Interview: Desecresy (2015)

A few weeks ago, the opportunity to interview Finnish band Desecresy presented itself. Having been a long-time fan of their three solid albums of old school death metal with melodic and doom-death touches, I leaped at the opportunity. Little did I know that I would be fortunate enough to speak to both members of this dark and intense band, Tommy Gronqvist who plays all instruments, and Jarno Nurmi who commands vocals. Nor could I know that Desecresy fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. I expected intelligent and challenging answers, and neither I — nor you, Dear Reader — will be disappointed. Read on for my interrogation of these musical mood-crafters from the dark Finnish woods and caves…

Desecresy was born in 2009, but both of you played in other bands previously. Why the change to Desecresy, and what did you intend to do differently in Desecresy?

Tommi: Starting up Desecresy I wanted to concentrate more in the songwriting and creating instead of live playing. That is why there was never full line up gathered for Desecresy since there is no real need to have a separate guy for each instrument. From the beginning it was clear that Desecresy was more about the mood and therefor the song structures on the first album were less complicated compared to the Death Metal I had worked on before. Desecresy was never meant to be a tribute band or plain old school/retro band. Towards recent times, I have been happy to see that there are people who seem to get that.

Jarno: Yes, there definitely seems to be more understanding nowadays that we, among some others, are not merely an old-school death metal band. I think the beginning was quite fluent because there was no need to find more musicians, though it naturally took some time to get into the new thing after finishing others. Maybe there was also a certain kind of counter-reaction to the schedules and struggles of a band that plays live like we did earlier but it has proved to be more than just a reaction and we’ve had the chance to work effectively and release albums without problems with members joining and leaving.

What does the name “Desecresy” mean, or where is it from? (It might be a neologism of “desecreation” + “heresy”?)

Tommi: You could also throw secrecy in that neologism. Of course Desecresy is not a “real” word so its meaning is more in the feel of it than an actual description. I think of it as something that lies hidden not yet revealed.

I think changes of the seasons and changes of light in particular effects the music in the north. I don’t only mean natural environments either. For instance, colossal concrete or metal structures such as industrial buildings, bridges, water towers etc. have a surreal feel of space and solitude that can also transcend to music.

Jarno: Yes and this idea of something hidden and unveiled has been one of the guidelines to me when considering the art of Desecresy and writing lyrics for example.

Your music is often described as doom-death, or slower death metal with doom metal influences. What doom metal bands influenced you? Were you inspired by nearby doom like Skepticism and Thergothon? What death metal influenced you? Did you have any other influences, including non-musical ones?

Tommi: The doomyness mainly comes from comparatively dropped tempo and the atmosphere, that is not so often searched by Death Metal bands. I haven’t listened much to the bands you mentioned. I do like some Doom/ Doom Death bands but to use them as reference of influence would be misleading. To mention some influential death metal bands I would say Abhorrence, Bolt Thrower, Demigod, Grave, Immolation, Incantation etc. I try not to be too much influenced by any particular band, so trying to make these lists always feels somewhat forced.

Non-musically the surrounding environment over all gives its own influence. I think changes of the seasons and changes of light in particular effects the music in the north. I don’t only mean natural environments either. For instance, colossal concrete or metal structures such as industrial buildings, bridges, water towers etc. have a surreal feel of space and solitude that can also transcend to music. “Infinite Halls” is one example of influence and inspiration from such surroundings.

Jarno: Surely playing death metal means we’re automatically influenced by at least some of the old bands, for example the ones Tommi mentioned but they are definitely only a part of the big picture. In the earlier years when playing in some other bands there was probably more will to sound like someone else or do something similar but not that much anymore. I have been a big fan of the Finnish death metal bands as well as the ones from the US and UK, for example Demigod, early Sentenced, Incantation, Immolation, Bolt Thrower and Benediction. Lot of black metal has influenced me, Burzum, Graveland, early Behemoth, Hate Forest, Ulver etc. I have to admit that I haven’t been following doom metal that much, only some early Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus.

I find non-musical inspiration from mythology and history as well as nature. Some easily noticeable traces of these are visible in the lyrical concepts of Desecresy, refering especially to Greco-Roman and Northern mythology but these are usually handled through interpretative and renewing process. Some experiences of everyday life do influence song-writing but in such subtlety that the songs or lyrics don’t lose their feeling of otherness or remoteness. Literature inspires me a lot, such as Hermann Hesse, Knut Hamsun, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley and many of the old masters of literature, poetry and philosophy.

Desecresy songs often make use of a single-picked rhythm lead melody over power chord rhythm guitar, which I compare to early Paradise Lost and the second part of Burzum “Key to the Gate” in a recent review. Were these influences? What prompted you to choose this musical direction? What do you like about it?

Tommi: I can’t really say those bands are influences to Desecresy, but similarities between bands don’t always come from direct absorption of influence. The similarities may be representative of where the bands are coming from musically and where they are going to. Even bands with different musical backgrounds may come to explore similar elements. Through Desecresy I want to search deeper to the dark and atmospheric feel without forgetting the core of Death Metal. This style works better for having memorable songs compared to some other forms of Death Metal (great in their own ways too) that concentrate on speed, technical maneuvering or just brutality.

Jarno: Early Paradise Lost and Burzum are both fine examples of highly inspiring and often atmospheric music that has depth in it and both have original feeling and mood in their releases. If we can speak of influences, attaining the atmosphere and depth with music is certainly something to seek and I believe in this sense some bands like Bolt Thrower and Demigod have also brought the realization that this kind of things can be done. I enjoy the certain seriousness there is in Desecresy and the strict concept of the art.

On Arches of Entropy, a death metal and Bolt Thrower-style grindcore sound can be heard. Why did you choose this style, and why did you migrate toward more Scandinavian death metal sounding material on The Doom Skeptron (more Abhorrence than Bolt Thrower)? (What inspired the title “Arches of Entropy”?)

Tommi: First of all, early Death Metal bands from Finland (which is not included in Scandinavia) such as Abhorrence, had different sound from the Swedish (Scandinavian) Death Metal! Sorry I’ll just step down from my soapbox here. I know what you mean by “Scandinavian.” Anyways… There was never an attempt to swing our style from one influence towards another. Merely to migrate towards our own sound. Every album is a counter reaction to the previous one, so some aspects are more present than others in each album. Probably that is why they may give different associations of bands to the listener. The title of the debut album refers to crypts containing the seeds of destructive forces.

Literature inspires me a lot, such as Hermann Hesse, Knut Hamsun, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley and many of the old masters of literature, poetry and philosophy.

Jarno: Arches of Entropy was the primitive beginning and I enjoy it as such. Raw and primitive, yet the mood and atmosphere is already there. The Doom Skeptron evolved a bit further and naturally Chasmic Transcendence was again a new step on this path. Interestingly the form of an arch has stayed visible in our album cover art for each of the first three albums and I’d like to think of this as a symbol of getting deeper in the original idea and bringing it into being. So the same “destructive force” has stayed there and has been looked at from different views without getting too much into one-sided naive and simple outlook at it.

As a two-person band, touring would be difficult. Do you have any plans to play live, and how would you pull it off?

Tommi: We haven’t been planning live sets, but I don’t want to restrain us by declaring that we would never do that. We would have to scratch up some kind of live session band to do it of course.

Jarno: As playing live is not among our priorities I think it would demand a very special occasion to ever do so. I don’t see it happening yet but who knows what the future might bring.

Much of your music seems to exhibit a contrast between death metal style interlocking riffing of an intensely structural nature, and atmospheric parts of a more relaxed and layered approach. What do these compositional techniques represent or what are they intended to do, and how does the contrast work in your songwriting?

Tommi: The use of those different approaches is there to create a mindset that is not aggressive or filled with pacified wonder, but somehow beyond those stages. That contrast is the biggest challenge in the music of Desecresy. Atmosphere is easily disturbed by structural changes in riffing and drum work, but Death Metal on the other hand often relies on the intensity of those changes. It is a guest to discover the philosopher’s stone to combine those elements to be simultaneously present in harmony.

On Chasmic Transcendence, there seem to be some influences from newer styles of metal, but adapted to the old school ways. What were these influences, and how did you put them into your own musical language so to preserve the old school feeling?

Tommi: Chasmic Transcendence is an album that could not have been recorded in the early 90s, and our goal was never just to repeat what was done back then, even though we are influenced by bands of that era. Again it is impossible to point some specific influences that would have been used to increase the modernity of the album. Everything I have ever heard influences what I come up with. What matters is how those influences are harnessed to create something new.

Jarno: It’s difficult to point out what influences the album holds in itself and I’m also a bit afraid of over-analyzing our work publicly. I feel it’s like a result of everything that was done to that point during the existence of Desecresy. It couldn’t have been done in the early 90s but it’s also an album that couldn’t have been done by any other band either.

Your songs are highly distinctive individually, but also seem to work together as an album of similar themes and related ideas. Do you “design” albums as a whole according to a plan or concept, or does this similarity come from other factors? What effect do you think it creates?

Tommi: The songs are first worked with separately but later, as there is more material and the lines of the album begin to form, there will be consideration of how much of which elements should be presented in each song. Certain similarity within the songs keeps the album whole. Jumping around too much between styles and states of mind only creates a tasteless mishmash.

Chasmic Transcendence was selected by DMU as one of the best of 2014. Your other albums belong on best of lists for their respective years as well. Are you getting the amount of fan attentiveness you hoped for? Is it difficult for original acts in metal at this point in time? Why?

Tommi: We have noticed that Chasmic Transcendence was included in your list and some other best of 2014 lists as well. It is gratifying to get that kind of recognition! I am so used to negative feedback that it has been a pleasant surprise to me. I think we are getting enough fan attentiveness. Things shouldn’t be too difficult for any band these days unless they are motivated by money or some rock stardom fantasy.

Atmosphere is easily disturbed by structural changes in riffing and drum work, but Death Metal on the other hand often relies on the intensity of those changes.

Jarno: I have been very happy to receive all the positive words and feedback from deathmetal.org and from people who contact us via email or facebook etc. It feels like we have received more attention after Chasmic Transcendence and of course it takes years of work to build up some reputation and we’re still relatively unknown. Yet I know we’re not really making it easier at all for people to find out about Desecresy as we don’t tour and don’t promote aggressively and to many we’re probably not the easiest music to listen to and get into. I think that healthy amount of elitism is needed and I am quite happy how things are slowly progressing.

Do you have plans to develop your musical style in different ways, such as longer songs, instrumental songs or more technical elements? Have you ever considered experimenting with longer melodies like Summoning?

Tommi: Maybe there will be longer more technical songs or maybe there will be shorter more primitive songs, or both. The songs form in the process. There can’t be that specific plan before hand of what will come. There may be longer melodies heard in the future but the repetition of a shorter melody is a deliberate choice in Desecresy songs.

Speaking of those leads I have a little bone to pick about that in depth analysis of Chasmic Transcendence on deathmetal.org. There was some complaint about the monotonous and simplistic use of lead guitars and how they are linked to the other parts of the songs. Desecresy‘s guitar leads are not meant to launch to some traditional ballad guitar solo wanking! They are meant to be minimalistic and nihilistic. Their purpose is not to be sentimental, but to set a certain stoic mental state.

Jarno: Some want us to be more aggressive and brutal, or more melodic or epic or faster or whatever but it would turn us into completely different band if we followed suggestions that people write in the internet. Yet experimenting on what works with Desecresy and what does not is certainly an on-going process but I’d say there is a certain artistic ideal for Desecresy and straying from that wouldn’t possibly bring good results. Anyway, as long as it’s reasonable and the purpose is clear I think there’s still a lot possibilities for songs that are for instance longer just like on the Chasmic Transcendence we had mostly shorter songs.

When you compose songs, what do you start with (a concept, an image, a riff, a melody, a structural idea)? When do the vocals and lyrics come in? How do you know when a song is “ready” for release?

Tommi: The composition of a Desecresy song can start with any of the things you mentioned. Lyrics and vocals come in at stage where other instruments are recorded and songs are other wise some what complete. There are sometimes changes made to the songs at the very last stage of the process. Eventually you just have to let go of the songs and the album and call it a day. That is surprisingly difficult mentally after a year or so of working on them.

Many claim the internet killed the death metal underground. Is this so, in your view? How is the underground doing? Does it still exist?

Tommi: In some ways the internet has killed the underground as it was defined in the pre-internet time, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure you don’t need as much commitment anymore when anyone can find and listen to some obscure bands with just couple of clicks. On the other hand, since you don’t need to belong to a specific social circle to find those bands, more individuals have a possibility to find something great by their selves regardless of their connections. I also think that in the end, the underground metal is and always has been a bit vague term.

One could claim that something like Finnish Death Metal of the early 90s for instance could not have happened if there had been internet at the time, because there would have been too much world wide interaction restraining some initial characteristics to appear. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. I am sure however that without the internet, many of those bands would be unknown to most of the people that now are aware of them — including me.

We have just finished our fourth album called Stoic Death, which will be out somewhere in the future, so keep an eye open for that!

Jarno: I don’t always know what people mean when they speak of the underground. I am not at all interested in every shitty band that there is trying to gain some underground reputation, yet I think most of the interesting bands that I listen to are part of the underground. In the past it was more difficult to find the right bands for yourself as you might not get much information from anywhere. Nowadays it’s probably equally difficult to find the bands because the internet is overflown with music and things to hear and it’s just too easy to become deaf and numb. The good side is that you can find interesting things by yourself without getting in touch with all the stupid people hanging around in the scene.

I think people easily accept bands that are not doing anything interesting after all and the internet gave every band almost equal possibilities to gain attention which is nowadays easily achieved if you have a funny or stupid idea of how to market your band to the audience. Some years ago some people could just call their new band religious or orthodox black metal and attain a mysterious image and the attention was guaranteed. Of course such deception will never last long but it always hinders the things that later on turn to be the most important things of a certain period. This is probably how it has always been and will be and somewhere beneath the hype and superficial facade the underground is doing just fine.

I know you both have day jobs and normal lives. What is your practice schedule like, and how does Desecresy fit into your lives? Are your families and friends (and jobs) accepting of what you do?

Tommi: I have not been condemned to hell by anyone I know this far.

I do kind of keep my band activities to myself because there isn’t much reason to share that with people who are not into it. As we don’t have a line up to play live, we don’t really practice together. I work on the instruments and record them. After that Jarno records his vocals.

Jarno: I think friends as well as other acquaintance have been quite supportive. I don’t speak much of my views or interests with my family or colleagues, though, and after all I’m not really interested if they support them or not. Schedule-wise it’s sometimes a bit complicated but I think we’ve had quite steady progress and not as much trouble as there could have been had there been a full line-up to rehearse with.

How do you achieve your distortion? What technique do you use to make your albums sound subterranean but clear and loud without being overpowering like some modern productions?

Tommi: Distortion mainly comes from Line6 über metal distortion pedal and the original Boss Heavy Metal II (Japan version). I don’t want to bore anyone with more details, nor do I want to give out the secrets of the trade, so to speak. I think there is a bit of home distillery side flavor in the Desecresy sound that much of the modern productions lack.

What’s next for Desecresy — are you writing material, thinking up ideas, and/or plotting world domination? If people want to know more about Desecresy, what should they do? Will you ever tour Texas and help us shoot guns, drink beer and wrestle alligators?

Tommi: Well that tour seems unlikely and from what I hear Texans don’t need help shooting guns or wrestling alligators! But as Finns we could extend a helping hand towards that beer. I know I like draining Budweiser down my throat! Or maybe there’s some more local Texas beers, I don’t know..

We have just finished our fourth album called Stoic Death, which will be out somewhere in the future, so keep an eye open for that! We are working on that world domination but meanwhile you can contact us in desecresy@hotmail.com or through desecresy@facebook.com.

I guess that’s all from me. Thank you for the interview! Appreciate your interest!

Jarno: Though we don’t tour or play gigs I do encourage someone to book us somewhere on the other side of the globe just to have some beers, I wouldn’t mind! Meanwhile I hope The Stoic Death will be out as soon as possible! Thank you for the interview and your great work with Death Metal Underground!

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Erik Rutan and Steve Tucker Issue Warfather Album Studio Update

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Warfather has issued a studio update on the progress of the band’s as-of-yet-untitled sophomore album. Rhythm guitars, drums and bass tracks are completed. Vocals should be finished soon.

Warfather ‘s Steve Tucker (Morbid Angel) had this to say about the album’s progress:

“Working with Erik Rutan on this record is both an honor and an amazing experience. Erik knows death metal better than any producer or engineer on this planet! He knows how to get the best performance out of everyone who steps through Mana Recording studios’ doors. A true professional and a Legend!”

Producer Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal, ex-Morbid Angel) added:

“Recording with Steve and the guys on the new Warfather album has been fantastic! It has been a blast to be working on this monster album in the studio once again with my great friend and former band mate. The songs are heavy as hell and just outright awesome. We have some great tones and performances and I’m really excited about the whole process. We have just finished all the drums, bass and rhythm guitars. The massive foundation has been formulated. Now it is time to start vocals and solos and onward to the mix!”

www.facebook.com/pages/WarFather/240931366011521

Review of Warfather’s Orchestrating the Apocalypse

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Blood Urn – …of Gory Sorcery and Death (2014)

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Blood Urn is a death metal project whose approach to the genre is one that can reinvigorate it while being very traditional. Superficially, a listener who only glances over the surface of …Of Sorcery and Death may incorrectly say this is an old school album, a modern euphemism for retro-acts or merely those who do not play the metalcore-based so-called technical death metal. It is true that this is an old school release, but only in the sense that it upholds the same ideals of the best of that era, including certain preferences in aesthetics as a reflection of an inner attitude — an idea that stands in contrast with the superficial selection of genres and expressions of modern bands that wear style as a change of clothes to pose as something they are not.

If we made the mistake of approaching this distinction like most clueless people do, that is, with a shopping list of the aesthetic characteristics that usually accompany a genre in order to identify it, we would definitely arrive at the same conclusions. That is why premises are as important as having good logic. Wrong premises and good logic only lead you safely to wrong conclusions. But if we start with the premise that those aesthetic characteristics are only the reflection of a spirit which is much more than intention or purpose but also crystallized significance, we will recognize that the shopping-list approach is at best a collection of hints and not a concrete definition.

Blood Urn …Of Sorcery and Death is a death metal (‘old school’ death metal is the only one, with various regional styles) album in the truest sense. A death metal at heart and in representation. The expressions that seem typical of death metal are used here in what can be accurately described as progressive without incurring in the fallacy that all disparate appending of music qualifies as such.  In accordance with death metal tradition, music builds up through structural devices: mainly through variation and manipulation of theme with a climax and a clear musical goal in mind for an end.  By musical goal we mean one as defined by traditional classical theory, not by the “good intentions” of the music writer. Intention and realization are two different and distinguishable things, something relativists and individualists would do well to keep in mind.

While varied in expression, Blood Urn manages to remain fairly coherent, choosing to tie different textures in a mix that also incorporates the riff-salad approach. In this, it is somewhat similar to the way Horgkomostropus Lúgubre Resurrección builds in a very typical death metal push and pull between structural theme-play and variation and contrasting ideas that are brought gradually into the fold, first as a splash of cold water to the listener and then in gradual integration through interleaving and recombination of sections and themes. It is important to say that in good death metal fashion, the limit of the contrasting ideas does not break away from the chosen style, which is the sin of many a pseudo-prog outfit. This conjoined approach of dealing structural development from a theme with one and then riff-salad with the other only to increasingly interleave them and sometimes ultimately fuse them into altogether different endings can be referenced in masterful albums such as At the Gates’ The Red in the Sky is Ours and is also the approach of Blood Urn to music composition, albeit with a much more humble and less-layered result.

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The economics of metal evolution

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The DLA/DMU has taken flak over the years for being unwilling to embrace new trends, but this criticism forgets that we also avoided endorsing older bad ideas. Our writers have generally avoided jumping on the bandwagon for the “trve kvlt” just as much as the new, millennial-friendly indie-rock version of metal. The reason we can do this is that we apply a simple quality standard instead of using the consensus of others to determine truth.

Despite having many editors, each of whom had somewhat varied opinions on the process, if viewed on the large scale the site has kept a generally consistent opinion. That is: some of the so-called classics are good, and few of the new school releases are good, but the determination is not made by category, but by analyzing each release on its own merits. This leads to sudden shock for some who expected us to be cheerleaders for anything that seems to “uphold the true spirit of the underground,” and dismay for those who like the newer material as release after release fails our test.

Metal is in a slump and has been since 1994, in quality. Correspondingly, it has been in a boom in terms of quantity of fans. We have more “metalheads” (cough) now than ever before. However, anyone who is not in denial — and most are — can tell you that quality has fallen off dramatically. The music has lost its energy, its nerve and its insight and been buried under a wave of bands that are either obedient and docile system products, or slaves to the underground record-collecting audience that does not care about quality so long as the aesthetics of previous generations are preserved. Both groups unfortunately are useful idiots for industry, which can keep producing low-cost clone bands and reaping the profits.

We discard bands for two reasons: not being metal, and not being good. The bands that are simply not good tend to have the most fans, ironically. Who among us can claim that, for example, Blazebirth Hall bands and Drudkh offered anything musical or artistic to metal? They cloned Graveland in a light and breezy melodic form that is essentially music for children. In the same way we refuse to celebrate underground “favorites” that consist of ranting and disorganized music like Sepulchral Aura, or avantgarde prog fanboy-bait like Fanisk and Deathspell Omega.

In addition, we discard that which does not uphold the artistic, intellectual and philosophical spirit of metal. There is quite a bit of overlap here with “not being good.” We would not endorse Cradle of Filth; nor would we endorse Opeth, back in the day, or Cannibal Corpse, on the basis that they were essentially rock bands trying to assimilate metal and thus produced a moronic mindset. Similarly Pantera and to a lesser degree, Anthrax. Back in the day we thought SOD was inferior to Cryptic Slaughter, DRI, and Corrosion of Conformity. We refused to endorse Wolves in the Throne Room, Animals as Leaders, Gojira, Mastodon and other indie-rock pretending to be metal. We ignore Pelican and all stoner doom bands because they are boring and terrible. This music is distraction from metal, not metal, but its fans make a big show of being “very metal,” which tells you exactly what they are hiding and deflecting your attention from.

This approach wins us zero friends in the short term, but trusted readers in the long term. People — especially those who lead purposeful lives and do not have lots of time, nor enjoy, combing through catalogs and blogs trying to figure out which 1% of the reviews are not lies — like getting the low-down on quality metal. They enjoy that moment of discovery when they find something really good, something they can listen to not just this week and six months or a year from now, but for future decades. That is ultimately the standard by which any music fan operates; they like music, so they veer toward the best, not just at a level of mechanics (technicality) but artistically, or its relevance to the ongoing philosophical and moral maturation of humankind. Most of humanity likes mediocrity or at least convinces itself that it likes those bands. After all, Third Eye Blind has sold more records than most segments of the metal genre. But popularity — whether among credulous hipsters or gormless mass media fans — has never determined quality. Consensus is not reality. Only reality is reality, and we make our best stab at it.

With that in mind, you may ask: why write negative reviews? The answer may surprise you. We seek to give music fans the intellectual tools they need to fight back the onslaught of Opeth, Pantera, Ulver, Cradle of Filth, Meshuggah, Vattnet Viskar, Cannibal Corpse and Deathspell Omega styled bands. We use both positive and negative examples to illustrate, to the best of our ability, what metal is and which approaches to it have produced the quality level necessary for prolonged listening. This puts us at odds with most metal journalists, for whom writing is a day job and as a result, is interpreted as endless enthusiasm for whatever is new and exciting because the consensus likes it. They are essentially advertisers because they are writing ad copy about these bands, not a look into what makes their music function. It is designed to make you buy music, because journalists who can sell music get famous and become editors. You will notice that major publications run almost no negative reviews. Why is that, you might ask? Because their job is to sell music, not review it, even if they call it “review.”

In all human endeavors our social impulses, which because we are selfish beings are actually self-interested impulses translated to altruism to flatter and manipulate others, override any sense of quality or purpose. The task ceases to become the task and becomes the process of creating the appearance of results instead of results; bands stop trying to be good, and focus on replicating what has worked before in new forms. The “best” (by consensus) bands “sound” different on the surface, but musically are extremely similar, because that formula has worked in the past. That is a social impulse: make what people like because it does not challenge them and makes them feel smart, profound or at least “with the crowd” to be listening to it. This social impulse has ruined metal since 1994.

Metal thrives — as it did during the mid-70s, early 80s and early 90s — under two factors: (1) it is ignored by most people, so it is free from the manipulations of those who want to sell rebellion-flavored rock to morons, and (2) it has some truly great artists to kickstart it and establish a standard. The former is self-evident, but the latter can be explained as follows. When early Norse black metal came out, it set a standard of quality and allowed fans, by simply choosing to spend their money on what was more rewarding, to exclude bands that did not meet that standard. Why would you buy Forgotten Wolves when you can get Darkthrone? Why would you pick up another speed metal clone when you can have top-quality death metal? Metal thrived when it was elitist, closed-minded and viciously competitive. Now that it has become a group hug, quality has suffered and no one seems to have noticed. Except us — and we are watching.

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Blaspherian to release next album on Dark Descent Records

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Roaring subterranean primitive occult death metal band Blaspherian have signed to Dark Descent Records and plan to release their yet-untitled next album on that label in 2016. Comprised of eight tracks of Satanic blasphemy, the new album follows up on the Imprecation/Blaspherian split showing an increasingly focused style for this primeval band.

Blaspherian released the following statement:

By the blessing of SATAN, and the blasphemous pride we are excited to announce that BLASPHERIAN will be working with Dark Descent records, for our next full length release.
This full length will feature 8 tracks of old school SATANIC DEATH METAL….and is slated for a 2016 release….

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Festering – From the Grave (2015)

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Most of us now forget how much of the early death metal experience was shaped by the speed metal story arc: starting in 1983 as a rebellion against the glam explosion of hard rock, it re-metalized NWOBHM with more complex riffs using the muted strum to expand rhythm, and then promptly began selling out. Most fans got queasy when Metallica came out with Master of Puppets, but there are other culprits to just as easily finger. The point is that everything sells out in humanity when it gets exposes to the masses because the masses demand the same old crap in new form, instead of new ideas deviating from the same old crap, and that took down speed metal, which caused death metal bands to try to be more aesthetically extreme.

“How would you ever sell out this?” a friend asked once when I was listening to Incantation. My response to him was that aesthetics does not correspond to composition. I can take a Justin Bieber song, translate it to guitar and transpose it to a lower key, then play it with lots of tremolo picking, guitar squeals and crunchy power chords, doubling the tempo and adding distorted vocals. To most people, that will be “death metal.” To a death metal fan, it is a sheep in the clothing of a wolf. Death metal is not its aesthetic traits alone; those exist to aid the composition, which is (1) phrasal with complex song structures to support (2) collective without individual superstars (3) emphasizes cadence and melodic development over off-beat, quirkiness, ironism, etc. Death metal is musically distinct from rock and blues, themselves only a simplification of European music from the past century with a false label of African-American origin added to sell them as “unique” and “different,” which makes it one of the few genres which is not fake in all of popular music. Accept what you know to be true: popular music is just as fake as Big Macs, Cokes or reality TV. It has always been fake because it has always been a product with a conveniently oddball but totally untrue history. If you have heard the music of the African coast, you realize it is far more complex than the limply distilled methods of rock and blues. Similarly, European folk music had much more going for it than country or rock. Death metal threw all of this back in their faces, and their revenge was to sell it out. This does not involve evil indie rock musicians creeping into death metal band studios late at night to covertly record disguised rock themed as death metal; rather, it involves the transmission of social memes and attitudes about what constitutes death metal, which then lowers the bar so “everyone” can participate. At that point, you get the same old crap dressed up as a revolution.

Festering, on an aesthetic level, is perfect for death metal fans. It sounds like Swedish death metal played with the rhythmic precision of speed metal. It has gnarly vocals, great distortion, and uses the right techniques: it layers each new riff, applies tremolo in the right pattern to introduce secondary ideas as new primaries, and drifts into tempi at about the right pace to have cadence. But it also works in the static-style rock riffs, the cheesy color notes as the basis of riffs from the blues, and the constant off-beat that sounds to me like a labrador running with its tongue out of its mouth. Not to mention the constant verse-chorus song structures that remind me of Bruce Springsteen. In short, this band is a well-executed forgery that conceals rock within death metal, and so while I want to like it for aesthetic reasons, the music itself remains unsatisfying and leaves me with a queasy feeling. Good effort that should be avoided by all death metal fans, but rock fans weekending as death metallers should love it.

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Cianide – Death, Doom and Destruction (2015)

cianide - death doom cover

Earlier in the Coffins review, it was mentioned how that band was little more than a superficial imitator of bands like Cianide, and that apart from imitating the same types of riffs, achieved little in the way of communication. This has everything to do with how a piece of music is organized. It is is not in the riff itself but the relationship between riffs and in how, in relation to each other, they sketch a landscape. Cianide understands this, Coffins and the multitudes of third-rate imitators do not.

While the tag of “doom” is attached to Cianide, it is only right to call them death metal. Period. A death metal band that sometimes plays in relatively slow tempos using completely diatonic schemes. This is strongly reminiscent of Black Sabbath, which were dubbed “doom” only in hindsight after later acts like Saint Vitus or Witchfinder General. Both of these bands just play simple heavy metal in a style that emphasizes the weight of riffs. Being the talented musicians they are, their song-construction is fluent and their parts inter-related. This goes without saying when it comes to good metal. The term “doom” only makes sense as a genre tags for acts such as Skepticism, Worship or Thergothon which definitely do not follow a death metal or a heavy metal template but operate on entirely different “ideological” (so to speak, but not politically, rather, artistically) premises.

In Death, Doom and Destruction, Cianide bring a more mobile conception of their particular style that emphasizes the dynamics afforded by their mid-paced trudging that allows them to waiver between heavy-trudging riffs ala Celtic Frost and faster tremolo-picked passages. Compared to their early work, this newer album is slightly simplified at the riff-level, although the construction has suffered little deterioration that this listener can perceive. The songwriting skills that allow them channel the rhythmic and harmonic impulse of one section onto the next and to trace a roller-coaster-like curve in the course of these musical pieces is stronger than ever. If anything, I would call this a condensed Cianide.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hj8SAYBUG4

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Coffins – Craving to Eternal Slumber (2015)

hhr2015-13 coffins - craving to eternal slumber

While acts such as Immolation, Suffocation or Vader are routinely and falsely accused of making the same unchallenging album all over every few years without bringing anything to the table, this judgement is much more accurate when directed at a band like Coffins. While the attack leveled on the former bands is merely a lack of appreciation of the subtlety of the progression (in their early career) and latter downfall (mostly after the year 2000) of bands that were never stagnant but rather extremely consistent in their trajectory, in Coffins we find a band presenting Cianide-like doom-death cliches in a string of riffs that have no head, no tails, no climax, but rather a sequence of pleasing moments for the fan of the style.

These Japanese death metallers started this project right during the start of the worse decade for metal, the decade when all progress was dead and which had, apart from a few respectable echoing the remains of a golden era ten years in the past, a penchant for completely empty and lavishing parading of style cliches. Four full-length albums and a billion demos, EPs, and splits into their career, and Coffins still does not have a sound of its own. In them we can hear Cianide, and echos of other bands (but most Cianide). There is absolutely no trace of something that belongs to them. In fact, when played back to back with the aforementioned underground classic one wonders if Coffins’ release isn’t just an uninspired album by the first band.

Cult classics are usually (but not always) “cult” — that is having a very particular and reduced audience that listens to them almost as a guilty pleasure or with a fanatical eye for a very special reason — because they are not very good to begin with. Their is the underground, and then there are the “cult” bands. We can not apply the same rule to every band, but a good rule of thumb is: they did not make it for a reason, and they also became cult for a reason. In the case of Coffins, it is just a very faithful superficial imitation of cliches of the genre, which pleases all those looking for the exterior fascination but who apparently perceive very little of the progress of a music piece and what it has to communicate. Any serious death metal fan would do well to avoid losing their time with this passing bland piece of junk.

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Horgkomostropus – Lúgubre Resurrección (1995)

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Formed in 1991, Horgkomostropus was a death metal band hailing from the unlikely land of Honduras, in Central America. Unlike virtually every other band coming from that the area, this band actually proposes something of other own.  This music is not only several pegs above the vast majority of music in Central America, but it is also, in my view,  a strong contender in the death metal world of the 1990s. That is not to say I would place Horgkomostropus besides a Morbid Angel, but perhaps above a Demigod and below the Amorphis of The Karelian Isthmus in terms of its artistic (merit in composition, in part) weight.

The style displayed on Lúgubre Resurrección (or Ingubre Resurrecciòn?) is akin to that blood-dripped death metal that slurs in a development of motifs thematically related and played through tremolo passages and power chord statements. Perhaps best described as an original and distinct-sounding follower of the styles in which Paul Ledney excels, this album strikes one as something that Gorguts’ Considered Dead could have been if it were not only the tongue-in-cheek musically-compelling banner of death metal it is.

There is something to be said about the place and time in which this work arose and what we can infer from it in terms of the band’s seriousness, commitment and perhaps its correlation with talent. During the 1990s, Central America was practically without the means to professionally produce music in general, let alone publish metal. Any metal band that would remotely hope to publish its music had to reach out for Mexico. To someone from a developed nation, this may seem like no big deal, but considering the Internet-less “Third World” of the time, this is cannot be taken lightly. In such inhospitable climate, how did a Central American death metal band get their demo/album out there? I am guessing this people had to be in the “mailing” circuit of the underground.

The band was able to get their first demo,  Lúgubre Resurrección, out through Line America Productions, from Mexico. Needless to say, in these conditions, the commitment of the band against adversity and the complete lack of any possible material compensation reflects a disinterested sacrifice for art with a deeper meaning. Furthermore, given the limited resources and the difficulty of communication and publishing for death metal at the time and specially in the geographical area, the degree of talent needed to catch the attention of one of these very small labels that only supported very specific acts with equally uncommon mentality and faculties was by no means something to be overlooked.

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Horgkomostropus’ Lúgubre Resurrección is an esoteric work that in later projects by the band leader and lead guitar player, Fernando Sánchez, would turn to purposefully veiled occult affairs like Aria Sepvlchralia. As has been proposed before, a clear theme or belief that a project holds as its ideal usually lights a candle in the dungeons of the mind that one has to walk in in order to bring together a composition. Most bands we hear out there are zombies who are still wandering there, too deluded and trapped in their own minds to even recognize their condition.

Lúgubre Resurrección shines forth dark light in a mixture of demonic-bent death metal with a black mentality influenced by the local styles of street-dirt heavy metal that prevailed in Latin America at the time, themselves a pure expression of the violent, desperate and decadent situation that was being ignored by Christian wishful-thinkers and hypocritical morals-mongers. Beautifully perverse thematic development occurs in these songs with such a strict adherence to a clear motif that it allows for a greater flexibility in the textures of the riffs, which are always kept in the style of early blasphemous death metal that emphasized a dirty sound, not on the level of production only, but the musical statements themselves: not atonal, but tonal phrases just given the necessary twist for an aura of perversion to be perceived encroaching on everything from above. This is the natural world before us, but there is a supernatural transgression taking place over it.

(P.S. Special thanks to the guy from Metal Honduras blog for keeping a profile and mp3s of the band that would allow me to discover this, if I may so myself — a recently converted and now fervent fanatic, invaluable gem. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Metal-Honduras/217812037969)

Horgkomostropus MP3s

The following is

An orchestral piece based on “Lúgubre Resurrección”, originally written by S:E:Nctvm for Horgkomostropus (Death Metal) in 1996.

Performed & Arranged by: S:A:Ph with insight from S:E:Nctvm (2011),

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