Our previous editor got his hands on some version of Ordeal and was not particularly fond of it; in particular he criticized it for being “self-referential” and lacking in well thought out composition. In doing so he cast a great shadow over my hopes for this album, but one I could not even acknowledge until I had listened for myself and determined whether or not his criticisms were accurate. It was a very persuasive argument in the mean time; the very title of the album, the fact it contained two rerecordings of previous Skepticism tracks, the gimmicky recording technique, and so forth come together to predict validity without actually being sufficient indication of the contents within.
Actually listening to the album immediately put me into mind of one major lesson I derive from my own personal review efforts: I respond more quickly to music that reminds me of my own efforts as a musician, and Skepticism with their funeral doom style is the antithesis of myself. While my experience with the band’s previous efforts is limited, their particular take on the subgenre is still interesting on some level, as their overall choice of tonality and instrumentation seems to absorb all the doom and depression one might expect and replace it with the musical equivalent of barren, but sublime natural landscapes – mountain peaks, desert canyons, and so forth. That’s the ideal, at least; given that Ordeal‘s sloth makes it superficially resemble ambient music, and that plenty of both metal and ambient musicians turn towards Earth’s ecosystems for inspiration, it seems a reasonable goal. Still, something deeper and more fundamental wasn’t clicking, and in an attempt to more quickly absorb the structures of this album into my mind, I turned to pitch-shifting algorithms.
While playing Ordeal at three times its intended speed ended up making everything sound daft, it helped to reveal the underlying structures of Skepticism’s music. It turns out that, at least from a mathematical perspective, these compositions are definitely janky, as they are full of sudden shifts to subtly different material at odd intervals. In a style as slow and orderly as this, that seems a poor fit and makes for anything but an organic approach. This exercise also suggested, rather more sinisterly, that Skepticism’s compositions are perhaps assembled at a higher speed and then stretched out as necessary to create longer tracks. While I can’t confirm anything about how the music was constructed, I would not be fretting about it so much if the end result was not held back by its own awkwardness, and if the laggardly tempos didn’t make appreciating any musical moments a chore.
Since the rest of the band’s discography is at least superficially similar to this, I can at least extend Skepticism a hearty congratulations for making me doubt the value of the rest of their discography. That, if anything, is a (dubious) honor, but hardly one worthy of praise.
Since we quite enjoyed Satan’s previous album (Life Sentence), it only makes sense to give their latest a mention as well. Satan’s musical style is understandably descended from the popular NWOBHM styles of the late ’70s and ’80s, but also showcases some musical techniques that would become influential in the speed and power metal camps, and their most recent albums adopt a similar style with understandably better studio polish. While this followup is not set to officially release for a few weeks, the band has released a track for promotional purposes. “The Devil’s Infantry” changes little if anything from Satan’s recent past, and hopefully the rest of the album will live up to the high standards it and the previous album set for the band.
Vic Records is rereleasing Blood’s 1992 album Christbait on September 28th. This German death metal/grindcore act received some praise in the old archives for successfully adding some conventional musicality to a standard formula. In that regard this is similar to how Carcass and Napalm Death expanded their sounds on Symphonies of Sickness and Harmony Corruption; Christbait is similarly more intelligible and elaborate than Blood’s previous work (although still fairly simplistic) while retaining much of its intensity. Newer bands would do well to learn from these examples if they want to create works of similar quality.
Dismember is dead, Fred Estby was d-beaten to the cross, and not even Dave Blomqvist can sweep away these recent Swedish metal sins.
Black Breath – Heavy Breathing (2010), Sentenced to Life (2012), Slaves Beyond Death (2015) Smegma crust derivative deathcore. There’s sludge in here too as this was released by Southern Lord, the idiots who brought us Kim Kelly Kore like Nails and Wolves in the Throne Room. No Swedes are spared by these gang rapists. Black Breath even spread apart the cheeks and felch the fecal matter from Wolverine Blues’ asshole. Listening to any of their releases is hearing them play metal hot potato by passing around that firm bowel movement mouth to mouth like a mother bird feeding her babies. Black Breath lick that shit up and down to get the turd glisteningly slick before shoving it up Kim Kelly’s meat-hooked Hellraiser cunt. From there it will be squeezed out like soft serve ice cream for Pitchfork and Vice’s hipster cones.
Demonical – Black Flesh Redemption (2015) Demonical wants to play with the big boys. They have Boss HM-2 pedals and riffs Dismember rejected when writing the not-so-classic Death Metal. What they don’t have is any idea of how to write an adequate death metal song; these guys can’t even hammer out an effective two and a half minute verse chorus verse thrash basher. The four tracks each attempt to pander to a different lowest common denominator metal audience with their individual use of breakdowns, doomy interludes, and cheesy keyboards. The rhythm guitars take a backseat to the cheesy Amon Amarth vocalizations. There is about a minute of semi-enjoyable generic material on this record.. Snort the line of borax on the floor failure.
Entrails – Obliteration (2015) Three strikes is life in many states. Singapore will hang anyone who walks off a plane with enough junk. Medieval England executed children caught stealing anything worth more than two loaves of bread; mercy meant limbs lopped off. This is Entrails’ fourth offense. These recidivists need to overdose in a Cambodian shack on a cocktail of liquor, Valium, and chloroquine.
Interment – Into the Crypts of Blasphemy (2010) Yet another fourth rate band from the early nineties finally recorded an album. The songs are again dick beat punk and the metal riffs were pilfered from Entombed and Carnage. Just like Entrails no label gave these fools money to record an album back in 1993 for good reason. Now that they’re adults with jobs, this garage band can afford studio time to bore us. Interment need to quit trying to live out their delusional teenage heavy metal dreams and spend time with their kids on weekends.
Verminous – The Unholy Communion (2013) Verminous return with more punk rock masquerading as death metal. More bouncy hardcore riffs, more lame samples, and more gang chants. Whatever catchy riffs are on this CD are quickly worn out through strict verse chorus verse pop punk structures that make three minute long songs drag. I want to throw it at a homeless person. The lyrical themes are inconsistent too. Pop Satanism? Okay. Bukkake? Barbatos? Verminous are the Blink-182 of Svensk Döds Metall. Repeatedly listening to The Unholy Cumunion is equivalent to fucking your girlfriend wearing a used condom picked up off the sidewalk.
Drowned – Idola Specus (2014) Soulside Journey simplified into pop music. Drowned grokked the underground’s current nostalgia for the early nineties and rehashed a beloved classic into an easily digestible rock format. Pointless introductions and incongruent atmospheric verses are thrown in to appease doom halfwits and bore everyone else. Darkthrone is being bowdlerized for hipsters just as early rock ‘n’ roll whitewashed rhythm and blues for suburban teenagers. Truly Katy Perry death metal.
Tribulation – Children of the Night (2015) Tribulation first moved from Grotesque and Merciless worship to Rust in Peace meets Queensrÿche on The Formulas of Death. Children of the Night abandons metal altogether, becoming Moog synth laden regressive goth rock. Tribulation aren’t horror score Goblin now; Tribulation are strict, just out of the closet Lestat cosplayers. Where are the clean vocal hooks for the Cradle of Filth faggots? How the hell are Tribulation supposed to get into Hot Topic next to Deafheaven? They need to put away the Vampire Diaries, pull the buttplugs out of their rectums, and hire a real singer. Then go to Safeway, buy four gallons of bleach, and chug them like forties in the parking lot. That will clean out Tribulation’s gastrointestinal tracts.
Ghost – Meliora (2015) Repugnant failed miserably at death metal. Now Repugnant fail miserably at Duran Duran. Ghost have no musical influences from Blue Öyster Cult or Mercyful Fate; rather they play vocal pop with occasional speed metal riffs. Pop music centered around singing that makes Dave Mustaine sound like Ronnie James Dio. This has to be trolling: the vocalist sounds like Seth Putnam on Anal Cunt’s indie wuss rock parody Picnic of Love; grown men are playing dress up pseudo-metal like little girls having a Satanic tea party. Tobias Forge should lick lead paint chips off the floor and bash his brains out in the back of a police van.
Cut Up – Forensic Nightmares (2015) Cut Up? What kind of lazy band name is that? What happened to metal bands whose names actually referenced death? Treblinka? Autopsy? Immolation? Cut Up wondered what Dismember meant and looked it up in the dictionary. “What does Dismember mean bro?” “It means to cut people up.” Cut Up cuts up old death metal riff phrases into licks and rearranges them into death ‘n’ roll forensic nightmares. Songs are structured like Cannibal Corpse filtered through the randomness of metalcore. Ample slams and breakdowns disorient into a brain cell holocaust. The target audience is those australopithecines who believe death metal a more extreme version of beatdown hardcore. Go cut up your vegetables. Dismember : Lethal Weapon :: Cut Up : Samurai Cop minus the amusing bits
Floga Records is releasing a box set of Septic Flesh’s first era in cassette format. While this box-set is limited to 300 copies and the format is somewhat obscure, much of the content included is of high quality, as Septic Flesh’s early discography is one of the high points of Greek underground metal, measuring up to such luminaries as Rotting Christ, Varathron, and Necromantia.
Septic Flesh began their career playing rough death metal, but even on their earliest demo (Forgotten Path) showed signs of the melodic, atmospheric sound that would become their signature. The abrasive death metal elements would remain for some years, but the band’s heavy keyboard presence, an emphasis on consonant guitar leads, and elaborate compositions make for a a more contemplative experience than, for instance, the generally more aggressive American metal acts. Septic Flesh’s first full-lengths admittedly suffer from flaws in their production that detract from the possible intensity they could reach (like the use of a weak drum machine), but they still capitalize on the band’s ability to create ethereal soundscapes in the context of metal. Mystic Places of Dawn and Esoptron in particular are masterpieces of this style, effortlessly integrating this into the admittedly declining quantities of death metal that this era showcases.
Later albums in this collection showcase the band reaching simultaneously towards higher heights of orchestration and problematically trying to secure some gothic metal money. This niche became enormously popular in the mid-90s despite being so wide as to encompass similar acreage of musical ground. Septic Flesh never discarded their ability to write melodic hooks, but after 1995, they were quick to simplify their style and write more accessible, less cavernous songs. These changes become strikingly obvious on Revolution DNA, which trades in the mythological and occult themes of previous works for sleek, shining futurism. That the band manages to retain their melodic prowess makes it serve as a functional and adequate work of pop music, but it is truly a low point of the compilation. The band’s previous overtures towards the mainstream (primarily in the form of operatic vocalists) were spun off into their own project (Chaostar), and Septic Flesh was arguably sundered. In recent years, partially represented on this compilation’s finale, Sumerian Daemons, the band has embraced the great simplification of their past, albeit overlaid and decorated with modern metal technique and an orchestral presence, creating music that in its strengths resembles that of mainstream film music filtered through the extreme metal mold. The new Septic Flesh is a much louder and brutish beast, separated from the atmospheric voice it was born with, but hints of the past permeate even the band’s latest releases to give it strength in its darkest hours.
1991-2003 is excellent as a historical archive and a collector’s item, at least for those few who value compact cassettes. It is probably entirely useless outside that niche, although it’s always possible that a similar box set may come out in a more accessible format. In addition, like other comprehensive box sets, it comes with its share of chaff and filler. Individual albums by Septic Flesh should not be too difficult to find, though, and some of them have even been reissued with new artwork and bonus rarities. The early full lengths are certainly worth the listener’s time.
The heavy metal and hard rock news site Metal Hammer is releasing a mobile game entitled Metal Hammer: Roadkill. So far, screenshots suggest a fairly basic action game presumably inspired by endless runners such as Canabalt; the gimmick this time is that it incorporates rhythm game elements and a soundtrack of prominent metal musicians. Given popular trends in the mobile gaming industry, this will probably be released for free and earn most of its revenue through in-game microtransactions, but until the game releases, any speculation on the subject is empty at best. Roadkill most likely serves best not as a specific promotion (although it might turn out to be financially lucrative), but more as an example of the distance heavy metal news sites may need to go to secure funding and label attention in the future. We probably won’t be seeing the folks at Metal Hammer write any critical reviews of Nuclear Blast’s roster for quite a while.
The game releases on October 15th for iOS and Android devices; you can read the official story at Metal Hammer’s website.
Have you ever listened to a metal recording and realized it was trying to be all things to all people? Eternal is like that. One of the most recent additions to the ‘European’ school of power metal, I impulsively jumped into this album before realizing, with a start, that my understanding of this subgenre basically ends at 1992, before the genre became the hyperactive, instrumentally maximalist Goliath it is today. Whoops. (more…)
It probably bears mentioning that I consider Hell Awaits to be Slayer’s peak. While it could’ve used a larger recording budget, it showcased some of the band’s most elaborate and well-written compositions. The band didn’t generally follow up on this approach on later albums, but you can hear the lessons applied on the rest of Slayer’s classic ’80s material, and therein lies a lesson. At their peak, Slayer had obvious songwriting formulas, but were able to go build more elaborate and memorable works due to their solid understanding of song structure.
Repentless is Slayer’s 3rd attempt to recapture something else of that era. The production standards are admittedly better (although Slayer generally had good producers working for them in the past as well), but everything else is the stereotypical speed/death assault that the band helped pioneer. Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt serve as adequate substitutes for the departed Dave Lombardo and the deceased Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P), carrying on general stylistic trends without rocking the boat too much. That this is a commercially viable endgame for popular metal bands is something I expect to be one of the major themes of my tenure here at DMU. Even now, though, cracks are showing in the war ensemble – Tom Araya’s vocals are a major stylistic weak point on Repentless. His shouts have become more “extreme” and insistent in recent years, but his ability to vary his vocal techniques has all but collapsed. This album’s prosody is the worst casualty yet, as he delivers these monotonous shouts in unvarying rhythms; the effect is essentially the same as shouting nursery rhymes into a megaphone from your neighborhood rooftops.
Araya’s weaknesses are particularly damning on an album that relies so heavily on vocals to retain the listener’s attention, especially when everyone else on the recording is so competently unremarkable. We live in the age of self-referential Slayer, a long darkness that our learned scholars perhaps debate the duration of in their moments of distraction. Repentless is essentially a more formulaic version of previous Slayer albums that themselves were a simplification of their own predecessors. It’s very likely that the songs here sound marginally more like classic Slayer than those on Christ Illusion or World Painted Blood, but their unwillingness (or inability) to expand on basics renders them ultimately pointless. I can’t fault the band for continuing, though; previous recordings, while underwhelming, more than satiate an omnivorous fanbase who will probably go back to Reign in Blood after a while.
Long time DMU veterans should be familiar with our enthusiasm for Sammath. Strijd was well received by the staff back in 1999 when it was originally released, and a re-release on Hammerheart Records in both CD and vinyl format is still planned for the first quarter of 2016. In the interrim, a digital version is now available on Bandcamp, offering potential purchasers a chance to easily preview the album’s tracks and purchase a copy of sorts.
The Scandinavian countries have always had disproportionate metal output; Finland’s continues with this debut album from Sacrificum Carmen, an occult-inspired black metal band. Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa is set to release on October 30th and showcases a more melodic sound than is stereotypical of the country’s black metal output.
Saturnal Records issued the following statement:
Hailing from the fertive Finnish black metal scene, Sacrificium Carmen both embody their home country’s prevailing underground idiom and offer a unique, diabolical twist to it. Founded in 2009 by vocalist Hoath Cambion and guitarist Advorsvs, the band draws their inspiration from the areas of occultism and Satanism exclusively. Sacrificium Carmen became active in 2012 with a full lineup, and soon released their debut demo “Sanansaattaja” in 2013 via Finnish underground label Spread Evil Productions. After the demo’s release, the band excelled in the areas of live shows and split releases, which all spread well around the underground scene. In 2014, Sacrificium Carmen started working on a debut full-length album, and the demo recordings led into a signing of a record deal with Finnish record label Saturnal Records for the release Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa.
Sacrificium Carmen plays black metal with a melodic and atmospheric touch where all tendencies have been directed into very aggressive and sinister output, where Finnish black metal sound meets murky death metal sound as witnessed with orthodox black metal acts. Across the eight tracks of Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa, the listener is dragged to the sulfurous depths, with vapor trails of hypnotizing melody lingering above the tar-thick sewage. Exquisitely filthy yet exceptionally well-recorded, Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa presents Sacrificium Carmen as a serious newcomer, a contender to be reckoned with in the years to come, as the band continue to propagate live rituals to increasingly rabid audiences.