/smr/ Sadistic Metal Reviews – Post Black Metal Eulogy (Part 2)

In post black metal, we saw riffs being declared null and void in favor of atmosphere.  Gone were the melodic harmonies of Iron Maiden and Dissection, the savage atonal decimation of Morbid Angel and Blasphemy, and the memorable rhythm and lead guitarwork of Slayer and Death.  All this came in favor of completely forgettable riffs and songs in favor of an overall spacey “transcendental” experience.  Aesthetically, post metal was the reflection of progressive societal values of the 2010s- the emassculation of men (all musicians were Nu Males), artwork made by douche bag art degree scumbags that live in ghettos, and tame, timid, “spiritual but not religious” lyrics that had not a shred of aggression or danger.

It didn’t have to be like this.  There could have been ways for bands to experiment with post rock/shoegaze elements and still maintain the foundation of a metal presentation, maintain metal aesthetics, and have attitude or edge.  But not a single band- NOT A SINGLE ONE- was capable of doing so, proving that the accusations of these bands/musicians not being metal were to be fully valid and accurate.

This is the absolute end of post black metal before it circles the drain of a shit-stained toilet and is flushed to the bowels of irrelevancy.  A finally eulogy to a genre that never should have happened.  The musicians will bleed out their parents money and then become homeless, get aids from a bad batch of heroin, and die a miserable death in an alleyway gutter where they should have been left to rot at birth.

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Agalloch – The Mantle (2002)

Agalloch the mantle

This article was contributed to Death Metal Underground by Ludvig Boysen.

A lot of music claims to be metal without actually being metal these days. This music placed on equal footing with the classic metal masterpieces generates hostile reactions. But what if no one claimed that it was metal? How would we think of the music then? Would it be mislabeled good music or mere crap? That is what I try to find out with this review of The Mantle by Agalloch. I had a neutral and open mind while listening to it, not concerning myself with anything but the music itself.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Androgel Edition

Androgel is a testosterone supplement that you take when you’ve heard too much weepy mainstream pseudo-metal and become a useless person. Here’s a list of bands designed to make you mute, impotent and masturbatorily dramatic.

wolves_in_the_throne_room-celestial_lineageWolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

For a band supposedly attempting to harness the beauty of nature, this is an astonishingly vapid album. Bland synths interact with tired black metal riffs you’ve heard too many times before…but then again, recycling is green. Listening to this album gives me the overwhelming urge to buy a used Scion, then take my Macbook to Starbucks and drink overpriced coffee. There’s nothing resembling wolves here, more like domesticated house dogs. For music that actually plumbs the full depths of nature in its transcendent glory and gore, see Ildjarn.

agalloch-marrow_of_the_spiritAgalloch – Marrow of the Spirit

When hipsters want to play metal, what do they do? Well, after picking up a Frappuccino they head to Guitar Center and get lessons on how play guitar solos, pick up a few effects pedals, and buy a chord progression songbook. After studying said book for three months, they book studio time and record their album. The vocalist is into that “heavier shit, brah” and thus records his vocals in the style of a strangled animal. The guitarist is into pop rock and thus records bouncy powerchords in that style, though sometimes gets a bit adventurous and throws in a folksy breakdown. Meanwhile, the drummer was arrested for selling marijuana under the overpass and has to be replaced by the local high-school band teacher, who really can’t stand this music but needs some extra cash. The band finishes recording and takes the finished project to their fair trade commune, where the community listens to it while getting stoned and spray-painting peace signs on walls. Afterwards, the band teacher goes into class and tells his students; “Don’t ever turn into those people.”

skinless-progression_towards_evilSkinless – Progression Towards Evil

Big news this week is that thud-metal band Skinless has reformed with a new guitarist named Dave Matthews. Cue jokes about Dave Matthews Band, who more resemble Opeth than Skinless. The truth is that if Skinless started playing Dave Matthews covers, it would be a huge improvement. There would be… like… music and stuff to it. Instead, we go down memory lane to the first Skinless album, which is the musical equivalent of opening your high school locker with your forehead. Peel back the skin, and this is standard grunt-and-bash death metal of the type that was an also-ran back in the day. But say what you want about the Skinless guys, they’re good businessmen. So what do with generic metal? Dress it up as a new style influenced by hip-hop and techno that uses breakdowns like a rave set and jaunty bounce riffs like nu-metal if it were influenced by underground hip hop. The result is this: thud thud thud, thud thud thud, whuuuttttt, smash smash thud thud, thud. These rhythms are catchy in the same way sirens on emergency vehicles are. And it’s death metal in the same way Apollo 13 was a successful mission.

opeth-heritageOpeth – Heritage

Opeth stopped pretending to have balls and have now fully embraced their feminine side. This is a good thing because they were never “heavy” or “death metal” in the first place, but here their true nature is proudly on display: angry fat women complaining about washing the dishes because it interferes with their power block of eating cheesecake while crying to daytime soap operas. Perhaps the most honest Opeth album yet, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a sign of legitimacy — it’s still Melissa Etheridge with Jeff Goldbloom on vocals.

in_solitude-sisterIn Solitude – Sister

Avril Lavigne parodying the demo from post VON project Sixx, only not as apt. Like other Swedish pyramid scheme acts like Tribulation, Repugnant, Ghost, and other bands created by androgynous men who lack the ability to grow facial hair, listening to In Solitude is akin to getting a chemical castration and attending a Culture Club concert simultaneously.

skinless-from_sacrifice_to_survivalSkinless – From Sacrifice to Survival

This is another stunner from Skinless. Imagine that you took someone, and drilled through his forebrain and sucked out the tissue. Hollow-headed, he might turn to a record store and come home with this one and love it. Its heritage betrays a link to Pantera, who also liked stop-start riffs with chromatic progressions, but this is almost amusical. It is “first five frets” music exclusively, in chromatic patterns exclusively, using the most bone-poundingly basic rhythms, exclusively. It sounds like a special education field trip to a dynamite testing plant.

blut_aus_nord-777_sectsBlut Aus Nord – 777 Sect(s)

Clearly this band took Fenriz literally when he said black metal consisted of playing up and down the neck. Seemingly random chromatic riffs inch their way up and down with nothing connecting one section of a song to another. Sounding like a bastardized version of modern black metal and Godflesh-style industrial grindcore, confusion runs rampant over aggression. While this album may appeal to hearing-impaired wrist-slashers, it has nothing to offer functional people.

forestfather-hereafterForestfather – Hereafter

The end product of metal-archives regulars finding a way to make Ulver’s first album have more indie rock parts and appeal to Meatloaf fans, this brain bleaching, testosterone sapping travesty has no purpose other than to appear as another “artsy” product that hopes to one day occupy the same void of purpose Wolves in the Throne Room currently inhabit.

skinless-trample_the_weakSkinless – Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead

The tragedy of this album is that Skinless finally refined their formula to the point where it rolls smoothly out of their instruments like an infectious bowel movement. What makes it tragic is that, despite being at the top of its game, this music still sucks in ways that would require a thousand philosopher-kings to explicate fully. The basic problem is that it aims at a moronic vision of music. In this vision, people want very basic riffs pounded into their heads. These riffs must resemble the process of hammering a stump out of the ground or beating dead horses. As with most truly annoying and terrible albums, there’s nothing wrong with the musicianship or even songwriting ability. It’s just that Skinless intends to make music for morons doing moronic loud and repetitive things, and they succeed. And now they’re back, and THEY’RE GOING TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. AAAAAAHHHHHHNNOOOOOOOO!!!

deathspell_omega-paracletusDeathspell Omega – Paracletus

How these albums get filed under black metal astonishes me, as inept metalcore and 2 DEEP 4 U lyrics are all this band has to offer. If you think: “Hey, that sounds like every transcendental French post-black metal band in existence”, you’d be right. ANGRY MAN vocals are present, but it’s never clear what exactly he’s angry about.

Let’s take a look at the lyrics for a clue:

Two glances overwhelmed with woes
Reflecting the echoes of a fall upon a bed of rocks
Such a hideous clamour
An agony that stained the azure
The light of the world
And the wretched olive tree
Stars receded with shaking grace
Degraded holy essence, the third hypostasis

Well, that clears it up.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-19-11

Vallenfyre – Desecration

If you can imagine a cross between newer Bolt Thrower, old Paradise Lost and recent Fleshcrawl, you would have a good basis for the rock from which Vallenfyre carve their death metal hybrid. They use the Swedish buzzsaw guitars and the kind of melodic hooks that would make Watain proud in that these riffs are simple and hard to get out of your head, but then use a layered style of riff and response that comes straight from old Paradise Lost, with fewer of the heavy metal touches. If this EP gets its pop influence from anywhere, it would be Brit electro. The riffs are reasonable, and while sparse in the longer song constructions, the band’s habit of treating them as phrases and thus giving them multiple endpoints creates a sombre and contemplative atmosphere. Looking forward to seeing what the full length will bring.

Pestilence – Doctrine

Attempting to keep up with the times, Pestilence make a Meshuggah-style version of a deathcore album and add in their trademark ecclectic tone-twisting jazz leads. As if thinking that fans now must be blockheads to like such music, Pestilence deliberately dumb down the music with lots of chanting verses and repetitive, ultra-simple riffs based on old heavy metal tonal patterns. They vary these up with breakdowns and interludes, using abundant percussive strumming to shake two chords into forty seconds of constant texture variation. This is well-executed and unlike their previous album, does not feel off-the-cuff; attention has been paid to making these songs flow well and stay together. However, like most djent and textural music, it’s almost binary and thus is exhausting from a mental perspective. If you can imagine Celtic Frost Monotheist combined with Meshuggah’s None and Coroner’s Grin, you have a good idea of what Pestilence is doing these days. As an improvement over the past, Doctrine gives me hope, but I still think these guys are best when making complex, twisted, ingenious old school death metal.

Antidote – Thou Shalt Not Kill

NYHC came in on the punk scale halfway to thrash, being very much based in the more extreme school of UK hardcore. This album of short, straight-up, anthemic songs belts out a paean to working class existence in New York by combining the catchy choruses of punk with the fast, nearly technical riffs of later UKHC. Vocals are eerily similar to what Kurt Brecht did in the same year with DRI, a youthful voice shouting itself breathless and yet managing to capture cadence and through it, the hook of the chorus. Guitars are minimal but pick more challenging rhythms in order to underscore the chorus and its lead-up in the fast ranted verse lyrics, giving these songs like early speed metal an insanely infectious quality that borders on frustration with how the message bores into the brain. This is almost like the Circle Jerks sped up 4x with the middle class faux angst translated into rage at the three-block area surrounding the squat.

Atman – Like Pure Unawaited Magic

This CD would stand a chance if it weren’t so goofy. The intrusion of operatic vocals at random times with maximum pretense and minimal musicality pretty much kills its chances of ever having people want to listen to it, but underneath it are good, simple minor key melodic riffs like early Abigor or Emperor simplified. Huge parts of this CD feel pasted together, as if the artist kept creating as many different elements as possible to extend a song, and many of the melodic riffs are too similar in structure for this to really take the top shelf, but it has moments that match the intensity described by the title.

Evil – Pagan Fury 1994-1996

Probably the only band that can compete with Ildjarn for turning the obvious into the profound, Evil are high-speed pneumatic drums with a languid bass following searingly distorted, simple riffs that rise into sublime three-note melodies. While this is well executed, this is all they have to offer; if you like Ildjarn and Blood, you’ll like this because it sounds like a cross between the two. Songs generally feature two grindcore riffs and a melodic black metal riff to unite them, which produces a sense of high energy potential flowing into a melancholic panorama that encompasses the moods previous.

Aosoth – III

The only underground trend to counter metalcore can probably be blamed on Thorns and the emergence of the 7-string guitar. In this style, open chords or oddball movable chords are strummed in quick sweeps to produce a wash of sonic possibility; this can give great power to a quality song, like the “sonic cathedral” approach of some classical composers, but with a directionless series of riffs it falls apart like later Mayhem. Aosoth strides the line, sometimes sounding like Portal or Molested in the harmonic possibilities unveiled, and other times sounding like an avantgarde acoustic band that somehow got the wrong guitar rig. The tempos and riff styles are compelling but songs often do not pick a direction other than restating their theme, which leaves us stranded in the sonic wash between what could be and what is.

Denial Fiend – They Rise

These guys have a unique intepretation of old school death metal. Imagine proto-death like early Master, but instead of faster tremolo riffs, the kind of muted strum chugging that distinguished bands like Exodus predominates during verses. A Misfits influence rides the vocals and the hookish rhythms of the choruses, but otherwise this is 100% straight-ahead metal. Like many of the caveman bands from the past, no silly punches are pulled here and it is refreshingly free of ornamentation and other artifice for the sake of disguising its basic simplicity. Percussion keeps energy high by creating a forward momentum that catches itself in tidy pockets that drive it forward like tempo changes; vocals are a hoarse yell with the riot delivery of Demolition Hammer or Exhorder.

Nunslaughter – Demoslaughter

This primitive, rhythmic metal is hard to justify as anything but five-note modal stripes bent into song through riffcraft, but for the old school primal style this band is at the top of the curve. Vocal rhythms and the ratio of riff rhythms used in transition resemble Deicide; some riff patterns approximate early Death; many of the more sing-song riffs evoke early Mayhem. Nunslaughter on some level understand the “soul” of death metal, in which a riff puzzle constantly expands in context like a winding journey that descends into profundity. Nunslaughter, despite having many holdover elements from early punk and radio-friendly heavy metal, understand this essence of underground metal. The result is primitive, at types awkward, but represents a surge of energy toward expressing an idea of such magnitude that among the 56 tracks offered here, much as on other micro-omnibus albums like Impulse to Destroy, Expositions Prophylaxe and From Enslavement to Obliteration, a complete vision of humanity and where it stands regarding its ultimate purpose is expressed.

Shrinebuilder – Shrinebuilder

To kill a darling, raise the knife above your head; there is no point pretending contrition or doubt. While sludge and stoner doom metal are the darlings of the industry at this point because they appeal to legions of new fans bleeding over from rock, they are not the heir to the throne of metal. In fact, they are taking it in the opposite direction back down the evolutionary ladder, a man devolving to chimpanzee to mouse. Since the inception of metal, industry has sought in vain for a way to adopt the rebellious image of metal and slap it on music basically indistinguishable from other rock; this way, they maximize profit by using interchangeable parts for the music and handling the “genre” through studio fakery. This album could easily be a U2 album. It is three-riff rock music, with one each for verse and chorus and one for the bridge or jam interlude, and as a result it relies heavily on repetition and basic harmony through which a “melody” (fragment of melodic scale + pentatonics) rambles. If you can imagine early Crowbar and later Eyehategod mixed up with some Sonic Youth or Nirvana, that roughly describes what you get here. It probably helps to be stoned so you have a short memory and cannot notice how repetitive this album is.

NYC Mayhem – Discography

It is not difficult to see why metalheads loved this band. Like Agnostic Front and the Cro-Mags, these guys are a hardcore band that shied away from the simplified rock songs of most punk bands and instead went for metal-like riffs, thrash tempos and a brutally post-human view of the world. Riffs are phrasal and have actual shape, unlike hardcore riffs which were boxier; there are plenty of moments that resemble Slayer or Destruction. These alternate with punk-style riffs returning to a single chord for stability instead of remaining open-ended or slammingly conclusive. Vocals fit the hardcore style of a masculine shout without the bassy tone of later voices. Song composition is closest to early COC, with an effort made to distinguish each song by use of varied structure and introductions, interludes and unique changes in tempo. They write great riffs, but never manage to keep momentum in each song, which causes a process of acceleration followed by breakdown that is somewhat exhausting to the listener. The decrepit garage production merges sounds together into an organic whole, showing us a window into history with grit on the edges.

Calciferum – The Beast Inside

Inside of this old school styled album lurks a new school sensibility: a random collection of riffs, vocals taking over from guitars as the primary instrument, bouncy rhythms and a theatrical sensibility imposed on top of the music not emanating from it. It is tempting to like this, but it’s too linear and too random at the same time. Underneath the slamming exterior is a good sense of binary pop, but its vocabulary is limited, which creates the effect of a listener thrown into a washing machine on spin cycle, ratcheted back and forth by a relentless and circular process.

Anu – Opus Funaerum

The intro to this album captures a vision of chaos rising from order that exists only in one other art form, which is structured noise music from Japan. What follows is pleasant black metal that sounds like Kvist and Gorgoroth had a baby. The band tend to make good use of the harmonic minor scale to achieve a lasting atmosphere, and write some pleasant basic riffs. The problem is that atmosphere is all that is offered here, and it is very 1994ish, right before black metal jumped the shark, meaning that there’s no exceptional direction. If you want competent and pleasant music that does not distinguish itself particularly, this will be OK, but this musical elitist requires more.

Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit

Do you remember positive jazz and lite rock from the 1980s? Hopefully not: it was the crossover between Muzak, or elevator music, and the new jazz fusion and adult rock categories. Industry needed music that it could play in communal areas and not offend anyone, so they took the soul-searching out of jazz and rock and came up with two super-consonant, super-upbeat and uplifting formats that they then used to beat the heart out of us. Post-rock is the new positive jazz (Kenny G) and lite rock (Michael Bolton). However, in order to cater to a new generation of self-pity, the lords of industry have made this both minor-key and self-reflexively super-balanced, so it’s like uplifting music that tells you it’s not your fault and watches Napoleon Dynamite with you. It is impossible to distinguish post-rock from the audience who listen to it, who are indie-rockers and hipsters, or those who have found no meaning in life so they focus on themselves, and accessorizing their personalities with beaucoup “ironic,” “unique” and “different” things. Industry encourages them because they are perfect consumers who will quietly work as web designers their whole lives, stay single and keep buying entertainment products, and despite all their grumbling are only too happy to report to work. Agalloch make an interesting meshing of textures and styles in Marrow of the Spirit, and there are no musical grounds for criticism. Artistically, for all its attempts to be different, the underlying songwriting is more like regular indie rock music and so while it’s “unusual” for metal, it’s actually the usual thing when you look at music as a whole. Summary: Agalloch make great rock music and should drop the metal pretense and just get bigger than Dave Matthews, because their current style panders to insincere people and those so clueless they think novelty in style is more important than clarity and meaning in content.

Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones

Tom G. Warrior, although an artist of great talent, gets sidetracked into trying to “stay current.” This happened to Celtic Frost in the late 1980s, and it now happens with Triptykon, which tries hard to be modern metal with touches of Rammstein and Marilyn Manson yet keeping the underground honest morbidity. This impossible task results in Triptykon dumbing down their music through repetition and really obvious, repetitive choruses that rant out memes in raw form and pound them into our heads. Songwriting is good although directionless because all else has been shoved aside to keep those “catchy” ranty choruses, and some interesting melodies come of this, but I don’t want to listen to it. It’s annoying and reduces consciousness to a background hum because it’s so loud and repetitive. What we loved from Celtic Frost was the atmosphere; Triptykon is the anti-atmosphere. It’s too bad because if Tom G. looked honestly in the mirror, he’d see that he is loved for the quality and content of his music and not its style, so he should get more honest with the style even if it seems 20-30 years out of date. Who cares what the trends are? In three years they’ll be gone along with this album, and in 30 years kids will still be learning to play “Triumph of Death.”

Abraxas – Damnation

Nothing wrong with this band — standard late-model death metal, like Vader crossed with Devourment. Not bad but nothing particularly exciting. Overuse of “intensity” makes this monolithic, like reading a page of zeroes. Like the band named Damnation, it hammers too hard to achieve any kind of variation in which a story or drama could play out, and so the result is like Napalm Death’s “Scum” if the songs had been five minutes instead of ten seconds, and rigid instead of sloppy. Nothing is done wrong here but the whole does not add up to much of enduring power.

Decrepit Birth – Polarity

Someone crossed Cynic’s Focus, Death’s Human and modern technical death metal to get a fruity sounding progressive band embedded in the midst of blast and breakdown. Individual parts are great, the whole is hilarious and absurdly unclear on any kind of direction. In fact, it reminds me of modern society: the salesperson goes through the list and ticks off all that is required, and then it gets passed to the factory floor, where they bolt everything together and hope it flies. The result here is really goofy and entirely misses the grandeur and imagination of metal. Flee.

Bahimiron – Rebel Hymns of Left-Handed Terror

Against all odds, this band have reinvented themselves with a new sound. This new styling works because the band have both stripped-down what they do and focused on making every bit count. The songwriting sounds hasty but as if a very deliberate focus were placed behind each piece, so that the band knew what they needed and fought until they found it, even if it went rather quickly. Combining the Demoncy “Joined in Darkness” cum Profanatica “Profanatitas de Domonatia” sound of fuzzy, foreboding, inverse-march riffs with the remnants of the original Gorgoroth-inspired sound that propelled this band into focus, albeit with bits of the Southern style (Down, Eyehategod) and classic death metal mixed in, the new Bahimiron makes fast songs in the style of hardcore punk but gives them a uniquely metal vibe. They aim at being incomplete; the songs themselves are complete, but the emotional concept they express is one of partial completion. Plenty of speed and power in these riffs; no particularly groundbreaking variations occur, and the noisy lead guitar (Watain “Rabid Death’s Curse” style) creates no enduring atmosphere. Even the EP itself tapers off, bringing in a few speed metal riffs and even modern metal influences toward the end (blame Krieg’s latest) but the riffs wrap up in hard-hitting songs that are not scattered random thoughts and as a result, create a memorable listen. Glad to see these guys returning on a high note.

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