French progressive/indie/death metal band Supuration has posted a new video, “Ephemeral Paradise,” from its upcoming album Reveries…. This showcases the firm blend between alternative rock of the indie variety, death metal and grind, and progressive notions of concept albums and harmony that has propelled this band since its inception, and its peak with 1993’s The Cube.1 Comment
This live split contains two lengthy songs from Nan Elmoth and five more conventional ones from Maldicion. These two bands could not form a greater contrast: the prog-oriented, folk metal informed Nan Elmoth with long discursive songs, and Maldicion with fast gripping songs like Mayhem meets Terrorizer.
Nan Elmoth kicks the set off with “Unleash the King of Wolves.” This lengthy song shows what is good about this band and what it needs to work on. Nan Elmoth is confused in both genre, and trying too hard. This song mixed Graveland with folk metal and power metal influences, then tries to cram it into a lengthy death metal tinged song. Perhaps a better approach would be to synthesize those voices into one of the band’s own, and then to not use method as a substitute for content; let the content lead you to an epic song or lengthy instrumental if it can, but forcing it creates a disconnect. These songs hold up well with rhythm and repeated motifs, and stand as some of the more deliberately “pushing the envelope” in extreme metal at this. The next iteration may bring more fluidity and allow them to breathe a bit. Nan Elmoth covers wide ground on riffs and themes and pulls them all together in this song, and a longer second song, “Nan Elmoth,” in which the variation sometimes seems pro forma but some excellent riffs stand out. This fades out into somewhat repetitive violence and then segues into Burzum “The Crying Orc” for a hint at what the past wrought.
Maldicion takes over with its songs which are dark like Mayhem, and feature periodic powerful internal collisions, but mostly seem to be more in the vein of fast death/grind. The result generates a lot of energy, gives it mystique, and then leaves it hanging about half the time. Songwriting is more proficient than most of metal but it could use some editing to determine the parts sufficiently relate to one another. Nonetheless, the raw aggression and vitality of this band outpaces most of what underground metal is doing now. Together, these bands create a set that is varied and strong, and point to future evolution of their sound that could push them farther in the world of underground metal.1 Comment
Inspired by the buzzing Boss pedals of the Swedish death metal scene (and even featuring a cover of a track by Grave), Bloodstrike from Colorado has announced that their full length debut In Death We Rot will be released to the public on September 25th. Samples suggest a fairly basic, hardcore punk inflected recording that might come in handy at house parties. The band released the following press statement:
Combining the putrid licks & groove of early 90s Stockholm with the dark and cryptic delivery of early 90s death metal in the Midwestern United States, Denver, Colorado’s Bloodstrike are showing us what it means to truly redefine darkness with their first full length LP. Grave, Entombed, Dismember with a smattering of Bolt Thrower and early Obituary are all present here, so If you are searching for an old school sound in 2015, Bloodstrike is the answer.
After a head spinning (and splattering) demo in 2014, the quintet of metal veterans (having spent time in Silencer, Moth, and Havok to name a few) will not stop until the piles of rotten bodies their brand of death metal harvests, blot out the sun. If you prefer the ominous and rawer end of the death metal spectrum rather than what many of today’s studio wiz kids have to offer than look no further, Bloodstrike will be the best addition to your hall of suffering!!
Ryan Alexander Bloom | Drums
Artwork courtesy of the legendary Mark Riddick
“Soulless” written by Grave & released by Century Media Records 1994.
War metal was born when worship of Blasphemy, Zyklon-B, Sarcofago, Impaled Nazarene and Beherit merged with the newly-simplified post-Nordic black metal, but many of us noted that Blasphemy and Sarcofago in particular had more in common with their punk and grind ancestors than black metal as it evolved. Trench Warfare cuts to the roots of war metal by making grindcore with metal rhythms and intensity, and by breaking out of the stop-start patterns of most war metal produce an unrelenting assault that bears down with the intensity of full-bore death metal.
Perversion Warfare consists of three tracks which build high-energy primitive riffing in the Blasphemy style and expand to more traditional grindcore and death metal forms, commenting on the riff that forms the bulk of each song with a series of complementary and oppositional motifs that keep the momentum rolling through rhythm and pattern. Layered on this are urgent martial drums that comment extensively on the change in material, sort of like Destroyer 666 given a technical tune-up, and chanting defiant vocals which resemble a cross between Blasphemy, Blood and early Mika Luttinen. Songs do not relax the strident attack but do come to clear peaks and have a form shaped around that, which avoids the formless grindcore glaze-over that occurs with many bands attempting this style.
Three tracks do not give enough of an impression to tell where this band will go in the future, but it provides an insight into how they intend to make war metal both interesting and militant. Riffs here evoke Napalm Death and Immolation as often as Vulcano or Conqueror, and the way riffs comment on one another to build songs is more death metal than war metal, despite the general approach to riff-writing being more welcome to acknowledging its roots in grindcore and expanding upon them. The result is surging combat energy which creates a narrowed and critical view of the human experience, reducing our social pretense to the practicality of open battle, but infuses into that a delight in survival which — as with all good metal — gives life new meaning through darkness merging into light.No Comments
Thevetat (ex-Ceremonium) has unleashed its most recent record Desecration of Divine Presence on vinyl for metalheads who like the kind of immersive, cavernous death metal and black metal that Incantation, Profanatica and Immolation made famous. The band issued the following press release:
Another day to spread death! Clearly, it is evident this effort attracts a vile kind. Good deeds unpunished… Fellow wolves, send a message to this page for your orders.
Two color variations are available.
Experience the madness.
There is much minded from beasts. Ave Satani.
Some people need a reminder. “Desecration of Divine Presence” is available now and orders are being taken on this page. This is merciless death devoted to the end of the world. Make your desires known to the devil. Speak for the dead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AKA Unholy Cult II. I suppose it would be unreasonable to ask Cruciamentum’s full length debut after several years of formative demos, EPs, and a brief period of disunion not to be instrumentally refined and polished as crystal clear as death metal allows; I reference Immolation’s 2002 effort not because Charnel Passages is a clear aesthetic match for it (although both are more melodic than the usual straight-ahead DM while not quite qualifying for the “melodic” buzzword), but the sense of rising formulas that could very well strangle any band.
What bugs me most about Charnel Passages is that Cruciamentum is competent. The members know how to construct lengthy, relatively varied death metal songs that avoid the worst excesses of the random and nonsensical. This puts them far ahead of most of the disorganized or simply flat acts out there. Presumably, their study of various greats in the genre has taught them how to construct riffs, drum patterns, song sections from their various influences and recombine them as desired. While they lean primarily on the percussive, rhythmically complex style of the old New York death metal scene, there are tinges of so many other contributors to death metal scattered throughout. These are minuscule at best and don’t draw much attention to their incongruities unless the listener is actively searching for them. Ultimately, it works in the band’s favor, and these incorporated influences showcase them as knowledgeable musicians passionate about their beloved death metal recordings and able to assemble new tracks with no major flaws in their construction.
However, Charnel Passages fails to rise beyond this level of stewardship. It is as if they are so devoted to imitating the great moments of the past that they are unable to build off them. In the process of listening to this album for review, I was constantly bombarded with moments where I found a transition slightly jarring, a breakdown slightly overblown, a blasting section more out of obligation than of narrative strength. Were I less attentive, I would probably not notice these, but they would still gradually push me away and towards proven classics. As a result, while it probably meets the average listener’s standards and will force its way onto many a best-of list of 2015, I expect it to be condemned to obscurity in the long run, popping up occasionally in internet discussions of “lost gems of the 2010s”. If it weren’t so close to being a good record, this wouldn’t be as much of a tragedy.
To be honest, it’s possible I may end up giving Cruciamentum the benefit of the doubt in the long run. Critics have been known to double back on their old opinions from time to time, and considering its level of quality, Charnel Souls seems like the sort of album I could change my position on very easily.6 Comments
While the new last.fm redesign seems to me another exercise in pointless self-justification by middle management, the ability to see statistics on my listening has entirely changed how I view the music held closest to my heart. Seeing the numbers has shown me how it is one thing to list a band as a favorite or recommendation, and one far different animal to listen to it on a monthly basis. One is assessment alone, as if listening were your sole task, and the other utility, showing that this piece of music has a place in your life of many tasks and goals.
This assessment filters among the upper level of the highest echelon of metal. The assessment itself filters out the nonsense, all of which suffers from a single sin — disorganization — which takes many different forms but reveals a lack of will, purpose and principle in constructing art and always red-flags a directionless listen. But among those bands who have escaped the madness, there is no equality in listening. Some have risen and some have fallen over 20 years of pounding out metal from my speakers as I work or relax at home. In most cases, the reaction was first shock and then realization that the seeds of this knowledge were there all along. Let us look at a few pairs where listening habits elevated one album over a similar one…
Blasphemy Fallen Angel of Doom vs. Blood Impulse to Destroy
Over the years metal has frequently benefited from punk influences because metal, as befits its partially progressive rock heritage, has a tendency to create layers of abstraction and complex musical discourse where punk cuts to the chase. This is both a strength and weakness for each genre; metal is abstract, which makes imitators very obvious but can get lost in muddle-headed musical wanderings, and punk is concrete, which makes it effective but imitation easy. Blasphemy introduced a punk-based genre, grindcore, into black metal. It adopted the aesthetic approach of Sarcofago but underneath applied the percussive lower-five-frets texture musik of grindcore. The result is very effective, and easy to listen to, but also — if you have many other options — kind of boring. In fact, many of these riff patterns are the same ones, albeit simplified, that speed metal bands tried and failed to use to revitalize that genre. As raw motivational material, the music is fantastic, but over time, it fades a bit as one realizes that its strength as low-complexity high impact music also means that its content is one-dimensional. Over the past 20 years, I have thrown this record on five times and apparently terminated it early each time.
I chose Impulse to Destroy because Germany’s Blood also occupies the narrow space of grindcore bands who think like black metal or death metal bands. Grindcore generally self-reduces to extreme minimums and must, like junk food, reintroduce sugar and salt at the surface to spice up the otherwise one-dimensional utilitarian approach. Death metal on the other hand is not utilitarian, while it is consequentialist (“only death is real” being the ultimate statement of that belief) and yet also has a highly aesthetically-motivated but not aesthetically-expressed transcendental outlook. At its best, grindcore overcomes its utilitarian tendencies for a ludic or playful view of the collapsing world, and from that some of the best material emerges. Blood for example creates a dark and morbid absurdism which brings to light all that our society suppresses with itself, and like Blasphemy, creates it through patterning cut from the chromatic strips of the lower registers of guitar. In this case, however, the textures take on a life of their own, like a three-dimensional house made from flat punch-out cards. Different riffs interact with one another and dramatic pauses and collisions give rise to interesting song structures. Like Disharmonic Orchestra Expositions Prophylaxe, Impulse to Destroy provides a wealth of riff archetypes applied with enough personality and purpose to create unique compositions which may be enjoyed for decades or longer despite their simplicity.
Napalm Death Scum vs. Carbonized For the Security
This is one of those albums that most people get for the sake of novelty. “But check these guys out, they’ve got one second songs and stuff, it’s just about noise…” — rock music does not get more ironic than that. And ultimately, that was the power of grindcore. Like punk a decade before, it removed all the pretense of rock and boiled it down to simple songs. It then sometimes added in new flourishes of song structure which made those songs more interesting than radio pop, which had been studied by MBAs and PhDs and reduced to a simple formula distinguished only (barely) by rhythm, production, instrumentation and vocals. But once the money men and white lab coats were able to look at rock as a product like any other, they saw that to please enough people in the audience to make it a hit, they did not have to innovate at all. They only needed a new skin for the same basic patterns and they could produce it over and over again with high margins (well, until digital piracy hit). Like the punk rock and then hardcore punk, grindcore stripped away illusion and replaced it with innovation. The problem here is that these songs are very similar themselves because they rely on dramatic confrontation within each song, which like all things “turned up to 11” becomes expected and thus a sort of background noise. Every time I have listened to this album it has made itself into sonic wallpaper before the halfway point.
Some of the albums which were considered “also-rans” back in the 1990s had more to them than people initially considered. This one has been a favorite for me, along with the second album from Carbonized but not the third, for two decades. I listen to it regularly, finish the whole thing, and sometimes start it over. Record labels tried to shoehorn Carbonized into the “death metal” model despite some clear warning signs, and consequently bungled — the root of all evils is incompetence at some level, starting with the ability to be honest — the career of this promising band, but for those of us who lumped this in with aggressive grindcore like Terrorizer and Repulsion, the similarities outweighed the differences. For the Security expresses paranoia, existential insecurity, melancholic doubt of the future and a desire to explore all that life offers in depth, all within and as part of the same outlook. This is the music of a brighter-than-average teenager who perceives the world honestly and rejects the foolishness but wants to look deeper into the interesting stuff that, because it does not affirm the dominant lie, is rejected by the herd. Chunky riffs alternate with broader rhythms derived from punk and yet are dominated by a desire to make song structure vary with content inherited through metal from progressive rock. Each song forms a sonic sigil to the topic at hand and the response of the artist, making each bursting with personality and reality portrayed in finely-observed ways at the same time. This is a masterful album which will never bore.
As you can see, Dear Reader, these albums are both quite similar on the surface — and quite different underneath. That bands can do so much with a handful of power chords, and have such different outcomes, is endlessly fascinating. Yet not every metal-influenced album is, even among A-listers like these. It may be time for all of us to go back through our listening, search ourselves honestly, and see what has actually stood the test of time.18 Comments
In the run-up to its forthcoming full length, Texas cavernous death metal band Blaspherian has joined forces with In League With Satan to unleash a 7″ split on Blasphemous Art Productions.
The band issued the following statement:
BLASPHEMOUS ART PRODUCTIONS PROUDLY PRESENTS:
IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN / BLASPHERIAN
“Same” Split 7” EP
– 280g Jacket With Matt Lamination
– Black Vinyl
– Insert On 150g Art Paper
– Exclusive Songs By Each Band
– Limited To 500 Copies
– Released In Cooperation With Iron Bonehead Productions
Get Your Copy Now For 6,00 Euro + Postage.
For Orders and Infos, contact ONLY through E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Payment via PAY PAL / POSTE PAY.
Labels and Distributions get in touch for Trade.
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.5 Comments
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.8 Comments