The wording above says releasing, not releases. There’s apparently a bit of label-shopping and confusion as to when this interesting work will actually land. The good news is that when the new Pasadena Napalm Division (P.N.D.) full-length lands it will probably crush your spine.
P.N.D. is a thrash band formed of D.R.I. vocalist Kurt Brecht and Dead Horse guitarists Greg Martin and Scott Sevall, joined by drummer Ronnie Guyote. Formed in 2008, the band released an EP in 2010 which was greeted by enthusiasm from the fans.
Since this is a project band for Brecht, its schedule is unsteady and depends in part on when he’s not busy with his main act D.R.I.. As explained in a recent article, much of P.N.D’s output arose from times when D.R.I. was out of commission due to guitarist Spike Cassidy‘s health woes.
The album will be released on SF-based Minus Head Records, but the exact date is uncertain but likely April or later of this year. Since the band waited over a year to release the album while label-shopping, this means we’re finally getting a glimpse into their 2011 output. Maybe this will spur them on to do even more.
This world is composed of snares that waste your time. Their job is to reach out, grab you, and destroy your chances of doing anything more impressive with those moments. One snare is nostalgia. It’s Pavlovian. A scent, a sound or a shape reaches out to your senses and before you know it, a chain has formed in your mind. You’ve linked this new thing to a happy older memory and by sheer impulse, since memory is more idealized and thus sweeter than present tense, you just leap into enjoying it. It’s only later that you realize it’s empty.
Obliteration – Nekropsalms
Borrowing the aesthetic of nocturnal death and grind from Carbonized through Cadaver, Obliteration make a type of doom-death with heavy metal underpinnings that is very easy to listen to. Indeed, hours can pass while you listen. It may in fact be like being dead. There’s nothing wrong with this sort of pleasant withdrawal from active participation in life. However, although it doesn’t have any negatives, it also doesn’t add any positives. This is basically riff practice shaped by tempo into songs, sort of like those “modern art” sculptures made from whatever the artist had at hand. “So then I welded the dildo the engine block, wrapped the condoms around it, dumped paint on it and put a doll’s head on top.” Songs catchy and you’ll have a few favorite parts. Over time you will start hearing the lifts from Slayer, Deicide, Mayhem and others. Eventually this will leave you feeling empty. You will realize that these are riffs and nostalgia and nothing more. Total time elapsed: two weeks.
Sarcofagus – Cycle of Life
As I go through life, it amazes me how many people know so much and yet can do nothing with it. They are able to memorize the outward details and even excel at that, but their understanding of the structure beneath is lacking so what they produce sounds like an imitation. This band, who are painfully awful and remind me of everything that makes metal loathsome, are an Angel Witch clone who through in more of the moddish blues and rock influences of the late 1960s and early 1970s to try to differentiate themselves. I don’t mean to be cruel; this is just painfully bad. It is not cliches, but rather slight modifications of known riff archetypes jazzed up with a little bit of well-studied technique, thrown together randomly. These aren’t songs; they sound like songs. They are imitation from the outward in, a student emulating the masters without grasping what motivated them. Turn it off… this is cringeworthy.
Chtheilist – Amechthntaasmrriachth
Gosh, we all remember the day we first heard Demilich like we remember the day we first “got it” with many iconic metal bands. That day is gone and will never be back. If you try to bring that day back, it’s like believing that a gold-plated aluminum idol is a god. You can’t restore that day by imitating it. Just like it wasn’t the beer, the temperature, the cycle of the moon, etc. that defined the day you remember as “the best day of my life,” it isn’t the outward characteristics that make Demilich. It was a vision in the minds and souls of its creator that was became the freaky music you know because that ecclectic combination was the only means to express what needed to be said. Imagine “It’s Raining Men” sung by heterosexuals; it just doesn’t deliver. Demilich isn’t its own style. Demilich is whatever motivated those artists to see the world a certain way and then express it. That being said, this Ctheilist album is an attempt to imitate Demilich and Timeghoul but because it’s outward-in emulation, it ends up being all technique. Underneath this is a very basic death metal album that uses relatively normal chromatic and minor key progressions, riffs and stylings. It resembles a collision between Nocturnus and Broken Hope. It’s quite good for that zone, but it’s not Demilich and while the tribute is touching, it doesn’t make this relatively ordinary music any more interesting.
Ofermod – Tiamtu
It’s hard to dislike this band aesthetically because it imitates the best era of Mayhem, the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas year(s). Makes you want to kick back, open a beer and a light up a church, right? However, all things that are aesthetic without soul are pointless. Soul means a principle of organization that the artists want to express and communicate. It may be a feeling, a shape or a memory. But it is being expressed, or rather described, as the song takes you from a place of ignorance to a place of doubt to knowledge of the whole thing. When bands have no soul, it is because they are imitating the aesthetic of something. They are like OJ Simpson’s defense lawyers. However, there is no highest principle of organization because it is a checklist of things that imitate the past with no core, no center, no idea behind them. This album sounds like Mayhem’s Wolves Lair Abyss done in the style of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, since it cycles like circus music and goes nowhere. Beware nostalgia, it is a death grip on your soul.
Entrails – Tails from the Morgue
Swedish death metal is the sleeper hit of the last 21 summers. Even babies and dolphins love Swedish death metal. Combine the crunchiest distortion possible with simple melodies and aggressive tempo changes, not to mention the characteristic use of textured strumming to give each piece an internal rhythm, and you have pure win as far as metal style goes. It’s like the phrase “do it for the children” in a political speech. But what made the greats great as opposed to footnotes like everyone to follow is more nuanced. At the end of the day, it’s two things: songwriting, and having something to write about. The best Swedish bands had about three good albums in them while they unleashed their perceptions as shaped charges of emotion mated to careful realism. The result was a shuddering cascade of layered sensations of total alienation that conveyed how intelligent people saw the yawning abyss of post-1980s modern society. And then there are those who imitate this, and like a costume ball or a carnival, it must be “fun” because it has no content. The immaculate production on this record is like a doctor’s rubber mallet tapping the knee, because the reflex jerks… and that’s about it. The lack of any further depth and the insistence on using the antiquated hard rock cliches of the 1980s makes this dubious, but the real absence is anything to tie these songs together and make them anything but jam-room projects. Might as well write “NOT Left Hand Path” on the cover to warn people.
Sargeist – Let the Devil In
Post-1996 black metal is out of ideas. For example, how many times can you imitate “Bergtrollets Hevn” and “Måneskyggens Slave” (Gorgoroth) before you truly admit you’re using Silly Putty to life an image from a newspaper, then pretending it’s the real thing? The vocals on this album surge so consistently that it sounds like someone riding a merry-go-round while screaming at the top of his lungs. Despite an obviously intensive and thorough study of older black metal (probably with note cards and those little colored tab things in a binder) Sargeist has none of what makes the songs good. Like Ancient, it tends to like to use melodic minor scale patterns and then drift into more cheerful whole intervals, creating a sense of lifting out of darkness. Unlike Ancient, this band has no idea how to structure songs; these don’t go anywhere, but cycle around until you’ve heard all the good parts, and then evaporate. It’s tempting to want to like this because it’s catchy, sounds like old black metal from a distance, and isn’t all wimpified like more recent black metal. But it’s missing that core, the substance and the unique beauty that black metal found in darkness.
Remember, nostalgia is a way of thinking that says your best days are behind you. You might as well write VICTIM on your forehead (remember to do it backwards if you use a mirror). The best days are ahead. They may not look like the old days, but that’s what life is all about: structure, not appearances. Celebrate the best of the past, and redouble your efforts toward a better future. There’s no reason you can’t do it at any age; Milton wrote Paradise Lost in his 80s, Raymond Chandler got published in his 50s for the first time, and Brahms was in his mid-40s before his first symphonies saw a performance. Take heart! Charge forward! Take no prisoners (and if you do, sodomize them)! Kill! Fight! Win!
Part of being metal is to be un-metal and to follow projects in a related spirit that do not necessarily use screaming guitars, blasting drums, howling guttural vocals and lyrics about doom.
Some in fact are more ambient. Take for example New England’s Khand, a project band from members of well-known right coast black metal bands, which works in the dark ambient genre but with its own twist that more resembles the classics of psychedelic and cosmic ambient music.
The Fires of Celestial Ardour, released via Hi.Arc.Tow as a GPL-licensed free download, is “all over the place stylistically, but it’s all done with a fantasy/sci-fi mindset,” according to Khand creator Arillius.
Touting itself as music for fans of Tangerine Dream, RPG music, Dead Can Dance, Mortiis, Vangelis, Lord Wind, Winglord and related epic dark ambient projects, Khand is more playful than the norm but creates an atmosphere not of darkness, but of great possibility in which darkness and light are not destinations but means to an end.
“I keep this project all low-fi and try not to use any keyboards, samples or programs that came out post-2000,” said Arillius, who is famed in north eastern black metal circles for his unusual lifestyle. He lives and records in a houseboat without windows anchored offshore, and much of his music reflects the motion of waves, the call of seagulls, and the occasional bloated corpse brushing up against the hull. Often he goes for months without human contact except to post misanthropic screeds on his Facebook Page.
For those who like ambient, but like it dark, and like dark ambient, but like it to have a range of emotions beyond “alone in my dark room with a sword,” Khand provides a perfect listening experience that is also free of charge.
Eric Syre lives underground metal. He has been active for many years and is highly regarded. An insatiable artist, he expands into different media, fields and instrumental abilities as it suits him. And now, he has a new band called Beast Within.
The biography roughly describes this band, but a better summary is this: if you can imagine newer Celtic Frost/Triptykon covering older Celtic Frost with a doom/stoner metal groove, you can imagine where Beast Within are going.
We were able to catch up with Mr. Syre for a quick Q&A:
You have a unique lyrical concept with Beast Within that’s about the self escaping society. Can you tell me more?
We are still developing the whole concept as we haven’t completed the lyrics for all the songs we have written. There’s definitely a Nietzschean, Satanist, occult and nihilistic thread in what we’re writing, especially in the two songs we already released. We stand for the emanation of the true “Self”, buried deep inside each man and woman by centuries of decadence, slavery and blindness imposed by a false moral, political and religious elite (not the “self” individualistic values praised by our contemporary consumerist society).
You’re a well-known figure in the black metal underground. Can you give us a brief biography of yourself and the band?
I’ve been actively involved in the whole Metal scene for the last 20 years. I started playing in bands in 1992. Thesyre has been my longest running band (1995). I’ve also been the lead vocalist/lyricist in Decayed Remains, bassist in Soulseasons, actual live drummer with Akitsa and I am now the lead vocalist in Beast Within. I also had a myriad of projects including Unlife, Golem, Supernova and did a few recordings on my own as Eric Syre. I am also doing freelance artwork for other bands.
The other musicians of Beast Within followed a path similar to mine. Past bands and projects includes (among others) Utlagr, Blackwind and The Vault.
I guess you can say we’re semi-veterans of the scene.
How would you describe the musical direction of this new entity?
We’ve all been raised on the classics of the 80s and Celtic Frost is a common ground for all of us. It was important for us to keep things minimal and oldschool. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel but it’s very important to have our own sound. The groove you refer to has a lot to do with the simplicity of the music and its underlying rock vibe. We’re aiming for something heavy, dark, groovy and catchy at the same time.
Do you think that being from a French-culture area of Canada has influenced your songwriting or outlook?
Being French-Canadians always had an influence on us, willingly or not. We’re isolated in the eastern part of Canada and to be honest, it’s almost like we’re living in a different country. We never had the same cultural reaction to the lyrics of the bands we listened to in the early years. We always had to translate, filter and in some ways interpret everything in order to understand what was expressed. I guess we probably got a lot more into it for this reason; It required some form of personal involvement which maybe wasn’t as mandatory for English-speaking fans, for example. The same could be said about the lyrics we wrote. Even if it’s important for us to stay true to our culture, it’s hard to get recognized with lyrics in French worldwide. The whole isolation factor also pushed the pioneers of our scene to have an original sound and a different approach. Voivod got noticed quite early for that very reason, I think. The Quebec scene never got over-saturated with bands and so far I can still claim that quality over quantity is a constant over here.
You mention that you derive influences from Celtic Frost and Pentagram. Why these two?
Celtic Frost inspired us the most with Beast Within. Pentagram is a common interest within the band. Both bands have a strong, recognizable style based on simplicity, catchiness and both are quite effective with the memorability of their songwriting. If we can take cues from those influential bands and eventually establish a characteristic sound for Beast Within, our job will be done. As craftsmen of the genre as a whole, we’re there to deliver dark and heavy music the way we think is the best. Time shall tell if we do it right…
I bet you will. Look for this band to shake up the complacent post-underground scene.
Mark your virtual calendar for Fri, February 22, 6:05 PM EET (which translates to 10:05 AM Central time here in the States) for a live concert which will be streaming over the internet to your screen.
In particular, this is reportedly the last ever concert of Finland’s Demilich, who despite being legendary and making legendary music, have probably seen their last days since guitarist Antti Boman is happily ensconced in Jess and the Ancient Ones.
Also playing will be Winterwolf, a band that calls to mind the buzzsaw guitar and dark melodies of God Macabre and Amorphis. Most likely the luminaries of the Finnish death metal underground will be there as well.
According to the course syllabus, the class will “examine the forty-year history of heavy metal, interrogate major themes and how they persist and/or change with(in) the principal metal movements and sub-genres, and speculate as to the potential literary future of heavy metal.” Jacobsen has created a private Facebook group for the page and the class will use an etext for the text book.
Aosoth’s third album III: Violence & Variation hemmed in repetitive riffs and enshrouded them into bleak atmospheric black metal. Reminiscent of Antaeus, Aosoth twist and contrive distorted tones to create an intransigent body of work.
The band expressed their progression from III to IV:
“We’ve spent such a huge amount of time on defining a darker identity, yet open to a wider range of influences. Those tracks still haunt us, as delivering them was a painful and excruciating experience, and left some of us even physically wounded… Which gives that album even more of a spiritual value, as it involved a form of sacrifice.” The band also added: “This fourth full-length release is without a doubt a great step forward for us in term of music writing, and sound.”
In addition to the release of IV, Agonia Records will release black vinyl versions of II and III on April 16th.
The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America
by Shane and Amy Bugbee
532 pages, $50 (direct: paperback $25 ebook $10)
Shane and Amy Bugbee are no strangers to controversy. Shane helped produce the original Milwaukee Metalfests, then ran several of his own Expo of the Extreme shows, while publishing classic Ragnar Redbeard texts with intros by Anton LaVey and running a radio show called Radio Free Satan with the blessing off the occult community.
In addition, the Bugbees put fingers into about every pie in the outsider art community, from banned comic book artist Mike Diana to — well, evil metal, now that you mention it. Their book The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America is a tour of the USA to discover its roots, but it’s also a series of interviews with some of metal’s greatest minds.
Originally, Shane and Amy Bugbee, a married pair of artists and entrepreneurs, planned an adventure called A Year at the Wheel where they would drive the length and breadth of the United States during an election year and record what they saw.
Luckily these artists are also metalheads and so decided to visit with a number of classic figures in the underground or related scenes. They interviewed Jeff Becerra (twice), Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat), Averse Sefira, the West Memphis 3, metal artist Jeff Gaither, and Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel).
These interviews tend to be in-dept explorations of the motivations behind metal artists, and include a number of statements that are crushing in their honesty and profundity. In many ways, they showcase the best of metal when all of the rock-star impositions are removed.
For example, take this selection from Averse Sefira:
Some people think the only real difference between black metal and other forms of metal is the fact that you wear corpse paint and that you scream instead of growl. That’s really, really short sighted. You look at a band like Emperor. You could not write a song like ‘I Am The Black Wizards’ in death metal or thrash or anything like that. You could not write a song like ‘Blashyrkh’ the song that Immortal did in any other genre but black metal. It wants to transcend and that is why we are involved in it. (307)
Interview questions become interesting as the Bugbees interrogate their subjects about historical mysteries, and in doing so, lay bare to some of the vital issues conflicting them. For example, Jeff Becerra (Possessed) on his Satanism and censorship:
We had to take the upside down cross off of the second and third records, well we didn’t, the record company did. We actually toned down the Satanism for the second and third because it was the bonfire of the vanities, the Christians were throwing books on the fire and burning shit up that might be important. People’s moms were making them switch to catholic school cause they were getting caught with shit, like it was drugs, people were afraid of Satan then, no one is scared of Satan now… It’s a trip because if people find spirituality without fear it’s gonna be okay. Life is
scary enough at this point in time, we don’t need to put metaphysical boogie men in our children’s heads. (445)
Not all of the interviews are metal per se, but it’s hard to deny the influence of Minor Threat on underground bands who came after them. Much as punk is different than metal however, the punk outlook as expressed by Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat) is less metaphysical and more political — in fact, this may be the most significant difference between metal and punk, now that I think about it:
In my mind, at least in our culture, the overriding emphasis is on profit and wealth. I think it’s actually the modern form of power. Before there were royalty and kings, or this guy has the biggest knife and cuts off more people’s heads. Now the warriors, the really powerful people are the rich people, and profit is so dominating in all business conversations. (514)
What makes these interviews interesting (outside of the content) is that they are not in a fanzine. This is a book about driving across America to figure out what it’s all about. The goal was to discover it, and themselves, for the authors. In doing so, by approaching many classic musicians from non-standard angles, they captured a lot of what motivated them.
In addition, the Bugbees are no strangers to the type of experience that a metalhead has in a society that, whether motivated by Jesus or money or something else, doesn’t like the disobedient and too smart to conform and get in line for the easy jobs and abundant shopping. In their case, it was a professed interest in Satanism, horror movies, metal and pornography that attracted negative attention.
In America’s heartland, they had to abandon a town and a successful business when a “poison pen letter” outed them as the authors of several atheistic and not-so-very-Jesus blogs that might have endorsed Satanism. Along their trip, they lost other jobs too, as well as non-profit opportunities. In a few cases, they almost lost friends or other contacts but were able to rescue the situation.
Wherever they went, these accusations seemed to follow them. It would make anyone paranoid. It explains what so many metalheads feel in this society, which is that the instant it identifies us as outsiders, it goes on the offensive. We are seen as a threat to its way of life, whether it be conservative and Christian or politically correct and urban.
For this and other interesting explorations of what it is to be an outsider, The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America is a great read for anyone who has stepped outside of the mainstream, and wants to find a reason not just to be outside, but to celebrate it.
Black Sabbath‘s forthcoming album 13, to be released in June this year, will apparently be less heavy metal and more blues. Quoth mastermind Toni Iommi:
You can’t always repeat what you’ve done, you’ve just to go on… It’ll be today’s version of how it was 40 years ago.
The initiative, however, seems to come from producer Rick Rubin, who referred to the band’s début album and told the members to “keep it in mind” and play the music like a live gig, and according to Ozzy Osbourne, Rubin “didn’t want the songs to be verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, bridge — he wanted it to flow”.
It seems then that we might expect a modern version of the dark atmosphere that deflected the hippie optimism of 1960s, as heard on the classic showcased below. This will be awesome.
Back in the hazy 00’s, psychologist Philip Zimbardo released his book ‘The Lucifer Effect‘, which its title derives from the metaphorical transformation of Lucifer into Satan. It was a study about how good people can do bad deeds, and its substance was mainly on his findings about how prison guards turn to abusing inmates. The ultimate point Zimbardo was trying to make was that there is no good or evil person, since each person can be seduced to “good” or “bad” undertakings.
However, torture can be a very sufficient way to throw your enemy into turmoil. With the outright contradiction that is Christian “Metal“, it can catapult the listener into a world of confusion, thus becoming a very suitable device for torment.
According to Esquire Magazine, a gaggle of Navy SEALs were using the music of Metallica to torture Iraqi militants. Once Metallica received notice that their music was actually resulting in something proactive, they issued a press statement requesting them to cease. “Part of me is proud they chose Metallica, and then part of me is bummed about it. We’ve got nothing to do with this and we’re trying to be apolitical as possible – I think politics and music, at least for us, don’t mix,” said James Hetfield.
Saddened by Metallica‘s decision, the Navy SEALs embarked onward to take things into their own hands and forged the most psychologically destructive torture device known to man: Christian “Metal“. They enlisted the imagery and audio idiocy of Demon Hunter to show the militants true patriotic strength.
“Demon Hunter said, ‘We’re all about promoting what you do.’ They sent us CDs and patches. I wore my Demon Hunter patch on every mission – I wore it when I blasted Bin Laden,” one Navy SEAL stated.
One could assume that lunatic Osama Bin Laden took the easy route out. Death before Christian “Metal“.