Autopsy released a single from Skull Grinder today, giving me an opportunity to taste something of what the album might be like. If “Waiting For The Screams” is any indicator of upcoming content, this album is going to be overtly influenced by traditional style doom metal. Much of its runtime is given over to shouted vocals over slow, relatively consonant riffs reminiscent of Black Sabbath, interspersed with some passages of more standard death metal riffing more like what I’d expect from Autopsy. The band claims not to have made any stylistic changes, but this sounds to me like a more accessible and melodramatic Autopsy than the one that produced Severed Survival and Mental Funeral. I guess we’ll see what the full album is actually like.
Review by Maxton Watchurst
Taphonomy is the study of fossilization. Interesting that a death metal band would utilize this in their lyrics.
Hailing from Pennsylvania, Taphos Nomos is a very young band that comes hammering with their lyrically-fitting brand of death metal on their 2015 EP West of Everything Lies Death; the music takes on a very dry and decaying atmosphere, which feels just as if the music itself were slowly and painstakingly fossilizing. Besides the aesthetic it generates, the instrumentation itself shows clear influence from both Incantation (whilst thankfully staying away from the usual ‘cavern-core’ cliches) in addition to bands from the Swedish scene such as Unleashed and Grave. The clean vocals and some accentuation in the melodies are reminiscent of what one would find in ‘traditional’ doom metal bands. An interesting combination, but does it come to a cohesive whole? Thankfully, yes. It’s not the utmost zenith of creativity, but it’s a satisfactory style nonetheless.
Across the entire work, the music develops in ways that are decently dynamic; despite there not being many distinct instances of interplay between the members, there is a sense of momentum generated that keeps the overall musical narrative flowing. Canyon Shifter (real name Nick L) is generally the source of the interplay on this release. To elaborate, his layered guitar work (multiple voices, not pointless aesthetic walls) makes use of recurring themes to advance the narrative of the music in addition to having a clear idea as to how to build tension, especially in the case of some sections where the various melodic voices build some basic yet effective polyphonic phrases. That being said, there are some parts that hold back the music from flourishing. Taphos Nomos’ sense of rhythm doesn’t match the momentousness of the guitarwork. This doesn’t mean that the rhythm section cannot keep up, but when listening to this EP, it’s clear that your focus is going to be directed solely towards the melodic aspect.
The overall result is somewhat memorable, but with the previously stated issues, it becomes evident that only certain aspects stay in mind post-listen. The music’s quality itself may not be truly exceptional, but in both competence and stylistic integrity, Taphos Nomos show clear signs of potential on West of Everything Lies Death.
Vociferian comes to us from the European sprawl through members who are originally French, but now reside in Belgium, and make a type of death metal/rock hybrid that rumbles in the right places but never really gets enough direction beyond drone to make a point. The songs do not ramble, but also never reach that moment of really wrapping around what the riffs have unleashed and transforming it into a new energy. In addition, many of these riffs are clever variations of very well-known types, which makes one wonder what is being said.
Although the band lists “crust” along with its other influences, the main focus here is droning doom metal of the hard rock variety, more like Crowbar and Sleep than Neurosis or Amebix. Unlike funeral doom bands like Skepticism, the songs do not gain momentum from the increasing layers of atmosphere but move in a circular pattern much like Sleep Holy Mountain. The result is a pleasing veneer on background sounds of collapse with more aggression than most of these bands can muster, wandering into sludge territory with rock/punk patterns.
Princess of Violation presents an album that falls far from bad, and has some interesting twists, but for death metal fans will not be internally varied or purposeful enough to seek again. Like most music, it has found a method without a cause, and so while this band scrupulously avoids randomness or wandering, never gets to its end point. Now that Vociferian has mastered its basic style, one can only hope for greater expansion of content and internal dialogue for the next work, as that would give this fertile style the power it needs to cruise forward.
Concocting the perfect metal-beginner waylayer album, Behold! The Monolith come back with an album that brings together disparate and formulaic applications of different metal and hard rock styles in a way that emphasizes changing moods and contrasting sections that should feel exciting because they are new to the listener in each moment. This approach was first popularized by Åkerfeldt Pink Frothy AIDS and has since been a bomb among both hipsters and distracted listeners that only look for a dose of “heaviness” in metal. For the latter all that suffices is a string of heavy-sounding and catchy moments that are capable of inducing head-banging. For the first, the hipsters, it is important that the song superficially parts away from the norm, thus differentiating itself as an insult to any sort of tradition, an affront to any implication of real meaning embedded in the song, a statement that meaning is only what they want it to be.
This year’s proposal, Architects of the Void, is mental cancer incarnate, delusional pretension combined with self-serving posturing ooze through each decision about the content and direction of the songs. We hear a doom metal riff opening, then we suddenly find ourselves in a full on Stoner groove only to be followed by a speed metal attack with tremolo-picking, a break for an acoustic fill that does not last more than 15 seconds only to by hit by uneventual melodic heavy metal guitar lines, only to come back by Stoner riff patterns propelling the Korn-like vocals. Not only is the juxtaposition of styles comical but besides a little attention to smoothness in tempo and dynamics, there is evidence anywhere that the band had any intention whatsoever of giving these songs a central theme. Any riff in any song could be easily interchangeable with almost any other riff from any other song. It would make little difference, if any.
The poser-like mental weakness displayed by Behold! The Monolith Architects of the Void goes beyond the mere mental weakness that drives them into mediocrity and complacency. With the attitude of post-rock/metal and the technical approach of hard rock, this band represents the monster that metal’s assimilation into the mainstream represents. A product suitable for the pleasure of subpar intelligence in music, it is not only recommended that this album is avoided but its copies are actively searched for and destroyed. The possibility that this project takes a place in name besides truly artful underground projects is an insult to them and a building-up of distracting fodder. Of course, the truly discerning out there will know to avoid this screamo-spirited music full of SJW teenage rage, but there are those out there who are still digging their way through metal, those who are still learning. For the sake of metal itself, this album must make it into the lists of worst insults to the genre.
PS. The band is from Los Angeles, California. Should this have been a clue?
Descending like a blessing from the sky comes another album by a legendary band which only nine years ago presented us with a masterful album vastly superior to what they had done since their debut.
In Ordeal we find a regression into their middle period while nods to Stormcrowfleet are discernible here and there without actually engaging and setting out on an undistracted trance like the younger band on that album.
Self-referential statements which rely directly on the established style of the band and the reputation it has already acquired makes this sound like one of the second rate bands that followed in their footsteps.
Already a tired band showing no signs of progression or development in style, we perceive a simplification of ideas on top of which a facade that sounds like Skepticism is erected.
Passing and forgettable, we find a Skepticism attempting to be as sparse as Worship, yet finding themselves in foreign territory.
Positioning chord after chord and following them in a slightly rock-like manner reminiscent of lesser “doom metal” acts, the motifs as themes are nowhere to be seen.
One must also ask, what happened to the singer’s voice? Is this on purpose?
Instead of the pictures in poetry and majestic motif colorations of Stormcrowfleet before “doom metal” was a thing, we have a band trying to impersonate itself.
Nobody asks a band like Skepticism to venture forth and put out new material because “it is time,” as if they were some puny mainstream band, but this here is probably the less inspired and most uneventful Skepticism album to date.
Tedious in a way that only a collection of uninspired references to all the different points in their discography could be, if this is a farewell, it is indeed a sad one.
Mannerisms in the guitars seem to be excuses only to keep them doing anything — a lack of worthwhile ideas is apparent.
Estranged from the poetry that they embodied, the repetition in Ordeal is odious rather than transporting.
Nuances are missing, everything that there is to this new release seems to be all placed at one level: that of the presentation.
The cover art should have been a warning.
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.
Today, Svart Records announces September 18th as the international release date for Skepticism’s highly anticipated new album, Ordeal. A legendary name in metal circles, Skepticism are widely hailed as one of the originators of funeral doom. Their first album for Svart and fifth overall, Ordeal is also the first Skepticism full-length since 2008’s Alloy. But instead of going the usual recording-in-the-studio route, the band decided to record this new album live before an audience on January 24th at Klubi in Turku, Finland, with the event also captured on film. A truly unique experience for a truly unique band, Ordealis a honest and accurate summary of what Skepticism is in 2015.
Keyboardist Eero Pöyry commented:
Recording the album live was a positive experience. I’ve come to think of Skepticism being at its best live, and the Ordeal session proved it for me. Having a whole day to concentrate in one shot at a perfect performance brought in a good pressure – and a bit of an ordeal, as well.
Adds drummer Lasse Pelkonen,
Recording live made the album sound a bit rough and dirty, which is suitable for us in any case.
The album will be available as a CD/DVD bundle and also as a LP/DVD set, featuring visual documentation of the whole Ordeal performance.
It is hard to think of a more street-credible approach to recording an album
I think metal is good only if one can recognize it as such by sound and arrangement. This happens on Ordeal. I am personally very happy with the new songs. They contain a lot of atmospheric changes and layering but still sound like Skepticism.
Guitarist Jani Kekarainen explains,
Life is an ordeal, the album is about ordeal, and making the album was an ordeal. To me, the music of Skepticism is essentially dynamic and atmospheric. These qualities in music are best presented live. Hence, recording live made it possible to capture the most authentic result for the album.
Finally, vocalist Matti concluded
It is difficult not to be and difficult to be; Ordeal is what music is – genuine without further explanation.
Tracklisting for Skepticism’s Ordeal
3. The Departure
4. March Incomplete
5. The Road
6. Closing Music
8. The March and the Stream
Cult of Endtime play a music that is actually both “melodic” and death metal. Taking the road of modified and expanded verse-chorus-bridge approach to music construction, this mid-paced death metal with a clear aftertaste of traditional metal maintains motific links within songs that ride clear phrasal riffs not unlike the manner of the early but already mature Black Sabbath. Although DMU does not usually hand out stars to shiny, mainstream packages because they usually are just uncreative or mediocre turds hidden under slick production, In Charnel Lights has definitely earned theirs.
A very well-performed and accomplished example of this style, the music stays within the boundaries of its chosen paradigm while introducing a variety of ideas without haphazard changes. This does imply a limited variation, a clutch of its chosen pop-format approach, which supports and defines it but cripples its movement at the same time. The nature of the music, then, reduces In Charnel Lights to a collection of songs. The result is pleasing and solid but can be repetitive in terms of musical ideas and in its adherence to its center it fails to bring enough variety to artistically justify a second half beyond the urge to produce more of the same.
In spite of this, the variation it does introduce is not only used gracefully and properly but is both meaningful and powerful. Each variation of idea or new idea included, each slightly differing approach to a riff was probably very carefully considered and integrated with an attention to detail worthy of praise. Cult of Endtime are extremely consistent in style although they bring different techniques under its umbrella and produce strongly coherent riff-variations with a relatively wide range of character.
Sounding like a Black Sabbath reborn into death metal, Cult of Endtime build their music on phrasal riffs with a basis on heavy-sounding support and featuring melodic passages that emphasize clarity of expression and musicality rather than technique itself, although anyone paying attention to such things would not deny the professional-level musicianship of the band. Probably one of the best, if not the best, we are likely to get out of the mainstream this year, In Charnel Lights is extremely recommended to fans of metal.
Following the example of Kreator in Phantom Antichrist, Scythian unite riffing approaches from different metal subgenres under the banner of traditional heavy metal and growled or barked vocals, with a result along the lines of the so-called melodic death metal. In contrast with the noteworthy release Thy Black Destiny, by Sacramentum, Hubris in Excelsis does not coalesce into a thing of its own but just floats around as the result of spare parts being put together to form an undefined, impersonal and disparate heavy metal record. In this, and its revolving around the vocals it is more akin to the Iron Maiden – inclined heavy metal which sets one foot on hard-rock land, using disconnected riffs only as rhythm and harmony to carry the voice.
We hear doom metal proceedings and textures typical of black metal, but these are usually encapsulated within sections. These sections are used in conventional rock-song functionality. What determines this rock versus metal approach? Basically, the total relationship of riffs and sections to voice and in between themselves. Rock (and hard rock after it) carries the music after the vocal lines (thus we can see the slight influence of hard rock over Slayer in South of Heaven even though it doesn’t fully give in to the tendency to disqualify it as a metal record). The key tell-tale sign after this is the lack or at least a downplay of motif-relation between parts of the song, the support for main melody or vocal line becoming the most important and prominent element. The effect of this often results in something similar but in the end different from metalcore: disparate parts tied loosely by a certain background consistency (usually harmony for rock and rhythms or motifs drowned in an ocean of contrasts for metalcore).
The plentiful references to many different genres extending all the way to cliche-ridden pagan black metal may throw off the attempts of most to nail down what Hubris in Excelsis actually is, what it consists of and what its essence ultimately is. Hubris in Excelsis is indeed a title that reflects this album beyond their intended concept. Hubris, an excess of self-confidence, often at the expense of prudence and seemliness, is placed in a position of glory, giving way to veiled expressions of ego that disregard any sense of coherence and little consistency beyond the most superficial.