A Case for Weakling’s – Dead as Dreams (2000)

Article Contributed by Salustiano Ferdinand

tl;dr: Despite controversy surrounding the indie pedigree of Weakling’s musicians and their musical descendants, Dead as Dreams remains, as described by none other than Fenriz, an “odd masterpiece” on its musical merits and should be a part of any serious underground metal fan’s collection.  The album, for a number of reasons, is currently something of a locus of blame for whatever particular sins people ascribe to west coast black metal. Some people point to Weakling as the origin point of indie creep into US black metal due to the supposed indie credibility of its members in particular as well as to a lesser extent the trend of questionable publicity stunts engaged in by mediocre bands from Velvet Cocoon to Ghost Bath (although in Weakling’s case this should be blamed on the label, not the band). As a result of these complaints, Dead As Dreams has over time become something of an Emmanuel Goldstein for black metal fans, and the album some people are critiquing when they say “Dead as Dreams” (such as the time DMU’s most alpha editor described it as “shoegaze black metal”) bears little resemblance to the actual album Dead As Dreams.

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/smr/ Sadistic Metal Reviews: Post Black Eulogy (Part 1)

[Join DMU editor Brock Dorsey on the first of a two part massacre of the soy metal sub genre that has bastaradized black metal beyond the belief!  Also, this image is an actual cover from an actual post black metal album- you can’t make this stuff up!]

Post black metal was an embarrassing sub genre of soy metal.  Built upon a foundation of either screamo, pop punk, metalcore, math rock, shoegaze, or avant-garde and fused with the most minimal touches of black metal, post black metal was a flavor of the week(/weak) trend that lasted from around 2009 to 2014.  The genre name is misleading, however, as most bands only claimed to be metal and incorporated only slight touches of metal characteristics before abandoning them completely in future releases.  As indicated by its core standard bearers being dropped by labels, performing terribly in sales and Facebook likes, and being forgotten by fans, post black metal has finally passed away.  As we lay it to rest with one final cremation in the SMR fashion, let us learn from its failings as the future looks to more traditional forms of heavy metal  to restore a once proud genre.

First, we must understand metal history to understand how such an abomination could happen, as Post-black metal followed a number of flavor of the week black metal trends and bands.  The first of these, symphonic black metal, sent many fans of the original (true) black metal genre into a frenzy with their incorporation of gothic influences.  What was to come would be much worse, however, as the soy metal bands marketed as black metal would prove to be far more embarrassing than the Victorian campiness of Cradle of Filth or the industrial meddling of …And Oceans.  The next flavor of the week black metal trend was cleverly concealed in a cloak of static, but the hipsterisms of “depressive black metal” would soon be known to the world.  Time was not kind to the legacy of Xasthur and Leviathan, both of whom are now widely panned against the metal community, as where the thousands of “bedroom black metal” clones who polluted Myspace.  With many short lived flavor of the week trends (such as “Norsecore” and “Cascadian black metal”) and bands (Kult ov Azazel, Inquisition) in between, the soy metal- black metal hybird that was post black metal was the next successful marketing scheme to deceive young and retarded metal fans alike.

Performed mostly by wealthy but useless trust fund kinds from liberal cities, post black metal was to metal as emo was to rock music: feminine, tame, and a complete and utter bastardazation.  Thus, post metal was eventually abandoned by its former fans, spat on by the metal community, dropped by metal/rock record labels, and remembered poorly by music lovers.  Much like how the rent some of its musicians was eventually cut off from their parent’s bank roll, post metal was eventually told to stop leaching off the metal community so that the genre may maintain a shred of dignity.

Brace yourselves for an infernal evisceration unlike aynthing you’ve ever seen before, because in this edition of SMR, we won’t just be sadistically reviewing albums…

 

 

we’ll be sadistically reviewing careers.

 

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The Sad Pandemic of West Coast “Black Metal”

Today’s American black metal has found itself right within the parameters of Poe’s Law which, when applied to this abomination of a music scene, would sound something like this:

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Monday Mastications

FeedingPenguin
Oh here she comes. Watch out boy she’ll chew you up. She’s a maneater. – Darryl Hall and John Oates, 1982.

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Black Tusk – Pillars of Ash (2016)
A fusion of party rock, screamo, and hardcore punk, Pillars of Ash brings a risible contribution to the rock/punk spectrum that many a beginner is prone to confuse with metal. The relevant question here is whether or not Black Tusk have anything worthwhile to offer to the listener that may not be found in higher quality elsewhere. The answer is a resounding NO. The album plays like a tenuous stream of echoes of 1980s hardcore bands rearranged with Mario Paint.

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Tombs – All Empires Fall (2016)
Tombs is described in some places as black or post metal, and while there is some borrowing from black metal techniques in the use of some blast beats and an imitation of traditional black metal vocals, Tombs isn’t isn’t black metal. The post-metal is correctly applied in that this isn’t much more than a poor excuse for pseudo-ambient experiments with haphazardly connected sections being paraded as composition. There are strong references to doom metal, cheap and stompy heavy rock, with post rock being added as the way to get away with 3rd rate writing. All in all, boring, generic, unfocused, and unoriginal background music. Tombs is lounge music.

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Howls of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows (2016)
Entirely random pastiche of metal clichés loosely held together by psychedelic interludes and a drunk vocalist feigning faux lunacy. If a blend of Voivod, galloping heavy metal, canned black metal and fuzz drenched noise rock wah wah soloing wasn’t pointless enough, the band commands and impressively dissociated catalog of occult vocabulary to match.

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Nucleus – Sentient (2016)
Nucleus have fun in the studio and they want you, dear listener, to have fun at home with them. If you like Demilich but thought it was too strange, too serious, or too weird to play around your sister then Sentience is the record that delivers all the thrills of Finnish extradimensional insectoid death without danger of unthrashability. All the more perfect for fucking your sister behind the dumpster at the skatepark.

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Candelabrum – Necrotelepathy (2016)
Two twenty minute tracks of spooky landscapes, sad vampire vocals, and canned drum patterns. If the goal was to stride the line between hysterical and uncomfortable, this record is a resounding success. Necrotelepathy is more Vampire Diaries metal.

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Abyssus – Once Entombed (2016)
Another pizza thrash band with a veneer of death metal fronted by a Greek John Tardy fan. The album art and song titles make adequate use of Death Metal Band Generator. Perfect comedy for those Saturday mornings when you are drunk with fellow “scene veterans.”

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Clawhammer Abortion – Slaughter Campaign (2016)
This band took every criticism levied against death metal and wrote an album of it. In order to get through, I turned it into a drinking game: Hear a cliché, drink. The only problem is I passed out drunk after three songs and the Editor took over. He heard so many Sodom breakdowns and generic grindcore riffs that he kicked my ghetto blaster into the campfire. Only the most calcified kidneys and fattiest livers prevail in the Eternal War.

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Nokturnal Mortum – The Voice of Steel (2009)

nokturnal mortum the voice of steel

Article by David Rosales.

I. The Cult of Death

During the 10th century A.D., Prince Volodymyr and Queen Olha before him adopted Christianity in a war-torn land with deep-rooted Pagan beliefs. Little could either of them have predicted how hard it would be to impose a foreign philosophy on the yet unbroken Slavic spirit. Over a millennium later, the politically-imposed monotheistic deathcult would be suffering a slow death while the true colors of the Slavic nation would slowly resurface out of the fires of hate.

After all how could they have known that culture and spirit are embedded in the very marrow of bones and hearts of the people? Alas! This ignorance would still be espoused by armchair ideologists until the 19th century and further hammered from above from the second half of the 20th till this day, when true scientific thought is again challenging institutionalized blindness. That is, an ignorance of the logical implications of the lessons of history, psychology and biology, and instead seeing them through the lenses of a secularized Judeo-Christian paradigm. Such a modality of thought still reigns supreme today, even unknowingly among those who would claim allegiance to no supernatural power.

As the land of Ukraine became the collision point for both Asian and European hordes, its brave people soldiered through the intermittent periods of cold desolation and burning brutality. Their spirit weathered the storm, and as a sword forged between the hammer of growing materialism and the anvil of that Middle-Eastern cult of death (administered in a variant especially fostered for European minds, slightly different than that given to the Native Americans), a crude but precious Herculean force arose.

II. Slavic-Pagan Heavy-Black Metal

European nations previously beyond the Iron Curtain have not been known to produce the most accomplished black metal. These usually make prominent use of heavy metal technique while overlaying folk tunes on a poorly-focused progressive structure. These may still win the hearts of the fans of underground metal as honesty and spirit are still highly valued. This ‘best effort’ attitude is endearing, but such obvious naïveté, however authentic, can only take one so far.

Amateur tones characterizing the Slavic underground have meant simultaneously, salvation and bane to the subgenre. On the one hand, its crudeness has effectively forestalled the sellout phase that sooner or later comes about as entropy sets in. On the other, it has deterred a much desired collective coming of age. This is all very much in keeping with the general Slavic spirit: over the top bravado, sincere yet aloof sentimentality, but not the most structured of foundations.

III. The Coming of Age

Nokturnal Mortum’s history stretches back to the time when metal was on its deathbed, the junction at which the rise of parasitic and zombie-minded scenes first came about. The band achieved a certain degree of notoriety in the underground with their sophomore release Lunar Poetry in 1996. After that, the band did not offer much more than a few unconvincing recordings that flirted with pseudo-symphonic stylings: starting out big and epic early in the album and quickly degenerating into slightly comical rock beats and awkward folk tunes.

After five years away from the studio, the band returned with a folk-ambient album speckled with rock metal enhancements here and there. This was the necessary transition that would make the next album after it the most accomplished Slavic black metal album to date. To be more precise, what was achieved in that following album, The Voice of Steel, is an accepting of the full paradigm of black metal without giving up the naturalistic and folk-like tenor unique(in this day and age, at least) to Eastern European metal.

IV. Golos Stali: A Solar Black Metal

In contrast to traditional black metal, the ideological bent of its Slavic counterpart demands a different approach to technique in order to better convey the necessary impression. Instead of outright occult devilry, either through blasphemy or mystic conjuration, we find the remembrance of heroic personalities as well as true active(that is, through expression in the actions of life, ordinary and exceptional) reverence and worship presence of the forces of nature, both seen and unseen. This admiration for heroic prowess that so characterizes the native spirit of the land and people channels the powers of nature itself in their superlative expression at particular points in time according the times themselves.

Rather than the modal, riff-heavy construction of traditional underground metal, Nokturnal Mortum takes a harmonic, rock chord strategy. This may deter many a purist of the serious underground, but a little patience when approaching The Voice of Steel will result in a most rewarding experience. Once past the local use of rock aesthetics incorporated into a melody-and-riff riding that is closer to the methods of metal, the longer, repetitive structures of goal-oriented black metal become clearer.

Sections and patterns are allowed to sink in beyond familiarity and to embed themselves inside the mind of the listener. The lighter nature and swinging rhythm of the salient folk tunes are not given to induce a pensive trance-like state, and so the overall effect is used to a different result. Smooth yet significant transitions take place in such stealthy a manner that they may go unperceived by an inattentive audience. These bring a refreshing sense of justified variety to the strict continuity of events. A comparison with Sorcier des Glaces and the French method may not be out of the question in this respect, with the considerable difference that Slavic bands such as Nokturnal Mortum or Drudkh make more frequent and overt display of rock/post-rock textures and musical sensibilities.

To conclude, it feels necessary to point out the outstanding use of ambient techniques that should be part of the repertoire of any black metal band of any worth, whether applied explicitly or otherwise. These, in combination with rock texturing, rhythms and guitar soloing brought to the mind of the writer the late Pink Floyd. The result of the correct fusion of the more popular techniques showcased in the older band with the sharp focus of proper black metal can result in an interesting balance. The strictness of black metal seems to have been what the disconnected, apparently drug-induced passages of Pink Floyd required in order to contribute to the formation of a full music. These elements are humbly utilized in The Voice of Steel, which through the careful and patient working out of little aspects, their interactions and combinations, give birth to a formidable solar metal.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Sunday Funday!

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Today’s F-grade death metal is brought to you by Corey M.

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Mortuary – Nothingless than Nothingless (2016)
The opening track is made up of the same chords for two and a half minutes. That the drummer can play five different beats over the chord progressions illustrates the pointlessness of the progression. This happens with most of the progressions in any given song – the drum beat is switched up in middle of the passage. Why does the band even bother writing these progressions if they’re so boring that not even the band wants to hear them played with the same beat for four cycles straight? This is the kind of “metal” that fans of modern “hardcore” get into. I can practically hear the PETA stickers and Vans shoes. You needn’t listen long to hear the influences – Pantera, Rob Zombie, and various Warped Tour-tier metalcore. At least Mortuary spared us any ironic rap verses or shout-outs.

 

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Phobocosm – Bringer of Drought (2016)
Though it was easy to feel optimistic about Phobocosm’s future based on 2014’s Deprived (which this author still recommends – C.M.), it’s now time to give up on the band. Bringer of Drought shows Phobocosm embracing the Deathspell Omegacore post-modern metal virus, complete with songs of absurdly excessive length, mind-numbing guitar drones, artsy-fartsy dissonant chords that ring and grate, and minimal blasting-riffing which is the one part (all of about two minutes) that still sounds like death metal. The term “sellout” is severe and reserved for dire circumstances, but in this case it applies; Phobocosm has abandoned their obscure malevolence and Immolation-style warped riffcraft in favor of inoffensive but “deep”-sounding D-grade post-rock (see also: Adversarial). People who hate metal are the target audience.

 

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Ferium – Behind the Black Eyes (2016)
Extremely repititous, faux-angry-man vocals set to white-boy groove-metal rhythms. Choppy, math-rock-wannabe drum beats. Guitars that barely even play melodies, just semi-random notes on whatever beats the drummer somehow decides to play. My guess is that he is using a random number generator, or maybe a set of dice, to decide the rhythm. One cringe-inducing track made up of three piano chords and a whining voice repeating “She feels like home”. Mix all these ingredients in a big rusty pot, heat over an open flame til melted to a liquid, apply liberally to your (or a consenting partner’s) scrotum, and then revel in searing agony. Recommended for fans of being raped.

 

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NilExistence – Existence in Revelation (2016)
Terrible band name, terrible title, and terrible art aside, this is some tastefully brutal blasting with skillful musicianship and some evocative riffing. The vocals quickly become overbearing, which is a shame, since the intriguing Morbid Angel-style riffs sway to and fro, one moment up-close and vicious like a buzzsaw held to your face, the next distant and vast like a yawning cavern begging to swallow you whole. As usual with bands that try this, NilExistence trip on their own artillery by crashing together too many dissimilar riffs, like pages of a book shredded and then glued back together at random. These songs lack focus and therefore lack identity but something good may come out of these guys if they stay true to their influences and reign in the random deviations.

 

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Hemotoxin – Biological Enslavement (2016)
Human-era Death worship by competent musicians with a keen sense of exactly how much melodic variance per riff it takes to keep a listener’s attention from wandering. This could be a strength rather than a handicap but the riffs aren’t related through anything other than temporal closeness. The feeling of each song jumps from here to there with little rhyme or reason. Slow, chugging sections interrupt tremolo-picked blasting segments, then vice-versa. Occasionally, a tasty guitar lead explodes out of nowhere and then vanishes without so much as a trace of smoke, leaving us longing and dissatisfied. Lyrically we get a mish-mash of edgy lyrics about homelessness and suicide that seem to hint toward some insincere positivity by outlining gruesome subjects in a “profound” light. This all makes for a very frustrating listen since it’s apparent that the band care much for their presentation and musicianship but lack the crucial element that makes metal tolerable: the natural intuition required to coherently structure songs. Sound familiar yet?
Not even AIDS can keep Chuck in the grave.

 

4.1.1

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Enslaved and Wardruna members collaborate in Skjuggsjá

Metal flavored post-rock (modern Enslaved) and ambient folk oriented music (Wardruna) are both established things. I am not so sure the fusion of such in Skjuggsjá, a side project album featuring Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik, is as common. Skjuggsjá does seem to feature all the pretension inherent in either, and was apparently written and first performed for the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Norwegian constitution of 1814. This studio recording will release on March 11th; the released single does not seem to emphasis the potential metal instrumentation of such a project, although scattered live clips suggest some effort towards this end on other tracks.

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Austaras – Prisoner of Sunlight (2015)

Austaras - Dragged Into Sunlight
An old issue of Sadistic Metal Reviews once contained some interesting commentary on the subject of Agalloch – drop the “metal pretense” and possibly see album sales soar. The counterpoint is that there’s always an audience for rock music disguised as some sort of metal, but if Prisoner of Sunlight (Austaras’ first full length album after an allegedly post-black metal inspired debut EP in 2011) is to be believed, there’s also an audience for rock albums that don’t bother with the deception. As a mopey, vaguely depressive, pseudo-artsy post rock album that’s presumably been done a million times before, Prisoner of Sunlight is unsurprisingly less offensive than the halfway approach of a Deafheaven or a Myrkur or whatever the kids are forgetting about these days, but that’s not quite enough to make it worthwhile.

Above all else, Prisoner of Sunlight is a flat and directionless experience. The band builds their songs out of short chord progressions and brief guitar leads with little in the way of heavy metal styled riffing. They promptly do little to develop or elaborate on their musical ideas beyond the occasional break in for slow acoustic passages. Vocals are notably entirely clean sung, and stylistically they’re pretty much the standard Mikael Åkerfeldt for better or worse. I suppose you could say the technique needs some work to really shine, but they’re otherwise competent and perhaps stylistically appropriate. Any ambitions the vocalist has, though, are stamped on by the sheer flatness of the songwriting. Other elements fail to add any real interest to this – occasional synthesizer lines and generic rhythmic backing aren’t quite the selling point I would hope for. On the other hand, the album does nothing particularly wrong – no particularly jarring moments of randomness or especially obvious pandering to youth demographics, but the sense that Austuras focuses on texture and ‘ambiance’ above all else, while not necessarily a flaw (since some musicians can pull it off effectively), is a dealbreaker.

Ultimately, Prisoner of Sunlight is not a good album, but it isn’t even a bad enough album to laugh at. You might get the impression that more popular post-metal bands would sound like this if they too stripped all the metal from their approach. Perhaps they would; the lesson here is that you need a better understanding of how to vary your music if you’re going to write “atmospheric” metal. That’s more difficult than it would appear on first glance.

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Hipsters attack black metal with pale imitations

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Since the early 1970s, the music industry and the social scene behind it — comprised of those who use external appearance to signal social success — has been trying to find some way to counter the authenticity of metal. While rock and blues stars appeared to be rebels, the truth emerged over time that most were very conventional in their outlook except for hedonism.

Heavy metal on the other hand rejected the founding myths of our society since the intellectual shift so-called “The Enlightenment,” in which people decided that social pressure to enable the individual to be “equal” whether right or wrong, good or bad, was more important than social standards. Heavy metal pointed out that our perceived enemies are scapegoats, and the real problem is that the enemy is us, and that people are delusional and happy hippie flower power is another variety of the bourgeois deliberate ignorance of reality that promotes social decay.

In recent years, the same people who were hippies back in the 1960s — the conformity of appearance non-conformist and then going to work at a bank and retiring as a fat Baby Boomer — have returned as “social justice workers,” or SJWs. These people, together with an industry that realizes it can sell more re-branded indie rock than it can discover compelling metal bands, have created a new style that culturally appropriates the appearance of black metal while injecting it with the same messages of self-indulgence, self-pity, victimhood and pacifism that the hippies bleated about back in the day.

As the UK’s leading cheerleader paper reports, the herd is claiming this new false black metal is in fact an “innovation,” despite it resembling music from thirty years ago that black metal bands detested.

Enter “blackgaze”, the buzz term for a new school of bands taking black metal out of the shadows and melding its blast beats, dungeon wailing and razorwire guitars with the more reflective melodies of post-rock, shoegaze and post-hardcore. It’s a geographically loose scene and its bands have been embraced by the indie media, which means you’re now as likely to hear black metal at ATP as in the Carpathian mountains.

Alert readers may note the “post-rock, shoegaze and post-hardcore” attribution, which Death Metal Underground has long identified as being the origins of this material. In other words, it is not black metal, but indie rock playing “dress up” as black metal. The quest of the industry for a safe rebellion goes on.

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