Brutal Art Records has announced the release of a split CD/LP between Fleshcrawl and Skinned Alive entitled Tales of Flesh and Skin to be released in January 2016. The limited release, which comes with custom guitar picks from each band, will occur in an issue of only 100 copies of the cassette, 50 of each in red and black. Afterwards, a digipak CD with 4-panel booklet will be issued in 300 copies.
The volatile mix of Fleshcrawl’s Swedish-influenced style of death metal and the one-man band Skinned Alive, which takes a more percussive approach, should provide interesting and may foreshadow longer releases from each of these bands. Brutal Art Records reveals the split will be out toward the middle or end of January, and will not be issued on vinyl.
As a death metal listener, I always ended up favoring the more melodic, complex substyles as exemplified by the work of bands like At The Gates and Necrophobic. Grave isn’t those, never was them, and probably will never will be. I can’t really fault them for their lack of ambition, but the impression I derived from previews of this album’s tracks seems generally accurate. Out of Respect for the Dead is an adequate recording, considering that it’s a retread of a basic style with few detours into others, but the aforementioned lack of ambition makes it difficult to appreciate the expertise Grave displays in their small niche.
As a deathpop album, this succeeds and fires on more cylinders than much of the other deathpop I’ve listened to in recent months. The song structures, while generally basic and reliably verse/chorus, show some expertise in hiding it through simple techniques like varying up the bridges and not forcing the vocalist to repeat the title of the song every 15 seconds. Furthermore, Grave tends to shove their most memorable riffs towards the beginning of each track; while this is a compositional limitation to be overcome, it’s a good idea from a commercial stance since it’ll at least recapture the attention of audience members whose interest might end up fading otherwise. Other hooks are carefully sprinkled throughout the tracks – the occasional “big” riff combined with some skilled use of tempo and texture shifts helps to maintain a basic level of musicality and memorability throughout the album. The product remains simple and accessible enough in spite of its consistent death metal aesthetic; and thusly Grave is guaranteed to sell albums, although I don’t know how much money they’re actually making off their musical legacy since the death metal niche is still not particularly large.
These successes are assuredly not enough to push Grave to the top of the Swedeath pile. They’ve clearly practiced their style to the point that it’s probably trivial for them to pump out a new album semi-regularly. However, most of the strong points of these songs merely make me wish that Out of Respect for the Dead was more ambitious in its songwriting. A failure in that regard is arguably more noble than a lack of effort, although from a philosophical stance that’s not a debate of particular importance or merit, especially when other bands have succeeded. If you absolutely need ultra-basic death metal in the Swedish vein, though, this will probably satisfy your needs.
Death metal was born in 1983 with the unholy quartet of Sodom, Bathory, Hellhammer and Slayer, but it took many years to translate the new style into a full-fledged monster, which happened sometime in 1990-1991. In the interregnum, bands such as Possessed, Kreator, Destruction and Merciless took the speed metal approach, the broken drums of thrash, and the vocals and guitar techniques of death metal and made an intermediate style.
Dr. Shrinker comes to us from that era with this compilation of demos from its period of existence from 1987 to 1990. The tracklist breaks down as follows:
“Wedding the Grotesque” (1989)
Tools Of The Trade
Mesmerization (Of A Corpse)
Dead By Dawn
No Way To Live
Wedding The Grotesque
“The Eponym” (1990)
Tighten The Tourniquet
March Of The Undead
Free At Lasssst!!!
These tracks display the conventions of that period pushing toward something more extreme: verses like the German speed metal bands, choruses like Swedish band Merciless with a bit of melody, and shifts from verse/chorus structure and fills much like later American band Nunslaughter. These songs display the holdover from 1970s metal through Venom which manifests in strong rhythm hooks to the vocal cadence of choruses balanced by driving inertia in the verses, deviating with strange fills that foreshadow future song developments. In this, part of the genesis of death metal can be seen: the transition from conventional song structures to entirely riff-driven evolution of theme as manifested itself on classics of the genre like Onward to Golgotha.
Showing the speed metal heritage, riffs are often single-picked and emphasize an internal rhythm, in contrast to the phrasal riffs to come later. Their simplicity in phrase allows the production of a basic driving rhythm which storms up against the ends of each iteration, creating a sense of a pile-up that conveys urgency to the listener. This ploughs into the chorus and creates a feeling of intensity with repetition, which is very much like the 1980s, a cross between Gordon Gekko and nuclear warfare. An interesting outlier is “March of the Undead,” which could have come off Cryptic Slaughter Convicted (and, at 1:21, has a song length to match).
While Dr. Shrinker does a great job of this style, the problem for me — and others — is that this style seems dated and the bands interchangeable at this point. You could throw on an album by Necronomicon, Merciless, Kreator, Destruction or late-80s Sodom and get the same experience and roughly the same riff archetypes. For this reason, Grotesque Wedlock remains in the purchasing domain of people who love this speed/death hybrid style and metal historians.
There is no real difference between Dawn of the Nine and an album from a more mainstream Viking themed death metal themed heavy rock band (which, at this point in the history of the universe, means Amon Amarth). Sure, Unleashed is less consonant and theoretically more chromatic, but you’re still listening to an especially standardized and formulaic pop music product, even if Unleashed arguably sticks closer to their original sound than the rest of Nihilist’s progeny. Still, Dawn of the Nine is at least one way to feed metalheads the infamous “death’n’roll” sound without them complaining… at least not immediately.
On this album, like others before it, Unleashed sticks to the arena rock end of the pop sphere. Consonant, monophonic melodic riffing over generic drumming, no real bass, and unvarying vocal technique probably brings to mind many of the other generic, basal Swedeath styled albums we’ve rejected over the years. The songwriting here, though, is unusually fixated on the repetition of simple choruses to a degree that few bands dare approach, even when they’re just as obvious. Therein lies the tragedy of Unleashed, at least in the present – the guitarists have developed a sense of melody and rhythm that would be well suited towards writing good narrative (albeit probably more traditionally styled) metal. At points, there are some genuinely interesting musical elements being thrown around, but rarely if ever are they developed upon because, shockingly enough, it’s time for the song’s chorus. Other times, the musicians toss around extremely basic musical ideas for what are presumably commercial reasons, but that at least is common throughout the industry, and even then you can justify the occasional basic break in the middle of a track as part of an effort to write a more dynamic and interesting song.
What particularly strikes me about my own opinions on Dawn of the Nine is how close they are to previous site writings on new Unleashed recordings. The emphasis on tired, overly basic rock tropes weakens the entire album beyond what its also predictable strengths of musicianship and production can recover. It’s usually not this incredibly obvious on the recordings of this band’s contemporaries, though, but someday they too may need to pander especially hard to the blockheads to retain their underground cred.
In my view, the premiere Swedish death metal releases were Therion Beyond Sanctorum, At the Gates The Red in the Sky is Ours and Carnage Dark Recollections. Those who appreciate the latter may enjoy this disc of a live set from 1990, a soundcheck from 1989, and the “The Day Man Lost” demo from that same year.
This compilation/re-issue is exactly what it purports to be: a highly competent live set of the songs in the form you remember them from Dark Recollections, a brief glimpse of the more chaotic earlier live performance, and the classic demo that is mostly similar to the album. For this reason, …Left to Suffer in the Aftermath… will be essential for no one except death metal historians and those who want a less-detuned and slightly faster version of these classic songs for the “live experience” feel. The 1990 set dominates the release with its uptempo take on the Dark Recollections songs, with little if any deviation from the album, where the demo shows the details of the crustcore plus death metal fusion barely beginning to come together. The 1989 sound check shows an interesting glimpse of this band in a more vicious mood, but peters out when it gets going, and could easily be forgotten. The demo is faithful and a pleasurable rough listen.
For almost any occasion, it makes more sense to throw on Dark Recollections, especially since the re-issue contains this same demo. The live set however conveys a certain energy that studio recordings can never hope to duplicate and is a great listen for afternoons outdoors when you want something loud and chaotic but structured, sort of like the reason that people still treasure Mayhem Live in Leipzig despite the microphone-in-Satan’s-anus sound quality. Obviously, if you are still reading, you are a Swedish death metal and/or Carnage fanatic, and you probably need this on your shelf.
Grindcore/alternative-rock/deathmetal/progressive rock band Supuration released a track “Reveries of a Bloated Cadaver” from their upcoming re-envisioning of earlier material, Reveries. The band has taken its style of technical death metal and unconventional progressive rock and used it to re-imagine these older tracks in newer form, but has done so without losing the distinctive energy of the earlier material.
Legendary Dutch death metal band Pestilence is re-issuing its two demos from 1987 on a compilation entitled The Dysentery Penance, out in CD/digital on November 30, 2015 with the vinyl to follow in early 2016. The two demos, “The Penance” and “Dysentery,” show the formative years of the technical death metal style later to evolve from Pestilence.
To be released on Vic Records, this new release shows yet another death metal band reaching into the vaults so that new generations can experience the sense of possibility and discovery as these bands forged ahead in uncharted waters to create the new death metal style.
Out Of Respect For The Dead is in my review queue by virtue of its artist being at least semi-famous. While Grave’s reputation on DMU is something less than stellar, the fame they achieved as part of the early (Stockholm) Swedish makes their latest work worth looking at, at least in terms of comparison to their past and other bands’ present output. “Plain Pine Box” is admittedly not a particularly interesting song, being an extremely simple and basic track reminiscent of what would happen if you simplified Celtic Frost and added extra distortion. A previously released track from this upcoming album (“Mass Grave Mass”) resembles more the band’s stereotypical sound; overall, I expect competence from future Grave if not necessarily must-have or even particularly inspiring albums.
Out Of Respect For The Dead will be available on October 16th, 2015.
Nunslaughter drummer and vocalist Jim Konya, who once famous ran for a local political office with a quasi-Satanic platform, and fueled Nunslaughter through almost a dozen full-length releases and nearly infinite 7″ EPs, experienced a stroke three weeks ago and recently worsened. He will be taken off life support today, October 7, and is not expected to survive.
Konya, whose output with the band was matched by his fierce loyalty to the underground metal scene, will be remembered by many as a generous and committed persona who along with several others created one of the longest-running and most prolific bands in death metal history.
Although neither the fest nor the band have confirmed this, users are reporting that the California Deathfest (presented by the Maryland Deathfest promoters) has caved to demands by social justice workers, or SJWs, to dis-invite New Jersey old school death metal band Disma.
Disma, who boast a vocalist of Jewish heritage and write songs about slow melancholic death, are being attacked for the perception that vocalist Craig Pillard’s side project Sturmführer had right-wing overtones. Despite the utter lack of any political content in Disma lyrics, some SJWs — feeling emboldened by recent mass events and cucking by mainstream media — have urged California Deathfest to deny Disma for some time.
As this story develops, more will be posted. This incident represents the type of lynch mob mentality that Metalgate rebelled against in the first place: an intolerance for any speech but the SJW-approved, Soviet-style repetition of certain key issues as a means of seizing power.