Reencarnación – 888 (2015)

reincarnacion

Article by David Rosales

Obscure and wacky ’80s bands are always a treat to listen to. They bring the darkest side of Hellhammer or early Bathory while being completely unpredictable, without going to the completely unhinged music of hipsters like later Deathspell Omega. Reencarnación is another weird Colombian band that published a series of underground metal demos that would rightly be considered the true heirs to seventies progressive rock. Among the very measured use extra musical noise, such as a crowd, or a lamenting voice, there is even an interlude that makes use of a classical guitar and a violin.

888 (originally published as a self-titled) is not an album but a collection of old recordings (possibly remastered, given how clean they sound) put together as a compilation. This plays a lot like Infester’s only album, except songs are shorter and perhaps slightly more disorienting given their use of spasmic sections and percussion pauses that give it a strange feeling like that of a man gasping for air. The music basically consists of nonsense chromatic leads, Sarcofago-like thrashing, and mid-paced grindcore riffing. Quite endearing.

While what we have here is a delicious mixture of experimental and progressive thinking applied to anarcho-punk going through grindcore. Unfortunately, the recordings are section-oriented (but not precisely riff-oriented), forgetting about the importance of linking songs by some kind of theme, even if not by a melodic one. The result is a confusing, winding labyrinth that attempts to emulate the progressive rock of Emerson, Lake and Palmer in their most twisted hour, and succeeding to a large degree, as it suffers from the same sort of problems, only augmented by ignorance or inexperience.

Reencarnación’s 888 is certainly a very enjoyable album which you want to play while drinking alone in your room with your computer screen as the only light source as you read collections of BBS posts saved in a corner of the Internet by another obsessive nerd. However, this will not do as an example of great songwriting or endure objective scrutiny.

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Deströyer 666 premieres “Live And Burn” off Wildfire

It sounds like K. K. Warslut has achieved his humble goals for Wildfire if “Live and Burn” is anything to go by. This promotional single sounds like a fairly by-the-numbers bit of 1st wave black metal worship. The aesthetics are modernized, the songwriting is intentionally basic, and so forth. Wildfire seems to still be on the schedule we mentioned when we first wrote about its upcoming release a few weeks ago. I don’t know how long this is going to stay in anyone’s rotation, but it sounds like reasonably good party metal and a safe bet at live shows, including their upcoming tour in Europe.

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Defending Belus

belus

Article by David Rosales; read yet another (negative) contemporary review of Belus here

After an incursion into ambient metal that lasted for a few albums, Burzum was seemingly trying to make a comeback to metal instrumentation. But appearances can be deceiving, and what seems like a failed attempt at creating streamlined metal music may be, in fact, an attempt at riffing-up ambient music. There is also a hint that it is packaged into an integral release that has to be listened to as a whole. This does sound an awful lot like the premise of post-rock, and while there is a good deal of wallpaper repetition, there are also plenty of good ideas in what is the closest heir we have to Vikernes’ seclusion.

The old DMU reception of the album when it had just come out is spot on in its criticism, but much may be added that redeems this understated album. A very clear line of evolution can be traced from Det Som Engang Var through Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and the anti-black metal ambient expansion of Filosofem to Burzum’s 2010 release. For all intents and purposes, an album like Belus is the next logical step. That it cannot harness the energies of black metal while it attempts to spread like synth ambient is proof of the impermeability of distinct genres.

This shaky, middle-ground positioning was resolved marvelously with 2013’s Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, whose incomprehension by black metal fans shows it as a next filter in the practical evolution of transcendental metal as it maintains its ideals. The filters before them can be seen in the commencement of different underground metal genres, with Black Sabbath being the first obscure revolution, Slayer and Metallica on their debut leading the second, and the waves of speed-going-on-black as intermediary steps towards the third explosion of death metal, which in its technical fetish gave way to the more musical black metal. The next great purge takes place after 1995 as several of the best black metal musicians lean heavily towards minimalist ambient-focused projects, which in some cases turn into affairs that are more electronic than metal in instrumentation (Beherit’s Electric Doom Synthesis is one of the crown jewels of this very select group).

Weakened as it is in its most objective sense, the soft, layered and simple cadences and droning melodies unique to Vikernes’ mind are still more full and less candy-coated than the likes of Drudkh. And where, in Belus, the music seesm to drone on, the choice in length is never as much as the likes of Sunn O))) so that it falls completely into the background. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss was a trip to another dimension, each moment pushes forward, but the next album was a trance with subtle pulsations and bumps, breathing in and breathing out in a quality that cannot be measure quantitatively but qualitatively at an abstract level, admitting no materialistic distinction. The repetition scheme here is a compromise and application of what was learned in Filosofem, relying on a certain quality of endurance that Vikernes’ simple but multi-layered riffs focus on and uniquely shine for.

At worst, Belus is solid ambient music played on suboptimal instrumentation, and at best, a unique chance at perceiving these landscapes through metallic lenses which distort and bring to the fore particular contours and colors. When positioned at the right place and at the right time (having the right mentality), the listener may find himself submerged into dense forests, fuzzy with the brume of unreality. The vision that Belus presents is not that different from Burzum’s early efforts, but where the quick underground fan may detect watered-down content, others may see a matured and spiritually refined thinking.

This is not objective music, this is a secluded path for those who have digested Burzum’s music beyond its atomic particles and into the very essence, flow and nature of it. This fourth filtering-out of profane minds certainly leaves most behind, and though these words may seem spurious, those with a balanced and logic mind, a strong and idealist heart, and an avid curiosity may find themselves on the right path to this shrouded grove.

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Pensées Nocturnes to release À boire et à manger

pensees_nocturnes_2016

I forgot about the ambitious but flawed works of Pensées Nocturnes rather quickly after having heard of them for the first time. Back in the day, DMU contributors wanted them to, amongst other things, “use more oboe“. Parts of the upcoming À boire et à manger have since been released on SoundCloud; if the samples are to believed, then Pensées Nocturnes did not, in fact, end up adding more oboe parts to their music. If anything, it sounds as if their overall musical approach has moved away from the symphonic black metal they were famous for, and more towards some sort of snooty avant-garde cafe black metal. It’d take further listening for me to actually confirm this; À boire et à manger will officially release on January 16th, so it’s presumably only a matter of time to determine whether this band has gone Krallice on us.

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Death Metal Underground’s Best Albums of 2015

It took some time, but despite the deluge of content constantly bombarding us and aspiring metal fans worldwide, we’ve been able to reach some level of consensus on 2015’s worthwhile metal music. Not to say that we’re in perfect harmony (If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that there’s some room for dissonance in our musical language), but the hope is, like what our recent reinspection of 2013 revealed, that some of this material remains interesting for more than the year it was released.


 

Album of the Year
Kaeck
Stormkult

A wrathful reminder of what war metal should have been: a melodically-structured, chromatic holocaust to the god of this world. Jan Kruitwagen’s leads awe listeners and are optimally placed to hold attention just as each rhythm riff runs its course. An impenetrable mix rewards repeated listening to an album that may surpass Kruitwagen’s work on Sammath’s Godless Arrogance. March to Kaeck’s martial heartbeat or revel in shit.

Reviews:

 

Recommended Albums

 

Desecresy
Stoic Death

Bolt Thrower meets ritualistic black metal. Rather than cathartic bending into climactic oriental leads, Desecresy diffuse tension by methodically varying into bizarre melodies with carefully placed, otherworldly leads to a steady metronome.
Mid-paced riffing in the style of Bolt Thrower builds tension with melody and drifts off into space with variations and well placed leads. Where Bolt Thrower themselves shoot a rifle at the ballon using rhythmic change to introduce another riff or dramatically bending the riff into a climactic, oriental short solo, Desecresy insert ritualistic blackened leads for dramatic contrast with the rhythmic, power chord riffing.

Review and Interview:

 

Tau Cross
Tau Cross

Rob Miller returns from blacksmithing to his previous metallic occupation with an album of catchy post-punk in Motorhead and Metallica song formats. Thankfully free of the Godsmack and other MTV influences present on Amebix’s swansong.

Review:

 

Worthwhile releases

 

Cóndor
Duin

An effective album of mid-paced death and heavy metal riffing. There is no psychedelic rock pretending to be Black Sabbath “doom” here. Highly structured; the opposite of the random tossed riff salads of most modern metal. This band takes an approach more like that of classical guitarists toward melding death metal with progressive rock, blues, folk and other influences: it mixes them in serially and adopts them within the style, rather than hybridizing the two styles.

In other words, most bands that try to sound like progressive death metal try to act like a progressive rock band playing death metal, or a death metal band playing progressive rock. Cóndor takes an approach more like that of musicians in the past, which is to adopt other voices within its style, so that it creates essentially the same material but works in passages that show the influence of other thought.

Reviews and Interview:

 

Morpheus Descends
From Blackened Crypts

This vinyl 7” single features two new, well constructed death metal songs from one of from one of the few truly underrated bands in the genre. Those foresighted enough to purchase the identically-titled CD boxed set version received the band’s entire catalog in one of the rare remasters that sounds better than the original releases.

Interviews:

 

Motorhead
Bad Magic

One last Motorhead album of mostly Motorhead songs. Nothing “new” is introduced for those in the non-metal audience who disdain metal and wish to feel intellectually superior to the common headbanger. The final work from a relentless machine of a band.

Review:

 

Reissues

 

Grotesque
In the Embrace of Evil
Immolation
Dawn of Possession (Listenable Records)
Order From Chaos
Frozen in Steel (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Carbonized
For the Security
Sammath
Strijd
Arghoslent
Arsenal of Glory and Galloping Through the Battle Ruins (Drakkar productions)
Blasphemy
Fallen Angel of Doom (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Gorguts
Obscura

 

Those Left Behind
Zom
Flesh Assimilation

Crusty death metal of the better than braindead Benediction but worse than Cancer category.

Satan
Atom by Atom

I’ve possibly heard too much but Hanger 18. I know too much. Although not as degradingly vulgar as Surgical Steel, Atom by Atom results in a pretty tacky affair. Vocals are as emotional as in the first album, except that in here they seem even more disconnected from the music as the music veers into some sort of progressive speed metal akin to Helstar’s. (Editor’s note: I liked it, but David Rosales was critical)

Sarpanitum
Blessed Be My Brothers

The band shows promise with their Unique Leader-style rhythmic riffing and soaring heavy metal leads. While being above par for technical deaf metal, aping a different one of your heroes every few verses doesn’t make for particularly enjoyable repeated listening.

House of Atreus
The Spear and the Ichor that Follows

Fredrik Nordstrom’s Arghoslent.

Denner/Sherman
Satan’s Tomb

Technical power metal carnival music.

Iron Maiden
The Book of Souls

Nobody is allowed to edit themselves or turn on their bullshit filters in Steve Harris’s band anymore (Read a full review here).

Kjeld
Skym

Kvist meets the randomness of metalcore. Indistinct riffing and songwriting mix with pointless shoutout verses to past greats that makes listeners wonder why they aren’t just playing Sodom and Mayhem in the first place.

Malthusian
Below the Hengiform

Where are the riffs?

Throaat
Black Speed

Every Teutonic speed metal band gone Voltron.

Ares Kingdom
The Unburiable Dead

The band has no need to repeat half the song just so the guitarist can get over his refractory period and play another solo. This is also an extremely distracted riff salad in which the individual riffs can be brought in from sources as different as galloping power metal to thrashy death metal to alternative nu and groove “metal”. This is headbang-core for beer metallers and other social metalheads. This recording received two reviews in 2015.

Obsequaie
Aria of Vernal Tombs

A collection of interesting renaissance faire riffs written into songs that quickly wear out their welcome as metal, becoming RPG background music.

Sarcasm
Burial Dimensions

A few strong songs on a demo do not warrant a two CD set of Swedish death with limpid keyboards anticipating the steps black metal took towards mainstream goth rock in the late nineties.

Mgla
Exercises in Futility

This is the type of black metal as repetitive rock music that ignorant hipsters will praise as “ritualistic”. The album’s title sums the quality of its musical content: futile. (Editor’s note: I wanted to give this album a chance. It didn’t age well.)

Horrendous
Anareta

Gothenburg cheese and Meshuggah licks are less appetizing than a lead-laced Mexican lollipop.

Cruciamentum
Charnel Passages

Grave Miasma returns. This time with 1993’s atmosphere.

Crypt Sermon
Out of the Garden

Candlemass meets Soundgarden.

Vorum
Current Mouth

Every Teutonic speed metal band gone Voltron.

Exhumation
Opus Death

Solid underground metal in the spirit of Sarcofago that is perfectly well-written but does not amount to more than the sum of its parts; does not conjure up any long-lasting message.

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Burzum’s Filosofem turns 20 today

burzum-filosofem

This is the sort of recording that could very easily displace the already accomplished works of Kvist from your memory. Filosofem, while released 20 years ago this day, was recorded in March 1993; meanwhile, the first track (“Dunkelheit” or “Burzum” depending upon the pressing) was the first track ever written for Burzum. As part of the initial burst of Burzum’s material, Filosofem sticks to a language of black metal that Varg Vikernes helped define, but is arguably closer in spirit to the pure ambient works that followed it. The internet overflows with discussion of the circumstances surrounding this album, as well as its excursions into a sort of streamlined “Odinpop”, but like its illustrious predecessors, Filosofem‘s influence is immense, even if most who try to imitate the ideas on display here kind of miss the point.

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20th anniversary of For kunsten maa vi evig vike by Kvist

kvist_debut

Kvist’s For kunsten maa vi evig vike came out on the first day of 1996; a year in which booming consumer technology and gimmicky multimedia projects overshadowed one of the many deaths of the black metal scene. Absurd soliloquies aside, Kvist’s full length debut seems to penetrate someone’s mind every now and then, and is generally praised for its melodic prowess. Our old archives don’t hold it in as high a regard, but those who favor the more conventionally musical aspects of Norwegian black metal may find some value in this recording.

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Pureblood Albums – A 2013 Recap

office-space-machine-beating

Article by David Rosales

As another year ends and a new one begins, many “best of” lists pop up here and there, among them our own here at DMU. While others may be eager to know about what is ever new, we are more interested in what stands the test of time. Today we will look at some albums that were highlighted here as the foremost products of the year 2013, which was a year of renewal, great comebacks, startling discoveries and a general wellspring of inspiration. In the opinion of this writer, 2013 has been the best year for metal in the 21st century.


To start off, we shall pay respects to long-lasting acts with a black metal background, namely Graveland, Summoning and Burzum. While the last has left the metal camp for good, its approach and spirit is still very much enriched by the essence of the deepest metal infused with transcendental values. Summoning is still doing their thing, ever evolving, trying a different permutation of their unique style. Fudali’s project has become the warrior at the frontlines of the strongest nationalism grounded in music that uplifts the heart with an authentic battle feeling (as opposed to those other bands playing funny-jumpy rock and acting all “dangerous”).

burzum-sol_austan_mani_vestan

Sôl austan, Mâni vestan is an ambient affair that uses short loops which revolve around clear themes in each track. The approach is a little formulaic, thereby limiting the experience with a feeling of repetition. However, as with many good works of art, this self-imposed canalization serves to speed the result in a direction. As with a lot of Burzum’s work, this is a concept album that must be listened to as a whole. When this is followed and one stops looking for novelty and instead concentrates on the details that bring variation within the familiar landscape, the somewhat arduous experience brings great rewards once the summit is reached and the journey is taken more than once.

summoning-old_mornings_dawn

Something similar can be said of the slightly pop-minded Old Mornings Dawn. This effort by Summoning certainly lacks the density of their masterpiece, Dol Guldur, but is no less effective, although perhaps shallow. But what isn’t shallow when compared to that masterpiece? As with every Summoning album, Old Mornings Dawn has a very separate personality, and in this case, it is one of heroism, light, regeneration and hope. Something that will never leave the band’s trademark sound is the deep feeling of melancholy and longing for ruins.

Thunderbolts_front2013_

Graveland materializes in Thunderbolts of the Gods one of their most warlike efforts to date in a smooth trajectory that has gone from rough-pagan to long-winded and epic to heroic war music. What raises this offering above others in Fudali’s current trend is the awesome bringing forth of destructive energies mustered in the imposing drumwork. Gone are the clumsy rhythms of Cold Winter Blades and the redneckish tone of the (nonetheless great) album Following the Voice of Blood. This is the technically polished and spirit-infused summit of this face of Graveland.

black_sabbath-13

One of the most deserving releases of 2013 was Black Sabbath’s 13. More expectations could not have been placed on anyone else. Yet the godfathers of metal delivered like the monarchs they are: with original style, enviable grace, magnificent strength and latent power. Along with the last three albums just mentioned, this album shows itself timeless in the present metal landscape. It encompasses all that it is metal, and brings it back to its origin. This is an absolute grower which will age like the finest wine and is, in my opinion, the album of the year of 2013.

profanatica-thy_kingdom_cum

In 2013, Profanatica finally achieved amazing distinction with Thy Kingdom Cum, which can be considered the fully developed potential of what Ledney presented in the thoroughly enjoyable Dethrone the Son of God under the Havohej moniker. To say this is the natural outcome of Profanatica’s past work is as true as it is misleading in its implications. This is not just a continuation of what the band was doing before, but a deliberate step, a clear decision in the clear change in texture quality that means the world in such minimalist music where a simple shift in technique or modal approach defines most of the character of the music.

condor-nadia

Cóndor’s Nadia was probably the hidden pearl of the year. Never mind the metaphor of the “diamond in the rough”, there is nothing rough about this. It is polished, but it is hidden. The shy face of this beautiful lady is covered by a veil that turns away the unworthy, the profane! This is immortal metal artwork which to uninitiated eyes and ears seems but like the simple, perhaps even amateur, collection of Sabbathian cliches and tremolo excuses of an unexperienced band. The knowledgeable and contemplating metal thinker recognizes the Platonic forms under the disfigured shapes.

imprecation-shirt-satanae_tenebris_infinita

Imprecation’s Satanae Tenebris Infinita and Blood Dawn by Warmaster draw our attention to the strong presence of a more humble but profoundly (though not obviously) memorable album and EP. These will stand the chance of time, but will not necessarily remain strong in the mind of a listener in a way that he feels compelled to come back to them often.

von-dark_gods_seven_billion_slaves

Dark Gods, Seven Billion Slaves by VON seemed more enticing at the time. It’s definitely a solid release, but it is however a very thinly populated album with more airtime than content. Whatever content it has is also not particularly engaging. The enjoyability of this one is a much more subjective affair and like a soundtrack is more dependent on extra-musical input from the listener’s imagination.

argus-beyond_the_martyrs

As delightful as the three heavy metal albums Argus Beyond The Martyrs, Blitzkrieg Back From Hell and Satan are, the intrinsic qualities of their selected subgenres makes them a difficult candidate for long-lasting and profound impact. That is not to say they have no lasting value. If anything, these are albums one can come back a thousand times and perhaps they will not grow that much, but they will never truly grow old.

headless_ritual_large

Autopsy’s Headless Ritual is one of the strongest yet most understated albums of the year. The extremely rough character of the music may contribute to how it carelessly it can be left behind. Fans of brutal music will find it little different from the rest and will quickly forget it. Fans of wider expressions and deeper thoughts will pass it by with little interest. Such is the tragedy of this very respectable album.

master-the_witchhunt

A few stragglers in this group; Master’s The Witchhunt, Centurian’s Contra Rationem, Derogatory’s Above All Else, and Rudra’s RTA proved to be more impact and potential than manifest presence. These will remain fun and quaint for a very occasional listen, perhaps even a sort of throwback feeling, but lacking the long-lasting impact of others in this list.

empyrium-into_the_pantheon-cover

A special mention is deserved by Into the Pantheon, the essential synthesis of Empyrium, being their most revealing, powerful and clear release. While not outwardly metal, this live recording everything that is to be metal at the level of character and spirit. As such it is the perfect closing note for this recapitulation and reevaluation of past selections.

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Tranquillizer – Des Endes Anfang (2015)

Tranquilizer-Des-Endes-Anfang

Sold to us by a promo company as “melodic” death/black metal, Des Endes Anfang by Tranquillizer (sic) is an ungainly fusion of In Flames type melodeath, Pantera flavored brocore grooves, and maybe a slight hint of extreme metal writing at times… by mistake. It occasionally amuses me to see a long-abandoned style of pop metal get some attention after years of neglect, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this album is simply terrible. It’s so bad that I’ve decided to explicitly label it a bad album, in spite of my tendency to pass off most of the review subjects here at DMU as mediocre (medio-core?) and forgettable.

The songwriting here, admittedly, is only weak in a pedestrian fashion. If you were to strip away all the references to past forms of mainstream metal, you’d end up with just another set of random, generic metal riffs like so many albums before this; nothing actually worth discussing. To be fair, Tranquillizer’s “varied” influences give them a wide set of material to pull upon, similar to something like Children of Bodom‘s latest. I Worship Chaos is actually a decent comparison; Tranquillizer doesn’t have the neoclassical backing that helped contribute to that band’s popularity, but they do replace it with slightly more varied (albeit stupid sounding) vocals. In this reviewer’s opinion, that’s not a great trade, but it’s not like either point of comparison has any real merit.

While the substrate of this band is hollow at best, most of what I find contemptible in Des Endes Anfang is its immediately apparent, surface level stupidity. A clean, dry, sterile production allows the panderingly simplistic rhythms of this album to burst forth, as well as a dual vocal system of generic shrieks and vomited grunts. For our purposes, it should suffice to say that this is, at best, a modern rehash of older substyles. You could make the case that none of this is innately bad, despite its similarities to previous bad metal albums, but even if you did, it seems apparent that Tranquillizer doesn’t have the musical knowledge or aptitude to make this album come off as more than half-hearted worship of a warmed over god. Not that I should be raising our old whipping posts to the level of divinity, but the analogy is sound, and Des Endes Anfang isn’t exactly worthy of more precise flogging.

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Xibalba to release Ah Tza! EP

Xibalba performing at Black Flames of Blasphemy

The post-Christmas malaise has set in worldwide, but there’s still time for the occasional pre-2016 release and/or news story.

After what was apparently a pretty good performance at Black Flames of Blasphemy, the Mexican black metal band Xibalba is releasing a short three song EP. Entitled Ah Tza!, its first track is already available through Bandcamp due to the services of the band’s current record label (Nuclear War Now! Productions). The other two will be available on December 31st. As of yet, there’s not really enough information to figure out what this shortalbum will sound like, but the first song at least conforms to the musical language of black metal; not that such is exactly difficult.

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