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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SHAARIMOTH Temple of the Adversarial Fire

Well crafted and nicely produced, Temple of the Adversarial Fire by Shaarimoth , appears to be a nice mixture of 90s black metal fun.  This is more in the epic vein, rather than underground sounding.  Lets face it: the first two songs are great.  There is a nice mixture of riffs and beats, with short phrasing.  It is a bit heavy on vocals. They can get tiring at points.  Bands I hear as influences here include Emperor, Morbid Angel, early My Dying Bride, and Bal Saggoth. Making my way through the album, song 3 leads with annoying vocals (minus 1 star), over a slower heavier riff.  In song 4, am waiting for the album to get its mojo back. It does, with a European blast beat that has a sick lower grinded guitar counterpart. A fun, evil Samael style rock riff emerges from that. Some of the vocals still are iffy, but the guitar playing is growing on me. Why is the album so choppy though?

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Mayhem Grand Declaration of War

A common theme you hear in critiquing music is the need to separate the art from the artist for the most objective analysis possible.  This all sounds good on paper, but we are all human, and the flaws that imbues in us make our understanding of all concepts skewed by perspective.  The metal path is one of social outcast and self-discovery through a grasp of the larger whole, and as such we are left with the purest essence of form and function, but still we allow our humanness to cloud our judgments inevitably.  We won’t give the time of day to a record made by some stretch-lobed lumbersexual even if he might have accidentally produced the next necessary evolution in metal, and we like it that way.  We have been proven right long enough by lousy records and “evolutions” of our favorite artists but although we may have erected a necessary safeguard for quality control, we need to analyze if it is constructed of statements and proofs of inherent positive musical traits or our own hubris instead.
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Susperia- The Lyricist

Susperia claim to be a Norwegian black metal that now plays melodic thrash metal.  Most of the members of this band have been involved with some fairly big projects as session players.  As a band they have spent the last 18 years playing some fairly standard commercial metal in the hope of actually breaking out in the way of Dimmu Borgir and Nightwish. But as either metal or a pop album, The Lyricist fails miserably.
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Abigor- Höllenzwang

Abigor are back with their 9th album, which is sadly a continuation of the ideas on Leytmotif Luzifer.  Hailing from Vienna in Austria, Abigor definitely have the style and look associated with their hometown but even in arguably their last bad work : Nacthymnen ( From the Twilight Kingdom) they have always lacked substance in comparison to the greats in the European black metal style.  Leytmotif Luzifer was Deathspell Omega worship with the remnants of what could be qualified as generic second wave black metal. Here they continue in that substanceless yet somewhat more refined method of songcraft….

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Elegiac Black Clouds of War 2018

Elegiac is a one man band from California formed in 2014 by sole composer Zane Young, whom has released a large number of records under the name of Elegiac- far too much for any band yet alone a one man band.  Like many bands of this generation, Elegiac play a basic form of black metal that can be described as the bastard child of Bathory, Satanic Warmaster and generic modern rock.  This is not what one expects from USBM at all despite their promo toting this release as the return of the micro genre’s glory days.
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Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained (2017)

There are twelve notes. There are twenty-six letters. We can form them into combinations/patterns. The ones that stay with us are the ones that communicate. This takes us above the level of riff (metal), harmony (jazz/rock), and into the realm of melody, which uses phrase and harmony as means of strengthening the expression of a melody, or a unique combination which resembles the psychological sensation of a certain experience.

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Blood – Inferno (2017)

Continuing the path of a storied band, Inferno mixes re-recorded versions of older tracks with new material in what seems to be a band redefining itself. Blood started as a grindcore band with more of a death metal attitude, then adopted an outlook closer to black metal for its opus O Agios Pethane, but since then has struggled by being caught in the middle of three genres.

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