The Importance of Contrast and Structure/Musical Motion through Levels of Consciousness

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.” [1] 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.
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Introduction to Power Metal, Part III: 1980s US Power Metal

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).
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Song Contest Results


It has been over a month since we have launched the song contest here at DMU. Our suspicions that very few people would enter the contest due to our reputation for honest yet harsh reviews were confirmed. This was probably why only two contestants presented themselves in any capacity. Consequently, no winner shall be appointed nor will awards be handed out: two entries do not constitute a contest.

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At the Gates – To Drink from the Night Itself (2018)

Music is a language, and utilizes formulas to communicate emotions to an audience.  This is the most basic understanding of the idea of music as a tool, but the mastery of the manipulation of human perception through the mathematics of musical language can only be effective if an artist has something substantial to say, and uses the medium of music as the vehicle to communicate that idea, rather than approaching this communication as if the method of expression is the message itself.  This is the disconnect we see as musicians “mature” and develop their craft as their passions slowly extinguish, and it is not surprising that the best releases using metal as a communicative tool are often released in a band’s initial releases, when they knew the least of how the musical language works.  This ignorance allows an immediacy that overwrought cynicism betrays, and it is here that the heart of metal thrives.  The education gained from elaborating on the language of music can enforce the initial artistic message when the understanding of human perception is developed, or it can suffocate the communicative process should the composer fixate on how the listener will react to the information presented.  The efforts of post-reunion At the Gates are mired in the latter type of composition, and To Drink from the Night Itself is the band’s most grievous offense.

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Metal Arsenal: Choice Software for Metal Warfare

Once upon a time, musicians needed to have a fat budget for a decent studio recording (and therefore, a record label to front the bill on the onset).  But even with one, many extreme metal recordings in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s still sounded like complete ass.  Even insanely popular death metal bands like Cryptopsy, who have sold over half a million records, have had albums with production so shitty that I can’t hear most of the riffs.  Aside from a few innovators, most audio engineers (back when it was possible to make a career out of it), simply did not know how to record and produce metal.

However the industry has changed mightily over the last 15 years or so, and in today’s music world the phrase “everybody’s an engineer” is deeply rooted in truth.  Whereas high end recording software was once closely guarded and outrageously priced, the freedom of file sharing as put many high end tools in the hands of the public at no cost and without the need for professional training to use.  No longer do you have to shell out $10,000 for an album that sounds like it was recorded in the prior decade, nor do you need take out a ludicrous college loan for audio engineering school. Instead, all you need to do is make a few quick downloads to successfully arm yourself for a quality recording (assuming, of course, you have done your homework in practicing your instruments and listening).

This change in landscape greatly benefits the type of music personalities we saw in Darkthrone, Burzum, and Graveland- top-tier musicians more concerned with their art and ideology than pandering to a room of idiots via live performances (yes, I know Graveland and Darkthrone both played live: it was only at microfractions of their careers).  And given that lefties are regulating and policing which bands are allowed to play live shows, there’s all the more reason for defiant metal musicians and bands to forgo live performances and focus their energies on quality studio recordings.  With narcissism, attention seeking, and fan expectations removed, the opportunity for quality recordings to flourish is undoubtedly more abundant.

It is an honor and privilege to present to you, the readers of this infamous site, the favorite battle-tested software and tools from a road-tested veteran who began a career in metal when freeware first became widespread some 15 years ago:

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Godflesh – Post Self (2018)

If someone goes on this tour, make sure to hand Justin Broadrick a telephone to signify that this album has been phoned in. As the term implies, when content creators are no longer focused on making their work significant, an “it’ll do” mentality results. This fits within what Godflesh and related Broadrick-acts have done through their careers.

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Paramaecium – Exhumed of the Earth (1993)

In addition to its notoriously contradictive definitional nature, doom metal remains something of an enigma in terms of its enduring popularity. Whether or not one chooses to view it as a distinctive subgenre, style or even technique, doom metal must bear one of the most in-proportionate quotas within metal music when it comes to quantity over quality.  If attempting to depict doom metal from the perspective of enduring releases, the list of canonical works would become surprisingly short.  It seems plausible that part of the explanation to this sad state is embedded in the very characteristics of the style.  Doom bands have generally prioritized development of exceptionally powerful tools for conveying sonic heaviness at the expense of other aspects of the music. It might even be so that the techniques in themselves has forced artists into a particular way of writing music. Either way, there appears to be a widespread discrepancy between the means of expression and what is actually being expressed in doom metal; which in turn provides clues as to what makes for a genuinely satisfying doom-offering. With the above discussion in mind, today’s written offering presents the Australian death/doom act Paramaecium – one of few bands bearing the doom-tag that has managed to write compositions to match the sonic gravitas associated with said style.
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The Imperial Reign of Emperor

The most technically and musically gifted band of the Norwegian black metal scene, the legendary Emperor are also the most well known outside of the documentary-level engagement that plagues most who know of Burzum and Mayhem.  Formed in the small rural town of Telemark Norway as a side project to a soon-forgotten death metal band, the group overcame the imprisonment of 75% of it’s lineup to deliver the most grandiose album of early 90s black metal.  Though Emperor’s career was far from perfect, it made a profound impact on the young genre and ultimately proved it’s limitless developmental possibility.
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Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust (2016)

Gorguts is a band that for a majority of its career has resembled an act that is at war with itself artistically.  After a serviceable debut comprised of purely death metal notions and peaking with its most dense and progressive release in The Erosion of Sanity, the band chose to scale back its arrangements while imbuing its approach with a discordance that may have laterally trespassed its prior unsullied metal constructs but at the same time gave Gorguts an identity all their own.  With regards to their contemporaries, you cannot currently say a band “sounds like Gorguts” without indirectly focusing on the sound created on Obscura, and the band’s own knowledge of that most likely has controlled their writing ever since — to the detriment of their overall intents in each record from then on…

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