Death Metal Underground

Various Artists – A Day of Death 1990

December 16, 2013 –

a_day_of_death-flier

The Glorious Times team recorded the “A Day of Death” concert from 1990 and made it available as a free download in MP3 or FLAC format. Basically an abridged version of the show, A Day of Death 1990 shows founders of the underground at their best.

Opening with Autopsy, A Day of Death 1990 begins with “In the Grip of Winter.” This version sounds rougher than the Mental Funeral variant that later became the norm, and more like an earlier recording I’d heard on an EP. This is followed by Repulsion banging out “The Stench of Burning Death” (later found on Horrified) pretty much exactly as it is on the album, which fits with the band’s reputation for being immaculately rehearsed. After that, Deceased lights up the soundboard with “Decrepit Coma,” which is tightly played but loud owing to the recording conditions.

After that, the first of two Cannibal Corpse tracks comes up; Cannibal Corpse are one of those bands like Venom, Pantera, Cradle of Filth and Meshuggah that strike me as historically important in popularizing a genre but perhaps culpable in eroding its meaning. Incantation follows with both “Profanation” and “Unholy Massacre.” These are live and a little unsteady and without the bass-intense production of Onward to Golgotha, which reveals these songs further but makes them even stronger as they stand up without the intense sound. After that, another Cannibal Corpse song and Deceased with “Haunted Cerebellum,” which is the really catchy song from their first album and is executed with potent verve and energy. Another Repulsion song, “House of Freaks,” which was not on their album, follows; it is more uptempo and a bit more hardcore than death metal. The set finishes out with Autopsy and “Severed Survival” which is a more deliberate and menacing version of this messy death metal classic.

This live album is great for three reasons: first, it’s a glimpse into the history of this genre with some of the most active players visible; second, it’s done in true underground style and given away free, since these bands have the albums to sell to finance their bands; finally, it’s killer and you’d buy it anyway even if it were $15 and said RELAPSE on it. A Day of Death 1990 is more like being at the Smithsonian Death Metal Hall than being transported via time machine, and it doesn’t sound its age so much as sound the level of equipment available, but it shoves forward these classic recordings in a way that makes death metal both more obscure and more accessible at the same time.

Assück – Blindspot

December 11, 2013 –

assück-blindspotGrindcore as a genre started out incredibly strong but unfortunately has grown stale with copycat bands and hipsters. By remembering those who made the genre great, we may inspire the genre to create great works once more.

An early runner in the grindcore genre, Florida’s Assück were one of the first bands to fuse grindcore’s rhythmic intensity and youthful energy with elements of the phrasal and percussive riffing of death metal. The combination would later become “deathgrind.” Assück additionally was staffed by remarkably proficient musicians.

Blindspot was released in 1992, a year after their landmark debut, Anticapital. This short EP shows a continuation of Assück’s style from the album, but nevertheless maintains interest throughout, due in no small part to the enthralling percussion. Drumming displays a wide breadth of styles masterfully integrated into the framework of simple grindcore rhythms. Often, it will interact directly with the riffs, mirroring the attack of each chord with a percussive element. The riffing is a potent fusion of hardcore punk power chord bashing, harsh dissonance, and death metal inspired chunkiness. Vocals are a hardcore­inspired growl, similar in ways to Napalm Death or Blood’s vocals.

This entire release is over in about seven minutes, but that is all that is required. What many modern grind bands can learn from this EP is how complete the release sounds. Despite how short it is, if it had gone on a few minutes longer it would be tedious? had it been shorter there would have been development issues in the songwriting. This is the true essence of grindcore – composing not just short songs, but short songs that are coherent in their structure and intent. By striking a balance between grindcore’s chaotic extremity and death metal’s emphasis on coherent riff construction, Assück has continued to remain a fan favorite and influence. This EP only helps to cement their legacy.

Micro-songs: the shortest songs in heavy metal

November 23, 2013 –

no_time_for_pop_songsAbout a decade ago, the trend of flash fiction or micro-stories seized the literary world by storm. The reasoning was that as people did more of their reading via phones and portable computers, they would want shorter, harder-hitting fiction.

Of course, metal was there first.

Heavy metal has a long tradition of making short and fast songs that derive intensity by compressing an idea and then unleashing it like a jack-in-the-box with razor blades for teeth. This tradition spans multiple metal genres and decades.

Generally three and a half minutes is considered the ideal length for a pop song, give or take a half-minute. Many bands, especially in more “serious” genres like AOR, progressive rock, jazz and metal, tend to write five minute or longer songs. Micro-songs on the other hand clock in well under two minutes, often under one.

According to many bands, writing a short song is harder than writing a long one. When the song goes by quickly, song structure is more transparent. There aren’t comforting layers of conventions, like guitar solos and ballady choruses, that can be used to disguise an emptiness within.

It’s just the songwriter versus the void.

Here’s a (brief) run through of heavy metal (and hybrids) who made flash-audio or micro-songs.

  1. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI) – “Money Stinks” (0:46)

  2. Corrosion of Conformity (COC) – “Nothing’s Gonna Change” (1:07)

  3. Disharmonic Orchestra – “Interposition” (1:59)

  4. Napalm Death – “You Suffer” (0:02)

  5. Blood – “Sodomize the Weak” (1:38)

  6. Insect Warfare – “Oxygen Corrosion” (0:54)

  7. Gridlink – “Asuka” (0:35)

  8. Fallen Christ – “World of Darkness” (1:57)

  9. Carcass – “Genital Grinder” (1:32)

  10. Chronical Diarrhoea – “Attack of the Blur Demons” (0:55)

  11. Agathocles – “Well of Happiness” (1:10)

Impaled re-records debut album as The Dead Still Dead Remain

September 11, 2013 –

impaled-the_dead_still_dead_remainThirteen years ago, gore-grind band Impaled released their first album, The Dead Shall Dead Remain. Since that initial pressing, the album has been unavailable to fans because of legal disputes over ownership. The only chance to hear it was to buy an original copy.

To work around that problem, Impaled have re-recorded their debut album as The Dead Still Dead Remain. This does away with legal hurdles and allows the band to improve on the performance and production of the original. Recorded and mixed by Vinnie Wojno (Testament), the new recording “simply sounds better” according to guitarist Jason Kocol.

The Dead Still Dead Remain stays musically faithful to the original and also features the return of vocalist Leon del Muerte, who says, “it was like the last thirteen years of backstabbing and spitefulness never happened!” With updated cover artwork in the spirit of the original, The Dead Still Dead Remain resurrects a long lost work of the gore-grind genre.

Impaled’s The Dead Still Dead Remain can be pre-ordered at WillowTip Records.

Interview with Matt Harvey of Exhumed

September 1, 2013 –

matt_harvey-exhumedNorthern California’s Exhumed made themselves a name back in the late 1990s by fusing Carcass-style grindcore with energetic and melodic death metal of the Swedish style, injecting a lot of punk along the way.

Although this created more of a popular form of death metal than the original underground style, it introduced many new fans to the genre and created a framework for an integration of punk into the style. Its enduring popularity has provided Exhumed with a legion of fans.

We were fortunate to be able to talk to Matt Harvey, who has been “the voice of Exhumed” for almost two decades now. Most of our questions focused on Exhumed’s latest album, Necrocracy, and what the band’s been up to since.

I realize genre names aren’t all that popular, but what genre is Exhumed these days? Are you grindcore, or death metal, or did you invent something new?

I think we are what we’ve always been: Gore Fucking Metal. I don’t know that it’s something completely new, but it’s a combination of all the stuff we’ve always been influenced by, Death Metal, Grindcore, Thrash, NWOBHM, Powerviolence… All the good stuff, haha!

What is the ideal environment in which to enjoy an Exhumed album?

As long as there’s beer and lots of volume, then it’s good. I think that’s up to the individual. For me, I’d say you’d want a 12-pack of beer, some expendable furniture to smash, and a few friends would be the best accoutrements to a listening session.

Necrocracy is quite provocative. It seems to suggest that the world is not as peachy as my television tells me it is. Can you tell me more about the concept of this album?

Yeah, I’d say the world is not that peachy keen. The lyrics still revolve around death and gore, but they use those concepts as a metaphor to discuss a lot of the things going on in the current US political and socio-economic climate. The songs usually revolve around stuff like the destructive influence of corporate greed (Ravening), the gross inequalities inherent in the taxation / medical system (Coins Upon The Eyes), the meaningless pandering of the electoral system (Necrocracy), and the distorted perception that Americans have of their way of life and country’s role in the world (Dysmorphic).

You’re back after a hiatus. What made you personally and all of Exhumed decide to return?

It was one of those thing where it just made sense to do a new record. I had had enough of the break, and was just getting back into writing these kinds of riffs and songs and stuff. And it was one of those things that just kind of came together and took on a life of its own which was pretty awesome.

What are you most looking forward to on tour?

Free beer and seeing friends in different cities and states. Same as always! Plus I get a lot of reading done on tour, haha!

Do you think metal’s in bad shape? A lot of people seem to think it has become redundant. What do you think about modern metal, metalcore, etc?

I actually think metal is really healthy. There’s all kinds of niches and sub-genres all over the place, and every form of metal, from 70s proto-metal to the most modern math-rock stuff has an audience. If you think about it, the first Sabbath record came out over 40 years ago, and in order for the genre to move forward and stay viable, creatively and commercially, it has to change and evolve. Me personally, I’m really only into 70s / 80s / early 90s metal, but I’m in my late thirties. By the time my Dad was my age, I was thirteen, and it seems silly to think that a thirteen or fifteen year old kid is going to be into the same music as a guy that’s 37 years old. It’s easy to be nostalgic or think that one specific generation has “nailed it” and everything else is false – people into Blue Oyster Cult and Thin Lizzy thought “Kill ‘em All” was just noise when it came out, people into Exodus and Slayer thought “Scum” was crap when it came out too. Things move forward. You don’t have to like it all, but you have to accept that it’s the way things work. While a lot of the modern stuff isn’t my personal cup of tea, it’s good that things keep moving forward and the genre stays viable.

How do you think Exhumed has grown and dare I say…… “progressed” ….over the years?

We’e always had the same kind of riffs and stuff, based our shit around the Repulsion / Terrorizer / Carcass / Napalm Death / Death / Autopsy template, but we’ve definitely gotten better at structuring songs, incorporating melody, using tasteful guitar solos and shit like that. It’s all been a very slow and gradual, so sometimes it seems to me like we haven’t progressed at all, but then I listen to some of our old stuff and I realize that we have come a bit of a ways through the years, which again, is a positive thing.

Are you planning to continue for another album or more, after Necrocracy?

We don’t have any plans of stopping, if that’s what you mean, haha! I have an idea for the next album title already, but we’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it, haha!

What do you think made death metal and grindcore what they were? Did it take a state of mind to make music like that? Can it return?

I don’t think it can ever “return” or be the way that it was, which is as it should be. At the same time, the same spirit of wanting to play more intense music, pushing the boundaries, it’s still alive, it just manifests itself differently because of the context of the times. There are still tons of great grind bands out there, Nails is awesome, Teething is great, and those bands are about as traditional grind as it gets. Same with Death Metal, there’s a resurgence of bands playing in the older style that’s awesome to see. There’s at least a nostalgia and a place for that kind of music that isn’t going away and that’s awesome and gratifying to see.

The song “Coins Upon The Eyes” is super-catchy and yet really abrasive. How do you write material like that? Do you just think up a riff, or sit down and design it?

We actually have a bunch of multi-colored balls that represent different riffs, then we throw the balls into a pool full of seals, and whatever order the seals flip the balls back to us is the order that we play the riffs in. It’s basically a foolproof hit factory!

Honestly we just think of things in terms of songs, not in terms of “brutality” or something ephemeral or subjective. With “Coins,” it’s almost like what we did with Waxwork, where you have one main riff (the chorus) and most of the other riffs build from the note choices and movement within the main theme. From there, the pre-chorus and the guitar solo parts serve as the contrast points, being in different keys with different rhythmic structures to build tension.

Of course, it’s not quite so scientific when you’re coming up with the riffs, there’s a fair amount of playing from the gut that kind of pulls you in the direction that the song wants to go. After you have something that works, you can analyze it, and that analysis will help you know what works next time around. I’m a big adherent to the pop songwriting philosophy and we try to always include some hooky choruses and catchy stuff in every song.

That’s really the ultimate goal, now that we know how to be heavy and brutal and all that stuff – whatever that means, haha!

Agathocles to release split with Hogra on Unholy Anarchy Records

August 15, 2013 –

agathocles-hogra-splitIn conjunction with At War With False Noise (UK), Jerkoff Records (USA) and Blackseed Records (USA), Unholy Anarchy Records will release a split 7″ by Belgian grind/mincecore gods AGATHOCLES and Pittsburgh power electronics outfit HOGRA.

AGATHOCLES have for over two decades created abrasive but creative grind. During that time, the band has appeared on well over 100 split 7″ releases, as well as numerous comps, EPs, demos and full-length albums. The Agathocles/Hogra split sees the legendary trio take an unexpected departure from their traditional and patented mincecore style of grind and unleash two tracks that were written to complement the power electronics of Pittsburgh’s HOGRA, who have built a solid catalog of splits, tapes and EPs over the past year.

Those who were around in the 1990s may remember Agathocles’ Theatric Symbolisation of Life, an artistic yet not reality-removed album of inventive grindcore. The band have since then continued to tour, release and antagonize, providing us with enjoyable music in the meantime.

Exhumed kick off North American tour with release of Necrocracy

August 7, 2013 –

exhumed-necrocracyExhumed, the band that combined up-beat Swedish death like later Fleshcrawl with the crepitant grind of Carcass but gave it the bounce of more punk-oriented grindcore bands, has returned from the dead and unleashed Necrocracy, an infectiously catchy but hard-hitting slab of recreational grind that should keep listeners in motion.

Following an early career of more grind-influenced music, the band began to see the possibilities in more energetic and listenable ventures, and so began to mix enthusiastic heavy metal into the grind and then blur the grindcore technique with a fair amount of death metal. Like many revival movements, this aims to put a modern superstructure into the aesthetics of the past.

Necrocracy represents the kind of thrill that came with later Ministry albums. Speed, excess and unflagging energy combined to make a record that could both motivate you to drive 120 mph down a lonely road, or socialize with friends while shouting lyrics about masticating corpses. The band kicks off a US tour this October.

EXHUMED w/ Dying Fetus

10/04/ Mojo 13 Wilmington, DE
10/05/ The Soapbox Wilmington, NC
10/06/ Back Booth Orlando, FL
10/07/ The Orpheum Tampa, FL
10/09/ Fitzgerald’s Houston, TX
10/10/ Red 7 Austin, TX
10/11/ Trees Dallas, TX
10/12/ Chameleon Room Oklahoma City, OK
10/13/ Warehouse 21 Santa Fe, NM
10/14/ Rocky Point Tempe, AZ
10/15/ Observatory Santa Ana, CA
10/16/ The Whisky W. Hollywood, CA
10/17/ DNA Lounge San Francisco, CA
10/18/ Branx Portland, OR
10/19/ Studio Seven Seattle, WA
10/20/ Rickshaw Theater Vancouver, BC
10/22/ Republik Calgary, AB
10/23/ Pawn Shop Edmonton, AB
10/24/ Riddell Centre Regina, SK
10/25/ Park Theater Winnipeg, MB
10/26/ Station-4 St Paul, MN
10/27/ Reggie’s Chicago, IL
10/29/ Peabodys Cleveland, OH
10/30/ Chance Theater Poughkeepsie, NY
10/31/ Palladium Worcester, MA
11/01/ Gramercy Theater New York, NY
11/02/ Empire Springfield, VA

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August 5, 2013 –
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Carcass – Surgical Steel

August 3, 2013 –

carcass-surgical_steelFrom the opening dual guitar harmonies straight out of 1985 that bring to mind the live intro to a Europe or Stryper set, it’s obvious that this album will be more in line with the guitar hero pop-metal of Arch Enemy than anything from Symphonies of Sickness or Reek of Putrefaction.

To some degree, that’s to be expected. Carcass threw in the towel on forward momentum long ago (1991) and have resorted to playing up their namesake for the purpose of phoning in stadium metal for the aesthetically overblown Wacken age, and Surgical Steel is perhaps their most commercially flexible attempt at filtering late model radio format speed metal through a death metal aesthetic filter, where actual death metal technique is limited to tremolo picking, blast beats, and Jeff Walkers vocals.

Carcass joining an elite cadre of financially successful bands by doing so, starting with At the Gates’s Slaughter of the Soul and even Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven. Let me state it again for those who wish to be millionaires: the appearance of being an outsider to a society nearly universally loathed by its inhabitants, with an underhanded delivery of comfortingly familiar derivative works that by their obedience affirm the social order, will always be a financial success. It allows the appearance of rebellion with none of the actual costs. It’s like artistic insurgency tourism.

Surgical Steel ends up being a mix of Swansong‘s Thin Lizzy-isms applied to the framework of songs like “This Mortal Coil” and “Doctrinal Expletives.” These songs have more to do with Mike Amott’s recent Wacken pandering than anything on Heartwork. “A Congealed Clot of Blood” resembles a “revisited”, more uptempo version of Swansong‘s “Don’t Believe a Word” and the last song, brings to mind the best years of Sanctuary with its sentimental melodic guitar intro, or evokes the Overkill ballads “The Years of Decay” and “Soulitude” with its emotional framing and pacing.

Some tracks like “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System” attempt aggression by utilizing the same speed metal meets extreme music technique as “Carnal Forge” from Heartwork, but with the obvious “money riff” effect of the dual harmony guitar part that is the focus of these songs. The reversion to old lyrical themes (based off the song titles and album artwork) seems like misdirected fan service as these songs would probably win over more people from the Century Media crowd if the lyrics had the same simple “emotional” topics that songs such as “No Love Lost” had.

While this album may appease the simple appetites of those who merrily purchase Arch Enemy and Children of Bodom albums, many songs try to deviate from the verse-chorus stylings with an overloaded, ill-fitting bridge that detract from their simple nature. This divided nature may keep Surgical Steel from being as successful as recent Hypocrisy or Slaughter of the Soul in the arena of stadium faux-death AOR metal for drunken Wacken attendees.

Again, we say: if your heart is no longer in death metal, don’t bother. Start up a project band and transition into progressive rock, classic rock, or whatever it is that actually appeals to you. Explore your new musical pathways. It’s just as much a sell-out to try to “stay true!” when you no longer care as it is to make Justin Bieber-styled pop because you know ten million teeny boppers from the ‘burbs will buy it. Musicians, chase your dreams. We get the best of your talent that way, even if we have to transition genres to appreciate it.

Exhumed – Necrocracy

July 9, 2013 –

exhumed-necrocracyFounded by a group of career metalheads, Exhumed started with a simple mission: make grind, but make it entertaining and participatory like the better heavy metal of the past few generations. While they were initially known as a Carcass clone, that comparison involves the vocals, while the guitar music is itself quite different.

Necrocracy continues the tradition with some very professional songwriting. The technique is pure death metal, grindcore and smatterings of punk and speed metal; under that surface, what lurks is old school heavy metal combined with Swedish-style melodic songwriting (which interestingly was also discernible on the debut).

As part of that professionalism, Exhumed fit each song into a series of gratifications: a good introduction, pounding verses, surging choruses, fireworks for solos and then a transition through a minor key melody into a triumphant return to the verse, plus an optional outro. This formula — adopted in part from glam ballads — propelled speed metal and heavy metal bands to the stratosphere. It’s doing something similar for Exhumed.

What makes Necrocracy hold together is that each song is composed of only necessary parts toward achieving this goal, which could be roughly described as half wanting to be a fun grindcore band, and half wanting to be a professional metal band with MTV-ready songs. Much like Amebix recently saw the utility of this format for reaching the slumbering masses, Exhumed use it to inject some death metal into the melange of hard rock, punk, speed metal, grind/death and heavy metal that makes up their songs.

It is probably not wise for old school death metal fans to rush to this album. It has more in common with grindcore and album-oriented stadium heavy metal, since it relies on the verse-chorus and derives much of its effect from application of known songwriting technique instead of straying into odd structures, bizarre twists, and experimental riffs. Its choruses are hooky, its verses catchy and chanty, and the heavy production and technique hides a band that could go toe-to-toe with the big heavy metal bands of the 1980s through 2000s. Their audience is its audience, updated a bit.

Carrying on the tradition of making metal music that pushes past what is socially acceptable, Exhumed return with an onslaught of cynicism about humanity that takes joy in its own dire predictions. Energetic and necrotically enthusiastic, Necrocracy pumps out the energy and the engaging heavy metal tropes in a voice that is all its own, and will serve as a great introduction for many to these genres.

Necrocracy will be released on August 6, 2013 via Relapse Records and can be pre-ordered here. Catch Exhumed on tour:

EXHUMED European Takeover 2013 [remaining dates]:

  • 7/17/2013 Vlamrock – As, Belgium
  • 7/23/2013 Metal Days – Tolmin, Slovenia
  • 7/24/2013 Garage – Munich, Germany
  • 7/25/2013 Eisenwahn – Obersinn, Germany

EXHUMED w/ Dying Fetus, Devourment, Waking The Cadaver

  • (10/4 – 10/19), Abiotic,Rivers Of Nihil (10/26 – 11/2):
  • 10/04/2013 Mojo 13 – Wilmington, DE
  • 10/05/2013 The Soapbox – Wilmington, NC
  • 10/06/2013 Back Booth – Orlando, FL
  • 10/07/2013 The Orpheum – Tampa, FL
  • 10/09/2013 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX
  • 10/10/2013 Red 7 – Austin, TX
  • 10/11/2013 Trees – Dallas, TX
  • 10/12/2013 Chameleon Room – Oklahoma City, OK
  • 10/13/2013 Warehouse 21 – Santa Fe, NM
  • 10/14/2013 Rocky Point – Tempe, AZ
  • 10/15/2013 Observatory – Santa Ana, CA
  • 10/16/2013 The Whisky – W. Hollywood, CA
  • 10/17/2013 DNA Lounge – San Francisco, CA
  • 10/18/2013 Branx – Portland, OR
  • 10/19/2013 Studio Seven – Seattle, WA
  • 10/20/2013 Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, BC
  • 10/22/2013 Republik – Calgary, AB
  • 10/23/2013 Pawn Shop – Edmonton, AB
  • 10/24/2013 Riddell Centre – Regina, SK
  • 10/25/2013 Park Theater – Winnipeg, MB
  • 10/26/2013 Station-4 – St Paul, MN
  • 10/27/2013 Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
  • 10/29/2013 Peabodys – Cleveland, OH
  • 10/30/2013 Chance Theater – Poughkeepsie, NY
  • 10/31/2013 Palladium – Worcester, MA
  • 11/01/2013 Gramercy Theater – New York, NY
  • 11/02/2013 Empire – Springfield, VA