Upcoming tours – Gorgoroth, Kampfar, Gehenna

Blackfest Over Xmas 2015
This December, a few notable black metal acts are touring Western/Central Europe. Gorgoroth and Gehenna, at the very least had some fame and notoriety back in the 1990s and are still well known today, although the former has drifted quite far from their best days. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of Kampfar until just now, although a cursory look at Encyclopedia Metallum suggests they’ve existed since the mid-90s. Supporting acts are expected to vary, but in the UK, these three bands will be joined by De Profundis, who is at least tangentially related to the black metal focus this tour has. I’d like to label this a “tour of the fallen” like the recently covered Slayer/Testament/Carcass tour, but it seems less definite than in that case.

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Dream Theater continues buildup for The Astonishing

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Dream Theater’s upcoming album is certainly high concept, although I don’t foresee the results being anything other than the usual technically accomplished vaguely progressive power metal they always put out. As part of the buildup to the scheduled 2016 release of The Astonishing, the band has released a ton of visual and conceptual material, and most recently put up the tracklisting for the album. Other commentators throughout the internet are being psychically assaulted by the sheer 34-ness of the amount of tracks listed; when they recover they often end up claiming that the album will either be excellent or a colossal trainwreck. I’m personally expecting something in the middle, although visual art fans might at least find something of interest in these supplementary materials.

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Chthonic frontman running for congressman in Taiwan

By now, metal musicians and fans participating in politics isn’t entirely unheard of; even in Asia you can find such prominent examples as Joko Widodo (president of Indonesia). Freddy Lee, the frontman of the Taiwanese symphonic black/folk metal band Chthonic, is running for a seat in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, as reported by Blabbermouth. Lee has participated in his country’s politics for some time and is running as a member of the recently formed New Power Party, which advocates for Taiwanese nationalism. In the past, he’s apparently used his position in Chthonic to promulgate these political views. Part of his campaign includes a free concert in Taipei on December 26th, which admittedly may be a bit difficult for our primarily Western audience to participate in.

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Youtuber “generates” technical metal with randomisation

So perhaps procedurally generated music and chance based (aleatoric) music isn’t either, but sometimes, it’s interesting (at least from a vague ‘intellectual’ perspective) to hear these ideas applied to metal music. In today’s case, we have guitarist Pete Cottrell playing “randomly generated” metal, which was created by using various sources of randomness (dice, Scrabble tiles, computerized pseudorandom number generation) to determine several properties of the music. In this case, however, only a song fragment’s tempo, time signature, and key signature were randomly generated; as far as I can tell, everything else was written and composed by the guitarist.

This latter point offers me a few bits of discussion. The first is that the next logical step would perhaps be to apply randomization to the actual riff-writing process, creating note and rhythm progressions that could end up difficult to play or simply very chaotic based on whatever algorithm was used. A synthesizer like Native Instrument’s Flesh might come in handy, although its timbral/textural relevance to metal is debatable. The other thing that occurred to me while I watched this video was that a ‘random’ compositional style on its own isn’t likely to create particularly well planned and arranged music. I wouldn’t be surprised if even the more fanatical devotees of the technique ended up using their own efforts to jam random fragments into a more sensible shape. Until the upcoming wave of strong generalist AI outpaces us at most cognitive tasks, though, there are limits to how much randomly generated we’ll hear.

Pete Cottrell has some other videos that may be of interest to metal performers, generally focused around equipment and recording technique.

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Autopsy – Skull Grinder (2015)

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On one hand, this is obviously a descendant of previous Autopsy material, but on the other hand, Skull GrinderĀ is more conventionally structured and musical than the band’s formative work. You could make a case for my hypothesis based on the first single – i.e a lot of older styles of metal seem to be filtering into latter day Autopsy. Around these parts, this usually spells disaster and results in things like At the Gates releasing Slaughter of the Soul. Autopsy manages to avoid this fate by using these otherwise difficult to control elements in a way that actually fits their roots.

In general, Autopsy relies on a fairly simple formula to make their death metal – basic structures (not necessarily pop ones), limited technicality, and so forth. Perhaps the greatest reason Skull Grinder actually benefits from this is that Autopsy’s style always lent itself to having a strong vocal presence. Chris Reifert is on the top of his game here, successfully expanding the variety of vocal techniques he uses while remaining appropriate to the style of music on display. Similar expansions take place in the rest of the ensemble, including a more lead and solo heavy approach to guitarwork and more elaborate usage of melody in the rhythm guitar’s riffs. The downside of this more instrumentally interesting Autopsy is that it comes at expense of the band’s early mastery of song structure. In general, Skull Grinder is subtly, but definitely more haphazard in how it strings riffs together. This loss of organization skill is not drastic enough to ruin the record, but it’s an unfortunate shortcoming, and one that perhaps could have easily been avoided by giving the songwriting process a little more time to cook. Autopsy has certainly been releasing material quite consistently as of late, but I think the fans would tolerate a longer release cycle if it meant that the music was tightened up a bit and some of the more egregious filler was removed.

Despite this, Autopsy has created a better approximation of their early material than your average self-reviving band, and Skull Grinder does have a some material worthy of the band’s legacy in its short duration. There’s also some lessons to be learned here about how to expand your songwriting horizons; the best bands of the next few years will be those who can balance such wisdom with the more conventional truths Autopsy demonstrated in their past.

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No God Only Pain release Roads to Serfdom

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Nocturnal doom/black metal band No God Only Pain are finalizing details on their upcoming EP Roads to Serfdom which demonstrates a transition in styles of this band toward apocalyptic roadhouse dark metal. This new style features all of the Motorhead-inspired choruses, Darkthrone-infused verses and oddball, doomy structures and atmospheres of the earlier work, but with more of a nod to early Danzig in an exploration of classic heavy metal.

An exclusive stream of one track, “Who Forgives God?,” is below:

We were fortunate to catch a few minutes with the band, who dictated the following release:

This recording is a dissonant experiment under the Barkeresque transmutational concept that “anything can be created.” There’s five songs total, hinging on the theme of how (despite its appearances) modern society is still feudal in nature. Riff wise the songs still attempt to flow as a single voice yet are purposely more diverse than on Joy of Suffering.

This recording demonstrates a singular musical concept: simple Burzumy punk tunes to some epic song progressions. The album challenges itself like a madman and aims to polarize opinion like a bad Zogby poll.

Half the recording is purposely super lo-fi with a very minimal number of microphones. Purposely using so few mics (and nothing direct ) seems ridiculous, but previous attempts at for lo-fi but discernible sound sucked for me. We acquired many pieces of gear at flea markets and pawn shops to try to capture the sound we required, and most failed, but we perservered.

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Our goal was to get a dark and grungy sound, like Transylvanian Hunger, but with bass and vocals done way more professionally (Scott Burns Obituary style) which creates irony since our bassist plays groovy and fuzzy like Blue Cheer. A large part of the point of doing the recording this way is to allow more time for the bass and vocals to experiment and color the songs more, while the guitars and drums maintain more basic driving tones. The bass is not on this recording yet.

The title track is an experiment in itself as it questions how much variety in riffs and song structure a song can have and still make sense. It attempts capture in one song the variety of genres of music in metal and juxtaposes them as a metaphor for the cornucopia of ways that society trys to exert control over the individual. There are many diverse experiences, but all roads lead to serfdom.

    Track list (not finalized)

  1. Cannon Fodder
  2. Lick the Claw
  3. Roads to Serfdom
  4. Servitudo Completum
  5. Who Forgives God?
  6. no_god_only_pain_-_logo_-_white

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Desecresy – Stoic Death (2015)

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In the world of old school death metal, few manage to revive the past and carry it forward in a unique voice. Desecresy resurrects the greatness and gives it a unique spin with atmospheric lead melodic guitar droning over death metal and doom-death riffs, and on Stoic Death they increase the variety of death metal riffs and the dynamic impact of songs in a style more like that of their first album, Arches of Entropy.

Stoic Death begins at full speed and continues to vary pace throughout in order to build intensity, applying the resonant melodies selectively like layers, enwrapping the surging power chord riffs in sheets of harmonic background that intensifies at crucial moments in each song. The doom-death influence shows its strength most in the careful pacing of each song and introduction of elements like seasons, cycling to a conclusion.

The increased variety of riff types shows a familiarity with death metal of the oldest school, but now they take on a new language, with Asphyx-style percussive riffs sliding into rolling Bolt Thrower style dirges, and then emerging with the powerful Finnish-style death metal riffs anchored in melody that specialize in crucifying beauty with cruelty. The mid-paced approach might seem to kill aggression, but it has replaced that sentiment with a deepening sense of melancholy, dread and suspension of all normalcy as the bizarre becomes sensible.

This album feels like a descent into a tunnel shrouded in darkness, where as the voyager goes deeper both in the ground and behind the layers of twists and turns, the daylight world seems more remote and unreal. The songwriting technique Desecresy has made into their trademark presents challenges in that the overall sound is similar between tracks, but here the band differentiates them with elegance and creates a complexity of texture in which the listener can gratefully lose themselves.

More Godflesh influences permeate this album as do nods to recent changes in metal toward the more atmospheric, but Desecrey channel these into its own voice, translating the insipid into the ambiguous and the comforting into a threatening lack of center. What emerges from that fertile combination is a voice perfect for this time, a great sea of doubt in which glimpses of beauty are hidden behind primal uncertainty. Like the best of metal, it makes greatness from conflict and then shows the wisdom of that atavistic outlook through precisely-architected composition.

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Misanthropical – Conjuring Thy Infernal Lord

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Coming from that early intersection of death metal and black metal that produced bands such as Havohej, Misanthropical aim for awkward riffs like the sinews of a polymeliac beast, combining them with crudely cut black metal rhythms and surging melodic drones. The result shows a band starting out, but with a good concept that is enough removed into the bizarre, like bands such as Resuscitator or Legion of Doom, to leave us wondering what thought process could create it. The band is strongest when they abandon genre conventions and let the weirdness out, mixing riding riffs that compel energy with connective tissue that bends it into odd contortions, putting the listener on edge. They are weakest when trying too hard to be raw black metal or when filling spaces in songs with cymbal crashes and repetitive drones. Of interest is the unsteady fusion of doom metal moods with the more martial modes, creating a soundscape that sounds like battle by those with vast inner doubt and torment. Conjuring Thy Infernal Lord demonstrates the basics of a powerful voice that with growth and maturation could take this band in interesting and intriguing ear-torturing directions.

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Codex Obscurum – Issue Eight

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Codex Obscurum has distinguished itself over the course of seven issues by putting the underground first and focusing on quality of music, in addition to a range of topics about what we might call metal culture, or other areas of life in which metalheads find an interest. Over time, the editors have become more adventurous and now include a wide diversity of genres, artists and the ever-popular gaming features and editorials.

Issue Eight takes up the mantle with eleven band interviews, two live reviews, thirty-nine album reviews and an artist interview. These span genres from traditional underground bands to rough roadhouse hard rock, touching on grindcore and punk and even juggalo rock, giving the kind of panoramic view of the genre that big glossy magazines pretend they have. Speaking of, apparently Decibel referred to Codex Obscurum as “elitist,” which is a media code word for not regurgitating the spew from promotional mailers, and that gratifying tendency means that a refreshing honesty about the limits of many of these bands cuts back the hype and focuses on the actual.

Interviews abound. This latest edition begins with a relaxed interview with The 3rd Attempt that gives some context to the last two generations of black metal, then launches into an energetic discussion with PanzerBastard that reveals some of the Motorhead plus apocalypse thinking behind that act. It follows with an honest and ambitious interview with Skelethal, whose thoughtful responses make me want to listen past the name, and a somewhat guarded interview with Castrator where the band’s attempt to repeat its talking points fades under wily questioning. Then comes an interview with songwriter Ninkaszi about his latest project, Impenitent Thief, which covers a decade of New England metal in a few pages. Noisem follows with an interview of probing questions and somewhat surface-level answers, revealing more about this band than the band intended. After that, Jake Holmes of Plutonian Shore, Under the Sign of the Lone Star zine, and about ten other bands talks Morgengrau and gives some context to what this band has released. Then arrives a rough-hewn interview with hard rock band Rawhide, a contemplative discussion with Zemial, and a detailed look into Blood Red Throne. After the centerpiece of pen and ink art, Teutonic speed metal lords Blizzard weigh in with an irreverent but topical interview.

CO: You’ve started your own paper zine called Under the Sign of the Lone Star. Can you tell us a little about it, and how we can order a copy?

JH – Under the Sign… started as a reaction against click-baiting, witch-hunting, hypersensitive-PC and overall-clueless “metal” blogs/mags that are unfortunately ubiquitous these days. The PMRC may have been the enemy of the 80s, but at least they never passed themselves off as “one of us” like these rags do! The premise of Ut-SotLS was to write about Texan bands that I really like without stirring controversy or spreading gossip for increased ad revenue: passion, not profit. (16)

The centerpiece takes the form of a deliciously gory mythological-apocalyptic-dystopian scene hanging in blackness, which adds to the mood of the zine, and divides an interview with artist Sebastian Mazuera, who reveals quite a bit about the craft of metal art and the thought process behind it. Then the zine takes a Burzum/Bolt Thrower turn with an article about Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, showing the development and pitfalls of this very metal pastime. Most interesting here is the analysis of how fan interaction shaped, and possibly limited, the game. From the gonzo journalism department, two honest reviews of metal festivals — Blastfest and Messes de Morts — revealing the alcohol abuse and manic social aspects as well as the performances by bands both well-known and nearly unknown. These gave more of a feeling of “being there” than the usual paint-by-numbers reviews, plus hilarity in an honest and uncensored look at how well these bands actually performed.

Incorporating elements of crust, doom, even death metal at times this band can take a left turn in their composition at a moment’s notice. From open palm droning and melodic riff structures moving into driving thrash renditions and crusty d beats, these types of elements give the band a really varied and aggressive sound…With tasty build ups making use of both dynamics and tempo, their song structure is quite complex and makes for an entertaining replay value without seeming repetitive after multiple listens. (47)

From there, it is on to the reviews. These establish both how a band composes and records, and reviewer reaction to the utility of listening to the material in question. Although the review of juggalo band The Convalescence is a high point for sadistic mockery in the best offhand zine style, the bread and butter here is nailing a realistic buy/avoid assessment of bands from Empyrium to Tau Cross, Dysentery to Malthusian, and W.A.S.P. to Paradise Lost. These read well, are witty and biting, but are unstinting with praise where it is deserved. Choice of albums here shows more of a strong hand with the reviewers choosing both movers ‘n’ shakers of the underground as well as undernoticed contributions of interest. It would be hard to find a more straightforward and observant review section in print.

Many have claimed the death of the zine, but with more people cutting the cord to the internet because of the sheer amount of spam disguised as reporting, having a volume like this — that you can pick up and then feel you have a good basic grasp of the scene after an hour of reading — reduces the chaos and puts many metalheads with otherwise full lives back into the game. On its eighth issue, Codex Obscurum has expanded its reach without losing touch with its direction, which is a feat of focus that most metal writers should aspire to.

You can still get copies of Issue Eight through the CO online store.

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Wolves Among Sheep: History and Ideology of National Socialist Black Metal book published

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Italian publisher Tsunami Edzioni has released Wolves Among Sheep: History and Ideology of National Socialist Black Metal, a book by Davide Maspero and Max Ribaric detailing the rise of this tributary of the black metal movement that officialized many of the right-wing and traditionalist leanings of black metal as a whole.

The publishers offer the following FAQ about the book and how to obtain it:

We’ve been silent for some time, but that’s because we have been busy sending orders and replying to e-mails. The response to the book has been great so far, and we thank everyone who purchased a copy.

We compiled a brief FAQ for all those who need some information regarding the book and how to obtain it. We hope you’ll find it helpful.

IS THE BOOK IN ENGLISH?
Yes, it is. The whole of it.

IS THE SPECIAL EDITION STILL AVAILABLE?
Yes, we still have some copies left.

HOW MUCH DOES THE BOOK COST?
It depends on where you’re located.

Standard Edition:
Europe and Mediterranean Basin – 38 Euro
Americas, Asia, Africa – 43 Euro
Oceania – 50 Euro

Special Edition:
Europe and Mediterranean Basin – 46 Euro
Americas, Asia, Africa – 52 Euro
Oceania – 60 Euro

HOW CAN I ORDER?
By making a Paypal payment to: info[at]tsunamiedizioni.it

HOW CAN I GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU?
Via Facebook messages on this page or via e-mail to: wolves_info[at]tsunamiedizioni.it

I NEED TO BUY MULTIPLE COPIES, CAN YOU GIVE ME A
SHIPPING QUOTE?
Yes. Just mention it in your message and we’ll get back to you.

I RUN A DISTRO AND NEED TO KNOW YOUR WHOLESALE RATES
Just mention it in your message and we’ll get back to you.

WHEN ORDERING, PLEASE STATE CLEARLY YOUR FULL ADDRESS (NO P.O. BOXES – WE SHIP VIA EXPRESS COURIER AND THEY NEED A STREET ADDRESS) AND A TELEPHONE NUMBER.

National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) remains controversial because global civilization has shifted leftward since the late 1940s with the fall of fascist regimes in Italy and later France, National Socialism in Germany, and Nationalist movements in Japan. However, starting in the 1990s when the 1968 generation took power in politics and media, a counter-movement has arisen which is critical of democracy, equality and diversity.

Sometimes this movement is merely anti-liberal, as with Michel Houellebecq in France, or libertarian as with the Tea Party and Neoreaction, but often it takes a more potent form. The original black metal bands from Norway, Sweden and Finland embraced the idea of nationalism, or a society being defined by its indigenous people, and rejected the morality of pity, equality and pacifism. Others took this farther and explicitly endorsed the older belief systems, not just National Socialist but the traditionalism of Julius Evola, the nationalism of pre-war Europe, and the monarchism and naturalism of völkisch conservatism.

During the early 1990s, when this material first emerged, I was unwilling to play such bands on the radio when I learned of their beliefs. Later digging found the nationalism of Bathory, the pro-Hitlerian sentiments of Morbid Angel, and the generally conservative — realism plus a belief in transcendentalism — surging through heavy metal. Then came Lords of Chaos and the interviews of Varg Vikernes, tearing the lid off any obscurity that black metal had regarding its anti-humanist views. For that reason, I report on them as they are part of the black metal movement and heavy metal, and it is better to have such things in the light than darkness.

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