Decimation: Atonality in Death Metal

Never has there been a word in metal as misunderstood as atonal, allowing all kinds of ridiculous claims since most individuals confuse atonality with dissonance and chromatism.

There are two ways to define atonality, one being the complete lack of tonal character and being reduced to noise like some of Kerry King’s solos or the works of Merzbow. The other definition that interests us here is the complete lack of functional harmony. In simpler terms that implies not having the root note that commands a certain melody. Without a root note, the notes in an atonal melody are not connected by scales, modes or chords.

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OZZY IS RIGHT: “NON-CONFORMITY” IS CONFORMIST, METAL MUST REBEL

Death Metal Underground’s wise founder Brett Stevens posted a thoughtful article last weekend about the duality of exterior and interior being.  It describes how in these modern times we’re seeing an illusion of non-conformity that masks the conformity of thought and nature within.  This is an effective tactic of those in power be they media, silicon valley, deep state, or (in the case of metal) record executives and journalists:  get people to look different, but think the same.  This also masterfully articulates why metal is at its lowest creative point in the entire history of its existence: fans and musicians alike have accepted conformity of thought and sound through satisfaction with mere non-conformist aesthetics and culture.  And the only way to escape this rut is to violently rebel against everything we have been conditioned to believe is “metal” and “metal culture.”

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POLL: CRISIS ACTOR OR SHOOTING SURVIVOR?

Since other media outlets are weighing in on the recent debate on crisis actors being used to push gun control in the wake of mass shootings, let’s see what DMU readers think!  Vote in the comments section below:

(a)  crisis actor

(b) shooting survivor

(c) where is the metal?

(d) DMU IS DEAD AND THE EDITOR IS A FALSE WAHHH MUAH HESSIANS WAHHHHH MUAH PHILOSOPHY WAHHHHH

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Paramaecium – Exhumed of the Earth (1993)

In addition to its notoriously contradictive definitional nature, doom metal remains something of an enigma in terms of its enduring popularity. Whether or not one chooses to view it as a distinctive subgenre, style or even technique, doom metal must bear one of the most in-proportionate quotas within metal music when it comes to quantity over quality.  If attempting to depict doom metal from the perspective of enduring releases, the list of canonical works would become surprisingly short.  It seems plausible that part of the explanation to this sad state is embedded in the very characteristics of the style.  Doom bands have generally prioritized development of exceptionally powerful tools for conveying sonic heaviness at the expense of other aspects of the music. It might even be so that the techniques in themselves has forced artists into a particular way of writing music. Either way, there appears to be a widespread discrepancy between the means of expression and what is actually being expressed in doom metal; which in turn provides clues as to what makes for a genuinely satisfying doom-offering. With the above discussion in mind, today’s written offering presents the Australian death/doom act Paramaecium – one of few bands bearing the doom-tag that has managed to write compositions to match the sonic gravitas associated with said style.
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Musical Dissection of Pestilence “Out of the Body”

Once upon a time Pestilence were a very capable death/speed metal band that would attain great heights with the their magnum opus Consuming Impulse. Leaving behind the speed metal of Malleus Maleficarum for greater freedom in melody and structure, “Out of the body” is by far the most popular track on this album due to its catchy main riff, guitar acrobatics and absolute intensity.

Those are only the surface traits of what makes this song and the album a bonafide death metal classic.

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The Chasm – A Conscious Creation from the Isolated Domain – Phase I

Daniel Cochardo loves metal. It is no question- from his tenure fronting The Chasm, his work in Cenotaph and his contributions to the last above-average Incantation album Diabolical Conquest that the man is steadfast in his dedication to extreme metal.  Throughout his impressive library of work, we haven’t seen any indication of a wavering of passion or hints of selling out in any way.  What we however have seen is a middling assemblage of efforts that come close to sublime heights but ultimately fall short of the metal ideal. Therfore The Chasm has always flown a bit under the radar, consistently releasing material that has a unique voice commanding the charge but a lack of cohesion giving the music a timeless appeal.  With CCI, The Chasm ends their longest drought between records with an assertive gesture in the form of an instrumental concept album, and although that may hint at a rejuvenated band that is hungry to finally make the profound artistic statement they have always fallen short of, unfortunately The Chasm has given us a release more puzzling than declarative.

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Control Denied – The Fragile Art of Existence (1999)

Control Denied was formed in the mid-1990s by late Death-frontman Chuck Schuldiner to cater to his desire to explore more traditional metal stylings.  Schuldiner, however, was still bound to Death’s contract with Nuclear Blast and thus agreed to record one more album under the Death-moniker before concentrating fully on his new band and musical direction.  As a result, songs originally intended for Control Denied were shoe-horned into a death metal context on The Sound of Perseverance (1998) which partly explains the lackluster, two-faced nature of the last and arguably worst Death-album. With contractual entanglements finally sorted out, Control Denied’s debut The Fragile Art of Existence saw the light of day in 1999.
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Analysis of Death Metal Vocalists

Guttural vocals are the only true vocal innovation in metal as other singing styles are derived from other genres. The growed vocal technique is a combination of multiple frequencies and is harmonically too rich to be treated in the same way as more tonal styles.  Since they are different to all that came before them they must be analyzed differently.  And as metal continues to be penetrated by the mainstream it is important to understand what should be expected from a vocalist and what each one brings to the table since as humans we are inclined to judge vocals first.

In the spirit of understanding the wide variety that the technique has to offer, take a look at some of the more interesting and/or well known vocalists that death metal has given us throughout the years:
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