Sitting somewhat uncomfortably in between the heavy, speed and prog metal genres, Sanctuary achieved reputable status with their first album Refuge Denied despite having a fragmented and vulnerable identity. The record itself was a slightly more melancholic take on the style Queensrÿche established on Rage for Order with some carefree thrash moments added in for the more aggressive metal fan. The formula was ultimately more kitschy than timeless, and relegated the band to perennial B-tier status. (more…)
For Generation X, droning sounds were good sounds. The train passing at night meant that order was restored, the Hoover vacuum passing the doorway meant that a parent was home and somewhat engaged, and the relentless churn of machinery meant that the order that was would not collapse quite yet.
Straddling the no-mans-land between past and present, Agressor’s full-length debut offers a high-octane mixture of late-period speed metal and death metal technique, coupled with pulpy occult/sci-fi lyrics in the vein of Nocturnus, Voivod and Obliveon.
Article contributed to Death Metal Underground by George Psalmanazar, continuing his series of Judas Priest reviews.
Painkiller is Judas Priest‘s most consistent studio album coming out right after the band spent the entire decade of the 80s pandering to mainstream arena and glam rock fans. Slayer were a tremendous influence this time around; Judas Priest toured toured with them in the late 80s and subsequently listened to most of Slayer’s studio catalog. Painkiller there is a heavy metal album heavily influenced by the heaviest speed metal bordering on early death metal. Early power metal took a similar approach but in much more limp-wristed way.
Root’s Zjevení updates Merciful Fate from Halloween to haunt by exorcising the clownish camp while maintaining their high degree of theatricality. A textural treatment gives speed metal riffs a spectral significance that allows for it to have expressive power in dreary dungeons at midnight lit only by a faint moon that is slowly swallowed by black vapor. Tonally and thematically, Root sets the stage for later Greek acts such as Varathron and Rotting Christ to further develop this music through melodious – relatively speaking – ambience which expelled punk’s poltergeist.
I guess Peaceville really doesn’t know when to quit with the compilations and reissues (or that at least they’re a viable way to make more money off known famous works), since they’re also rereleasing Mayhem’s Live in Leipzig. This is specifically the 25th anniversary of the concert documented, as opposed to when it was first ‘officially’ pressed and sold to a mass audience some years afterwards. The CD version of this rerelease also contains a contemporary recording of the band in Zeitz, Germany. See Peaceville’s site for more details.
Whether Live in Leipzig is at all worth your time depends, perhaps, on how you value the various ‘eras’ of Mayhem. It is likely the easiest way to experience the band’s ‘classic’ lineup, featuring both tracks that would eventually make it onto De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas as well as somewhat revamped older tracks from the band’s early, proto-death metal days. As a listener, I find the most value in the polished studio work of Mayhem’s formal debut (because I value Atilla Csihar’s contributions), but the looser intrepretations here are worth at least a few spins.
Even Peaceville Records is getting in on the compact cassette revival. While Soulside Journey is far from stereotypical for Darkthrone, and furthermore already saw a cassette re-release in 1996, this is still a fine addition to your collection in its various forms for the strength of its content. Prior to creating several genre-defining works of black metal, Soulside Journey showcases the band performing a musically literate and melodramatic variant of death metal. It’s an admittedly sparse and atmospheric take on the genre that takes some acclimation to fully understand, but one that rewards attentive listeners. Funnily enough, this dodges the convenient upcoming 25th anniversaries of Darkthrone’s upcoming material, but those are likely too obvious for the record labels to ignore in the coming years. In the meantime, Darkthrone will probably see a great deal of reissues – the questionable Black, Death, and Beyond compilation, for instance, was recently reprinted on compact discs.
Bringing together the grindcore of Napalm Death and the primitive black metal of Bathory and Sarcófago into a death metal way of thinking, Blasphemy gave the world a solid although juvenile Fallen Angel of Doom. Racing in consisting grinding expression while going beyond the riff and into an atmosphere-inducing state as a result of the progression of riffs that is fitting of that primitive black metal, the songs in this album open a portal through which disturbing visions come to alienate us, inducing a feeling of aloneness, doom and fear.
That strong evocation is accomplished from the fusion of these two genres, in my opinion, because they are not just smashed together but rather assembled in a different mold, that of death metal and made into one language. The other thing is that you do not hear interleaving riffs in different styles, although we do hear a good deal of flexibility in riff type in terms of rhythm, texture and note length. The riffs themselves are both completely fitting for grindcore, but it is the duration of their repetition and the effect of their arrangement that results in a similarity with primitive black metal. In order to achieve a stronger result coming from goal-oriented development, the structural-minded songwriting of death metal comes to round off and concentrate the raw energy of the other two genres.
A cult classic of death metal, Nocturnus’ The Key often elicits outwardly moderate yet intense praise from connoisseurs of the genre. Reading online reviews and commentaries on the album one realizes that these praises are based on a three points. The first is the prominent use of keyboards throughout the album, then there is the ubiquitous, ripping guitar solos and last, its supposed resemblance to Morbid Angel, which is mainly based on the fact that Mike Browning took charge of the vocals on Nocturnus but also on the so-called thrash/speed-death amalgam this style is supposed to be. Let’s shoot each of these down one at a time.
The much-mentioned “pioneering” death metal with keyboards is an example of how too much of the metal critique is bent on praising novelty. Not only is the use of keyboards in the album amateur but it is often gimmicky, half of the time being out of place, the other half being completely extra and unnecessary — not strongly integrated into the music except in a very few places (“Neolithic” has a gesture in the solo section that shows promise). There are very good reasons why you do not hear keyboards often in death metal, and it goes beyond the fact that most death metal musicians are not learned enough to integrate them and would rather just make “pummeling and brutal riffs”. Style has to accommodate instrument choice. As it stands, The Key only crams keyboards wherever it can, but it is little more than a gimmick. Overall, a metalhead should look up to In the Nightside Eclipse for a better example of keyboards in underground metal.
On to the much lauded guitar solos in this album. What can I say? Besides being mindlessly infantile and trivial in their transparent scale runs, the solos throughout this album are, like the keyboard sections, often out of place and come off as being only superimposed on top of the rest of the music rather than composed within it. On their own and apart from the discussion on whether they fit into the music or not, it is not the messiness of the solos but their complete lack of character that would give one a good reason to ditch them and never think about them again.
Regarding Nocturnus sounding like a “Morbid Angel on steroids” or “an improved version of Morbid Angel”, we can say it comes from extremely superficial comparisons and a complete lack of discernment concerning composition quality. While Nocturnus perfectly exemplifies the brand of speed metal that wants to be death metal but is not quite there yet, early Morbid Angel was known as “death-thrash” only as a result of the audience’s ignorance. In this respect and given that The Key was released in 1990, when death metal had already solidified as a genre, we can say Nocturnus’ music is retrograde gimmick. The distinction between the death metal of Morbid Angel and the harsh, late-speed metal of Nocturnus lies in the phrase construction of the first that becomes the central development of the music, while the latter produces riffs to carry the voice that end in hooks. Death metal is progressive-symphonic phrasal music, speed metal is still heavy metal of a pop nature. Rather than compare them to Morbid Angel it would be more fitting to compare them to that other famous retrograde and gimmicky act called Death.
All in all, The Key still captures the imagination despite its amateur character and its great faults. I believe the reason for this is that in spite of its immature musical notions, its concept is very clear and this comes through in a very strong manner, outshining the blunders it houses. For the sake of metal, its future and the education of the audience, it is important to give albums like this their correct place. This is enjoyable and fun in much the same way that Sharknado is. You know it is silly, you know its appeal comes from its exaggerations and awkwardness, but a focused awkwardness with a clear idea in mind.
Masturbate on the throne of god
Crucifixion of a thousand saints
Stakes are mounted with the heads of angels
Nocturnal spells are casted,
Heaven begins to bleed