Deceased releases Cadaver Traditions tracklist

April 24, 2015 –

Longstanding US speed metal/death metal band Deceased has completed work on its upcoming two-disc album of covers, Cadaver Traditions, which will be coming out on Hells Headbangers Records this summer.

Cadaver Traditions will include 53 tracks in total, with two of those being brand-new recently written Deceased songs which had previously been released on vinyl. Judging from the wide range of influences on this disc, it will not only be fun for Deceased fans but for metal historians looking for the roots of early death metal.

53 tracks in all 2 cd set… look for it this summer on hells headbagers ‘cadaver traditions’. cover song mania and the 2 newest deceased songs finally on cd. up til now it was only vinyl.

    DISC 1

  1. Black Metal (Venom Cover)
  2. Deathrider (Anthrax Cover)
  3. Corporate Death Burger (MDC Cover)
  4. Dis-Organ-Ized (Impetigo Cover)
  5. Right Brigade (Bad Brains Cover)
  6. VoiVod (VoiVod Cover)
  7. Doomed By The Living Dead (Mercyful Fate Cover)
  8. California Uber Alles (Dead Kennedys Cover)
  9. Wrathchild (Iron Maiden Cover)
  10. Here To Stay (Sheer Terror Cover)
  11. Headhunter (Krokus Cover)
  12. SATO (Ozzy Osbourne Cover)
  13. Do Or Die (Znöwhite Cover)
  14. Violent World (45 Grave Cover)
  15. World Peace (Cro-Mags Cover)
  16. Eliminator (Agnostic Front Cover)
  17. Die By The Sword (Slayer Cover)
  18. Witching Metal (Sodom Cover)
  19. Social Security (Excel Cover)
  20. Violence And Force (Exciter Cover)
  21. The KKK Took My Baby Away (Ramones Cover)
  22. No Compromise (Xentrix cover)
  23. Chemical Warfare (Slayer Cover)
  24. Bodies (Sex Pistols Cover)
  25. Not To Touch The Earth (The Doors Cover)
  26. Reaganomics (D.R.I. Cover)
  27. Torn apart by werewolves (Deceased )
  28. DISC 2

  29. Mad Man (D.R.I. Cover)
  30. Fire In The Sky (Saxon Cover)
  31. 2 Minutes To Midnight (Iron Maiden Cover)
  32. Die Hard (Venom Cover)
  33. V.A. Rocks Your Liver (Verbal Abuse Cover)
  34. Blower (Voivod Cover)
  35. Wiped Out (Raven Cover)
  36. Stay Clean (Motörhead Cover)
  37. Tormentor (Kreator Cover)
  38. Nuns Have No Fun (Mercyful Fate Cover)
  39. Agents Of Steel (Agent Steel Cover)
  40. State Oppression (Raw Power Cover)
  41. Bombs Of Death (Hirax Cover)
  42. New Age Of Total Warfare (Warfare Cover)
  43. Metal Church (Metal Church Cover)
  44. Subliminal (Suicidal Tendencies cover)
  45. Zombie Attack (Tankard Cover)
  46. You Stupid Jerk (Angry Samoans Cover)
  47. I’m Not Jesus (Ramones Cover)
  48. Nothing (Plasmatics Cover)
  49. Iron Heads (Running Wild Cover)
  50. Stand Up And Shout (Dio Cover)
  51. False Profit (English Dogs Cover)
  52. Ultra Violent (N.O.T.A. Cover)
  53. The Ballad of Harry Warden (My Bloody Valentine soundtrack cover)
  54. Luck of the corpse (Deceased)

Winner of Pantera slashfic contest announced

March 9, 2015 –

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A week ago, this site opened a contest for erotic fiction writing involving the groove-metal band Pantera, essentially a challenge to create pejorative “slashfic” about the band and its assorted milieu. Many users answered the call, and we received some truly great erotic writing involving Phil Anselmo, Vinnie Paul, Darrell Abbott, and Rex Brown.

Now it is time to announce a winner.

First, let us revisit the contenders for winning entry of this contest. A number of creative and insightful contributions were made, so let’s look at the group:

These offer true creative writing and some venture further into musical criticism of Pantera or even analysis of metal as a subculture. That makes for some stiff competition, with no one that rises erect above the rest because so many of these are so well-executed. However, choose a winner we must, and so it’s time to go through the candidates.

Grails_Mysteries offers one of the first qualifying entries and a short story that explores the pathology of sexual identity denial among heavy metal musicians. In addition, it gives us some insight into the type of personality that might power a band like Pantera. Compelling. steven foster offers a short piece with a Kerouac/Bukowski vibe with a strong conclusion. SEIG pops up next with a more violent offering that explores the visceral and organic side of Pantera eroticism. It reminds me of the Marquis de Sade outraged that the marketplace/polling-place for heavy metal had been taken over by mediocrity! LostInTheANUS offers an almost Huxleyian analysis of how the seductions of money, power and fame can lead to a different kind of seduction… disturbing, and I mean that in a good way. Then thisoneheredude satirizes every Didion-inspired experiential piece of rock journalism ever, creating a lingering sense of unease and distaste. Good work. Vnholy Loa gives us a lengthier look into the effects of timid poseurdom combined with aggro-brocore in a piece delightfully riddled with puns. Following up on that, Eli Murray shows us an unsettling view of psychological manipulation for sex in the context of rock fandom. That’s New Yorker territory but we’ll take it. As the contest gained momentum, Iconoclast wrote a Jungian exploration of the subconscious in attitudes toward existential crisis and how it manifests in the hollow carelessness of pop music like Pantera. This one is really worth reading. Next Dave reveals the paradox of sexual surrender paired with a tough guy exterior, in a story that may portray either rape or someone finally achieving satisfaction, or both… White Powder Activist typed up a whole bunch of stuff so disturbing I can’t comment on it here. Captain Penis Cheese presents a short poetic piece on the parallels between pop music and awkward sex. Turning the contest to a more introspective level, Marcus Antony Frattura explores the psychology of Pantera and their critics and finds some similarities. And if you made it through all of those, you will need professional help.

The competition is tough but some clearly came out ahead. Our winners are:

GOLD
Marcus Antony Frattura

SILVER
Iconoclast

BRONZE
Grails_Mysteries

Gentlemen/ladies, please claim your prizes by emailing editor at deathmetal dot org with the IP address you used to post your piece. Include a mailing address, US only please. I appreciate the contributions of all who participated and the many, many creative entries we received.

#metalgate claims Pantera

March 2, 2015 –

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Despite efforts by nearly all parties to deny it, the underlying tension in metal that created #metalgate continues: the “new fans” who want music more like indie rock or punk versus the metal fans who want metal for metal’s sake. The metal fans realize that to be metal is to be an outsider to society and all of its rationalization for its own failure, including “reforms” and “revolutions,” while the punk/indie fans want metal to endorse some of those rationalizations.

The most recent victim may have been Pantera guitarist Darrell Abbot’s grave, which was referenced in an instagram post by the (ex-) vocalist of a crust/black band which embodies the worst of both veins of metal sell-outs, both the sensitive guy indie rocks who like crustcore and the tryhard war metal types who pose as being as hardcore as possible. According to the desecrator:

We paid douchebag darrell a visit, we spit on his grave, stole a pair of cowboy boots, and i wrote “FAG” on his grave… im not a homophobe but i hope all the panturrra fans see this and shit themselves with anger… FUCK DIMEBAG, buncha racist hillbillies

Only forty-eight hours later, the apologies were flowing forth:

The fact of the matter is I feel awful and guilty and this will stick with me forever, just like the Seinfeld guy using the N word… I can not express how sorry I am to Vinnie Paul and the Abbott family for the distress I caused, and the other members of Pantera and other acts Darrell was a part of. I owe everyone an apology for my actions because they were uncalled for, and horrible, despicable, and I went way too far. Some jokes are NOT funny and this is one of them. I took a joke way too far with a piece of paper and some hurtful words and as I’ve expressed, I don’t expect any sort of acceptance or sympathy…I hope at least someone will accept this and I hope for a better future for everyone…

What is shared between both of these sentiments? They are SJW ideas. He attacks Darrell because he thinks Pantera fans are a “buncha racist hillbillies” and excuses using the word FAG because he’s not a “homophobe.” This is SJW language here, first being concerned about policing whether or not other people approve of homosexuality and second in justifying violence or worse against those who are not pro-diversity, a.k.a. “racists.” When he apologizes, he uses the term “hurtful words” and compares his actions to “the Seinfeld guy using the N word” and then states he hopes for “a better future for everyone.” His motivation as a sensitive guy with social justice ideals is revealed in both of his statements.

I will not use his real name in this article, for the record, because public shaming can cause repercussions in this person’s real life, including career and social ostracization. No honest and decent person tries to do that because it is a passive but effective way at destroying the life of another. Nor will I name or link to his band, which has been utterly forgettable and forgotten from lack of any originality as well as blatant bandwagon-riding, because this like the sucker punch at Danzig is simply a publicity stunt that generated more notoriety than was expected. Let the media trick fail on its own.

But this leads us to an ugly point: a metalhead may well be divided by this event. It would be hypocritical for metalheads to start complaining about grave desecrations now after several thousand band photos in cemetaries. It is also nonsense to complain about damage to Darrell’s grave because, as noted by a number of sources, as with Jim Morrison’s grave the majority of the damage comes from fans of the artist and not enemies.

darrell_abbott_grave

At the same time, however, many metalheads do not feel all that great about this desecration. The reason is that the motivation behind it is wrong. Like the rest of the SJW incursion that prompted #metalgate, the desecration of Darrell Abbott’s grave was justified by SJW-logic: Pantera fans are (allegedly) racist hillbillies, and “homophobes,” so it’s not only OK but “good” (like, in the Church sense) to desecrate his grave because he and his fans are bad. This alone makes the desecration stand out as not wrong in a moral sense, but broken. Someone is using society’s logic against metal to justify making metalheads second-class citizens whose graves may be desecrated, at least for reasons other than the usual war/satan/death that make a good grave desecration. Like the metal fans who object to grave desecrations in general, or the metalheads who claimed that Pantera fans are “nationalist Juggalos”, I feel this misses the point. Society hates metal, and it uses terms like “nationalist” and “homophobe” to justify bullying metalheads, much like it used claims of Satanism and murder back in the 80s to do the same. Its goal remains unchanged: destroy metal.

We should also draw some parallels between Pantera and SJWs. Like the SJW incursion, Pantera was an invasion designed to sell-out metal so it could be assimilated by rock music, with profit for all. Metal sells well, but rock music that has the “rebellious” cachet of metal would sell even better, because rock music has been designed from its inception to be the most easily-digested and emotionally simplistic form of music ever created, like music made into baby food. It sells well because it is a compromise, both inoffensive enough that most people will tolerate it, and thoughtless enough that people like to project onto it their own emotions and needs. Rock music is basically 1950s advertising jingles set to guitars, and people buy it to stay “relevant” or to seem hip, when really it has always been and always will be a product from the same people who sell us junk we can barely afford to address problems we do not have in order to achieve an image we do not need.

The reason many of us detest Pantera is purely musical: it is part of the great Dumbing Down of heavy metal, trying to make it closer to rock/blues so that all the people in sports bars, hair salons, show-off gyms and cube farms can tap their feet to the beat just like they did every other form of rock ‘n roll. Pantera is heavy metal made into a lengthy television commercial, and in doing so, it solicited social approval in a way that is decidely against all that metal stands for and lives by. Pantera heard Exodus Impact is Imminent and Exhorder, maybe Prong Beg to Differ and realized they could make a bundle if they combined a tough guy/sensitive guy approach — a lot like what nu-metal did, come to think of it — and made the music sound a lot more like Bruce Springsteen or John Cougar Mellencamp, both of whom sold more albums than God and retired rich. That was the goal in Pantera: metal as product. For that reason, the Pantera guys abandoned their glam/hair metal and hard rock stylings, and went into Metallica style speed metal with Cowboys From Hell, giving it their Southern rock spin, and then upgraded their sound to angry brocore with the following albums before returning to a blues-saturated swamp rock sound. It worked and people bought it.

Metalheads tend to hate Pantera because it brought in the elements of society that we go to metal in order to avoid: the sleeveless shirt angry guys who start fights in cell phone stores, the blockhead rock fans who are faithless toward any ideal but their own gratification right now, and the musical circle of conformity that forms rock music. Pantera is the anti-metal disguised as metal, much like SJW music like the black/punk (lol) band who desecrated Abbott’s grave is. Pantera not just represents, but embodies, all that metal opposes and all that will destroy metal. If we look back on this story from the future, we will see how both Pantera and these grave desecrators came from the same movement, which is an attempt by the mainstream to destroy and then absorb the once-independent genre of heavy metal.

Evoked – “Return of the Dead”

January 28, 2015 –

evoked-return_of_the_dead

Hailing from North Rhine-Westphalia/Germany, Evoked issues four savage compositions of blistering mid-paced death metal honoring the early days of the genre on their demo “Return of the Dead.” This demo came out in 2014 and uses Swedish-style blistering production but actually hails to an earlier era.

In the style of bands such as Possessed, Grotesque and Slaughter Lord, Evoked creates standard format songs stacking three riffs against one another, one each for verse and chorus and a transition, and based them around the kind of fast mid-paced rhythm with very tangible stops that speed metal bands used. This music harkens to the era of transition 1985-1989 when metal was abandoning the speed metal legacy and transitioning into death metal, and so calls to mind early Morgoth, Death, Pestilence Malleus Maleficarum and the like. What makes it stand out is that it holds enough content to pique the interest of old-school metal enthusiasts.

While a four-song demo gives little insight into the future of the band, Evoked show absolutely no inclination to deviate from this classic style, which has the advantage of being highly comprhensible. While the band shows no sign of taking this to a simpler and more mob-pleasurable sellout place, it also clearly panders to the tryhard audience with a demo that would have been amazing in 1989 but in 2015 is just adequate.

Sadistic Metal Reviews 01-26-15

January 26, 2015 –

sociability_invades_black_metal

Sturgeon’s law holds that 90% of everything is mediocre. This condition occurs because most people are not thinking at all about what they are doing. When they want to be important, they create a metal band to make them look important, instead of trying to make good music. With brutal cruelty and ecstatic sadism we separate the poseurs and tryhards from the real deal with Sadistic Metal Reviews

collision-the_rotted-split

Collision/The Rotted – Split

Three tracks comprise this aggressive split. Collision leads in with two tracks of rigid, violent grindcore which incorporates a few ideas from percussive death metal to give it additional crush. These tracks keep intensity through speed and chaotic blasting but harbor no surprises in chord progression of phrase, which makes them fun to listen to incidentally but perhaps nothing one would seek out. The Rotted on the other hand slashes out a single track of old-school hardcore with a catchy chorus, extremely rudimentary but melodically hookish riff balanced against a sawing (but not grinding) verse riff, and genre conventions from older punk. Both of these bands aim to uphold the genres they are from and do it competently but when a genre is well-established, every band is a local band until it rises above from some distinctive personality or idiosyncratic perception. They do not need to be “unique,” since such a thing has never really existed, but they must be their own creation. Both bands here feel like minor variations on known archetypes and, while competent, do not inspire particular allegiance. That being said, they both remain enjoyable for that local grindcore/band experience, and together these tracks enhance each other like memories of the set you saw while drinking craft beer and talking up that sexy Facebook consultant at a bar that has changed hands eleven times in the last quarter. It would be interesting to see what these bands did with a longer recording as that would put more pressure on them to differentiate style or at least expand upon it.

decline_of_the_i-rebellion

Decline of the I – Rebellion

Someone raised this question the other day: is metalcore a new style, or simply incompetent death metal? After all, we had bands who tried that Pantera-Fugazi-Nasum hybrid stuff in the past and generally it turned out that they were simply terrible songwriters who had no idea how to focus on an idea and bring it to clarity. Similarly, one wonders about “post-metal.” Is this just idiots dressing up garbage and incompetence as the avantgarde, because that’s what the avantgarde really is? Seriously, I’d love to see one of these artists who makes sculptures of his own feces that interpret the metaphysics of Schopenhauer as quantum physics, for once, just for once, make a classically beautiful art work first so I don’t simply think he’s a Damien Hirsch style conjob. Decline of the I is really hilarious when you realize that it thrusts this question upon us. It sounds like stoned desperation with a home studio: random bits of metal songs that went nowhere, stitched together with what every 90s con man used in his band, the sampler. It doesn’t flow in any direction or express anything other than “moments” of perception, like standing on a street corner while two cars collide and a pigeon defecates on a 24-year-old copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Rebellion amalgamates speed metal, death metal and punk riffs together with a bunch of influences outside of metal. There is no continuity, only a series of exhibits like a subway train going through an art gallery. These clowns use the different styles as wallpaper slides to color otherwise empty music and hide the collection of hackneyed tropes made “new” by hackneyed avantgarde tomfoolery and snake oil salesperson confidence jobs. Even the most incompetent ordinary metal band is preferable because its dishonesty is limited to its music, while Decline of the I brings in every posture, pose, pretense and fabrication necessary to make this hacked-up studio defecation seem like music.

napalm_death-apex_predator-easy_meat

Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

It has often been suspected that bands, when they run out of actual motivation, pick one off the shelf to make themselves seem profound. Their profundity means our guilt if we do not buy the album because we have turned down a great gift to humanity, you dig? But the fact is that they went into the big closet of Hollywood motivations — the poor, the downtrodden, the children, suffering animals, drug addiction and being raped — and pulled out one giant compulsion to make you like their empty music. Napalm Death went down this route when after Fear, Emptiness, Despair guitarist Jesse Pintado embarked on a course of alcoholism so crippling he could not bail out the rest of the band anymore. That is too bad, since Pintado essentially revitalized the band and created three of their best albums with his homegrown grindcore know-how. Ever since then, Napalm Death has been wandering in a wilderness of not giving a damn buuutttt something needs to pay for this condo, so they puke out another album. Apex Predator – Easy Meat takes Napalm Death full cycle from a band that protested pop music to a band that makes the worst of pop. This pretense-pop would be OK if it were good pop, because then we could laugh off the guilt, but instead it is a series of very similar riffs that break into very similar choruses which cycle until the end with a few breaks that are almost visual or high school theater department drama because they are so transparent and obviously manipulative. It was embarrassing to be noticed listening to this because it is not just bad, it is inept; its ineptitude is covered up with rock star glitz and production, but it still sounds hollow and horrifyingly empty. Please, give these guys jobs in media relations because they are done as a band and this embarrassing formalization just removes whatever shreds of self-respect they once had.

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The Chasm – Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm

Although Daniel Corchado is obviously one of the most talented composers in underground metal, The Chasm does not present his best work. The appeal can be immediately seen: epic metal band with lengthy songs that play out internal conflicts in a way the audience can identify with. Under the hood, while there are some touches of DBC-style riffing, what greets us here is the cliches of 1980s speed metal with added progressive-ish fills that demonstrate guitar talent and knowledge of harmony. The songs remain basic when you factor these out, excepting the longer instrumental passages, which also rely on riffs from the past dressed up or lots of rhythmic downpicking that adds little other than keeping a place in the harmony. Additionally, occasionally comical vocals and a number of hackneyed metal stalwarts mar this release, but the real crisis here is the lack of interesting riffs, the shamminess of the songs in dressing up the mundane as exotic, and the coup de grace which is the inability of this album or its songs to convey an emotional experience outside of the music itself. They resemble nothing other than constant variations in a style of technical speed metal riffing that bands like Anacrusis made great by putting around evocative songs, but the latter part is missing here. Individual moments shine with the brilliance that can be expected of Corchado, and moments in songwriting show insight. The problem is that there needs to be more of the random or evocative in riffs, which would allow Corchado’s song structure ideas to take on significance, and less of the highly talented progressive tinged touches that are impressive on a guitar-playing level but compositionally, serve the role of filler. On the whole, this album resembles the kind of tuned-up musical entropy that all of us ran to death metal to escape around 1989 or so.

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Edge of Haze – Illumine

In theory, this should be hated: a hybrid of Gothic music, power metal and djent-inspired percussive speed metal. In reality, Edge of Haze restore balance to these genres by putting them in the right context. Speed metal is the hard rock of the 2010s, thirty years after its release, and updating it with a smary 1980s Gothic pop vocal and power metal “inspirational” choruses gives it the right context as the popular music of the age. It may be cheesy, as one might expect from these populist niche genres, but Edge of Haze seems at least comfortable in its own skin and the removal of the usual death metal vocals gives this album both greater levity and a greater intensity, as well as removing the crowding effect of harsh monotonic vocals. In addition, this re-introduces the voice as a melodic instrument which allows guitars to focus purely on rhythm and rudiments of harmony without losing direction to a song. Edge of Haze executes this hybrid well by capturing the dark pop aspects of Gothic and creating for them a framing of boldly abrasive metal that runs the gamut of styles from the last three decades without creating an oil-on-water effect by having those styles dominant the rhythm and song structure for a segment so that other parts seem like extra organs in a cadaver, puzzling the drunken pathologist at 4 AM as he files the report on the latest Jane Doe. Edge of Haze present something as intense as nu-metal but with a darker aesthetic that carries more gravitas than the dad-hating victimhood affirmation that nu-metal conveyed, also removing the rap/rock beats and making a form of popular metal that can be not only relatively heavy, but have a grace of beauty in darkness, and still write some quality pop songs. Aesthetically, this makes my skin crawl; musically, it is well-done and should be praised for putting this style of music in the context it warrants and deserves.

Terror Empire – The Empire Strikes Black

January 23, 2015 –

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Through the years of scanning endless lists of metal albums one gradually develops an intuition that links band name, album name and artwork to the general nature of what will be heard. Seldom does a tongue-in-cheek name correlate with quality music, since the band designed itself as a stunt. While some serious-sounding names result in pretentious self-important music, most bands with confidence in their ability to produce valuable music choose a straightforward self presentation.

The following question measures heavy metal: what is quality, and how is it measured, including what standard we use? Our answer begins with the often-used but seldom explained (and hence little understood) terms superficial and transcendent as opposite poles in a spectrum. Through the ages philosophers, theorists and artists themselves have made used these terms and in only a handful of instances have they tried to explain them in any way beyong what is deemed self-evident. The young Nietzsche provides us with a useful term and its explanation which can be used to separate the concepts in a way that if not empirical enough at least can be understood as a general concept. The Dionysian, it is said, allows for a connection for the unchanging, eternal oneness. This can mean many things, but guiding ourselves by Nietzsche’s explanation in the context of Greek tragedy and the nature and significance its chorus, we can see that the Dionysian is a subjective measurement requiring the person in question to look beyond the cycles of history and recurring social trends that are a result of the human race constantly altering its surface appearance but not actually “growing” in the sense of improving. Once in touch with this, the artist can represent the essence of things as they always are, not as they appear at this moment in time. On the other hand, being trapped in the temporal interpretation of how something is at this moment, or how it appears to be in its current incarnation is the hallmark of the superficial.

For us to make the distinction between transcendent and superficial in a work of art, we must isolate any insight of human nature that the work expresses. Because all of reality is the same cause, all paths if followed with vigorous examination lead to the same truth. Acquiring the insight that the transcendent artist possess does not mean we ourselves need to have his artistic talents as well. These are abilities of a separate kind altogether. As Nietzsche tells us in the same writing, while the rest of us must use abstractions and complex explanations to arrive at an objective picture of the work of art, in his subjective vision, the artist contemplates the images of his expression clearly and in unexplainable simplicity independently of its degree of superficiality. We can analyze that vision according to what it communicates and whether that address the transcendent, the superficial or the “fake out” of superficial transcendence.

With all this in mind, a first glance at Terror Empire’s album cover and album name is enough to raise some red flags. The cover artwork does not relate to the title. The title further shows a tendency toward cliché and a “cute” manipulation of it. This lack of originality is then reflected in the music itself. The album shows an diversity of approaches ranging from early songs which incorporate related but meaningless constructions with abundant technical acrobatics to late songs which are basically “thrashy” chug-based generic speed metal songs. The former are meaningless in the context that the writers themselves put them in. They make structural premises, but then do not follow them or conclude them structurally. As in many mediocre examples of music, songs end suddenly without being taken to any sort of climax, deviation to a clear point and return. The latter part of the album fails by being an imitation of speed metal (aka “thrash metal”) tropes seen through the modern lenses of retro-thrash.

This book can be judged by its cover, which the band apparently views as attractive to the type of person who will not realize how completely pointless The Empire Strikes Black is as a metal listening experience. Those who seek novelty tend to find it. In the spirit of the master, Bitterman: Vapid. Avoid.

Did Accept invent speed metal with “Fast as a Shark” on Restless and Wild?

January 12, 2015 –

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Wolf Hoffmann asserts that Accept wrote the first speed metal song ever with “Fast as a Shark” from Restless and Wild way back in 1982. While the debate rages across the internet, now the equivalent of 1980s daytime television, the question can be answered by looking to what speed metal is.

Speed metal — as distinct from thrash a genre popularized by Thrasher magazine devotees and skaters making hardcore/metal crossover such as Dirty Rotten Imbeciles and Cryptic Slaughter — originated in the use of a single technique: the muted strummed downpicked power chord. This technique combined the repetitive downpicking of punk with palm muting, previously used only to emphasize specific notes. Much of its appeal came from the changes in amplification and production since the previous decade which allowed louder music to exist. Much like the 1980s itself, the muted strum conveyed a sound of clashing absolutes and decreased the amount of harmony heard in each chord, making the music more purely percussive like techno and early industrial. Even more, it gained the volume punks had always aspired to with its explosive and uncompromising sound. In the process, it inspired more use of accidentals leading to more chromatic fills, which in the next generation with death metal became a form of riffs themselves, where speed metal relied more on the NWOBHM song form and harmony.

Generally regarded as starting in 1983 with Metallica Kill ‘Em All, speed metal presented a radically new sound which had precursors in extreme (for the time) bands like Motorhead, Judas Priest, Blitzkrieg, Tank and Satan. However, no bands had fully adopted the new technique as the basis of their composition until the early cluster of Metallica, Exodus, Mercyful Fate, Nuclear Assault, Anthrax and Megadeth. During the 1980s these bands were the most extreme metal that most people could find in their local record stores, which were how most people got music back then, with the exception of Slayer which was a speed/death hybrid and Venom which was a punk-influenced form of NWOBHM. Accept does not measure up to this standard on the basis of technique, since its song fits within older heavy metal format and does not use the muted strum.

This statement does not decrease the importance of Accept in the creation of speed metal. A long line of innovations occurred leading to speed metal, starting with the incredibly rough sound of Motorhead in 1976 but aided by progressive bands like King Crimson and Greenslade as well as a chain of punk acts who pushed the envelope such as Discharge, The Exploited, Amebix and the Cro-Mags. Below you can hear “Fast as a Shark” and see this heritage for yourself, contrasted with the archetypal speed metal song, “Creeping Death” from the second Metallica work Ride the Lightning and Blitzkrieg’s self-titled track from their 1981 EP Buried and Alive.

Amebix – Redux

January 11, 2015 –

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“You know kid, uhh, usually when someone pulls shit like that my first reaction is I want to punch his fucking lights out. But you know something? You’re all right!” Most re-visions of older works by popular musicians end in tears and terror. This one re-creates three classic Amebix tracks in a form the band suggested was always intended but was not possible owing to the primitive production and living conditions of the day, and Amebix surely knew that their fanbase — who grew up on the versions as they were — would approach this with trepidation and skepticism. But there is no easy review for this disk.

Redux does not fall into the usual trap of making a glamorized and overly-slick version of the past. Instead, Amebix restyle their foundational songs more as if Metallica and Prong had collaborated to emit a dystopian metal album. Double-picked muted downstrumming and faster tremolo strumming all make an appearance, along with approximately half the vocals which are a hybrid of the Amebix style of Motorhead-influenced distorted vocals and the bassier, gnarlier death metal vocals to follow. But what is really surprising here is how these songs work very well given the high intensity treatment, which transitions them from a kind of contemplative and mournful look at our world to a savage Nietzschean attack of those who want to hoist the black flag and slit some throats. There are times when, much as happened on the first Burzum LP, these vocals are simultaneously so vulnerable and savage that they convey a sense of total commitment to desperate acts.

In addition, the more rigid playing of these riffs and uptempo approach gives the entire EP a malevolent vibe. These songs were great in the past, and they would be known as great here as well had this been the past. That being said, it will offend many punk purists and metal purists alike, despite having faithfully upheld the spirit of both genres. Not only that, but the haunting and unsettling sense of peering under the skin of our society and seeing underneath the makeup and credentials a swarming mass of crawling horror remains and may be intensified by this more assertive re-creation. While I liked the album that followed, I would gladly sign up for a full album of Amebix songs in this style as well.

Num Skull – Ritually Abused re-issue has fatal flaws

December 27, 2014 –

num_skull-ritually_abused

The late 80s were an extremely volatile time for metal music. The speed metal movement that had started a handful of years prior was simultaneously peaking and sounding its death rattle. The noises coming from Europe and developing in New England were firing warning shots across the bow of metal as it had been known in full-out, transformational revolution. 1988 saw the release of Bathory Blood Fire Death, Bolt Thrower In Battle There Is No Law, Napalm Death From Enslavement To Obliteration, Carcass Reek Of Putrefaction, and demos from Paradise Lost, Samael, Rotting Christ, Rigor Mortis (pre-Immolation) and Exmortis, just to name a few. One can only imagine that this must have placed tremendous pressure on fledgling speed metal bands as the music world they thought they knew crumbled around them.

Very few of them escaped this period intact. Bands that had issued one or two great albums seemed to perceive that they could not continue as they had been. They saw a fork in the road: either trying to emulate one of the “big four” or struggling to “get harder” to keep up with the tectonic shift death and black metal were creating. Either move alienated the fan base they had built and universally failed as a result. This writer cannot think of one band that consciously changed vocalists and/or styles that got better because of said shift at that time.

This is not a lesson in music history or an album review, but it is important to understand the context of a given release. It is easy today to call up a band, a song, an album, and sample it immediately, piece by piece. Consuming historical output in a vacuum, outside of the understanding of the environment in which it was produced and unleashed, is simply folly. The timeline of modern metal, now at over three solid decades, conveys the idea that there were obvious plateaus and curves, slow and deliberate. However, focusing in closer reveals that there were a great many peaks and valleys along the way, some single high points among a lot of noisy low points.

Focusing on the US, 1988 saw some fine thrash releases from Nuclear Assault, Rigor Mortis, Vio-Lence, Wehrmächt, Wasted Youth, Wargasm, and the subject of this writing, Num Skull. Num Skull’s release of Ritually Abused, while not a game-changer, was significant. It toed the line of death metal; one can hear some hints of Immolation in some of the riffs on this album. The spitting delivery and effects on the vocals were very unique and helped set them apart. And, perhaps most importantly, it remains one of the very few releases from a midwestern-US band at that time. The midwest had the proto-death stylings of Macabre and Impetigo, the progressive metal of Anacrusis, the punk of Life Sentence, and the thrash of Zoetrope, but for thrash that edged closely to death metal, Num Skull were it. Ritually Abused caught them at their peak, before they decided they needed to be yet another poor-to-mediocre “brutal” death metal band to be discarded as also-rans. They were extremely talented, high-energy, and unique in a musical world filling up with same-ness.

Fast-forward to 2014. The original Ritually Abused is criminally difficult to find, with the lone CD pressing fetching triple-digits on eBay and in trading circles. When Relapse announced that finally, after much pleading, they were going to reissue it, complete with bonus track, it seemed time to rejoice. A limited-run of 300 units, pressed on purple vinyl, was promised, along with a CD and new apparel. This was an opportunity for younger listeners to hear what was a peak during the swan song of the US thrash movement with some proto-death metal tendencies, and for the label to pay respect to one of their deceased children, Medusa Records, with a release that helped put them on the map.

Upon inspection, the colors on the cover appear richer and the back cover has a new layout. Opening it, there is a basic lyrics sheet and plain sleeve. OK, so it’s not a deluxe reissue — this is not ideal but it is forgivable. After all, at least this piece of history was unearthed and given new life. Dropping the needle, fond memories of youth are replaced with jarring incongruity and disjointedness. What was originally a quick, seductive and declarative introduction of “The End” (“The end is near…”) followed by the huge, rhythmic hook of the title track was now the machine gun blast of “Death And Innocence”. Confused, a listener might consult the track listing again. As written, it shows the familiar order with the addition of a bonus track originally written for one of their demos:

  1. The End
  2. Ritually Abused
  3. Death And Innocence
  4. No Morals
  5. Friday’s Child
  6. Off with Your Head
  7. The Henchman
  8. Pirate’s Night
  9. Turn of a Screw
  10. Kiss Me, Kill Me
  11. Rigor Mortis
  12. Murder By The Minister (Bonus Track)

However, the lists of tracks as present on the disc is as follows:

    Side A

  1. Death And Innocence
  2. No Morals
  3. Friday’s Child
  4. Off With Your Head
  5. The Henchman
  6. Pirate’s Night
  7. Side B

  8. Turn Of A Screw
  9. Kiss Me, Kill Me
  10. Rigor Mortis
  11. Murder By The Minister (Bonus Track)
  12. The End
  13. Ritually Abused

The CD is also thus plagued. Such a clear display of “no fucks given” from the label dismantles the flow and intent of the original album and leaves the listener with a much less effective product. The lack of even basic quality control on this, after over a quarter of a century of waiting, demonstrates the fact that Relapse had no respect for this band or this release, a piece of its history. Relapse passed up an opportunity to finally give this release some deserved love and perhaps atone in some small way for the massive ignoring and lack of promotion payed to this upon its original release in favor of a quick cash-grab from their back catalog.

One wonders what little effort it may have taken to reach out to the band and seek their input and involvement on such a reissue. This has been done repeatedly lately to a high degree of success and satisfaction from fans; albums from Sacrifice, Darkthrone, and Bl’ast are prime examples of how to do proper reissues. Alternately, a few sentences from label leaders or peers about what the band meant to them at the time, initial reactions to hearing the album, etc. — anything — would have been a nice inclusion. At absolute minimum, a simple CD-to-vinyl rip using the 2002 disc as source material, while not giving a proper vinyl sound, would have resulted in a correct track listing and required exactly zero effort. It seems Relapse went out of their way to fuck this up, as though they gave the pressing plant some idea that there was a band called Num Skull that once upon a time had an album entitled Ritually Abused and let them figure out how to press it, never once checking any test pressings prior to collecting money and shipping another product about which they are ambivalent.

At their genesis, one likes to think that most record labels start with the idea of giving voice to deserving artists that would otherwise go unheard and unnoticed by other labels. In the mind of the listener, a label also bears the responsibility of curator of a slice of music history. Dear reader, what is the half life of such a fantasy? At what point does a label simply become a business with no artistic integrity left in their empty souls? At what point does churning out album after album of whatever flavor of the day fits best into the accepted formula that will sell enough product to turn a profit become more attractive than unleashing quality, moving music? Some rhetorical questions without answers, but one would think re-issuing a “lost” gem that requires minimal investment of money or time would be a simple feat if the label had one cell of shit-giving left.