Al-Namrood is so kvlt that they can’t even turn down their projects’ master levels a few decibels. While simply nudging everything down a bit so it doesn’t clip as much might not be the best way to go about it, the fact that this completely insane brickwalling that’s apparently been dogging the fellows throughout their career goes yet unresolved on DiajiAl Joor does not exactly fill me with hope. As previously mentioned the last time a DMU writer took notice, Al-Namrood’s big gimmick is that they’re from Saudi Arabia and are theoretically risking more to get their content out. Remove their background and the absolute garbage mixing job, and you’re left with an okay but generally underwhelming folk metal album with some black metal influences.
On a scale of Orphaned Land to Melechesh, Al-Namrood leans closer to the latter for keeping a greater amount of metal technique in their formula. For whatever reason, they end up consistently midpaced in all instrumentation and otherwise lean towards a consistent sound. From a musicological perspective, their consistent use of Arabic maqams (a seven tone system of tuning and intonation) makes for a great selling point in the Western world and, amongst other things, leads to some dissonant/microtonal droning sections that I barely hear in metal; I furthermore believe that more ambitious and proficient musicians could do great things with such. On Diaji Al Joor, this potential is squandered and turned into tedious filler that adds little of value. This is best described as more of a vocal-driven album, anyways – the vocalist (who goes by the pseudonym of “Humbaba”) barks and rattles his way through these tracks and seems to have some idea of how to vary up his inflection and pitch to make himself more interesting and prominent. I’m cynical enough to call him a case of wasted potential given the lack of direction that manifests below him.
I’d probably go as far as to say this is, in spite of its clear flaws, ever so slightly better than Melechesh’s recent effort (Enki) was, since it’s a bit less openly streamlined and digs a hint deeper into its respective reservoir of musical ideas. That judgement may, however, be too subjective for your tastes. Even if it isn’t, the fact that Diaji Al Joor fails to rise beyond a basic level of competence makes it an irrelevant comparison.
Back in 2010, Melechesh’s previous album (The Epigenesis) made its way onto our “Best of 2010” list. I don’t know what to make of that, but this year’s batch of Melechesh doesn’t live up to that hype, despite sticking to the band’s signature mixture of streamlined extreme metal with older substyles and (importantly) a Middle Eastern folk garnish. The problem here is a common one – directionless, flat, almost random songwriting. Whether or not this afflicted previous works by the band is hopefully something someone more versed in their past might be able to shed some light on.
That the structural side of this album is so underwhelming is belied by the good first impression that Melechesh makes with their polished sound. They succeed in combining their three aesthetic streams where many bands stumble with two… or less. For instance, the band constructs almost every riff and phrase they use from vaguely exotic scales like the Phyrgian dominant, the double harmonic (“Arabic”), etc. This indicates greater dedication to the aesthetic than, for instance, Nile, and doing something similar in your own work will probably get you further in the long run than merely tossing in some instruments that are culturally relevant to what you’re trying to imitate. Not to say that Melechesh doesn’t add in extra instrumentation, but it’s skillfully incorporated into their sound to the point that it never seems incongruous. The older metal and rock elements, in comparison, don’t make themselves as immediately apparent, but they imbue this recording with a strong sense of conventional musicality that makes it easy to pick up off the shelves and listen to by the standards of its nominal genre.
The deception this entails means it took me a bit to pick up on how little of the content here was actually making its mark. Enki showcases its share of isolated musical ideas with which one could build a song, but arranges them in an entirely haphazard and arbitrary fashion. The general lack of dynamics also helps in building an environment full of interchangeable content – one entirely folk interlude (“Doorways to Irkala”) and some halfhearted soft sections does not an adequate substitute make. It may be that drone and repetition form an integral part of Melechesh’s songwriting, but the best bands to rely on such techniques don’t simply vary themselves through minor variation, but arrange such in a fashion that allows for actual in-song progression. Melechesh’s failure to do so combined with other aspects of their style make for an experience that decays to irrelevance shockingly fast.
As reported in local news, the entrance to the club — originally a tiki-themed club now repurposed to be one of the most important black metal venues in Germany — was set ablaze in the night by SJWs who identified with “Antifa,” originally an anti-fascist organization that now works alongside other SJW groups. These groups publicly claimed responsibility for the attack and issued the ominous statement, “This fall we have some catching up what was missed in the last few years!”
Interestingly, Blackland Club was not a Nazi club. It allowed black metal bands to play there and by all accounts, most of the bands who performed at the club were not political in any way. SJWs attacked under the excuse that it provided a platform for Nazi bands, ignoring the fact that most black metal bands have extremist philosophies that make the Nazis look like Williamsburg Democrats. The club became a target because it did not adopt the SJW line that those who do not expressly reject certain beliefs must be destroyed. Some of the “evidence” compiled by SJWs includes that people there wear Burzum tshirts.
This type of phenomenon — a witch hunt organized by an internet hate mob motivated by SJW ideals — was last seen in the Disma debacle where SJWs pushed Disma to apologize for possible pro-Nazi statements by one member. The point of the apology is that it humiliates the person, and shows everyone else a broken and contrite citizen who acknowledges that he has been disciplined, which instills fear in the rest of us of the same happening to us. That is the point of all this SJW scene policing: to create fear and through that, compliance and control. SJWs have made their demands clear: support our ideology or we will destroy your career. This is the power of having an internet lynch mob to deploy against non-conformists.
As political instability in the US and Europe accelerates, we are likely to see more of these clashes as SJWs attempt to unify their ranks. This reveals SJWs are involved in metal only incidentally because their actual purpose is to be involved in politics, and they want to use heavy metal as a propaganda weapon in that fight. This is why their increasingly shrill, intolerant and dogmatic voices are infesting metal, punk and rock as happened when record label Run For Cover Records cut ties with band Whirr over “transphobic” — meaning not fully approving of transsexualism — messages on Twitter:
Last night, the Bay Area band Whirr posted a series of negative tweets about G.L.O.S.S., a punk band whose lead singer is a transgender woman. (The tweets have since been deleted, but an archive can be found at Stereogum.) Among other things, they tweeted, “g.l.o.s.s. Is just a bunch of boys running around in panties making shitty music,” and compared G.L.O.S.S. to the Buffalo Bill character from The Silence of The Lambs.
While this is clearly vitriolic, it is not any more vitriolic than what is regularly posted on metal bulletin boards on the internet. But it does provide an opportunity for SJWs to create a “teachable moment” in which they destroy someone’s life to remind the rest of us to toe the line or we, too, will be on the chopping block. One label created a religion out of this division, and said, “We have zero interest in working w/ hateful people.” That they have in turn created a hateful echo chamber seems like too much thinking for them, but the result is that the metal/punk scenes are polarizing: there are those who are SJW, and there are those who SJWs consider their enemies for not being SJW.
This behavior is not specific to SJWs in metal. Everywhere they go, the commandment is the same: Destroy the unbelievers. If you deny their ideology in public, they will seek you out not to disagree with you, but to try to get you fired and otherwise socially ostracized. It is their one weapon, the threat that they will declare you something the media thinks is bad (“Nazi,” “racist,” “sexist,” “transphobic”) whether or not there is any truth to it, and you will be unable to participate in our liberal-leaning society as a result.
Amocualli – Aztec folk metal from Mexico
Arkan – Islamic folk/death metal from France
Kartykeia – Hindu/Vedic folk/death metal from Russia
Melechesh – Mesopotamian folk/black metal from Israel (ethnically Assyrian and Armenian) now based in the Netherlands
Myrath – Oriental folk/progressive metal from Tunisia
Rudra – Hindu/Vedic death metal
Skinflint – folk metal from Botswana
Tengger Cavalry – Mongolian folk metal from China
As usual, the SJW story does not add up because SJWs are ideological fanatics and not realistic members of society. Western Civilization continues crashing into the abyss and no one will do anything about that, so they focus on nice low-hanging fruit like convincing all of us to support the right of transsexuals to listen to black metal too, even though no one had ever attempted to deny them that ability. The best way to combat this is to end the perception that SJWs speak in any way about whether someone is “good” or not, and see them for what they are: lonely fanatics in their lonely apartments, raging at the world for not granting them more power.
Folk metal band Primordial vocalist Alan Averill inveighed against social justice worker (SJW) academics who recently witch-hunted “racism” and “sexism” in folk metal, claiming they are johnny-come-latelies using the authenticity of the metal name to draw attention to their careers. Writes Averill:
I don’t know whether to be bothered sharing this shit…..I think what these fuckwits fail to understand, or rather as usual intellectual ghost hunting is the place that ‘folk metal’ takes within the overall timeline and context of metal. The imagery and themes of folk metal are distilled from metals’ pre-occupation with fantasy not necessarily from a historical or factually based context, nor does it have to be. The language of for example Viking mythology has been perfect for metal since Zeppelin wrote ‘The immigrant song’.
Folk metal essentially took the place culturally in metal from where power metal left on in the late 90s and early 00s. Often it has more to do with role playing, gaming and fantasy….just with furry boots.
Claiming that is is somehow racist because it borrows from pre christian European history is just pointless and reductionist, bands do not have to apologise or justify singing about their culture and as I said most of it is through the prism of fantasy and myth because the imagery is simply perfect for heavy metal.
Sexist? again rubbish, I can think of quite a few ‘folk’ metal bands who have written tomes and hymns to the goddesses of the ancient world, both Cruachan and Waylander from Ireland spring to mind. You can find the same reverence for the feminine in nature in not only my own band Primordial (who are not folk metal but have connections to that scene) but also in bands like Enslaved, Wardruna, Our survival depends on us, Dordureh, Fen, Eluveitie, Negura Bunget among so many others (yet this is conveniently ignored) . Not to mention the band quoted as starting the whole genre Skyclad, even a cursory glance at their lyrics and imagery will suggest the opposite of this study. Again just a cherry picked argument from someone hunting ghosts.
Not to mention the fact that if you have ever attended a pagan metal show in Europe or the USA (and I’ve been at loads) you will find a very very healthy % of the crowd are women and often on the stage, the general feel of pageantry and joviality in this scene is least of all full of the macho behaviour these authors are looking for. It’s a young excitable scene which likes to play dress up, dance around and drink a beer or two…
You want ghosts? go ghost hunting somewhere else
I once lectured about Black Metal here in Ireland…to a room full of people full of agendas and opinions and angles for their own conspiracies and prejudices. My opening line
‘You can’t intellectualise a punch in the face’
…..you weren’t there and I am going to tell you how it was so shut up and listen.
Academics, always in a position to justify their jobs and knowing they can make headlines by finding “racism” and “sexism” under every rock like 21st century witchfinders general, have recently released a study claiming associations with racism and sexism in folk metal.
“Through the study, I found that although women fans of heavy metal enjoy folk metal with the same kind of passion and intensity as male fans, and there is no doubt they find identity and belonging through the music, the heart of folk metal is predominantly masculine. The warrior myth that folk metal is focused on is normalising this masculine predominance in our modern day world- men still have enormous social, cultural and political power.
“Folk metal’s obsession with warriors and cultural purity, displayed through tales of Vikings and dressing up as Vikings on stage, reduces belonging and identity in a muti-cultural, cosmopolitan society to a few exclusive myths. It is showing white men how to be white men and showing women and ethnic minorities their place in European society.”
Talk about jumping the shark: the definition of “racism” used by these academics is pride in your heritage and masculinity, in the context of music enjoyed by women (and, from my observation, people from minority groups as well). What is this, then? It’s another attempt to browbeat metal into going along with the SJW agenda by calling us bad names and hoping we’ll apologize, purge the dissenters and start repeating the correct message as these academics see it.
Karl Spracklen, previously interviewed here, became part of Metalgate when he “unfriended” me on Facebook and presumably helped block me from the Metpol mailing list after SJWs attacked me for allegedly having opinions that were not politically corrected. It is interesting that he, as a white male, caught the fear and now has joined the SJW side.
As always, metal remains a desired commodity. Metal symbolizes rebellion and freedom. That is why many groups — Christians, Nazis, SJWs, corporations — would love to be able to control it and have it parrot their party line, thus controlling more minds. But as Metalgate pointed out, the resistance in metal to such control is strong and we enjoy telling society where it can stick its pretentious and manipulative “moral” standards.
This Latvian band represents what happens when all of the correct elements are assembled, but the aesthetic takes precedence over songwriting, and so the latter is filled in with random elements to fit the vision of the former. This shows the limits of vision because this framework imprisons musicality within aesthetics, in the converse of technical bands who come up with cool riffs and back-invent a purpose to them. Skyforger combines black metal, speed metal and nascent death metal into something a lot like the early works from Dodheimsgard: compelling rhythm, but a lack of internal connection creates a sense of genericism that clashes with the aesthetic and leaves the listener with a vision of lost objective.
Bouncy speed metal riffs collide with black metal and ripping early death metal style riffs to support the vocals, which apparently say something significant, but owing to the need for vocal predominance force songs into a verse-chorus format that reduces riffs to background sound, which in turn limits their role to bouncing around and providing some contrast to that, but never taking the lead in song development. As a result, Senprusija feels like a platform for the vocals and what stands out most is its speed/death metal roots, which are composed of what is essentially straightforward rhythm riffing partnered with melodic hooks. This makes for a pleasant listen, but one too disunified to stand the test of repetition.
Taking a page from the book of fast speed/death bands like Merciless, Skyforger keep the melodic hook as the center of the song but pair it German speed metal style with a chanted and rhythmically catchy chorus which quickly dominate the rest of the song. The constant chugging riffing, as happened on later Vader and Slayer albums, reduces focus from the interaction between riffs and fails to suspend disbelief because this style fits too easily into the rock framework which requires constant competing internal distractions to advance the song. As a result, consciousness is lost and songs subdivide into parts. There are many good riffs on this album, but the whole does not add up.
A forthcoming journal on folk-metal, mostly in the pagan metal and viking metal sub-genres, requests that those with essays on the topic submit them for publication next year. The journal focuses on metal bands who use traditional musical instruments, lyrical references to customs and mythology, allusions to traditional culture, or displaying of cultural imagery in performer attire and artwork.
Folk-metal refers to the style of music that arose in the 1990s in Europe which consisted of “fusing traditional or folk music with heavy metal music forms.” The journal lists a number of bands from the power metal, black metal and death metal genres who qualify under this style:
Interested writers must submit a 300-word abstract and short biography of 50-100 words to to the editor, Dr Jenny Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org and cc. to butler.Jennifer@gmail.com by November 10, 2014. The final essays must be 4,000-7,000 words and will be due by June 1, 2015.
The journal suggests the following themes as a topical starting point:
Folklore, song lyrics, and cultural identity
Neo-pagan worldview of the bands
History of the genre, participants and events
Indigenous religion and mythology
Political and/or nationalistic agendas
The concept of homeland
The representation of deities and mythological beings in songs
Burzum, the sometimes black metal and sometimes ambient project of Norwegian-descended French national Varg Vikernes, announced the release of new album The Ways of Yore on Byelobog Productions/Plastic Head for June 2, 2014. No further information is given about whether the album will continue with the post-modern black metal style of Umskiptar or the folkish dark ambient style of Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, which was one of our “Best of 2013”.
Emerging from the same locus of intensity in Norway that produced Immortal, Mayhem, Emperor and Ildjarn, Burzum began in the early 1990s as a complex riff-narrative style of black metal with unnerving vocals that combines a feral animality with emotional sensitivity. Early works attempted to integrate elements of ambient music and create a sense of ritual designed to “stimulate the fantasy of mortals.” This era ended with Filosofem and composer Varg Vikernes being jailed for the murder of Euronymous of Mayhem.
During the incarceration years, Burzum shifted direction to full ambient with Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf. These albums allowed Vikernes to escape the monolithic sound of guitar/bass/drums and work with multiple instruments, culminating in the lush creative density of Hliðskjálf (which was revisited somewhat in Sôl austan, Mâni vestan).
After prison, Burzum entered a period of post-modern black metal influenced by droning indie-pop variants of NSBM such as Drudkh and other Eastern European bands. This music reflected pop song structures, a shoegaze-style approach to melody but with the longer phrasing — albeit recursive — of black metal like early Ancient, and extensive use of North mythology. It is unclear whether this period continues now with folkish dark ambient album Sôl austan, Mâni vestan in 2013 being a temporary detour, or whether Vikernes will launch Burzum into a fourth period with the more complex instrumentation and hence compositional density of that album and Hliðskjálf.
Somewhat reclusive epic folk/funeral doom band Empyrium will be playing live in Berlin on November 22, 2013, and in advance of this are releasing Dead Winter Days on 12″ EP.
Dead Winter Days is described as a preview of Empyrium’s 2014 return to form, The Turn of the Tides, following their successful Into the Pantheon live DVD/CD release.
The band will be performing with a high-profile lineup in addition to the two regular band members, including Konstanz (The Vision Bleak), Neige (Alcest), Eviga (Dornenreich), Fursy Teyssier (Les Discrets), Aline Deinert (Neun Welten) and Christoph Kutzer (Remember Twilight).
According to Prophecy Productions, the band’s record label, the live set will involve a grand piano as well as other folk instrumentation and a new selection of classic songs for an intense performance.
The good news is that it’s more clearly Vikernes writing this record. His previous voice, like his previous actions, seemed to get swallowed up by the notions of his “advisors.” As a result, previous albums did not sound at all like something he touched at all with his personality. This album re-engages his soul a bit more but remains a deliberate use of his talent to produce something cut to form, and the form is what is dictated by the audience. The result is to repeat the error of modern society over again: the people are led by economics or politics, instead of the other way around. While song structures vary somewhat, Umskiptar is designed around the verse-chorus model with melodic choruses and rhythmic, upbeat verses. Like many pasted-together projects, these are united with chromatic fills or conventional devices borrowed out of classic metal. While this album is not as cynically manipulative as the new Napalm Death, for example, it falls short of what made Burzum great, which was an innovative thinker opening up his mind and creativity to the audience. Like his mentor Tolkien, he took people on an adventure with what was and might be again. With Umpskiptar, the listener feels as if he is in one of those Disney-ride type “folk metal” bands that is mostly rock music with folk touches. Bands have been doing this since the 1970s… it has never succeeded, because people regress to the mean and in this case, it’s the archetype of rock and not folk. Vikernes’ early influences come out here, with muffled-chord riffs that sound straight off the first Destruction LP and what sounds like Iron Maiden influences. Musically, it’s adept enough that no part is offensive, and his use of three-part riff clusters as in traditional music is much appreciated, but it doesn’t add up. The whole is not greater than the parts and no atmosphere is created, thus the whole time we are aware that we are modern consumers listening to a modern musical product. Further, the riffs, tempi, themes and transitions are very similar, which in the absence of prior atmosphere does not cause a deepening but a sensation of floating on the surface. Many of the vocal tracks are entirely chanted in the death metal voice, which creates a ludicrous sensation of being yelled at by a drunk guy on the subway. By the time we get to “Valgaldr,” which sounds like an outtake from a bad stoner doom metal album, the lack of energy going into this album is evident. It’s ridiculous to expect an older musician to recapture his younger days. However, it’s equally ridiculous to sabotage a good musical brand by turning it from something rare and brilliant into something pedestrian with interesting “touches” and “accents.” That cuts to the real problem with this album and all post-jail Burzum: they’re boring. Not unmusical, but sparse in density with songs obviously patched-together “to be a song” and not to have any voice of its own. The new crop of teenagers he wants to sell albums to may enjoy this but it’s not distinctly better than its competition enough that it will endure as anything other than an SKU#.