Cóndor – Nadia

condor-nadiaOne of the enduring critiques of modern metal bands is their lack of stylistic coherence. The mashing of various genres and influences over the course of an album with no unifying principle produces a product that is difficult to absorb from start to finish.

On their newly released album Nadia, Cóndor attempt to solve this dilemma by creating what may best be described as contemplative metal. Composed with a purpose, the metal sections of the album album consist primarily of low-to-mid-paced riffs ranging the gamut from doom, death, and black metal. These are complimented by influences from progressive rock, in which tonal contrasts add nuance and a way of connecting differing parts within the album.

What this band does well is elegantly shaping this vast array of influences into a package that is understandable and actually enjoyable to listen to. Everything is structured with care and attention, avoiding the “genres in a blender” sensation that many of their contemporaries produce. Throughout the span of a single track, snapshots of each moment lead organically into the next, while low-pitched vocals provide a sturdy framework and induce continuity. At the conclusion of the album, the listener feels as if he experienced something meaningful, which is at the heart of metal and unfortunately is something that often seems missing among contemporary bands.

Curmudgeons (of which the author admittedly is) will initially be put off by the non-metal elements and unorthodox structure. However, when viewed in context of the whole, these fall into place and do achieve meaning within the album, producing something both the strident Hessian and modern metal fan can appreciate.

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Rippikoulu – Musta Seremonia

rippikoulu-musta_seremoniaRippikoulu are a relatively unknown Finnish band whose potential was cut short because the band never developed past the demo phase after the death of the main songwriter. The first death metal band to “sing” entirely in Finnish, Rippikoulu saw a significant rise in popularity in the internet age, releasing their second and final 1993 demo on CD and vinyl through Svart Records in 2010.

One of many bands from Finland to realize the potency in doom elements in death metal, Rippikoulu quickly switched gears from the Bolt Thrower Realm of Chaos meets Autopsy style of their first demo into a morbid, down tuned style more along the lines of Lost Paradise stylistically updated by Incantation’s cavernous style similar to many other early 90s experiments like Mythic or Disembowelment, with similarly mixed results.

The music here eschews the ambient gestures of Disembowelment and Thergothon entirely, opting for a more bludgeoning, rhythmic approach. Like Winter, slow doom passages move forth at a glacial pace and are highlighted by macabre lead melodies in a manner similar to early Amorphis or Paradise Lost.

Unfortunately, these parts are the highlights of the songs, as they are sandwiched between often disconnected Incantation-esque blasting sections or Bolt Thrower heavy rhythm riffs. Too often, the excessive down tuned rhythms gets repetitive to the point of going nowhere (tracks one and four) or seeming like an in-between for the “money riff” effect of ponderous doom riffs (track two). Here we hear the weakness of the band in their inability to marry these opposing elements through developed riff sequences like Bolt Thrower on War Master. The other tracks feel more like complete statements but the speedier rhythm riffs are often sparse compared to their sluggish counterparts.

While the band successfully conveys the aura of mystique that made the Finnish death metal scene revered by many, this release was perhaps a bridge to them moving on to doomier terrain as evidenced best by the most focused track, “Pimeys Yllä Jumalan Maan,” sounding more like Skepticism covering Incantation at their slowest.

The good news is that this release functions well as divisions of a singular idea, much like how Belial’s Wisdom of Darkness used repetitive songs with shared themes to their advantage, giving the listening experience a ritualistic quality. It’s a great alternative to what the modern OSDM scene is currently churning out, but much like God Macabre’s The Winterlong, it is more a collection of slight variations on a theme than an album.

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Master to release The Witchhunt

master-the_witchhuntOn September 27, famous proto-death metal band Master unleash The Witchhunt, the band’s twelfth album since the early days when Paul Speckmann moved from heavy metal band War Cry to the more punk-influenced band Death Strike, who released their classic and only album Fuckin’ Death at about the same time Master released its first opus.

(If you ask us, the Master albums to get are Collection of Souls and the Master-related band Speckmann Project’s self-titled album, which contains many updated versions of classic Master works.)

Over the past two decades, Master has steadily been abandoning its heavy metal and bounding punk influenced style for a tighter, more complex, and more rigid attack that compares favorably to mid-1990s death metal.

The new Master album, featuring musicians Paul Speckmann recruited in his new home nation of Czech Republic, has an even tighter and more energetic sound. If the past is any guide, this will be an album to enjoy for all death metal, heavy metal, punk and blues fans.

  1. The Witchhunt
  2. Plans of Hate
  3. Another Suicide
  4. Waiting to Die
  5. The Parable
  6. God of Thunder
  7. Remove the Clowns
  8. Raise your Sword
  9. Wipe out the Aggressor
  10. Manipulated to Exterminate
  11. The American Dream

For updates and to see if Master is coming to your town, check out the band’s official homepage.

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Grave releases “Venial Sin” from new album Morbid Ascent

grave-morbid_ascentBack in the early 1990s, it was hard to be a death metal fan without encountering Grave’s Into the Grave. Primitive, music reduced to almost rhythm alone, it filled the niche between truly primitive grinding like early Napalm Death and the more musically intensive Swedish death metal like Seance.

Fast-forward twenty years. Everyone in death metal, recognizing that their society was going to collapse of its own inertia amidst the confusion and denial of their fellow citizens, have gone on to have families, careers and lives. But in them burns that desire to be known for their place in an important time and activity in their lives, which is the production of death metal.

Morbid Ascent is a new five-track EP with a cover of Satyricon’s “Possessed,” a remix of a past song “Epos,” and a re-recorded version of “Reality of Life,” a track from their 1989 Sexual Mutilation demo. The EP will be released both digitally and on vinyl and is available for pre-order at Century Media or on the band website.

Morbid Ascent track-listing
Side 1:

  1. Venial Sin
  2. Morbid Ascent

Side 2:

  1. Possessed (originally by SATYRICON)
  2. Epos (Risen From The Tomb – Remix)
  3. Reality Of Life
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Sammath debuts “Fear Upon Them” from Godless Arrogance

sammath-godless_arroganceDutch-German furious black/death metal band Sammath unveil their most promising material to date with a new song “Fear Upon Them” which reveals the many influences of this underground metal band. While some of its works sound like Morbid Angel or Perdition Temple with an underlying melody line, other songs are wholly melodic and go more into black metal ambiance.

“Fear Upon Them,” which is the latest single released from Godless Arrogance, shows Sammath going back to their roots. Specifically, the most furious melodic black metal bands to walk the earth, namely Immortal and Bathory. By slowing down the drum tempo but speeding up the strum tempo, Sammath create an unearthly sound like a dream in fog.

On top of this, the band add riff development and a sense of the unexpected yet not obviously quirky and contrarian, which means that songs slide into their own personalities and transcend their influences. In this case, “Fear Upon Them” wears its influences on its sleeve, more as a tribute than a blueprint for emulation.

The album Godless Arrogance will come out on Hammerheart Records later this year.

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Triptykon announce new yet-unnamed album

tom_g_warrior-hellhammer-celtic_frost-tryptikon-thomas_gabriel_fischerDoom/death metal band Triptykon have announced that they have begun working on their next album with a presumed release date sometime in 2014. As of now the new album is still untitled for the public, but a few song titles have been released which fit into the occult theme established by the band’s debut album. Describing the music as epic and diverse, it seems to suggest that the album will have more variation than the relatively straightforward Eparistera Daimones, which suffered from a linear composition that made its songs less interesting than they otherwise could be.

Straddling the boundary between classic metal and modern compositional technique, Triptykon continued the sound that was debuted on Celtic Frost’s Monotheist. Our review found that there were a few intriguing elements present, although subjugated to simplistic verse-chorus repetition. Because of this, the morbid atmosphere that was omnipresent in Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost was lost.

Founder of the band Tom Gabriel Fischer is known for his often unorthodox incorporation of external influences in his music, which have produced some of the best extreme metal albums in the early days of Celtic Frost. If he is able to create an album that successfully merges the underground spirit with focused influences from other spheres, it will assuredly be superior to almost all contemporary releases. However, if concessions are made to modern stylings, it could result in a diluted product, as plagued the releases since Celtic Frost‘s reformation. We strongly hope for the former over the latter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzaI6jQM0wE

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First in Line: Slayer – Show No Mercy

slayer-show_no_mercySlayer’s Show No Mercy turned the metal world upside down when it hit the record stores. Keep in mind this was back in the 1980s, so there was no instant effect, more like a quick ripple as it took people time to learn about the album, get to the store to buy it, dub it from a friend, hear it on a weekly radio show, or get mailed a mix tape.

At the time, the world was just awakening to the possibility of speed metal, which grew out of American bands taking the best of NWOBHM, like Blitzkrieg, Satan, Motorhead, Witchfinder General, etc. and combining them, adding in the attitude of hardcore punk and its rhythms. However, speed metal had a defining characteristic, which was the sharp sonic edges produced by the use of the muted strum.

Slayer took another approach, also derived from hardcore (mainly Discharge), which was the tremolo strum. Instead of producing sharp edges, this produced fuzzy columns of sound like an organ or other instrument with huge sustain. The result was that longer riffs could be created and could be relatively independent from the drums. The song structure opened up with guitar as the lead voice.

This innovation basically created all of underground metal. When Slayer was combined with Bathory and Hellhammer, both black metal and death metal emerged. Black metal was a more ambient variety, where death metal was more structuralist, but both used the same ingredients brought about by this combination, namely the techniques and attitudes of these three bands.

However, Slayer’s invention was what was able to unite the long-form song structures of Hellhammer and the atmospheric approach of Bathory into a format that could expand. Immediately recognizing the power of a style of music which put riff changes before harmony or conventional song structure, Slayer expanded their work beyond the verse-chorus using their famous pattern of introductory and transitional riffs.

A new science was born. It was opposed by many in the speed metal world, since it offered competition to what those musicians were doing and signaled the end of that paradigm (speed metal officially hung up its metal union card in 1991, five years after Slayer took this style over the top with Reign in Blood). Others saw the possibility in this new style.

As a result, when you hear metal music today, you are hearing an inheritance from Slayer. Even outside metal music the idea of a guitar or keyboard leading the drums has gained traction, which breaks out of the somewhat rigid format of rock/pop and gives artists more options. It’s not entirely surprising that Slayer burst onto the scene only ten years after the groundbreaking ambient of Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno/Robert Fripp.

Critics have never really understood how to analyze Show No Mercy in part because the album links together so many influences. Iron Maiden lurks in the chord progressions, Discharge and GBH in the technique, Motorhead in the rugged riffing, Kiss in the somewhat grandiose theatrics, and Judas Priest in the conceptualization of riff structure. But what holds them together is this metal first, which is the tremolo strum and its implications for songwriting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdjS4qMXQmQ

The “First in Line” series celebrates the metal bands and albums who did something important, and did it first. It’s like an inventor’s award.

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Disincarnate – Dreams of the Carrion Kind

disincarnate-dreams_of_the_carrion_kindThe brainchild of James Murphy, a guitar virtuoso who released two instrumental “shred” albums through Shrapnel Records, Disincarnate is in theory an underground metal dream made reality. The band released its one and only album in 1993 on Roadrunner Records. Murphy’s legendary lead guitar work on Obituary’s Cause of Death created the promise of a killer album was in the making, only it was never delivered.

Disincarnate is part of the first wave of post-Human era Death/Cynic bands who were making death metal explicitly play nice with the Headbanger’s Ball and Guitar World audiences under the guise of Floridian rhythmic death metal. This watered-down death metal was designed to appeal to the casual Pantera and Chaos A.D. metal fans of the time. On Dreams of the Carrion Kind, song structures are simple and pop-oriented, reminiscent of an 80s speed metal act like Exodus, which is a riff salad without themes developing within it.

“Monarch of the Sleeping Marshes,” the best composition on the album, fails to capture its surprisingly elaborate lyrical concept, impeding upon the momentum of its inspired introductory riffcraft with an awkward pause after the chorus to make way for an incongruous bridge of generic Benediction mosh fare. Other tracks like “Soul Erosion” and “Deadspawn” sound like Brutality playing along to bouncy Fear Factory/Pantera chugging fare with death metal vocals and lyrics adapted around that framework, no doubt in a vain attempt to bridge two trends from the era. At best, it could be compared to a lowbrow version of the first half of Resurrection’s Embalmed Existence.

James Murphy’s dextrous playing and the early Roadrunner Records connection would make this seem innocent, but don’t be fooled. This release is cleverly disguised as something profound but is no more advanced than Benediction’s Transcend the Rubicon. It isn’t awful to the point where you would rather swan dive into a wood chipper, but the overly bluesy doom riffs and the grooved out relaxed tempos of tremolo riffs in cyclical song structures that break for a “guitar hero” solo suggests this band as having the confused character of something that wants to be morbid and sinister, but also pander to the Dimebag Darrell worshipers of that era.

While some of the wiser among us would simply dismiss this as not up to par with other releases in its genre, on closer inspection, this album alongside Malevolent Creation’s Retribution and Obituary’s The End Complete in addition to Roadrunner Records vast distribution network assisted in streamlining death metal into a more rock centric style that allowed the Gutted/Kataklysm mosh fare with flashy distraction breaks to become an Ozzfest/Hot Topic mainstay in the 2000s.

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Sammath unleashes title track from Godless Arrogance

sammath-godless_arroganceWhat a difference studio recording and mastering can make. Sammath went into the studio with a demo full of their iconic black/death battle metal, but in the studio, something magic happened: it became transformed into a hybrid of early Morbid Angel and early Ancient, being both relentless and hiding melody inside its rigorous riffs.

Godless Arrogance promises to be a relentless war-charge of high speed percussion, fuzzily distorted fast riffing, and demented mocking vocals which sound like a criticism of the mundane world by something beyond it. The band have upgraded their playing to leave fewer spaces in the wall of sound, and have used production to mate their fuzzy guitars and whirlwind drums into a channel of sonic violence.

To be released by Hammerheart Records worldwide, Godless Arrogance shows this Dutch-German band backing off of the technicality of the last album in favor of the relentless riff assault of their most popular middle albums, combined with the sublime sense of melody that made their first album a keeper for so many metalheads.

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