Often when analyzing music, it can be useful to look to other genres to develop an understanding its relation to the order of nature. Written and recorded music has been around for centuries, and with a multitude of genres emerging in the last hundred years, few have completely died out and disappeared.42 Comments
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:27 Comments
Tags: black 'n roll, California, cancer, communists, crypto-indie, deafheaven, drugs, hard rock, hipster bullshit, hipster invasion, hipster music, idiots, Leviathan, metalcore, moribund, moribund records, pitchfork media, pop punk, post-hardcore, post-rock, profound lore, scenesters, screamo, shit, shoegaze, USBM, vice magazine, weakling, wolves in the throne room, xasthur
Oh here she comes. Watch out boy she’ll chew you up. She’s a maneater. – Darryl Hall and John Oates, 1982.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Tags: Abyssus, beer metal, Black Tusk, Candelabrum, Clawhammer Abortion, death metal, Doom Metal, goth metal, Grindcore, hipster bullshit, howls of ebb, lounge music, modern metal, Nucleus, party metal, pizza thrash, post-rock, relapse, relapse records, sadistic metal reviews, sludge, Speed Metal, Tombs
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.22 Comments
Tags: 2009, Ambient, Ambient Black Metal, black 'n roll, Black Metal, drudkh, flowing black metal, folk metal, nokturnal mortum, pink floyd, post-rock, progressive rock, review, slavic black metal, The Voice of Steel, Ukraine
Today’s F-grade death metal is brought to you by Corey M.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tags: 2016, AIDS, chuck schuldiner, d-beat, dark descent, dark descent records, death metal, Ferium, Hemotoxin, metalcore, Mortuary, NilExistence, phobocosm, Pink Frothy Aids, post-rock, sadistic metal reviews, Unspeakable Axe Records
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.1 Comment
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.2 Comments
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.8 Comments
Despite claims to being some sort of doom death with black metal influences, Creeping’s music is a progressive sort of rock music with little trace of the influence of metal apart from the most superficial traits. These traits can be briefly summarized in distorted guitars and vox, and rock and metal drum techniques. Creeping’s music in Revenant could be described as being through-composed with a minimalist touch to them. Once you remove this from sight and you look through them, it is evident this is not metal music. In general, their work here displays a very keen sense on smooth transitions and mood-capturing that only the most sensitive musicians are able to put together. What Creeping seems to be at a loss for is an organizing agent that condensates these living shapes into meaningful statements with heads and tails or at least a direction. As it stands, Revenant is only a sequence of related vague feelings without enough organization to convey a concrete meaning — a direct consequence of both being mostly empty of musical formations and missing the point that music and art in general are communication.
The most revealing moment when listening to Creeping is when one reaches the ending of a song and everything is put into perspective. Endings are reached uneventfully. They simply just end. The finishing sections as a group are indistinguishable from those at the beginning. In fact, they could be interchanged and it would make little difference as they do not carry any connotation. Not only are true endings missing but what we would physically try to locate as development sections of any sort (not necessarily Beethovenian) are also flat-out indistinguishable from sections at the beginning or ending. The clue here is not to look at the sections or groups of sections themselves only but also in relation to one another. How is the idea carried forward? What changed from this moment to two minutes in the future? How and why is the idea left behind towards the end? Is the idea actually changed towards the end? There is no answer to this questions in the context of this album, because none of that seems to ever have been in the mind of Creeping when writing these songs. Each section is a progression of chords with “powerful” drum beats. They took care that adjacent sections were related in character and texture (all the album uses the same texture and album) but nothing else. The album is a homogeneous creeping mass sliding down a hill like lava from an erupting mountain. It is an event, it is motion, but it is without life or purpose.
Creeping’s Revenant is one of those albums that will carry the flag of the mainstream in their incursions to try and conquer the underground by taking a depressive-sounding rock outfit and trying to make it look and sound like a convincing metal act. The fastest and most obvious way of doing this is by copying the traits that help identify underground metal through its superficial appearances. This is the second issue we take this album: that of pretending to be metal. Somewhat resembling post-metal, Creeping distinguishes itself from metal music in that it builds its music following chord progressions mainly, not phrases. What tells us that Creeping is rock music and not post-metal, though, is that it constantly follows actually-moving chord circles, effectively creating movement through that most basic device in Western music derived from the Common Practice Period classical music. Post-metal, on the other hand tends to stagnate in one harmony and try to play it in many different ways and with different decorations, usually ceding the task of promoting movement in the music solely to the drums. While there are parts where a melody can be heard, this is often just a decoration for an implied chord progression. The music in Creeping’s Revenant is utterly dependent on them, something underground metal distinguished itself from through years of rethinking itself and distancing itself from rock music in order to attain greater power of expression.
Given the way the songs in Revenant evolve and the atmosphere they seem to want to evoke in part as per the claims made that this band’s music adds a hint of black metal to their music, a comparison to Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is appropriate in order to dispel the former’s false claims and to put into perspective their more limited ability for communication. Creeping’s work and procedures have been described in some detail earlier here, so let’s proceed to take a look at Burzum. At a glance, there are many similarities between both. Songs in Hvis Lyset Tar Oss emphasize a smoothness of transition between sections whose borders are blurred out, except when there are major breaks in the music. Texture also consists of drums that change slightly independently of the rest of the music while still working with it, a strong bass, chord-strumming guitar and a rasping/growling vocal. Burzum’s music is further clarified by the use of a synth and another guitar that may outline melodies, phrases and themes. And themes are the key to Burzum’s music in this period (or any other, for that matter…). The discerning listener will notice that chords and progressions in the Norwegian’s music are only harmonic filling-outs of motifs in the bass line, oftentimes enhanced by a slight deviation in the soprano line. Chords are subsumed under motifs. Songs are defined by themes. In addition to that, and addressing the issue of whole-song structure and purpose, the first three songs in Burzum’s album do the same thing with visibly different approaches: present an idea, condense it into a solid and clear expression, introduce development, extend and come to an affirming closing idea smoothed through repetition rather than asserted in vainglorious expression typical of traditional metal. As a whole, and as a reflection of a cosmos that is contained in its smallest particles, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss follows that same pattern as an album. From its slowly building opening track, “Det Som Engang Var” to the more menacing and alienating expressions of the title track and the first half of “Inn in Slottet Fra Drømmen” which marks the climax of the album in frenetic expression only to dissipate into its second half, leading to the crystal-clear conclusion that is the ambient track, “Tomhet”.
In conclusion, Revenant ends up sounding like the indecipherable ramblings of an illuminated idiot. You can hear that there is, perhaps, a wisdom behind the sequence of misty phrases and bursts of adjective-noun pairs blurted out as if in poetic rapture, but there is not enough involvement of a conscience to even start to make sense of these. This is an album for the moment-oriented, people with short attention spans looking for prolonged sequences of singular atmospheric pictures, fans of masturbatory emotional neediness looking only for a cold shower of pleasure with no significance.No Comments
Vod is the one-man project of bassist Dave Trembley. Announced as an indescribable anomaly, a blend of interesting ideas in astounding ways, this is a actually a fairly clear mixture of influences that never coalesces into an original voice. Dancing and jumping between general ambient, post rock, and the break-down metal of Meshuggah (mostly in derivative and simplified Djentish manner, for groove more than for percussion wankery). The whole album is nonetheless covered by a recognizable blanket, although it is not a distinct expression but only a consistency in the use of the same collection of styles.
Rather than establish a mood and submerge the listener in it, or take us into a spiraling well of moments to build atmosphere, Vod simply gives us cool-vibe-inducing moments gathered from the aforementioned genres. Heavily relying on the most primal effects of both ambient and Djent, Tuurngait will often fall into a simple ambient drone or into the simplest and easiest to catch syncopated modern groove. Careful and smooth in taking the songs from a whisper to a full-on groove-party, this music is good conversation material as it is easy to digest.