Analysis Of Amorphis – “Karelia/The Gathering”

 

Amorphis are known for their terrible modern output that consists of ridiculous pop cliches and monotonous chugging. While their latest offering has furthered the pretension of this band and their Opeth like attempts of appealing to pseudo intellectuals through whatever the mainstream considers to be “deep,” it is hard to fathom that this band once produced some of the greatest Finnish Death metal to ever grace our ears. Through restrained, simplistic melodies that were all very tightly knit and some basic understanding of chord theory, Amorphis carved a grandiose album that would see them climb to the top of a fledgling movement.

The album opener “Karelia” – an acoustic piece recorded with two 12-string guitars – announced the intentions of conjuring grand battlefields where heroes would emerge amidst the chaos. The first guitar repeats a basic melody in the natural minor scale as the second guitar follows with the appropriate combination of diatonic minor and major thirds. As the melody continues without variation the diatonic chords move up a few semitones up the scale creeping towards battle as the chords quickly return to their original position until distorted guitars announce the battle.

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Analysis of Dissection’s “A Land Forlorn”

Dissection was one of the last bands to be associated with violence and action in metal. Jon Nodveidt, a true Hessian who rejected the modern world,  committed various acts that most will consider morally reprehensible yet they embodied his personal philosophy and the ideology of his music.  Barring the third album, Dissection display a penchant for ambitious composition within a framework of heavy/death and black metal.  The second outing reached too far and ended up sounding almost confused from the virtuosity of the musicians and the wide number of techniques at their disposal without the vision to streamline all these ideas. The Somberlain is a lot more focused in its inspirations by sticking closer to the source material and more structured arrangements.

A Land Forlorn impressively bridges multiple approaches to metal.

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Analysis of Immolation’s “Christ’s Cage”

Immolation are legends in Death metal and rightfully so, though their heydays were after the initial burst that characterized the NYDM scene and have cemented their place with the likes of Cryptopsy and Immortal for prolonging the lifespan of that classic period of metal. Longevity seems to be the forte of the band’s centerpieces Dolan and Vigna and while they released a few decent albums, none of them quite hold up to Here in After. Black Sabbath and Slayer stretched the palette for what was possible in metal and introduced endless possibilities whereas Immolation took one closed approach and pushed it to its limit on this album. Though Close To A World Below took experimentation further, the whole was not as cohesive or powerful. Let us look as the closing track which truly concludes the album.

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Analysis of Demilich’s “When the Sun Drank the Weight of Water”

[Sections of this article by Jerry Hauppa].

The Finnish scene has spawned an impressive number of death metal giants, possibly the strongest overall scene with no band searching for shallow fame or popularity and each band exploring their own sound in complete artistic integrity and more often than not achieving powerful results. Though all these bands have captured the hearts and the imaginations of Hessians everywhere, one four-piece has managed to completely change the face of death metal. Releasing one album that elevated metal into being recognized as an intellectual genre in the eyes of the mainstream, so much so that the mainstream metal media fled from this album as no one could commercialize and democratize what was being played here, Demilich were unfairly pushed back into the underground when they deserved adoration from the masses.

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Sacramentum “Far Away From The Sun”

Sacramentum are heroes in the more melodic black metal style that appeared in Sweden after the initial Norwegian scene had worn itself out. Caught between the pop sensibilities of what was starting to develop in Gothenburg and the ambitious yet choppy compositions of Dissection, Sacramentum forged their own sound in that narrow gap, never stealing ideas from either side and searching inwards for inspiration. Far Away From The Sun is a particular track that shows joy and happiness while still denigrating human life. A strong understanding of the black metal melodic narrative has allowed them to reconcile such clashing emotions without showing the slightest contradiction.

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Thoughts on Composition

Metal music inherited the album concept from pop music. Originally, records could only hold about 3-5 minutes of sound on each side. In the 1940s new techniques allowed each side of a record to hold around 20 minutes of music on each side. Because of these limitations, the ‘single’ became the standard composition in popular music. As LPs became more prominent, the single, played over the radio, was used as the marketing device to sell albums: a couple of catchy singles swimming in a thin grey soup of filler material. Because it is only marginally more difficult and expensive to record and produce a whole album, there are much higher profit margins on LPs than on singles. That a pop album was not a consciously constructed artistic whole is borne by the fact that pop ‘greatest hits’ albums are easy to listen to, straightforward affairs. Consider a greatest hits album from a metal artist… at best it is off-putting and at worst it is a flaccid, confusing affair because all the songs have been removed from their appropriate context.

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ANALYSIS: DEMIGOD’S “AS I BEHOLD I DESPISE”

Hailing from Finland and one of the leaders of the short lived Finnish scene that delivered some of the greatest music to ever grace the twentieth century and that genuinely scared most “metalheads” as this was truly an intellectual movement that retained the essence of metal while completely deviating from the norm musically. It is very hard to regroup these bands into a specific style but the closest connection between them is their ability to complete deform common scales and patterns with strategically chromatic notes.

Demigod had a strong understanding of how to make songs with a limited set of complex ideas and how to convey themes of apocalypse and human decay and the role a strong individual within that apocalypse. “As I Behold I Despise” is the first track after the intro and sets the frame of mind of what’s to come after through it’s use of a recursive melody that is always changing, blistering tremolo riffs and hyper active drums that don’t steal attention but empower the guitars.

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RiffsandBeards Hosts Classic Riff-Off

There is an Instagram group known as “Riffsandbeards” that is currently running a contest until March 13 awarding prizes to whoever in the USA can contribute the best riffs meeting the following criteria: you must download and write to the given sample drum beat, and you must upload the video of yourself playing your riff to the beat in two weeks from when the contest was announced. You can view everyone’s contributions by searching for #riffsandbeards3 on Instagram. Given that the only people playing guitar anymore that use social media are modern metal guitarists, the results are an interesting window into the mind of the modern player and broadcasts the pitfalls therein in blaring, naked transparency.

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Decimation: Atonality in Death Metal

Never has there been a word in metal as misunderstood as atonal, allowing all kinds of ridiculous claims since most individuals confuse atonality with dissonance and chromatism.

There are two ways to define atonality, one being the complete lack of tonal character and being reduced to noise like some of Kerry King’s solos or the works of Merzbow. The other definition that interests us here is the complete lack of functional harmony. In simpler terms that implies not having the root note that commands a certain melody. Without a root note, the notes in an atonal melody are not connected by scales, modes or chords.

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