into the Koran. A passage of the Koran, quoted by the band (Surat Al-Kafirun, “The Unbelievers”): “I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship… For you is your religion, and for me is my religion”, evoked the religion-rejecting lyricism of bands like MORBID ANGEL and DEICIDE, but also that such advice is poorly-followed in those areas of the world torn by dogmatic conflicts. However Mr. Boyarin somehow brought the conclusion back around to “breaking down barriers”. I would recommend developing some new conclusions and exploring these interesting ideas further!

Next was Addison Herron-Wheeler of Naropa University, who read passages from her book “Wicked Woman: Women in Metal From the 1960s to Now”. The cynics among us may sigh in expectation of the women-as-oppressed-victims narrative that is popular these days, but as her reading mainly dealt with the singer of the 60s occult pop-rock band Coven, musically far distant from metal, I zoned out during this portion and can’t report much. If women in metal are going to be discussed as a separate topic, the most deserving individual may be the fascinating Lori Bravo of NUCLEAR DEATH, who has hitherto been mostly ignored.

Next was a presentation by Dolev Zaharony of Israel. Mr. Zaharony discussed the history of metal music in Israel and how the government/media, ever-paranoid and faced with the difficult task of molding the mixed population of young Israel into a single culture, filtered out all references to heavy metal, and one assumes much else. Mr. Zaharony spoke as one who had been passionate about metal since his teens and had lived through many phases of metal culture in Israel, as well as been a musician. This presentation was enjoyable as he spoke informatively, without any attempt to politicize.

Finally was a viewing of clips from the documentary “Distorted Island”, which focuses on the heavy metal scene of Puerto Rico. This was at times interesting and at times irritating when the documentary attempted to impose narratives on the music, for example highlighting a band because they are all female (though the music sounded pretty awful), and thus an example of triumph against the sexist metal scene. This method is currently trendy in musical documentaries, and one of the many problems with it is that filmmakers end up focusing on mediocre bands at the expense of excellent ones, if the mediocre bands better fit the narrative.

This is a problem common to analyses of metal which prioritize social aspects over the music itself: they lose sight of the reason why the social scene arose in the first place – to celebrate and appreciate the MUSIC, its power and its ethos. Once any other element of the culture is made primary, the goal is lost and the music will become merely an accessory, and necessarily devolve in quality. This same effect can be seen with the hipsters who use metal aesthetic to dress up boring indie-rock, to the collectors who obsess over obscure releases that were forgotten due to their middling quality.

In the spirit of culling the mediocre, Charlotte Naylor Davis and Dolev Zaharony were the only two I witnessed whose presentations passed the bar of quality, knowledge, and true enthusiasm; as well as being free of political propaganda. I would recommend them for any future conferences. Note however the limited sampling which I was able to attend; there may have been other hidden gems.

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Austaras – Prisoner of Sunlight (2015)

Austaras - Dragged Into Sunlight
An old issue of Sadistic Metal Reviews once contained some interesting commentary on the subject of Agalloch – drop the “metal pretense” and possibly see album sales soar. The counterpoint is that there’s always an audience for rock music disguised as some sort of metal, but if Prisoner of Sunlight (Austaras’ first full length album after an allegedly post-black metal inspired debut EP in 2011) is to be believed, there’s also an audience for rock albums that don’t bother with the deception. As a mopey, vaguely depressive, pseudo-artsy post rock album that’s presumably been done a million times before, Prisoner of Sunlight is unsurprisingly less offensive than the halfway approach of a Deafheaven or a Myrkur or whatever the kids are forgetting about these days, but that’s not quite enough to make it worthwhile.

Above all else, Prisoner of Sunlight is a flat and directionless experience. The band builds their songs out of short chord progressions and brief guitar leads with little in the way of heavy metal styled riffing. They promptly do little to develop or elaborate on their musical ideas beyond the occasional break in for slow acoustic passages. Vocals are notably entirely clean sung, and stylistically they’re pretty much the standard Mikael Åkerfeldt for better or worse. I suppose you could say the technique needs some work to really shine, but they’re otherwise competent and perhaps stylistically appropriate. Any ambitions the vocalist has, though, are stamped on by the sheer flatness of the songwriting. Other elements fail to add any real interest to this – occasional synthesizer lines and generic rhythmic backing aren’t quite the selling point I would hope for. On the other hand, the album does nothing particularly wrong – no particularly jarring moments of randomness or especially obvious pandering to youth demographics, but the sense that Austuras focuses on texture and ‘ambiance’ above all else, while not necessarily a flaw (since some musicians can pull it off effectively), is a dealbreaker.

Ultimately, Prisoner of Sunlight is not a good album, but it isn’t even a bad enough album to laugh at. You might get the impression that more popular post-metal bands would sound like this if they too stripped all the metal from their approach. Perhaps they would; the lesson here is that you need a better understanding of how to vary your music if you’re going to write “atmospheric” metal. That’s more difficult than it would appear on first glance.

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Upcoming tours: Suffocation

Poster for Suffocation's "Obliterating North America 2015" tour
Suffocation has taken a previously scheduled show at Housecore Horror Festival III and apparently expanded it into a short tour. Not a great deal of notice for possible fans, but this gives fans of Suffocation throughout the USA (but mostly the southern parts) a few chances to see the band perform. There probably hasn’t been enough time since the band semi-officially announced an upcoming studio album for them to actually perform any new tracks, but you never know. As usual, the balance of formative early work and less powerful later work may vary throughout the tour, so be ready for the possibility of either should you choose to see Suffocation in concert.

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Nightwish, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and ideological conveyance

Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)
Review by Daniel McCormick

It has been said that there is non-overlapping magisteria confining the world of scientific inquiry outside the the realm of “human purposes, meanings, and values.” (Stephen J. Gould) John Keats once said science presents a “cold philosophy” with a “dull catalogue of common things” that reduces life to terms insufficient to the subjective needs of man. Upon this assertion they then heap arguments of moral relativism, theology, and social revision which are based on their personal feelings and beliefs. This is common for religious or political figures but one also encounters this thinking in artists as well. In conversation one can easily find an artist prattling on about how x-piece speaks to man’s soul, or how true beauty lies in one’s personal interpretation, and that judgement is merely a subjective experience, that art itself communicates on levels that can not be directly observed or defined. All manner of feeble logic can you encounter, yet there is at heart a mirroring of intention. What they attempt is to self insulate from reproach, to self aggrandize through idealizing, and to manipulate your willingness to believe comforting thoughts. Because, to them, empirical definitions inundate the mind with a materialist philosophy that somehow cuts out the beauty from the universe around them. They say life is “too mad for mere material chains to bind” (Alexander Pope), and that “knowledge is not happiness, and science but an exchange of ignorance for that which is another kind of ignorance.”(Lord Byron)
(more…)

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