Oration of Disorder Reviews 10-15-13

ihsahn-das_seelenbrechenIhsahn – Das Seelenbrechen

Much as we all admire the ex-Emperor axeslinger, he’s fallen into the pit of what happens to musicians once they’ve blasted out their most vital creative material: they become masters of interesting details, but this means that they fit into the dominant paradigm. In this case, Ihsahn is basically progressive indie rock with a tendency to launch off on flights of fancy that sometimes involve metally riffs. But for the most part, he’s playing with the same pieces and riding in the same channel that everyone else has been cruising for the last 70 years. This doesn’t showcase the legendary creativity that propels this artist toward his best work, and also doesn’t make for great listening, since it’s a collection of mixed moods that never really pick up a direction anywhere but into themselves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlAunHz0RIE

 

falkenbach-asaFalkenbach – Asa

Folk metal isn’t a genre; it’s an approach to any number of genres. Falkenbach is heavy metal with some black metal influences but is approached in a “folk” way that resembles jaunty pirate and epic Viking songs from Hollywood movies, thus continuing metal’s infatuation with the soundtrack. The music isn’t bad, but cycles verse-chorus and develops very marginally so there’s not much of a vertiginous sense of revelation. Further, either this dude has a sinus infection or they autotuned these vocals, which is somewhat repellent if your music is naturalistic. Thus this gets filed in the pile of stuff I’d like to like, but can’t have faith in, and find aesthetically irritating.

 

beastmilk-climaxBeastmilk – Climax

When we run out of ideas, we run to the past. So it is with Beastmilk, who resurrect 1980s indie rock with a slightly more intense guitar focus, like R.E.M. crossed with Dave Mathews and grafted into Journey. This isn’t bad, but not so exceptional we must cover it on a death metal site.

 

inferno-omniabsence_filled_by_his_greatnessInferno – Omniabsence Filled by His Greatness

Strongly reminiscent of early Dark Funeral with lower tuning, Inferno provide charging black metal with strong concluding themes and high energy. None of these riffs will really strike you as all that unusual, but they knit together well into songs. To flesh things out, Inferno use fills of sweeps or lead picking between the rushing power chord riffs. This release really doesn’t have enough character to distinguish itself for the ages, but is more refreshingly clear about what it likes than most of the kvltists or hybrid-bands that wander through our review stack these days.

 

blizaro-strange_doorwaysBlizaro – Strange Doorways

Sometimes we confuse having a lot of material with having something epic. This 2CD is a fusion of doom metal in the style of Confessor/Candlemass and a lot of random 70s influences from Hawkwind to Yes. These guys like to jam, and this music seems like someone recorded jams for a year, patched ’em up so they stuck together as songs, and worked them into an epic format. They’d do better to distill this to an EP of their best thoughts.

 

polluted_inheritance-betrayedPolluted Inheritance – Betrayed

When Polluted Inheritance play death metal, they create a type of very familiar and nocturnal music that feels like moving through a darkened battlefield. This is broken up by speed metal riffs and lead-ups which sometimes have Pantera-style roundabout vocals circling the end of each phrase, causing a sense of this battlefield being broken up by machinery. In addition, Polluted Inheritance like to drop in sporadic progressive riffing or extremely noodly guitar, often accompanying some of the speed metal riffs. Reminiscent in many ways of later Adramelech, the band thus “comes into its own” less frequently that it would if some hard stylistic decisions were made and individual members had less freedom to indulge musicianship for musicianship’s sake. It is gratifying however to find a release that actually wants to be metal, and can execute moments of insight in riff form that evoke the best moments of classic death metal.

 

boal-infinite_deprivationBoal – Infinite Deprivation

Although from the deathgrind genre, this album represents an attempt to use old school approaches to melody and riff with the “modern technical metal” style of static or harmony-based (sweep) riffs. These riffs are designed to contrast each other toward resolution in the old school way, but ultimately are too linear and rhythmic to develop enough phrase. However, the deathgrind portion of Infinite Deprivation is a breath of fresh air, incorporating groove in a subversive and unnerving way and building up to honest culminations. Obviously it’s too much to ask this band to go all old-school but they’re the closest thing to interesting in deathgrind.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Hje–YVhEQ

 

root-viginti_quinque_annis_in_scaenaRoot – Viginti Quinque Annis In Scaena

This album sounds like Venom covering Cream. It’s basically hard rock and the generation before it, sped up with more precise playing and some hefty fellow bellowing over the top. While none of it is is particularly badly executed, it also sounds dated, like a flashback into the late 1960s which is being resurrected for purposes of nostalgia. The homebrew nature of this band would be appealing if the songs stretched beyond an emulation of that past state in time, but although heavily influenced by the Hellhammer-Bathory first wave of black metal, this music remains in part of that cluster of material that belongs to a time before the underground.

 

circle-incarnationCircle – Incarnation

This seems like “sludge metal,” which is really just slow metalcore, with throw in influences from indie and black metal. Mostly disorganized, it fails from inability to make a point, although there are no other deficits. Like most music in this style, which seems to be people who want doom metal with aggressive open intervals instead of minor key ones, the modus operandi of the listener is to experience drone and forget where he is in the piece, then notice periodic interesting bits before descending again into a rumble of confusion.

 

toxic_holocaust-chemistry_of_consciousnessToxic Holocaust – Chemistry of Consciousness

The whole of the human condition is revealed by this album: it is well-executed on the surface, but its independent spirit is bound up in pleasing others with what they already know, in order to get power. As a result, it is a fun listen until you start thinking about hearing it a dozen times. It’s more instrumentally competent than your average retro-thrash band, but strays mostly into speed metal territory, mix and matching riffs from 1980s speed metal bands so that verse and chorus riffs each resemble well-known types but they don’t appear together as in the original song. Most of these songs are repetitive verse-chorus with a break to provide contrast before the reprise. Oddly, the vocals are whispered and distorted like a black metal band but using the rhythms of a late 1980s band like Sodom or Kreator. This is well-executed but I wouldn’t want to hear it again, especially as I heard all of these ideas the first time around — back in the 1980s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgxTN9M_3uM

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Satyricon – Satyricon

satyricon-satyriconWhat do musicians do when the drive to create has vanished?

When the label is clamoring for something new, does the band bow down and fulfill the request, or do they uphold standards? Black metal in particular has struggled with these questions for over a decade, with a myriad of responses. Some have chosen to retreat completely, seeking refuge in the wild.

Some have become exasperated with the genre, turning to electronic music before returning in glory. Others have waged war on modernity, risking well-being in pursuit of these goals. However, the greatest number have bowed to the wishes of the crowd and released a product that was quickly forgotten, which is where Satyricon’s self-titled album falls.

Embodying all that is lazy and lethargic, Satyricon is an excellent example of modern black metal ethos. Black metal only on the surface, the album is musically a hard rock/heavy metal album designed for max promotional appeal. Simple riffs with obvious sequencing, simple implementation, and solid production produce a well-shaped package that undoubtedly will allow the band to increase its commercial influence.

Sounding like a tribute to Fallen-era Burzum‘s minor-chord noodling but lacking even what little sense of spirit that album possessed, the band chucks in references to pop and blues cliches as if the label funded a study aimed at producing the most cookie-cutter album conceivable, then shared the results to the band…and let’s not delve into the collaboration with Sivert Høyem.

There is nothing here for readers of this site to enjoy, except for the more morbid members among us. This album goes nowhere. It has nothing to impart. And perhaps most damning, it’s not even terrible. It is simply a non-entity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPXnnTUl48Q

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Zemial – Nykta

zemial-nyktaFrom the way this album was promoted, a reader would anticipate an underground metal onslaught. However, outside of growly vocals that are just a shade removed from Motorhead, there’s nothing underground here. This is good old fashioned mid-paced speed metal in the early style that Onslaught and Exodus pioneered.

On Nykta, you’ll find choruses so infectious that the CDC is already tracking them. To offset that, you will find trudging riffs in the style of slower speed metal, with some nods to the catchier moments of heavy metal crossovers like Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol. There’s some decent guitar work experimenting on top of it, but the basis of this music is a steady procession of thoughtful primitive power-chorded riffs.

Luckily, Zemial know when to vary this up and so despite the heavy emphasis on hookish choruses, there is riff variation and transitional material that calls to mind the heavy rock bands of the mid-1970s like Deep Purple. On top of that shredding is tasteful and melodic, accenting what is otherwise a constant droning saw of guitar.

There are nods to the German speed metal scene as well, especially in percussion and its tendency to keep a pulsing beat with somewhat awkward tempo transitions that magically work once the momentum of the next riff picks up. Oddly the growly vocals, being semi-whispered and half-spoken, act more like a tour guide on a trance tour through hell than functioning like traditional vocals.

While this style may deserve a trigger warning for people who dislike repetition, Zemial acquit themselves well by knowing when to break the trope with abrupt transitions or melodic extensions of the riff idea. The result is simultaneously a new mapping of the past and a gentle tribute that keeps an ancient culture alive.

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Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces

albert_mudrian-precious_metal_decibel_presents_the_stories_behind_25_extreme_metal_masterpiecesIn our heavy metal books section today, there’s a review of Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces, by Albert Mudrian.

This lengthy exploration of heavy metal classics collects the highlights of interviews with bands about classic albums and assembles them into a single Q&A session. In doing so, the writers of Decibel have assembled a formidable amount of information and answered many of the hanging questions about these metal epics.

Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces covers twenty-five band/album pairings and, while not all will be enjoyed by everyone, the wizardry of its selection is that just about everyone can find at least a dozen that will interest them. It brings the classics to life in a new form.

Read our review of Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces, by Albert Mudrian.

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Nocturno Culto’s Gift of Gods to release Receive

gift_of_gods-receiveNocturno Culto, who forms one-half of the nefarious duo known as Darkthrone, has a long history of side projects. Among other contributions, he worked out the intricate riffcraft behind Satyricon’s Nemesis Divina, making it a favorite in that band’s catalog.

Now he has embarked on a new side project which is a pure traditional heavy metal band called Gift of Gods. Gift of Gods will release its debut mini-album Receive on Peaceville Records on November 5, 2013.

Commented Nocturno Culto, “Finally, the mini-album is done. Gift Of Gods has been a great ride for me. I don’t want this to end now, so I will most likely work on new material. Thanks to my partner in crime, K.A. Hubred, we got to rehearse during the last two years. What to expect? I have no idea how to describe this, but it’s metal for sure.”

Receive was performed and recorded by Culto and Hubred at Culto’s home studio, and mixed and mastered by Jack Control at Enormous Door, who recently worked with Nocturno on Darkthrone’s The Underground Resistance.

So far the only reports tell us this will be traditional heavy metal with a wide range of influences and that it will lead toward the melodic side of things. This EP/mini-album will be a half-hour of material including a cover of “Looking For an Answer” originally by obscure Swedish 80s band Universe.

  1. Intro
  2. Enlightning Strikes
  3. Receive
  4. Looking For An Answer
  5. Last Solstice
  6. Outro

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Dark Funeral to re-issue first six albums including In the Sign…

dark_funeral-in_the_signDark Funeral, the Swedish black metal band started by Necrophobic guitarist David Parland (whose untimely demise this year shocked the metal world), has a long and storied career. The band is now re-releasing its earlier works with the usual remaster and rare tracks treatment.

The important album to look forward, however, is In the Sign…. This one, which features the guitar work and composition of Parland, shows melodic Swedish black metal at its raging best. With the energy of Belial, and the general aesthetic of a simplified Dissection, early Dark Funeral is a more heavy metal take on black metal that often resembles tremolo-picked version of Ride the Lightning.

In the Sign… as re-issued will be almost twice as long, with the original self-titled MCD/EP combined with four Bathory covers to produce an approximation of an eight-song album. These titles will be released in Europe on September 9 and in North America on November 12 via Century Media Records.

In The Sign… (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as CD, LP (plus poster), digital download**
1. Open The Gates (4:36)
2. Shadows Over Transylvania (4:22)
3. My Dark Desires (3:52)
4. In The Sign Of The Horns (3:43)
5. Equimanthorn (BATHORY cover) (3:21)
6. Call From The Grave (BATHORY cover) (4:34)
7. Open The Gates (live 2003) (3:54)
8. Shadows Over Transylvania (live 2003) (3:16)
9. My Dark Desires (live 2003) (3:48)
NOTE: tracks 1-4 are taken from the self-titled MCD (1994), tracks 6-7 are taken from ‘In Conspiracy With Satan’ BATHORY-tribute sampler

The Secrets Of The Black Arts (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as 2CD, Gatefold 2LP (plus poster), digital download**
CD1:
1. The Dark Age Has Arrived (00:18)
2. The Secrets Of The Black Arts (03:40)
3. My Dark Desires (03:46)
4. The Dawn No More Rises (03:58)
5. When Angels Forever Die (04:06)
6. The Fire Eternal (03:54)
7. Satan’s Mayhem (04:52)
8. Shadows Over Transylvania (03:41)
9. Bloodfrozen (04:20)
10. Satanic Blood (VON cover) (02:12)
11. Dark Are The Paths To Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal) (05:56)
CD2:
1. Shadows Over Transylvania (Unisound version (03:39)
2. The Dawn No More Rises (Unisound version) (03:40)
3. The Secrets Of The Black Arts (Unisound version) (03:26)
4. Satan’s Mayhem (Unisound Version) (04:48)
5. Bloodfrozen (Unisound Version) (03:36)
6. My Dark Desires (Unisound Version) (03:21)
7. Dark Are The Paths To Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal) (Unisound Version) (05:39)
8. The Fire Eternal (Unisound Version) (03:38)

Vobiscum Satanas (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as CD, LP, digital download**
1. Ravenna Strigoi Mortii (04:26)
2. Enriched By Evil (04:40)
3. Thy Legions Come (04:11)
4. Evil Prevail (04:28)
5. Slava Satan (03:56)
6. The Black Winged Horde (04:37)
7. Vobiscum Satanas (05:00)
8. Ineffable King Of Darkness (03:38)
9. Enriched By Evil (live 1998) (04:43)
10. Thy Legions Come (live 1998) (04:14)
11. Vobiscum Satanas (live 1998) (05:00)
12. Ineffable King Of Darkness (live 1998) (03:28)

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Master to release The Witchhunt

master-the_witchhuntOn September 27, famous proto-death metal band Master unleash The Witchhunt, the band’s twelfth album since the early days when Paul Speckmann moved from heavy metal band War Cry to the more punk-influenced band Death Strike, who released their classic and only album Fuckin’ Death at about the same time Master released its first opus.

(If you ask us, the Master albums to get are Collection of Souls and the Master-related band Speckmann Project’s self-titled album, which contains many updated versions of classic Master works.)

Over the past two decades, Master has steadily been abandoning its heavy metal and bounding punk influenced style for a tighter, more complex, and more rigid attack that compares favorably to mid-1990s death metal.

The new Master album, featuring musicians Paul Speckmann recruited in his new home nation of Czech Republic, has an even tighter and more energetic sound. If the past is any guide, this will be an album to enjoy for all death metal, heavy metal, punk and blues fans.

  1. The Witchhunt
  2. Plans of Hate
  3. Another Suicide
  4. Waiting to Die
  5. The Parable
  6. God of Thunder
  7. Remove the Clowns
  8. Raise your Sword
  9. Wipe out the Aggressor
  10. Manipulated to Exterminate
  11. The American Dream

For updates and to see if Master is coming to your town, check out the band’s official homepage.

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The origins of music

This article is a counterpoint to Jon Wild’s
Social functions of heavy metal music
.

the_origins_of_musicThe question of why humans invented music—and continue to be enthralled by it—has long puzzled scholars. While some, including Charles Darwin, have guessed it grew out of a courtship ritual, recent research has focused on its ability to strengthen bonds within a community. Think military marches, or fight songs at a football game.

I disagree. In my view, music is a cognitive hack. It taps into a number of different pre-existing ways that our brain uses to interact with and make sense of the external world, not least our inherent hard wiring for pattern recognition and the (evolutionarily useful) enjoyment of discovery, surprise and invention.

Steven Pinker calls it “auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of at least six of our mental faculties.” Its ability to harmonize a social group is secondary, or at least in historical terms probably came after the psychological/cognitive side of things. Music’s social functions aren’t the reason for our having music in the first place, but are consequent to its tangible nature and the internal responses it produces in us.

Musicians do well [supposedly] in the evolutionary stakes, not just because music works for humans like feathers do for a peacock: ostentation/display of a purely secondary characteristic that doesn’t really do anything by itself, but communicates “I have so much spare resources to expend I can put effort into this pointless shit and still be walking around in one piece — I must be a worthy mate!”, but more-so because a sensitivity for music demonstrates a mind that’s strong at apprehending pattern and detail; kind of like success in sport demonstrates physical fitness.

Sociological explanations of music almost always confuse causation and correlation, not to mention that the research methods often sound a bit phoned-in; check out this from the study mentioned in the above linked article:

112 adults recruited online filled out a series of surveys. One measured their “need to belong,” asking them to agree or disagree with such statements as “If other people don’t seem to accept me, I don’t let it bother me.” A second measured their emotional reactivity by assessing their agreement with such statements as “I get upset easily.”

A third survey measured their emotional and physical reactions to music. The researchers found their response to music has a “unique predictor” of the need to belong, above and beyond their general emotionality. In short, those who reported a greater need to belong also tended to have more intense involvement with music.”

I don’t doubt the findings (although it’s not unknown for academics to fake research to get the conclusion they want), but I wouldn’t be willing to base a theory of music’s origin on them. This case may boil down to a question of origins within the individual versus the social functions that allowed society to tolerate music. In other words, origins versus utility.

The information seems to paint a pretty narrow picture of music and of certain types of people. Yes, some music is part of a social experience, but some however is a very private pleasure. Many great musicians spend a great deal of their time introverted and happily practicing by themselves, something that simply wouldn’t make sense if this study’s conclusions were more broadly evident.

In a similar way, sociological studies of metal have always missed the mark, because they view the social as primary, rather than seeing that people might listen to a certain type music for, ye know, the music. For some sorts of music — the kind where the actual music doesn’t matter beyond a few simple features (e.g. 4/4 kick drum accent on every beat, easy melody, interchangeable lyrics about partying, sex etc) — the social experience is undoubtedly about all there is to it.

For something like metal, which takes a bit of effort to construct and to get into it’s a different story. In these case people usually get into the music because certain melodic shapes, harmonies, disharmonies, timbres, trigger off a kind of deep rooted psychological semiotics, coupled with some semi-learnt information on musical forms – and the feelings and ideas that these together help communicate appeals to them. The music symbolizes some emotion or idea that they find meaningful.

While that is closest to the idea of social harmonization as proposed by this article, it’s also entirely different in that there is not a central social force causing people to harmonize to it. Rather, there’s an offering, like a flower with bright colors, and bees of their own volition come to take its message (pollen) along with its appeal (nectar).

Looking at some of the most obvious descriptions we tend to attach to metal music: ‘assertive’, ‘violent’, ‘primitive’… Perhaps these descriptors aren’t really all that arbitrary or socially-defined; rather the music really does hearken back to things you could fairly associate with those descriptions.

Imagine the sounds of primates screaming at each other as they bite and tear shreds off one another, the din of battle, etc. These impressions embedded somewhere inside our psychology from generations past are brought to the forefront by metal. If rock ‘n roll is the rhythm of sex, then metal is the rhythm of battle, of running, of methodically tracking then pounding the skulls in of prey.

Add this to the cognitive ‘cheesecake’ delight that music is designed to excite, then metal becomes that feeling of a fight well fought, of victory, of dinner time after a successful hunt, and all the resulting endorphin rushes that all these things would’ve induced in our ancestors. Which takes me back to the cognitive hack: metal sounds like life, but turned up to 11.

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Social functions of heavy metal music

metal_onlyThe origins of human fascination with music remain unknown. A number of hypotheses have arisen throughout the years in an attempt to explain the utility of music to human civilization.

These vary from viewing it as arising as an individual occurrence with unique philosophical implications, to seeing it as a side-effect of language-based communication; a pleasant phenomenon but without any meaning beyond that. Regardless of its cause, the functions music provides are generally easier to identify.

Via the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, newly released academic research into the social implications of music has claimed that music functions as a way of bringing people together within a group. Specifically, the authors claim that music is a vehicle for projecting “information about the group’s shared mental state to a number of individuals at once.”

In this view, music is a type of broadcast that attracts people based on a topic and brings them together in unity of experience. This enables the group to consolidate its knowledge and then distribute it to all of its members, not unlike the social functions of good political science books, novels, speeches, movies or other memetic/viral communications.

As evidence for this new research, multiple studies are presented in which the authors posed questions to a test group designed to determine their emotional need to belong, and then compare it to how strongly they react to music. The findings were that there was a direct connection between this desire and its fulfillment through music. As a corollary, after researchers attempted to break down a group’s sense of belonging, the effect music had on it increased further.

While some metal fans may not wish to admit this, the genre does serve this role for many of its enthusiasts. That’s not to say it’s the primary reason for listening, over the sound itself; but metal as a social component does exist. Regardless of a person’s position within society, those who appreciate metal (therefore excluding those who listen ironically, i.e. hipsters) share something in common.

Alienation of modernity is present within all art forms of metal — whether politically, spiritually, or just plain exasperation at our disposable TV dinner culture — but unlike the solutionless protest music of yore, metal provides a constructive way of overcoming this. It allows a group of people who in some cases may not be able to describe themselves directly, to communicate through an art form.

What makes metal interesting is that it operates on many levels. At the lowest, it is simply exciting music. Higher up, it is complex music that attunes the individual to a certain naturalistic outlook. At the highest, perhaps, it helps metalheads reach others who feel similarly but perhaps never consciously examined their beliefs, and from that build a community around understanding.

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