Profanatica and Cianide are playing the 2017 iteration of the Destroying Texas festival along with a bunch of shitty scenester bands like Black Witchery. Check them out if you live nearby; Profanatica are still great live despite the last album, The Curling Flame of Blasphemy, being a turd. Tickets are available from EventBrite.
Earlier in the Coffins review, it was mentioned how that band was little more than a superficial imitator of bands like Cianide, and that apart from imitating the same types of riffs, achieved little in the way of communication. This has everything to do with how a piece of music is organized. It is is not in the riff itself but the relationship between riffs and in how, in relation to each other, they sketch a landscape. Cianide understands this, Coffins and the multitudes of third-rate imitators do not.
While the tag of “doom” is attached to Cianide, it is only right to call them death metal. Period. A death metal band that sometimes plays in relatively slow tempos using completely diatonic schemes. This is strongly reminiscent of Black Sabbath, which were dubbed “doom” only in hindsight after later acts like Saint Vitus or Witchfinder General. Both of these bands just play simple heavy metal in a style that emphasizes the weight of riffs. Being the talented musicians they are, their song-construction is fluent and their parts inter-related. This goes without saying when it comes to good metal. The term “doom” only makes sense as a genre tags for acts such as Skepticism, Worship or Thergothon which definitely do not follow a death metal or a heavy metal template but operate on entirely different “ideological” (so to speak, but not politically, rather, artistically) premises.
In Death, Doom and Destruction, Cianide bring a more mobile conception of their particular style that emphasizes the dynamics afforded by their mid-paced trudging that allows them to waiver between heavy-trudging riffs ala Celtic Frost and faster tremolo-picked passages. Compared to their early work, this newer album is slightly simplified at the riff-level, although the construction has suffered little deterioration that this listener can perceive. The songwriting skills that allow them channel the rhythmic and harmonic impulse of one section onto the next and to trace a roller-coaster-like curve in the course of these musical pieces is stronger than ever. If anything, I would call this a condensed Cianide.
From a recent interview with our editor:
You and the other reviewers are notorious for having incredibly harsh reviews. What would you say are your favorite metal albums of all time?
These metal albums have stayed in weekly rotation over the years:
- Massacra – Final Holocaust
- Slayer – Show No Mercy
- Incantation – Onward to Golgotha
- Sepultura – Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation
- Deicide – Legion
- Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon
- Cianide – A Descent Into Hell
- Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
- Demilich – Nespithe
- Demoncy – Joined in Darkness
The reason my analysis is different than that of other metal sites is that populist writers prioritize surface novelty and underlying similarity to mainstream rock, where I look at metal as a form of art in its own right. It should be measured by the quality of its internal organization and ability to artistically represent a vision of power. The popular “best of” lists specialize in bands that will be forgotten in a few years because when the novelty is gone, they are the same old stuff you could get anywhere else.
I keep a copy of Sepultura Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation in every room in the house. I dislike being too far from one at any given time.
What contemporary bands should we be paying attention to?
In music as in all things, I am an elitist. This means that I want the best music available because time is short and there is no point wasting it on the trivial. Keep an eye on Demoncy, Sammath, Blaspherian, Kjeld, Desecresy, Kaeck, Blood Urn, and Kever.
Some accuse your site of manufacturing a controversy with MetalGate but the SJW infiltration of political correctness in metal has technically been going on since the late 90s. Do you think metal can actually be tamed by leftists and what is your perspective on the attempts to make metal safe?
SJWs are incapable of understanding the aesthetics of metal, which is why all leftist music tends to be metal-flavored riffing wrapped around rock or punk. Metal music sounds the way it does because its outward form represents what its composers wish to communicate. Ignoring lyrics and imagery, which are entirely secondary to composition much as production is, the music itself conveys an abstract and distant sound that makes beauty out of ugliness through a respect for power. In metal, what is powerful creates excellence, and from within that comes the elegance of form and portrayal of reality that makes great art.
Rock takes the opposite view. It is basically intense repetition with an ironic twist at the end, which means that it differentiates itself through “message.” People love catchy lyrics that embody some idea they find appealing at the time, but these are always experiences based in the individual, which is why almost all of rock music is love songs or “protest music” that wails about how inconvenient it is that some complex idea stands between the individual and a good time. You cannot both be pro-nationalist and listen to rock music.
Metal came about when Black Sabbath wanted to interrupt the hippies — what they called SJWs back when they opposed The Establishment — with some “heavy” (hippie slang for intense, epic and terrifying) realism. The West was falling apart, and the popular movements insisted that if we just focused on peace, love and happiness, all our problems would magically vanish. This focus on reality makes metal appear right-wing to leftists. It embraces consequentialism, worship of the ancient, distrust of the narcissism in the individual, and the idea of conflict itself, so that those who are strongest win. This inherently clashes with the individualist groupthink of the left, which seeks to avoid conflict and manage people indirectly through guilt.
When SJWs make metal, it ends up sounding like punk rock or rock because those forms of “protest music” reflect the individualist and yet group-oriented mentality of the SJW. Like the Christians with their “white metal” in the 1980s and the many times commercial record labels have tried to launch rock bands disguised as metal to capture the metal audience, social justice workers (SJWs) are trying to force entry by liberal ideas into metal so they can take over the space of culture that it dominates, and its audience, and indoctrinate them in leftism. Both media and labels support this because it is cheaper to make rock bands than metal bands.
Metalgate rose to resist this conspiracy and call it what it is, which is an attempt to control our minds through propaganda in music, as well as a gambit to replace what we know of as metal with a “safe” version based in indie rock. Most people do not know it, but metal generates a lot of income because metal fans are loyal to the genre over the course of their lives. Record labels could make a lot of money if they could sell the same old pap with metal flavoring. Luckily metalheads are resisting as they have resisted every attempt to assimilate their genre into rock ‘n roll, break its spirit and make it repeat the same dogma that exists in every other genre of music.
Underground survivalist label Hells Headbangers has released a free digital music compilation entitled Compilation Volume 8. Featuring cover art by maniac visualizer Antichrist Kramer in clear homage to Blasphemy Fallen Angel of Doom, the compilation provides free listening to introductory tracks to a number of bands from new and old undergrounds alike.
Hells Headbangers described it thus: “30 TRACKS TOTAL featuring brand new songs from upcoming albums by DEATHHAMMER, PROFANATICA, DEIPHAGO, DESTRUKTOR, NYOGTHAEBLISZ, CIANIDE, SCYTHIAN, BARBATOS, NOCTURNAL BLOOD, DIAVOLOS, BONEHUNTER, PERVERSOR, ABYSMAL LORD, and NEXUL, songs from newer EP releases by FORCE OF DARKNESS, DEMONA, The HAUNTING PRESENCE, DWELL, SHED THE SKIN, as well as material from earlier releases in 2015 and mid-late 2014 by SATANIC WARMASTER, GOAT SEMEN, ATOMIC AGGRESSOR, ABOMINATOR, DESTROYER 666, OCTOBER 31, AEVANGELIST, PERDITION TEMPLE, EXECRATION, GOUGE and The LURKING CORPSES.”
Cianide are massive stalwarts of American death metal for whom little has changed in twenty years. Their impact is a bludgeoning and brute force one derived almost wholly from the genre’s progenitors; Slaughter (Canada), Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Slayer are touched with the plodding heavy metal of the previous generation to shore up their unwavering sound.
Interview originally from Heidenlarm e-zine #5.
When you formed Cianide, how did you describe the music you wanted to create?
Always was, is and will be: DEATH METAL. Granted we’re probably not the exact textbook definition of the genre, but that is what we’ve always set out to be. Could explain why we’ve managed to outlast a lot of more “popular” or “successful” of the bands that started around the same time we did. Our vision has always stayed the course and to play any other kind of music would just be stupid.
Of the artists who influenced you, which most directly affected your conception of the style of music you create with Cianide?
Of all of our influences the bands that immediately come to mind are FROST/HELLHAMMER (of course!), SLAUGHTER and MASTER/DEATHSTRIKE. Bands that incorporated various speeds/tempos as opposed to just speed for speed’s sake 100% of the time. Another band is POST MORTEM. “Coroner’s Office” is a fuckin’ classic!
The first Cianide album seemed to me to be more grinding than death metal, straying into the ambiguous and underexplored territory where Bolt Thrower, Blood and later Napalm Death wander. a) Do you think this perception is (semi-)accurate and b) what do you see as the differences emerging on later albums?
a. I guess you could say it’s accurate, though at the time we were just doing what we were able to do and not giving a fuck. Looking at the big picture, not a lot of bands call themselves Death Metal and play the sick, slow, dirgy stuff. I guess they call it gay “stoner” now. Remember when it used to be called DOOM METAL??
b. Well obviously we’ve picked up the pace a bit!! Theres only so many times you can hit an open E chord over a slow drum beat. Now were doing open E over faster beats!! Har Har! Seriously, slow heavy shit was just the order for that time for us. Mainly we got Andy on drums and he was more capable to handle faster stuff after Jeff left, so things just got faster from there. We haven’t completely abandoned our death-dirge roots though.
Over the course of development, Cianide has landed – for lack of a better phrase – into the category of “old school death metal,” joining luminaries such as Asphyx and Morpheus Descends. How do you think this music is different in its aim from other forms of death metal?
For us, we’re just playing the music that WE want to hear. If people call it “old school” well fuck, we are old school! I can’t speak for any other bands, but for us, this is the only way we know how to do it. It’s hard to pin down because nowadays bands like Cannibal and Morbid Angel are labeled “old school” but I think you must be referring to an actual “old school” sound. If that’s what you mean, you could say a band like CIANIDE is sort of a preservation of very early death metal. We’re not looking to break any new ground with this, nor do we have any aspirations for commercial success (though that would be nice if it came along!!), just trying to emulate the sound and style of the ancient GODS OF DEATH.
Someone once drew the distinction between hum-along metal like Motörhead or Venom, and “subversive metal,” meaning stuff that tries to be avantgarde, progressive or regressive. It seems to me that no band since Venom has captured the sense of popular and hum-along (really, is there a better term for this? songs that stay in your head and are relevant to aspects of everyday normal life) metal in the same way Cianide has, with bouncy, heavy, catchy songs hammering home simple ideas in smoothly integrated structures. How did you achieve this, and what are your thoughts on the accuracy of these statements? (I am no big fan of the hacked together terms like hum-along and subversive, but for now am not sure what I’d use in their place except extensive tedious descriptions)
I agree with the statement and take it as a compliment! Again we just write what we like and want to hear. Every riff we write has to fucking kill, no filler songs or parts with CIANIDE as far as I’m concerned. Bands with catchy choruses is the style of metal that we grew up with so it only makes sense that we would emulate that. Even stuff like early Death, Terrorizer, Repulsion, Massacre and even Morbid Angel had choruses that you could consider “catchy”. I can appreciate bands that play overly technical, but most of the time I prefer something that sticks in my head and kicks my ass.
Cianide seems to have stayed with no single label for more than an album. Is this true? Are there reasons the band had for doing this, or was this a product of what I call the “usual label chaos,” e.g. labels falling apart, dropping bands at random and going bankrupt?
Our first label, Grindcore merely changed their name to Red Light so our first two releases were basically on the same label. They went chapter 13, so we did DDD with Lost Horizon. That label was basically two friends of ours wanting to do a label. They were flipping the bill and nobody was asking us to dance at the time so we said, “what the fuck”. They went belly up also. Merciless re- released DDD on vinyl and did our latest, Divide and Conquer and are all set to our our forthcoming “The Age of Hell’s Rebirth”. So far so good.
Someone once told me I was not “open-minded” for automatically hating some band that attempted to merge alternative rock and metal; what do you think?
Liking different styles of music is actually just a matter of taste and really has nothing to do with having a so-called “open mind”, which has been such an over-used term ever since the 80’s that it is now pointless and irrelevant to label anybody as such (closed minded). What this egotistical person actually means is, ‘my opinion in music is much better than yours because I have no real convictions and simply like what is deemed “cool” by the mainstream, even though I think I’m hip and into new and crazy things just to impress ditzy college girls’.
Tell that person to stick his alternative/metal/rock/bastard hybrid up his open-minded ass.
Metal has changed in demographic since the so-called “glory (hole) days” of 1988-1994, with a broader and bigger audience now tuning in to even the most antisocial black metal. What changes do you think this demographic has caused to occur in the music itself?
From what I can see, when a band achieves some sort of success be it either underground or commercial, the band will try to write what it thinks is popular in an attempt to “keep up with the times” (ie. Entombed, Morgoth, Mayhem). On the other side of the coin, if a band is successful and stays true to their original ideals, they still will get dismissed by all the death-metal weenies and black metal trendies who are only into listening to shitty bands that YOU never heard of. So in essence, nothing has really changed.
Will you ever work to re-release the old Cianide albums?
There has been talk about re-releasing the first two on vinyl but nothing serious as of yet. We are planning on putting all our demos out on a double cd, with all kinds of extras and shit. Should rule.
A Descent Into Hell seems to me, sonically, to be one of the “heaviest” albums ever created, and not just through production – how did you achieve this, and what was your aim in creating that album? (see disclaimer above about hacked together terms again)
Again, we just do what we do. I think at that time we were tuned to like Z or something. We did all of those songs live, most only in one or two takes. The kicks and snare were sampled though. I remember after we got done doing the first song, the engineers came in and they were like, “everything sounds good guys but we do need more bass” we thought they were serious. Then they started laughing at us and they were like, “jeezzzzus, you guys are FUCKING HEAVY!!” “Decent…” is also a personal favorite of mine. I think it’s impossible to get that sound back again but who knows…………..
Has Cianide toured, or is it more of a band that you do when not leading a normal life?
Tour?? Shit, we’re lucky we play out once a year!! The time for touring is past. We’re smart enough to realize early on that playing underground metal, be it Black, Death or otherwise, wasn’t going to be a very lucrative career choice. Insecure “we’re truer than thou” hard-on’s would probably classify us as hobbyists, and they may be right. A hobby is defined as any activity that one enjoys in their spare time. Though I guarantee you this, we’ll still be doing what we do long after today’s hip-name-to-drops have changed their style/names/haircuts and end up in the washed up file cut-out bins.
To put it bluntly, what are you guys like in real life? Are you closer to maniacs who live out the lyrics to cianide songs, or artists who metaphorically describe what they perceive?
We’re just your above average beer swilling metalheads. What you see is what you get. No tattoos, no gay piercings. Dirty, Ugly, loud and proud!
One other thing about Cianide that is gratifying: a sense of humor. What do you see as the role of humor in “serious” metal? Do you consider Cianide a serious band? If not, what motivates you to have the standards you do in the creation of the music?
I’m not really into “joke” or “message” bands. Injecting humor into Metal can be tricky. It’s hard to do it correct without sounding lame. Obviously we’re not a joke band, but we like to inject some humor, like our thank you lists are always filled with jags. POST MORTEM were the originators of that. At least that’s who we stole it from!! I love who I am and love being a Metalhead. But there are some people out there who take this music and themselves way too seriously who are just rubbers. It’s just music after all. Who know’s though, I’m sure to some people it looks like I take it too seriously. The grass is always greener……………
If you could tour with any two death metal bands in history, which would they be?
Slaughter – original line-up
Master – original line-up
What do you think of the following:
1. Asphyx – I have “The Rack” on cassette…..good heavy death metal
2. Master – The early stuff is immortal…the new stuff ain’t so bad
3. Suffer (SWE) – never heard them
4. Kittie – never heard them
5. Carnage (SWE) – Entombed clones
Do you have any views on religion? How religion effects politics? How this affects us now?
Religion and politics are needed to keep the general population in line. I think they’re both brilliant. You can’t have people just running wild, doing what they want. It sounds good on paper and makes for a lot of cool lyrical ideas, be it Metal, Punk or otherwise, but when you return back to the real world the majority of people out there simply cannot handle the responsibility of being an individual, and I don’t want to deal with them. It’s not my job.
Religion, of course, does make some men better, and perhaps even many men. There can be no doubt of it. But making them better by filling their poor heads with grotesque nonsense is an irrational and wasteful process, and the harm it does greatly outweighs the good. If men could be made better — or even only happier — by teaching them that two and two make five there would be plenty of fools to advocate that method, but it would remain anti-social none the less. If the theologians could only agree on their doctrines their unanimity might have some evidential value, just as the agreement of all politicians that the first duty of the citizen is to obey them and admire them has some evidential value. It may not be true, but it is at least undisputed by all save a small fraction of heretics, which is certainly something. Fortunately for common sense, the theologians are never able to agree. Even within the sects, and under the more rigid discipline, there is constant wrangling, as, for example, between the Jesuits and the Dominicans. Thus the cocksureness of one outfit is cancelled out by the ribald denial of all the rest, and rational men are able to consign the whole gang to statistics and the Devil.
– Henry Louis Mencken
What are your views on wealth, and its ideal relationship to individual humans?
People who go around saying, “money isn’t everything” are usually already rich and never had to work hard to achieve their wealth/success. Give me enough money so I don’t ever have to work again in my life and I’ll show you one happy, fat little man!!!
Do you support or reject anti-bestiality laws?
Hey, whatever blows yer skirt up!
What in your view are the a) strengths and b) weaknesses that metal took on by going “underground” instead of attempting to be a mainstream genre?
For one thing, since all true metal is underground it is not scrutinized and kept in check by the politically correct mainstream. Bands can say and write whatever they feel without any pressure of pissing this one off or offending others. Imagine how lame your favorite metal bands would become if they had to kow-tow to the whole music industry just to create music. I have one word for people who may disagree with this: METALLICA!! I love the fact that metal is underground. The people who want it know where to get it. It sucks for the bands who I’m sure need to play to eat, but that’s not my problem.
What do you think of nu-metal? Can metal ever be in the mainstream, like it was with Black Sabbath?
Any band can get big if marketed properly and shoved down the masses throats. For instance, if MTV tells their audience that Christraping Black Metal is “cool” and says that the bandmembers are “cute”, all Black Metal bands would get huge and you would not like them anymore. Sabbath were/are huge, but in their day, they never got any radio airplay (except for “Paranoid” late at night), let alone videos. They just did it through word of mouth and constant touring. As for nu-metal, it’s just like the 80’s. Instead of big- hair you have buzz-cuts. Instead of eyeliner you have piercings. Instead of glamed out clothes you have tribal tattoos. The music is just a watered down, bastardized, marketed and hyped version of the real deal.
Does metal keep evolving, or is it cyclic?
Everything is the same, just different haircuts!!
What’s the next Cianide album going to be like?
Just like the last one, except HEAVIER!!
Will you ever do a live album?
Hopefully someday. Guess you need to play live to do that!!!
What is your stance on mp3 trading of rare materials?
It doesn’t affect me either way, if I hear something I’ll just go out and buy it.
I’m the same way, if I like something, I’ll go and buy it. I have other things to do on my computer than sitting there waiting for a song to download, like looking for porn!! I do think it’s good for people to hear what a band sounds like from their website etc before they go out and buy it. It’s just another medium.
Did Cianide have any demos? If so, what were they?
We did three official demo’s: “Funeral” in 1990, “Second Life” in 91′ and “Cianide Kills” in I think 1993. We also had 2 different three-song promos for DDD and Divide……, but those weren’t really for sale. Everything will probably be on a single release for CURSED PRODUCTIONS if we can get off our lazy asses and get started on it.
Are reactions to Cianide different in Europe and Asia versus the USA?
Reactions seem to be pretty much the same everywhere. We’re regarded as throwbacks from all over!!
Are there any metal zines or websites you read, and, if so, what makes them useful to you?
The only zines I’ll plug that come to mind are Metal Curse and Midwest Metal cuz they are cool!
Will metal survive the wave of hip-hop music in America?
It already is as far as I can tell. Rap is already regarded as a joke whose core audience is rich, white, suburban kids. Hip-hop and rap do provide a very important service to us Metal fans however for which I’m truly thankful: BY KEEPING A GREAT MAJORITY OF ALL MORONS, MEATHEADS AND FUCKUP’S OUT OF OUR SCENE!!!! Every time I happen to turn on some MTV special or video, I get a big smile and feel great inside. That’s right dummies, keep being spoon-fed your entertainment you mindless fools! Yo Dawg!!! Bling Bling!! Comedy!!
Does metal’s being different from jazz, blues, hip-hop make it a cultural or political statement?
The fact that underground metal is the only form of rock and roll that has yet to be turned into a marketable mainstream commodity surely says something. It almost happened to death metal in the early 90’s. Then Nirvana killed that, thankfully!! STAY UNDERGROUND!!!
Anything I forgot you’d care to add?
I think you covered it all my man!!
Thanks for the interview. Visit the official CIANIDE WEBSITE at www.cianide-metal.com
I’ve just completed reading the 2011 “best of” lists from a number of popular websites. The results are predictably dismal. Are these people incompetent or just deaf?
These lists tend to favor the nu-style of metal, which is to say a mixture of indie rock, post hardcore, shoegaze, emo, alternative rock and popular metal influences.
This new style is especially noisome when disguised as “underground metal” (Krallice) or letting its alt-rock roots hang out (Boris). Since this stuff is not metal at all, but rather a sad old product dressed up like some “new” version of metal, it appeals exclusively to over-educated idiots, and so these pathetic reviewers throw in some “old school” metal, but they invariably pick the one-note derivative ripoffs that ape the past but never come close to its attention span or clarity.
To save you from the fools and their delusion vision of music, we present this year’s list of especially violent music because the metal audience of today needs to experience metal of actual integrity and power, not pretenders of either commercial or faux underground types.
Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance
Minor key dirge pace lamentation defines this funeral doom album on which Esoteric discover a new exhaustion that enables them to winnow their approach. At the cadence of a nocturnal mausoleum tour, the band alternate between spacious chord progressions with internal harmony, and grinding chromatic intervals. Chords collide and abrade one another slowly, letting distortion hang over the listener like curtains of lead, and then a second guitar fills the space with gentle sweeps to bring in a sense of melody. Semi-circular song structures take frequent detours, providing the most listenable and organized album from this band.
Gridlink – Orphan
Napalm Death deconstructed music by transcending scale, key, tempo and even intelligibility. What cultural purists of the 1950s said about rock ‘n’ roll came true in Scum, but with Brutal Truth grindcore shifted from deconstruction to a postmodern imitation of information overload. Gridlink picks up this mantle by throwing many different influences together into a high-speed stream of sound that mocks modern life by flinging at us an extensive lexicon of riffery in minute-long songs that never relent from their sprint. The ensuing rush holds together because these diverse riffs are variations on a not-immediately-visible common thread, delivering a cryptic but satisfying listening experience.
Death Strike – Fuckin’ Death
For the past 40 years musicians have sought the elusive metal/punk hybrid, but few have come close to the power of Paul Speckmann’s series of bands (Master, Death Strike and Abomination). Merging angry hardcore with streetwise heavy metal, these bands created simple songs with energetic riffs that avoided the rock cliches for the day to become a form of resistance music directed at modern society. This re-issue shows the songwriter at his best. Like punk, these songs construct themselves around simple riffs of a constant rhythm, but like metal the riffs fit together to drive tempo and structural changes. The result is plain-spoken but infectious and captures the spirit of metal in an instant of screaming anger.
Cianide – Gods of Death
Having contributed fundamentals of the doom-death genre, Cianide return with a late career album that shows them casting aside expectations to make the metal they enjoy, which is a cross between Hellhammer and Motorhead that thunders through the skull like an avalanche. They keep their riffs bold and simple so the resonating repetition can change over the course of each song as transitions change the nature of each song. Unlike most old school revivals, this album comprises changing moods that are startingly “mature” in that they are not polarized anger but moral ambiguity and relish for the morbid and aggressive. By escaping the self-conscious nature of most retroactive metal, Cianide land a slab of explosive power.
Deceased – Surreal Overdose
People want speed metal back and Deceased have listened. They replaced death vocals with a hoarse shout and upped the pace but otherwise this album comes straight from the days of Metallica and Rigor Mortis. Riffcraft shows familiarity with forty years of metal but for every couple of driving riffs, Deceased have thrown in something sweet like the candied fruit in a fruitcake: melodic interludes, doomy detours and passages of mixed emotion wrought in adroit lead guitar. If they want to take it to the next level, they can slow it down like Doomstone and make better use of dynamics, but as it is, this album is both more musical and more powerful than most of contemporary metal.
Heresiarch – Hammer of Intransigence
If you crossed an old school death metal band like Morpheus Descends with an energetic blasting terror like Angelcorpse, you might have something like Heresiarch. Chromatic riffs hammer you while war metal drumming races to keep up. Each song stays focused on a throbbingly catchy rhythm which it counterpoints with oppositional textures. Like a constant counterattack, this album is as primitive and amusical as possible, verging on the relativity that defined free jazz and noise. Rhythmic hooks and a pounding intensity make this EP a compelling effort from a newer band.
Morbus 666 – Mortuus Cultus
Going back to the roots of black metal, this album attempts to unify the melodic sound with the feral atavism of rhythmic violence that defined the birth of the genre. Showing familiarity with the wide range of melodic black metal riffs from the past, Morbus 666 nevertheless veer away from the noodly “Iron Maiden” style riffs for the kind of austere rigid blasting that early Gorgoroth and Impaled Nazarene made fly. Vocals vary from rasps, to shouts and Attila Csihar-inspired operatic singing with possible inspirations from Benedictine chants. Nothing too complex occurs here but it organizes itself around a singular intent, giving it a power most music lacks.
Nunslaughter – Demoslaughter
This two-disc retrospective reviews the career of this immensely prolific and influential band. This is primitive, rhythmic music that barely touches on concepts of key or harmony. Nonetheless, it uses vocal rhythm and riff to create strong themes that are distinct between each of the many songs from this band. If you like shades of grey in your riffcraft and emotions in the range of terror and despair, this highly creative band offer what are like horror movie soundtracks distilled to the barest of elements and infused with a rage for order that no human civilization can tame.
Ungod – Cloaked in Eternal Darkness
Back in the 1990s Ungod crafted primitive black metal from elementary guitar riffs and catchy choruses. Twenty years later and they return to do exactly the same thing. While guitar playing has improved, using more awareness of harmony and some influences from other metal subgenres, the basics remain unchanged. These songs are like the whispers of a devil who knows the simple self-referential phrases will stay in your mind and corrupt it. Songs emerge from a basic verse-chorus idea to mutate and discover new territory before returning to form, packing a lot of complexity into what seems like a basic form. The result is compelling.
Apocalypse Command – Damnation Scythes of Invincible Abomination
The approach of this high-energy outfit may be familiar to Angelcorpse fans since with songwriter Gene Palublicki is a founding member. If you combined early Bathory and early Slayer, you might have this constant stream of fluid riffs strummed at humingbird pace over drums which clatter to catch up. Songs charge through several interludes on top of the a circular structure of paired riffs, creating a discourse that is overwhelming by sheer energy and singular purpose. If you found yourself wishing that Fallen Christ would make a new album, and stretch out those hard-hitting riffs into pure ripping rhythm textures, then this will appeal.
Blotted Science – The Animation of Entomology
Despite the recent influence of faux progressive and technical death metal in the form of warmed over post-hardcore, Blotted Science start with later King Crimson-styled musically literate rock and add to it the ability to weave seeminly unrelated riffs into a narrative that made death metal great. Like Jarzombek’s other projects, Blotted Science use counterpoint and diatonic melodies to create a broad spectrum of emotions that transition through the course of each song. Aesthetically, the band eschew vocals and like to have a “kitchen sink” approach, but underlying that seeming chaos is strong technique. As they do not forget the metal soul in doing so, this band remains a favorite for those who seek additional dimensions of musicality in their metal.
Bahimiron – Rebel Hymns of Left-Handed Terror
After starting out as a band attempting to make black metal both feral and melodic in the style of Gorgoroth or Zyklon-B, Bahimiron detoured through a series of new sounds — swamp metal, raw and fast war metal, and chaotic rising of the Id — before finding their voice again with this most recent album. These songs are composed of only a few riffs, some variations of each other, but each has a topic idea that it expresses fully, giving this album a pleasant sense of being whole. Despite having a rushed second half that holds together less palpably, this album possesses songs that have a sense of being about something, even if an undefinable emotion. The result combines technique from the different eras of this band into a hard-hitting, ripping package.
Vallenfyre – A Fragile King
Using songwriting techniques from melodic doom metal, this band up the tempo and make a Swedish-style old school death metal band. Crude-hewn riffs are boxy and sparse but capture the death metal style of phrasal composition with a tantalizing melody buried within and emerging through hints, creating powerful mood pieces. While the riff tropes are simpler and fewer riffs are used than in proper death metal, if you view this album as sped-up doom metal it becomes a new experiment in mood music using old school death metal as a tapestry. It is more interesting than the death metal revivals which use nothing but disorganized rhythm riffs, and at times refreshingly beautiful.
Cruciamentum – Engulfed in Desolation
Working in the style of continuous long-phrase old school death metal like early Incantation, this newer band craft riffs of great potential energy and for the most part triumph into making them into onrushing apocalyptic songs. If they want to make it to the next level, they will drop some vestiges of pre-death metal genres — to be supreme in this form of music one must sound inhuman, arch, abstract and disinterested in petty human concerns like foot-tapping rhythms — but at present, the band create a reality distortion field that allows the listener to see past the ruined industrial horizon into the dark forces gathering in the future. Ominous, this release thrives on powerful riffcraft and vocals that sound like occult rage shouted from the depths of a funeral shaft, and portends great things from this UK band.
Rudra – Brahmavidya: Immortal I
Unlike most underground bands, Rudra embrace a highly musical approach as exemplified by their construction of riffs with a melodic basis to their structure yet without the surface element of “melodic” caused by overuse of fast strum and certain repetitive intervals on the higher strings. Over the course of songs, simple riffs develop into themes which then subdivide and evolve in linear progressions within the overall cycle of each song. Vocals are higher-pitched like black metal, but riffing is reminiscent of Demigod as fused with Afflicted’s first album. On the whole, this is an impressive work of music that includes some influences from progressive alternative rock within its death metal but never loses its direction and perhaps as a result makes more interesting music than all the “top ten” lists of commercial sites combined.
Abhor – Ab Luna Lucenti, Ab Noctua Protecti
This Italian band combines the open-string drone of Graveland Following the Voice of Blood with a seemingly horror-influenced, frequently melodic older black metal style. Vocals follow the Graveland model but the band alternates this homage with melodic riffs from other areas of melodic metal. As if forecasting a future for black metal, songs specialize in the transition of moods, suspending the listener in the midst of a dreamlike trance state based on more fluid harmonic motion. While not unique in style, this band makes up for it in spirit.
Primordial – Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand
Working in a hybrid between metal and celtic rock, Primordial craft a sound that is not unlike Iron Maiden using slower and more doom-metal style chord progressions for its choruses. Over this, a man bellows and then curves his straight enunciation into singing. This music is thoughtfully not noodly, and while repetitive, gains intensity from the building of a mood through a trope, and knows when to break the verse-chorus with profoundly musical variation. This is what U2 should have been: an emotional appeal to the common sense of land, heritage and history as expressed through dark songs which allude to rather than reveal their soul, which is a maudlin determination to resurrect the energy of creative destruction in all humans.
Beherit – At the Devil’s Studio 1990
For years, Beherit’s first “album” — a collection of noisy demos pressed onto CD by the label — have been a source of contention. Many love their devil-may-care chaotic burst of raw enthusiasm and dark, Blasphemy- and Sarcofago-inspired morbid rage, but others point to later material by the band and show a discontinuity. However, through their career Beherit have shown a fondness for noise, ambience, ambient noise, and highly structured experiences that like Wagnerian mini-operas walk us through a transition of realizations. At the Devil’s Studio 1990 shows us all of these influences in nascent birth from the noise into a more austere, deliberate and subversive vision of evil. This album gives these songs new life and black metal new dark energy.
Sorcier des Glaces – The Puressence of Primeval Forests
This unabashedly sentimental melodic assault creates a melancholic beauty through its two opposition parts, which are dark minor key wanderings and a counterpart in soaring powerful melodies that expand through variation on theme. The result is like Summoning a transition state from black metal in which the verse-chorus grouping has been replaced by a sense of unravelling or a story being told. While this is more polished than early Norsk black metal, it preserves that intensity with some of the lush melodic development of the Greek and French varieties integrated for a new sensation of possibility.
Obsequiae – Suspended in the Brume of Eos
Fortunately, this release replaces two odious variants of contemporary “black metal.” First is the faux progressive style which insists that a series of fast riffs with offtime picking of notes from “unexpected” chord shapes somehow constitutes interesting music. The second is a tendency to milk any boring three-note melody into “folk music” by playing it without distortion while beating on an ox-skin. Obsequia belt out a Celtic music hybrid not unlike what Celtic revivalists did in the 1970s by combining their music with jazz fusion and progressive rock. The songs sound very similar and by their focus on depth of musicality, often obscure the direction of melodic development or song structure, but are technically adept and offer a better vision of Celtic black metal than most of what has come before.
Amebix – Sonic Mass
In their return after two decades of absence, Amebix create a hybrid of their original crustcore, speed metal and shoegaze. If you can imagine Killing Joke, Prong and My Bloody Valentine in some kind of bizarre collision with UK pop, you will be able to envision the style of this album, which varies quite a bit as it tends to be ad hoc adapted in order to express what each song calls for. The hidden influence seems to be an influence as in early 1980s music on making songs that correspond to a visual idea (for an MTV video), much like the ancient Greeks combined poetry, music and theatre. This album wisely does not try to re-live the past. Instead, it gives us tuneful music that can compete with the best from the slick mega-media bands, and replace their quasi-truths with a more insightful vision of reality.
War Master – Pyramid of the Necropolis
The new style of old school death metal that War Master brings to the table wears its influences on its sleeve, from the expected Bolt Thrower influence to other notables like Obituary and Suffocation. The resulting fusion is a thunder of bassy power chords piled on each other in a series of inventive riffs, with song structure following along as best it can. Like a good puzzle or maze, the passages make sense when they connect but not before, and War Master avoid riff salad by judiciously using repetition of several main themes per song, some conforming to verse-chorus and some more abstruse in nature. Purists will appreciate the low end open-throated growl and the warlike percussion, as well as the range of tempi from doom-death to the more energetic grinding of later death metal. The end result is low-tech but powerful and brings a new language to the ancient art of old school death metal composition.
Blaspherian – Infernal Warriors of Death
Among those who still yearn for the epic power of old school death metal, Blaspherian deliver a satisfying cavernous descent into the dark netherlands of the subconscious. Drawing from older Incantation, Deicide and songwriter Wes Weaver’s previous efforts in Imprecation, Blaspherian sculpt songs out of a few chords twisted into protean riffs like bent wire, stringing it together with a sense of inexorable rhythm. Over this roars an unrelenting guttural growl and the decimating battery of militant percussion. No guitar solos mar the insurgent tunnel of destructive sound, but through its internal consistency it creates and then selectively textures a mood, creating a constantly changing experience that like the winding passages of a subterranean fortress leads through confusion to clarity.
4 new releases in the works:
KING (Colombia) “Forged By Satan’s Doctrine” CD (DG-065)
AVENGER (Czech Republic) “Bohemian Dark Metal” DIGI CD (DG-066)
NOCTURNAL TORMENT (USA) “They Come At Night” CD (DG-067)
CIANIDE (USA) “The Dying Truth” CD reissue (DG-068)
Ray Miller from Metal Curse has pulled off a massive video interview with underground longtimers Cianide, who specialize in primitive but brainy doom-death with strong Motorhead/Hellhammer undertones. In it, they discuss metal, the truth of the old school, the cluelessness of the nu-skule, and the complete inability of modern society to conceive of anything so packed with potential as death metal:
We who still love metal walk a fine line between the sold out nu-hardcore stylings of metalcore, and the tendency to hop on the bandwagon of the old school too much; the previous Cianide, Hell’s Rebirth, walked too far on the old school side — when a band loses direction, they imitate successful techniques and patterns from the past without knowing what those patterns evoked in the listeners.
Despite pretending the contrary is true, Cianide is intensely emotional music. It brings on the spirit of doom and fate from old Celtic Frost, the fire-blooded desire to seize life by the throat and live the hell out of it of Motörhead, and from ancient death metal and doom metal a contemplative inner sense, a wondering where we fit in this big picture.
Hell’s Rebirth skipped the emotion for the equivalent of lots of songs about being in a death metal. Gods of Death, despite the less-than-promising self-referential title, is a quality mature effort from these veterans. It is not a concept album but a collection of songs that somewhat self-consciously attempt greater internal variation than previous albums, evenly mixing the “Metal Never Bends” style of bounding, energetic death metal of the type early Master did well, and the brooding drone of Hellhammer and the doom-death style it influenced. The songs are still simple; the solos still squiggles of graffiti on walls of unyielding tone.
If anything, this album reverts to the hardcore roots of death metal and eschews the “nu-hardcore” post-1980s prog-punk and pop-punk styles that are so popular in metal now. In both style and substance, Gods of Death is an affirmation of the past and a recognition that style alone did not define it; the spirit and the soul of the artist made 1990s death metal what it was, and they not only live on but move forward on this chunk of oxidizing steel.