Moloch – Verwüstung (2015)

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While most records can be dismissed by finding commonplace music-making missteps, some records seem to do everything competently and yet still manage to lack something vital to music. This is precisely the case with Moloch’s Verwüstung, which makes it a difficult album to assess justly. Fulfilling all that you can expect from a mid-paced, melodic black metal album to the letter, the result is monotonous and surprisingly empty-sounding despite the density of the content.

We must start by handing out the praises the album deserves. The consistency in style, the balance between repetition and the timing to bring in the next idea as well as the breaks in dynamics and texture that produce elegant caesuras in the music. Style is clear and while not completely original, is distinctive (in the sense that we are not left trying to figure out what they are trying to do as a result of any contradiction or meandering of the style) and gets to the point clearly. What Verwüstung can be compared to is a stout robotic armor that moves on its own and can handle tasks effectively but lacks a heart and life of its own so that, when questioned directly, is unable to respond with anything beyond the most mundane observations. What is missing is not the organizing agency that the composer is, but the vision that builds music not only coherently but assembling it in ridges, plains, and other geographical variations that make it a text to be traveled through, and not just a sequence of technically-convincing patterns.

(…) the natural world cannot be grasped in the same way that natural science grasps things, that it requires a fundamental change of attitude, an orientation that focuses no longer on things but on their phenomenal nature, the way they manifest themselves. Thus, it turned out further, the question is not one of the world and its structures but of the phenomenon of the world; that it has to do, first of all, with a description and an analysis of the way in which the world presents itself, then with an explanation of why it presents itself this way.

— Jan Patočka

This vital je ne sais quoi lies on the spiritual dimension of music.  It is both its motivator and its end product. The alpha and the omega of the creative process, it comes to the artist that would have it and through the singular vision, the particular abilities and the subjective filter of the individual surfaces again in reborn form from the composition and execution stages. Music, then, if it is indeed the output of this flow, should feel like a living organism. Moving together and in harmony with all its parts, first of all, but also displaying an independent thinking, a freedom of thought of sorts. This creature may or may not be crippled by the creative power of the human mind through which it flows to be transformed and born again, but its qualities as living spirit cannot be questioned.

When the music process does not flow from a strong inspiration — from a commanding apparition that would ask cooperation of the perceptive human being that is to bring this entity from the highest layer of existence, that of the divine mind, and into the physical one we perceive every day — then no such life is perceived in the music. The most refined techniques and calculated relations become the exercise of uninspired composers. Although this may be difficult to grasp for the average reader, there is a direct link between these explanations and the actual musical elements: beyond the coherence and balance of elements, one finds life in the vivid dynamics, pulsating textures and varying relations that come after the previous requirements (the order is important as some would have only a messy variation without them being the result of the necessary sacred union between coherence, clarity and inspiration). At the expense of using descriptions bordering on the religious, the accusation leveled against Moloch is that of having produced a soulless abomination.

Kaeck reveals preliminary artwork and song

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Dutch black metal band Kaeck have blessed us with a preview of the album in full song uploaded to Youtube and a treated us with a look at the album artwork.  Consistent with the symbolic anti-religious blasphemy with an occult atmosphere that longs for deeper knowledge and understanding of the world that goes beyond dogma and into the heretical, the artwork displays perhaps somewhat cliche yet nonetheless symbolic objects of mystic research that become the tools for the pushing of boundaries of permitted knowledge. It is both rebellious and underground, subversive and hidden — a quiet revolution of plane-wanderers, mystics and malcontent visionaries that realize that the world at hand cannot contain the ideals they are looking for, launching them in a quest for the truth that is a desperate and hopeful reaching-out for the future and simultaneously nostalgic of an illusory grand past .

In “Afgod”, Kaeck present us with a condensed and focused incarnation of these sentiments. A heavy use of repetition with slight variation in a minimalist piece that can only be crafted by the most expert of black metal composers — not musicians or artists. Every single part is significant and important, ingrained indispensably in the framework of the music in a way that its function is not only amplified locally, but that makes the piece as a whole enhanced so that when all these elements are together (the understated drums, the melody-carrying enveloping keyboards, the saturating guitars and the maddened vocals) a surprisingly layered result whose individual elements are engaging but have nowhere near the power and reach of the created entity born when the sounds are brought together. And on the timeline, no single riff, no single repetition can account for the effect of the total song.This is the hallmark of superior and successful minimalist black metal. Greatness in any music, such as this, lies in the unified journey and the coalescing elements: a vision encompassing the whole vertically and horizontally.

Edit: “Alfgod” was taken down, but a link for another song in the album was uploaded and linked below.

Aversion – Aversion (2015)

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Aversion play black metal that floats in the area between the tendency of “pagan” bands to use a mid-paced, back-and-forth rhythm with a simple grooves and that of melodic black metal bands that submit every part of the music to the “will” or destiny of a main melody. Aversion also shows a preference for constructing songs in a “progressive” way, that is, looking forward, trying to take the song where it has not been before without looking back. The character of the riffs themselves remain in the general area between happy and slightly serious, while the whole does not feel unified enough to have a solid shape. On the positive side, Aversion keep strictly to one style and produce varied riffs that do not violate their initial proposal.

While that impulse for progression is not taken to the dangerous extreme consequence of jumping between styles or letting the musicality of songs fail through sharp contrasts in texture, it produces problems by becoming the foremost preoccupation of the songwriting process, instead of being the consequence of a deeper need. There are exceptions in which changes are a little forced, but these represent a minority in the album. The problem that Aversion faces from this progressive intent is that they have the tendency to accumulate new material, new events in the song, without necessarily attributing them any meaning. Not that riffs have precise meanings, but while an inside-outside process would produce riffs from a precise flow of feelings and an intended direction, in here, riffs sound good together, the musicians have used a criteria of appropriateness to decide whether or not a next riff should be included or not, but it has come from this outer judgement, and not from the impulse that would produce the riff as necessary from the inside. Thus parts sound good together but are not made indispensable, a common weakness in melodic black metal: the happiness of the melody line becomes ruler.

Aversion’s self-titled is still the result of a vague vision that keeps these musicians from looking beyond the surface while they stay afloat through sheer judgement of their own ideas after they have been produced. I posit that in their writing process, riffs are produced and then are considered for the song, instead of riffs being devised with a specific purpose in mind. This is one of the many subtle differences between producing from the inside or from the outside. It is also worth clarifying that there is no dichotomy, these characteristics are manifest in a gamut of degrees as I am sure Aversion are not oblivious to looking for some kind of character in their riffs, otherwise the constant style and character with which they infuse each section would not be as clear. If Aversion can look deeper and find a motivator, they may well give us a worthwhile black metal album in the future.

Mutilation Rites releases new video

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Brooklyn-based black metal band Mutilation Rites have released a new video for their song “Contaminate”.
Dimmitt discussed the video’s creation process, stating:

Coming up with the concept for the music video for ‘Contaminate’ was quite simple. The subject matter of the song deals with impending doom of the apocalypse, radiation sickness, and the suffering that war brings about in general. We combined disturbing archival footage from atrocities committed in the last century with a live show we played at Saint Vitus, in Brooklyn, to create a visual aesthetic to match the bleak subject matter and overall feeling of despair that we attempted to create when we wrote this song.

www.mutilationrites.com
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Ashbringer – Vacant (2015)

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While most modern bands err on the side of so-called experiments and “open-mindedness”, Ashbringer tries to adopt a conservative posture in a manner that kills music with stagnancy. This may be either a product of a skewed appreciation of the classics or simply a good-intentioned but overzealous drive to keep coherence in check that might arise from an ignorance of music-writing procedures. Such procedures can and have been ignored by people with either great experience and understanding, or savants like Varg Vikernes who display an amazing instinctive talent for musical creation. Unfortunately, there is a myth that drives hordes of musicians of average talent (because that is the definition of average) to attempt to emulate the actions of those who are natural geniuses. Such combination of presumption with an unwillingness to educate themselves give us many sincere but ultimately deficient metal records (see early The Chasm).

In Vacant, Ashbringer present us songs which bear the mark of an intention of maintaining coherence by repeating the same idea and only venturing forth to use the same motif played in several different ways, offering carrying a whole song or entire super-sections mostly in this manner. The extent of these variations are limited to texture change and register change. Correctly sensing that this only creates a static picture seen through different-colored lenses, other ideas are introduced, but these do not bear a clear relation between each other beyond the concordance of similar technique, tonality and consistency in style. Akin to a series of unrelated pictures in a row in an album  without a clear history to relate them, variety is forced, taking the songs out of painful and amateur-like stagnation in a forceful manner.

The few exceptions of progressions and and useful transformations are far and in between and should be saved by the band for future reference (the 5th and 6th tracks which should be one song as the first does not have the material to be an interlude but only a first-section to the following one), and Ashbringer could learn something about the use of related but changing and essentially different ideas. These should be related not by style, but by musical structure and patterns. The suggestion is perhaps a little too German-minded, but it is a more concrete beginning that is easier to grasp. Baby-steps before you can actually black metal.

The combination of true humbleness in creating music with a healthy dose of careful ambition is what is necessary here and in metal in general. A cycle of study, practice, introspection and revision in music-writing is what metal most needs as is shown by the limitations of this sincere but incredibly deficient album. These guys obviously have the intention of creating metal that is both elaborate and profound, technically proficient, musically satisfying and spiritually inspiring. They just need to face they aren’t musical geniuses and turn their heads to a more strict study and observation of the greats on the technical side at different levels of music composition.

Necromass releases video of “Fair of Blasphemy”

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NECROMASS’ video “Fair of Blasphemy” is now available. The video was directed by Stefano Poggioni and features Claudia Cataldi (Factory Prod.) as director of photography, both winners of several video-clips
and short films awards, such as “The Drift”.

This is the first official video of the cult florentine band and it is a first preview of the new split with Mortuary Drape, set to be released shortly by Funeral Industries.

www.necromass.it

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Scythian – Hubris in Excelsis (2015)

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Following the example of Kreator in Phantom Antichrist, Scythian unite riffing approaches from different metal subgenres under the banner of traditional heavy metal and growled or barked vocals, with a result along the lines of the so-called melodic death metal.  In contrast with the noteworthy release Thy Black Destiny, by Sacramentum, Hubris in Excelsis does not coalesce into a thing of its own but just floats around as the result of spare parts being put together to form an undefined, impersonal and disparate heavy metal record. In this, and its revolving around the vocals it is more akin to the Iron Maiden – inclined heavy metal which sets one foot on hard-rock land, using disconnected riffs only as rhythm and harmony to carry the voice.

We hear doom metal proceedings and textures typical of black metal, but these are usually encapsulated within sections. These sections are used in conventional rock-song functionality. What determines this rock versus metal approach? Basically, the total relationship of riffs and sections to voice and in between themselves. Rock (and hard rock after it) carries the music after the vocal lines (thus we can see the slight influence of hard rock over Slayer in South of Heaven even though it doesn’t fully give in to the tendency to disqualify it as a metal record). The key tell-tale sign after this is the lack or at least a downplay of motif-relation between parts of the song, the support for main melody or vocal line becoming the most important and prominent element. The effect of this often results in something similar but in the end different from metalcore: disparate parts tied loosely by a certain background consistency (usually harmony for rock and rhythms or motifs drowned in an ocean of contrasts for metalcore).

The plentiful references to many different genres extending all the way to cliche-ridden pagan black metal may throw off the attempts of most to nail down what Hubris in Excelsis actually is, what it consists of and what its essence ultimately is. Hubris in Excelsis is indeed a title that reflects this album beyond their intended concept. Hubris, an excess of self-confidence, often at the expense of prudence and seemliness, is placed in a position of glory, giving way to veiled expressions of ego that disregard any sense of coherence and little consistency beyond the most superficial.

Bhagavat – Annunciazione (2015)

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An example of outstanding musical competence in melody-lead black metal, Bhagavat’s To Burn in a Lair of Snakes give us an initially almost seamless integration of many different elements under a clearly defined personal style. After the first half of the album, though, the album becomes a Planetary Duality-era The Faceless-style tech death tribute with black metal-like cliche connectors and decorations. While the first few songs present a solid and diverse yet uni-colored set of expressions that breathed clarity, as the album progresses, these elements take control over the music. The vision stops being in control and the stylistic expression starts guiding songwriting. In other words rampant cliches ensue.

While musically adept and gifted with a talent for placing together ideas in a flowing and integrated manner, Bhagavat could have focused into making a mention-worthy album. There is enough of that here to make a 3-song EP. But more than half of the album resorts to cliche-riding, while the band’s voice is heard standing beside them. To Burn a Lair of Snakes went from being a contestant to be included in best of the year lists to just another modern metal band trying to appropriate black metal as a disguise.

Goatblood – Adoration of Blasphemy and War (2015)

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Wearing the mantle of blasphemous black metal, Goatblood play metal in the time-honoured tradition of grind-tinged black metal dancing the line between Sarcófago and Blasphemy. As most bands playing this style, Goatblood is automatically benefited by the immediate focus this restricted expression affords: a clarity in direction in accordance to its single-mindedness. Songs are consistent in expression as well as coherent in their narrative, blasphemy overspilling and music driving it — not quite deep enough.

The only obstacle towards excellence faced by Goatblood here is they are too content, or perhaps too shy, about developing songs. Most of them stop after a handful of simple riffs, ending not in a closing gesture a climax or even a complete development but an apparently arbitrary riff after which the band had no idea (or no time?) what to write. Rather than the defilement of Profanatica, Goatblood only half-whispers hidden desires to break free from dogmatic religion. Not brave enough to move forward, Adoration of Blasphemy and War is a collection of half-songs, or ideas for songs that have not yet been completed.