Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature – Infernal Curse – Apocalipsis (2016)

infernal curse

Article by David Rosales

When listening to most of these modern funderground bands, one gets the impression that a group of random guys eating hot dogs suddenly came up with the idea of recording a death metal album to give some variation to their Saturday afternoons in which they normally just discuss fantasy football. Is this derogatory? You bet. Is this accusation completely out of hand and unjustifiable? Not really, there are very clear reasons to say this.

For starters, a release like Apocalipsis by Infernal Curse amounts to nothing more than foggy noise, lacking any memorability but the memory of a passing metallic cloud of percussion and occasional chords. You might perceive this as being only the personal impression of the author, that it amounts to nothing more than another opinion on an otherwise objectively tolerable and enjoyable work of music. But nobody here is objecting to the idea that someone might enjoy this music. The point is that it is indistinguishable from anything even vaguely similar and devoid of its own character.

Apocalipsis is only the reflection of the disaster that war metal has been for death metal, a poor and superficial of what being an underground art movement is. This is usually the result of becoming self-referential, very much like university “revolutionaries” and other posers who confuse image with content. The trap is believing that through imitation of appearances you might somehow bring about the essence of what is being imitated. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and this piece of unrecognizable shit is just more ammunition for our poser-bashing posts.

Master – An Epiphany of Hate (2016)

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Master, Autopsy, Motörhead –  what do they all have in common? They’re all long running bands that settled on a workable style relatively early and generally stuck with it for decades, gradually refining their craft while managing not to lose control of the forces that initially motivated them. Master is arguably the grandfather of this tradition within the realms of death metal, as they’re the approximate beginning of the constellation of Paul Speckmann projects (since War Cry is allegedly a far cry from most of his work). Given that Master sticks with tradition on An Epiphany of Hate, anyone who’s familiar with Master should know exactly what they’re going to get.

This album belongs to the more elaborate school of Mastercraft that’s come into being in the last few years; while Master has never written especially long or complicated songs, the level of musicianship and organization on display here is a definite improvement from the early days of the band. The production and mixing is also higher fidelity, but improving such is not nearly as difficult as becoming a better songwriter. I’d argue that Paul Masidval’s (protip: Cynic) contributions to Master during his brief mercenary period in the early 1990s must’ve resonated with Speckmann on some level and encouraged this elaboration. An Epiphany of Hate is still relatively sparse in its overall construction; the songs here are built out of comparatively few riffs; if not necessarily the three per song figure that comes up in older discussions. Monophony is still the band’s weapon of choice, but like many of the bands that have… mastered this sort of metal, Master’s musicians know when to keep it up and enjoy their freedom of melody and tonality and when they should instead use some sort of harmonic reinforcement. This expansion without overextension is something a lot of bands aren’t able to successfully pull off, so it does reflect pretty well on them.

I don’t know how much of an advance An Epiphany of Hate represents over 2013’s The Witchhunt, if any, but it’s still a good addition to Master’s legacy and a worthy addition to your 2016 collections.

Abbath – Abbath (2016)

possible abbath cover

Abbath’s pitfalls on Abbath are garden variety pitfalls (haphazard songwriting, too much time on the mixing consoles). What really distinguishes this album from all the other comebacks (like our recent coverage of Dystopia) is its main author’s legacy. Abbath’s previous accomplishments with Immortal factor very heavily into any promotion of his solo efforts, and this album has already received a great deal of praise because it doesn’t rock the boat by not sounding like Immortal and its more openly rock-like spinoffs (Between Two Worlds, March of the Norse). Divorced from the fame, Abbath might draw a little positive attention for having slightly above average individual riffs and instrument interaction, but that doesn’t stop it from paling in comparison to what Immortal themselves achieved.

A lot of what I could say about this album has already been used to describe previous efforts from when Immortal itself lost the impetus that made it so interesting in its early years. Running a simple search and replace on Brett’s descriptions of Damned in Black to replace band names makes for a very accurate, albeit not particularly original summation of how Abbath falls short. Surprisingly, it also describes some of the strong points; this album is arguably a lot more appealing on a superficial level than Immortal’s earlier studio albums. While skillful organization of musical content makes careful listening to a track like “The Call of the Wintermoon” off the debut pay off in the long run, I will admit that earlier material sometimes falls short in individual riffs and solos, mainly because the band members were less technically skilled in the past. That attention to detail, though, rendered the old works more ambitious. In contrast, a couple of tracks here come off as especially contrived; for instance, “Ocean of Wounds”, which sounds like Abbath and company decided that they absolutely needed to have a mid-paced arena headbanger. Many of the tracks aren’t as obviously pop oriented, but they’re still pretty haphazard and unmemorable once you start memorizing the individual elements.

It should come as no surprise that I don’t exactly recommend Abbath. The main difference between this and most of the chaff is that I think the musicians involved could do better if they set their minds to it based on the fact that they have, although the subtleties of the past sometimes just don’t pay the bills. At the very least, a financially successful but vapid comeback is a different problem than continued effort from bands that never put out anything of value.

Temple of Gnosis – De Secretis Naturae Alchymica (2016)

temple of gnosis

Article by David Rosales

After an unnecessarily long and artificially down-tuned spoken introduction, Temple of Gnosis’s De Secretis Naturae Alchymica introduces the listener to a “mean” sounding chord backed by some kind of disco beat which comes off as not only cheesy but out of place after the ridiculous introduction. It doesn’t work quite as well for Temple as Gnosis as it did for Gehenna on First Spell, but they do rescue the music by switching to a more sober midpaced approach.

The music here basically consists of a standard rock beat, as well a short, meandering tune that keeps coming back in the chords of the keyboard, the power chords of the guitar or the high notes of the lead guitar. The vocals keep blabbering on top of this simple motif that creates no expectation, intensifies nothing, is not designed for immersion and rather just serves as a mantle for “dark-minded” pretensions. It’s the sort of music teenage witches might listen to if they feel particularly evil. It’s not really convincing, and if it were actually scary or dangerous, they wouldn’t get anywhere near it.

The difference between meaningful occultism and the pop posturing that most people confuse with the former is a subtle one which may be very difficult to discern for profane minds. We may think of music in general as a good reflection of how the concept of occult forces and symbols interact, what it evokes in the eye of the mind, what it gets in touch with and how much content the symbol in front of us actually hides. That is, good occultism works when the seemingly confusing or encoded meanings in the symbols are layered with meaning, a meaning that is concrete and not only apparent, which is the hallmark of its posturing pop counterpart. This can be seen in good music in general, but to set a good example, we turn again to the music in albums such as The Red in the Sky is Ours and Onward to Golgotha where every aspect at several vertical and horizontal levels conspires to produce a collection of possible interpretations whose ultimate consequences mostly consciously imprinted in it. Projects such as Temple of Gnosis who are self-styled occultists in music only talk about being so in their lyrics, their paper-thin music being a living example of what is meant by “empty words”.

Interview with Condemner

condemner band photo

We covered Condemner’s Omens of Perdition recently and found quite a bit to like in its death metal stylings. When the band reached out to us for an interview, staff writer Corey M rose to the occasion and spoke with the band members.


CM: First, please introduce yourselves and describe your roles in making Condemner’s music.

PB: I am PB. I play guitar and handle drum programming, song writing, and, thus far, most lyric writing.
JH : I am JH and I provide all vocals and bass.

CM: Can you give us a brief history of Condemner? What inspired you to write and play metal?

PB: As an entity, Condemner was formed in October of 2015, but the seeds of it date back to Summer of 2009. At that point, I had been playing guitar for a few years, but everything I wrote was black metal in a harmony-heavy style reminiscent of French bands such as Mutiilation or Haemoth. At the time, I felt that death metal was too limited; I had, incorrectly, perceived it as a sub-genre that was almost entirely focused on immediate facts of what we see in front of us in the world, entirely sacrificing the “spiritual” in the process; focused on the phenomenon, rather than the noumenon, for those who dislike such “religious” descriptions. What changed all of this was seeing Imprecation live for the first time in Summer of 2009. That band’s performances conjure the dark aether in the way that I had only associated with black metal. This revelation, combined with the fact that I felt like my black metal songwriting was a bit overwrought and emotionally overindulgent and needed more discipline, made the path clear to me, and I started writing death metal in the style that you hear on Omens of Perdition. “Reverence Towards the Pernicious Tyrant”, in particular, dates back to these earliest days. Originally, I didn’t have any plans to turn it into an actual band, and was just writing the songs for my own pleasure, with the occasional quick-and-dirty guitar-only recording so I could easily remember my own material, but a friend and mentor in the Texas metal scene who I have the highest respect for told me to turn it into something “real”, and shot down every excuse I made for not doing so, at which point I started learning drum programming, multi-tracking, and the rest of the things that would be required to make a proper recording.

As for what inspired me to write and play metal as opposed to something else entirely — I’m was a hessian before I was a musician, so I was obviously going to write what I love.

JH: I will only speak to my own history in Condemner: I was approached to record vocals on Omens of Perdition in late winter 2015 and took over the bass duties when the individual that was originally going to record bass dropped out of the project. I learned and recorded all of the bass parts on Omens of Perdition in less than a day and completed the vocals a short while later. The demo was digitally released in December and the reception has been very positive in the underground.

The initial inspirations for myself (assuming we’re starting from the beginning) were the usual suspects of ‘80’s Metallica, Slayer, and Sepultura as a teenager which led to bands like Voor and Slaughter (Can.) which led further down the path of death metal, black metal, etc. Inspirations as far as vocal performances for Condemner are Ross Dolan of Immolation, Nick Holmes of (early) Paradise Lost and Chris Gamble of Goreaphobia for their articulation of lower growls. Craig Pillard on the first two Incantation albums was definitely an influence for the demo as well. MkM of Antaeus is always an influence — although I am using my lower range in Condemner instead of my typical higher range, MkM’s intensity is something that resonates with me regardless of which range I am using. Finally, Rok of Sadistik Exekution is an example of the complete primal fury that every metal vocalist should attempt to channel.

CM: Condemner’s lyrics read like actual worship of death as both a real eventual experience and an abstract concept personified by an evil force. Is this on purpose? And if so, how specifically do the lyrics fit with the rest of the music?

PB: This is on purpose, but it’s a means, not an end. Speaking for the three songs I wrote the lyrics to, the key concepts are strictness and severity. Often in death metal, evil and Satan are seen as stand-ins for liberation and freedom, but there’s another side to this coin — not just opposer, but accuser as well. Black Sabbath wrote “Begging mercies for their sins/Satan laughing spreads his wings”, Slayer wrote “Bastard sons begat your cunting daughters/Promiscuous mothers with your incestuous fathers/Engreat souls condemned for eternity/Sustained by immoral observance a domineering deity”, Immolation wrote “Glorious flames… Rise above/Show us pain… And cleanse our world”, and Condemner follows along the same lines, seeing death, evil, and Satan as the whip that justly lashes across the back and the flames that rightly burn the flesh of weak, failing humanity. This is the source of the band’s name, as well as the lyrics — “Condemner” is an antonym for “pardoner”. No forgiveness.

As for how the lyrics fit with the rest of the music, the music is always written first (writing lyrics-first is part of what caused my older black metal works to be overindulgent), and then words are written to match the composition — first, more generally, as a song title, and then, more specifically, as actual lyrics. Some might notice the parallel between the lyrical topics and my own intent for the music here to be more disciplined than my previous works, but this wasn’t intentional; I didn’t notice it myself until long after I had already decided on Condemner’s concept.

JH: I can’t speak so much on the writing side of things, but I would say that I see death as a force to be honored and revered for its might. I prefer to not speak too much on the matter but the lyrics I contributed for the demo’s final track “Blood On The Oak (Death’s Wisdom Great)” are about an experience I had in which I was confronted with that might. It was a triumph of death, to say the least. I relate my own experiences to PB’s lyrics as well, although again I will not speak much on the subject.

I would completely say that the lyrics fit the morbidity of the music — any other lyrical topics would be monstrously out-of-place for an atmosphere like this. Interestingly enough, the lyrics for “Blood on the Oak” were initially written in late 2014 and were used in two different bands that each split up before the song could be recorded, but I would say that it has found a perfect home in Condemner.

CM: The individual riffs on Omens of Perdition are relatively simple when compared to what a lot of contemporary so-called “technical” metal bands are doing. Was that simplistic approach something that you chose on purpose or did that style of having all your instruments playing melody in unison just come about naturally?

PB: The riffs on Omens of Perdition aren’t technical because I don’t like the music that most “technical” metal bands make. With a few exceptions (Demilich!!!), it’s all attention-grabbing pyrotechnics with little portent behind it. It wasn’t a conscious decision — there’s no way that someone who loves Profanatica and hates Necrophagist is going to make something like Necrophagist. As to the instruments playing in unison, that was simply a result of how the songs were written — as mentioned earlier, all of the music was originally written for a single guitar, so the other instruments were always destined to follow the guitar.

JH: For the bass, everything is kept simple and following the guitar parts for maximum force and impact on the listener. I see Condemner as following the Tom G. Warrior school of “less is more”, and I’d say that the end result was successful.

CM: Can you explain (in as great or little detail as you want) the process of writing a song? Does it begin by jamming until new riffs emerge or is there a more structured method?

PB: Generally, it starts with me coming up with a melody in my head, and turning it over in my head for a few days, silently humming variations of it to myself. Once I’ve done that, I can generally pick up my guitar and write riffs that complement the one that I had in my head with little trouble, and then I can work on expanding that narrative, writing contrasting riffs and looping the structure back on itself as is fit. The real meat of the process, though, is simply playing the song until there’s something about it that I dislike, fixing that problem, and then repeating that process over and over. There’s one song on Omens of Perdition that’s an exception to this rule — “Executioner’s Canticle” was built around a structuring technique I had noticed Morbid Angel using on “Maze of Torment”.

JH: Currently PB writes all Condemner material and most of the lyrics (I wrote “Blood on the Oak (Death’s Wisdom Great)”); an arrangement that is working well. PB and I are located several hours apart and lack a human drummer, so “jamming” in the traditional sense isn’t really an option.

CM: Being from Texas, are you part of a uniquely regional style or does your expression of death metal run counter to any regional paradigm?

PB: I don’t think there really is a “Texas death metal sound” in the way that there’s a “Stockholm death metal sound” or a “New York death metal sound”. That said, I think it’s obvious that Imprecation and Blaspherian had an influence on Condemner’s style.

JH: While Texas has some of the strongest contenders to the death metal throne in its ranks, I would not say that Condemner sounds like many acts within our region. I believe that the closest would be in the form of some of the Houston death cults such as Imprecation and Blaspherian, but we are far from clones.

CM: What are the plans for Condemner’s future? Do you intend to gather a full line-up for live shows?

PB: No live shows are planned. I’m not opposed to the idea, but JH and I live about four hours apart, so logistics for rehearsals would be difficult. As for what’s planned for the future, most immediately, physical versions of Omens of Perdition will be coming soon — ZKD, whose work you have seen on the cover of all three issues of “Under the Sign of the Lone Star”, has agreed to do the cover art. A second demo, “Burning the Decadent”, with four more songs written in the period from 2009-2015, is planned; I currently plan on beginning the recording process in the Spring, which means you’ll probably hear it some time in the Summer. What happens beyond that is unknown, and dependent on the resources available and how long it ends up taking me to write new material.

JH: The reception to Omens of Perdition has been killer for sure, and there will certainly be new material. There are plans for a physical format of Omens as well, as the cover art is still in progress.

It would be great to perform these songs on a stage some day, although PB and I are currently separated by a distance of several hours which makes the idea of rehearsal logistically complex. I also maintain a heavy schedule with other bands not named here (as I do not want Condemner to be any “featuring members of X” act – it stands on its own) which adds complications to the idea of getting together to play live. Still, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out in the future, especially since live session members wouldn’t be hard to find within my network.

CM: Any last words?

PB: Thanks to Deathmetal.org, both for the support of Condemner, and for keeping the flame of the DLA alive! As mentioned, physical copies of Omens of Perdition will be available soon– keep an eye out!

JH: Thanks to all who have supported this group in its short existence, including Left Hand Path Designs for the excellent logo. For the unaware, Omens of Perdition may be downloaded for free on the Condemner Bandcamp (a pay option is also provided for the inclined). Nothing more needs to be said — the music speaks for itself.

Brutality – Sea Of Ignorance (2016)

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My experiences with Brutality prior to Sea of Ignorance‘s release lead me to believe that all of their works take a disproportionate acclimatization in order to properly comprehend, only surpassed in my experience by the wall of voodoo that is Incantation’s debut. This album has little to do with Incantation’s style, like most of their others, but it has only reinforced my hypothesis. Brutality’s take on “melodic” death metal consistently contains enough harmonic hooks in the riffs to draw a listener in, but odds are you’ll only find their music truly rewarding if you give it some time to sink in. That’s not exactly suited to the fast paced world of online music criticism (advertising thinly veiled as criticism), but odds are you’ll get more out of Brutality’s latest than your average death metal album even if you don’t give it a proper chance.

In general, Sea of Ignorance varies only subtly from its predecessors, and most of these changes play out on the surface. Brutality settled on their current approach early in their career, occupying the liminal space between their often sparser Florida contemporaries and the emphasis on structural and harmonic complexity of a band like At the Gates. The comparison to the latter has come up on occasion when DMU covers this band’s exploits, but Brutality synthesizes enough disparate influences that pulling any one out is difficult, although in my more comparative moments I might bring up Autopsy, since the band plays around with speed and atmosphere enough to significant enhance their formula. Sea of Ignorance follows from previous works in a fairly predictable way – more emphasis upon melody and simpler, more streamlined song structures than the past, but when they aren’t flat out covering Bathory (“Shores in Flames”), the lineage is obvious.

My opinion on this album is ultimately very similar to how I felt about Skull Grinder, although like most of the comparisons I’ve made in this review it’s a comparison of convenience as opposed to significant musical similarity. Sea of Ignorance is a stylistically appropriate if not particularly ambitious continuation of Brutality’s previous work; while it’s not particularly essential if you own any of those albums, it’s still a valuable purchase for those who want to study the strong points of this sort of death metal, and a good enough release to be worth financially supporting.

Entombed A.D premieres new track from Dead Dawn

More generic Swedeath in the future, as Entombed A.D released a single from their upcoming studio album. Dead Dawn is scheduled for a 2016 release. Compared to other things these musicians have recently been involved in (uh… Firespawn?), this isn’t quite as banal, but it’s still a pretty generic Swedish death metal track that tends towards rock music, or at least crust punk in disguise. You never know – this might get a thrashing closer to when it comes out on February 26th, or we might be preoccupied with more important releases (like the upcoming Voivod). In the mean time, Entombed A.D is gearing up for the Europa Blasphemia tour headlined by Behemoth.

Relapse Records reissues Incubus/Opprobrium’s Serpent Temptation

Not to be confused with the Incubus that Mike Browning played in between his tenures in Morbid Angel and Nocturnus; this Incubus (who changed their name to Opprobrium almost a decade later) was formed by Brazilian immigrants to the USA and fits well with the plethora of bands halfway between extreme speed metal and early death metal in the late 1980s. They’re probably most notorious these days for their pro-Christian, almost crusade oriented lyrical themes; as far as I know they were one of the first to bring such into extreme metal. Historical trivia aside, Relapse’s reissue showcases some remastering work that generally makes the album sound sharper and treblier and appears to be based on the original, as opposed to the 1996 edition with rerecorded vocals.

Condemner – Omens of Perdition (2015)

Condemner - Omens of Perdition - cover

Article by David Rosales

Published as an EP last year, Omens of Perdition is a minimalist death metal act that could easily draw comparisons with Desecresy. They share the spacious (and spacey-vortexy) approach to an Incantation like style through the sound of the Finns. When we go into particulars, however, the differences make it clear that resemblances are mostly a matter of general sound preferences, not methodology.

While Desecresy as most perfectly materialized in Stoic Death gives us a Finnish death metal that depends on high-note, short melodies as hooks with laid-back riffs for support, meat and almost harmonic accompaniment, Condemner goes through no such hoops, cutting to the chase, delivering an unrefined but naturally compelling train of dark thoughts. Riffs in Omens of Perdition are essentially melodies with few notes that constitute the bare-bone themes of the music, with nothing else but a bass unison and soft-punch, minimalist blast-beating drums.

These drums are played lightly but insistently, providing for emphasis on dynamics and accent in an application somewhat reminiscent of Paul Ledney’s style on Dethrone the Son of God by Havohej without the occasional flair. Rather than complement each other, the instrumentation in this music forms a total unison, even the percussion. Intensity varies evenly, changes affect all instruments towards the same side of the spectrum. When arriving at the slowest and vastest, the music may even exhibit silences on the drums, while huge guitar power chords roar as the drums only mark accents, reminding one of certain parts of Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet.

Songs alternate thematic riffs that run over mirroring, enhancing drums, with scantly-clad doomy statements covered by a mantle of skeletal power chords. To the detriment of this otherwise quite satisfying music, what effaces the identity of individual songs (and of the release and band itself) is the complete lack of obvious climaxes. We can also take this as both the strength and willing limitation of Condemner, which presents a clear, solid monolithic picture. This steadiness may allow the author to draw an abstract parallel with J.S. Bach’s fugal writing for the keyboard or chorales.

While there doesn’t seem to be any particular goal in Condemner Omens of Perdition, the straight-forward treatment is accompanied by an inconspicuously dexterous development of themes. This in itself is more than could be wished as a saving grace. It becomes both a protection of higher music from the pop-hook addicts and a mystical gateway which opens up through direct intuitional experience to he who is listening.

Mortuary (FRA) – Nothingless Than Nothingness (2016)

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Not to be confused with the Mortuary on the Dark Legions Archives from Mexico, this Mortuary started as a contemporary of the great Massacra, although they didn’t get a studio album out until 1996. Nothingless than Nothingness is separated from even that by 20 years, so the usual rhetoric about evolving or dramatically changing bands applies, but this band’s early material may very well have been inspired on some level by Massacra’s works; at the very least, Final Holocaust and similar was pushing Mortuary towards velocity and intricacy of individual riffs over minimal backing.

To get it out of the way – Nothingless than Nothingness has very little to do with that style, and instead takes cues from pre-Slaughter of the Soul melodic death metal; while less obvious about their melodic influences than most, material on here reminds me of… well… Thy Black Destiny, of all albums. Sacramentum’s 1999 effort may have seemingly little to do with this recording, but its similar use of monophonic melody, variety of texture, hints of contemporary black metal instrumentation, and gradual gestures towards a more rock-oriented form of songwriting (such as frequent breakdowns and vocal emphasis) make for an eerie similarity, if far from an exact one. This is backed up by a band that is technically accomplished in the pedestrian variety that I’ve long since come to expect from modern death metal. One thing that did stand out, however, the vocalist, who showcases his proficiency in adding dimensions to the songs by varying up his rhythm and the textures of his growls; the way he interacts with the drummer, in fact, is probably the strongest point of this album and something other death metal bands could learn from.

Nothingless than Nothingness arguably ends up ahead of the pack for at least having one superlative element worthy of study. Unfortunately, the compositions are afflicted by a few of the problems endemic to modern metal music. First of all, most of these tracks showcase haphazard breakdowns that enter abruptly and contribute little to the ideas of the song. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that Mortuary uses extended sections of blast beats to good effect, so hearing the band dwell on their weaknesses is disheartening. The other problem is that even though many of the individual sections are musically interesting, they’re arranged in a fashion that is attention-deflecting at best and essentially random at worst. If Mortuary put more effort into making coherent arrangements, they’d be a serious force to be reckoned with, but the lack of organization is such an enormous blow to an otherwise promising and well done album.

Mortuary’s latest album will release officially on January 18th, for those who are still interested.