There are some records that achieve greatness through their studied and natural use of the musical language that our civilization has been building up for many centuries. Such a record was Close to the Edge, reaching immortality with its self-titled piece. There are other records that do away with everything that came before them and in an unprecedented bout of madness envision doors to previously undreamed of realities. The key to such a door was given to Parabellum and what they found beyond that wallcrystallized into Sacrilegio.
Unique and meaningful in its expression, Parabellum’s music is hard to trace back to any defined subgenre at the time, perhaps even today. We know it is metal. We know it arises from the 1980s underground tradition and if we look very hard we may find traces of proto-black-death, hardcore and what can only be described as organized noise. At the same time, the band’s music cannot conceivably be cased into any of them, nor can it be wholly accounted for as a concoction of the same. Parabellum’s Colombian underground metal stands entirely alone and makes use of sounds, patterns and rhythms from its influences but is never defined by them.
While the compositions in it date back to 1983 or 1984, Sacrilegio was released in 1987 and is comprised of two tracks. Both of them, Madre Muerte (Mother Death) and Engendro 666 (Foetus-Abomination 666), are of relatively long duration by metal standards. None of them, however, feel overextended. While difficult to gauge here, this writer perceives no obvious loose ends, and no purposeless spaces in the pieces. Not interspersed, not interlocked, but breathing in living symbiosis with the extreme underground expressions we find silences, Azagthothean guitar solos together with painful, woeful laments.
Uncouth, savage and violent, Parabellum’s music also takes us through moments of passive dementia and ecstatic delirium. Together these propound stark, bleak and at points suffocating experiences of desperation resembling but going far beyond the misanthropic nature worship of Vidar Vaaer. If I could put my impression of Parabellum’s music in concise terms, I would describe it as what I picture is life as seen through the eyes of a mad epileptic.
After parting ways with Carcass following the completion of Heartwork, the Swede Michael Amott embarked on his own project called Arch Enemy. Stigmata is the non-sell-out sibling of that last reviled/worshiped Carcass album in which Amott participated in. Starting out with Johan Liva barking in the vocal department, this was a far cry from the embarrassingly audience-pleasing act this band later became.
While most so-called melodic death metal acts, including later Arch Enemy, following in the footsteps of Carcass’ last album (Swansong should have been kept by Bill Steer for private use) produce clear, straight-up pop verse-chorus with riffs and solos in the manner of the most mainstream 1980s metal. Sticking out from the crowd, Stigmata explores different song structures, and different ratios between Swedeath Carnage-style riff sections and those which are direct references to 1980s melodic metal. Michael Amott presents us here, in this still underground release, the best of his ideas in their most sincere (though not optimal) form.
Symptomatic of the middle-age crisis that underground metal went through in the mid 1990s, Stigmata shows a sincere desire to produce solid, thought-out metal music, but its motivation and direction is misplaced in nostalgia-driven emulations of the past rather than a forward vision. This was the end of metal’s own romantic era. Metal artists’ general illiteracy in art could give no rise to a counterpart to the 20th century modernist classical music (perhaps Obscura was an exception?) and it went straight to post-modernist pandemonium shortly after the turn of the century.
What is life? Either you are working toward something or trying to find a way to pass the time. The real losers are not the people who lack the fancy objects that are the trend at the moment, but those without purpose to life, as they will always be unhappy in the deepest parts of themselves. Unhappy people demand music that is as hollow, vacuous and purposeless as they are, but such music makes bad listening for people who are here to make the most of life. We separate the tryhards and imitators from the real music amidst a shower of hipster poseur tears with the Sadistic Metal Reviews…
Reaction – Kill the Parasite
In the land of Pudouaccian, there are hairless creatures with smooth features and no teeth who call themselves Pudouaccians, and they spend their days attempting to “ouacc” (pronounced: whack) — a term for stimulate in lieu of reproduction — their “puds,” which is how they refer to their androgynous oversize genitals through which they see. Pudouaccians exclusively listen to music that combines the most rock ‘n roll aspects of heavy metal into a speed metal format, and tie it all together with a compelling rhythmic vocal that aims for choruses you can repeat like political slogans and verses with the energy of dishwasher detergent commercials on television. Although the title that gives a message we should all take to heart every day, because parasites are the most common creatures in nature and serve no purpose to their host except to exhaust them and lure them into continued bad decisions — like buying this album — so they become easier prey for the siphoning of their energy to support the parasite. Much of this release follows the power metal model of vocal-led melodic riffing with extended solos that comment on the song like a concordance, but a good deal of the groove plus heavy cadence riffing of later Pantera occupies the field as well. What really kills it is the vocals because when you make the vocals lead the music, songs cease to become compositions and instead become life support systems for a single instrument (vocals) which has overstepped its bounds, and thus they resemble a Hollywood actor and entourage more than a military time operating in smooth coordination to do something interesting. Many of the riff forms on this album come to us from the classic hard rock through NWOBHM lexicon, and while that should not disqualify anyone, nothing here is applied in a way specific to this band, leading us to wonder why it should exist at all.
Deflected – Deflected EP
From an armchair metalosopherTM, Deflected presents an interesting challenge. It applies the Pantera brocore method of stop/start riffing with pregnant pauses creating a primitive groove, but does so in the context of South American style speed/death metal with riot shouted choruses and fast energetic riffs, then slowly works in melodic death metal influences. The primary instrument remains the voice which often more resembles what would go on in a hardcore band or the shouts of Phil Anselmo than anything from recent metal, but it runs into subtly musical accompaniment from guitars, bass and drums who try to background themselves to these metalcore-styled vocals. Unfortunately, the result by being skewed toward the vocals cannot maintain the continuity essential for atmosphere and so is forced to rely on an increasing number of stunts and riff changes which borrow freely from forty years of metal but never coalesce into a voice. As a result, these sound like songs with stuff added on, rather than entities of their own possession developing out of influences. While many of the melodic riffs enter at about the right time to provide an emotional component, it is obliterated by the randomness of the rest of the song and the ranting vocals, and comprises the generic “mixed emotions” major-minor transition common in all rock music. Even the Iron Maiden styled harmonized guitars produce nothing more than an entry point for the head-nodding rhythm in the hands of the vocals. If this band wants to get anywhere, they need to stop trying to hide their metalcore and go fully into that style, or stop fence-sitting and pick a metal style or invent a new one.
Blackwingedsheep – Red Sheep Red
When direction is too hard, mix ‘n match bits of the past and maybe you have something “new” like those horrible 1970s casseroles that mixed leftover chicken with random ingredients from cans and put cheese on top. I lived in terror of those things because any time I spent the night at a friend’s place, his Mom was sure to haul out one of those for dinner and then I would end up crouching in the dark eating small animals after feeding my portion of the glop to the dog. The worst part was that since word gets out slowly through humanity, Moms — and sometimes their misguided offspring — were cooking up these disasters well into the late 1990s at which point everyone threw in the towel and started just buying pre-prepared food in anticipation of civilization collapse. Blackwinged Sheep is a lot like those casseroles: 1980s downstroke-crazy speed metal mixed with chromatic grindcore fills, on a death metal rhythm, with choruses that emphasize high contrast melodies with broad interval leaps much like early progressive metal experiments like Pestilence Testimony of the Ancients. The result is music that spends most of its time in very concrete rhythm work and then launches into melodies that go nowhere, creating a sense of constant disruption and destabilization with no shape to it, which in turn grants the music a wallpaper effect. No matter how much they vary technique within this formula, the musicians behing Blackwinged Sheep cannot escape the formula, and so they apply it with even more extreme technique which just results in more pounding. Most of the verse riffs on this album could have come from Coroner, and the chorus space-outs from any number of newer acts. Ultimately, while this band has a good grasp of rhythm and a few impressive riffs, it fails to knit this together as anything other than a kind of vocal theater where the lyrics and voice are supposed to give form to otherwise an indistinguishable flood of very similar elements that are not particularly evocative or distinctive from each other. With the perspective of metal as a melting pot of its own styles, this band has found a way to update the 1980s content and make it easy to keep churning out the same even in the midst of self-proclaimed iconoclasm.
Gouge – Beyond Death
Gouge makes energetic but harmonically basic grindcore that tends to use a death metal approach to framing rhythm, but reverts to speed metal and punk riffs frequently. The result uses established riff forms and, while it presents an aptitude for transitions and keeping a compelling rhythm going, ultimately becomes nearly stupefactive because it has zero development of tone. The verse and chorus riffs are variations on the same few notes and capture no particularly compelling melodic or harmonic tension, which results in the entire composition having the effect of a chromatic rhythm work with periodic random insertions of whole and melodic intervals. For influences, clearly these guys spent a lot of time studying Repulsion Horrified whose layering of vocals and guitar shred prevails throughout this release. However, where Repulsion worked carefully to have distinctive riffs, Gouge falls too quickly into hardcore punk tropes, making it a lot more like later Napalm Death without the pretensions of progressive styling. The high-speed approach imparts a good deal of energy, but without some more to hang it on, this becomes another panic indicator like the weekly news, angry questions from the boss, or car horns all night long from the city. Others might compare this to Terrorizer for its tendency to drop back to open riffs of fast tremolo to contrast single-picked slamming patterns, a technique which keeps a constant texture pulsing faster than the drums, conveying a sense of urgency in contrast to the pace of life. However, where Terrorizer stripped down to a focal point, Gouge focuses on rhythm and tucks everything else into place, sometimes dropping in bluesy solos to hope to unite the disparate. By halfway through the album, the band has run out of steam and is revisiting old hardcore punk tropes to try to inject new life where none remains. There is a lot to like about this release — good energy, some creative riffs, good transitions, old school sensibilities — but when taken as a whole, there is no reason to listen to it again unless you like disorganization and the urgent sounds of social decay.
Why did most writers leave metal to the people who eagerly type in praise for anything that they feel, being new, will bring them personal renown for bandwagon-hopping? The reason is simple: almost all metal reviews these days must mention how the elements of each song are good, but that they do not create something larger than their arithmetic whole, with that process being the essence of art itself. If you pile together a group of good riffs randomly, or put together a song that focuses so much on form that it forgets content, the result is a listening experience that is pleasant enough when distracted but unsatisfying if you set aside whatever else you are doing and listen alone to the work. Haethen combines flowing Graveland riffs with high-energy Drudkh-styled sweeping melodic passages but does so in a way that inevitably tends toward both randomness and too much fixed structure, which means that nothing is communicated. Moments of beauty occur and it is crushing to watch them wasted, but the riff technique here is so similar between songs that it is difficult to claim more than one riff of each archetype in favor of this album. The real problem is that the songs are boring, whether from predictable patterns or a lack of relationship in linear progression from the elements of them, and as a result while this album would sound great in the background of a record store or while distracted by paperwork, it does not retain strength as a listening experience alone. This is unfortunate as many respected sources have endorsed this release, and it clearly shows aspiration toward an older and purer style of black metal, but “I must speak as I find,” and Shaped by Aeolian Winds goes nowhere.
An Autumn for Crippled Children – The Long Goodbye
This album falls within the “post-metal” camp although labels like to play the carnival sideshow game and claim that whatever pap they’re pumping “just cannot be classified” and then are careful to mention that it has “elements of” followed by the keywords of their target markets, all while not mentioning what it actually is. Simple formula: 1990s indie rock for verses, 1980s post-punk for choruses. Add a detour bridge or turnaround for that proggy feel. Then put crustcore vocals over the top of it, making them really dramatic and energetic to imply some kind of torment or passion, and claim that this is related to black metal so that you can get the edgy fedora kids to buy it. The Long Goodbye is a musical and artistic sham, but mostly just false advertising: this is 20-year-old music re-shaped for a new generation because disguised imitation is the business model of the music industry. While none of it is strikingly incompetent or poorly produced, in the way that underground metal can both be, none of it is compelling either. Once you see through the first level of artifice, nothing beneath remains. Essentially the same intervals — derived from emo and progressive punk and the rest of the indie spectrum — are used throughout, as well as the same devices, with only vocals to differentiate them, and the vocals are totally non-compelling. This album is mental entropy in a convenient package, with a trendy name, trendy production and faddish packaging because it is designed as a product for morons who are in denial that they are morons and thus are, like Opeth fans, compelled to buy the most pretentious, intolerant (because anything else is just musically less advanced, which is how hipsters say “inferior” indirectly by implication and yet say it all the same) and yet innocuous music possible. Your Mom could nap to this because it is completely non-controversial. No strong emotion, just self-pity and the usual bittersweet minor-key noodling to make you feel as if the problem is that you are misunderstood and not that the world needs us to creep out of our little shells and actually, you know, do something sane and realistic instead of narcissistic and delusional like everyone else. This album attempts the artistic equivalent of changing every dictionary so that the entry for “retarded” says “genius” and vice-versa, such that soon we would elect an Emperor with trisomy 21 and throw out our Beethoven and Darkthrone to favor two-note droning crap like An Autumn For Crippled Children. In summary: A Product For Crippled Minds.
Lago – Tyranny
The forefront of the metal industry — and industry means a group of rent-seekers supporting each other in quasi-collusion to do roughly the same stuff so the profit can keep flowing and costs can continue to be externalized through enforcement of mutual interest — consists these days of bands like Ara and Lago who are trying to hybridize deathgrind in the Unique Leader style with the metalcore/progressive metal that has been floating around for several years after rising from its archetype in the late years of punk, when “progressive” pop punk bands wrote longer songs based on high contrast between riffs to the point of incoherence, as if trying to emulate Black Flag The Process of Weeding Out without the heavy thematic load that album carried. This made sense for punk since when a genre has expressed its core ideas, no more can be done with them but to convert them to technique and to add complexity to hide the basic archetypes that would be revealed by simplicity (bands, after all, have to make product or they fail, both economically and in the economics of social prestige, where the members want to be known as the guys from that hip avantgarde whatever from wherever for the rest of their lives as industry insiders or hipsters working at local bookstores). The consequence of the deathgrind/metalcore hybrid is that bands incorporate the jazz/progressive/shredder stylings (equal parts Kenny G, Dream Theater and Joe Satriani) into more pummeling material that tries to unite itself in the way older death metal did, or at least to the level that Gorguts Obscura aspired to. This tames the most random and hopeless aspects of progressive punk and metalcore but can end up emphasizing the trivial aspects of death metal instead of its ability to knit together riffs and song structures to create journeys of discovery that were equal parts psychedelia and H.P. Lovecraft styled exploration of the morbid, realist subconscious. Lago demonstrates an ability to make competent Unique Leader styled deathgrind, complete with pig squeal vocals and constant high-intensity double bass, but to work into it both the more harmonically advanced riffs and instrumental interludes that the newer progressive variants feature. The result alternates between riffs so simple in conception that they make bricks bash their heads against walls, and instrumentals much more like progressive rock than metal. While Lago is among the best of the breed, the fusion isn’t there yet, because the parts separate instead of working toward a common intent. Still, these songs come together better than just about anything else in the sub-genre, and make Lago a band worth watching for the future.
Mistweaver – “The Greatest Threat”
Core is the new glam. This song combines flowing MTV choruses with uplifting melodies and the nu-metal form of degraded speed metal chugging riffing into a black metal song format with gentle keys interacting with tremolo riffs. This many spare parts can only be glued together by the most basic central element, which genericizes the song; in fact, the more out there music tries to be, the less its parts become compatible and the more generic it becomes at its core. This could be the latest Steel Panther video if the glam band decided to be slightly darker in theme and adopt techniques from Metallica, Emperor and Morbid Angel, who are (roughly) the most defining acts of the past 30 years. Combinging them makes everything weaker.
Stages of Molestation – “Cadaveric Molestation”
This band made itself many fans by varying its chortling guttural death metal with really basic old school death metal informed by the Swedish and Northern California scenes. The problem here is that, while these songs are catchy, they are so harmonically, melodically and riff-structurally basic that they do not merit a second listen. The band is on to something with the style itself however.
Mourning Mist use the increasingly popular approach of making underground metal music without explicitely subscribing to any particular subgenre. Unlike many of the clueless out there, they do know that despite the positive aspects of such an open approach, a basis must be chosen on which to serve as foothold.
For this they choose a death and black metal amalgam that ultimately has more of the latter and is only sprinkled with the technique of the former. Stylistically, the rest wanders a little into a sort of Euro-pop/rock, or at least this is how I can describe it in my little experience with that kind of music. I found myself thinking of Moby at one point. A more superficial element that contributes significantly to the atmosphere of the record is the solo violin which spurs in avant-garde manner which brought memories of Jean Luc Ponty, even though the actual music connection might be weak.
One can grow tired of mentioning and pointing out the same mistakes that seem to plague most musicians in general. It must be part of the mediocrity which is just part of the average. This band does not escape this and while there are moments in which their light bulb obviously lit up (there is a commendable build up in the 5th track which lasts about 4 minutes and culminates in that Moby moment), these are drowned in wallpaper filler. This is especially prominent towards the end of the album. It’s almost as if the band started with good ideas and they had solid content to drive the music. But as the minutes go by, as the first, and second songs finish, they start to increasingly rely on the contrasting styles rather than actual content to move the song forward.
The bad parts indirectly affect any good effect the content-rich parts might have because from the integral point of view, each part contributes to a whole, but if the whole is greatly composed of meaningless filler, the content itself seems either diluted or even confused. Mourning Mist’s album ends up with the latter
effect, like someone speaking while a gag is wrapped around his head.
Mut presents us with a perfect a sample of a band becoming completely irrelevant by taking the world personally and as a result becoming entirely self-referential. Code never hides its true colors and you know what to expect right from the very beginning: sure-footed, emotional, but ultimately pointless meandering rock music. If the reader wants a reference for what to expect here, you can find it in Muse or everything Cynic put out after Focus, especially their last album.
Let’s start nicely with what this band does know how to do. The musicianship is undeniably professional. This album creates atmosphere by expanding one idea and letting it grow like a vine, always seemlessly. This is done so expertly that while the idea of the song still holds, their extension of it is truly delightful. The guys also have a keen ear for textures and harmonies that are never out of place. The album could well become an academic study in refined harmony for indie metal. The indie component is especially prominent in the type of dissonants they introduce.
The indieness of it all oozes a post-something feel in a blend that makes it very whiny and monotonous. And this last point is what brings us to the main problem this music faces: it never moves on from the initial idea. In every song, Code presents us with an episode and then whines about it at different volumes and with different layerings. There is no movement, no direction, no development. If you are picky, you could also hint at the extremely commonplace and almost tongue-in-cheek use of Arabic/Spanish motives, but in my opinion this is more a matter of preference and it is not as big as a blemish as the complete lack of development.
Code is obviously formed by accomplished musicians who are unfortunately not clear-minded composers with a goal outside emotional self-expression as is required to make great art. Concept always guides results. This band at least has a center. But they need firmer land, more fertile soil and somewhere whence they can contemplate visions of possible destinations, and not remain crying inside a dark cave in which they can only see the same humid wall.
Renowned post-metal band Wolves in the Throne Room have returned with a companion album to their 2011 release Celestial Lineage. Entitled Celestite, the new album shows the band moving the synth and acoustic components of the previous album to the foreground and thematically expanding upon them in a total divergence from metal instrumentation and structure. This release has less in common with Lord Wind or Burzum‘s prison albums, although some relationship could be established between Celestite and Ildjarn-Nidhogg’s synth work, in addition to Neptune Towers and perhaps various Beherit projects. Celestite primarily takes its inspiration from artists which are tangentially related to metal rather than derived from it, with Eno being the primary source.
Showing more heritage from avant-garde scoring than other ambient/neo-classical projects, Celestite reveals multi-dimensional composition winding its way from the beginning of a piece to its conclusion without a grounded climax or resolution. Microcosoms of intensity provide linking points to connect various melodic strands together, which along with blending recurring tones with expanding timbrel variance provides enough solidity to congeal central parts within the fluid nature of the album. Melodies are introspective and restrained, though the elongation of their motion increases the importance of each progression. When the album reaches its striving heights, sensation is heightened appreciably whilst still retaining a contemplative essence. Carefully considered, the contrast between the light synth aura which is the operative timbre of the album’s framework, the overlaying of organic winds and lighter keys, and the almost oppressive, technologically demonic and bass-heavy force that intrusively invades the melody and flattens it temporarily before returning, embodies a sonic portrayal of the struggle between the forest and the machine.
The artistic duality of nature versus mechanism constitutes itself again in our times in an art form which is dependent upon the modern and yet wary of it. Celestite may find a re-grounding point for Wolves in the Throne Room, and be an inspiring blueprint for all who seek to move beyond black metal in a backwards-looking yet inexorably-forwards direction – upwards, towards…
Through the decades, metal has always been more like a crossroads than a cul-de-sac, with the intersection of punk and industrial as well as metal’s own internal genres, divided roughly between above-ground (heavy metal, nu-metal, glam metal) and underground (NWOBHM, death metal). The different threads feed back and forth into one another and cross-influence, but too much influence from any one would assimilate the whole genre.
Thus Caliban wanders into difficult waters. This band fuses Eskimo Callboy-style techno-influenced metalcore with post-metal and alternative metal, mixing in a fair amount of speed metal technique as well. The core of this band is the stadium hard rock of the 1980s and the alternative rock of the 1990s, which gives it a wistful and yet highly personal sound, like a nobody suddenly placed on national television and told to defend his life through a life history. Thus per its metalcore heritage it is highly emotional, as emo is a huge part of metalcore, but Caliban meld that 1980s stadium rock grandeur into the tendency of techno and industrial bands to make ceremonial moments out of their raging music. As a result, songs tend to rage along with metal riffs, then go into alternative rock choruses, and after a while expand into a bigger “meta-chorus” that sounds like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and a Chemical Brothers set.
Much of the focus is on the vocals which admittedly produce 1990s throwbacks, sounding a lot like a cross between Foo Fighters and Coldplay. They tend to use soaring melodies almost like those found in inspirational music, designed to contrast the distorted vocals which tend to chant in Pantera-style confrontational mode that got lifted from NYHC and Biohazard. This is a lot like what the more aggressive nu-metal bands do, but Caliban turn the volume up to ten with more melodic vocals and angrier chants. Although this leads to a binary focus in songwriting, where the soft conflicts the hard and fades out to an emotional finish, this is what makes for perfect radio/MTV hard rock. It delivers a ballad-like finish to an equal balance of aggression and sensitivity which is what today’s sophisticated audiences desire.
If you’re looking for something that is on the aboveground side of metal and in fact leans toward the rock side, which combines the raw emotion of 1980s stadium rock with the world-weary cynicism of 1990s alternative rock and the social aptitude of techno and metalcore, Caliban Ghost Empire offers something new you might want to check out. It’s like a Foo Fighters or Filter or Devin Townshend for this generation. Ghost Empire will not appeal to underground metalheads but might be a good introduction to the genre for people raised on the MTV-style emotive rock of contemporary fame.
In the 1980s, the term “poseur” or “poser” was used to near-death by people trying to describe those who were involved with the music simply to make themselves look cool.
In the 1990s, we had “scenesters” who were people who hung around a musical scene to use it as a justification for their lifestyle. If someone questioned their lack of success or purpose in life, they pointed to the “scene” that they were part of.
And now, as the hands of time have run down further, we have hipsters: people who use music as a form of lifestyle adornment to explain why their life is better than yours. Generally they do this from a position of outsiderness, and by proving to be more obscure in their tastes than you, make you look like a herd-sheep in contrast.
What all these definitions have in common is that they reflect people who are using music in a backward thought process. Most people listen to music because they like it, and use their social life as a means to that music. Insincere people use the music as a means to the end of having a social life, and eventually drag down the community by forcing it in irrelevant directions. Entropy, in other words, caused by social need.
Recently No Clean Singing entered the fray with their analysis of the hipster gradient to Deafhaven:
What bothers me is that some people seem to be judging albums (and labeling the music “hipster”) mainly because they’ve become very popular, to the point of becoming “crossover” hits. We all know that the more successful, the more popular, the less “underground” a metal album becomes, the more it’s going to be put down within the community of metal. It’s a kind of perverse streak that our community seems to have.
I hope this author allows me to respectfully dissent here. The problem isn’t that these albums are popular; it’s that they’re not metal. Metal like most outsider genres has a strict sense of identity and purpose, and it fears adulteration for good reason. If metal starts admitting regular music into its inner sanctum, then metal will become assimilated by mainstream music.
We think of mainstream music as some bold direction but, if you look at history, it’s not. Pentatonic music appeared in Europe and Asia as a way to create popular music without having to wrangle with key or mode. The song form we now know as the pop song came from English drinking songs, the percussion from German waltzes, and the call-response format from gospel churches. This music isn’t a single direction; it’s what was compatible between many different directions, a lowest common denominator.
Metal broke away from this and went in its own direction. Part of being an outsider genre is to police your own borders. The only thing that gives you integrity is that spirit that allowed you to break away and have a different vision of reality. The problem is that you are constantly under assault. To the majority, you’re a threat because you’re doing things differently. And yet they wish they could be you, or at least be as seemingly cool as you are.
Hipsters are what happens when a social scene invades a musical movement. Instead of people working toward the music, people are using the music to justify their lifestyles, show off their outsider status (which is a raised status), or give themselves a unique purpose in life that others do not have. When people call Deafhaven a hipster band, they’re acknowledging the obvious: musically, Deafhaven has more in common with emo and indie rock than it ever will in metal, and we want the traitors out.
Sometime after 1994, black metal lost its spark. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss had elevated black metal to its highest possible form and observers were left with nowhere to go. Thus began the ongoing deconstruction of the genre and the blurring of its boundaries.
Like many other contemporaneous black metal bands, Cosmic Church reaches into areas beyond black metal, however in its favor it does it without destroying the texture of the music. A fusion of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (vocals are directly copied from this era) and what the cool kids these days are calling “post-metal”, the band presents a version of black metal somewhat comparable to a murky glass obscuring a beautiful painting, with poignant moments lost amid a lack of focus and coherency. Melodies briefly break free of rather pedestrian riffing and grant hope that a realization is being reached; before aimless motion dissolves whatever forward progress had been made.
For its genre, it’s a solid release. It’s listenable and has a few nice moments, but this album has nothing that will leave a lasting impression. If the band could isolate their best melodies and craft an album from them, rather than allowing the focus to be on irrelevancy; the end result would be far superior.
The point of indie rock was to no longer be conquest music. Ordinary rock was about getting the girl, going out there and being a big star. Indie rock was about being at home in your room, wondering where the hell the world was going.
When indie collided with rock again, they mixed in ambient elements and took out the folk, giving a sensation of pure melancholy. Building in that vein, Better Living (Through Chemistry) showcases two bass guitars weaving simple melodies around droning sounds of emptiness and desolation contrasted by somewhat upbeat vocals.
Methadrone features ex-Incantation guitarist/vocalist Craig Pillard crooning softly over heavily repetitive bass. One bass guitar tackles rhythm; the other dodges and dives around this with noise, counter-melody and sometimes pure droning sound. The result is, like Jesu, a wall of sound from which absences make more impact than additions.
While Better Living (Through Chemistry) demonstrates the melancholy of isolation that indie rock applied to great strength, evoking the lost lone voice of a person trying to find a place in a world gone mad, it underscores this with a fascination with life itself. Despite the requisite anti-hero posturing involved with using drug imagery, this is an album of self-discovery and some mastery.
Indie rock remains ambivalent for many because despite its many musical contributions it sequestered itself in a certain world outlook that while inoffensive had no particular fascination past self-pity. By hybridizing that again with a contemplative but alienated withdrawal and loneliness, Methadrone casts post-rock into a new role from which it can grow.