Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations (1980)

diamond head lightning to the nations

Diamond Head were who Metallica and Megadeth desperately wanted to be. A seventeen-year-old Lars Urlich famously flew to London to see them play after buying their debut from a magazine ad. Celtic Frost owed their career to the Holst-opened classic “Am I Evil?” Lightning to the Nations, is the “the missing link” between the early New Wave of British Heavy Metal and later speed metal.

The guitarwork and songwriting are excellent throughout. Driving Motorhead-style rhythm riffs served by pounding pickup beats and groovy bass lines progress power chords into solos that Blackmore and Tipton wish they had written. These extended leads serve not only as climaxes but continue building tension, alleviated only when the original verse riff (or a variation thereof) returns. Clever variations in the extended riff phrasing enable verses to wind and flow freely around catchy choruses, continuing effectively long after lesser groups would have ran them their course.

Yes, Lightning to the Nations is bluesy with many influences from the riff-based hard rock of the seventies. The vocalist even multi-tracked himself on “Sucking My Love” in imitation of Robert Plant. None of these rock roots serve to lessen the force and creativity present in the music. The atrocious keyboards and reverb mixed into the 1993 Metal Blade reissue do. Stick with the original LP and the 2011 “Deluxe Edition” CD remaster from the original tapes.

Death Metal Underground’s Best Albums of 2015

It took some time, but despite the deluge of content constantly bombarding us and aspiring metal fans worldwide, we’ve been able to reach some level of consensus on 2015’s worthwhile metal music. Not to say that we’re in perfect harmony (If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that there’s some room for dissonance in our musical language), but the hope is, like what our recent reinspection of 2013 revealed, that some of this material remains interesting for more than the year it was released.


 

Album of the Year
Kaeck
Stormkult

A wrathful reminder of what war metal should have been: a melodically-structured, chromatic holocaust to the god of this world. Jan Kruitwagen’s leads awe listeners and are optimally placed to hold attention just as each rhythm riff runs its course. An impenetrable mix rewards repeated listening to an album that may surpass Kruitwagen’s work on Sammath’s Godless Arrogance. March to Kaeck’s martial heartbeat or revel in shit.

Reviews:

 

Recommended Albums

 

Desecresy
Stoic Death

Bolt Thrower meets ritualistic black metal. Rather than cathartic bending into climactic oriental leads, Desecresy diffuse tension by methodically varying into bizarre melodies with carefully placed, otherworldly leads to a steady metronome.
Mid-paced riffing in the style of Bolt Thrower builds tension with melody and drifts off into space with variations and well placed leads. Where Bolt Thrower themselves shoot a rifle at the ballon using rhythmic change to introduce another riff or dramatically bending the riff into a climactic, oriental short solo, Desecresy insert ritualistic blackened leads for dramatic contrast with the rhythmic, power chord riffing.

Review and Interview:

 

Tau Cross
Tau Cross

Rob Miller returns from blacksmithing to his previous metallic occupation with an album of catchy post-punk in Motorhead and Metallica song formats. Thankfully free of the Godsmack and other MTV influences present on Amebix’s swansong.

Review:

 

Worthwhile releases

 

Cóndor
Duin

An effective album of mid-paced death and heavy metal riffing. There is no psychedelic rock pretending to be Black Sabbath “doom” here. Highly structured; the opposite of the random tossed riff salads of most modern metal. This band takes an approach more like that of classical guitarists toward melding death metal with progressive rock, blues, folk and other influences: it mixes them in serially and adopts them within the style, rather than hybridizing the two styles.

In other words, most bands that try to sound like progressive death metal try to act like a progressive rock band playing death metal, or a death metal band playing progressive rock. Cóndor takes an approach more like that of musicians in the past, which is to adopt other voices within its style, so that it creates essentially the same material but works in passages that show the influence of other thought.

Reviews and Interview:

 

Morpheus Descends
From Blackened Crypts

This vinyl 7” single features two new, well constructed death metal songs from one of from one of the few truly underrated bands in the genre. Those foresighted enough to purchase the identically-titled CD boxed set version received the band’s entire catalog in one of the rare remasters that sounds better than the original releases.

Interviews:

 

Motorhead
Bad Magic

One last Motorhead album of mostly Motorhead songs. Nothing “new” is introduced for those in the non-metal audience who disdain metal and wish to feel intellectually superior to the common headbanger. The final work from a relentless machine of a band.

Review:

 

Reissues

 

Grotesque
In the Embrace of Evil
Immolation
Dawn of Possession (Listenable Records)
Order From Chaos
Frozen in Steel (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Carbonized
For the Security
Sammath
Strijd
Arghoslent
Arsenal of Glory and Galloping Through the Battle Ruins (Drakkar productions)
Blasphemy
Fallen Angel of Doom (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Gorguts
Obscura

 

Those Left Behind
Zom
Flesh Assimilation

Crusty death metal of the better than braindead Benediction but worse than Cancer category.

Satan
Atom by Atom

I’ve possibly heard too much but Hanger 18. I know too much. Although not as degradingly vulgar as Surgical Steel, Atom by Atom results in a pretty tacky affair. Vocals are as emotional as in the first album, except that in here they seem even more disconnected from the music as the music veers into some sort of progressive speed metal akin to Helstar’s. (Editor’s note: I liked it, but David Rosales was critical)

Sarpanitum
Blessed Be My Brothers

The band shows promise with their Unique Leader-style rhythmic riffing and soaring heavy metal leads. While being above par for technical deaf metal, aping a different one of your heroes every few verses doesn’t make for particularly enjoyable repeated listening.

House of Atreus
The Spear and the Ichor that Follows

Fredrik Nordstrom’s Arghoslent.

Denner/Sherman
Satan’s Tomb

Technical power metal carnival music.

Iron Maiden
The Book of Souls

Nobody is allowed to edit themselves or turn on their bullshit filters in Steve Harris’s band anymore (Read a full review here).

Kjeld
Skym

Kvist meets the randomness of metalcore. Indistinct riffing and songwriting mix with pointless shoutout verses to past greats that makes listeners wonder why they aren’t just playing Sodom and Mayhem in the first place.

Malthusian
Below the Hengiform

Where are the riffs?

Throaat
Black Speed

Every Teutonic speed metal band gone Voltron.

Ares Kingdom
The Unburiable Dead

The band has no need to repeat half the song just so the guitarist can get over his refractory period and play another solo. This is also an extremely distracted riff salad in which the individual riffs can be brought in from sources as different as galloping power metal to thrashy death metal to alternative nu and groove “metal”. This is headbang-core for beer metallers and other social metalheads. This recording received two reviews in 2015.

Obsequaie
Aria of Vernal Tombs

A collection of interesting renaissance faire riffs written into songs that quickly wear out their welcome as metal, becoming RPG background music.

Sarcasm
Burial Dimensions

A few strong songs on a demo do not warrant a two CD set of Swedish death with limpid keyboards anticipating the steps black metal took towards mainstream goth rock in the late nineties.

Mgla
Exercises in Futility

This is the type of black metal as repetitive rock music that ignorant hipsters will praise as “ritualistic”. The album’s title sums the quality of its musical content: futile. (Editor’s note: I wanted to give this album a chance. It didn’t age well.)

Horrendous
Anareta

Gothenburg cheese and Meshuggah licks are less appetizing than a lead-laced Mexican lollipop.

Cruciamentum
Charnel Passages

Grave Miasma returns. This time with 1993’s atmosphere.

Crypt Sermon
Out of the Garden

Candlemass meets Soundgarden.

Vorum
Current Mouth

Every Teutonic speed metal band gone Voltron.

Exhumation
Opus Death

Solid underground metal in the spirit of Sarcofago that is perfectly well-written but does not amount to more than the sum of its parts; does not conjure up any long-lasting message.

RIP Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015)

lemmy
Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister of Motörhead (and formerly Hawkwind) passed away today. According to Motörhead’s Facebook page, Lemmy died after “…a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer”; one that he had only found out about two days before his death. More information may be released in coming days. This death follows the recent death of Phil Taylor and puts a unfortunate note onto the band’s 40th anniversary. It is worth noting that Motörhead remained strong up to the very end, touring despite instances of bandmember illness and even releasing a quality studio album a few months ago.

“Philthy Animal” Taylor passes away at 61

Old motorhead photo; Phil Taylor is on the right.
Phil Taylor, the former drummer for Motörhead, has passed away at the age of 61. So far, no cause of death has been disclosed. As one of the founding members of the band, he understandably had a major influence on metal drumming; in particular, he probably played a major role in popularizing the use of double bass drumming in some of the more extreme subgenres. On the other hand, the variety in Motörhead’s early material also speaks volumes on his ability to perform in some substyles beyond just proto-speed metal. Beyond his especially famous performance on Ace of Spades, Taylor also performed on every one of Motörhead’s studio albums until 1916, with the exception of Orgasmatron.

Motörhead – Bad Magic (2015)

Print

Motörhead (n.): Consistency, especially over a long period of time

The way I see it, time has not been much of anything at all to Motörhead, positive or negative. Every few years sees another album, with gradually improving production standards and gradually evolving vocals from Lemmy Kilmister. It’s been a very long time since the band experimented with its formula. Essentially, Motörhead’s formula is so basic (blues rock amped up until it becomes metal and sped up or slowed down as necessary) that they’ve been able to keep pumping out consistent work to this point, and Bad Magic keeps this going despite Lemmy’s recent health scares.

The art of Motörhead is very much like that of oat porridge, perhaps with a bit of cinnamon or fruit for flavor. You can’t go into this expecting anything but very basic, especially blues inflected heavy/speed metal. This extends to the songwriting, which I can accept considering that there’s no pretensions of being sophisticated or experimental or Myrkur or whatever the target of the day is. Perhaps the instrumentation is a bit more complicated than on something like Overkill or Ace of Spades, but Bad Magic is separated from such formative works by decades of technological advance and metal marketing. This recording still has much in common with its predecessors, and you could reasonably make the argument that since Motörhead keeps making mostly the same albums, they aren’t adding much by churning these out.

On the other hand, consistency is a virtue of its own, and in many ways, Bad Magic is a safe, sane, and predictable purchase. A slightly more refined and more technical Motörhead album, preparation for whatever concerts they might be able to play in their area, and most likely more enjoyment and value than some of the gimmicky recordings in this genre. It might be better for neophytes to start with earlier work, but as a relatively basic “more of the same” type album, Bad Magic is certainly a success. There really isn’t much to say beyond that, and I trust readers can make an informed decision about whether new Motörhead is something they want in their lives.

A brief retrospective of Slayer

slayer-classic

Slayer blasted their way into the underground metal scene in 1983. Metal had just shifted; the genre of Black Sabbath got taken over by the Led Zeppelin fans, resulting in glam and arena rock, and was just being taken back by a DIY movement via speed metal. Inspired by that speed metal movement, Slayer took their music in a slightly different direction.

“Heavy metal and British punk, that’s what we are.” The four young men from Southern California shaped their music by instinct, applying the techniques of punk to the most intense moments of heavy metal. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Angel Witch, GBH and Discharge. It all went into the blender and the result emerged more vicious than ever before.

Woodstock – Los Angeles, CA – March 28, 1983

The Keystone – Berkeley, CA – January 27, 1984

The Country Club – Reseda, CA – September 1, 1984

Heavy Sound Festival – Poperinge, Belgium – May 26, 1985

Dynamo Club – Eindhoven, Netherlands – May 28, 1985

The Ritz – New York City – June 12, 1986

Felt Forum – New York City – August 31, 1988

Clash of the Titans – Genk, Belgium September 22, 1990

Show No Mercy reflected more of a heavy metal bias, still hanging on to the grandeur of the 1970s. By Hell Awaits, Slayer forged their own style, inspired in part by the minimalism of the Haunting the Chapel EP. Even more, the band discovered a mythology in Satanic rebellion against a world where the term “good” meant obedient, oblivious and zombie-like in pursuit of individual pleasure at the expense of realism. They hated this world, and branded it with an inverted cross in rage at its existence. This outlook was healthier than the pleading resentment of the protest rock bands and less dead-end apathetic than what punk became. Metal had a new voice.

With the next album, Reign in Blood, Slayer pulled out all stops and most melody to create the ultimate hardcore album. The metal elements infused riff structure and song structure but its energy was pure hardcore punk, the raging album that The Exploited and Black Flag always had wanted to birth. In the 1980s, endorsing Satan and singing about the dark underbelly lurking beneath our happy commercial Utopia was in itself a life sentence of exclusion. Slayer wore it with pride and as people caught on to the new music, the most extreme band in underground metal headed toward the dead center of the genre.

In response, Slayer did what few bands have the guts to do: they backtracked from their nihilistic extreme and made a melodic album, but kept the melody constrained to a sense of dark atmosphere that would not be revisited until black metal exploded four years later. South of Heaven immersed the listener in pure mood and then manipulated it to create an unnerving experience of getting in touch with emotion by leaving behind all that is human. This was the peak of Slayer and represented the end of their emotional involvement with their own music, thus afterwards they pursued ideas that others had made popular and successful, hoping to make their own form of the alien.

Wömit Angel releasing Holy Goatse on October 3, 2014

woemit_angel-band_photo

In tribute to the original and perhaps most shocking internet meme, Wömit Angel plan to release their second album Holy Goatse on October 3, 2014 via Inverse Records.

The Finnish band, who some compare to Impaled Nazarene and Motörhead, will unleash their mixture of hardcore punk, metal and rock ‘n’ roll with low-tech presentation and high intensity rhythms. Consisting of Vile Anarchy – Drums, J. Violatör – Guitar & Backing Vocals, and W. Horepreacher – Bass & Vocals, Wömit Angel describe their music as “fetus aborting sado-metal” and direct it toward a less serious audience.

Much like other bands in this style, including Driller Killer and Impaled Nazarene, these Finns find spectacle and shock to be as important as the music they write and so have dedicated a career to essentially trolling the metal and rock audiences that they can lure into their insanity.

Motörhead – Aftershock

motorhead-aftershockMotörhead is like a kaleidoscope. Anytime you look in, you get a different vision, but it’s still clearly made of Motörhead, even if turned around a bit. The band is both distinctive and consistent in its unique style.

Aftershock is like any other Motörhead except that the kaleidoscope is particularly vibrant and more rounded and orderly than most visions. Clearly someone at the band or label had in mind a partner to 1991’s 1916, which for many marks the band at its most listenable.

Why is 1916 so lauded? Each song used its own techniques, rhythms and structures that were not shared wholesale with other songs. Songs were finished, showing a craftsman’s touch to a normally hasty art. Variety of pace and emotion broke up the record. The killer loud production didn’t hurt either.

Following along those lines, Aftershock is a bluesy hard-rock version of Motörhead with aggressive, catchy songs that at times resemble Motley Crue playing Motörhead. However, the album excels in quality control. All riffs are necessary, and while repeated a great deal, there is no unnecessary repetition and best of all, no unordered songs that sort of rambled off into the horizon.

It doesn’t have the pop appeal of 1916 which was a passionate and somewhat melancholy album that attracted people to its intensity, but even more, how easily grasped the songs were. They are not quite as distinctive on this album and fade more into the backdrop of what Motörhead has been doing for the past two decades. However, they’re also good summaries of the Motörhead sound from a slightly newer perspective.

One other thing of great interest is how guitar-based this album is. In rock-based music, the guitar is where most of the musical depth goes, since it’s hard to do it with vocals or drums. Here, the guitar leads the songs more than the bass or drums, which creates a surging feel and a constant background of energy. The solos and fills from the guitar flesh out the pattern and give depth to what otherwise might be too hard-charging to be anything but linear.

The point of Aftershock is to be a Motörhead album and to make a slightly updated and more powerful vision of what’s in the kaleidoscope. It succeeds brilliantly and while it isn’t as immediately distinctive as 1916, it adds a greater field of detail and appeals to the same audience, albeit more with pop form than pop sensibilities. Underneath all of that of course is the same raging engine that brought us this band in its glory days, amped up and ready to strike, with no thoughts of mercy at all.

    Tracklist:

  1. Heartbreaker
  2. Coup de Grace
  3. Lost Woman Blues
  4. End Of Time
  5. Do You Believe
  6. Death Machine
  7. Dust And Glass
  8. Going To Mexico
  9. Silence When You Speak To Me
  10. Crying Shame
  11. Queen Of The Damned
  12. Knife
  13. Keep Your Powder Dry
  14. Paralyzed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C214zJQwPhg

Motorhead Tribute India resurrects Motorhead worship

motorhead_tribute_indiaIn an effort to remember the founders of metal who helped shape this style into what it is today, a group of bands in India have released Motorhead Tribute India, an album of 13 covers of classic Motorhead songs.

Motorhead Tribute India was compiled by Srikanth Panaman, who recorded the bands from Bangalore in his studio, and released the album on Iron Fist Records who are selling it online. Covering a dozen classic songs, and an imaginative re-envisioning of “Ace of Spades,” the CD clocks in at almost an hour of NWOBHM/punk crossover or proto-speed metal, depending on how you want to look at it.

In an interview with The Hindu, Panaman summarized the experience as “The original idea was to do a tribute gig, and then we thought if we’re spending that kind of time and money working on it and rehearsing, we might as well release an album to back it up.”

Active from 1976 onward, Motorhead helped revitalize the metal sound by stripping it down to raw and fast technique, using melody as the basis for song form, and introducing the gruff voice that later influenced punk bands who later influenced grindcore and death metal vocalists to go even further with this style of vocals. With an assortment of death metal bands on the bill, this CD should be a fitting tribute to the influence of influences, Motorhead.