Back in the late ’80s, Artillery was (to my understanding) one of the more musically literate speed metal bands out there, arguably peaking in commercial success on By Inheritance, which like many late ’80s and early ’90s releases in the genre reflected a more polished, assimilated, and mainstream take on the various ideas present in the genre. Artillery reformed in 2007 and has attempted to capture something of that era with their albums since; Penalty by Perception will release on March 25th and bears at least a superficial resemblance to the band’s previous material on first inspection. For the band’s sake, let’s hope it doesn’t fall victim to the lack of animating spirit that some other revivals from Denmark (like Denner/Sherman) have suffered.
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.
Megadeth has cycled between obvious mainstream rock pandering and careful imitation of their best appreciated works at an ever accelerating rate since their reformation in 2004. If this trend keeps up, they’ll be changing styles with every strum of their guitars in a few years. Dystopia isn’t quite as quick to alter its own sounds as that rather implausible hypothetical peak, but it’s still obviously colored by two colliding trends; Dave Mustaine’s desire to outsell Metallica, and the fact that even relatively extreme metal can sell enormous volumes in 2016. This makes what would be yet another comeback album into a surprisingly disjointed experience at times.
In general, Dystopia provides its potential listeners with several varieties of vintage Megadeth to peruse at their leisure, ranging from the technical wizardry of the ’80s and Rust in Peace (arguably the musical peak of this band) to the streamlined pop metal that immediately followed such, and even hints of recent albums through conceptual and musical continuity. Beyond the vocals of Dave Mustaine and the frequent guitar leads, though, there’s little that distinguishes this from other poppy speed metal of the mid 2010s, especially since this is one of those dime-a-dozen studio perfect recordings with perfectly appropriate production and instrumentation. One definite problem, however is that Dave Mustaine’s vocal and lyrical contributions have decayed in quality in recent years. Megadeth’s always been political at the best of times, but more often than not the lyrics devolve into political sloganeering that might be appropriate if he actually ran for president of the USA. In song format, though, all they do is annoy, irritate, and pander. Mustaine also relies increasingly on digital processing to mask the age-related decay of his voice, most notably on “Fatal Illusion“. This isn’t an innately bad thing, and you could theoretically make a case for the chorusing and harmonies opening new ideas for Megadeth to explore, but it pushes unneeded emphasis on the vocals, so even the average listener that decides that the technique sounds kind of cool might find it grating regardless. Perhaps I shouldn’t be focusing on the vox too much, but when the rest of the album is competent and yet unremarkable, it’s sometimes the only option.
In short, Dystopia is kind of disposable; most metal albums that try to approximate known classics are. It’s still better than Repentless, but the “Big Four” have all since run out of momentum, which makes Dystopia‘s slick technical competence marred by excessive streamlining even more unremarkable than it would otherwise be. The last time Megadeth tried their hands at this, they cranked out Endgame, which was well received at the time of its release and generally similar in approach, but has since faded from the public eye. Do you still have space in your listening rotation for Endgame? If you don’t, you won’t have time for Dystopia either.
Article by Daniel Maarat
Sodom’s latest EP was ignored by the Death Metal Underground when it was originally released in late 2014 due to the more commercial nature of the band’s work over the past decade. After recruiting guitarist Bernd “Bernneman” Kost, Sodom abandoned their traditional black thrash style and adopted a more American speed metal, eighties Metallica and Megadeth oriented sound. Most of their new songs are rock structured, speed metal riff salads, peppered with occasional slowed-down extreme metal riffs.
Sacred Warpath is no different. The title track is the only new material and is strictly verse-chorus-verse. There is no melodic riff glue except for the verse riff variations. The chorus where Tom Angelripper snarls the name of the song in the song as a vocal hook like a line of dialogue from a cheesy action movie just serves as a way to repeat the verse verbatim to kill time. An acoustic interlude allusion to Agent Orange (“It’s like poetry; it rhymes.” – George Lucas) leads to a random speed metal solo for the Wacken whelps.
Following that speed metal drag, there are a few live songs nobody will ever listen to again: a cover of “Surfin’ Bird” (originally from M-16 in 2001) that leads into the fan favorite singalong “The Saw is the Law”, a generic Slayer-style song, and Sodom attempting Gothenburg melodeaf. These are here just to take this release from a 7” single and digital download to a 10” 33 ⅓ RPM EP and CD so Steamhammer can charge Sodomites more money. An underwhelming and mediocre cash-in, but the new song is less offensive than the Kill ‘em All “loving” on 2013’s Epitome of Torture.
Not to be confused with the Incubus that Mike Browning played in between his tenures in Morbid Angel and Nocturnus; this Incubus (who changed their name to Opprobrium almost a decade later) was formed by Brazilian immigrants to the USA and fits well with the plethora of bands halfway between extreme speed metal and early death metal in the late 1980s. They’re probably most notorious these days for their pro-Christian, almost crusade oriented lyrical themes; as far as I know they were one of the first to bring such into extreme metal. Historical trivia aside, Relapse’s reissue showcases some remastering work that generally makes the album sound sharper and treblier and appears to be based on the original, as opposed to the 1996 edition with rerecorded vocals.
Article by David Rosales
Exmortus is a speed metal band with leanings towards what is commonly called ‘power metal’, although the general public seems to lump them in the mixed bag that so-called melodic death metal is due to their use of angsty growled-barked vocals. Exmortus have built up quite a following in the young, mainstream metal community. Ride Forth is the exciting fourth album these youngsters and guitar enthusiasts have been awaiting. This album features ‘neo-classical’ metal gestures that were first introduced in very small quantities by NWOBHM bands in combination with pentatonic soloing. It took the likes of Malmsteen and Randy Rhodes to bring this aspect to the fore. Exmortus themselves highlight it to the point of making it more than just the center of the music; enlarging it to be all the relevant music to be found herein.
In Ride Forth, Exmortus wears their infatuation with Beethoven and outward classical aesthetics on their sleeves and include a metal cover of the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 (“Appasionata“). Their previous album also included a track based on the third movement of his Piano Sonata No. 14 (aka “Moonlight”). Compare this to other bands that have gone beyond mere adaptation and have used them to expand compositions that take the themes and scale runs of the original piece such as ‘Pathway To The Moon’, by Pathfinder, based on the same Beethoven. Right at the top of the list lie the adaptations done by the Italian band Rhapsody, who only use the themes themselves for arrangements of interludes within otherwise completely original compositions. ‘Heroes Of The Waterfall’s Kingdom” sees Rhapsody using the main theme from the 4th movement (“Prestissimo”) of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 1.
Exmortus Ride Forth can be vivisected for analysis in at least two ways. The first is in terms of the functions and performance of each of the three functional layers of metal; namely rhythm, leads and vocals. The second concerns the structuring of songs, the quality of the sequence of ideas exposed throughout the album. We may take a look at each of these individually and then at how they interact to produce a result.
The three layers are executed with metronomic precision, echoing the modern classical musician’s obsession with machine-like performance. The drums are standard and give no sign of humanity. The bass is functional but rigidly moves under the needs of the alto-soprano guitars. The guitars themselves have a clearly leading role. The whole instrumental texture is very reminiscent of C.P.E. Bach’s classical music, in which all layers are in the service of a main melody. The vocal department is not only out of place but also overdone, although this may have been somewhat enhanced and disfigured by a too clear-cut, synthetic production.
As a an aural story, Ride Forth shows the audience two faces. The first is what gives them what they think is their distinctive taste, their blatant and superficial imitation of classical music. The second is a mechanical speed metal without character that serves as neutral receptor for the former pretensions. The strongest contributor to the personality of the music on the side of metal is the vocalist. But just as Exmortus interpretation of classical music remains on the level of reflected shadows, their take on metal is that of a rebellious attitude that is closer to a child’s tantrum whose candy has been taken away than to a raiding viking.
The downplaying of the whole of instrumentation to emphasize guitar action along with the simplification on the metal side as mere bridge and support for pseudo-classical posturing give rise to the worst incarnation of Yingwie that one can imagine. In regards to the content, it has very poor communication value, as it takes music as pretty wallpaper noise. While these now cliched patterns were born out of the lingos of late 18th-century classical music and the incipient NWOBHM of the late 1970s, it is now presented as mere paper-mache for the fabrication of shiny toys; symbols without depth or reflection, enjoyed sensually in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
Here, we may insert a more general critique of the general ignorance the public suffers when it comes to genre significance and the importance of its ‘sub-cultural’ context for it to acquire meaning. We may assume that the reason why two genres are smashed carelessly in this way is because whatever gestures are native to each are considered mere adornments. However, we have reason to think that the particular tropes of different genres are very specific reflections of a very particular group’s intuitional understanding, so to speak, so that without understanding its proper setting, its depth is lost.
Exmortus’ guitarist obviously worships Ludwig van Beethoven, but instead of being inspired by the deeper aspects of the late master’s work, he seems content to masturbate to the angry German’s portrait while wearing a man-bikini made out of fur. The general metal ‘critic’ (haha…) will love this for its easy-going technically appeal and comical value, perhaps giving them the typical, meaningless high scores they hand out cheaply like condoms at a gay-fest. A more critical mind unmoved by gimmicks may see through the ruse and form a useful opinion. It is, therefore, that Death Metal Underground hereby assigns Ride Forth a score of 133/666 Bleeding Anuses.
Spring 2016 will see Absu on their… cumbersomely named “Merelogical Nihilism Connexus Tour”. The main purpose of this tour is building up hype for Absu’s next studio album, which creatively will be named Apsu. As of now, said album is partially constructed, band frontman and percussionist Proscriptor claims that he’s completed recording the rhythm tracks, and makes statements that suggest that a great deal of effort has gone into the lyrics. Hopefully similar effort is being placed into the other aspects of the recording; word on the street is that Absu lost some critical direction and cohesion when they reformed. I guess we’ll just have to listen in; a release date has not yet been set for this material.
A list of confirmed tour dates follows. The gig in Somerville, MA places this technically in my commute radius.
March 17, 2016: Richmond, VA – Strange Matter
March 18, 2016: Charlotte, NC – Amos’ Southend (with Abbath & High On Fire)
March 19, 2016: Charleston, SC – The Tin Roof
March 20, 2016: Jacksonville, FL – Burro Bar
March 22, 2016: Tampa, FL – Brass Mug
March 23, 2016: Gainesville, FL – The Atlantic
March 24, 2016: Atlanta, GA – The Basement
March 25, 2016: New Orleans, LA – Siberia
March 26, 2016: Houston, TX – Walter’s
March 27, 2016: San Antonio, TX – The Korova
March 28, 2016: Corpus Christi, TX – Boozerz
March 29, 2016: Austin, TX – The Sidewinder
March 30, 2016: Arlington, TX – Diamond Jim’s Saloon
March31, 2016: El Paso, TX – The Sandbox
April 1, 2016: Scottsdale, AZ – The Rogue
April 2, 2016: San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
April 3, 2016: Los Angeles, CA – Complex
April 5, 2016: Bakersfield, CA – Babylon
April 6, 2016: Oakland, CA – Metro Operahouse
April 7, 201616: Sacramento, CA – Starlite Lounge
April 8, 2016: Portland, OR – Ash Street Saloon (Northwestern Black Circle Fest)
April9, 201616: Victoria, BC – Upstairs Cabaret
April10, 2016: Vancouver, BC – Astoria Pub
April 11, 2016: Seattle, WA – The Highline
April 12, 2016: Missoula, MT – The V
April 13, 2016: Boise, ID – The Shredder
April 14, 2016: Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Bar
April 15, 2016: Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
April 16, 2016: Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
April 17, 2016: St. Louis, MO – Fubar
April 18, 2016: Omaha, NE – Lookout Lounge
April 19, 2016: Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
April 20, 2016: Milwaukee, WI – Frank’s Power Plant
April 21, 2016: Columbus, OH – The Summit
April 22, 2016: Pittsburgh, PA – The Smiling Moose
April 23, 2016: Rochester, NY – Bug Jar
April 25, 2016: Burlington, VT – T.B.A
April 26, 2016: Portland, ME – Space Gallery
April 27, 2016: Somerville, MA – ONCE Lounge
April 28, 2016: Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus
April 29, 2016: Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
April 30, 2016: Raleigh, NC – The Maywood
It sounds like K. K. Warslut has achieved his humble goals for Wildfire if “Live and Burn” is anything to go by. This promotional single sounds like a fairly by-the-numbers bit of 1st wave black metal worship. The aesthetics are modernized, the songwriting is intentionally basic, and so forth. Wildfire seems to still be on the schedule we mentioned when we first wrote about its upcoming release a few weeks ago. I don’t know how long this is going to stay in anyone’s rotation, but it sounds like reasonably good party metal and a safe bet at live shows, including their upcoming tour in Europe.
Article by David Rosales
Arghoslent are frequently and incorrectly tagged as a death metal band while they are actually a speed metal seasoned with a traditional heavy metal approach to the use of melody and soloing that goes can be described as lyrical or ‘singable’. The barking vocals that are featured here are the only thing that is borrowed directly from death metal and their usage is still more heavy metal in nature, given that the relationship of vocals to the underlying music is more akin to the riff-riding of Ozzy than the punching counterpoint of Suffocation or Gorguts.
There is more of Manilla Road’s Crystal Logic than Slayer’s Hell Awaits here; where the latter has a clear thematic development going on in riffs and the former is more conservatively classical in its harmony. Also, the long-term structuring is the subtle, progressive path of ‘epic’ heavy metal, so termed as to not mix it up with the carnival music of more ‘open’ bands who would appropriate the official name of seventies classically and jazz-inspired experimental rock music.
In Galloping Through the Battle Ruins, Arghoslent seem a little careless regarding the character or emotional quality (for lack of a better term) of the implied harmony, often incurring in silly or happy-sounding passages which would sound completely out of place in most death or black metal. These are, however, a common staple of technically-oriented speed metal as it exploits scale-wise expansion of patterns, often resorting to sequences.
At the Gates circumvented this unavoidable side effect of using sequences in their earliest work by following through with complete transpositions of a same mode to new tonal centers instead of adhering to the sprawling stepping-stones of fully-defined classical harmony. Arghoslent, on the other hand, and like any traditional heavy or speed metal band, remains rooted in this latter orthodoxy, accepting and making use of any bright arpeggios with far more openness than more-evolved underground metal would allow.
Arghoslent Galloping Through the Battle Ruins achieves an effective balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces by bringing in some of the conservative (by which “pop-structured” is not meant) spirit of proper death metal to the epic intent of an Iron Maiden in their best hour with ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ or ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Furthermore, this album is dirty and thrashy, grounding it and preventing the music from becoming overly fond of itself or too self-conscious. The latter is an ever-present and far more subtle trap that may even be perceived in Cóndor’s sophomore effort.
An inevitable comparison may be drawn to The Chasm, who are hailed for the density and apparently more complex structures. But where The Chasm gets lost in its own dreams of madness as songs are taken from promising illusion and wonder into confusion and pointlessness, Arghoslent remains stalwart; their resolute convictions clearly stamped on well-balanced music that brings a sense of adventure to visions of crude reality, and the fantasy of time travel with the brutal honesty of an unrepressed child.
It’s hard to browse DMU without finding at least one reference to Master’s influence (and more generally Paul Speckmann’s projects) on death metal. DMU’s ability to follow Master’s evolution has generally been better than my own, but I’m hoping that their upcoming albums will change that. An Epiphany of Hate will release on January 29th, 2016, presumably making it a superior purchase to other metal albums releasing that day, like Dream Theater‘s latest. Without any known teaser material out, I’d guess this album will follow up on the style of Master’s previous full length (The Witchhunt), but regardless of substyle this will be one to keep an eye on.