Iron Maiden working on their second video game

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Back in 1999, Iron Maiden released Ed Hunter, a greatest hits compilation that also included a video game of the same name. The game hasn’t aged well at all (and even in 1999, it was underwhelming). 17 years, though, have wrought enormous changes in the video gaming industries, and thusly, Iron Maiden’s second effort (at least, if you don’t count the minigame released for “Speed of Light”) is under development. Legacy of the Beast describes itself as “an epic free-to-play mobile role playing game, set in the expansive Iron Maiden universe,” and like any bandgame it understandably includes many songs from Iron Maiden’s career, as well as some live recordings that will remain exclusive to the game for some time. Little concrete information has been released on how this game will actually play, but a signup for a mailing list on the game’s webpage suggests upcoming information in the near future…

On Metal Transcriptions and Metal Music Percussion

Article by David Rosales

This very entertaining cover of Iron Maiden’s song ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’ as performed by a bass clarinet quartet was posted on Youtube a few years ago. The instruments take on the melodic lines of the song, which was aptly selected as it is rich in them. This experiment is not only fun to listen to but interesting in how a different instrumentation highlights one aspect of the music while utterly losing a whole dimension exploited by the original composition.

The clarity of melody and harmony is quite enhanced here and so their study and appreciation by the guitar student seeking to learn and emulate this aspect of the song will greatly benefit from this adaptation. However, the loss of the power chord, and particularly the power chord played on the distorted electric guitar means the loss of an ocean of artificial artifacts that form the bulk of the richness of sound of the instrument and which lend metal and hard rock music one of its distinctive aural characteristics.

The necessary absence of the drum set is seen by the more classically-oriented music fan or musician as, perhaps, negligible, but this is only because of the widespread ignorance (either through pop culture or academic music indoctrination) about the relevance of percussion in metal. Contrary to the now-traditional view of percussion as a less important aspect of music (which, in fact, flies in the face of many traditional folk musics around the world, where it is recognized and studied by academicians yet still seen with derision as “primitive”), this reliance that metal has exhibited in increasing amounts is not a measure of scarcity of content or artistic deficiency, but rather the appearance of an unknown variable.

Metal percussion in its most advanced states, that is, in its use in the more artistically (as opposed to technically) developed subgenres of death and black metal shows a usage and expansion that just does not exist in traditional or experimental classical music. As such, academicians have no precedent by which to measure or qualify this. They should perform field research, they should listen, but they are too comfortable and busy feeling self-important. This is the sad state of the intellectually self-gratifying (and ‘morally’ bankrupt) art that results from two centuries of overarching materialism, corruption and decay.

Many would point to the obvious origin of metal percussion in traditional rock, and that is factually right, yet its use and direction has gone far beyond it and in some cases taken cues even from electronic music (especially in the case of some black metal)and jazz music (in the case of some death metal). Metal percussion incorporates aspects of these and has built a whole new art out of it that could be considered the more spiritual child of the pleasure-oriented and technically-nuanced jazz (Editor’s note: DMU has written about this very hypothesis in the deep past).

The future and refinement of metal this metal percussion should not to reside in the empty groove explorations of fusion as seen in djent nor in the facetious exercises of tekdeth which may even borrow directly from genres such as samba in their search for “entertaining and interesting” bits to play, regardless of how this may affect the character of the music. Also defunct inside are the dead-end and superficial attempts at applications of abstract concepts in nu-black metal and war metal. As in all other aspects of the already-cemented, fully-formed language of metal, the role of its percussion and its abstract concepts have been made known implicitly in the music of the classics. Go, listen, study, learn, apply.

 

Sadistic Metal Reviews – Loute Vire Edition (End of 2015 Series)

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Popularity contests are good for one thing only: determining the degree of decadence the mentality of a certain group. Given the state of sedation and apathy of the general public, it is no surprise that this list shows the contemptible character and inability for self-criticism and assessment the average man is aflicted with. Also, like anything mainstream, very little here is actually metal, even in spirit. Loute Vire especializes in democracy, bringing the average stupidity back to the average person, feeding them their own filth.

Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls (2015)

1. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
Free us from Glam-rhythm Maiden. Character-wise, this nu mid-paced Iron Maiden is a combination of eighties hair metal, power-doom-epic metal in the vein of Candlemass but with the emphasis of catchy Murican posturing. Structurally, it manages to be both formulaic and pointless in its overextension, basically taking the worst from both worlds. Iron Maiden have become the kings of posturing, and even if butthurt fans complain, one must say that this downfall was evident ever since Somewhere in Time and was pretty evident with Seventh Son of the Seventh Son. Stick to 1985’s Live After Death as a synthesis of the band’s golden era and you’ll be fine. Stop feeding Steve Harris’ ego machine.

Ghost

2. Ghost – Meliora
Caricature music that disguises carnival thinking by providing a steady, unchanging background. Ghost know how to fool the enemy, the audience is hooked, distracted by fireworks to the right and to the left, without realizing they are paying for an empty but colorful cardboard box. Ghost, master deceivers, everything is so in your face, that the decadent masses love the fake but safe entertainment that ironic bullshit provides. Surely this would also be released in vinyl format, that’s what hipsters do. They need to keep piling up appearances and hip products. The best thing you can do with one of these is break it and use the shards to cut the throats of Ghost fans.

Tribulation

3. Tribulation – The Children of the Night
This hard rock-ish outfit is probably what Opeth would sound like if they focused on their weirdo rock side instead of jumping around genres without musical justifications or proper transitions, or if Ghost took itself seriously and had a little talent. Tribulation’s may be the best album on this list, as pop and hook-based as it is, it retains the basic decency of proper music in its continuity and coherence. The focus is completely on the guitar lines. Unfortunately, songs do lapse as they are overstretched for the false ‘complexity’ appearance that hipsters, high school nerds and college SJWs like. Worthy of from radio airtime, not more, no less.

(Editor’s note: You know a band is bad when it gets double-SMR‘ed.)

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4. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
I may not have been paying enough attention but, when did this originally Finnish death metal band turn into American high school rock balladers with queer Scandinavian leads? (Editor’s note: It began in 1994.) Amorphis seems to have abandoned all sense of pride for a couple of more greens. This is selling out clearly exemplified. Bands, this is what you should not do. Fans, you will only find plastic here.

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5. Enslaved – In Times
Progressive rock for those who lack the subtlety for progressive rock. Black metal for those too soft to brave the intellectual challenge of not being a sheep. This is long-winded pop and rock artificially styled to appear complex for insecure posers.

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6. Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic
Dream Theater meets Avenged Sevenfold with a strong Pink Floyd influence. How do these guys manage to sound exactly the same again yet be so vague in content? All semblance of continuity here, apart from tonality, is only maintained at some cerebral level in the imagination of the band or of the fans who will like any catchy & ‘complex’ turd that distracts them from their monotonous lives. The music itself is a disparaged parade of funny moments.

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7. High on Fire – Luminiferous
Speed metal on the outside, borish NWOBHM on the inside. This gets old quick and leaves no mark. Like many others, it tries to be an updated, more tough version of Motorhead, and use the old excuse of just “wanting to play good ole rock”. Forgettably redneckish.

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8. Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman
It is difficult not to laugh when listening to this macho-man bullshit for young, white posers. However bombastically pop and girly these songs are, they flow well. On the downside, the band never develops or resolves songs, meaning they are only good as groove and hook inducing. Radio garbage.

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9. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Boring as ever, or perhaps more than ever, Paradise Lost is still trying to make the album they almost achieve with their earliest music. Never rising above potential mediocrity, this band is a collection of dull moments peppered with pleasing leads. An unexpected heir to this hooky combination of candy and nutrition-less filler is Sylosis. Anyone looking for a casual hit may dig into some of the tracks here, otherwise, refer to classic underground so-called doom metal.

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10. Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things
Alternating angsty with pretty boy vocals, the mark of immaturity. Groove-based music without a clear thematic line, the mark of an empty mind. So, this is basically unthinking, puerile nonsense for people who want to “feel” metal but do not actually like metal. Destroy not only any copies of this but the factories and corporate buildings in charge of producing this mindless heap of catchy garbage.

Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls (2015)

Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls (2015)
Iron Maiden’s main strength in their 1980s heyday was their ability to incorporate progressive rock tropes (and therefore useful techniques for song variation and extension) into what was otherwise a fairly standard, if well executed poppy heavy metal sound. Not the rarest trick in the book, but more than enough to turn the band into a commercial juggernaut whose influence can sometimes be heard even in the deepest dregs of the underground.

On first impression, The Book of Souls ages gracefully, offering an aesthetic mostly similar to the band’s earliest recordings with Bruce Dickinson if understandably and obviously brought up to modern production standards. Like the rest of the band’s latter day material however, it leans ever closer towards its prog-isms, resulting in several enormous tracks and inflating the content into a full-fledged double album. The unfortunate weakness of these epics is that they are replete with filler of questionable value to a track, and as the length of these albums and tracks grow ever longer, so does the tedium, as Iron Maiden’s ability to extend a track beyond 7-8 minutes or so has not advanced along with them. Tracks end up overwhelmed by moments stunningly reminiscent of old hooks and hit singles (for instance, the intro of “Shadows of the Valley” seems to channel “Wasted Years” from Somewhere In Time), and the true nature of the band’s recent weakness reveals itself.

Iron Maiden has become a band split between two souls that they are unable to effectively reconcile. Their urge to extend their songwriting and write metal epics is held back by their need to continuously sound like Iron Maiden and the corresponding need to push hit singles. Paring down some of the worst excesses would probably be the most profitable option, since the band has demonstrated many times through their career that they can handle some degree of extension. Even then, Iron Maiden is competing with their own past; a past that is more virile (if not as slickly produced or musically experienced) and still easily experienced at their live concerts. I expect this album to jump off the shelves of record shores for still being recognizably Iron Maiden, for having some memorable and well-written moments and for being a valid way to financially support the band, but as a work of music, I don’t expect it to retain much listener interest after its marketing blitz subsides.

Iron Kingdom – Ride for Glory (2015)

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Sounding like an Iron Maiden with the annoying voice from Queensryche’s vocalist from back in the day, Iron Kingdom make melodic heavy metal with the flexibility and propriety of conscious progressive rock. A very clear image of the character, lyrical theme and direction of the music arises through discrete but carefully-considered decisions to express the next clause with a literal musical change to match its change in words.

While the music could be described as progressive upon first impression, the result is closer to an extended and twisted pop-song format in which the pieces and functions are maintained but considerable variety is introduced. While some would object to this description, this is precisely what a progressive music arising from verse-chorus-bridge music should sound like: music that evolves to underpin the lyrical events taking place in the story being told. The vocals are kept within the framework of the music in a unified way through a composition of the melody line that strictly adheres to the moving harmony under it, rather than flying around in opera-like expression that takes a slow-moving support harmony as licence and liberty to stand out on its own. In here, the voice is a melodic instrument working in between the guitars and riding them (see Ozzy Obourne), not jumping on them as if they were trampolines (see Bruce Dickinson, Ronny James Dio).

Succeeding over the grandpa metal with progressive pretensions of post-2000 Iron Maiden by injecting a dose of proper progressive music with the influence of Queensryche, Iron Kingdom give us songs that actually progress and not just long, over-drawn affairs with over-extended bridge sections. While Ride for Glory is undeniably a song collection, the amount of content, its purpose within each song and their consistency track after track in all aspects while giving a distinctive-enough identity to each song give the album a chapters-in-a-story-like feeling of succession that while not altogether literal, can be felt from the music. Obviously an experienced band, Iron Kingdom know exactly what they are doing and more importantly the music is full with purpose, giving Ride for Glory a strong feeling of meaningfulness.

https://www.facebook.com/ironkingdom

Scythian – Hubris in Excelsis (2015)

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Following the example of Kreator in Phantom Antichrist, Scythian unite riffing approaches from different metal subgenres under the banner of traditional heavy metal and growled or barked vocals, with a result along the lines of the so-called melodic death metal.  In contrast with the noteworthy release Thy Black Destiny, by Sacramentum, Hubris in Excelsis does not coalesce into a thing of its own but just floats around as the result of spare parts being put together to form an undefined, impersonal and disparate heavy metal record. In this, and its revolving around the vocals it is more akin to the Iron Maiden – inclined heavy metal which sets one foot on hard-rock land, using disconnected riffs only as rhythm and harmony to carry the voice.

We hear doom metal proceedings and textures typical of black metal, but these are usually encapsulated within sections. These sections are used in conventional rock-song functionality. What determines this rock versus metal approach? Basically, the total relationship of riffs and sections to voice and in between themselves. Rock (and hard rock after it) carries the music after the vocal lines (thus we can see the slight influence of hard rock over Slayer in South of Heaven even though it doesn’t fully give in to the tendency to disqualify it as a metal record). The key tell-tale sign after this is the lack or at least a downplay of motif-relation between parts of the song, the support for main melody or vocal line becoming the most important and prominent element. The effect of this often results in something similar but in the end different from metalcore: disparate parts tied loosely by a certain background consistency (usually harmony for rock and rhythms or motifs drowned in an ocean of contrasts for metalcore).

The plentiful references to many different genres extending all the way to cliche-ridden pagan black metal may throw off the attempts of most to nail down what Hubris in Excelsis actually is, what it consists of and what its essence ultimately is. Hubris in Excelsis is indeed a title that reflects this album beyond their intended concept. Hubris, an excess of self-confidence, often at the expense of prudence and seemliness, is placed in a position of glory, giving way to veiled expressions of ego that disregard any sense of coherence and little consistency beyond the most superficial.

A Comment on Bardic Tradition in metal

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The terms bardic or minstrel metal have often been used to describe bands that usually sing in a clear voice and with anthemic overtones, often imitate medievalesque motifs and write lyrics in the manner of romanticized ancient legends. Generally, the metal subgenre most readily associated with bardic expression is power metal because they advertise themselves as modern-day minstrels and theirs is the kind of catchy and upbeat music most people can latch on to most easily. The bardic spirit along with the culture it transmits, however, requires a sturdier medium that is able to etch its runes indelibly without detracting from the importance of their message.

Power metal could be described as a blend of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden mixed with the energy of speed metal. The influence of Ritchie Blackmore cannot be overstated either. In time, they developed their own tropes and particular voices that set them apart from their Briton godfathers. Bands making music in this style are known for an overt expression and presentation that falls just a little short from that of the despicable glam metal. More often than not, these theatrical habits and indulgences overshadow both the content of the music and the words, both of which come close to becoming only an excuse for narcissistic expression. The persona takes precedence over the message.

A sensible division of terms would be advisable here since the words bard and minstrel actually denote two very similar but different traditions. The bard was said to be an itinerant poet who, with the help of music, kept traditions and values alive through stories and legends written in meter. The minstrel made its most significant appearances in courts. Its main job was to entertain the nobility. The latter job’s description often overlaps with that of a jester whose curriculum included clownish acts like juggling. Here is where we find the most apt description for bands like Helloween or Blind Guardian, who willingly and naively took the latter term for themselves.

In lieu of this minstrel metal, a bardic one, with enduring power to carry and transmit the word by giving it the place of honor, is needed. Firstly, any musical tradition with this aim must achieve an optimal balance between being both evocative and submerging yet enveloping the words so that these are propelled forward, emphasized, given contour and colour. Secondly, this is metal. And as proper metal, the riff must lead.

Delirium – Tiempo, Limites y Espacio

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Delirium was formed in 1990 as Delirium Tremens. In 1995 they debuted with a self-titled album considered to be a Central American classic. It was a particular style drawing influences from many different styles of metal ranging from NWOBHM, Speed Metal, Thrash to punk and alternative rock without falling into the carnival approach of modern metal bands. The influences blend and boil down to form an almost concrete and new street-dirty heavy metal style. A close look at Delirium’s discography shows how the band has evolved through the years gradually taking in more mainstream influences after having parted from a mixture of early Iron Maiden and Metallica. Looking under the hood of post-debut Delirium one can find a weakening of an original voice and the more obvious influence of 1980s Rush and late, prog-bent Iron Maiden.

Tiempo, Limites y Espacio is a collection of acoustic arrangements of older songs. The band retains a professional musician’s touch for pacing and pausing, showing us why they are still one of the leading acts in central america. We find Latin-styled acoustic guitar leads, understated popular drum rhythms along with Latin hand-percussion in some interludes, bridges and intros. Occasional use of maracas for rhythmic emphasis are use in very limited instances. Verses reduce guitar to chords supporting the vocal melody line. Characteristically 1970s synth effects are used for melodies and even a solo on the track Abismo, while the remaining use of keyboard functions are simple and direct organ and piano chord outlining. The refreshing presence of bow instruments grace brief interludes. The aura these exude may remind one of Empyrium’s Into the Pantheon, a personal favorite of the writer. It is also clear that the singer is consciously aiming to emulate the overt style of Adrian Barilari, of the late Rata Blanca, and by extension the style of Bruce Dickinson.

What we find here are original Latin street heavy metal and alternative heavy metal styled songs fine tuned and made ready for mainstream radio exposure for quick acceptance with a mainstream audience. This acoustic release (as is any faithful acoustic arrangement of metal music) is a highlight of the qualities behind the music and the songwriting capabilities of the band.

The album can be downloaded for free here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wphEkDrQq9Q

Heavy metal as a brand

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Most metalheads, not being of the commercially-minded type, rarely stop to think about heavy metal as a brand. Media sells a certain image with heavy metal, just like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Jack Daniels whisky, both of which are highly successful brands. Metal forms more of a meta-brand, symbolizing rebellion and bad boy lawlessness. That image can be used to sell a lot of products, since consumers really hate the idea that they are merely being good sheep by buying whisky and transportation.

In commercials, television and movies, rebellious characters are often introduced with heavy metal in the background. Fight scenes in both football and blockbusters often get the heavy riff treatment, as do superhero epics. Bizarrely, House Hunters — a television program about people choosing which house to buy — uses AC/DC style hard rock riffing in the background to its real estate epics. Anywhere boldness, bravery, rebellion and defiance must be shown, heavy metal is the appropriate soundtrack.

Much of this can be seen through the use of well-known bands in movies. Check out how many soundtracks Slayer has contributed to, for example. The royalties from those might even outpace their album sales. At some point in the future, perhaps metal bands will put out albums and tour so that they can sell their music for commercials, television, movies, sports/MMA and house hunting. Now look at AC/DC. Metallica. Iron Maiden. Pantera. Anthrax. Compare to Morbid Angel and Darkthrone.

Ancient Wind – The Chosen Slain

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Properly belonging to the power metal camp that hybridized heavy metal with death metal technique, Ancient Wind plays fast melodic songs with conventional structure in a style influenced by melodic death metal favorites like At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul but also takes its influence from higher-energy bands in that style like Unanimated Ancient God of Evil and Merciless Unbound.

Within that context, this band is highly competent but it is possible to win the battle and lose the war, and unfortunately by managing their technique so carefully Ancient Wind have created the most unfortunate of all metal mis-steps, which is the album of constant intensity. This same disadvantage plagues bands like Perdition Temple and Fallen Christ with an energy that is so incessant it causes the music to fade into the background because of its invariant nature. That being said, there is some quality riffing here although nothing all that surprising, much of which recycles the 1980s era of heavy metal with a focus on Iron Maiden. Bluesy leads with staggered tonal center shifts complete that part of the picture. With all of that considered, it begs the question whether Ancient Wind should keep up the death metal front at all because with more internal tempo changes and a classic Hetfield-style strong male vocal, they could be on the edge of a speed metal revival which not only is a less crowded field than melodic “death metal” — put in quotations because at its heart this is heavy metal or speed metal with death metal technique but not composition — but more accurately represents the inclinations of this band. Liking classic heavy metal has never been a bad thing, but a modern tribute to that style will have to achieve the same distinction that the original had or it fades into the stylistic background much like constant high intensity and similar song structures causes it to flow past like a faucet on “high.”

The Chosen Slain displays many strong attributes including impeccable musicianship through riffs that demand not just precision siting of chords in the technical heavy metal style, but accurate textural strumming in the death metal method. Clearly a lot of effort went into this release. With more tempo changes, song structures that wait to present conclusions until they culminate tension in the music, and a few stylistic adjustments, this could be a really excellent record. As it is now, it faces a difficult struggle differentiating itself in the melodic death metal field despite being better than most contenders. As this band gains more confidence and listens more to their own material, it is likely these changes will come naturally, and an album which strikes the listener as competent but not memorable like The Chosen Slain will give way to something more like its inspiration in Merciless and Unanimated and less like the immensely popular but saccharine and uninspiring drivel that At the Gates put out after giving up on their own art and wanting metal to be a day job instead.