Pestilence Attempts Comeback But Forgets What Makes Death Metal Great

Listen to a track from the upcoming Hadeon from longstanding Dutch band Pestilence, one is immediately struck by the similarity to late-1990s Morbid Angel: the riffs are there, albeit a bit impatient and tightly circular, but the whole experience is not. What is missing? To understand this, we must go to the core of what made death metal what it is.

If you wanted to explain to a normal person what death metal is, looking at the core of its spirit, you might haul out Slayer Hell Awaits, Hellhammer Apocalyptic Raids, and Bathory The Return… because these influenced the techniques, composition, and spirit of death metal. From Hellhammer and Slayer, it got its song structure and aesthetics; from Bathory its themes and riff technique.

Death metal took the original idea of metal, formed when Black Sabbath and others began using power chords to make phrasal riffs instead of harmony-oriented open chord riffs, and developed it further. This is different than doing something “new” or “progressing” because it means undertaking the much harder task of developing an idea further at a structural level instead of just changing aesthetics.

With the rise of underground metal, death metal adopted chromatic riffing and made the interplay between riffs form a narrative to each song. This abolished typical rock song structure and, because the guitar served as a melodic instrument instead of a harmonic one, forced vocals, bass and drums into a background role. How well the riffs fit together and portrayed an atmosphere, idea, or sensation defined the quality of the music.

Pestilence came from a solid death metal background with Consuming Impulse but showed a speed metal styled approach on Malleus Maleficarum, and this tension has stayed with the band for its entire career. The speed metal style of verse and chorus built on a singular theme that is present in the music is easier to jam on and use harmony to complement, where death metal rarely explicitly states its theme, only silhouetting it in the interaction between its many riffs. With speed metal, bands can set up a chord progression and develop it in layers of internal commentary like jazz, and this puts vocals back in position number one among the lead instruments.

“Non-Physical Existent” is a two-riff song with both based on the same note progression. It creates its intensity through the clash between a ripping circular high speed riff and a slower chromatic riff that uses odd harmony to distinguish notes in an otherwise linear theme. The song breaks into a solo section over one of the riffs, and has a type of turnaround the drops into the faster riff as a return. But there is no real interplay nor any narrative.

From the riffs themselves, this is a good song, but unfortunately, it is not death metal. Nor will it last because essentially it is a closed-circuit video of itself, a riff commented on by another, without resembling any particular experience or emotion, therefore being a null journey, more like stasis in space while riffs loop. It is better than not bad, but still not of real interest to the death metal fan.

22 Comments

Tags: , , , ,

Defeated Sanity – Disposal of the Dead Dharmata

This band from Germany has been around in one form or another since the 90s.  Besides having a reputation as an under-rated act, they actively tour and record.  They are considered technical/brutal death metal.  I would probably count them as old school death metal.  Several releases are available, and it feels somewhat unfair to look at just one release and judge, but lets try.
(more…)

11 Comments

Tags: , , , , , ,

SHAARIMOTH Temple of the Adversarial Fire

Well crafted and nicely produced, Temple of the Adversarial Fire by Shaarimoth , appears to be a nice mixture of 90s black metal fun.  This is more in the epic vein, rather than underground sounding.  Lets face it: the first two songs are great.  There is a nice mixture of riffs and beats, with short phrasing.  It is a bit heavy on vocals. They can get tiring at points.  Bands I hear as influences here include Emperor, Morbid Angel, early My Dying Bride, and Bal Saggoth. Making my way through the album, song 3 leads with annoying vocals (minus 1 star), over a slower heavier riff.  In song 4, am waiting for the album to get its mojo back. It does, with a European blast beat that has a sick lower grinded guitar counterpart. A fun, evil Samael style rock riff emerges from that. Some of the vocals still are iffy, but the guitar playing is growing on me. Why is the album so choppy though?

(more…)

9 Comments

Tags: , , , , ,

Last Sacrament – Enantiodromia (2013)

Florida’s Last Sacrament are one of the rare contemporary bands that successfully captures the essence of old school death metal while developing a voice of their own in the process. While initial full length Enantiodromia has a few juvenile kinks to work out — the members are shockingly young — the record as a whole is a striking, confident foray through classic metal.

(more…)

20 Comments

Tags: , , , , ,

Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust (2016)

Gorguts is a band that for a majority of its career has resembled an act that is at war with itself artistically.  After a serviceable debut comprised of purely death metal notions and peaking with its most dense and progressive release in The Erosion of Sanity, the band chose to scale back its arrangements while imbuing its approach with a discordance that may have laterally trespassed its prior unsullied metal constructs but at the same time gave Gorguts an identity all their own.  With regards to their contemporaries, you cannot currently say a band “sounds like Gorguts” without indirectly focusing on the sound created on Obscura, and the band’s own knowledge of that most likely has controlled their writing ever since — to the detriment of their overall intents in each record from then on…

(more…)

23 Comments

Tags: , , ,

Underground Record Labels in the Year 2159

It is the year 2159. All the world’s capitols have been obliterated- save South America and Africa (the only continents free of nuclear weapons)- and humanity is no longer able to reproduce due to the over-manufacturing of sex-bots.  There had been three nuclear wars already, first of which involved USA and North Korea and the most recent involving Britain and Iran.  EMP’s and cyber-hacks had taken out the grid long ago, leaving only a strand of humanity left whose bodies could physically adapt to life without WI-FI.  Most of the main bands in the US which were based out of major cities perished as urban conditioning caused them to starve with no wherewithal to survive in the wild.  All that was left were rag tag bunches of malnourished but darkly inspired bands of street trash scavengers who roamed the land with metal detectors seeking alkaline batteries to power their equipment (though these were also needed to power their sex-bots).  Guitarists went back to using hand cranked Pignose amps, with vintage EV megaphones held in front to further amplify the vocals and guitars.
(more…)

12 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Poverty is the Price for Metal Stardom

The Talk:

Every metal musician needs to have “The Talk” at some point or another and for some of you, this will be that moment.  In the world of metal, “The Talk” is the soul crashing, dream obliterating conversation where one learns the valuable lesson that you can’t get rich playing extreme metal.  It’s heartbreaking and defeating but better learned sooner than later.  And since a young ambitious musician isn’t necessarily considering the logistics, lifestyle goals, etc. of their future before they drill on that pentagram neck tattoo, I want to make sure readers of DMU are abundantly clear on what to expect on the financial front when engaging in life as a touring musician.
(more…)

33 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Decapitated Proven Innocent!

As I predicted a few weeks ago with 100% accuracy all charges of rape, kidnapping, and sexual assault have been dropped against the four members of Decapitated.  The collateral damage done to the band is going to remain however as this news (published on a Saturday when little mind is paid to the news cycle) will surely receive significantly less buzz than the breaking story of their arrest, or the subsequent leftist metal media narrative that a guilty plea should be expected based on a ridiculous interview with some dingbat attorney who had absolutely no access to any of the evidence.  This will therefore result in many of the fans who have disowned them to continue believing them to be heartless rapists.  The band can expect extradition back to Poland soon, having very harshly learned a tough but important lesson.  This story is an important lesson to metal concertgoers and even more so to young metal musicians who will be touring or playing shows soon.  Let’s briefly examine how this story was treated by the liberal MSMM (mainstream metal media) and its fans, take a deeper look at the takeaways that can be learned from this unfortunate experience, and conclude with an open letter to the members of Decapitated I once shared a bottle of vodka with some years ago…
(more…)

21 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Demos and a Forsaken Future

“Dude, their demos were so much better” is one of the most obnoxious cliches of underground metal.  Usually a sign of virtue signaling used to mask one’s insecurities about their knowledge or taste, many lost souls of a nostalgia-obsessed age will use this one as a pale attempt to one up their brethren.  However in many cases within metal’s sonic sphere, bands that were truly fantastic on their early demos left much to be desired and ultimately left listeners unfulfilled.  Whether it be a record company’s influence, a change in heart or band members, or a touch of genius quickly fumbled away, may bands throughout the history of metal have never quite been able to match the quality of their demo recordings.

With death metal built on an entire sub culture of tape trading, demos were more than a proverbial foot-in-the-door to a potential record deal.  For musicians of the genre’s early days, the demo was the equivalent to having your record in the store- it was being shipped all around the world to fans desperate for something they couldn’t find in shops and to musicians hungry for new ideas.  Furthermore, a band’s demo was untainted by the direction and input of record labels who, in those days, quite often suppressed what was deemed “too weird” or “too extreme” as death metal was often determined by the suits of those days.  Tape trading death metal demos was an underground of its own, and your band’s demo tape wasn’t just a pathway to commercialization or musical success- but a often the start of new friendships in a rapidly globalizing world.  Given all of these unique factors, it’s no surprise death metal was full of bands who could never quite capture the magic of their demos.

To offer a complete list would be a dishonor and disservice to the legions of quality works that fall under this umbrella.  Therefore in today’s editorial, I will briefly offer a handful of my personal favorite death metal demos from bands that could never quite capture the magic.  Though I pay little mind to what happens in our comment sections, this will mark a special occurrence where I’d be delighted to know what DMU’s readers would have on this list.

(more…)

50 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,