Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed (2015)

Nile - What Should Not Be Unearthed (2015)

Nile’s latest begins topical, with a blastfest themed after the recent years of strife in the Middle East. This is going to date the album some years from now, but from a commercial stance it’s still an excellent idea, certain to create buzz and boost the band’s reputation. They take a pot shot at a common enemy, and continue their legacy of Egyptian mythological themes in standard, professionally produced “brutal” death metal. All in a day’s work for the deathpop industry.

Surprisingly, I am not rehashing my thoughts on Infernus from a few days back like I expected I would when I first began researching this recording. On What Should Not Be Unearthed, Nile contributes to the corpus of accessible mainstream death metal in a broadly similar fashion to their Rutanian brethren, but in a fashion I find far less obnoxiously flat. It seems that Nile’s members have a better grasp of pop songwriting (and importantly, how to incorporate the instrumentation and technique of death metal into such formulas) that could potentially earn them enormous amounts of money if they were to sell their service as songwriters.

Nile’s Egyptologist trappings are one of their big gimmicks and therefore makes necessary discussion whenever they are brought up. The ideas certainly permeate the lyrics, but rarely go beyond that, with the notable exception of the occasional short filmic “Egyptian”/Middle Eastern interludes. There is nothing I can say for or against their authenticity, but few if any of the musical ideas they present in these asides make their way into the metal side of the songwriting. The constant usage of various musical scales and modes, though, might appear to be missing link for listeners not used to the general chromaticism and/or tonal experimentation of your average death metal band. The idea occasionally turns into a Billboard-style pop hook (see the intro to “Evil To Cast Out Evil” for an obvious example), though, and that’s probably good enough for Nuclear Blast.

Dwelling too much on Nile’s gimmick, though, is like only eating the plastic topper off an extremely sugary wedding cake. What Should Not Be Unearthed hasn’t got much in the way of coherent song structures or direction, and that’s why you’ll probably forget about it after a few spins. Judging from the content here, the band members understand on a basic level that they need to vary their parameters throughout a song in order to not come across as a vague buzzing sound. When they try to go beyond basic pop formulas, though, they collapse into stereotypical alternating blasting sections and breakdowns and occasionally make me giggle by, for instance, pitch bending a guitar harmonic chord at the beginning of the title track. It’s nominally better than no variation, but it’s going to take a lot more thought and organizational work than what’s on display here to write intelligent tracks.

Ambition is nothing without preparation, though, and Nile remains strongest (and commercially strongest) as musicians and songwriters when they stick to their basic deathpop. In that regard, What Should Not Be Unearthed is a partial success, and the rest probably… should not be unearthed.

Order from Chaos – Frozen in Steel (2014)

Order from Chaos – Frozen in Steel (2014)

Review written by Daniel Maarat for DMU

The complete career recordings of unsung underground legends Order from Chaos have been definitely reissued by Nuclear War Now! Productions in five CD and nine and 12 LP boxed sets. These afford listeners the chance to experience the clear progression and compositional refinement from the band’s primitive Hellhammer, Sodom, and first wave beginnings. The LP editions have the usual analog distortion of vinyl and the peculiarities of GZ’s direct metal mastering. Fortunately, the CDs are well mastered with identical sound to the original pressings though the vinyl editions have the bonus of a 124-page hardbound book with lyrics, personal photos, and a biography of the band.

Stillbirth Machine opens with an excerpt from Ligeti’s “Requiem”and immediately proceeds into angular riffed, Teutonic deaththrash. Only intros and outros distract from the aural assault. The guitar tone resembles Swedish death metal with the fully dimed Boss Heavy Metal pedals but the production was marred by the inconsistent levels of a drunk seventies rock producer manning the knobs in an aging studio. The follow up Plateau of Invincibility EP is similar in material but self-recorded onto eight-track tape. This more amateur but consistent (e.g. no noise burst solos) production would continue for the rest of Order from Chaos’s career.

Dawn Bringer continued the compositional elaboration. The songs were more experimental and the melody that characterizes guitarist Chuck Keller’s and drummer Mike Miller’s future band, Ares Kingdom, appears on a twisted cover of Voivod’s “War and Pain.” The martial marching beats of the hybrid war metal sub-genre of first wave black metal and the three chord, hardcore punk side of grindcore was birthed too. Ending everything is the start of the intentional raw noise for which that bastard sub-genre is known as Keller pries off his guitar strings and pickups at full volume to end the album on “Webs of Perdition.”

An Ending in Fire shows the perfectionism that differentiated Order from Chaos from most of their contemporaries in the death and black metal scenes to even the most passive listeners. Earlier riffs and songs were rearranged with completely new material into three epic compositions. The songwriting focused on clever compositional coherency and melodic congruity rather than the random masturbation and showmanship of technical death metal. “Conqueror of Fear” twisted many of the band’s similar, Teutonic works into a flowing five-track declaration of bassist Pete Helmkamp’s existential, social Darwinist philosophy later laid out in his controversial Conqueror Manifesto. “There Lies Your Lord! Father of Victories!” was wholly original to the album and among Keller’s best guitar work. “Somnium Helios” updated the punky “Nucleosynthesis” from the Will to Power EP as the beginning of a requiem for the Earth’s future solar immolation. Order from Chaos broke up after An Ending in Fire’s recording, considering the album as fulfilling the band’s musical vision. The session outtakes were released as the And I Saw Eternity EP included in the set. This is true progressive heavy metal. Speaking more of musical specifics and the evolution of individual riffs and songs is best left for future articles as that would spoil listeners’ enjoyment.

Frozen in Steel is a fantastic value for fans. Purchasing just Order from Chaos’s three albums alone would cost well over a hundred dollars on the secondary market. Nuclear War Now! Productions should be commended for offering all the band’s studio material along with the extra rehearsals and live shows starting at just forty. This is the most significant and well put together anthology of an extreme metal band’s collected works since Demilich’s 20th Adversary of Emptiness.

PROCREATION set release date for new NUCLEAR WAR NOW! collection‏

Procreation - Incantations of Demonic Lust for Corpses of the Fallen (2015) - Cover art

These contemporaries of seminal Canadian act Blasphemy are seeing another release of their demos. Incantations of Demonic Lust for Corpses of the Fallen contains both their original demos (1990’s “Rebirth Into Evil” and 1991’s “Coming of Hate”) and was initially released in 2004. This re-release promises improved sound quality and will most likely be of interest to anyone who seeks to explore the Vancouver scene, or simply fans of early “primitive” death metal.

The record label offered this statement:

In the years since its inception in the late 1980s, the cryptically-named Ross Bay Cult has earned a degree of reverence and mystique that is arguably unequaled by other scenes in death/black metal history in terms of its contributions of both music and legend. While the band most commonly referenced as the face of this British Columbian horde is undoubtedly the notorious Blasphemy, others such as Witches Hammer and Procreation shared members and/or stages with them and made significant impacts of their own. Procreation’s morbid tenure in this cult dated from 1989 until 1993, and although they suffered some defections in their ranks over the years, they maintained a steady nucleus throughout and played numerous live shows in the Vancouver area with the likes of Blasphemy, Tumult, Armoros, Nuclear Assault, Anvil, and Forced Entry.

Although Procreation did not survive long enough to unleash upon the masses a full-length album that demonstrated the primitive amalgam of death metal that pervaded their live rituals, they did leave in their wake two demos that were professionally recorded at the same Fiasco Brothers Studio also desecrated by Blasphemy. Both of these recordings, Rebirth into Evil and Coming of Hate (from 1990 and 1991, respectively), provide evidence that the Vancouver metal scene of the time was anything but one-dimensional. In contrast to the speed metal attack of Witches Hammer and the bestial black metal of Blasphemy, Procreation’s demos can best be characterized as a purposefully non-technical, mid-paced death metal that at times resembles a record cut to vinyl at 45 RPM that is being played at 33 RPM, perhaps mistakenly, but to greater effect. With all songs clocking in between the two- to four-minute range and with a dearth of gratuitous guitar leads, Procreation ignored the perceived need that many bands felt to build as much complexity into death metal as possible. Instead, they relied on a simple and straightforward but successful prescription of steady rhythms and riffs that prove their worth by gradually dismembering the listener, piece by piece.

Set for international release on October 1st via Nuclear War Now! Productions, the CD version of Incantations of Demonic Lust for Corpses of the Fallen includes both of Procreation’s demos in their entirety. For this second pressing, the audio has been remastered by James Plotkin to improve sound quality, while still succeeding to maintain the raw integrity of the original recordings. Additionally, this release once again features the demonic artwork of Wes Gauley, which serves as a fitting visual complement to the possessed nature of the sound that once stalked the Vancouver area and will continue to fester undead with the circulation of this compilation. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Procreation’s Incantations of Demonic Lust for Corpses of the Fallen
1. Intro
2. Morbid Reality
3. Caking Blood
4. Afterlife
5. Darkest Force
6. Tomb of Assyria
7. Darkest Force
8. Rebirth into Evil
9. The Coming of Hate
10. Tomb of Assyria

Temple of Baal details new album Mysterium

Temple of Baal - Mysterium (2015) cover art

Active since 1998, Parisian black/death metal band Temple of Baal will release their next album on October 2nd, 2015 in CD and 12” vinyl format. The current lineup has performed and participated in many other French metal bands, perhaps the most notable of which would be Anateus. They released the following statement:

PARIS, France – French black/death metal veteran, Temple of Ball, has announced its next album, Mysterium, to be released on October 2 via Agonia Records. The first single, “Divine Scythe,” featuring guest vocals by Georges Balafas (Drowning, Eibon, Decline of The I), is streaming on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/gi2yqmKvUtw.

As the album’s title suggests, Mysterium dwells on the topics of spirituality and religiosity. “From the opener, ‘Lord of Knowledge and Death,’ to the closing number, ‘All in Your Name,’ every inch of this record drips with it,” the band commented. “Mysterium can be seen as a collection of meditations and prayers over the mysteries of faith, directed towards the gods of the left hand path.”

Musically, Temple of Baal’s black metal roots are back in full force, allowing the atmospheres to develop through songs of epic proportions, mostly clocking around eight or nine minutes each. Mysterium covers a wide musical specter, from slower ritualistic parts, to furious blasts and thrashy riffs or the surprisingly melodic choirs of “Magna Gloria Tua” and “Hosanna,” each song taking the listener into a spiritual journey, evolving through various climates, keeping the listener’s mind awake. “I never got that much into monotonous, uniform albums,” said band leader Amduscias. “I like music to take my mind from one point to another. Even if I have a strict view of what Temple of Baal should be, stagnation is not something I’m very fond of.”

Paying tribute to its old school roots, Temple of Baal covers Bathory for the second time, with the song “The Golden Walls of Heaven” closing the vinyl edition as a bonus track.

The recording of Mysterium took place in Hybreed Studios with long-time sound engineer, Andrew Guillotin (Glorior Belli, Mourning Dawn), who managed to capture the band’s trademark massive sounding, magnifying it through a warm and organic production. Cover artwork and layout have been prepared by David Fitt (Aosoth, Secrets of the Moon, Svart Crown) and Maria Yakhnenko.

Mysterium will be available in: six panel digipack CD with 16-page booklet, regular gatefold double black vinyl, and limited to 150 hand-numbered copies double gatefold vinyl (including one picture disc and one black vinyl). It can be pre-ordered now through the Agonia web-store at: https://www.agoniarecords.com/index.php?pos=shop&lang=en.
1. Lord of Knowledge and Death
2. Magna Gloria Tua
3. Divine Scythe
4. Hosanna
5. Dictum Ignis
6. Black Redeeming Flame
7. Holy Art Thou
8. All in Your Name
9. The Golden Walls of Heaven (Bathory Cover, vinyl bonus track)

In its 15-plus year career, marked by four full-lengths and numerous split releases, the highly respected French coven, Temple of Baal, has evolved from a primitive black/thrash outfit into a monstrous black/death metal entity of epic dimensions. Verses of Fire, the last album (2013), was acclaimed worldwide as a milestone in the band’s career, allowing Temple of Baal to perform at notable festivals such as Hellfest, Motocultor, Summer Breeze, Kings of Black Metal and Speyer Grey Mass. The formation also played selected shows in France, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, sharing the stage with the likes of Watain, Antaeus etc.

Stay tuned for more information on Temple of Baal and Mysterium, out this fall on Agonia Records.

Hate Eternal – Infernus (2015)

Hate Eternal - Infernus (2015)

Hate Eternal hits all the notes they intend to. From a technical stance, there’s really nothing missing – an extremely precise instrumental section provides all the velocity and intricacy you’d expect from this sort of death metal. The production and sound is crystalline in its precision, too; all of the important sound frequencies are accounted for, the instrumentation is clear (although like many metal bands, the bassist drowns), and the vocals of Erik Rutan remain suitably midpitched and intelligible for the album’s 45 minute duration. If you wanted to demonstrate textbook “brutal” death metal to your friends and colleagues, a sample from Infernus would leave them more knowledgable about what to expect from the genre, especially if you drew comparisons to Morbid Angel and other well-appreciated bands in Hate Eternal’s long and storied lineage. It’s a shame, then, that such an archetypal album doesn’t make for good listening.

It all comes down to the arrangements. The major problem with songs on Infernus is that they drone where they should instead develop, to the point that Rutan’s guitar parts even contain droning tremolo notes and chords buzzing under riffs, hiding ashamed at the edge of hearing. Consider the album’s dynamic range; when your recording is this loud and insistent, your ability to emphasize any one section of your song over others suffers. As a result, even when Hate Eternal does pull out a relatively interesting riff pattern (like the outro of “Zealot, Crusader Of War”), it’s likely to pass over without commentary or attention due to listener fatigue. Some might argue that the very death metal stylings of this band justify such a constant aural assault, or that the occasional tempo/rhythm shift or sound gimmick that often performs the role of dynamics in this style creates enough variety, but while such points are worthy of acknowledgement, they don’t exactly help the content.

The other half of the drone problem is that songs on Infernus are remarkably conservative about varying their overall structures. I don’t think I’ve heard a death metal band rely on a basic formula so consistently since… well… Death, which had much the same issue with being unable to change up their own songwriting techniques throughout their career, even as their aesthetics constantly evolved. Hate Eternal I am not so familiar with, but the first half of any given track here is interchangeable with the first half of any other. The latter halves offer more room for anything besides business as usual, but if you play a random track, odds it’s going to start by repeating the verse and chorus twice and going straight into a solo. It’s as if the music is not written, but manufactured to government pop standards on industrial machinery… which, in death metal, usually leads to a dismal and forgettable product and makes you more receptive to the next CD on the assembly line.

So if there were a conspiracy in record labels to increase sales by reducing people’s attachment to music (which I doubt, because it would require enormous folly beyond what we as a species can muster), Infernus would be the perfect product. In reality, it’s just a technically competent but flawed and unambitious offering; it’s not as obnoxious as, for instance, the thinly disguised technical exercise death metal wave of the mid-2000s, or the metalcore bogeyman in your younger sister’s closet. Nothing that would scare me off from the concert of a band I was interested in, but not something I can earnestly recommend seeking out on your own.

Altar / Cartilage split re-issued as 2CD on XTREEM Music

altar_-_cartilage_-_split_reissue

During the heyday of death metal, Swedish band Altar and Finnish band Cartilage banded together to release a split album entitled Ex Oblivione / The Fragile Concept Of Affection . Long sought-after by collectors, it is being re-issued by Xtreem Music as a 2-CD set with other early recordings. The label made the following statement:

It was in 1992 when two promising bands from the swedish & finnish Death Metal scenes, released a split album, that now, 23 years later, it’s one of the most cult splits ever released in the early 90’s. Unfortunately, CARTILAGE never recorded anything after that and although ALTAR did a few demos later on, they disbanded shortly after.

But the legacy still lives here and this split album originally released through former Xtreem Music label Drowned Productions, gets a re-issue in form of a double CD with 7 bonus tracks by each band taken from their early demos, a total of 14 songs (60 min.) from each one.

All songs have been remastered (not remixed!) for an optimal sound, preserving the essence from the originals and this release comes with a new cover artwork, a remake of the original one made by cult finnish artist Turkka Rantanen. Of course, original cover art is included on the release and booklet comes with extra photos, flyers & demo covers to complete this cult re-issue. However, we know that purists won’t be satisfied with this release, so they can always go and pay a fortune on eBay to get the original (if they can). No hard feelings! For the rest, here you have a new chance to get this gem in an improved and extended way at a reasonable price. A vinyl version with the original split album tracks, will follow in the future.

Release date for the ALTAR/CARTILAGE “Split Album” 2-CD is set for August 20th and in the meantime, you can listen to one track by each band on the following links:

ALTAR

CARTILAGE

Hammerheart Records re-issues At the Gates Gardens of Grief

at_the_gates_-_gardens_of_grief_-_reissue

Hammerheart Records has re-issued the classic of Swedish death metal Gardens of Grief by pioneering progressive death metal band At the Gates. The label issued the following statement:

At the Gates are one of those Swedish bands that doesn’t really need an introduction for anybody really eager enough to dig as deep as their first EP, Gardens of Grief, which was released in 1991 on Dolores Records.

Being one of the more distinct sounding bands from the whole original Swedish death metal scene, they have managed to spit out a couple of really great albums in the 90s, the pinnacle of their career being 1995’s “Slaughter of the Soul”.

What we have here lads is a chaotic mix between great song composition, one of metal’s best vocalists (in my humble opinion) screaming his shit out and pure maniacal death metal the way its supposed to be played. Right from the start of the first track you will get nothing less than a punch in your face, to the groin and to the balls. Tempo changes along with the massive output of riffs used work perfectly to create a unique atmosphere that sends you right to hell. This is one of those birth moments of a band that further defined the typical “Swedish sound” that most of us know as being a kind of mix between crunch and white noise. Every song has a very mature approach towards composition, not sounding very melodic, but dark, vicious and awestruck. This is fierce, ruthless death metal played by people who had a spark in them and wanted to play crazy music.

This EP is a very good example of how a rough start can prophesy a band’s great career with no absolute low point whatsoever and be a marker for good things to come.

For fans of: Grotesque, Dissection, Watain

Malediction releasing Chronology of Distortion discography re-issue

malediction_-_chronology_of_distortion_announcement

Previously under-appreciated UK death metal band Malediction, whose sole release was a live recording on Wild Rags Records entitled Chronicles of Dissention, has partnered with Dark Blasphemies Records to re-issue its discography as Chronology of Distortion, sixteen tracks spanning 72 minutes of death metal slated for release in December 2015.

Known for their laconic take on the Morbid Angel style of phrasal guitar riffs woven together into a narrative, Malediction specialized in using selective melody and introspective lead guitar to create a unique vision of the death metal style. Fans who could not get the songs on Chronicles of Dissention the first time around will appreciate these lost classics finally coming to light.