Wolvhammer – The Monuments of Ash & Bone 2018

As with anything labeled “USBM,” it is an inevitable that an experienced metal fan will approach this release with caution regarding just how flannelly, how post rock, how try-hard and yet how vulnerable it is.  With a cliched moniker that clashes together a couple of clumsy tropes to echo the oil and water mixture that Americans and black metal suspend as, Wolvhammer presents itself and its material as confidently confrontational so the saccharine despair of modern takes on the vulturized genre are initially somewhat absent, but the juvenile approach does not in its stead give credence to the overbearing impudence on display.

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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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Infamous “A Su Connottu, Oro Sa Lei De S’Antigoriu”

For centuries Italian engineers were valued throughout the western world for their skill in both destruction and construction. The great Imperial warlord Albrecht Wallenstein, who exhibited a keen eye for excellence, had Italian mercenaries in his army and Italian architects for his for his manors. With their relatively recent split release with German band Gorrenje, the Italian black metal band Infamous carry on this tradition of dual excellence.

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Xerion Nocturnal Misanthropia (2007)

I originally got this album as a promo when it first came out about ten years ago. I enjoyed it enough to purchase a copy and to look forward to future releases by the band. Xerion hails from Silesia in NW Spain, the same region that birthed General Francisco Franco. Xerion prefers simple, rugged, durable riffs and songs that assemble into a solid, functional album.

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Atlantean Kodex Live Album is Bad

At first glance, this album boasts a cool cover and impressively long song lengths, making a strong first impression. Then I hit play. It didn’t take long to realize this is really, really bad live album. It is not tightly played at all. The two guitars are not in sync and neither are the drums. You have to suffer through really bad lyrics like: “Onward to the sun” and “Destiny is calling!”. Everything is really bad waltzy Sabbath imitation but really boring. I can fairly say that this album qualifies as epic German cheese. So of course it will be popular. The singer sounds like the guy who sang those Budweiser ads Real Men of Genius.
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Crawl/Leviathan

Hipster celebrity and accused tattoo gun rapist Wrest from Leviathan returns with a new sidekick in an attempt to restore some underground credibility.  This is a common gimmick used in rap music whenever an artist has faded from the mainstream but wants to continue making money off the young kids consuming the underground’s newest flavors.  Unfortunately for Leviathan, they were never respected in the underground and Crawl displays very little potential to make any sort of impact.  The split is one twelve minute song from each artist that both manage to be terrible but for very different reasons.  Wrest promised “Aural Mizery” and has ironically maintained that promise.

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Mastadon – Cold Dark Place Really Sucks

Bought an EP of Cold Dark Place by Mastadon, since the album cover looked cool, like a classic Aeternus. To my dismay, as I started track one, some horrible over-produced folk-rock attempt came blaring through my headphones, complete with horrible synced male and female off-pitched vocals.  Another track has a weird, crappy beat and Jane’s addiction styled vocals.  These songs are so bad that its hard to listen to more than fifteen seconds of each song before feeling violently ripped-off.
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Portal – Ion

Newer metal bands in the mid-2000s went one of few ways: the competition among users of extreme techniques caused a degree of one-upmanship that obscured the message of the music of “technical” bands, while the desire to get the audience to move caused the compositions of -core bands to be infiltrated by danceable open-note rhythms, and those left outside these groups grew more and more abstract in execution as if to rebel against conventional songwriting.  The issue here is that all three avenues, despite the latter being the most declarative, require an aesthetic sleight-of-hand to mask the lack of authoritative message in composition while the music is steered with the effects on the listener in mind rather than coming from the innate desire of a composer to communicate.  Portal, along with Ulcerate and Deathspell Omega, ushered in a style of metal that is entirely rooted in audience manipulation through a reliance on discordance that borders on desperation.  A challenge in viewing bands like this objectively is that it is difficult to fully understand whether the intent is holistically realized or if the sound and execution is the result of having no spirit of communication beyond purely aesthetic virtues.  Perhaps the evolution in sound was the understanding that metal did need to progress, and although there were surely undiscovered ways to do so, an analysis of all prior compositions reveal that metal was comprised of a multitude of expressions utilizing the same symbols: songs needed intros, various types of phrases that build tension, bridges, climaxes, and resolutions, and the catalog of conventional music that we have is constructed of various shufflings of these elements.  So, although a new act could in theory have a unique approach to music, they were essentially draping a new skin on a tired skeleton.  Metal, and music in general, had to go somewhere and it had to be led by someone that had a clear vision of something to communicate. And most importantly, it had to be done so without a reliance on the tropes that human nature has formulated with respect to the idea of song; ultimately, it needed to cripple it from within.

Is Portal the band to breach these waters, or are the efforts of the band a reflection of a lack of having anything to say intrinsically while still being able to coast on a formulaic command of discordant textures where fully realized phrases once guided the listener through a narrative journey?

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