Interview: Swordcery

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After hearing their somewhat unusual fusion of NWOBHM and doom metal, I received the opportunity to have a chat with the members of Argentinian band Swordcery. They asked me to meet them off the coast and there I was, in a rowboat with a Zune to record the interview, and a submarine broke the surface of the ocean a few hundred yards away. Among the torpedos and cruise missiles, we talked about Swordcery and metal.

You are drummer in Swordcery, a heavy metal band from Argentina. Can you tell me how the band was formed, how long it has been around, and what recordings you have released?

Andrés: I was introduced to Marcos, Swordcery guitarist, by a mutual friend. He kind of auditioned for this classic rock band I was playing at the time, but while he was still learning the songs that project disbanded. A couple of days after that, we half jokingly bounced off the idea of starting up a stoner/doom metal band, as I had recently got him into The Sword and Elder, and we both enjoyed Sabbath and Black Label Society.

Andrés: Fast forward a week later, he came up with a riff (which would eventually be the beginning Ruined Realm) and we got together and just kinda worked on it, just the two of us. It took us some time to find out exactly how to play what we wanted because neither of us had any experience at creating that particular sort of metal, we just knew that we liked it a fucking lot and that we wanted in. At some point it just clicked and we decided it was time to look for a bassist. An acquaintance suggested Isaias, and we’ve been at it together ever since. This all happened almost exactly three years ago now.

Were there any particular challenges in becoming a heavy metal fan, and then a heavy metal band, in Argentina? What about in your local area?

Andrés: I think heavy metal enthusiasts in Argentina face the same challenges that people all over the world do: being relegated to obscurity, portrayed in negative stereotypes in mainstream media, etc. Same goes for those that want to carve an artistic career with metal. However, a particular trait of argentinean culture that I think plays a role in all things metal here is the fact that due to our recent historical background (mainly the military juntas and their “cultural protectionist” and nationalist policies), heavy metal and hard rock are still perceived, almost subconsciously in most people, as something foreign, a cultural artefact that does not belong in this country. I think that pushes newcomers away from metal and into more mainstream and “acceptable” interests.

Andrés: That said, there has been a somewhat vibrant but uninspired and homogeneous metal scene in our country for three decades now, and in my opinion it’s no coincidence that for the most part it has always overplayed and explored the same themes again and again: national pride, identity and social issues. Almost like it’s been trying to fit in in the cultural argentinean ethos. I’ve digressed a little bit, but this plays a role when you try to make your way, musically speaking, into the metal scene here: it gets really, really difficult to find a crowd that buys into your music if you don’t pray at that particular altar. This all applies to the local level as well, with the added bonus of living in a somewhat uninhabited area like Patagonia that makes gathering a following all the more difficult.

What type of band do you hope to be? Is this a weekend project for you, or do you want to play Eurovision?

Isaias: My greatest ambition is that our music gets recognition at least in our continent, and that it finds its way into Europe and the USA eventually, and for us to make a living of our art, travel and play around the world.

Andrés: Like Isaias said, definitely not a weekend project. Making a living out of our music would be more than enough, but I think we allow ourselves to dream as big as possible. Who doesn’t daydream of being the next Black Sabbath and playing huge arenas and all that, right?

4. What are your influences? Your music could be described as (approximately) a fusion between old Witchfinder General and modern groove-based heavy metal. What helped you along the road to this style?

Isaias: As a band, our influences lie mostly in bands that share the same genre: Black Sabbath, The Sword, Elder, Red Fang, and the like. I like to highlight the fact that we don’t only consume heavy metal. I think that’s part of what makes Swordcery different. Individually our influences are totally different and diverse.

Andrés: To elaborate on that, Marcos comes from a thrash and grunge background, infused with more extreme and technical bands like Amon Amarth and Meshuggah, for example. On the other hand, I’ve always been a fan of hard rock and classic metal, from old Judas and Rainbow to Manowar, and a big glam fan too, like early Motlëy or its more modern iterations like Crashdiet or Hardcore Superstar (Poison is shit though). We try to keep focused when we are playing as a band but I think all the wildly different influences subtly permeate the final product.

Andrés: I’d say we’ve always aimed, since day one, to create a big, fat, epic sound, like a moving wall of living thunder. Along the way we somehow developed a penchant for structurally complex songs. We are always trying to find new ways of making our brand of doom/stoner metal though, and we hope to reflect that in our upcoming releases.

What are the most important bands in the history of heavy metal to you?

Andrés: I know I might get shit on for this but my opinion is that the perfect trifecta of both hard rock and heavy metal was, is and will ever be Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. I’m aware that there were a good deal of bands before them that paved the way to their final sound, and bands after them that refined it, but in my opinion they were the ones who set the foundations that we still follow to this day.

Most of your music is quasi-instrumental, with few vocals. Is there a lot of interest in instrumental metal? Why did you choose to make your music this way?

Isaias: It is true that our songs are mostly instrumental, with only maybe one third of vocals, but I don’t think we wrote them like that on purpose, they just kind of came out that way, maybe due to the nature of the genre.

Marcos: I guess we made our songs that way because it simply felt right at that time. Personally, as I’m a guitarist first and a singer second, I always enjoyed the instrumental side of our songs the most, probably due to the fact that I’ve drawn lots of inspiration from bands that are highly instrumental, like Elder and Colour Haze. For better or for worse, I think this has pushed us away from the more mainstream vein of metal.

Isaias: I’d like to note that we are currently trying to shift our focus a little bit to work more on the vocal aspect of our songs, trying to come up with more interesting melodies and playing around with vocal harmonies. This doesn’t mean we are going to make another instrumental song in the future though.

Andrés: As far as interest in instrumental music goes, at least in the local level, and mostly from people that are more used to more traditional or vocal focused metal, we’ve gotten mixed criticism.

Who is in the band, who composes the music, and how do you put together songs?

Isaías: We are a three piece. Marcos sings and plays guitar, Andrés provides ambience with his drumming and writes the lyrics, and I try to fatten our tunes with my four strings. As for our composition, we never start the same way; sometimes ideas spring up while we are jamming, or we come up with a specific riff or idea in mind and then work on it, and sometimes Andrés brings a lyric and we take it from there. After that we simply work on it, the three of us.

Marcos: Instrumentally speaking, me and Isaías come up with most it, though Andrés has an active participation when coming up and picking which riffs work and which don’t. We usually try to find a way to end up with a song that the three of us feel it’s ours, which even though it might sound like its not, it’s actually very difficult.

Andrés: In the end it totally pays off because the final product is truly the brainchild of our collective ideas, which makes Swordcery almost an independent creature, a thoughtform, if you will, unlike most other bands where everything is in charge of only one or two members and one as a listener can kinda get used to a sound and see the patterns, and finally get bored with them. Sure, as Marcos says, this means it usually takes a lot of time for us to come up and finish a new song, there’s a lot of debate and brainstorming going on constantly, and sometimes there’s friction but that’s only natural, and it goes to show how much each of us care about the end product. But this synergy that we have going on, how we actively feed on each other ideas, whether they work or not, that’s what sets us apart from most bands and for me that’s what makes me feel proud of Swordcery.

Speaking on metalgate topics: have you had any clashes with censorship? What about people objecting to your lyrical content? How do you feel about the idea that there should be rules about what metal bands can sing about, or that metal bands should worry about complaints about their content or image?

Marcos: So far we’ve only been criticized for writing our lyrics in English.

Andrés: And I think that ties in with what I answered before about heavy metal still being a foreign artefact to most of the local populace and the overly pseudo-nationalist lyrical content of most local bands. People here will gladly sing along to an Iron Maiden song but if an argie band writes and sings in english it gets frowned upon. At the same time that might have kept us away from criticism because most of our audience here doesn’t have a more than a superficial knowledge of the english language.

Andrés: I personally think (and to some extent I’d say my bandmates share the sentiment) that freedom of speech is sacred, for everyone, and more so for artists because artists, and that includes comedians and the like, are the ones that usually push the envelope regarding what is socially accepted and what is not, acting as the spearhead of new ideas and lines of thinking. If you restrain that, in the name of some perceived decency, political correctness, or whatever, you’re chocking the life out of one of society’s pillars which is intellectual discourse. And anyway, as it’s been proven again and again, ideas simply can’t be restrained, no matter how much Orwellian pro-censorship idiots try to. They always find a way to seep past any barrier, and do so with twice the strength.

Andrés: That also applies to what some call self-censorship, trying to make it look like when you self-censor yourself its not really censorship. Well, I’m of the mind that self-censorship disguised as decency or whatever, although pre-emptive in nature, is still censorship, and its even worse because it means that you internalized the idea that you can’t speak your mind so much that you thought-police yourself.

Do you have fascist or neo-Nazi bands down in Argentina? Do you feel they should be censored?

Marcos: There are some, but you gotta let them do their thing. In the end if you tried to silence them you’d only be giving them publicity.

Andrés: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

According to the band bio, you write “Lyrics focus on sword & sorcery, fantastic, and science fiction themes and literature.” What literature and stories inspire you? Do you think there’s something in common between metal, science fiction and fantasy or romantic literature?

Andrés: Most of my inspiration comes from old pulp stories of the sword & sorcery genre, like Howard’s Conan and Fritz Leiber’s swordsmen stories, Bourroughs Mars and Pellucidar series; we’ve got a song based on Tolkien’s Silmarillion too, and there’s some Lovecraft thrown in for good measure. I’ve also been an avid old school Dungeons & Dragons DM for a bunch of years now and that’s always in the back of my mind when writing lyrics (Ruined Realm originally had a lyric in spanish that detailed the adventures of a typical D&D party on an ancient fallen kingdom, for example). Video games with rich lore have always been a great source of ideas as well, like the Thief series (City of Thieves is mostly about that game’s eponymous City) and The Elder Scrolls legendarium. Lately I’ve been devouring Warhammer 40.000 lore like a madman, and as a result one of our latest songs had a grimdark sci-fi theme. Finally, there are a couple of narratives of my own devising, they too hover around the speculative fiction genre with a weird, gritty bent. I guess it’s pretty clear that as a lyric writer I’m an unapologetic escapist myself. For me, lyrics about social issues or that simply describe everyday situations and feelings without a narrative backdrop, a plot of some sort, are simply boring, both when I’m writing and when I’m reading someone else’s content.

Andrés: I’m no literature major but I think there’s definitely something in common between speculative fiction and metal. What initially drew me into metal was how easily I could be taken away with it, like a switch inside that simply goes on whenever there’s some metal playing around, almost like magic. The only thing that does the same for me is fantastic literature. There’s also the fact that metal is excessive, larger than life, over the top, some might even say, and I feel that that makes an excellent background to deal with larger than life narratives and themes which other genres might not be able to convey appropriately.

You’re going to get this question anyway, but: “Swordcery” is an awkward name. Why did you choose this? Has it caused problems? How does it reflect your music?

Andrés: It simply occurred to me one day while we were driving to practice and Marcos thought it was awesome because it was new, there’s no other band named anything remotely similar. The name’s always been an issue, especially if you keep in mind that most people here are not very proficient in anything besides spanish, but we like it enough to deal with it.

Andrés: It’s a made up word that combines sword & sorcery, which as I said before is the label applied to the literary work of Robert E. Howard and others like him. If you take our lyrics into account it works. Besides, the mental image of a barbarian wielding a sword against a chaos tainted sorcerer is metal as fuck.

If people are interested in hearing more from Swordcery and keeping up with news from the band, what should they do?

You can look us up on Facebook by our name. We are also in bandcamp as “Swordcery” too. Failing that, tell your local scrying expert too look into the empyrean realm and summon us by calling our true daemonic names.

Lineup
Guitarrista y Vocalista: Marcos Corbalan
Baterista: Andres Cabrera
Bajista: Isaías Arza

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Peste Noire – La Sanie des Siècles – Panégyrique de la Dégénérescence (2006)

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In the dying days of black metal, people imitate it from the outside-in by adopting its techniques but not understanding its inner core. Peste Noire combines heavy metal and indie rock with black metal stylings and produces a demi-opus of distracted listening: if attended to with half a brain, as when watching television, socializing or working, it seems fine and hits the right spots of black metal nostalgia. When listened to intently, it reveals itself as having relatively random structure and imitation of tropes that go nowhere.

The surface influence on this work that immediately comes to mind is Graveland, with a side dish of the more desolate Nords like early Gorgoroth and Immortal, but as an experienced listener of metal might guess, the closer one comes to self-pity music (depressive, doom) the lower quality of music becomes. A typical Peste Noire song begins with a black metal riff which it repeats in a cycle, ending in a chord progression reminiscent of bittersweet neurotically happy and sad at the same time indie rock, then drops into heavy metal tropes like the chaotic solo extending into a lead rhythm guide to a bounding riff.

Initial aspects of this album appear favorable: instrumental prowess, deliberate production, a study of black metal. At its heart it is disunified first by lack of purpose except egotistic lamentation, and second by a refusal to structure songs around anything but a visual perspective that hides itself by constant interruption (sort of like the “disruptive” trend in business). What remains, after the listener filters through appearance and randomness, could not fill the teacup of a black metal fan.

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Paradise Lost releases “No Hope In Sight” from The Plague Within

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Seminal heavy metal/doom metal band Paradise Lost will release The Plague Within on June 1, 2015 in Europe (June 2 in USA) through Century Media Records. During the early 1990s, this band inspired death metal and black metal bands to experiment with layered melodic lead rhythm guitar over distorted power chords, and to this day holds a position both close to popular music and using underground technique.

Paradise Lost comments: “Check out the first track from our new album ‘The Plague Within’. ‘No Hope In Sight’ was one of the first tracks we wrote and it reflects a blend of styles. From death metal to gothic to classic rock. It’s like all eras of PL wrapped up into one track. We hope you all like it!”

“No Hope in Sight” follows a familiar format, which is as much Iron Maiden as Black Sabbath, using melodic hooks contrasted by slow bass-heavy chord progressions in an extended pop song format that made its debut back in the early days of MTV. The result is infectious and on the lighter side, but dark enough in spirit to attract Gothic and metal fans alike who enjoy well-composed straightforward music.

PARADISE LOST live:
29/05/2015 – Rockavaria – Munich – Germany
30/05/2015 – Rock im Revier – Gelsenkirchen – Germany
18/07/2015 – Castle Party Festival – Bolkow – Poland
15/08/2015 – Summer Breeze – Dinkelsbuhl – Germany

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Should metal be a hobby or a career?

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A recent article on Gene Simmons observed the following:

Rock star Gene Simmons says that when it comes to making money he is like a great white shark.

And that despite being worth more than $300m (£200m), he will never stop wanting to make more.

…”I’ll never stop hunting more money, I’ll never have enough.”

On the other hand, many excellent metal bands are probably clearing $300/month in royalties or less. At that point, we tend to call the making of metal a hobby and talk about their day jobs. The advantage to that approach is that the metal can remain un-tainted by commerce and with consumerism, the need to appeal to an audience by jumping on trend bandwagons or otherwise showing them what they already know they like, sort of like how baby food is ground-up vegetables.

Looking at the other side, it must be nice to be worth $300m and to have the power to do great things with that. Maybe Mr. Simmons has done so. But one might think that at some point, the money becomes more important than the music, which turns metal away from its mission of brutal realism and makes it a friendly, happy, warm and fuzzy product like your average American beer or hamburger.

Perhaps a middle ground exists, where fewer metal bands make $300m but also fewer worthy metal bands subsist on $300. Most metal musicians would be very happy with $60-80,000 a year. They tend not to be materialistic, except for collecting vinyl and guitars, but in the grand scheme of things those aren’t very expensive.

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Desultory to launch new album in fall 2015

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Swedish heavy metal/death metal band Desultory, who along with Dissection, Unanimated, and Sacramentum paved the way for legions of melodeath to follow, are back in wartime formation and planning to record a new album. The band posted the following to social media:

Ok, so finally! We´re back into the Necromorbus studio, now to record our next full lenght album. We will record during the spring and hope for a release during the fall. Thanx for all your support and patience, this album is for you!

While most of us know this band through their Metal Blade debut (and one of the first big label acknowledgements of death metal) Into Eternity, their collection of demos entitled From Beyond the Visions of Death is also quite worth attending to. It combines the melodic approach of Unanimated with a heavy metal core, which makes it both more accessible and prettier than regular death metal.

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How to get into black metal

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An experienced music listener who is new to black metal asked for a doorway into the genre. This raises the question of how to appreciate black metal, which like most things in life is mostly mental preparation. Without context, black metal seems like any other loud genre, and it becomes harder to distinguish the newer tryhard junk from the original.

The best way to gain context is to walk through the history of the genre from oldest to newest. This approach, common in art, literature and philosophy, allows people to see what developed from what and what the reasoning for that was and therefore, what the reasoning is behind what is here now.

The result of this query was a simple list to urge people to explore this genre further. This list originates in the history of black metal music, but also in influences that can be identified among the bands as immediately relevant. Toward the end it extends more into general conjecture based on what shows up later in highly different form among the black metal works of relevance listed above it.

I. Proto- Metal

  1. Bathory – The Return
  2. Slayer – Hell Awaits
  3. Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids
  4. Sodom – Persecution Mania

II. Interim

  1. Sarcofago – INRI
  2. Merciless – The Awakening
  3. Blasphemy – Fallen Angel of Doom
  4. Von – Satanic Blood

III. Black metal

  1. Immortal – Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism
  2. Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
  3. Burzum – Burzum/Aske
  4. Emperor/Enslaved – Split
  5. Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
  6. Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon
  7. Varathron – His Majesty in the Swamp
  8. Havohej – Dethrone the Son of God
  9. Impaled Nazarene – Ugra-Karma
  10. Samael – Worship Him

IV. Second Wave

  1. Gorgoroth – Antichrist
  2. Graveland – The Celtic Winter
  3. Ancient – Svartalvheim
  4. Sacramentum – Far Away From the Sun
  5. Ildjarn – Forest Poetry
  6. Summoning – Dol Guldur
  7. Zyklon-B – Blood Must Be Shed
  8. Gehenna – First Spell
  9. Behemoth – From the Pagan Vastlands

V. Extended Contemporary

  1. Demoncy – Joined in Darkness
  2. Sammath – Godless Arrogance
  3. Mutiilation – Remains of a Ruined, Cursed, Dead Soul
  4. Absurd – Asgardsrei

For immediate death metal background to black metal:

  1. At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
  2. Carnage – Dark Recollections
  3. Godflesh – Streetcleaner

For heavy metal background to black metal:

  1. Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath
  2. Venom – Possessed
  3. Angel Witch – Angel Witch
  4. Destruction/Tormentor – Demos

For hardcore punk background to all metal:

  1. Discharge – Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing
  2. Amebix – No Sanctuary
  3. The Exploited – Death Before Dishonour
  4. Cro-Mags – Age of Quarrel

For electronic music background to underground metal:

  1. Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express
  2. Tangerine Dream – Phaedra

For progressive rock background to metal:

  1. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
  2. Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans
  3. Camel – Camel
  4. Greenslade – Greenslade

For classical background to metal:

  1. Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 4
  2. Richard Wagner – Tannhäuser
  3. Franz Schubert – Unfinished Symphony
  4. Mozart – Symphony 41
  5. Haydn – Symphony 82
  6. Bach – Partita No. 5 in G major
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How to analyze music

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Recent posting of an interesting article about transcendent realization in metal provoked a number of confused comments, none of which addressed the substance of the article. The objection was to modern metal, which many view as a misbegotten genre, and to secondarily to the bands involved.

As a thought experiment, I thought I might share some thoughts on analysis of metal. You will not find nice easy binaries and “objective” analyses here, more like qualitative assessments in a shifting frame of reference. Mostly these are questions which do not resolve to nice, uniform and balanced answers. They embrace the controversy.

However, you will find that as you look back over the journey — and that is the best metaphor for experiencing music, that of looking into a field of data — you will see that taken as a whole, the details point toward an overall picture. Your job then is to assess that against all other music and place it in context.

I start with these general questions:

  1. What changes between start and finish?
  2. What patterns can be found?
  3. Do these patterns form a language of sorts?
  4. If so, does it lead to the conclusion?

Art is a communication. Art that extends over time, like novels or music, takes the listener from a starting point to a conclusion. It is not very powerful, usually, to have the precepts equal the conclusion, but sometimes — rarely — a full circle can be revealing, like when one recognizes how utterly futile an idea was when applying it to an experience, and ends up abandoning it. Patterns can consist of any data that is discernibly isolated (relevant to all of its parts) and can often change meaning when repeated. Language uses patterns to build meaning by expressing tokens in context and changing that context to apply more attributes to those tokens. Language leads to a conclusion when internal conflict results in a clear answer as to what has become victorious, been destroyed or a merging of ideas.

These lead to other questions, such as regarding technique:

  1. Does this technique fit a need, or is the need made to fit the technique?
  2. Is it evocative of any real-world experience or vivid thoughts?
  3. Are the values of proportion, balance and purpose applied in this use of the technique?
  4. Is there another more relevant technique that was not use?

The biggest question here is whether the technique is used for a purpose or not. A band that merely makes a list of all techniques, assigns them to songs and then barfs out a song using them will not only be boring, but will miss an opportunity to communicate something more than the technique — including composition — itself. The worst problem here is the “wallpaper effect” where the band does not vary the intensity within each song, creating a listening experience like listening to a faucet on full blast.

I also suggest the following for seeing past aesthetic:

  1. If the lyrics were absent, how well would this piece stand up?
  2. If I played this on a kazoo or acoustic guitar, would it still sound as powerful?
  3. Is there depth to this imagery, or is the song a framing for the presentation of an image?

I find it useful to have a smaller CD player or computer in another room with not-so-excellent speakers. You can fire up the music on one of those and listen from a room or two away, which creates a sort of ad hoc filter that removes the value of production. You end up hearing root notes and rhythm the most, but also lose many of the flourishes that hide the actual music.

Then you should ask of its artistic relevance:

  1. What does this piece of music express?
  2. Does this address something relevant to life itself?
  3. What have I learned or experienced through this piece?

These questions explore significance. That exists on both a musical and thematic level, with the best music having the two operating at once toward the same ends. Music that is relevant expresses something we know of in life, and finds a way to make it beautiful and create transcendence from it. Clarity, or truth about reality, can itself have a transcendent effect in that it clears aside confusion and opens up a pathway to future creation. Good art creates a world that you want to step into and help fight it out so that the best, the beautiful, the good and the interesting prevails over Big Macs and Cheetos.

And then, finally, your duty to the reader:

  1. How many times could I listen to this without getting bored?
  2. In what situations would I discuss with others what this conveyed?
  3. How does this expand the metal lexicon of technique and ideas?

If you are writing as a reviewer, your readers do not have infinite time or money. They can purchase a few albums but are going to rely on these for enjoyment and learning over the course of the coming years. Remember your Bell Curve: most albums are in the middle, with some outright turds to the left and a few real standouts to the right. Your job is to pick the standouts because people can love these for years, and/or some of the high middle albums. Do not be afraid to be vicious. This is the money of normal people being spent on this music, and if they end up dissatisfied, it creates more landfill and causes them to despair on quality. Whatever is rewarded in the marketplace predominates, meaning you get more of it, so any sane person will be strict about quality.

With that being said…

Here’s a couple tracks for you to try. The only comments that are worthwhile are analytical ones. If you want to call someone a fag, go to one of the other threads and call me a fag. I got over it long ago and now I just ask for phone numbers or cock pics.

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Supuration releases “Suffocate Through Asphyxia” from Reveries of a Bloated Cadaver

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Back in the early 1990s, Supuration grew from a gore-oriented grindcore band into a death metal band, and then infused the mix with brainy indie/alternative rock of a progressive nature, carrying forward all three influences in varying degrees of balance.

Two decades later, the band plans to release Reveries of a Bloated Cadaver, a modern recording and high-value re-envisioning of the earlier songs with more technical playing, better production and improved cover art. To tease the fans, Supuration released a video for “Suffocate Through Asphyxia” that shows the direction this album will take.

Interestingly, the band preserve the underground metal focus of this material and take it in the proficient but still intensely violent and alienated direction that bands like Autopsy and Entombed embarked upon toward the mid-1990s. Improved playing and more adept tempo changes distinguish the original material of these songs, which appears somewhat reorganized to present itself more distinctively, and place it into a fully modern death metal sound.

It will be interesting to see what they do with other tracks that had more of a grindcore or alternative rock orientation back in the day. Supuration was the original alternative rock/metal crossover, but was ignored by the media because it retained its metal-ness instead of making metal-flavored Fugazi clones like the recent spate of media darlings. Maybe the band will reclaim its position in history with this upcoming release.

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Toxemia – Ancient Demon

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Underneath the trappings of an underground death metal band, Toxemia create 1970s-style doom metal, formed mainly of heavy metal elements but incorporating stylistic influences from a variety of darker shades of underground metal, most notably Autopsy Mental Funeral.

In chord progressions, song structure and lead guitar, this album most closely resembles what might happen if old Saint Vitus crossed over with a primitive proto-death metal band like Master, albeit at the slower tempi necessary for doom metal. Each song features a riff loop for verse and chorus with discursive riffs and use of both freeform lead guitar and rhythmic lead guitar overlays to distinguish the song. Clear themes emerge and while tonally there are few surprises, the arrangement of these familiar elements in forms that fit the particular worldview of this band makes these tracks interesting. While the underground metal influence can be seen in tremolo technique and layering of drums and guitars around a tempo change in the death metal style, the essence of Ancient Demon remains in the hard rock/heavy metal roots of the first generation of doom metal bands.

Experienced listeners may find some kinship here with the first Varathron album which also took a theatrical approach to traditional heavy metal and created dark atmospheres which both fulfilled expectations of that genre and distorted them into outsider commentary on the conventions themselves. The use of doom-death technique accelerates this band past most of the bands heading backward in time in the doom metal genre, but its spirit remains in that ideal and its execution is both faithful and inventive.

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Heavy metal has the most loyal fanbase

spotify_most_loyal_music_fans

Streaming music service Spotify recently crunched data on its users to determine which fans are the most loyal. Specifically, it looked for users who went back to their favorites over time. The results might astonish outsiders:

To find out, we first identified the “core” artists that, according to The Echo Nest (a part of Spotify), are most central to each genre, starting with the big ones, on a global level. Then we did the same thing with local genres in various countries around the world. To create a measure of genre loyalty, we divided the number of streams each core artist had by their number of listeners. All of the charts are normalized against the genre with the loyalest fans.

The first thing we noticed: Metal fans are the world’s loyalest listeners (we’ll get to the individual countries soon):

To metal fans, however, this is not surprising. Metal has a quality-focused worldview that is also highly internally competitive, and as such it is “winner take all”: bands acknowledged as better than the rest are upheld as highly desired, and everything else fades into the background much like the rest of society to a metalhead. The point is that novelty and personableness take a back-seat to musical power, because metal is music that worships power as a means of making the ugly into the beautiful, and so the quality bands once discovered remain favorites.

Spotify also noted something else:

This doesn’t necessarily mean Metal is “better” than Jazz (metalheads would disagree), but it does tell us that Metal fans are in fact the most hardcore, according to this new measure of genre loyalty.

Metal fans are the most hardcore because to them, the music is not an expression of self but of truth. A metal fan seeks music with power and that can only occur through ability, whether musical or artistic, and so music that is merely friendly or sociable does not meet this standard.

As we watch yet another wave of rock assimilationists assault metal and try to re-form it in the image of rock music with metal “flavoring” or surface touches, it becomes clear why metal is desirable: the audience is highly desirable because their esteem is not lightly given and will last for decades. This challenges rock, which is based in personal music with a high degree of novelty or a message with which the listener agrees. Metal undoes all of that; in metal, the message is in the music and the personal value is in finding the best, which is why metal remains an outlier in the music market.

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