“Don’t let death metal become death by metal”

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Oregon transportation authority Tri-Met is running a series of ads on billboards and posters warning people against the problems of distracted pedestrians, especially those lost deeply in their MP3 players. The campaign includes the above amusing reference to death metal, “Don’t let death metal become death by metal,” although both sound pretty cool to us.

This is not Tri-Met’s first mention of death metal in its public campaigns. It also shows up in writings about riders. If anything, this suggests the Tri-Met people are at least aware enough of death metal to deserve more of it in their lives.

Lady on my bus wearing cute pollyanna dress, white rights, black penny loafers and blasting what sounds like death metal.

If you feel a need to spread some of the death metal awareness, consider contacting Tri-Met by sending a copy of Deicide Legion to this address:

Tri-Met
Attn: DEATH METAL
701 SW 6th Ave
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 238-7433

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Century Media re-issues Gorguts Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate

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Century Media Records has recently re-issued the death metal classics Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate by Canadian band Gorguts. The 2015 editions of these records were created in close cooperation with guitarist and songwriter Luc Lemay, who describes the history and context of these releases in accompanying liner notes. The re-issues are dedicated to the memory of former members Steeve Hurdle (R.I.P. 2012) and Steve MacDonald (R.I.P. 2002).

GORGUTS Obscura (Re-Issue 2015)

  • Gatefold black 2LP
  • Gatefold mint 2LP – limited to 200 copies (only available via CMDistro.com / Europe only – sold out in the US)
  • Gatefold lilac 2LP – limited to 200 copies (only available via CMDistro.com / US webshop only)
  • Gatefold transparent blue 2LP – limited to 100 copies (exclusive to GORGUTS’ current label Season Of Mist)
  • Standard Jewelcase CD (offered at mid-price)

GORGUTS From Wisdom To Hate (Re-Issue 2015)

  • Black LP+CD
  • Silver LP+CD – limited to 200 copies (only available via CMDistro.com / European & US webshop)
  • Transparent red LP+CD – limited to 200 copies (only available via CMDistro.com / US webshop only)
  • Clear vinyl LP+CD – limited to 100 copies (exclusive to GORGUTS’ current label Season Of Mist)

To order:

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Molested Blod Draum and Stormvold reissues inbound

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The classic releases from pre-Borknagar death metal band Molested will see re-issue on Dark Symphonies Records in their original form. The 2009 re-issues on Galgenstrang Produktionen and Ars Magna Recordings provoked criticism for their modern, compressed and loud sound that some felt reduced the clarity of the original.

Known for being a boutique label that re-issues classic metal releases on vinyl with collector-friendly exclusive packaging, Dark Symphonies Records and its imprint The Crypt have decided to issue the Molested re-releases as jewelcase CDs. These include bonus tracks on Stormvold and will be faithful to the original recordings. Dark Symphonies Records released the following statement:

DARK SYMPHONIES / THE CRYPT is honored to work with Borknagar mastermind Øystein G. Brun to reissue official stand alone CDs of the brutal, classic debut album “Blod Draum” and the classic EP “Stormvold” from the legendary Norse death metal act MOLESTED.

We are proud to announce that we are working directly with Øystein to obtain a wealth of material. “Blod Draum” will include the original film negative of the cover artwork for best visual presentation, unpublished band photos, lyrics and new liner notes. The CD will include the original 1995 studio recording, which was carefully mastered from the original DAT source as well a revised version of the album, which will be remixed by Øystein from the original multi-track studio tapes. This CD is designed after the original 1995 CD release, taking elements from the original layout with attention to detail, even down to the logo and typeface for a touch of nostalgia.

“Stormvold” will include the band’s “Stalk the Dead” and “Unborn Woods in Doom’ demos. Including the original cover artwork, unpublished band photos, lyrics, new liner notes and the original 1997 DAT tape for the Stormvold audio source and original analog tapes for the DEMO audio sources.

“Stormvold” will be presented as a metallic gold printed insert and will be designed after the original 1997 Effigy Productions release, taking elements from the original layout with attention to detail, even down to the logo and typeface for a touch of nostalgia.

No date has yet been announced for these re-issues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7C0ZU7eZ3w

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Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni – Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni (2012)

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To make meaningful commentary on a band like Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni, or any other band walking the old death metal tightrope for that matter, one has to hear them in context with the specific niche in time that their sound occupies. Execute a bit of nifty time-travel in the mind and place the band concerned in the august company that it aspires to keep. Observe if it compares favourably with at least the spirit of the originals in terms of aspects like general coherency in songwriting, perpetual will to forward motion, and, above all else, that ineffable, visceral reaction that only the very best are capable of evoking. Originality in this cloistered paradigm is a disingenuous word; what the avid listener hopes for is a transmission of the same vitality that informed the heyday of this music.

Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni posits no claim to innovation but that is no crime in itself. Incantation, the bread n’ butter of modern death metal, is frequently referenced in the use of flowing tremolo lines plucked from the chromatic scale. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the use of atonality in death metal – it indeed comprises much of the bedrock of the genre – it also becomes something of a cop-out in the hands of lazy bands that lack the creativity required to compose tastefully and in accordance with tradition. Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni aren’t an especially lazy band and are perfectly capable of constructing riffs according to harmonic conventions as heard in the more black metal-inspired sections of this album.

Where Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni falls hard is in arrangement. Songs rarely build up to any kind of crescendo, even compromising whatever momentum may have been built up initially. While any topography consists of peaks and troughs, there appears to be no aesthetic meaning to Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni‘s contours. Riffs rise and fall like waves on the ocean but without any of nature’s geometry, and what results is an album that touts itself as Satanic death metal but feels curiously void of life’s irrepressible energy.

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Desultory to launch new album in fall 2015

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Swedish heavy metal/death metal band Desultory, who along with Dissection, Unanimated, and Sacramentum paved the way for legions of melodeath to follow, are back in wartime formation and planning to record a new album. The band posted the following to social media:

Ok, so finally! We´re back into the Necromorbus studio, now to record our next full lenght album. We will record during the spring and hope for a release during the fall. Thanx for all your support and patience, this album is for you!

While most of us know this band through their Metal Blade debut (and one of the first big label acknowledgements of death metal) Into Eternity, their collection of demos entitled From Beyond the Visions of Death is also quite worth attending to. It combines the melodic approach of Unanimated with a heavy metal core, which makes it both more accessible and prettier than regular death metal.

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How to get into black metal

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An experienced music listener who is new to black metal asked for a doorway into the genre. This raises the question of how to appreciate black metal, which like most things in life is mostly mental preparation. Without context, black metal seems like any other loud genre, and it becomes harder to distinguish the newer tryhard junk from the original.

The best way to gain context is to walk through the history of the genre from oldest to newest. This approach, common in art, literature and philosophy, allows people to see what developed from what and what the reasoning for that was and therefore, what the reasoning is behind what is here now.

The result of this query was a simple list to urge people to explore this genre further. This list originates in the history of black metal music, but also in influences that can be identified among the bands as immediately relevant. Toward the end it extends more into general conjecture based on what shows up later in highly different form among the black metal works of relevance listed above it.

I. Proto- Metal

  1. Bathory – The Return
  2. Slayer – Hell Awaits
  3. Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids
  4. Sodom – Persecution Mania

II. Interim

  1. Sarcofago – INRI
  2. Merciless – The Awakening
  3. Blasphemy – Fallen Angel of Doom
  4. Von – Satanic Blood

III. Black metal

  1. Immortal – Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism
  2. Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
  3. Burzum – Burzum/Aske
  4. Emperor/Enslaved – Split
  5. Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
  6. Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon
  7. Varathron – His Majesty in the Swamp
  8. Havohej – Dethrone the Son of God
  9. Impaled Nazarene – Ugra-Karma
  10. Samael – Worship Him

IV. Second Wave

  1. Gorgoroth – Antichrist
  2. Graveland – The Celtic Winter
  3. Ancient – Svartalvheim
  4. Sacramentum – Far Away From the Sun
  5. Ildjarn – Forest Poetry
  6. Summoning – Dol Guldur
  7. Zyklon-B – Blood Must Be Shed
  8. Gehenna – First Spell
  9. Behemoth – From the Pagan Vastlands

V. Extended Contemporary

  1. Demoncy – Joined in Darkness
  2. Sammath – Godless Arrogance
  3. Mutiilation – Remains of a Ruined, Cursed, Dead Soul
  4. Absurd – Asgardsrei

For immediate death metal background to black metal:

  1. At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
  2. Carnage – Dark Recollections
  3. Godflesh – Streetcleaner

For heavy metal background to black metal:

  1. Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath
  2. Venom – Possessed
  3. Angel Witch – Angel Witch
  4. Destruction/Tormentor – Demos

For hardcore punk background to all metal:

  1. Discharge – Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing
  2. Amebix – No Sanctuary
  3. The Exploited – Death Before Dishonour
  4. Cro-Mags – Age of Quarrel

For electronic music background to underground metal:

  1. Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express
  2. Tangerine Dream – Phaedra

For progressive rock background to metal:

  1. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
  2. Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans
  3. Camel – Camel
  4. Greenslade – Greenslade

For classical background to metal:

  1. Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 4
  2. Richard Wagner – Tannhäuser
  3. Franz Schubert – Unfinished Symphony
  4. Mozart – Symphony 41
  5. Haydn – Symphony 82
  6. Bach – Partita No. 5 in G major
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The controversy over Abominations of Desolation

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Back in 1986, one lineup of Morbid Angel recorded what that lineup considers the first Morbid Angel album, Abominations of Desolation, which was later re-released on Earache Records in 1991. But three years later, the band re-recorded most of the songs in a streamlined form and released it as Altars of Madness, which the lineup of the band as was at the time through the present considers to be the first Morbid Angel album.

Avoiding a peek into the controversy and the clash of personalities behind it, metal archaeologists today can look at the musical differences between these two albums. Altars of Madness focuses on a tighter and more streamlined style that too often slips into the type of verse-chorus with bridge that was used extensively on speed metal/death metal hybrids like Seven Churches and Rigor Mortis. This may show the influence of Texas band Necrovore, who established a more aggressive aesthetic but kept song structures closer to the NWOBHM model that speed metal used.

At the same time, other bands were taking a hint from Hellhammer/Celtic Frost and writing songs which had some repeated passages which could be used as verse and chorus, but behind those varied the riffs to give the song a unique structure. This opened up new possibilities that all bands entrenched in the rock ‘n roll “verse, chorus, bridge, solo, repeat” pop song format could not reach. In that new frontier, bands saw new musical and artistic possibilities, and the form of modern death metal began.

The first Morbid Angel album contained many of these aspects, particular in some of the odd structures used on the first track. For the most part however it stuck to good old fashioned pop song format with a few modifications, using the Slayer technique of introductory riffs and some hints from Possessed. This showed a dramatically different side of the band than the extended compositions of Abominations of Desolation which, while many used verse/chorus at their center, were more likely to vary riff form and use solos as a kind of second layer to the rhythm guitars.

Controversy continues to this day regarding which is the “true” Morbid Angel. As strange as it seems, the first recording may be the one that opened up more historical space, although its lesser production and expanded song structures made it less hard-hitting at any instance and thus less “heavy” or “brutal” to the audience, which is why the band wants it to be the first album: it is a better product. For many of us however Abominations of Desolation has long surpassed the first two Morbid Angel albums as the one most frequently listened to because of the depths of its complexity and musical imagination.

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Supuration releases “Suffocate Through Asphyxia” from Reveries of a Bloated Cadaver

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Back in the early 1990s, Supuration grew from a gore-oriented grindcore band into a death metal band, and then infused the mix with brainy indie/alternative rock of a progressive nature, carrying forward all three influences in varying degrees of balance.

Two decades later, the band plans to release Reveries of a Bloated Cadaver, a modern recording and high-value re-envisioning of the earlier songs with more technical playing, better production and improved cover art. To tease the fans, Supuration released a video for “Suffocate Through Asphyxia” that shows the direction this album will take.

Interestingly, the band preserve the underground metal focus of this material and take it in the proficient but still intensely violent and alienated direction that bands like Autopsy and Entombed embarked upon toward the mid-1990s. Improved playing and more adept tempo changes distinguish the original material of these songs, which appears somewhat reorganized to present itself more distinctively, and place it into a fully modern death metal sound.

It will be interesting to see what they do with other tracks that had more of a grindcore or alternative rock orientation back in the day. Supuration was the original alternative rock/metal crossover, but was ignored by the media because it retained its metal-ness instead of making metal-flavored Fugazi clones like the recent spate of media darlings. Maybe the band will reclaim its position in history with this upcoming release.

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Zombie PMRC attacks Morpheus Descends

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During the 1980s, a group of wives of senators and other busybodies got together to form a group they called the “Parents Music Resource Center,” or PMRC. Their intention was to protect children from the dangerous heavy metal, rock and rap music which had sexual, drug and occult themes. After essentially shaming the interesting bands, the group finally used the coercive power of shame to force labels and record stores to insist on warning labels for albums with content that might upset the precious snowflakes and their absentee parents.

Unlike acid-washed jeans and Valley Girl slang, the PMRC unfortunately did not die with the 1980s. It lives on in zombie form through the Parents Music Resource Center appreciation group, which has taken to flagging certain metal bands, zines and labels as hostile to decency, morality and good taste as all metal should be.

Morpheus Descends proved to be the most recent instance of quality metal running afoul of these deranged censors, who feel that the new material from this band will cause “casual sex, drug use, enema fetishism and voting Republican” (PMRC boss Tipper Gore was wife to Al Gore, at the time Democrat senator from New Hampshire). We’re not really sure that people — at least still living people — want to have sex to old school death metal, but as the internet’s “rule 34” implies, any imaginable fetish has already occurred.

This clash between good and evil occurred at the moment when Morpheus Descends released one of the two newly written and recorded tracks to be on their From Blackened Crypts compilation. Check it out below.

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We’re hiring!

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DMU has grown over the past year from a retro-site keeping the old writings alive to a vital source for information on the new underground metal that hasn’t sold out or otherwise lowered quality.

At this point, it’s time to push to the next stage.

This would involve taking on the “big” sites that publish label press releases as news and write fawning reviews that praise musical gibberish as “innovation.” But to reach that level, DMU has to become a more general-purpose news source.

To that end, I’m reaching out to you, the audience. We need a new editor. This editor would do the following:

  • Post daily news stories on all relevant events.
  • Write reviews on new death metal and black metal releases.
  • Edit texts submitted by writers including myself.

This takes about four hours a day minimum and so it is a paid position. Qualifications are an ability to write and edit grammatically-sound and interesting text and to produce the volume of stories needed to bring in this new level of audience. Apply within.

I have somewhat served in this role, but with multiple writing obligations, I no longer can do so.

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