Death Metal Underground

Pestilence releases “Necro Morph” from Obsideo

October 26, 2013 –

pestilence-band_photo

Pestilence will be remembered as one of the heroes of death metal, but many have stated reservations about their more recent output, which seems unduly influenced by the modern metal movement, including tek-deth and alt-metal, which always seem to go hand-in-hand.

“Necro Morph” shows the band dialing back from the modern metal fringe and making what’s basically renovated speed metal with modern metal touches, avoiding the true randomness of tek-deth. The counterweight to that is that this makes the music more repetitive, which forces the vocals to overcompensate to give it textural depth.

That approach might make sense if the vocals were sung, but it’s an unfortunate choice here. Pestilence has always excelled at instrumentals, not vocals; when your strongest instrument is the guitar, why make a vocal-heavy style? Second, this puts the emphasis on a style of growled/shouted vocals that don’t have that much variation, which requires comedic emphasis that in turn puts weight on the lyrics to be “interesting,” which in rock-n-roll-speak usually means “ludicrous.”

Further, putting the main thrust of the band’s effort into rhythm guitars that support vocals has dumbed down the riffs themselves, which have gone from interesting phrases that use both partial chords and single-string picking to constant power chords that form uniformly repetitive walls of sound interrupted strategically by rhythm for the Meshuggah-style jazz “offtime” effect.

When the solo does appear, it’s a beautiful thing, because these guys not only play their instruments well (which is cheap, as millions play well) but have a good ear for music that is both sonorous and pushing the edges of what we would consider organized sound. Can we have some more of this, please?

If anything, Pestilence should recognize that their audience is not “the kids,” who will always want something dumber than Pestilence can provide, but the maturing listener who wants something with a bit more meat than the mostly rock-based pop metal that dominates the airwaves. You can’t get successful by imitating what works for others, and Pestilence must find their own path.

Warbeast to play Housecore Horror Film Festival on Friday, October 25

October 24, 2013 –

warbeast-texas

Those of you who have read our coverage of the Housecore Horror Film Festival know that it’s a music/movies event starting today in Austin, TX that will feature a number of prominent metal bands.

Among those, Warbeast stands out as a unique hybrid between past and future. Comprised of members from classic Texas speed/death metal bands like Rotting Corpse, Gammacide and Rigor Mortis, Warbeast presents a modernized version of the speed metal classics of the 1980s with faster tempo changes, more abrupt riffing and more chaotic transitions.

Frontman Bruce Corbitt is the guy everyone wanted to emulate back in 1989. While other bands were lumping their way through yet another tedious song about social justice and how you shouldn’t take drugs, Bruce tore up the stage casually singing about murder, occultism and terror: With five easy slices, you’re in six lovely pieces / Bodily dismemberment as passion increases.

In his current role with Warbeast, he’s revitalizing a new scene and will do it live in front of you at Emo’s in Austin just before 9pm this Friday night. In the meantime, Bruce gives us the rundown on Warbeast and how they came to play a horror movie and metal music festival.

Warbeast released a new album this year, entitled Destroy, which seems to have turned up the volume. What’s different on Destroy versus the first album?

It started with the writing… Scott Shelby wrote the majority of the music and I wrote the majority of the lyrics. Once he had the music part of the songs down with the rest of the musicians in the band… I would add the lyrics later. For some songs he would have a general idea for what he had in mind for what the lyrics should be about. For the other songs, I would get a feel for what the music reminded me of before I came up with the subject to write about. So we had a good system going when we were preparing these songs to record in the studio. Plus we already knew what it was like to work with Philip Anselmo as our Producer. So the chemistry was even better when we recorded this album.

On the first album we were still a relatively new band coming up with our first originals. Some of those songs came from material that was written before Warbeast. I guess what I’m saying is that by the time we started writing for Destroy… we were more aware of what we wanted the band to sound like. I’m proud of both albums and love the fact that they’re different… but they both sound like Warbeast.

How do you think Warbeast will develop in the future? Are you working on new material now?

We intend to keep progressing and improving as a band in all areas. If we can continue to top our last effort on each new album… I would be happy with that. Hopefully we can keep a busy tour schedule like we have in recent years. Yes, we’ve recently started the early stages of writing for a third full-length Warbeast album. So we plan to enter the studio and record it sometime in 2014.

You’ll be playing the Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin on October 24-27. What are you looking forward to with this performance?

I’m really honored and I feel very fortunate to just be part of this. This will hopefully become an annual event that fans of Horror and Metal will look forward to every year. So it’s really cool to play at the inaugural HHFF! This is one of those highlights from all these years in bands that I know I will be proud of for the rest of my life.

Just the fact that there is going to be such a huge gathering or Horror and Metal fans all assembled for one big weekend will make this a special show for Warbeast. So I’m sure we will be fired up and ready to have some fun when we perform on Friday night.

I understand you have a longstanding relationship with horror films. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It goes back to when I was a little kid. I always loved Halloween, Haunted Houses, monster movies etc. I loved TV shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family. As far as movies… at first it was the classic Universal Monsters (Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula etc) and also the Godzilla movies that I would try to catch on TV. Once I started going to see movies at the theaters… it was always the Horror Movies I wanted to see.

Then when VCRs came around in the 80s.. I was always in the Horror section when I went to rent or buy movies. Of course I started recording and collecting movies and my Horror Movie collection became immense. Then when I joined Rigor Mortis in 1986 and they already had the Horror and Gore image and theme going… I fit right in with that shit. It was cool to sing about some of our favorite Horror movies. Even on the upcoming Rigor Mortis album Slaves To The Grave and also on the Warbeast album Destroy I’m still singing songs about Horror movies or stories.

Finally, for those who are new to Warbeast, what should they expect at a Warbeast show, and why should they make sure to come see Warbeast if they’re at HHFF?

They should be prepared for an old-school dose of Texas Thrash Metal, a non-stop jolt of energy coming from every member of the band and an adrenaline rush that could wake up the dead. We want it to feel like Godzilla has entered the building! We want to get the crowd warmed up for Goblin and Down… so we will be ready, serious and focused to do just that…

Rigor Mortis to release Slaves to the Grave in 2014

October 23, 2013 –
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mike_scaccia-rigor_mortis

Influential Texas speed-death band Rigor Mortis will return with a new album entitled Slaves to the Grave sometime in 2014.

Recorded with their 1988 lineup including now-deceased guitarist Mike Scaccia, Slaves to the Grave was recorded during February 2012 at 13th Planet Studios in El Paso, Texas.

According to the band, this will be the final Rigor Mortis release and a “swan song” to Scaccia, who died on December 23, 2012 while performing at the Rail Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Tracklist:

  1. Poltergeist
  2. Rain Of Ruin
  3. Flesh For Flies
  4. The Infected
  5. Blood Bath
  6. Ancient Horror
  7. Fragrance Of Corpse
  8. Curse Of The Draugr
  9. Sacramentum Gladiatorum (Scaccia Instrumental)
  10. Ludus Magnus (Guest Vocal appearance by Al Jourgensen)

Speedwolf – Ride With Death

October 20, 2013 –
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speedwolf-ride_with_deathThe assault of the form-over-function bands continues. You hear a song, and it lights up all those fat neural pathways in your brain made to appreciate the originals. Nostalgia surges in: you can smell the smoke, taste the beer, hear the laughter of a girl you were with. But like Cinderella’s carriage, at mid-album the illusion goes poof and you are left with an emptiness.

Thus it is with Speedwolf Ride with Death. Here is what — and this i the sum total — you need to know: they named this album to convey what they hope to deliver, which is Motorhead-styled antics plus some indie rock guitar band noodling. What you get instead is alarming close to a later punk band doing a night of Motorhead covers. These songs sound metallish, sure, but they’re built on punk frames. As a result, the album resembles less a collection of songs than a stream of Motorheadness coming from a server in the sky.

What starts as a catchy and promising album fades quickly when you realize that all that’s behind this album is the desire to be a punkier Motorhead with more heavy metal flash. Other than that, it’s riff practice. You will have heard most of these before in the 1975-1985 era, but here they’re flattened out and made rhythmically simpler to keep up the drone. It could be that Speedwolf is trying to artistically emulate the sound of a motorcycle on a highway, and if so, they’ve succeeded. But otherwise, they’re pushing an awful lot of airtime with no payoff except nostalgia.

Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone) reveals new project Gift of Gods

October 16, 2013 –

gift_of_gods-receiveLong known as the adroit-fingered riffman for punk-black metal band Darkthrone, Nocturno Culto was once seen as a dark, mysterious and threatening figure but has adopted a more open public persona over the last decade.

As part of this, he is launching a re-vamped heavy metal style band named Gift of Gods which will be entirely his music separate from Darkthrone. The music sounds like Celtic Frost’s Cold Lake given a speed metal treatment and with the more complex riff transitions of earlier Celtic Frost.

To promote the new release, Receive, which will be released on October 28, Culto released a song “Enlightning Strikes” in edited form via the Peaceville mini-site for Gift of Gods.

Track list:

  1. Intro
  2. Enlightning Strikes
  3. Receive
  4. Looking For An Answer
  5. Last Solstice
  6. Outro

Eternal Solstice – The Wish is Father to the Thought

September 25, 2013 –
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eternal_solstice-the_wish_is_father_to_the_thoughtMany in the metal community view genre names as special keys to secret clubs. The opposite is true: genre names are descriptions that help us explain how bands compose and thus, who will enjoy them.

The Wish is Father to the Thought shows us what is on the surface a death metal band, but which musically is mostly a speed metal band. Further, their choruses tend toward a doom metal pace and mood, which makes the speed/death portions more accessible.

Like other speed/death hybrids Kreator and Destruction, Eternal Solstice use mostly chromatic riffing with lots of muted-strum “chugging” to create a tension and energy. The verses of most of these songs incorporate variants of riffs that Exodus or Anthrax might have used if they were more vicious, like a version of Meshuggah with less technicality and more knowledge of everyday life.

Eternal Solstice creates highly energetic speed metal with occasional death metal riffs, but basically, this band comes to us straight out of the 1980s. Death vocals add a gruff intensity and the lengthy choruses prevent the percussive riffs from being overwhelming, but the real appeal here is in the speed thrills.

The Wish is Father to the Thought was originally released in 1994 and is now re-issued so that a new generation of fans can appreciate this Dutch band at their most intense.

Zemial – Nykta

September 18, 2013 –
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zemial-nyktaFrom the way this album was promoted, a reader would anticipate an underground metal onslaught. However, outside of growly vocals that are just a shade removed from Motorhead, there’s nothing underground here. This is good old fashioned mid-paced speed metal in the early style that Onslaught and Exodus pioneered.

On Nykta, you’ll find choruses so infectious that the CDC is already tracking them. To offset that, you will find trudging riffs in the style of slower speed metal, with some nods to the catchier moments of heavy metal crossovers like Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol. There’s some decent guitar work experimenting on top of it, but the basis of this music is a steady procession of thoughtful primitive power-chorded riffs.

Luckily, Zemial know when to vary this up and so despite the heavy emphasis on hookish choruses, there is riff variation and transitional material that calls to mind the heavy rock bands of the mid-1970s like Deep Purple. On top of that shredding is tasteful and melodic, accenting what is otherwise a constant droning saw of guitar.

There are nods to the German speed metal scene as well, especially in percussion and its tendency to keep a pulsing beat with somewhat awkward tempo transitions that magically work once the momentum of the next riff picks up. Oddly the growly vocals, being semi-whispered and half-spoken, act more like a tour guide on a trance tour through hell than functioning like traditional vocals.

While this style may deserve a trigger warning for people who dislike repetition, Zemial acquit themselves well by knowing when to break the trope with abrupt transitions or melodic extensions of the riff idea. The result is simultaneously a new mapping of the past and a gentle tribute that keeps an ancient culture alive.

Letters: Why isn’t Metallica “thrash metal”?

September 14, 2013 –

metallica-kill_em_allA reader writes with a few questions:

Why is Metallica’s debut classified in your website as Speed Metal and not Thrash Metal? What defines Thrash Metal and why are Metallica and Kreator placed under Speed Metal? The second question really being what defines Speed Metal?

What is speed metal? Speed metal is the music formed of the hybrid of NWOBHM and punk music. NWOBHM itself was a fusion of Black Sabbath and the “metal-like” hard rock genres of the time, including some progressive rock, given an underground and DIY outlook. The definitive speed metal album is the first Metallica work, but we could also look to Overkill, Nuclear Assault, Anthrax, Megadeth, Testament and Prong.

What is thrash metal? A marketing term for “speed metal.” Some argue that it’s a separate genre, namely speed metal with “broken beats” or d-beats, but the fact of the matter is that the d-beat-influenced drumming was already part of speed metal. Musically, anything regarded as “thrash metal” is speed metal. Hence use of that term instead.

Now, as to Kreator — why is it speed metal? Kreator is on the line between speed metal and death metal but ultimately has more in common with later speed metal like Destruction and Sodom than it does with outright death metal. It was a previous generation to the music that expanded in the late 1980s through early 1990s.

What is thrash? Thrash is a hybrid form of heavy metal and punk music preferred by thrashers, i.e. skaters. This music evolved out of the explosion of punk music at the end of the 1970s and the tendency of bands like Discharge, Amebix, The Exploited, the Cro-Mags and others to take on metal riff-styles, especially as inspired by Slayer and other heavily punk-influenced bands. However, many thrash bands used riff influences from NWOBHM or before, with Black Sabbath being prominent.

The reason we separate speed metal and thrash is that they are different movements. Speed metal is metal that incorporates some aspects of punk; thrash is a metal/punk hybrid that generally uses punk song structures and metal riffs, laying the groundwork for grindcore. There’s also no point in expanding the speed metal franchise into many different sub-types when all are essentially musically identical.

Slayer launches five-week North American tour

September 3, 2013 –

slayer-2013-north-american-tourLegendary moshers Slayer, who combined NWOBHM and hardcore punk to invent their own style of music which bridged speed metal and the nascent death metal movement, along with Hellhammer and Bathory creating the sound of underground metal, are back on tour.

Slayer‘s five-week North American tour shows the band with replacement musicians — guitarist Gary Holt and drummer Paul Bostaph — replacing musicians Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo, respectively. The band was shaken by Hanneman’s untimely death earlier this year and have been struggling to return to routine.

This is Slayer‘s first North American tour in two years and will include the band’s previously announced return to New York’s Theatre at Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Palladium, venues the band hasn’t performed at in 25 years.

Tickets for all dates on Slayer‘s U.S. tour, go on sale beginning this Friday, September 6. Click here for complete on-sale dates and ticketing information.

OCTOBER
22 Sullivan Sports Arena, Anchorage, AK
25 The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
28 Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood, CA
30 Events Center @ San Jose State, San Jose, CA

NOVEMBER
1WAMU Center, Seattle, WA
3Stampede Corrall, Calgary, AB
4Shaw Center, Edmonton, AB
5Praireland Park Center, Saskatoon, SK
7MTS Center, Winnipeg, MB
8 Myth, Minneapolis, MN
10 FunFunFun Fest, Austin, TX
12 Bayou Music Center, Houston, TX
13 South Side Ballroom, Dallas, TX
15 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL
16 The Fillmore, Detroit, MI
17 LC Pavilion, Columbus, OH
19 The Fillmore, Washington, D.C.
20 Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
21Ricoh Colibsum, Toronto, ON
23CEPSUM/University of Montreal, Montreal, QC
24Pavilion de la Jeunesse, Quebec, QC
26 Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, CT
27 Theatre @ MSG, New York, NY
29 Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ
30 Tsongas Arena, Boston, MA

Cóndor – Nadia

August 19, 2013 –

condor-nadiaOne of the enduring critiques of modern metal bands is their lack of stylistic coherence. The mashing of various genres and influences over the course of an album with no unifying principle produces a product that is difficult to absorb from start to finish.

On their newly released album Nadia, Cóndor attempt to solve this dilemma by creating what may best be described as contemplative metal. Composed with a purpose, the metal sections of the album album consist primarily of low-to-mid-paced riffs ranging the gamut from doom, death, and black metal. These are complimented by influences from progressive rock, in which tonal contrasts add nuance and a way of connecting differing parts within the album.

What this band does well is elegantly shaping this vast array of influences into a package that is understandable and actually enjoyable to listen to. Everything is structured with care and attention, avoiding the “genres in a blender” sensation that many of their contemporaries produce. Throughout the span of a single track, snapshots of each moment lead organically into the next, while low-pitched vocals provide a sturdy framework and induce continuity. At the conclusion of the album, the listener feels as if he experienced something meaningful, which is at the heart of metal and unfortunately is something that often seems missing among contemporary bands.

Curmudgeons (of which the author admittedly is) will initially be put off by the non-metal elements and unorthodox structure. However, when viewed in context of the whole, these fall into place and do achieve meaning within the album, producing something both the strident Hessian and modern metal fan can appreciate.