An example of outstanding musical competence in melody-lead black metal, Bhagavat’s To Burn in a Lair of Snakes give us an initially almost seamless integration of many different elements under a clearly defined personal style. After the first half of the album, though, the album becomes a Planetary Duality-era The Faceless-style tech death tribute with black metal-like cliche connectors and decorations. While the first few songs present a solid and diverse yet uni-colored set of expressions that breathed clarity, as the album progresses, these elements take control over the music. The vision stops being in control and the stylistic expression starts guiding songwriting. In other words rampant cliches ensue.
While musically adept and gifted with a talent for placing together ideas in a flowing and integrated manner, Bhagavat could have focused into making a mention-worthy album. There is enough of that here to make a 3-song EP. But more than half of the album resorts to cliche-riding, while the band’s voice is heard standing beside them. To Burn a Lair of Snakes went from being a contestant to be included in best of the year lists to just another modern metal band trying to appropriate black metal as a disguise.
Wearing the mantle of blasphemous black metal, Goatblood play metal in the time-honoured tradition of grind-tinged black metal dancing the line between Sarcófago and Blasphemy. As most bands playing this style, Goatblood is automatically benefited by the immediate focus this restricted expression affords: a clarity in direction in accordance to its single-mindedness. Songs are consistent in expression as well as coherent in their narrative, blasphemy overspilling and music driving it — not quite deep enough.
The only obstacle towards excellence faced by Goatblood here is they are too content, or perhaps too shy, about developing songs. Most of them stop after a handful of simple riffs, ending not in a closing gesture a climax or even a complete development but an apparently arbitrary riff after which the band had no idea (or no time?) what to write. Rather than the defilement of Profanatica, Goatblood only half-whispers hidden desires to break free from dogmatic religion. Not brave enough to move forward, Adoration of Blasphemy and War is a collection of half-songs, or ideas for songs that have not yet been completed.
Den Kristne Stank, meaning “Christian Stench” in Danish, is an effort by the band Plague to bring some black metal with occult themes, blasphemy and just the general themes associated with the genre. The music reveals the same intent, applying different approaches to black metal creation but giving preference to the most obviously rock-based instance of it, disguised with intermingled soft blast beats. In an attempt to bring variety without a clear focus (rather, the focus seems to be the variety of black metal expression) we find ourselves at one point reminded of Kjeld, the next of some pagan folk black metal, but it is the influence of Samael is felt most strongly. The problem here is that the music (obviously as a result of the concept) never zeroes in on a direction — a goal is not necessary, but clear statement and acting out of what you are getting at is important.
On the good side, Plague is actually not wanking or over-indulging themselves. The music creates reasonable structures that connect well-enough with each other flowing smoothly most of the time. The complaint comes from observing its coherence and the picture it reveals. As has been previously stated, the critique is realized in the following manner: first we gather an impression on the whole, from those observations the individual musical elements are investigated and finally a theory rooted in concept is formulated. Any pair of adjacent steps (1 and 2 or 2 and 3) can be reexamined as many times as is necessary to try and clarify a perspective. Evaluating music as a whole, one should never go from ideology first nor should technical elements be taken as the central aspect. It is always the musical whole that is important. Formulations on intention and ideology are secondary and come as an afterthought and an attempt to explain excellence, focus or deficiencies in the music.
The variety itself is not the problem, of course, but that it is never brought under control by a higher purpose. Instead of this involved yet forgettable collection of rock black metal techniques and compilation of general themes, I would suggest the reader to imbue himself with this year’s EP release by Necrophor, which presents the same degree of musical variety without the technique-collection effect of the former. Consistently with these observations, one may notice how the lyrical concept (or the concept as a whole) of Necrophor’s EP is much more precise and clear. Empirical evidence shows the importance of clarity of concept for the realization of focused music. Plague give us an example of a metal release that has everything except that.
On the heels of much conjecture, and his own denials that an expulsion had taken place, David Vincent has announced his departure from Morbid Angel with a softly-worded press announcement:
Austin, TX – June 19, 2015
DAVID VINCENT Encourages
Fans To Stay Morbid
I had good communication with Trey yesterday and we agree that there are incompatibilities with regards to us working together.
Trey and I have accomplished amazing things together over the past 30 years and I wish him the best with his future projects. Out of respect for the legacy of these accomplishments, I encourage Morbid Angel fans to not take sides because, I am not.
I look forward to sharing my new endeavors with all of you in the near future. Until then, stay Morbid! ~David Vincent
While this may be disappointing to many, it represents new ground for Morbid Angel, which just hired Steven Tucker again, lost drummer Tim Yeung and guitarist Destructhor, and appears to be re-organizing itself more toward its last good material produced, 1998’s Formulas Fatal to the Flesh. Given the immense dissatisfaction with the most recent Morbid Angel album which took the band in a more Rammstein/nu-metal direction under Vincent’s guidance, this re-organization looks like the band orienting itself more toward metal material.
Blasphemous Arts Records has announced that the split 7″ EP from Texas apostate cavernous death metal band Blaspherian and Italian black metal act In League With Satan has gone to press and will be available shortly. The label issued the following statement:
We are proud to announce that IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN / BLASPHERIAN (Italy/U.S.A.) Split 7” EP went to press today.
Exclusive and Unreleased tracks by both Bands.
The EP will come with Insert, in a limited run of 500 copies on black vinyl.
Unleashed through Blasphemous Art Prod. & Iron Bonehead Prod.
Many of us are fans of last.fm and other services which keep track of listening statistics. These allow me to link up various devices that I use and see what my actual listening patterns are instead of what I think they are. For example, if you asked me for a list of top death metal releases, I can easily name something like this list of the best in each genre. But that is an analytical opinion related to the art and music themselves, not a personal habit, which reflects more the day-to-day utility I find in different albums. Such is the split with Gorguts Obscura, an album I listened to extensively when it came out in accidental defiance of conventional wisdom, but then have not picked up since. Part of the reason is the unreasonably loud production, which makes it — like Sinister Hate and other albums of the “early ProTools era” — difficult to listen to alongside classic albums, and abrasively loud with lost texture of distortion. Another reason is that having heard it three times a day for five years, I may have simply absorbed it entirely. A third might be that while it is admirable as a piece of art, it may not be applicable to much of my life or thought process at this point.
I read Old Disgruntled Bastard‘s article “The postmodern Gorguts” with great interest not just because I enjoy ODB’s writing, but because he has cut into a vital topic: does Obscura belong to the old school death metal legions, or is it of a newer style that we call “modern metal”? Modern metal — comprised of nu-metal, metalcore, tech-death, post-metal and indie-rock — distinguishes itself from the old because it is composed like rock but with metal riffs mixed in among the jazz and prog affectations. The analysis of it as postmodern seems to make sense if one considers later postmodernism. Early postmodernism distrusted meta-narratives and so attempted to create its own based on the subtext, or invisible reality, as an alternative to the public text or consensual token-based narrative of our reality and civilization.
Later postmodernism simplified that to an idea of showing many different angles or perspectives of a topic, like a Pablo Picasso painting, which created a surface level of complexity of ingredients so intense that it reduced the organizing principle or internal complexity of the work to near nothingness. Compare Don Delillo’s White Noise to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (itself highly derivative of Pynchon, that highly derivative of Nabokov and Burroughs) for an example of this in literature.
The public school safe answer when asked about the origins of postmodernism is that it sprang up with Foucault, but someone who traces the history of ideas — and actually writes postmodern fiction — like myself may see the origins instead in an early writing by Fred “Mad Dog” Nietzsche entitled “On Truth and Lies in a Post-Moral Sense,” in which he points out the nihilism of language: tokens work only when people mean the same thing, but people project their own desires into the meaning through the imprecise device of memory, which means that narratives rapidly become deconstructed into manipulation and the only excuse is to discard the old values and definitions, and rebuild from common sense observation of reality.
There are, after all, very few ideas in history, and much as Plato was a watershed, Nietzsche defined the different perspectives in the modern time, but this analysis is too far-reaching to be made in public, least of all on the government dime. I remember talking with Audrey Ewell (Until the Light Takes Us) over this very split and finding myself dismissed as perhaps not knowing the background material, which is very un-postmodern as it affirms an official narrative in defiance of the introspection that leads to analysis of externality by structure and not appearance, a trait shared between Nietzsche and the Romantics that lives on in postmodernism albeit faintly, and only in the important works, excluding the forgettable Mitchell for example. Postmodernism appears in movies by David Lynch and Lars von Trier, specifically the death metal-friendly Melancholia, and even in the theories we tell ourselves about daily life. Discontent with The NarrativeTM abounds, but very few agree on what that narrative is or what is the truth that it conceals, which shows a difficulty of postmodernism: it deconstructs and points vaguely in a new direction, but never finalizes the task, which relegates it to the academic realm of sipping Merlot and watching the world build up tinder for the final carnage.
Having boiled out all of that context to postmodernism as idea, let us look at William Pilgrim’s excellent article. Death Metal Underground tries to provide multiple perspectives — in the postmodern sense — on any topic, but diverges from the postmodern narrative by affirming that reality itself is truth, and we can approximate that truth, so we must undertake the almost never undertaken second part of the process which is through reasoned debate to then find answers. People love the idea of multiple perspectives, because it means that since nothing is true, they can do whatever they want and that “feels” good to the forlorn or under-confident soul. They are less enthusiastic about boiling down the data found and constructing from it an assessment of truthfulness. The article contains two essential nodal points, the first of which is the definition of postmodernism:
…a school of thought that attempts to reject overarching structural meaning and belief in greater narratives. To the post-modern mind, existence and experience consist of pluralities, splintered into fiercely individualistic cells prone to subjective rule, and inimical to any attempt at establishing a universal system of knowledge. Under this philosophy, adherence to a common-law guidebook serving as a framework for value judgments would amount to giving tacit approval to an authoritarian scheme of things.
This sounds surprisingly like one of my favorite definitions, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy definition of “nihilism”:
Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated…By the late 20th century, “nihilism” had assumed two different castes. In one form, “nihilist” is used to characterize the postmodern person, a dehumanized conformist, alienated, indifferent, and baffled, directing psychological energy into hedonistic narcissism or into a deep ressentiment that often explodes in violence…In contrast to the efforts to overcome nihilism noted above is the uniquely postmodern response associated with the current antifoundationalists….French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard characterizes postmodernism as an “incredulity toward metanarratives,” those all-embracing foundations that we have relied on to make sense of the world. This extreme skepticism has undermined intellectual and moral hierarchies and made “truth” claims, transcendental or transcultural, problematic. Postmodern antifoundationalists, paradoxically grounded in relativism, dismiss knowledge as relational and “truth” as transitory, genuine only until something more palatable replaces it (reminiscent of William James’ notion of “cash value”). The critic Jacques Derrida, for example, asserts that one can never be sure that what one knows corresponds with what is.
Much of interest stands out here starting with caste. Alan Pratt seems to see the two interpretations of nihilism as reflecting degrees of abstraction. On one level, people say that life has no inherent meaning — that is the correct short form translation of what he says above — and translate that into dissipation; on the other, they see this as an opportunity to escape the dead definitions of a dying civilization and re-evaluate all that is known and how it is seen as important; in other words, to go back to Nietzsche and his Romantic-tinged apocalyptic renewal.
This also introduces the fundamental problem of modern philosophy, which it tries to handle through grammars of different fields of study, consisting of the coherence/correspondence split. A sentence can be completely grammatical and parse-able but contain no meaning because it imitates outward form but refers to nothing and resembles nothing found in reality. “A = x; if A > x, then the world ends” is entirely sensible as an expression, yet gives no information and relates to nothing. Like Nietzsche, most postmodern philosophers attack language, but unlike Nietzsche, they seek to find ways around language where Nietzsche’s point was the more flexible idea that language, logic and other forms of communication and truth-assessment are dependent on those who wield them, their intelligence, honest and intent; in other words, as he said, “There are no truths, only interpretations.”
This nihilism — which sounds a lot like postmodernism itself — distrusts not just a narrative, but the idea that there can be a narrative, or in other words one explanation of reality and how to deal with it that applies to all people. This translates to a distrust of the inherent or innate, such as the idea of “writing on the wall” or any other kind of definitive sign that communicates to all people. In other words, reality is out there, and all of our access to it comes through interpretations; these vary in value, and communication between them occurs through reality, so is subject to the same weakness. This means that there is no single symbolic or token communication which can be said to be innately true, and since the world itself issues forth no data in symbolic form, “truth” is a property of human minds and dependent on the quality, discipline and application of those minds, and is not shared among humanity collectively.
This applies less to the idea of a narrative within, say, a death metal album, that to the idea of a narrative describing our world and universal values to address it. However, individual interpretations can more closely approximate an understanding of reality, even if they cannot be communicated because communication depends on symbolic parity between all parties, which in turn depends on the ability to understand those symbols in roughly the same way. In ancient times, that viewpoint was called “esotericism” because it suggested that reality revealed its truths to those who were ready for them, with both a sense of knowledge being cumulative and not open to all people. A genius or highly talented person sees a different truth than others, thus this truth is localized to that person, and cannot be shared by the act of encoding it in symbols and speaking or writing them to others.
Taking this path through postmodern reveals that while postmodernism “flouts conventions”, as the article states, flouting conventions is not the total of postmodernism; it is one attribute, and it occurs not in and of itself but for the sake of undermining the narrative. This brings us to the core of Pilgrim’s analysis of Obscura:
In its abundant jagged outcroppings and in its constant search for the next unorthodox detour, Obscura shortchanges the simple truth that holds up metal and indeed all ‘essential’ music, that of relating an idea through sound.
I will simplify this in a grotesque but accurate way: tail wags dog. Instead of technique being used as a means of expressing an idea, the technique becomes the goal and the idea is filled in afterwards to unite the different technical parts. This common criticism of metal rings true in almost all disorganized works because the band wrote a bunch of riffs, adjusted rhythm like a big paper bag to fit them all together, and then called it a “song” despite having nothing in common between its parts, and thus no emergent atmosphere or communication which makes the whole more than the sum of the parts. This leaves us with the criticism of Obscura as failing to maintain a narrative, and whether this is related to the postmodern distrust of narratives, which itself could constitute a narrative. We could create a thesis of history describing humanity as a successive series of escapes from previously limiting narratives to new ones, but that then portrays postmodernism entirely as a form of deconstruction, which while compatible with the notion of extreme skepticism fails to capture the Nietzschean notion of “re-evaluation of all values” which is the second half of the postmodern process: (1) deconstruct and (2) reconstruct, from reality (correspondence) and not internal grammars (coherence).
The only remaining question is to analyze the music itself and see if its parts in fact associate in some way as to make a meaningful whole, which is the question here; postmodernism has served as a useful filter for introduction but not really a guide to how to do this. We are back to using the same compositional analysis that would apply to any death metal release, or any through-composed music.
Specifically, Pilgrim identifies the lack of a melodic or structural center:
Conventional melody is used not as the driving force behind the songs heard on this album, but as ballast to the band’s almost painful need to expand the template of extreme metal prevalent till then.
At this point my own narrative must switch to the incredibly general in lieu of analyzing each song. My take on this album is that Gorguts wrote an album in the style of The Erosion of Sanity and then, possibly through the work of Steve Hurdle, added strong melodic continuity. Then, they chopped it and re-arranged it so that riffs introduced themselves both in “backward” order of distilling from more texturally complex to most melodically clear, and arranged them so that the melody was introduced in a pattern which broke up its normal flow in order to introduce pieces in a sequence that created another emotional impression, then assembling it from its conclusion for the final part of the song. This seems to me both not the tail wags dog approach, but also a use of technique over composition, but in this case it was effective because the music was already composed and was modified with an additional layer of complexity and perhaps, some anticipatory contrarianism, in order to make its labyrinthine journey of fragmentary melodies into more of a puzzle assembled in the mind of the listener, not unlike how postmodern novels like Naked Lunch separated a story into vignettes and multiple character/setting groups in order to disguise it and force the reader to assemble it in the abstract, before repeating it in a finale in more concrete form.
However, it seems to me that the core of Pilgrim’s essay is his listing of seven attributes of metal, and that perhaps his intent is to use Gorguts and postmodernism as a point to speak about metal as both having postmodern attributes, and opposing postmodernism by asserting a narrative construction of its own. In this, metal may be a nihilistic exception to the norm of postmodernism, in that while it distrusts the contemporary narrative, and negates the idea of inherent truth/knowledge/communication, it asserts that it can portray reality in a fragment in such a way that others can appreciate it. Regarding the charges of amateurism, Pilgrim makes some solid points. The fixation on iconoclasm and paradigm-inversion, which itself strengthens a narrative by the fact that exceptions tend to prove the rule, and deliberately “whacky” permutations of arrangement draw skepticism, and deservedly so. The third possibility offered by this author is that like most works of art, parts of Obscura are sincere and insightful, and other parts are bullshit designed “outward in,” or from appearance to core, meaning that they communicate little or were modified to express something convenient after the fact. If taken as a whole however, the album minimizes these parts by fitting them within other songs that attract less trivial attention. Where Pilgrim seems proven right to me is through recent Gorguts output which emphasizes mysticism of the trivial as a means of enhancing the self-estimation of its listeners, much as Opeth and Meshuggah built a cottage industry around making simple music seem complex to attract low self-esteem fans who want bragging and pretense rights over their friends; where he falls short is that From Wisdom To Hate, while a more rushed and uneven album, further develops the techniques on Obscura.
Majestic Downfall plays something that is like doom metal but comes off as some sort of mainstream-ish hard rock. Using riffs to have something for the vocals to ride on and war metal sort of riffs interspersed here and there, it seems as if the band is just trying to get by. The fact that the focus of this plague is doom metal only makes it slightly more difficult to see, it is less obvious. More people will welcome this as authentic doom metal just because it is harder or people with short attention spans (yes, even fans of crappy doom have short attention spans) to notice the relation between sections in the long run as they revel in the “heaviness” and “feel” of each part. It is the focus of this music on this moment-based satisfaction of a heavy feeling that give us a hint of a hard-rock-like idea behind this.
This imitative and momentary-feeling-based approach to doom metal lies in the confusion as to what doom metal exactly is, or what it consists off. I assume this comes from the Saint Vitus crowd that don’t realize that that band is only “doom metal” in name and is only slow heavy metal. If nothing is done differently except play the music slower, do not bother changing genre names. A whole vision at a “spiritual” level, has to be different for the methodology to change naturally after it.
When Dead tries hard to be doom metal. The vocals even resemble those by Paradise Lost and even resort to some of their trademark moves in some riffs and corresponding vocal patterns. The crowd-pleasing collection of slow heavy metal, war metal and Paradise Lost that Majestic Downfall presents can be deceiving for those with a shaky (“open-minded”) idea of music, but its vacuity and gimmick will be evident for those with a center.
Upon reviewing a comeback album from a band that has been out of action for more than a decade (more than two, in this case) we are given two options. The first is to approach the album in the context of the band’s past work. This is the traditional approach in metal, where bands with more experience are expected to improve while younger bands are judged with more leniency . The second is to see the album as a separate work and judge it by its own merits and the apparent goals it sets for itself from the musical point of view (avoiding ridiculous and absurd logical objections of the “and what if it was there intention to make a piece of shit of an album?” sort). Either way, Downfall Rising is as nonsensical as its cliche and meaningless title.
Generic beyond recognition, the effacing of the band’s voice comes as no surprise as the paper-thin music that Wombbath made as a younger band went little further beyond sticking genre cliches one after another without taking the music anywhere at all. It was a parade of Swedeath groove riffs that sound and feel good as background but that fail under closer inspection. The new album sees the band taking on some aspects from the so-called symphonic metal (best referred to as metal-like pop) to fill in interludes or intros and a certain variety of retro-isms of the current nostalgia death metal scene. While Internal Caustic Torments was an empty husk made from death metal cliches at all levels (riff style, guitar tone, trademark vocals) that made it the perfect superficial representation of death metal without a voice of its own and without having any actual logical content, Downfall Rising represents an even wider collection of cliches of the new retro death metal scene.
At least the band is consistent in the type of mediocrity that constitutes their music. Sounding not only generic, derivative and content-less but far more tired than in their earlier fiasco, Wombbath come back riding the wave of come-back albums by “classic” bands that extends to any band from back in the day that was part of a scene and that is made possible by the ability of internet marketing and sales to close in the long tail in the distribution of fans of particular kinds of music. Rather than wasting any of your time in a collection of cliches being paraded without any purpose, I suggest spending some time watching adorable Wombat videos.
Comprised of bassist/vocalist Marcin Świerczyński (Yattering), drummer Szymon Andryszczak (Pandemonium), and guitarists Artur Piotrowski (Mess Age) and Andrzej Peszel, death metal band Ogotay recorded eight brand new songs at G Studio sometime in 2014. The next album is set for August 1st, 2015 release via Selfmadegod Records on CD/digital.
Finland’s hardcore crossover thrash quintet, Forseen HKI, has announced the band’s very first American tour, as the band prepares to attend This Is Hardcore Fest. Leading off Forseen HKI’s upcoming US tour in support of their Helsinki Savagery debut LP, the band will hit the stage at the mighty annual This Is Hardcore in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 26th, set to play alongside The Exploited, H20, Negative Approach, All Out War, Power Trip, Rival Mob, Slapshot, Twitching Tongues and many others. Directly after the fest appearance, the band will hit the East Coast alongside Power Trip and Red Death for a week of dates, after which they’ll split off on their own ongoing rogue mission into the Upper Midwest states and back to the East Coast, ending the trek in Baltimore on August 9th, with a total of sixteen shows confirmed.
Forseen HKI Helsinki Savagery Over America Tour Dates:
7/26/2015 Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA @ This Is Hardcore Fest
7/27/2015 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA w/ Power Trip, Red Death, Barge
7/28/2015 Kings – Raleigh, NC w/ Power Trip, Red Death [info]
7/29/2015 Rock N Roll Hotel – Washington, DC w/ Power Trip, Red Death, Protestor
7/30/2015 Cuisine en Locale – Boston, MA w/ Power Trip, Red Death, Boston Strangler, Fury, Freedom Intent
7/31/2015 Warren American Legion – Warren, NJ w/ Power Trip, Red Death, Razorheads
8/01/2015 Palisades – Brooklyn, NY w/ Power Trip, Red Death
8/02/2015 Amityville Music Hall – Amityville, NY w/ Power Trip, Red Death
8/03/2015 Bug Jar – Rochester, NY
8/04/2015 Zenith – Detroit, MI
8/05/2015 Mt. Happy – Chicago, IL
8/06/2015 Indiana City Brewing Co. – Indianapolis, IN
8/07/2015 The Foundry – Lakewood, OH
8/08/2015 Mr. Roboto Project – Pittsburgh, PA [matinee]
8/08/2015 The Rock Room – Pittsburgh, PA [night]
8/09/2015 Charm City Art Space – Baltimore, MD [matinee]