Ascended Dead – The Advent

ascended dead - the advent cover

Ascended Dead is a death metal band that intentionally keeps the production of their music lo-fi. Here, we may recognize two things. The first is the appeal to a sense of nostalgia that this sort of distorted tone may cause in fans of old underground metal. The second is that this choice is part of the band’s aesthetic choice and it contributes in a musical way. The latter is never fully acknowledged even by fans of this particular sound, resorting to embarrassed appeals to “guilty pleasure”.

Now, onto the music. In The Advent, Ascended Dead have brought together a collection of distinct but compatible sources in which, if we squint really hard and try to pierce the fog created by the artistic voice of the band, we can recognize the grindy, obscure, riff-salad Finnish spirit. One or two of the songs even betrays the influence of Demilich in its use of short, clear but twisted melody line motifs, but doesn’t go as far as to imitate the older band. The reference is no more than a head nod.

The Advent consists of a solidly integrated style. Ascended Dead’s songs are balanced and clear-headed in direction, while remaining organic, in line with the riff salad tradition. Riffs balance relationship with each other while introducing the tension needed to move forward, towards a new idea that comes as a massive waterfall releasing the potential energy channeled and incremented in the perfectly-defined course of a river of tumultuous waters.  Despite all its merits, the artist’s most difficult task has yet to be completed in this project: finding its own voice. Displaying a musical awareness with which only true musicians are blessed, Ascended Dead give us an album that, although itself powerful, foreshadows possible works that will tower above the vast majority of death metal of our times.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 05-20-2015

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Some albums ignite the listener’s imagination with visions of the different ways in which the would-be composers of atrocious musical attempts could be punished, not for their stupidity as they were just born that way, but for forcing it upon the rest of humanity.  This is what the Sadistic Metal Reviews are, symbolic impalement for the weaklings that overstep their bounds.
torche-restarter Maleficence – Journey to the Depths

That at a first glance even the classics of black metal appear to be simple, minimalist patterns stringed together is one of the most misleading aspects of the genre. Being a music born out of elitism and of outstanding men, black metal was not meant to be understood by the undermen, the subpar scum made up not by a particular race or ethnicity (which is what the undermen who do not understand Nietzsche actually think) but by the half-assers and those with limited neural capacity. When these imbeciles get together to make what they believe is black metal, all they can come up with is meaningless satanic gibberish that is both blatantly shallow and evidently ironic bullshit.
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Satanic Ripper – Southern Black Spells

This is the kind of album that is reviewed sadistically because there is nothing to it. It is not the worse, but it isn’t actually good either. It is your average Sarcofago descendant that makes the same sort of unimproved rubbish as their idols. Add in some squealing leads here and there.  Randomly located, of course, these things don’t mean anything. Satanic is Satanic. Praise the Dark Lord. So scary. So black metal. So trve, man.And then reveal your sludge-doom occult rock influences. Take your boring shit elsewhere.
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Third Ion – 13-8Bit

Streamlined Dream Theater pseudo-prog, a bit of 8-bit sounds here and there and gay power metal vocals that sometimes drift into Disturbed-like colorations. Contrasting sections for major impact. Reciting of Petrucci-like patterns in the riffs, the phrygian mode has to make an appearance.  Disorganized, pointless, showy, unoriginal, thoughtless. Made even more annoying by the way these musicians go out of their way to say “look at me!, look at me!”. Kill that drummer and his ill-placed polyrhythms.
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Tyrant Goatgaldrakona – Horns in the Dark

The brutal riff syndrome. Although the band manages to put together riffs that are derived from each other, each song is made of a short progression of ideas that just ends. As ideas, the problem is that they are not concluded in any sort of way. Does all music have to be Beethovenian conclusion-oriented music? No, it doesn’t. But if you make music that appears to do that and then you fail to give appropriate conclusions, then, you have failed. Tyrant Goatgaldrakona, you have failed.

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Can We Judge Experimental Metal?

thequietus

I used to spend a lot of time plagued by the question of whether one can really judge experimental metal. At first glance, this may sound silly, because the tools of music criticism don’t disappear from a little experimentation. You can still ask how derivative it is; what the structure is; if the riffs are any good; and so on. But problems emerge when one realizes that there have been pieces of music throughout history which really defy all convention. I’d put forth Gyorgi Ligeti’s “Atmospheres” as an example which has no melodic or rhythmic content (and in some sense no harmonic motion either).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI0P1NnUFxc

Many of you are already screaming at your screen: “Atmospheres” makes you feel something. It is highly unsettling and successfully elicits emotions and responses in the listener. The only objective we need in evaluating music that breaks with tradition is if it successfully does what it intends to do or elicits an emotional response from the listener. I agree this is one possibility, but I reject the idea that abstract art has to have some objective or emotional goal to be worth engaging with. Think of beautiful paintings of fruit. Some may feel moved by it, but I think it is a stretch to claim this is where its value lies. Its worth is in the pure aesthetic experience it gives. Often this is beauty, but we could say “Atmospheres” is worth listening to for its coherent new aesthetic experience it provides. In fact, many other works of Ligeti do not have the emotive experience for justification but are all part of his unified aesthetic vision.

I should address whether this question is even worth thinking about. I think it is, because if we don’t have a way to distinguish quality, we’ll find ourselves randomly accepting or rejecting anything that defies convention. I’ve seen both extremes: the art hipster that defends to the death the greatness of a blank white canvas to the pop idolizer whose ears bleed at anything other than a I-IV-V-I progression over a 4/4 rock beat. Neither extreme is good music criticism, because both are ideologies that pre-judge rather than evaluate an album on its own terms. This means we have to give some thought to the question of whether it is even possible to judge music that pushes the boundaries. I’ll admit that basically no metal album, no matter how experimental, will be so extreme that we lack all ability to use traditional criticism. That’s not the point.

I, and most other reviewers, often get lazy and gloss over anything that is difficult to engage with. I find myself reviewing albums as traditionally as possible and only throwing in mention of experimental aspects without much thought. It usually takes the form of the above ideological lines by pointing out the experimental aspects as “original.” This tends to make any experimentation come across as a good thing in my reviews (when I’m being lazy).

One way I like to think of the messiness of experimentation in music is through an analogy to other arts, even though the analogy isn’t perfect or historically accurate. One could say that abstraction techniques in painting arose in part due to an identity crisis. Early paintings were very much about accuracy and representation of the world: portraits, landscapes, still lifes, etc. Probably in part due to the birth of photography (though it started a bit earlier), painters needed to add a human element to be able to justify its purpose. “The Weeping Woman” by Picasso may be a portrait, but it deviates from an accurate depiction of the woman in order to more powerfully portray her emotional state. A perfect picture of the woman couldn’t capture the tragedy and suffering so well. What I’m trying to say is that painters realized they could experiment in order to filter something through a point of view to create a messier, more human art.

Music usually lacks a subject, so in some sense the starting point is closer to abstract expressionism in painting. Strangely, music tends to be more rigid than painting for various reasons usually involving time. If your song is in 4/4, it is very difficult to make something sound messy, because members of a band are locked in an orderly pattern. One way to add a messy, human element is change up the time signature. This gets us to a value judgement. Take a stereotypical progressive metal band, Between the Buried and Me, for example. Often their use of varied time signatures comes across as tidy, carefully planned, and gimmicky. This is an example of bad experimentation, because it doesn’t fulfill its purpose of making something sound original, messy, or unexpected. Say what you will about Behold… the Arctopus, but at least they fulfill their purpose of experimenting with time to disorient the listener.

This brings us back to an earlier point. We can judge the experimentation on whether it fulfills its purpose. Theodor Adorno has probably written and thought about experimentation in music more than any other person. One of my favorite points of criticism from him is his explanation of how terrible it is when the sound of music is in contradiction with its purpose. He uses as an example Joan Baez singing protest music against the Vietnam War. She completely undermines her point about the senseless, incomprehensible violence of war by wrapping the song in a neat, easily digestible pop song. How can making war palatable possibly fulfill the purpose of a song that war is not palatable?

A great example of a metal album in which the sound fulfilled its purpose is At the Gates’ With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness. It isn’t quite experimental in the sense we’ve been discussing, but it serves as an example of metal where the sound reinforces the content (which, let’s be honest, was an important factor in much early death metal). We’ve reverted to easy cases again. Before tackling the hardest cases, I think one easy-to-spot bad thing is what I call an “experimentation poseur.” The album is fairly boring and uninventive, so the band tries to hide this and appeal to a certain crowd by throwing in some experimentation. Not only does this cover-up not work, it is embarrassing, because it is so obvious to an intelligent listener that you are trying to fool them. Something like Buckethead, Iwrestledabearonce, or much that self-identifies as “mathcore” work for examples. Harder cases are Jute Gyte, Psyopus, Behold… the Arctopus, and Cloak of Altering. These bands are uncompromising in their difficulty throughout the whole album. They also appear to have something like a coherent and consistent aesthetic vision which differs vastly from other metal. As proof, give me a new track I’ve never heard from one of those four bands, and I will have no difficulty telling you which one wrote it.

I often hear the complaint that anyone can create an ugly mess of noise with no structure or feeling, reminiscent of the complaint that anyone can drizzle paint on a canvas like Pollack. We’ve already addressed why this is lazy criticism. But it is also intellectually dishonest, because I don’t think anyone but the most skilled musicians could copy these bands. Anyone that thinks they merely “dripped ink onto a staff” and played whatever happened hasn’t really listened to them, and frankly, is so disengaged from honest discussion that their opinions can be dismissed as irrelevant. They sound nothing like Milton Babbitt, for instance, which basically wrote music using a dice roll. This is not to say any of these band’s albums are good. Figuring this out is the point of the discussion: how can we tell? Hopefully those who were skeptical about the question originally can see its relevance now. I must come back to this idea of the pure aesthetic experience. Now I’ll reveal that I stacked the deck with these four choices. I think we can give rough tiers for each of these band’s most recent albums.

Psyopus tends to be absurd for the purpose of being absurd. This means they have a lot of internal inconsistencies in their sound and musical language. One moment they play fast chromatic riffs, the next they glissando up and down, the next they drone with a girl shouting. It tends to be all over the place with the only goal to be different or weird. This is not a high quality aesthetic experience. I’d level the same charge at Cloak of Altering, but a step up. He is a bit more consistent, and I think the album has more worth.

Jute Gyte is much better. His musical syntax is more internally consistent. After a few listens, the album makes sense within its context. It isn’t microtonal for the sake of being different, it’s microtonal because that is a deliberate and consistent aesthetic choice he makes. I’ll reiterate, you may not personally find the experience worthwhile, but it is justifiable as a work of experimental metal. This is the whole point of experimentation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I know, 90% of you just shit your pants and decided to leave the site forever, because I’m about to say that Behold… the Arctopus is the highest tier of this list. It would take another post as long as this one to make the argument, but the key idea is the same. They have a consistent tonality, sound, style, musical syntax, and so on which creates a coherent aesthetic experience. I have no problem with someone listening to it and saying, “Nope. Still a worthless waste of time,” in the same way that I have no problem with someone looking at a Rothko and saying, “Nope. That’s just rectangles, not worth looking at.” The thing is, art criticism is old enough and mature enough that someone can separate that personal reaction from the idea that Rothko had a legitimate aesthetic program.

Thinking about metal as art is a bit too new. We tend to treat our personal taste and reaction to an album as the final word. All this is to say, I think there are ways to tell the difference between crappy experimental metal which tries to dupe a certain crowd into praising them and legitimate experimental metal which has a concrete aesthetic program being carried out in earnest. It is an important step in treating metal as art to have serious discussions on the worth of various experimental bands, but we can’t do that if we get stuck in the mindset that all the ones we don’t like are equally bad.

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Nahturnar set release date for debut

Altare Productions presents the debut album of Austria’s Nahtrunar, Symbolismus, set for international release on June 22nd. Appropriately, Symbolismus is conceptually dedicated to the nights at the turn of the year, known as “Rauhnächte” in old European customs and traditions.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 05-19-2015

BundesarchivBildDieppeLandungsversuch

Like the clueless cannon fodder that most sacrificed soldiers end up being in major wars, so too are the hordes of albums of clueless “musicians” working on a way to cash in on the lack of attention span and seriousness of the masses. Lazy music for lazy minds, candy music for people wearing rose-colored glasses. It all ends up here, sadistically reviewed, their corpses lying on the ground. Perhaps comparing these releases to massacred soldiers is giving them too much life. These sterile releases are more akin to cardboard boxes with Andy Warhole (yes, War-HOLE) colored stupidity.
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Heathen Beast – The Carnage of Godhra

Scream lyrics in monochromatic vox, make cavemannish groove riffs that mimic the vocal rhythms, and then overlay or alternate with middle-eastern instruments from a keyboard. Apparently Heathen Beast thinks this is enough to make some sort of progressive folk music. Of course, you need the narrated sections, or the dialogues. Then this becomes a conceptual release. Just because you can release your musical creations does not mean you should unleash your turds on the world. Some of the cheapest music to hit the mail this month.
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Osculum Infame – The Axis of Blood

Make-believe black metal that grooves like alternative metal. The nonsensical juxtaposition of sections to surprise and contradict expectation is rampant. The point is not to make the music coherent in any sense. The point is to posture. We are black metal, man, we are hardcore black metal.  The reliance of this music on grooving rhythms and macho-man vocals ala Phil Anselmo is as sickening as it is disgraceful. The true black metal fan will do well to stay away from this one. Save yourself some precious minutes of your mortal life.

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VoidCeremony – Dystheism

The epitome of the riff salad disaster in the so-called atmospheric death metal. The trick here is simple: make obscure, messy riffs, lots of them, more than you can count. They do not need to progress in any particular direction, they do not need to be necessarily related. They do need to keep a character, at least. This will make the fans laud your music for creating “such a dark and oppressive atmosphere”. You will hear poser hipsters like Anthony Fantano who know nothing about the graceful art of musical construction praising poorly thought-out death metal such as this. They equate “I do not know what the fuck is going on with the music but I can get the feeling” with good quality in death metal.  Tough-sounding ambient music for blockheads.

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No God Only Pain releases music video

no_god_only_pain_-_joy_of_suffering

No God Only Pain has just released a music video for their new album’s title track, Joy of Suffering. No God Only pain play a brand of primitive black metal with heavy Oi! component which brings to mind early absurd at moments but distinguishes itself with more dynamic songwriting. Atmospheric and at the same time driving, this music maintains coherence and stylistic consistence while never stagnating, an improvement over past approaches to this particular musical blend. While still having loose ends, this music shows a lot of promise.

No God Only Pain contact:

https://www.facebook.com/nogodonlypain?fref=ts

http://nogodonlypain.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AClnNyXudAE

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Dolentia set release date for highly anticipated album

altare

Altare Productions is proud to present Dolentia’s highly anticipated second album, Iniciação Eversiva, set for international release on June 22nd. The vinyl LP version of Dolentia’s Iniciação Eversiva was released earlier this year the UK’s Mordgrimm, and that release featured six songs. Now, a CD version will be released by Portugal’s Altare Productions in conjuction with Mordgrimm, and will feature two bonus re-recorded songs from the 2007 demo A Idade da Morte, Liturgia do Sangue e da Agonia: “Lapidis/Sacrificium” (two songs glued together, like the band uses to play live) and “Era Portucalensis.”

Tracklist:

1. Voragem
2. Guardião das Almas
3. Entre Túmulos Esquecidos
4. Supremo Desígnio
5. Do Fundo dos Abismos
6. A Noite
7. Lapidis – Sacrificium
8. Era Portucalensis

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Undergang – Døden Læger Alle Sår

undergang

Playing a cavernous underground music, Undergang have crystallized a style in Døden Læger Alle Sår that harks back to the sound not only of obvious Scandinavian forefathers but also to that of Morpheus Descends and Demoncy. Rather than spiraling through serpentine corridors as Incantation does, Undergang uses vocabulary from the Swedeath lingo here, and then the atmospheric death metal riff of Morpheus Descends there, only to descend into a the more inconspicuous atmospheric tremoloing of Demoncy to further the expression. Enriching this mixture of influences, we can also find unexpected doom-like moments with the economical and spacious approach of Worship.

 

Even though all these are present in Døden Læger Alle Sår, the style parade that a collection of influences often results in is not present here. It is also very important to stress that Undergang does not fall into trope repetition nor does it wink at the listener with a cliche here and a cliche there. The band expertly appropriates the different stylistic conventions under a overall Swedish death metal mantle and, more impressively, escapes the cliches of the latter as well. The reason why it can work is because the grindy Nihilist, the American Morpheus Descends and the decorative ends in Demoncy and Worship – like breaths are all compatible. It is only unfortunate that while all this has been accomplished, Undergang’s own voice still seems only visible as a blurry image behind this coherent, translucid tapestry.

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Classical String Quartets for the Death Metal Fan, episode three

haydn schoenberg

Today we will visit the works of two great composers in their own right who were also the teachers, directly or indirectly, of other composers who are considered musical geniuses. These geniuses were Mozart and Beethoven after Haydn, and Webern and Berg after Schoenberg.

In a way, Haydn and Schoenberg represent opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of the relation between composer and society. Haydn was employed by the Esterhazy family for many years, serving as personal composer for their events and whims. An honored servant, making music in the styles fashionable to the aristocracy. Schoenberg, on the other hand, was a product of a much different era, a century and a  half later, when composers had attained a position of independent eminence and power as a result of a process that had started in Mozart’s time and made more clear with Beethoven. Schoenberg’s attitude and music widened the gap between an artists pursuit of perfection and the audience’s taste and preferences.  This, of course, was a result of larger historical processes and not the work of a composer; Schoenberg was a result of these, not a cause.

Franz Joseph Haydn: Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross

Originally written for a classical orchestra as a commission for the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva in Spain, Haydn reworked this music intended as accompaniment for the mass as a string quartet at the petition of his publisher. Irrelevant here, but it is worth mentioning that the composer later adapted this work as an oratorio as well.

Arnold Schoenberg: String Quartet No. 2

Powerful and particularly lyrical in its melodies, this quartet is unusual in its use of a soprano in its last two movements.  About this quartet, the composer says:

“I was inspired by poems of Stefan George, the German poet, to compose music to some of his poems and, surprisingly, without any expectation on my part, these songs showed a style quite different from everything I had written before.” – Arnold Schoenberg (1937)

The work uses a wide array of work tools, starting with a very late romantic feeling and moving into atonal experiments; the last movements in which all chromatic tones are used.

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Greyhaze Records Reissuing Mystifier’s Goetia

mystifier01

Greyhaze Records is set to reissue Goetia, the second full-length album from Brazilian black metal horde Mystifier. Originally released in 1993 by Osmose Productions, Greyhaze Records has restored and remastered this black metal milestone to ensure each venomous track permeates the listener’s senses to the fullest effect. In addition to the 10 tracks that appeared on the original release, the CD version of the Greyhaze reissue features three live bonus tracks. The album is available a six-panel digipak CD and double vinyl LP (black vinyl or red w/ black smoke vinyl). The vinyl version does not include the bonus live tracks.

Goetia is available at store.greyhazerecords.com.
www.facebook.com/mystifier666
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