Write-in Campaign: Swedish Death Metal Belongs In IKEA

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The leading representative of Swedish industry around the world, Ikea, sells furniture of styles from a dozen nations. It has a housewares section, a full-service cafeteria, a donut shop and a grocery store. You can pick up electric lights, tools, houseplants and home decor there.

But conspicuously absent are the most important items from Sweden in recent memory: Swedish death metal and black metal.

Continue reading Write-in Campaign: Swedish Death Metal Belongs In IKEA

CLOSE-UP BÅTEN 2016: Entombed, Grave, Unleashed, Merciless, Necrophobic, God Macabre

close-up baten 2016

Close-Up Magazine is putting a mind-blowing group of Swedish death metal bands on a ferry cruise.

Continue reading CLOSE-UP BÅTEN 2016: Entombed, Grave, Unleashed, Merciless, Necrophobic, God Macabre

Dismember – Indecent and Obscene (1993)

Dismember Indecent And Obscene

Almost all metal bands eventually run out of ideas and revert to imitating their influences or repeating themselves. The former usually results in songs that are Frankenstein’s monster mashups of old ideas hoping to hop across the finish line without their sutures bursting leading to loss of limbs. The latter have no raison d’être beyond releasing the expected new record every eighteen months or so to put a product on the shelves that the label can push and the band can tour to support on a James Bond series type release schedule. Even a teenager saying “I want to kill everyone, drink beer, masturbate, and be as fucking metal as possible” shows more purpose than such aimlessness.

Indecent and Obscene was Dismember proving that in 1993 they had became at least as proficient musicians as their seventies and eighties idols. Dave Blomqvist took over the leader guitar duties from Nicke Andersson and added Mercyful Fate-like sweep-picked leads to the bluesy, Ritchie Blackmore-influenced solos. The songs continued in the vein of filthy Pieces EP with verse chorus verse bashers. The problem was they were slowed down, less distorted, and more lazily constructed: Beneath the Remains Sepultura minus a standard deviation or two in IQ. Every time Dismember play an interesting riff on this album, they allow it to wear out its welcome through repetition in brain-dead pop song structures. That is only when they have a good, counterpointed Carnage/Dismember riff. Most of the rhythm riffs are generic Autopsy riffs; riffs Autopsy stole from Celtic Frost, who stole it from Metallica, who stole it from some NWOBHM band who took it from AC/DC or The Stooges. These riffs were used just so Dismember could construct a basic d-beat song and sweep pick Guitar World readers’ faces off.

Matti Karki sounded just as rabid as ever but in every song sprouted off the title of the song in the chorus of the song as a vocal hook. This is the same as an awful Hollywood action film script containing dialogue saying the name of the movie in the movie, eg: “This is Con Air!” or “You Only Live Twice Mr. Bond!” Idiotic bridges kill off any tension too. “Why don’t you just kill yourself?” followed by breakdown of the main rhythm riff so all the hardcore kids for whom Suffocation was too heavy could slamdance before the air guitarable solo.

Dismember on Indecent and Obscene was Nuclear-Blasted into Cannibal Corpse before Nuclear Blast mandated all their bands sellout into death/black ‘n’ roll for the Bic-flicking festival crowd. While superior to most of the later work out of Sweden, Indecent and Obscene never approaches the transcendent Dark Recollections and Like an Ever Flowing Stream. The only praiseworthy aspects beyond the superficial icing are Fred Estby’s creative tom fills on songs such as “Sorrowfilled”. His underrated percussion is the only part building and resolving tension in these mediocre songs. That’s simply not enough to hold hessian attention. Decent material must still be composed and Dismember didn’t bother writing any worthy of repeated listening here.

 

Interment – Scent of the Buried (2016)

Interment Scent Of The Buried Cover

Article by David Rosales.

We tend to be skeptical when receiving a promo of a retro Swedeath band given the history of the style, but we can’t help but feel a vague and healthy excitement for the raw feeling this improved grindy sound can offer when done well. Despite the long history of shams, Dismember and Entombed followers receive an enthusiastic and welcoming reception here every time. This is also, perhaps, the reason why they also get beaten down with the most derisive of tones when found ‘guilty’.

Interment‘s Scent of the Buried is one of the best cases of the usually-unfortunate retro Swedeath we have seen in the last few years. While much praise is due, it is also interesting to try and understand when and how blatant such style appropriations fall short of the excellence of the originals. The band does a very good job at creating a flowing narrative in the style of Entombed, taking the best from the older band and approaching Dismember’s power chord and tremolo melodies in low tones while discarding the most overt poppisms of the first. After the first half of the album, the B-ness (the quality of being a B-grade album) of Interment’s release becomes obvious, after which it is easy to see that the band ran out of things to say.

While for some this has to do with style itself, and a superficial appreciation of music leads some to want stylistic variety, this is not what is meant here when pointing out the bands shortage of meaningful content. It has to do with a narrowness in the variety of patterns in melodies and riffs, not stylistic divergence itself. This is something that does not happen in the seminal works of Entombed and Dismember, whose style is natural-born from themselves, hence their whole effort is bent on trying to say something. In the case of stylistic followers and clones, which encompass the likes of Interment, there is a conscious will towards adhering to the stylistic conventions those older bands laid out.

This is much more confining and goes beyond genre style; these b-bands are not trying to reflect abstract ideas but the most superficial traits of the music. Hence, Scent of the Buried has enough excellent material for a 3-track EP, but not a full album. Despite the technical re-production of this vintage style being a success1, Interment doesn’t have much more to offer other than a passing pleasure for those who enjoy the hell out of the Swedeath sound.

Scent of the Buried may be listened to and purchased from Pulverized Records’ Bandcamp.
The CD may also be purchased in the US from Dark Descent Records.

1Scent of the Buried was actually recorded by Tomas Skogsberg at his legendary Sunlight Studio were most of the Swedish bands recorded back in the early nineties. – Editor

Crematory – Denial (1992)

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Article by David Rosales

Crematory’s 1992 EP is the very definition of good, old riff salad death metal, at least from a basic technical stance. Strings of ideas fly by with less-than-optimal riff glue to hold them together, but an intuitive flow is always present. Adjacent riffs may be linked motif-wise, but sharp corner-turns are never too far away. There is a clear emphasis in contrasting rhythms to create interest in the music in the absence of clearer goals. Denial is a good example of why many black metal musicians who were originally playing death metal chose to forgo this style in order to look for more artistically meaningful avenues of expression. Crematory is fun, and there is an obvious emphasis on technical proficiency that although not forgetting entirely about coherence leaves it as a second thought, and any other landscaping is all but forgotten. Concept building is left to the lyrics, while the music is only an engine to carry those words.

Fans of this old school band’s work tag this lazy and faceless approach as ‘Crematory style’, but in truth, it is just run-of-the-mill riff salad without any particular purpose; only remarkable for presenting some technical variation. This can be particularly observed when the band attempts to take rhythm to the edge of what their speed-based approach allows them and creates this ass-shaking syncopation worthy of Brazilian carnivals. This comes out as comical, but perhaps technically ‘interesting’ for drummers. The guitar’s work is completely driven by these frenetic drums that seem more interested in showing off how many different patterns they can cram into half a minute than in contributing to the larger picture. In fact, the whole of the music appears to be an excuse for rhythmic exercises in “fun and gore”. This is an early demonstration of tongue-in-cheek emptiness that lead these musicians to explore technique but reveal nothing to the soul.

Sarcasm – Burial Dimensions (2015)

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Article by Corey M

Burial Dimensions is a compilation of releases by Swedish death metal band Sarcasm, featuring six demos (released between 1992 and 1994) and a full-length album (also recorded in 1994, but first officially released in 2011). For most of this review, I’ll be talking mainly about the titular full-length album when I use “Burial Dimensions”, and not the compilation as a whole.

As for the compilation as a complete package – It has cool cover art and all the demos you could want, but they sounded redundant to me, though in full disclosure, I was unfamiliar with Sarcasm before getting this release, and didn’t know any of their demos before listening to this compilation. Fans will no doubt find more value in having this large collection of demos on two CDs, even though casual listeners may not spend much time listening to them. The full-length features the best songs with the best production quality, so I focused in listening to it the most.

Some listeners might be able to guess that Sarcasm are Swedish by the first riff, and most of the musical techniques they use had been well-developed by 1994, so this album is more about refining a craft than innovating. Except for a few incongruent flourishes, Burial Interludes is mostly sinewy, sometimes fluttery death metal, but melodically bears resemblance to some contemporary heavy metal-influenced black metal like Rotting Christ’s Thy Mighty Contract, with a lot of tense, enigmatic harmonies and an emphasis on keeping songs flowing smoothly throughout dynamic transitions between high- and low-intensity passages. However, due to the band’s admirable unwillingness to shift dynamics too quickly, some of the more low-tension parts in songs drag on for too long, dispelling the sinister insinuations of the more intense passages as we are lulled by comfortable but impotent consonance. These soft sections subvert the dark spirit that these songs aim to conjure, and are almost always too off-putting to ignore. Examples include a brief break for a female operatic vocal to take over a song which is otherwise made of imposing, sharp riffs, and some dull segments that showcase an unmotivated (and unmotivating) lead meandering over a melodramatic chord progression. These parts always sound insincere and drag the album down because other parts of the songs really rip into you.

The production of Burial Dimensions is raw (and the demos sound considerably worse), with some gnarly analog compression and heavy reverb on everything, giving the sensation of the sound being squished and distant. This isn’t necessarily bad and allows the guitars space to grind through high and low frequencies, giving the rhythm guitars a dangerous-sounding, shredded, spiky texture. In many riffs, a second guitar will pick out a higher-register harmony that stands separate from the rhythm guitars by having a distinct echoing tone. Usually following the rhythm fairly closely, the second guitar is also sometimes used for counterpoint melodies, and at times these are very effective at bringing out the full impact of the riffs, especially when the bass guitar splits from playing in unison with the rhythm guitars and all three guitar melodies hit you from different directions in three-part harmony. Sarcasm can create an impressively broad and rich sound with the three guitars being utilized this way, but during the worst parts of the songs, the counterpoint will be played in some such off-kilter way that doesn’t synchronize intuitively with the rhythm guitars and some strange harmonies emerge, negatively altering the flow of tension that is channeled so well during the more simply-structured passages.

Sarcasm sound amateur at worst, mainly due to the artificial melancholy that butts in and trips up a series of otherwise engaging riffs. Some of the better examples of riffs that really take you along for a ride begin the songs “Through Tears of Gold” and “Never After”, but frustratingly their momentum falters when one of the more flaccid, weepy progressions intrudes with clean guitars and soft synthesizer washes. “Pile of Bodies” and “Scattered Ashes” both begin with slow, chunky riffs that menace and lumber, but eventually either song gets bogged down in slowly-strummed reverb-drenched chords and leads too timid to venture far enough from the chords to inspire much sense of wonder or foreboding.

All considered, this album probably never achieved wide recognition because of the incongruent dynamics which can leave you with a sense of ambiguity about the whole experience. If you listen closely, you’ll hear lots of cool-sounding riffs scattered throughout, but they are offset by the sappiness that inevitably kicks in during any song’s development. In this way the amateur nature of the band works for and against them; when they get into energetic and fearsome riffing, the sensation is both threatening and mystical, but their inability to maintain tension while focusing more on the mystical than the threatening aspect means that each burst of strong riffs is undermined by a stretch of weak soloing or ostentatious gimmicks.

If you are a fan of Sarcasm, this release is right up your alley; you get some upgraded album art and a collection of demos in their original condition (not retouched or remastered, as far as I can tell). If you are not a fan but curious to see what Sarcasm are all about, I strongly recommend finding some of the music online or streaming it and giving it a close listen before making the decision to purchase. Personally, I don’t see any lasting replay value in Burial Dimensions; Sarcasm are just one of the many death metal bands that fell by the wayside during the ’90s heyday, and for good reason. If you are really itching to hear some death metal from the ’90s with lots of black metal-esque melody and heavy metal leads, compare this album to Necrophobic’s The Nocturnal Silence, which is a perfect example of how these influences (black, death, and heavy metal) can merge fluidly and efficiently. And Intestine Baalism beat these Swedes at their own game with 1997’s An Anatomy of the Beast, which does a better job than Burial Dimensions of combining raw and evil-sounding riffs with dramatically melancholic lead melodies.

Entombed A.D premieres new track from Dead Dawn

More generic Swedeath in the future, as Entombed A.D released a single from their upcoming studio album. Dead Dawn is scheduled for a 2016 release. Compared to other things these musicians have recently been involved in (uh… Firespawn?), this isn’t quite as banal, but it’s still a pretty generic Swedish death metal track that tends towards rock music, or at least crust punk in disguise. You never know – this might get a thrashing closer to when it comes out on February 26th, or we might be preoccupied with more important releases (like the upcoming Voivod). In the mean time, Entombed A.D is gearing up for the Europa Blasphemia tour headlined by Behemoth.