Megadeth has cycled between obvious mainstream rock pandering and careful imitation of their best appreciated works at an ever accelerating rate since their reformation in 2004. If this trend keeps up, they’ll be changing styles with every strum of their guitars in a few years. Dystopia isn’t quite as quick to alter its own sounds as that rather implausible hypothetical peak, but it’s still obviously colored by two colliding trends; Dave Mustaine’s desire to outsell Metallica, and the fact that even relatively extreme metal can sell enormous volumes in 2016. This makes what would be yet another comeback album into a surprisingly disjointed experience at times.
In general, Dystopia provides its potential listeners with several varieties of vintage Megadeth to peruse at their leisure, ranging from the technical wizardry of the ’80s and Rust in Peace (arguably the musical peak of this band) to the streamlined pop metal that immediately followed such, and even hints of recent albums through conceptual and musical continuity. Beyond the vocals of Dave Mustaine and the frequent guitar leads, though, there’s little that distinguishes this from other poppy speed metal of the mid 2010s, especially since this is one of those dime-a-dozen studio perfect recordings with perfectly appropriate production and instrumentation. One definite problem, however is that Dave Mustaine’s vocal and lyrical contributions have decayed in quality in recent years. Megadeth’s always been political at the best of times, but more often than not the lyrics devolve into political sloganeering that might be appropriate if he actually ran for president of the USA. In song format, though, all they do is annoy, irritate, and pander. Mustaine also relies increasingly on digital processing to mask the age-related decay of his voice, most notably on “Fatal Illusion“. This isn’t an innately bad thing, and you could theoretically make a case for the chorusing and harmonies opening new ideas for Megadeth to explore, but it pushes unneeded emphasis on the vocals, so even the average listener that decides that the technique sounds kind of cool might find it grating regardless. Perhaps I shouldn’t be focusing on the vox too much, but when the rest of the album is competent and yet unremarkable, it’s sometimes the only option.
In short, Dystopia is kind of disposable; most metal albums that try to approximate known classics are. It’s still better than Repentless, but the “Big Four” have all since run out of momentum, which makes Dystopia‘s slick technical competence marred by excessive streamlining even more unremarkable than it would otherwise be. The last time Megadeth tried their hands at this, they cranked out Endgame, which was well received at the time of its release and generally similar in approach, but has since faded from the public eye. Do you still have space in your listening rotation for Endgame? If you don’t, you won’t have time for Dystopia either.
So Tau Cross’s debut made our best of 2015 list. That should make their upcoming short tour a worthwhile endeavor; time will obviously tell us whether that was an accurate appraisal. This group (featuring members of Amebix and Voivod amongst others) will be playing a few dates in the USA on the boundary of March and April, as well as two in Canada. Furthermore, they’ll be following it up with a performance at Roadburn in the Netherlands. While this doesn’t provide all that many options for seeing the band perform live, it’s still something to consider if you have an opportunity to see live shows. No supporting acts have been announced yet, but the dates follow:
Mar. 29 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Mar. 31 – Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge Apr. 01 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Cativo Apr. 02 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition Apr. 03 – Montreal, QC @ Katacombs Apr. 04 – Boston, MA @ Middle East Apr. 06 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot and Saddle Apr. 07 – Washington, DC @ The Pinch Apr. 08 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter Apr. 09 – Brooklyn, NY @ Acheron
Decapitated from Poland used to be the darling of many a metalhead back in the 2000s; their original technical death metal style reminiscent of Vader and their youth making for many fruitful marketing campaigns. Nothing of that sort remains; the Decapitated of the current decade is modern, sleek, and understandably pretty banal. Recently, they commissioned an animated music video featuring the talents of Lukasz Rusinek, whom on this video showcases a stark and minimalistic visual style to go along with the chugs. I’m not familiar enough with Decapitated’s early work to say whether their formative work had any merit, but I highly doubt that this is an improvement.
Not to be confused with the Mortuary on the Dark Legions Archives from Mexico, this Mortuary started as a contemporary of the great Massacra, although they didn’t get a studio album out until 1996. Nothingless than Nothingness is separated from even that by 20 years, so the usual rhetoric about evolving or dramatically changing bands applies, but this band’s early material may very well have been inspired on some level by Massacra’s works; at the very least, Final Holocaust and similar was pushing Mortuary towards velocity and intricacy of individual riffs over minimal backing.
To get it out of the way – Nothingless than Nothingness has very little to do with that style, and instead takes cues from pre-Slaughter of the Soul melodic death metal; while less obvious about their melodic influences than most, material on here reminds me of… well… Thy Black Destiny, of all albums. Sacramentum’s 1999 effort may have seemingly little to do with this recording, but its similar use of monophonic melody, variety of texture, hints of contemporary black metal instrumentation, and gradual gestures towards a more rock-oriented form of songwriting (such as frequent breakdowns and vocal emphasis) make for an eerie similarity, if far from an exact one. This is backed up by a band that is technically accomplished in the pedestrian variety that I’ve long since come to expect from modern death metal. One thing that did stand out, however, the vocalist, who showcases his proficiency in adding dimensions to the songs by varying up his rhythm and the textures of his growls; the way he interacts with the drummer, in fact, is probably the strongest point of this album and something other death metal bands could learn from.
Nothingless than Nothingness arguably ends up ahead of the pack for at least having one superlative element worthy of study. Unfortunately, the compositions are afflicted by a few of the problems endemic to modern metal music. First of all, most of these tracks showcase haphazard breakdowns that enter abruptly and contribute little to the ideas of the song. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that Mortuary uses extended sections of blast beats to good effect, so hearing the band dwell on their weaknesses is disheartening. The other problem is that even though many of the individual sections are musically interesting, they’re arranged in a fashion that is attention-deflecting at best and essentially random at worst. If Mortuary put more effort into making coherent arrangements, they’d be a serious force to be reckoned with, but the lack of organization is such an enormous blow to an otherwise promising and well done album.
Mortuary’s latest album will release officially on January 18th, for those who are still interested.
Perhaps it was to be expected from the quality of their earlier works, but Sadist’s Hyaenawas one of the high points of what I listened to in 2016. With that in mind, I took the opportunity this Italian band provided to perform an email interview, with some hope of getting some insight into what makes Sadist themselves.
The band’s vocalist (Trevor Nadir) fielded my questions, discussing the past, present, and future of the band and giving us a better picture of what went into Hyaena in particular.
You formed in 1990, right in the middle of the first major flowering of death metal. What was the metal scene in Italy like back then?
TREVOR: Happy Metal Year!
The 90’s were very important for the Death Metal. Death, Cynic, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Deicide, Obituary, Morbid Angel and many others have contributed to birth and consolidation of the genre. In our country there were many Death Metal bands. It was certainly much more difficult, the correspondence with the other bands was only through physical mail. I’m very close to Death Metal of the 90s, for me the music stopped at that time, have a nostalgic and I would go back to those years. Sadist was the first band in Europe to add keyboards to Death Metal, we have always been a band that likes to experiment, keyboards were a strange thing, especially in those years, but we are very proud, this is our trademark, of which we are proud of still!
This is a more obvious question, but who are your influences? Have they changed with time?
TREVOR: Each of us listens to different music, perhaps for this reason, the sound of Sadist is contaminated with various styles. Sadist is absolutely a Techno Death Metal band, although in our sound there are other inspirations too: We all love Italian 70’s prog and ethnic music as well. In the past we experienced may ethnic instruments but the new album Hyaena, although it may be misleading, this is not an album about Africa, but on a concept centered around a ruthless predator, who lives in Africa.
We are professional people, we like to be prepared before to put out a new album and we always need to be satisfied of it, first of all. Sadist is a band devoted to technical, Tommy, Andy and Alessio are very prepared musicians, people who have dedicated their lives to their instruments, and very serious guys with one and only personal goal: to always improve. The technique is certainly important but, above all, we must think about the songwriting, the technique must be functional to the music and not an end in itself.
Building off the previous question – how has it changed in the last 25 years?
TREVOR: 25 years ago it was different, it was definitely difficult. Today we are doing interviews via email, on a day we can connect several times around the world, work remotely is something normal. Think of how hard could it be that only a few years ago, can reach somebody or something. However there is also something that works worse, in fact I think that today, it’s all too much and take away, music, bands are increasingly less durable and is no longer the time for rock stars. There is a great saturation and the band, especially the younger ones make great effort to stand out, it is increasingly a question of money. This is not a good time, we hope that the trend changes.
What inspired you to make a concept album about hyenas?
TREVOR: I always take care of the lyrics and the concept album of the album too. I’m a convinced naturalist, I always loved and respected very much the wild hyena. It’s a skillful hunter, smart, and very strong, many people believe it is only an animal that feeds on carrion, a thief, a street sweeper, but this is a myth, the hyenas are ruthless hunters, animals with incredible strength and intelligence, adaptable to any situation. Inside text can be found habits of the herd, hunting tactics, ancient legend which tells that the hyena is ride from the devil, the brutal nature of the animal devour their prey alive. Our music is brutal and the combination with the hyena was something natural, we are talking about an extremely brutal animal. We were lucky enough to pose for new photos with a skull of a hyena, who died in 1888, and we have thank for that all the staff of the Museum of Natural History “G. Doria” in Genoa, Italy.
I love Hyaena…
Hyaena strikes me as, at least in part, inspired by recent developments in metal and progressive music (although I can hear some of this on the previous album as well). Is this your intent? Any particularly recent musical influences of interest?
TREVOR: I would say no, simply Season in Silence was supposed to be a springboard to do better next time and we believe that Hyaena is now the most mature album of the band. Every Sadist’s album has different sounds, We are a band that remains faithful to experience, which is why our albums sound different from one another. Season in Silence is colder, both for the lyrics and the music, with Hyaena instead we resumed ethnic and tribal instruments, close to Mediterranean tradition. It’s hard to make terms of comparison… Although, as mentioned before, We are certain that this is the best chapter of the band up today. Hyaena is a very Sadist album, containing our Death Metal matrix, but at the same time it was our intention to go back on the tribal and ethnic sounds, already used on albums like Tribe and Sadist. On Hyaena We wanted to get to the bottom and We’ve asked for help from Jean N’Dyaie, a great musician, a talented African percussionist. We simply wanted to bring to African culture, their sounds, their habits, We need all of this. Tommy has played many instruments linked to African tradition, like the oud and the santur, We did a thorough search in the traditional sound. Hyaena is a Death Metal, brutal, tribal, ethnic, Mediterranean and terribly Sadist album!
Since you’ve had a keyboardist from the beginning – how do you go about adding keyboard parts to your music?
TREVOR: As mentioned earlier, Sadist born with keyboards, this is our strong identity. Tommy is now known, as the musician playing two instruments simultaneously. It’s an incredible musician. Needless to say, many songs take ideas from the structure of the keyboards, the initial ideas on which is built the structure of the song. We could not think of Sadist without keyboards. We are then to be honest these keyboards are the instruments that characterize the disturbing and horrific soul of our band.
Many of the tracks on Hyaena avoid merely using simple verse/chorus structures. How formal/planned is your composition process these days?
TREVOR: We are a Techno Death Metal band, surely, it is true, however, that we want to keep in mind that we are talking about the songs and the structure has its own importance. Get Death, a band that was technically prepared, but it certainly can not be said that they did not songs, the whole song is what you have to stay ahead. We must try to give space to each individual instrument, absolutely, but one thing is certain, the song is not to be raped.
As a corollary to that, has the way you approach songwriting changed significantly throughout your career?
TREVOR : Sadist is a band that works as a team. Each of us carries out our task to the best of its ability. We are ambitious people, who do not save. Music and lyrics are walking side by side, while Andy, Tommy and Alessio were busy writing songs, I was far from the chaos of the city, and I took care of the lyrics. Each of us is aware of what it takes to the band, the certain sound, the particular phrase.The initial ideas are dictated by Tommy and Andy, though, with the new album, the contribution of Andy was particularly important; really inspired when writing riffs. Our music is generated accordingly to the issues addressed in this way we can have the right impact.
What’s your favorite part of Hyaena? What’s something you think can been improved?
TREVOR: We are very happy about the new album. Sometimes it happens that at the end of the recordings you think something could be improved, this has not happened this time. We worked in our Nadir Music Studios, by taking the time needed, working with the necessary calm you can afford to do things in the best way. Personally I am very attached to “The Lonely Mountain”, it’s the first videoclip for the album, a song that’s very Death Metal.
What other bands, metal or not, do you guys listen to/think are worth following these days?
TREVOR: There are so many good bands, but as mentioned before, are tied to Death Metal. The 70/80’s and 90’s have spoken and given a lot to the music, it’s hard to think of something new. Despite the young guys, all play very well, maybe what it is not is their originality or at least their attempt at being original. Having everything at once is perhaps killing their genius.
A question lifted from another interview we had on our site: What do you attempt to capture, express or communicate through your music? Or is this even the goal of music? Is music communication or decoration? What is the goal of your art?
TREVOR: Making music is an art form, certainly. The messages may be different. Playing Death Metal means venting their anger inward on the system, but at the same time means telling, through the lyrics, your thinking or your mood, this also peer through the melodies of the instrument. The music is not only heard, it should be read, viewed, stored.
What are your plans for the future like? Any upcoming touring or new material we should know about, or is it too early to say?
TREVOR: As for the promotion, by the time we organized with our label Scarlet Records, we want to make a great team effort, people are professional and prepared, and there is great mutual respect. But a good promotion also involves the live set, which is why we started to try, are not canonical songs, and certainly not easy to play on stage, you need preparation. About upcoming releases, together with our booking agency (Live Nation) are working on the next steps, we received a number of proposals, even for a couple of tours in Europe, we expect to be on stage as soon as possible, we are excited by the idea of play the new songs. We want to do our best, in any event, provide a spectacular show to the public , carry the name Sadist as high as possible, and then who knows, reprint the first album and think of a new album. We’ll play at the next Hellfest, and other festival, and we hope to play in the USA; we have many friends and fans who are waiting for us.
If you have any closing remarks you want to make, now is a good time to write them.
TREVOR: For many years I documented the animal in question. I’m really interested, especially for its hunting techniques, although not underestimate the importance of the pack and hierarchies within the same. Animals are crazy, very strong, resistant, challenging and hunt prey much larger than them, and at the same time you also have to cope with other predators, much larger. In this respect, according to what was said earlier, is the number to make a difference. The hyena is a voracious predator that brutally tears apart its prey, an unwitting and innocent murderess. Not scavengers, nor thieves, and they don’t eat only carrion, absolutely not, indeed, are sometimes other animals, such as lions, hyenas to steal the hunted. For many years I document, through books, movies, stories. Television is a stupid means, however, in the 80’s and onward, it allowed me to deepen this interest, thanks to interesting documentaries.
The hyena is an incredible animal, charming, because it’s my favorite predator. We must dispel the myth, the hyena is not only a scavenger carnivore, it also feeds on carrion, but is a skilled hunter, which has a strong team spirit and where within the song applies a strict hierarchy, where the matriarch has absolute power. He saids that the devil comes in the night riding a hyena, and that that the hyenas dig up the corpses. After their death the eyes turn into stones, and Zambezi sorcerers, devourers of men, took the form of a hyena, they appeared to the dead, that they rose and were torn to pieces. Around the campfire, it consumes the sacrifice of a young goat, putrid flesh of zombies and fresh meat for the last dinner. All of this is “The Devil Riding the Evil Steed”.
All the best to you, staff and readers. Stay Brutal!
Michael “Dr. Froth” Millsap isn’t exactly a household name in his progressive rock flavored niche of metal, but through some means, he’s managed to put together a formidable roster of musicians for the “Gathered in Darkness” project. Essentially a narrative-heavy concept album; its most notable contributors include Rob Lowe of Solitude Aeternus and Candlemass, and James Rivera of Helstar. If you’ve ever listened to the works of Nevermore or similar bands, you have a good idea of what to expect from this track – power metal vocals over vaguely progressive-rock oriented mid-paced jazz-fusion groove-metal hyphencore. The musicians involved certainly value their own technical prowess, but overall this is a difficult sell to the DMU audience, and it may end up as little more than a footnote about how that alone is not enough to make an album interesting and worthy of discussion.
Tough guy empowerment activist and former heroin addict Phil Anselmo has formed a new extreme metal “supergroup.” Scour features members of metalcore and post-hardcore bands Pig Destroyer, Cattle Decapitation, Decrepity Birth, and Animostiy. Anselmo claims they play “predominantly, in my ear, modern-ish black metal sounding, thrashy black metal type stuff.” All underground metal fans can do is wait and hear if former Pantera frontman is describing randomized first wave black metal with breakdowns, the Britney Spears black metal exemplified by Aura Noir slowed down, or Gothenburg melodeaf influenced metalcore with nu-metal vocals.
When I first became aware of this recording, I figured the obvious points of comparison would be Mercyful Fate for spawning the eponymous duo of this act, and Satan because that word was in this album’s title. Those comparisons have turned out to be less appropriate than initially expected – Satan’s Tomb draws more from recent mainstream heavy/power metal than either of those two. It’s not enough to separate them entirely from this comparison, but those expecting the second coming of Don’t Break The Oath are going to walk away disappointed for more reasons than they might expect.
What we have here is an arguably “darker” recording. There are a few overtures towards Denner and Shermann’s past in Mercyful Fate, like the harmonized guitar leads at the beginning of the title track, but musically, the members pull more on techniques popularized after the early ’80s, creating guitar sounds from a more dissonant, chromatic, abrasive source, as if the band had occasionally listened to more extreme works and allowed a tinge of their riffing style to seep in at crucial moments. The vocals also adopt a different style – Sean Peck relies on strained screams with little in the way of falsetto to make his presence known. Oddly enough given this approach, his vocals are not the prime attraction – I would go as far as to say he is subordinate to the guitarists despite his attempts to sing over them. Regardless of style, Satan’s Tomb does fairly well on the instrumental front, showing better technique and a good use of microvariation and riff diversity within its style.
The main flaw of this album is that its songwriting is particularly haphazard. One thing Denner/Shermann consistently draws from its musicians’ past is an emphasis on complicated song structures. The band members try to recapture some of this, but songs here consistently suffer from organizational problems, including one particularly ill-planned coda at the end of “War Witch”. Without anything to properly glue together more obvious transitions, songs here listen like a heap of unrelated samples, which is amusingly similar in effect to the band’s promotional trailer. More conventionally structured songs like the title track don’t suffer to this degree, but the album wouldn’t necessarily be better if it were more simply shaped. Ultimately, we’re left with a somewhat ambitious, but flawed effort – while the rest of the album is otherwise acceptable or better, structural weaknesses are, as a rule, simply too great to ignore.
I think I missed this band’s big moment in the limelight. By the time I became aware of underground metal in any fashion, they’d already received a lot of flak for not playing the same style of vaguely neoclassical themed pop melodeath that they started their career with, and I steered my musical inquiries away. Apparently they’ve metamorphosed into some sort of bizarre fusion of such with overt Pantera style groove party rock, which sounds like an obvious awful, misguided idea that even the more mainstream-leaning metalheads would reject out of hand. That I Worship Chaos often juxtaposes various styles of former pop metal tends to support this hypothesis.
Underneath everything it carelessly throws at the listener, I Worship Chaos is not very artfully written. Like most pop music, it’s vocally driven, and like most pop music that adopts metal technique and aesthetics, the vocals are monotonous; in this case, they’re locked into a mid-range shriek with little in the way of timbral or rhythmic variation. The other band members are aren’t shackled to the same degree, so they take advantage of it by performing riffs and patterns reminiscent of many other previously commercially successful subgenres. Nuclear Blast probably has it down to a science – “Add a long breakdown here, and some stop-start riffing in the middle of this one song, and maybe one noisy solo after that, and we’ll earn 38% more tour ticket sales per album purchase” levels of formula that don’t exactly make for intelligent songwriting.
As a reader, you’re probably not looking for what is essentially a carnival of warmed over old pop metal and probably would avoid Children of Bodom’s latest even without our criticism. However, I Worship Chaos also fails in comparison to other recent pop metal albums. The fact it throws so many cliches at the listener (like rotting fruit) is bad enough, but the brickwalled production won’t do it any favors, either. Although it’s far from the worst example of such I’ve heard recently, the fact that the band attempts to have some dynamics (even if only by alternating obvious fast songs with obvious ballads) renders it unfitting. It does pass the major label litmus test of being otherwise competently performed and produced, but skilled musicians playing banal parts have never been on the menu here at DMU, and such does not save the band members from my displeasure.
The legacy of Suffocation continues, at least in some form, as the band is currently writing material for a new album, possibly to come out some time in 2016 if all goes well. Suffocation’s recent works have lacked the strong organization of their 1990s peak, and it seems unlikely that this one will be a significant improvement. However, a fiscally successful album release may lead to a new cycle of touring, and possibly a chance for our readers to see the band perform some of their old classics in a live setting. An actual review of the as-of-yet unnamed album will probably show up on this site closer to its release date.