Analysis of Demilich’s “When the Sun Drank the Weight of Water”

[Sections of this article by Jerry Hauppa].

The Finnish scene has spawned an impressive number of death metal giants, possibly the strongest overall scene with no band searching for shallow fame or popularity and each band exploring their own sound in complete artistic integrity and more often than not achieving powerful results. Though all these bands have captured the hearts and the imaginations of Hessians everywhere, one four-piece has managed to completely change the face of death metal. Releasing one album that elevated metal into being recognized as an intellectual genre in the eyes of the mainstream, so much so that the mainstream metal media fled from this album as no one could commercialize and democratize what was being played here, Demilich were unfairly pushed back into the underground when they deserved adoration from the masses.

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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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Metal Works as Stepping Stones

Until now, metal works (albums, EPs, pieces, etc.) have been regarded as products, even by those who would assume anti-commercial postures. Why this is so, why the underground metal community still sees albums as products and so judge them in that light, has to do with the history of metal as arising from the general rock business context. Black Sabbath as the foundational metal band followed this path and they were also the first metal band to sell out, though there never was much to sell out. In any case, they did not really know what they had and quickly devolved into rock-ized (standardized) “improvements” on the gold they had struck at first, instead of exploring those new sounds and ideas regardless of the commercial context, regardless of the business prospects (gigs, deals, etc.). We must understand, however, that the ideal of metal beyond rock, beyond trends and commercialism, only arose with the Mayhem cabal. Their commercial activities, it should be understood, were a means to something greater, as can be seen from the meticulous selection of albums that came under the auspices of Deathlike Silence Productions.

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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.

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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.

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Demilich Patches Available

The first official Demilich patches ever made are now available. Do you want to stick an official Demilich patch on your bag or battle jacket? Then buy them directly from the band and not some Greek, German, or South American bootlegger.

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