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.
Perversor play a fast and ripping minimalist death metal which some would be tempted to encase in the line of primitive South American so-called black metal were it not for the strong structural development so strongly evident in the detail-intense songs which defeat any accusations of purely atmosphere-oriented thinking. In fact, Anticosmocrator gives us the opportunity to contrast their more musical approach to that of bands with a more vague and atmosphere-building composition mindset. This difference lies in the importance of keeping a balance between evocation and solid musical construction.
While Perversor fills all the requirements to be classified beside any atmosphere-minded bands like those playing war metal, for instance, it far outdoes them by virtue of achieving solid development of ideas in the composition of their songs. Typically, Perversor will take a fast riff and develop both variations on the riffs or transitioning into riffs that are easily recognized as being related to the previous ideas through the interval relations in the patterns used while the rhythms and register are changed. This is a formula that is easily summarized but which nonetheless requires great skill to apply and expand to create convincing songs that both take the listener from a beginning to a distinct ending yet do not exceed the natural reach of the riffs and ideas used.
This is the sort of release that is excellent but will not turn the heads of those who are always on the look out for bands thinking “out of the box” as if that were the whole basis of good music. Perversor compose songs on a solid basis and while not diverging or breaking any limits, create evocative, musically competent and whole music that should be at the top of any discerning metalhead’s list for 2015 .
Being a split, it is necessary to judge both bands here separately and the release itself as a whole. Both bands play death metal, but while the former is provisioned with a modern war-doom arsenal, the latter seem at least partially influenced by Scandinavian old-school black/death tremolo riffing. The production itself is much more clear and powerful in Into Oblivion’s songs.
Into Oblivion play death metal in a combination of modern voices including saturated style of war metal and the heavy, doom-oriented riffing of certain sludge bands. The more impetuous of these is reminiscent of Teitanblood or Heresiarch, except it is difficult to distinguish an original personality present in Into Oblivion’s music. Individually, some sections are engaging, even mesmerizing and beautiful (the beginning of By this Marvel Overthrown) but as a whole, the result is far from outstanding. Construction of the songs could be deemed lazy and/or cheap, advancing through alternations of saturated and doom textures by inserting riffs that are played until their momentum runs out and its balancing counterpart is inserted, and not according to a direction or necessity of expression in the music.
Disinterred also play with this alternation of fast and slow sections, except that Disinterred is better able to maintain a train of thought and expand it. The songs in this latter half seem more mature, the converging styles in it being more difficult to disentangle, a more solid product arising from a clear vision making use of its influences. One can also observe the use of saturation, but instead of a modern war metal, we have a disguised and worked Scandinavian spell at work. A strong advice for Disinterred would be to get rid of the triggered drums and do away with the cheap double-bass-drum-saturated drum fills that sound like Godflesh Apocalypse hiding its lack of ideas. This second half of the split brings a visible shape into focus, a haunting shadow reflecting the maddened character of the music. Still, it is only a vague shadow which Disinterred have not finished summoning just yet.
At this point, Oblivion’s Oceans shows us what is mostly a soulless collection of voices. Despite this, there is some promise in the music. Personally, this writer would not place too much hope on the nature of these bands changing or growing much as the nature of proper death metal bands itself seems to be monolithic. Any attempt to change them often results in their destruction and watering down. Few manage achieving the required reincarnation, often coming to life again as a simpler life form.
War metal bands Black Witchery and Revenge issued their new release on tax day, April 15, with each band recording three new songs of their trademark sound, which their biography eagerly informs us is inspired by Blasphemy and Sarcofago. With excellent and intriguing cover art, and raw but clear production, this release should appeal to fans of the genre.
Black Witchery tear into their three tracks with a studied recklessness and noisy attack. These shorter songs use the standard circular structure with a final detour, but the band inserts rhythmic breaks throughout — the war metal equivalent of a breakdown in deathcore — to build intensity. Most riffs follow the rock/grindcore paradigm of a static chord, possibly with a chromatic offset, establishing a rhythm to which a fill is added. These riffs resemble faster version of punk hardcore riffs in minor key with lower tuning and faster, more precise playing. This shows a heritage with more in common with Napalm Death than Immortal and a lack of the atmosphere and uniquely shaped songs that made the Blasphemy proto-black metal grindcore hybrid work well, as well as an absence of the melodic structuring of the Black Witchery demo. The relentless aggression of these songs will make them popular but they will not be as memorable as Blasphemy or Sarcofago. If this band wishes to improve, their first step will be to worry less about being intense enough and worry more about shaping that intensity so that at the end of each track, a profound shifting of mood and idea leaves the listener in awe. This was the standard Blasphemy achieved on the best moments of Fallen Angel of Doom and the direction Sarcofago indicated their material should take with songs like “The Black Vomit.” Of these three tracks, “Curse of Malignancy” is my favorite for its directed power that forcibly enacts a concise regimen that achieves the feeling of warfare at least in concept.
Revenge takes a different approach to war metal through riffs longer in duration which use the same surging technique but depend on active drums to break pattern with accents and spur the riff on to change. This technique can rally the attention of the listener and is often used in marching bands. It however creates a reliance on the drums, which although it makes the surge tremolo riff technique less important, also relegates guitars to a secondary role and creates a type of static riffing that resembles doom metal sped up to grindcore paces. Much like Black Witchery, this music is almost exclusively chromatic, which gives it the primitive and violent feel prized by fans. Revenge also tackle Bathory “Equimanthorn,” but in imposing their own rhythmic standards they enhance the jerky and sing-song nature of this tune (comparable to Mayhem “Deathcrush”) and add nothing to the original, so it stands out barely. This band has always been one of the more technically proficient voices in war metal and while their music is enjoyable in a single listen, the songs are too similar in approach, topic and technique for prolonged listening. “Revenge” rounds out this three-song EP and may be my favorite track on this side for its compact, solidly focused assault.
Marduk attempts to return to their past of blasting melodic war-themed ultra-simplistic black metal, evoking Panzer Division Marduk more than the mysterious album which preceded it, Opus Nocturne, which remains arguably their strong point. The band incorporates some elements of tribal-industrial hybrid rhythms, but stays on point with short riffs. Arguably this mature form of Marduk offers more variation in tonal construction and riff form than ever before, but its tendency to use similar song structures and nearly constant exercise-video style tempi wears down the power of this release.
Like later Vader albums, the attempt to make the album fully intense creates a wallpaper effect where all of the intensity flows together because lack of internal variation deprives it of the context to make a truly great impact; in addition, riffs use a very similar vocabulary of rhythm and pattern, which makes songs hard to distinguish. Where Marduk excels is in, while avoiding the standard MTV form most metal bands use, orchestrating a rise of intensity that explodes into a clever use of melody and tempo change to produce a dramatic impression. The theatrical side of this band creates moments of impressive songwriting throughout the album.
Black metal vocals of the type that approach a chant more than a howl decorate this album and while much of listener focus is anticipated to be directed at these, they stand back when the guitars lay forth a mix between sawing rhythm and gentle lifts of melody, much like early Dawn albums or their militant spin-off Niden Div. 187. Frontschwein shows Marduk at their best in recent memory, and in modern warfare they have found a new inspiration, but the whimsy and mysterious nature-mysticism of Opus Nocturne was closer to black metal than what we might call this, ‘melodic war metal,’ and as a result like most rock projects it fades into repetition that becomes distinguished only by vocals and lyrics. Nonetheless good material appears throughout this album.
The Blond Beast
Rope Of Regret
Between The Wolf-Packs
Falaise: Cauldron Of Blood
Warschau III: Necropolis (Mediabook bonus track, in cooperation with ARDITI)
EUROPEAN HEADLINER tour with Belphegor (special guest) and two support acts
19.02.2015 HOL Rotterdam / Baroeg
20.02.2015 HOL Eindhoven / Effenaar
21.02.2015 HOL Sneek / Het Bolwerk
22.02.2015 BEL Vosselaar / Biebob
23.02.2015 UK Plymouth / The Hub
24.02.2015 UK Manchester / Academy 3
25.02.2015 UK Glasgow / Audio
26.02.2015 UK London / Underworld
27.02.2015 FR Paris / Divan du Monde
28.02.2015 CH Monthey / Pont Rouge
01.03.2015 FR Toulouse / Dynamo
03.03.2015 SP Madrid / Caracol
04.03.2015 SP Barcelona / Apolo
06.03.2015 ITA Turin / Cafe Liber
07.03.2015 ITA Brescia / Circolo Colony
08.03.2015 SLO Nova Gorica / Mostovna
HATEFEST 2015 with Six Feet Under, Vader and Hate
02.04.2015 DE – Leipzig, Hellraiser
03.04.2015 AT – Wien, Gasometer
04.04.2015 CH – Pratteln, Z7
05.04.2015 DE – Essen, Weststadthalle
06.04.2015 DE – Saarbrücken, Garage
07.04.2015 DE – Lindau, Club Vaudeville
08.04.2015 DE – Ludwigsburg, Rockfabrik
09.04.2015 DE – Hamburg, Markthalle
10.04.2015 DE – Geiselwind, Musichall
11.04.2015 DE – München, Backstage
12.04.2015 DE – Berlin, Postbahnhof
Imprecation composer/vocalist David Herrera unleashes his new project, Wülfskol, with a 7″ entitled Hellshock which has been released in time for Record Store Day (today). To kick off the release, the band is handing out free copies of a CD version of their songs at local record stores in their hometown of Houston, TX.
If you are at Vinyl Edge or Sound Exchange tomorrow, pick up a free Wülfskol cd while you are there. There will be 20 copies at each store, with 2 songs “I Am The Devils Blood” and a cover song of the Dwarves “Satan”. Hails!
The band, which describes its music as “songs in the tradition of early Bathory, Sodom, Misfits and Broken Bones. All about drugs, death, and the Devil,” also released cover artwork for the new release by underground artist Daniel Shaw:
This might kick off Record Store Day 2015 with a bit of a celebration.
Texas war metal band Trench Warfare leaked three tracks from its upcoming work in progress. These tracks revealed a sound that is straight raging war metal surge riffs on the verses, complex Perdition Temple style fills, and melodic undercurrents to choruses that resemble those of early Beherit.
Naturally this provokes interest from metal fans worldwide with caveats. War metal has give itself a bad reputation for being an entry point into black metal for the same droning three-chord nonsense that ushered hardcore punk into irrelevance when it became popular and all the tryhards and poseurs crowded the stage. Trench Warfare tries to balance the Blasphemy-inspired excesses of war metal with variety in riffing and flexible interruptions to relatively standard song structures.
While little is known of this obscure band beyond its contested origins and fugitive status, these tracks augur well for the future of this homebrew outfit. It has its own style and, while these tracks may require refinement to stand out in a crowded field, that is an inevitable and welcome part of experience and will make this promising material stronger.
The Carcass guys, who started out as grindcore but mutated into heavy metal disguised as death metal, gave an interview in which the topic of motivations came up. Frontman Jeff Walker argued that perhaps heavy metal has sold out:
I think if you’re going to play music, your reason for doing that should be solely that you want to be creative and enjoy it. You should be realistic…Too many people are creating bands as a career choice. ‘Should I be a football player? Should I be an actor?’ Everyone wants to be famous but I think your motives have to be pure…Once in a while, you’re going to hear some killer new stuff but it’s getting rarer and rarer. I think people’s motivations for wanting to do this are not purely artistic.
He is referring to the process by which bands change their sound for money or musicians target a certain sound expecting it will make money, which is the reverse of the natural artistic method of having a message to communicate and picking the style that best expresses that message.
Metal bands can both “sell out” and “sell in” by preaching to the converted, such as the flood of war metal bands making essentially soundalike material because they know people will buy it in order to appear “diehard” underground. These people are known by the name of tryhard and they cluster around certain three-letter internet forums.
On the other hand, metal bands can “sell out” by appealing to the pretense in people as well, such as Opeth which has always marketed itself as both “open-minded” and musically difficult, both of which are tempting labels for a low self-confidence fan to slap on himself. The rest of us are closed-minded and simplistic, but with the help of his Opeth-product, he is open-minded and deep.
In the same way, many bands turn toward “social consciousness” lyrics because people recognize these as a signal that the band is deep, even though every band goes into a social consciousness lyrics phase when it runs out of other things to write about. This also is a sell-out because the band knows in advance that the audience will reward more of the same, even if that form of same re-brands itself as “different,” despite almost every band doing it.
Walker may have a point. Over the past twenty years, metal has gone from an outsider to society which speaks unutterable truths in metaphor, to an insider accepted by every level of media. Now the concern is how to use heavy metal as a brand for being “edgy,” and how to use that brand to sell products whose owners hope the audience will buy them in order to be “edgy,” from alcohol to motorcycles to clothing and beyond.
Will heavy metal exist in twenty years, or will it be only a “flavor” applied when in a commercial the edgy product is on screen, like triumphant horns for bargains and girls singing Beatles songs for self-care products? Metal may make itself into a product after all, and selling out while making its musicians superstars will destroy the underlying community by corrupting its ideas.