Article by David Rosales
What is up with this sudden influx of nonsensical war metal? Is this some sort of epidemic? Is there no end to subpar minimalist death metal clones? Dakhma’s Astiwihad-Zohr is one of the many albums that, once weighted and considered in the light of everything that has come before, forces one to ask if it was really necessary that someone waste any kind of resources recording it. While not outright offensive, it is lukewarm, at best while at worst, it is comical in its unabashed mediocrity.
It appears that anyone with a penchant for occultish themes and an appeal for the underground metal most superficial aesthetic feels entitled to put out one of these turds that the supporting community, the “scene”, considers an invaluable contribution to the ever-growing stack of EPs and albums nobody will give a second listen to. This needs to stop now. This metal funderground is destroying everything underground metal meant as an artistic refuge for true expression, even though uneducated and rough on the edges. No, it isn’t “cool” that we are immortalizing any of this shit in vinyls. No, it isn’t cool that nowadays there are so many bands to choose from when most of them are not worth a second of your life and they only drown and even suffocate those with actual potential.
With no heads or tale to speak of, these songs meander between heavy minimalist riffs, meaningless silences and long growls and grunts for “the feels”. This is all part of the idiocy of postmodernist thinking that falls into the trap of awarding relevance only to individual, ultra-subjective feelings towards passing moments in the music, and meaning to nothing in art. This is psychobabble for morons trying to feel smart. They forget that although human rules of social engagements are, indeed, “constructs”, this does not mean they are less relevant. They forget that all spoken or written language is also a “construct”, yet it is not any less meaningful because of it. This understanding that requires a journey into complexity and back again into perspective seems to be out of reach for most. Enslave the masses. Take away their means of assailing our senses with this display of mental retardation.
Necrosemen play the kind of war metal going on death metal that has become increasingly popular in recent years. There are several reasons for this, and popularity being what it is, none of these are particularly flattering. This style of music concentrates on the texture generated by the sheer, gross output of a good amplifier through high-quality effects, a deep voice and blasting drums. The most prominent value – if we may call it that – this music has is the shock of its production quality and the immensity of its sound. It’s “darker” music for the average moron. Then, there is the fact that this sort of music is extremely easy to write. Very little artistic insight is needed and minimal technical competence (learn a few key pattern styles, be able to play them with a metronome, and that’s about it) suffices to come up with a couple of these songs.
In terms of its composition, this Vglns could not possibly be more derivative than it already is. Not only are the patterns tired and tried, patterns that never really were spectacular to begin with, but they’re also lazy riffs that rely on the impact of distortion and big sound. The problem here is that these tremolo-laden riffs are “atmospheric” in the same sense that a constant blast beat barrage becomes a blanket and background. When you have a uniform set of these parading one after the other, with minimal variation, what you have is a blanket of guitars with “cool tone” over a blanket of pounding drums, and an occasional growl here and there. Now, very few changes are all right when you have a long composition whose aim is literally to create an atmosphere, and when, in the grand scheme, a real journey is traced from beginning to end. But Necrosemen give us between 4 and 7 minutes of utter sameness while expecting to be taken seriously as metal.
For those who would dare point fingers at bands like Incantation who also play a minimalist style of death metal, I would point out that the difference lies in that the classic band presents an articulate differentiation of songs within a relatively homogeneous style. Such differentiation between riffs and their combinations into mega riffs are varied enough to constitute different meanings as the music slows, speeds up, the phrase is inverted, is cut off, or is extended. At the same time, the similarity is such that they stay within range of the aura of what was expressed before and is cohesive with the “topic” of the album (and band) as a whole. In the case of these new bands, what we have is riffs that are virtually the same being played again and again through the song and through different songs in the album. The only difference between them is the particular notes played. In short: there is not enough vocabulary to actually say more than a sentence.
Canadian one-man band Megiddo, who back in the late 1990s ushered in the transition of black metal to a war, black, death and speed metal hybrid, have returned with a new album The Holocaust Messiah to be released on Iron Pegasus Records for Halloween, October 31, 2015.
Sounding much like old Sodom, Blasphemy and Profanatica in a blender but built around the rhythms of punk and simpler song structures of older speed metal, Megiddo burst forth in the middle to late 1990s with two demos, “Hymns to the Apocalypse” and “The Heretic,” which have now been re-issued by Iron Pegasus as Hymns to the Apocalypse / The Heretic.
In addition, you can read the writings of composer and lyricist Chorazaim in our archive of Larm: The Fourth Reich of Reviews, a review site which popped up a few years after the DLA and covered black metal releases that were current at the time with an inimitable style.
Militant complex war metal band Trench Warfare plans to unleash two new splits, hot on the heels of its three-song EP Perversion Warfare. This shows the band continuing its style of textured riff-frenzy with songs that reach a definite apex and conclusion, in contrast to most of the war metal genre.
The band released the following statement:
Trench Warfare is currently recording three tracks for an upcoming four-way split entitled “Of Vultures and Vermin” which will be available via Surrealistic Fatality Releases (SFR). The other bands featured on the split are Sturmtiger (UK), Formulus (Alabama) and Lugubrious Descent (Florida).
We have also begun writing for a split with Morocco’s Agurzil for which we have enlisted the exceptionally talented drummer Lee Fisher. Lee has performed with Commit Suicide, Psyopus and Overlord Exterminator.
Someone close to the band also leaked three demo tracks from forthcoming Trench Warfare compositions. I traded a brick of Semtex for a dub and was able to hear clearly the progression in this band. Their same unrelenting approach has deepened its texture, with more interplay between riffs, and more fast tremolo riffs in the death metal style. The result is just as hard-hitting but has more internal variation and conflict, leading to a style of war metal that borrows the complexity of death metal, the intensity of grindcore and yet keeps true to its hammering martial assault.
Good things are coming from this promising Texas band, who raised eyebrows with the inscription on their debut EP:
NO MELODIES, NO GROOVES, NO SLAMS, NO BREAKDOWNS
ONLY HATE AND WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
War metal band Revenge have posted a peek into their upcoming Behold.Total.Rejection, which will be released November 13, 2015 on Season of Mist Records. The new track “Wolf Slave Protocol (Choose Your Side)” shows this band going further into its Blasphemy-inspired noise-fueled attack that uses almost linear evolution of a central theme to create a texture of grindcore-style riffs.
Like most of metal, this band navigates between the extremes of fru-fru technical rock which is essentially warmed over 1970s music, and the droning three-chord “authenticity” that finally ushered punk into entropy. Metal fans should ask whether they will be able to listen to this song repeatedly over the years and still get a sense of energy and purpose from it. Many of the best metal bands use some melody and more structure to spice up the otherwise raw aural attack in order to avoid lapsing into intense similarity between tracks and albums.
The band also released a tracklist for Behold.Total.Rejection:
- Scum Defection (Outsider Neutralized)
- Shock Attrition (Control In Decline)
- Wolf Slave Protocol (Choose Your Side)
- Mass Death Mass
- Mobilization Rites
- Silent Enemy
- Desolation Insignia
- Hate Nomad
- ETHR (Failure Erased)
- Nihilist Militant (Total Rejection)
Season of Mist released the following statement:
Founded in 2000 by J. Read (BLOOD REVOLT, ex-CONQUEROR), REVENGE has since delivered some of the most severe and violent music the metal underground has ever produced. Using militant imagery, and behind the force of savage live shows, the band has built a die-hard following amongst the extreme factions of the black and death metal scenes. Simply put: they are one of the most extreme bands in existence. ‘Behold.Total.Rejection’ is arguably the most fervent release and a manifesto of rejection – rejection of the groundswell of mediocrity within the scene, rejection of compromise as a means of embracing of a wider audience, rejection of the dogma and strictures of religion and the trappings of the feeble social slave. ‘Behold.Total.Rejection’ is a torrential barrage of relentless animosity. No scene. No brotherhood. No remorse.
War metal was born when worship of Blasphemy, Zyklon-B, Sarcofago, Impaled Nazarene and Beherit merged with the newly-simplified post-Nordic black metal, but many of us noted that Blasphemy and Sarcofago in particular had more in common with their punk and grind ancestors than black metal as it evolved. Trench Warfare cuts to the roots of war metal by making grindcore with metal rhythms and intensity, and by breaking out of the stop-start patterns of most war metal produce an unrelenting assault that bears down with the intensity of full-bore death metal.
Perversion Warfare consists of three tracks which build high-energy primitive riffing in the Blasphemy style and expand to more traditional grindcore and death metal forms, commenting on the riff that forms the bulk of each song with a series of complementary and oppositional motifs that keep the momentum rolling through rhythm and pattern. Layered on this are urgent martial drums that comment extensively on the change in material, sort of like Destroyer 666 given a technical tune-up, and chanting defiant vocals which resemble a cross between Blasphemy, Blood and early Mika Luttinen. Songs do not relax the strident attack but do come to clear peaks and have a form shaped around that, which avoids the formless grindcore glaze-over that occurs with many bands attempting this style.
Three tracks do not give enough of an impression to tell where this band will go in the future, but it provides an insight into how they intend to make war metal both interesting and militant. Riffs here evoke Napalm Death and Immolation as often as Vulcano or Conqueror, and the way riffs comment on one another to build songs is more death metal than war metal, despite the general approach to riff-writing being more welcome to acknowledging its roots in grindcore and expanding upon them. The result is surging combat energy which creates a narrowed and critical view of the human experience, reducing our social pretense to the practicality of open battle, but infuses into that a delight in survival which — as with all good metal — gives life new meaning through darkness merging into light.
In preparation for their upcoming album Stormkult, which sees release on Folter Records worldwide on August 28, Kaeck has released a new track “Akolieten van de nacht” which shows the internal variation of this powerful album. Detouring more into classic black metal territory, Kaeck nonetheless give it a tour de force renovation with simple but powerful riffs in a contexture of ideas that creates a constant rush of discovery.
Folter Records has made Kaeck Stormkult available for pre-order in its digital shop. Having heard the album, I look forward to it being unleashed into the light like a demon escaping from hell, and bringing the typical intolerant occultism and vigilant Nietzschean Darwinism that defines the black metal genre.
Kaeck — a collaboration between members of Sammath, Kjeld and Noordelingen — introduces itself to black metal at a time when the genre has lost the momentum of two decades ago and replaced it with primitive but mostly uninspired, very similar music. Of that music, the clear forerunner is war metal, which takes the extremity of black metal to new heights but simultaneously reduces it to sawing high-speed chromatic riffs like later hardcore punk. Gone are the epic melodies and entrancing adaptive song structures. Through this, the techniques of black metal outlive the genre.
Combining the raw intensity of black metal, the odd vocals of pagan metal, and the melodic understructure of early 1990s black metal, Kaeck produces a high-intensity blast that resembles a more technical version of Blasphemy fused with early Immortal and Isengard. Where Zyklon-B created high-intensity black metal around simple melodies, and Dawn used constant melody over raging war-drums, or even Impaled Nazarene shaped songs from simple riffs rounding out into melodies over high-powered percussion, Kaeck keeps the melodic center to songs and uses it as a flavoring to otherwise savage riffs, but lets songs structure themselves to fit the melody. On top of this, vocalist Oovenmeester layers epic vocals that resemble those of Isengard, Storm or Mayhem “Life Eternal,” using these to produce both texture and melody to complement the raging guitars and resonant melody.
With that as the basis of its style, Kaeck varies the formula across the album, with each song being its own chapter with a different approach, but crafted admirably within the same consistent style to give the band a unified voice. Fast mid-range power chord melodies over blasting drums, in the Immortal Pure Holocaust style, give Stormkult an otherworldly feel that quickly descends into untamed rushing chaos and then emerges on the other side as a complementary melody. Keeping energy high, and using bass and guitars as a lead phrasal instrument over drums which frame them with less chaos than Immortal but a more flexible structure than most black metal bands short of Sarcófago can handle, Kaeck slashes out anthems of the abyss with a silver lining which suggests a divinity of thought in animalistic, irrational and feral assertion of the nature within. The result takes the best from war metal and fuses it with the best of classic black metal, creating the album we might have wished for when desiring Zyklon-B to be more complex or Dawn to be less drenched in melody as a technique.
Coming from a merger of the New Wave of Dutch Black Metal bands such as Kjeld, whose Skym roared up the black metal charts but features less internal variation in the style of Dawn with more varied riffing, and Sammath whose Godless Arrogance paid tribute to both Immortal and the most savage members of the black and death metal pantheon, this approach develops a consistent sound for these bands: old world melody, new world violence, and a fusion of the two that delivers both emotional and visceral satisfaction. Stormkult creates a world of its own and then soars above it like an avenging spirit crossing through the clouds before the sun, then allows its inner being to expand without indulging in any extraneous material. With this approach, and songwriting that taps into the melancholic rage and alienation coupled with a warlike desire to set the world right that defined early black metal, Kaeck stands poised to conquer much of the black metal world.
Skillfully bringing together doom/death, modern atmospheric and war metal styles, Unorthodox Equilibrium is more than a fitting name for describing the musical approach used in this album. Bands playing in any of the aforementioned styles have typically fallen prey to different misconceptions. Some have failed by attempting to adopt an orthodox position simplified to the precept that genre cliches guide songwriting and that the result will be good if it “feels good”. Others have taken a route that attempts to bring more original ideas into the mix but whose ultimate goal is still that each section gives them a certain feeling, an “atmospheric/ambient” effect. We can summarize the cause of these blunders by saying that their approach has been too pleasure-oriented.
In Unorthodox Equilibrium we can hear familiar voices bearing the mark of Worship in Last Tape Before Doomsday, Disembowelment (I refuse to follow ridiculous indications as to what letters should be written in uppercase format) in Transcendence into the Peripheral and Esoteric in Paragon of Dissonance. Unlike them, though, Shroud of the Heretic only slightly avoids falling into complacency with the immediate effect of their arrangements and instead channels these as methods used measuredly. The band manages to promote a sense of movement in each section while maintaining atmosphere without depending on stagnating in the harmony within one section or getting anchored to one kind of texture or intensity level for too long. This makes the album an incredibly varied experience within the non-restrictive but focused confines of a florid and eloquently coherent language.
Independently of whether this was a conscious decision or not, the heterodox and non-monolithic composition route taken by Shroud of the Heretic avoids this atmospheric metal trap and represents an excellent indicator of an artistically healthy direction for this subgenre of metal.