Hailing from Rhodes, black metal project The One comes to us from the mastermind behind Macabre Omen, who alongside Varathron have been the most consistent artists in the Hellenic scene during the past few years. The One performs a style of black metal that draws from various influences such as Mayhem, Hellhammer, and Bathory, yet it is filtered through the Hellenic prism of longer melodies and warm, ritual atmosphere.4 Comments
D E C I E V E R I O N
2002 Era Horrificus
Decieverion start out making what can precisely be described as dark metal, an amalgam of death, black and heavy metal techniques underpinned by extreme metal vocals which can be of a variety of kinds. The purpose of this music is first and foremost to take the listener through sights both bleak and destructive, but also moving and pensive. To this end, dark metal, and so Decieverion, adopt a variety of techniques which, while not disparate or incongruous, make it hard for the critic to place them within one style or genre. Unlimited by such restrictions, the music wanders around seemlessly without great contrasts being perceived as outright offensive. On the downside, the lack of stylistic focus gives this music an altogether weak voice, even if execution is enjoyable and profficient. Incumbered by the liberties and confusion of dark metal, Decieverion tread a middle path that allows for the transmission of varied emotionality at the expense of clarity and elaboration towards depth. A final valuation of the present work reveals that the greatest treasure to be found here is one of countless things to say subsumed under a same aura and personality.
Dark metal moves, as its name directly implies, towards themes “of darkness.” In short towards the less pleasant, the less visited, but no less crucial aspects of our lives and minds that are often neglected but which are more decisive to human experience than the parts that are “positive” or “nice,” —human delusions not withstanding. Furthermore, dark metal as a whole tends towards personal sensations of frustration or desperation, rather than the painting of mythological outlooks. In this there is the advantage of being able to raise a sign that says “I have seen and I have lived.” The disadvantage is that in taking up the space and time to represent this subjective, changing and capricious individuality, the comprehensible link that would make the music self-evident through structures and style to others becomes blurred and debilitated. Instead, it is the bleeding emotionality that seeps through the cracks that impressionistically transmits a holistic image that can only be captured by intuition. Furthermore, the commonplace nature of the expressions used ensures that it is the intuition of a human unencumbered by layers of abstractions and “artistic” demands that finds the emotional clarity found herein as the Decieverion’s most important asset.
Decieverion then moves between passages that hint at black metal, at death metal and at so-called doom metal, in a way that many would interpret as a that of an undefined underground metal. But being these stylistic differentiations within an ultimately united genre, a prudent mind can fuse them together without the slightest hint of incongruity. Sufficiently intelligible complexity is achieved by smoothing out the textures of adjacent sections, and using contrasts in this texture as narrative markers, rather than as tools of shock, which would have destroyed the music’s credibility. The rightful complaint to be made is not so much that the styles are mismatching, because they are taken back to the power chord, as well as the multi-purpose percussion style that is founded upon the rock-based extremisms of underground metal. As such, and in order to attain stylistic variety, Decieverion errs on the side of more mainstream genres. To summarize, Decieverion let themselves be understood by choosing the more comprehensible popular aspects of metal, as far as they go, while developing a narrative by extending songs that connect sections through a proper minding of texture and by protecting the integrity of tonality.
If music is to be ultimately interpreted as an art of communicating what words cannot describe, then the art of Decieverion is accomplished at that of the transmission of experience-based insight from individual to individual. While other works leave great impressions of great art, they are ultimately impersonal and lacking immediate relevance to the majority that behold them in awe.15 Comments
Abominations of Desolation (1986) appeared during the fertile years of death metal as the first full-length release from Morbid Angel but was relegated to demo status during the period when the band became more well known. All the songs except “Demon Seed” were re-recorded on later releases.
The true first Morbid Angel album reveals the genetic material that the band would then expand for the next three releases during what would be their musical prime. It shows the band at their peak from a compositional point of view owing in part to the combination of Azagthoth’s and Browning’s genuine belief in the Necronomicon and the focus on making their music the soundtrack to their beliefs.
The incredibly diverse riffcraft shows the band absorbing influences principally from Hellhamer, Angel Witch, Slayer and Mercyful Fate. Unlike their influences, the band plays fully developed death metal with long tremolo picked passages, single picked notes, fast alternate picked open strings playing against moving power chord progressions, even playing with other diatonic chords from time to time and combining the whole in a varied amount of ways depending on the needs of the songs. Notably absent is the influence of speed metal which would appear on the more streamlined Altars of Madness (1989). None of the bounce nor the rhythmic interplay of their contemporaries is in evidence here; the band does not accentuate the offbeats nor do they use the choppy syncopation of their more well-known peers.
From the heavy metal that was so influential to this record Morbid Angel brought the device of guitar solos, not as an ornament or an embellishment, but as a central piece within the composition that works closely with the rhythm guitars playing underneath. Here is a band with a limited number of technical tools derived from previous bands but combined in a large variety of ways that sets the standard for all of death metal and allows the band to create much more powerful melodies that can be interconnected in maze like arrangements.
Contrary to popular belief Morbid Angel never attempted to create atonal music as they obviously do enjoy smashing one note or power chord and then making the whole sequence invert the relationship formerly established. However, on a much subtler note Trey Azagthoth does have the ability to play with tonality in the most twisted of ways. Take for example “Chapel of Ghouls” and how the low chugging has a particular power to it and never sounds like the chugging between riffs from any speed metal derived band. That is because the chugging note is not the actual root note of the song but what is referred to as the subtonic. This is the last note in the natural minor scale and demonstrates a lack of desire to lead into the root note of the scale. Rather than a rhythmic embellishment, we are treated to an integral note in the many motifs of “Chapel of Ghouls” and how the band managed to truly convey power and occultist ideology through simple yet effective musical choices.
Chromaticism at this point in time had already been a widespread technique but Morbid Angel decided to apply their own twist on it. Rather than create fully chromatic passages the songs are derived from the minor scale and its variations but with added streams of three or four chromatic bursts. This really did obscure the tonality of certain passages, and gave birth to the myth that Morbid Angel played atonal music to make the band seem much more intellectual where in reality the young band did even better than that: they adapted tonality for their own style and to this day very few bands have been able to emulate these techniques efficiently.
The arrangements here push the riff as being above all else. Multiple melodies form these songs that flow in such a fluid manner that this would inspire the Norwegian scene in their compositional choices. The melodies vary in tempo and in note selection yet the transitions never sound forced as the band will lengthen the note duration when speeding up and shorten the note duration when slowing down. This allows for these motifs to mutate without being held back by rhythm. The influence of Mozart is subtle but is ever present in the way the band designs the arrangement of each song. At first each song has a primary melody that either begins the composition or is introduced by a motif of minor importance. A development then occurs either through a new riff that either takes the previous motif and transforms it or through an entirely new riff accompanied with a tempo change to push the tension even further along. Eventually the music arrives at an apex where all the tension is released before it concludes on the main motif that has now become a revelation.
Let us look at “Angel of Disease,” which has a simple heavy metal motif in D# minor without any chromatic notes. It is then warped to a slower riff that is barely in D# minor but has been deformed entirely by surrounding chromatic notes and this continues the momentum of the main motif as the cycle repeats one more time before branching out into a palm muted stream of single notes working in opposition with the secondary motif leading us to the grand climax of the song. The solos Azagthoth performs obey the underlying riffs and, through a combination of insane melodies that are at times atonal whole tone jumps or some very unique arpeggios like the diminished seventh which is an endless stream of minor thirds, create some very unique sounds. The solos through their madness show a strong logic where they reinforce the arrangements either by providing the climax or by creating even more tension upon the chromatic segments.
Abominations of Desolation takes the underground metal that evolving at the same time and use it to make the first truly mature death metal record. Surprisingly the heavy metal of the past is still very present in this band though it remains a device for the creation of the more consonant motifs, yet one can only wonder what the avenue explored by the only song to not appear on future records “Demon Seed.” The extravagant heavy metal didn’t seem to be in accordance with the band’s future works but what we have here is a Judas Priest style composition that plays with its dual identity, and it would take a few years before the European bands would develop this style further.
Where the influence of future country singer David Vincent would push Morbid Angel to explore grindcore and speed metal whilst taking influence from this album, Mike Browning was able to channel the band toward creating a powerful piece of art that is still to this day not fully understood and that neither musician has been able to recreate. There are far too many elements in this album to effectively analyze in such small an article as this is, but it reveals the power held by the common beliefs of two above average individuals, as well as reveals the magic that happened in that incredibly short period time only to disappear back to the depths of hell.12 Comments
In this age of musical saturation, noteworthy releases slip through the cracks as mediocrity bombards the average Death metal listener who prefers to remain within the well-defined boundaries of the classics of the genre. Some bands distinguish themselves the horde and create compelling works that while not classics are sincere and well-crafted pieces of music that deserve attention and that merit multiple listens. Very rarely do we see works of art crafted within this genre that can be compared on equal footing to the greats of the past in creating their own unique voice. Here at Death Metal Underground we have entered Sammath and Serpent Ascending into that category. Today we open the gates for Ectovoid and their release Dark Abstraction (2015).
Bethlehem are a German band that was formed with the intention of adding sorrow, melancholy and madness into extreme metal. Their first opus “Dark Metal” used a mixture of black metal, slower primitive death metal and the melancholic rock inspired British sound that bands like My Dying Bride were developing. (more…)12 Comments
Our tribute to Hellhammer is more than a recognition of their historical importance. Rather, we understand the relevance of Hellhammer as one artistic, in terms of the development of the craft of metal, and as the time-less place of several of their compositions. In general, we can hear the band’s material broken in two directions: one is the temporal rock n’ roll influence, and the other a hint of madness, an intrusion of the unknown into the mind of Tom G. Warrior especially. It is the exploration of this unknown side that brought forth what makes Hellhammer the realization of underground metal as music, not simply as idea or as a ‘social’ movement or a ‘sub/counter’ culture. The latter two are temporal, and ultimately just by-products. What concerns us here is the dark side channeled, the a-/supra- temporal, the in-human and the un-humane making headway unbeknownst and not fully understood by the artists themselves.
Satanic Rites is one of the early influences that would take the heavy metal and hardcore punk of the past and transform it into Extreme metal through some groundbreaking compositional tools that were unheard of at the time. On first listens, the music can be confused for many other bands due to the impact this record had in its time, and rightfully so as it serves as an excellent introduction to what metal would have perfected on a much larger scale a decade later.
A short illustrative story by Lucian Fogaras
Jonas Peter Anderson strode across the deserted alley as the wind blew against his face, making his hair blow and blurr his view. He wasn’t wearing his glasses today as that would not match his personal and artistic projection of the self to the world: combat boots, black jeans, heavy bullet-studded belt, Ofermod Sol Nox t-shirt and a sleeveless black hoodie over it. People said that at his 33 years of age, Jonas should put aside the act, become self-sufficient and stop wasting his mother’s money on beer six-packs, vinyls and luxurious editions of occult literature from Ixaxxar Publications and Theion Publishing. But he did not care —his Satanic identity was more important to him than anything else in this world. Besides, it had been a long time since that fateful day 20 years ago, when he had decided to leave behind his Christian name. He only responded to Agnellus now —unless it was his mother calling him downstairs for dinner, in which case “Jonas, darling” would do. In the world of forums and e-mails, however, the International Satanic Brotherhood knew him as Frater Agnellus.
Article by Salustiano Ferdinand
One of the hallmarks of great musical works is that every note has a purpose to move the mindset of the listener in some direction. Musical structure whether on a small or grand scale is what gives music much of its power and memorability; a focused work that wastes no note and moves with constant intent from distinctive point A to distinctive point B and on will embed itself into the mind of the listener not just for its general sound and aesthetic but in its entirety. Classical pianist James Rhodes said of Ludwig van Beethoven, likely the greatest composer of memorable themes in western art music, that with his works, “Every note was sweated over, every theme worked on tirelessly and chiselled into immortality. The manuscripts of Bach and Mozart look spotless next to the messy, crossed-out, almost indecipherable madness of Beethoven’s. While Mozart hurled symphonies on to paper as fast as he could write, barely without correction, Beethoven stewed and fought and wrestled and argued and raged until he forced what he was looking for out and onto the page.”  Sadly, however, the importance and art of structure is often ignored and neglected entirely within metal albums. Too often a death or black metal band is content to choose a tempo or two and proceed to restate the same content through interchangeable means for a length such that they overstay their welcome about halfway through the ordeal.
A salute goes out to Misters Imladris and Kaelrok for sharing recommendations and insights related to the subject at hand.
After having recounted and commented on the birth and evolution of the first wave of European power metal in part II, the time has come for this author to travel across the Atlantic and take a closer look at the contemporaneous development of power metal in North America, commonly referred to as United States Power Metal (USPM).