Voivod recently released the title track from the upcoming Post Society EP. Its overall Voivodness (in the French-Canadian metal sense, as opposed to the Polish administrative one) supports my previous theory that the band is continuing with the approach that they outlined on Target Earth; in my own previous words, “…an accessible mixture of of their signature late ’80s sound with more modern alternative and progressive rock influences.” The EP is still scheduled for February 26th, and Voivod is still going on tour next month. The good track record so far bodes well for the quality of the involved content, although the fact so much of it having already been released piecemeal may cut into its overall sales.
We got a hint of Voivod’s upcoming plans a while back. Post Society may or may not be building up to Voivod’s next full length, but it still might be of value to fans of the band; it will release on February 26th. Besides compiling the tracks Voivod released as part of their recent splits with At the Gates and Napalm Deaths, this EP will also feature two original tracks and a cover of “Silver Machine” by Hawkwind. At least going by “We Are Connected”, it seems that Voivod is continuing the path set forth by their previous full-length – an accessible mixture of of their signature late ’80s sound with more modern alternative and progressive rock influences.
Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree recently conducted an interview with Metal Wani. In the linked second part, he suggested an aesthetic reason for the backlash against the swarm of “progressive” metal acts – according to him, there are too many progressive metal bands that are overusing the “metal guitar sound”, to the point that such loses its impact. In the mean time, Wilson is trying to explore dark and melancholic themes outside of metal, most notably in his collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt in Storm Corrosion. This is obviously a different perspective than our usual narrative here at DMU – if you ask us, your pseudo-progressive band failed not because metal guitar is a cliched sound (which doesn’t eliminate the possibility), but more likely because your songwriting either took the form of modern pop in disguise or incoherent nonsense.
Despite no paucity of topics to possibly review, I took a commentator’s advice (which, for agitprop, I’m going to suggest was inspired by our call to arms) and decided to take a look at the new Sadist album that came out last week and was teased some months ago. Supposedly, Sadist inspired by earlier death metal/jazz fusion bands like Atheist and Pestilence, and I can hear where influences poke through like bones of a half-eaten carcass, but Hyaena also owes some of its genetics to the newer breeds of ‘progressive’ metalcore and djent acts, and therefore walks a fine line between the two.
Hyaena is so thoroughly permeated by its jazz influence that it often sounds like a group of jazz musicians approaching metal, as opposed to the more familiar opposite. There’s certainly a great deal of surface complexity throughout this album. First, it often favors the sort of off-beat syncopation and polyrhythm over 4/4 beat type of percussion popularized by Meshuggah and sons. Secondly, Sadist crams in a great deal of synthesizer and sample presence, including plenty of “tribal” percussion that probably synergizes with the lyrical/visual aspects of this album. What begins to tip me off that this might not just be a mess of pseudo-progressive tropes is Sadist’s adept understanding of modulation and tonality – unlike many bands that play around with it, they actually manage to use this to write more flexible riffs and build some of the changes into their song structures. That is definitely not a mere surface strength.
With further listening, it becomes apparent that Hyaena‘s main strength as an album is its ability to integrate its musical aspects into a coherent whole; as a result, I am willing to forgive some of its weaknesses… which primarily revolve around the fact that this integration sometimes means questionable elements make their way into the album’s sound. For instance, I’m not too fond of some of the sounds used by the keyboardist, but the actual content of the keyboard lines here fits in nicely with the rest of the band, as they end up alternating between providing textural reinforcement and actual counterpoint. This does wonders for the songwriting, as Sadist goes beyond merely using instrumentation to distinguish song sections. It helps that they have two strong sources of musical language that they can pull on for basic elements, but such a potent tool would do little in the hands of a band that failed to integrate those halves.
Needless to say, this puts Sadist at least on a higher level than some of the other metal themed jazz bands. Those with a serious fusion/metalcore/djent allergy will want to stay away, as the ‘heavy’ side of this album seems to lean more core in its aesthetics than not. Still, there is some real depth to this music, even if some of the surface elements seem to chase contemporary trends.
Those familiar with The Heavy Metal F.A.Q. and the The Dark Legions Archive will note the basic thesis of this site: heavy metal arose from the fusion of late-1960s punk, progressive rock and horror movie soundtracks, and this blossomed into its final form in the early 1980s with Hellhammer, Sodom, Bathory and Slayer. From that all underground metal emerged.
On the progressive rock side, the obvious influences are King Crimson and Jethro Tull, but the entire genre had its effect. Much in the vein of Jethro Tull, who wrote the rock equivalent of vast narratives united by leitmotifs in the Wagnerian style, Camel for their second album chose inspiration from The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk by Paul Gallico and crafted an epic instrumental album around it. Lore holds that this may have been in order to avoid a copyright complaint, but that seems ridiculous unless they literally quoted from the book; perhaps the authors always intended, as classical composers did, to translate rather than transliterate great writing into sonic form. The result was a sprawling instrumental work which used themes from the book to inspire melodies, around which it built songs, as a result decreasing the “rock” quanta of progressive rock and transitioning mostly to a new genre. As with most 1970s progressive rock, jazz-fusion and classical/soundtrack-inspired parts vie with bombastic ballad-style choruses and processionals. The absence of vocals allows the layers of guitar, bass, and keyboards to expand their roles, which gives this music both harmonic depth and the ability to transition themes through foreshadowing by different instruments.
The greatest strength of Music Inspired by The Snow Goose however comes in what it did to the songwriting abilities of this band, unleashing the guitarists to think outside the lead and instead write lead rhythm parts based on the motifs of the narrative. As if presaging what Joe Satriani would do for shredder guitar a decade later, Camel often allow single-string melodies to take point and walk through a theme cycle that is then repeated and expanded with stacks of keyboards and guitar harmony. Counterthemes appear as if from a darkened cloud, often transitioning between tracks, and then force a thunderous conclusion which finishes the story arc. That results in an album which is both emotionally satisfying like a myth, and deeply satisfying as a listen because each of its tracks gives itself fully over to purpose. This may be the peak of the progressive rock genre because it fully transcends its origins in those moments and creates a form of popular music which, like Greek theater, connects the listener to idea and sensation at once.
Each melody becomes delightfully distinct in its effort to exemplify a character or situation, and by giving itself fully to that purpose, loses much of the randomness of popular music. While Music Inspired by The Snow Goose may be a bit difficult for popular music listeners who are accustomed to a constant beat with vocals to guide them, a reasonably mentally alert person will find that the melody itself — transitioning between instruments, in the form of a leitmotif — has taken that role, and everything else follows like the reaction of forest creatures to the break of dawn. Forty years later, this album remains a favorite for many prog listeners, and those of us in the metal world can only hope it inspires someone to tackle a hybrid of its narrative approach and the more stentorian sounds of first album Immortal and Incantation.
Longstanding Italian death metal band Sadist, famous for incorporating Pestilence/Atheist style progressive and jazz influences into their work in the early 1990s, have returned from retirement with a new album. This one features more bouncy and spacious speed metal rhythms, such as on Voivod Dimension Hatross or Anacrusis Screams and Whispers, but stays true to their habit of interweaving different styles and narratives with metal riffing.
Bizarrely, perhaps in some transposition of Nietzschean ideas, the album and band seem to be using the visual theme of hyenas against prey animals. While this is not the goofiest thing in death metal, it seems a bit ill-advised because of the general view of hyenas, which forgets what vicious predators — on par with wolves but more energetically violent — hyenas are. See for yourself what you think of this odd campaign and the music that supports it on the album teaser.
- Sadist website
Emerging from a hard rock background, Rush made increasingly ambitious attempts at being on par with the European progressive acts of the early 1970s. Although dubbed a progressive rock band, Rush’s music would be best described as a “poor-man’s” progressive rock. A naive and straightforward attempt at emulating the workings of the music of more refined bands like Yes or King Crimson. As such it has been one of the most easily comprehensible progressive bands to the general public.
Released in 1980, Permanent Waves is the Rush album that most closely approaches the ideals of the by-then defunct progressive rock movement. Being the highlight of the band’s technical competence, here we find Rush at its most bombastic and dynamic. As a preamble to later so-called progressive rock and metal (henceforth referred to as pseudo prog), this album features songs which make use of elements of contrasting musical styles (the listener will even find a reggae-styled section) to break the spell of a mood. In doing so it aligns itself with music appropriate for listeners who prefer a casual but engaging distraction.
Despite this stylistic digressions ,Permanent Waves manages to be generally constant in its artistic voice. Rush’s expert and moderate use of synths, the ease of transitions, and the satisfactory clarity of the goals in their structure-building-oriented songs make this release the peak of Rush’s works.
With the exception of the debut album, Rush’s remaining 14 albums originally published by Mercury will be reissued through 2015. The reissues are made available in vinyl format with an accompanying download card to access the digital audio files corresponding to the release.
Additionally, three of the releases will be released on Blu-ray Pure Audio. The three albums to be released in this format are Fly By Night, A Farewell to Kings and Signals.
The albums release schedule is as follows:
1. January 26: Fly by Night (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio / Blu-Ray Audio)
2. February: Caress of Steel (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
3. March: 2112 (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio), All the World’s a Stage (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
4. April: A Farewell to Kings (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio / Blu-Ray Audio)
5. May: Hemispheres (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
6. June: Permanent Waves (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
7. July: Moving Pictures (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio), Exit… Stage Left (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
8. August: Signals (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio / Blu-ray Audio)
9. September: Grace Under Pressure (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
10. October: Power Windows (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
11. November: Hold Your Fire (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
12. December: A Show of Hands (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
An experienced music listener who is new to black metal asked for a doorway into the genre. This raises the question of how to appreciate black metal, which like most things in life is mostly mental preparation. Without context, black metal seems like any other loud genre, and it becomes harder to distinguish the newer tryhard junk from the original.
The best way to gain context is to walk through the history of the genre from oldest to newest. This approach, common in art, literature and philosophy, allows people to see what developed from what and what the reasoning for that was and therefore, what the reasoning is behind what is here now.
The result of this query was a simple list to urge people to explore this genre further. This list originates in the history of black metal music, but also in influences that can be identified among the bands as immediately relevant. Toward the end it extends more into general conjecture based on what shows up later in highly different form among the black metal works of relevance listed above it.
I. Proto- Metal
- Bathory – The Return
- Slayer – Hell Awaits
- Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids
- Sodom – Persecution Mania
- Sarcofago – INRI
- Merciless – The Awakening
- Blasphemy – Fallen Angel of Doom
- Von – Satanic Blood
III. Black metal
- Immortal – Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism
- Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
- Burzum – Burzum/Aske
- Emperor/Enslaved – Split
- Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
- Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon
- Varathron – His Majesty in the Swamp
- Havohej – Dethrone the Son of God
- Impaled Nazarene – Ugra-Karma
- Samael – Worship Him
IV. Second Wave
- Gorgoroth – Antichrist
- Graveland – The Celtic Winter
- Ancient – Svartalvheim
- Sacramentum – Far Away From the Sun
- Ildjarn – Forest Poetry
- Summoning – Dol Guldur
- Zyklon-B – Blood Must Be Shed
- Gehenna – First Spell
- Behemoth – From the Pagan Vastlands
V. Extended Contemporary
- Demoncy – Joined in Darkness
- Sammath – Godless Arrogance
- Mutiilation – Remains of a Ruined, Cursed, Dead Soul
- Absurd – Asgardsrei
For immediate death metal background to black metal:
- At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
- Carnage – Dark Recollections
- Godflesh – Streetcleaner
For heavy metal background to black metal:
- Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath
- Venom – Possessed
- Angel Witch – Angel Witch
- Destruction/Tormentor – Demos
For hardcore punk background to all metal:
- Discharge – Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing
- Amebix – No Sanctuary
- The Exploited – Death Before Dishonour
- Cro-Mags – Age of Quarrel
For electronic music background to underground metal:
- Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express
- Tangerine Dream – Phaedra
For progressive rock background to metal:
- King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
- Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans
- Camel – Camel
- Greenslade – Greenslade
For classical background to metal:
- Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 4
- Richard Wagner – Tannhäuser
- Franz Schubert – Unfinished Symphony
- Mozart – Symphony 41
- Haydn – Symphony 82
- Bach – Partita No. 5 in G major
French progressive rock/death metal hybrid Supuration have released the cover for their upcoming album, Reveries…. Created by famed underground metal artist Dan Seagrave, the cover image displays classic death metal symbology in its gnarled and organic textures in a mythological setting.
Reveries… will see release via Listenable Records on May 29, 2015. Mastered by Dawn Swano (Edge of Sanity), the album “is a re_recording of old songs written during the 90s” according to the band. Perhaps the combination of their newer more aggressive technique, classic death metal imagery and their inventive songwriting will forge a new classic.