Our old friends and comrades at Cursed Productions just interviewed one of the bands to take death metal mainstream, Amon Amarth.
While this band personally has no interest for me, being “too busy” as if trying to run away from life itself and sounding too much like a metalcore version of Dark Tranquility, seeing a quality metal journalist get some recognition is always a bright spot.
A reader writes in with one of the big difficult questions:
For more than a year, I’ve been into heavy metal. Being an atheist i listened to bands that mocked religion. As i don’t have any knowledge of structure or how a riff is good or bad, I listened to anything that whose lyrics read well, but soon nihilism struck me and I started losing faith in people and the mainstream. I felt a sudden urge for good art as an outlet of my emotions, but then my idea of art was shattered.
So my question is: what is art?
In 1917 Duchamp took a urinal and turned it over, signed it ‘R. Mutt’ and submitted it to an art show! His ready-mades weren’t meant to be admired in an aesthetic sense and because of this he challenged the belief in art as something holy and placed on a high pedestal, art as something distant and divorced from life during the dada art period
later in 1692 neo dada art was emerging,Duchamp did not agree with the attitudes and direction taken by Pop Art and Neo-Dada
In a letter dated November 10, 1962 Marcel Duchamp wrote: “This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblages, etc., is an easy way out, and lives on what Dada did. When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics. In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them. I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.”
Why is one band better than other? How do I judge?
I’m badly confused which metal CDs I should buy; I also see that one thing you consider while judging a band is you learn the philosophy of the members and the environment they came from, but when the band is so underground the data of their members is not available, what is true metal?
1)one which is highly technical
2)or that maybe immature in technicality but have a strong…. philosophy…and what is more important or inspiring to you
c)or other things…
Is art just too overrated?
Let’s take them one at a time:
What is art?
Art is that which expresses a meaningful view of life; it is a communication from artist to appreciator (listener, reader, watcher, viewer). True cynics like myself view it as a dual natured beast, expressing both aesthetic enjoyment (showing that life has significance) and some form of philosophy, vision, emotional context or other worldview (the end goal that author found meaningful for that signficance). Art takes many forms, and there is no equality between forms or between artists or even between works; some express something that can be said through no other medium.
Which is the true metal band?
Technical, or philosophical? you ask. I respond with this concept: the band that is artistic, and exemplifies the spirit of metal (a Romantic yet warlike notion of transcendence through worship of power, not moral good) is good metallic art.
If the technicality is used in service to this goal, it’s great. But technicality for its own sake is boring, as 100,000 starving nu-jazz musicians in America can tell you.
Does the band need to have a philosophy? Not really — their music needs to show the presence of some organized thought (many would call that a philosophy) and to express it in a way that is artistic, and compelling. If it doesn’t do all of that, it may be art but I don’t want to listen to it.
Lyrics… I have forgotten about these, for many years. Some are inspiring. Most are stuff that rhymes and bounces in the right places with the right number of syllables. For me the archetype is Deicide: their lyrics “sound like” an occult vision of war in reality. Sometimes they’re incoherent. But they always sound awesome.
I don’t worry about trueness; that which is true turns out to be good, amazingly enough. So I pursue quality, because life is short and if you love metal, you want the best stuff.
I am probably an atheist; if God must be singular, anthropomorphic and moral, I am definitely an atheist and a blasphemer. (See my short monograph entitled, “If your human-like God can do anything, can He fuck Himself?”)
I am a nihilist. I believe in nothing but that which can be derived from observation and thought.
At the same time, I have seen more that I and science cannot explain than what it can… and my thoughts have led me to a kind of mysticism that is compatible with quantum physics, esoteric hermetic philosophy and even higher math. Others have found similar paths.
Unfortunately, this leads one to become a realist (in the vernacular, not philosophical, sense) or rather a consequentialist. Back to art above: life has significance. If so, we don’t want to screw it up. So we treat life as a laboratory, and keep the ideas that produce good results, and throw out the rest until we can test them.
This in turn should address your underlying question which seems to be: why care about what has quality over what does not? Why measure quality at all?
The answer is simply: if you love life, you want something that can complement it, and yourself, and that means you seek the authentic, the thrilling, the interesting, the beautiful and the amazing. And that is why, if you’re gonna listen to metal, throw out the shit and seek out the greats :)
We always talk about how here on ANUS, we try to describe the music as it is, not assess it in some “social” way (that easily lends itself to selling the music to dummies). People doubt us. So here’s a brief comparison:
Q: What’s the title of the new Slayer album?
A: World Painted Blood.
Q: What’s it sound like?
A: What on Earth do you think?
Nine studio albums, thousands of live shows and nearly three decades into a career that’s made them one of the biggest and most important metal bands in the world, the members of Slayer know exactly what kind of music they make—brutal but beautiful, punishing yet precise. A fresh Slayer record is a thing of terror but also one of trust: You can depend on what you’re getting—even if you’re unprepared for it.
As guitarist Jeff Hanneman says with a sly little chuckle, “At this point I think a Slayer album pretty much speaks for itself.”
And yet there are some interesting things you should be made aware of regarding World Painted Blood, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2006’s Christ Illusion, which debuted inside the Top 5 of Billboard’s album chart, a career best for Slayer. Let’s start with the fact that its fury, believe it or not, was born out of fun.
“The interaction between all of us on this record was really something special,” says Hanneman of his work with the band’s three other founding members: singer-bassist Tom Araya, guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo. “Rather than trying to get something done,” Hanneman continues, “it felt like we were just having a good time. We were discussing things, giving things a go. The prevailing attitude was, ‘Let’s try it!’ It wasn’t even work, really—it was play.”
For the first time ever, Slayer entered the studio—in this case, The Pass, in Los Angeles—without an entire album’s worth of material already written and rehearsed. They’d booked a preliminary chunk of studio time in October 2008 to see how they liked working with producer Greg Fidelman, who’d been recommended to the band by their longtime pal Rick Rubin after the two worked together on Metallica’s Death Magnetic. “While we were in there recording the couple of songs we had, things were just really clicking with Greg,” says Araya. “So we thought, ‘Why don’t we try to write the rest of the record in the studio?’ We weren’t sure what was gonna happen; we just kind of did it, and the music kept on coming.”
Not only did it keep on coming—first during that initial session, then in a second period of work stretching from January to March 2009—but it came in a way it hadn’t before, driven by a new degree of collaboration. For Slayer’s last several albums, Hanneman would write his songs, King would write his, then the two guitarists would bring their separate material into the studio, where the band would put it to tape. “This time,” says King, “everyone was talking about what we were doing. Everyone had a say and was involved—like, ‘Maybe we should go faster here or stop there or whatever.’ It was cool.”
Hanneman is succinct when asked how or why this cooperative spirit took root. “I have no fucking idea,” he admits. “The chemistry was just good.” The guitarist does note that Slayer “weren’t rushed, and that makes a lot of difference with the music. I don’t like being rushed, and on this record we had plenty of time.”
You can hear the effects of that creative freedom throughout World Painted Blood, which Lombardo says fits in with such classic Slayer slabs as Reign in Blood and Seasons in the Abyss. “The rhythm riffs on this one make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” says the drummer, who describes his determination to make his parts sound human and natural, rather than like the product of a machine. “It does it for me the same way those older records did.” King agrees: “I think it has kind of a retro vibe to it,” he says. “It sounds like the stuff we wrote in the ’80s.”
Did this renewed enthusiasm brighten Slayer’s worldview? Not exactly. “We have a tendency to follow a theme, and I think on this record the theme is more apocalyptic than usual,” says Araya, pointing to songs like the title track, a meditation on what the year 2012 has in store for humanity, and “Public Display of Dismemberment,” which King says is about whether or not certain “vulgar but effective” law-enforcement measures might work as well in America as they have elsewhere. “That’s kind of the running concept here,” Araya adds, “but aside from that it’s the usual Slayer topics of death, murder and serial killers.”
Usual, perhaps, but far from ordinary, World Painted Blood is one of Slayer’s most impressive efforts yet—a vicious, uncompromising look at what’s broken in our society and how frighteningly powerless we are to fix it. King says World is “more well-rounded than the last couple of albums.” Lombardo calls it “a speed metal record with emotion.” Anyone with ears will think it’s an accomplishment of a major kind. – Amazon.com Slayer Store
Notice what’s missing: they don’t talk about the music. They talk about the people, how many albums the band sells, how vicious it is, the topic of the lyrics (which is not necessarily the same as the topic of the song), and how shocking it is. In essence, what other people will talk about when they talk about it. Real information? Minimal. Now of course, this piece comes to us from Slayer’s reps via Amazon.com, and is not exceptional in any way. In fact, Slayer resisted doing this shit for decades. Now they’ve got a big label behind them demanding they do it because everyone else does it, and it’s effective, which means that if Slayer doesn’t do it, it’s like fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.
In junior high, there were three albums whose covers scared the shit out of me, and which I consequently kept in a desk drawer out of immediate view: Reign in Blood, Blessed Are the Sick, and Arise. While the former two remain all-time favorites, at the time, Arise hit the spot best. All three albums are primers on blazing speed coupled with powerful atmosphere, but Arise possessed a stronger melodic quality that never came off as cheesy or compromised. Andreas Kisser’s solos are oases of respite from the Cavalera brothers’ unrelenting, dystopian riffage. As a son of the ’80s and a disciple of films like Brazil, Robocop, and Blade Runner, I really appreciate the post-apocalyptic imagery in Cavalera’s lyrics, an aspect that he’d continue to hone on Chaos A.D.
Speaking of that album, I got shit in an earlier post about saying Chaos A.D. is the album where Sepultura “become men”. I still think that’s true, but paradoxically, I must qualify that Arise presently edges it out as my favorite Sepultura album. Ultimately, it’s a less fully-realized sonic world: the production is flat (what the fuck is wrong with those drums?!), the guitar tones are not layered in any meaningful way, and are almost fatiguingly mid-rangey. While Arise represents Sepultura at their apex as a speed/thrash/death band, Chaos A.D. is them being the band they were always meant to be. You can hear it in the confidence of the songwriting, and you have to hand it to a band when they reach that point in their lifetime; so many don’t.
So why does Arise edge it out? To paraphrase my friend Anson, MY GOD, those riffs. From “Arise” to “Infected Voice”, there’s not a dud in the bunch. It’s also worth noting how deftly they did the speed thing, especially considering they pretty much forsook the blastbeat after this record. It’s the end of an era in Sepultura’s evolution, and they closed it with all guns blazing. Arise still takes me back to a time and place, and that album cover, for all the fear it instilled in me, remains a favorite. Like the riffs, it reminds me of what I love about my favorite superhero comic books: metal, like comics, sometimes functions on more is more. – Invisible Oranges
These are all marketing, because their point is to convince you how cool something is, and not give you a sense of its broader relevance. The individual and the social sphere are the same thing in varying degrees; if something panders to your lower functions, it will do the same for others and thus be popular. Reviews that talk about how popular something is, how influential it is, or how “unique” it is are not commenting on the music — they’re talking about the scene, the fans, the market — and as such as tangential.
Oh look, someone talking about the music.
Pandemic Genocide doesn’t stray too far away from the established Vader/Behemoth territory, although perhaps slightly simplified in execution and with a hint of Immolation mixed in, as well. This is not exactly a problem, in my opinion, as that is prime real estate to explore, and there are 666 metric tons of great, memorable riffs here. To carve out a more unique identity, PG occasionally slows down and gets a little atmospheric, which maybe works the best in the excellent “Arcana Mortem.” These guys also have no problem with faster tempos, as is evidenced in the amazing title track, and really all over the place, with surgical precision. – Metal Curse
Here we have a description of the aesthetics of the music that’s succinct and complete. We know what we need to know about the style. Some assessment of how well it pulls that off, and how the riffs are written and how the song structures work, and most importantly, what sort of artistic content (narrative of moods, progression of ideas) is enclosed, …well, that would be nice. But it’s not going to happen in a one-paragraph review, which is the smart format to do if you’re going to write 5000 reviews like that writer has. He covers every area of metal in a way few can.
One could have sworn Verhern and fellow label mates Kargvint are the very same band; both sound and musical approach of these otherwise twin bands is almost identical, and even though they do not share any band member between them (Kargvint being a one-man show), Verhern’s self-titled album is so much like Kargvint’s excellent Seelenwerks Fortgang (reviewed on Diabolical Conquest not long ago), it’s uncanny. Verhern, unlike Kargvint, is comprised of three members; the usual classic metal ensemble of a couple of guitars, bass, vocals, a drum set as well as some distant keyboards, buried so deep in the mix, they are ghost-like, hovering above the music occasionally, adding to it an eerie flair, not unlike Burzum’s key work on Filosofem’s opening track Dunkelheit. Again, as was the case with Kargvint’s album, dismissing Verhern’s debut is almost a natural response upon listening to it for the first time; shallow, hollow and derivative, uninspired at best and primitive at the very worst were the first impressions registered by this reviewer who was ready to tear this album apart a second before he actually listened to this musical work carefully, with unbiased ears and clear mind. This is good music in the sense it emanates emotions in abundance; from the heartfelt vocals to the sensual, despairing riffs, the whole creates a thick, relentless atmosphere of pain and sorrow, and a sense of transcendence. The metal of Verhern is fleeting and intuitive, not your usual gut-wrenching heaviness and sonic violence; on the contrary, here the music walks the more humble, insinuative paths, always distant and estranged, touching-not-touching, creating waves of black ambiance and generating almost erotic beauty. – Diabolical Conquest
While this reviewer is almost certainly overpraising this album, he’s making an honest and clear attempt to talk about what’s inside of it. The style is well-known enough that he dismisses it with a sentence or two, then launches into a description of what the music attempts to evoke. For example, Pantera likes to evoke righteous rage and a desire to hump fenceposts. Slayer used to evoke a mythic sense of occult warfare. Opeth evokes a desire to become pacifistic, navel-gazing, sensitive and on bottom during violent gang anal rape scenes. The review contrasts the techniques used in the music to what it attempts to evoke; the only weakness is, perhaps, that the description of emotions is too inclusive and thus vague.
You can see how some people are out there being “successful” by hyping stuff; they’re also not elitists, they’re egalitarians, for the most part. In their view, albums are not good or bad, but “different” and perhaps niche-bound. Other people are more hellbent on describing the music and so, by the natural process forced on them by the writing they do, they’re finding out which music stands above the rest by not being “unique” in some random combination, but by having something interesting to express and expressing it well.
Each of the three films that made up George A Romero’s conceptually linked ‘Dead’ series were quite enigmatic, and now stand as some of the most influential memes in modern cinematic history. This feature for Deathmetal.Org need not explicitly make side references between the musical subculture of which we write to this realm of celluloid, as its popularity with many of death metal’s listening base is well known to those who have insight.
The Night of the Living Dead
Mankind eschews the macabre and the horrifying and in so doing never fully realizes, learns of or utilizes his whole nature. With the exception of a few brave souls, many people prefer to lead idle unchallenged and unexamined lives, if only because the contrary adventure is difficult and exposes one to multifarious existential realizations, including the reality of the ephemeral nature of ones existence. This I conclude is one reason why the horror genre is generally held in such contempt by modern man, when utilized effectively, not only does it confront the eschewed amoral primordial concerns of mans essential being, it does so in a way that is urgent and demanding of ones attention. Having set up his ever safe concrete abode, modern man now hibernates, avoiding existence and its deeper philosophical puzzle’s in favour of sugar coated half-truths such that soothe and reassure him of his “equality” his “individual uniqueness” and his “inherently universal importance”.
The legendary, provocative and incendiary “Night of the Living Dead” does the exact opposite as it confronts, plays on, and plays with the innate primal fears, dynamics and concerns of mankind. Although loosely conceived as an apocalyptic encounter with the forces of the “living” dead, a profound level of psychological insight and evocative symbolism permeates George A Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” and thus qualifies this work as a true modern masterpiece and a generally overlooked piece of art.
With no little genius Romero effectively lulls viewers into a world viewers can easily relate to by evoking and mirroring significant aspects of our everyday life. Each detail, from the realistically portrayed incompetence of societal authority figures, the naive adherence of people to the demands of the television, the undeniable emotional bond between brother and sister, to the familiar sounds of everyday life, including the incessant chirping of crickets, allows the viewer to fundamentally relate to and plunge into Romero’s world. In fact, the capacity to create a world or setting that so closely mirrors not only a Cold War world obsessed with science and technology but also a timeless, comfortable and familiar, although eerily de-contextualized reality represents perhaps the most important aspect of Romero’s film. These considerations in conjunction with Romero’s capitalization on further cinematic realism, forces the viewer to take seriously the events unfolding within it. Rather than questioning the veracity or possibility of the events unfolding viewers are drawn into reacting, along with whichever psychological archetype they most closely identity with, to the horrifying and challenging events that are taking place.
Although shot in black and white, Romero’s masterpiece lends itself to such profound levels of interpretation that a mere moral and linear evaluation of the film, the characters, or the actions and events therein becomes impossible. To suppose that the contrast between the black and white film and the various gradations of interpretation the film lends itself to was an intentional decision does not appear as dubious as one may suppose. In fact, it seems to coherently present an ingenious tongue in cheek and subtle level of social commentary on a society that was, and still is, increasingly seeing the world in simple morally absolutist ways amidst an inherently complex reality that disdains simple moralistic evaluations.
Through an ingenious development of the story, viewers, while perhaps horrified at the attacking zombies, are not given the pre-requisite moral education or signifying variables that would make it intellectual honest to morally condemn these purely instinctual flesh eating parasites, whose origin can be laid at the feet of man alone. This of course increases the profundity of the film as Romero brilliantly turns the story away from the simple and exhausted “us versus them” or “good versus evil” theme. Viewers are thus forced, beyond the categories of good and evil, to search for, construct and perhaps impose upon the film a more profound meaning.
Romero’s ability to vividly explore, amidst an environment whose intensity is heightened due to the proximity of death, the nature of human relationships, tribal power dynamics, and the capacity for the characters to deal with the prospect of their immanent demise reveals an attempt on part of the film to explore and highlight some of the fundamental aspects of mans primal nature. The intriguing and dynamic character relationships, for example, reveal and augment the inherent antagonism between virtue and vice and we witness concretely the poignant disparity between courage and cowardice, shortsightedness and wisdom, emotion and reason, optimism and pessimism. Viewers also witness the psychological development of each character as they are confronted with possibility of death, themselves symbolizing at a more significant level various timeless psychological archetypes with which it is difficult for the viewer to not identify with.
Additionally, the revelatory and intrinsically personal antagonisms that define each character bear witness to a decisively human element within the film, such that it becomes difficult for the viewer to not empathise with the manifold and sometimes dubious decisions and reactions of each character. This thankfully increases the level of interpretative depth and challenges the viewer; cowardice contextualized instead becomes the instinctual protection of the father, co-operation and perhaps courage resemble stupidity, pessimism becomes realism, optimism becomes fantasy, and so on. In contrast to many latter day films which celebrate an easy and crowd friendly reality that is typically one dimensional, “Night of the Living Dead” successfully transcends this pitfall and successfully mirrors the complexity of the human condition and the multiple variables that determine its structure.
Moreover, “Night of the Living Dead” includes the uncanny capacity to raise an array of questions that unsettle and challenge the mind: Who exactly is Romero referring to as the “Living Dead”? In what ways does technology bring about mans apocalyptic future, has our technological hubris undone us? How does the theme of technology relate to the zombies aversion to fire? How do we relate to and mirror the zombies at an instinctual level? Indeed, a plethora of questions, paradoxes and insights awaits the discerning viewer.
However, in the end what is horrifying about “Night of the Living Dead” is not the flesh eating zombies, it is the capacity for this film accurately reflects man’s condition on so many levels, and to expose the viewer to his or her own primal nature. Above all, what meaning one extracts will depend on each individual’s capacity to plume the philosophical depths implied by one of the main conceptual tenants that drives this movie forward: Only Death is Real.
Dawn of the Dead
Combustive, feverishly paced and exploitative almost in an infantile way are some of the qualities of the first follow-up to Romero’s original terror classic. By 1978 merciless killing, cannibalism, pile-up of corpses and explosions of gore had journeyed through the forbidden territories of ‘grindhouse’ B-movie theaters all the way to the brink of mainstream as it seemed already the norm to distrust the ‘establishment’. This is satirically extrapolated by the first few minutes where a cop operation gone awry climaxes with a spectacular scene of shooting a person’s head completely off as if it was no big deal.
The colorful but dimensional 35 mm cinematography, financed with the help of Dario Argento’s Italian team, lets Romero to indulge in more ‘hi-tech’ action than before with plenty of fast tracked views from helicopters but also conduct long and gritty depictions of places and people (and of course the zombies) as if we were watching a documentary. He did not originate this technique, but especially in ‘Dawn of the Dead’ mastered it so far that if there is one movie that seems to truly reveal the morbid but ordinary facets of disillusioned 70′s life in the United States, it must be this. The fantasy elements do not seem to be such when immersed in the logical and natural unfolding of the events.
‘Dawn’ is the first of the movies where a point is made of the zombies being less than authentic enemy but rather pathetic victims of a disastrous failure of civilization. The hard boiled soldiers’ execution of zombie families with children is chilling, echoing the amoral vigilante mentality that pervaded a myriad of cult classics of the era. When the supermarket setting allows the script to use both the human characters and the masses of the dead as two ‘classes’ of consumerism, the dimensions of the movie become delightful and tormenting – especially as it is conducted with the flair of a movie magician without an ounce of excess political rant.
Ultimately the angle is cynical since the characters seem very happy with their boring and cyclical existence in the safety of the supermarket, shielded from the dangers of the outside world and appropriately only at the moments of danger does an enlivening sparkle permeate their mind and hands. The intrapersonal dynamics are still reminiscent of ‘The Thing from Another World’ (1951), a veritable science fiction classic where the alien ‘thing’ was deemed almost irrelevant because of the all-around devastation wreaked by social and personal problems of respected figures such as scientists and soldiers.
Despite the passed decades of pushing all-around borders, the gore in the movie still repulses in its humorous viciousness. Besides the more didactic ‘Salò’ and the more amateurish ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, it’s one of the earliest full-fledged exercises in movie brutality, of the bombardment of visual ugliness. It is entirely in parallel with syncopated, jagged, atonal and growled music as medium; it forces the mind to make certain choices while most mainstream entertainment attempts to unify people with hypnotized neutrality and smooth edges.
It’s hard to pick a favorite from the trilogy but there are nuances and an all-out spirit of warfare in this one quite unmatched by the others, which do raise different points of abstraction by themselves. The battle of solitary but teamed individuals against the masses of horrible biological abomination strikes a note which can seem scarily familiar. The message is cryptic but it is spoken loud – there is no more room in Hell…
Day of the Dead
Undoubtedly the most cynical and dark of Romero’s ‘Dead’ trilogy, ‘Day Of The Dead’ continues the concepts explored in ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ and ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ which to the social anthropologist fall perfectly within the societal contexts of their decade, both in terms of appearance and issues dealt with. 1985′s ‘Day Of The Dead’, the intended third of George A Romero’s trilogy for the most part tackles Cold War paranoia dead on, and conveys a sense of isolation, disorder, and internal conflict that 1978′s ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ hinted at.
Whereas ‘Night Of the Living Dead’ contaminated the countryside, and ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ contaminated greater consumerist society, the third of these films now brings the viewer to a conclusion in where all previous facets of Western human society have been fully violated, with the few to emerge unscathed hibernating in underground shelters where in spite of a common need to survive, greater in-fighting occurs. This film is a much more dramatic affair than any of the previous two, and as a result its subject matter becomes more obtuse. Science and anatomy play a greater role in this film, in which the chief lab technician attempts to find means as of how to reanimate the once living, or do bring about a reversibility to the impulse-only movement of the undead. The soundtrack is mostly synthesized, having an emotive depth not unlike a cross between the scores to Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ and Argento’s ‘Tenebrae’.
The graphical element of the third of these films is more prominent, the gore more repulsive, the atmosphere more repulsive and suspensive. Some would suggest that the quite lengthy build up of this installment is detrimental to the overall quality of the film, but in the opinion of the reviewer gives an excellence not seen in the previous two installments, the most intelligent and and serious of Romero’s zombie films.
It is often asserted that some of the best works of the death metal genre arose as if by accident. A better assertion is that by the early 1990′s, many artists prominent within this musical form found themselves at a level of impassable momentum; a culmination of instrumental violence, a taste for profound and subversive ideals and a sadistic will to power. The year 1992 found death metal at its most potent, chaotic, destructive and virile, just as speed metal was in ’86, and black metal in ’93. Legion sets itself in a league of its own, giving each musician a distinct elemental voice. Glen Benton’s cthonian barking is at its most virulent and savage, guttural yet dynamic, having a rhythmic cohesion that is comparable to that of David Vincent, but separable in tonality. His bass playing is clearly audible, sandwiched in between the juxtaposition of the trebly guitars, which are thankfully never distant or uninterpretable. The drumming of Steve Asheim is insanely over the top yet disciplined, as if one were battering cakes laced with grenades. The musical influence of Slayer is the clear template for Deicide’s work, and in terms of compact intensity, Legion is to their self titled debut what Reign In Blood was to Hell Awaits. A parallel can also be drawn to Slayer in the musical interplay in the dissonant soloing techniques that see the best ideas of Hanneman and King taken towards a polyphonic atonality. The album radiates just under half an hour of pure blasphemous momentum, and communicates through spiraling, chopping guitar riffs that sit in perfectly with a multi-faceted rhythm section. Structurally Legion emphasizes a highly proficient musical backdrop, which advances what was exhibited on their debut and compresses it into a greater density that is both a pleasure to listen to and gives Deicide a platform on which to construct their most unique and standout work. Virtuosity echoes the best work of Atheist and Voivod if the melodic and progressive rock tendencies were eschewed, whilst the pattern language and aesthetic is in league with the best work of Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Massacra and Suffocation. This is Deicide’s pinnacle, one they would never surpass. A fundamental cornerstone of death metal, one of the all time best.
You can’t say those words in a room without dividing the audience. Some love you, and some want to feed you to the gators.
St. Louis’ Harkonin is the musical project of Clayton Gore, formerly of early 1990s Tampa death metal “best kept secret in the underground” Eulogy. Where Eulogy straddled the dead middle of the old school, Harkonin is modern metal of the death-metal-influenced style of later Kataklysm, Ion Dissonance and others. In other words, it’s technical metalcore with death metal leanings.
As someone who strives to be honest, I’ll admit that when modern metal gets mentioned at a party, I’m back in the cocktail line before you can say “fist Jesus.” The reasons for this are not important, but while it doesn’t limit my objectivity, it does limit my desire to listen to modern metal and thus, to write about it.
However, I’m a longtime Clayton Gore fan and, as someone who strives to be honest, haven’t hidden the fact that me and modern metal are incompatible. I don’t think that should be used as an excuse to ignore a talented musician and his output, so instead of talking about modern metal, I asked Clayton some non-trivial questions so you, our readers, can see why we at the Dark Legions Archive listen avidly to this man. Without further ado, here he is!
Eulogy – Consecration of Fools
What’s the difference between “modern metal” (2000s) and “underground metal” (1990s)?
Not just metal but music in general is necessarily different. Newer music is generally more well-polished and processed whereas music from two decades ago was generally more raw. This is not law – one can find examples of both in both eras. But generally speaking, this is what I observe. Metal back then was breaking new ground constantly. With each new album that came out, I remember being curious to hear what “new” had been done. Each new album had the potential to redefine and shape the genre.
In contemporary metal, rarely do I hear something that feels “new” to me. It seems most metal bands attempt to find “newness” in production values or post-processing sounds and frequencies. This can lead to a high degree of sterility. Now, what would have been a very advanced professional studio twenty years ago is essentially available to everyone with a computer and some knowledge and/or patience.
This is both good and bad. Like any tool, it can be easily misused or abused. Used correctly, it can enable a person to express themselves in ways they may never have been able to previously. Again, both good and bad.
Is the idea of an “underground” still viable, or necessary?
A term like “underground” implies some sort of unity or feeling of kinship between like-minded people, and I think that is long gone. When metal was really first starting, it felt largely positive. The subset of people to whom such music spoke would seek each other out to trade or just correspond about the music. Reviews would rarely be largely negative. Even if a reviewer didn’t particularly care for the album, they would generally try to find something positive to say about it. There was a feeling of being a part of something big, of something larger than one album or band, and each was at bare minimum a piece of a larger foundation. There was a “collective-good” mindset.
There are many factors that have brought about great change in this attitude since the early days. The early thoughts of nurturing and fostering a greater metal scene have caused complacency in some bands and relative newcomers, a perception that since innovation is difficult it is okay to stand on the shoulders of giants and mimic the movements. A proliferation of also-rans and knock-offs lead the parade to mediocrity. The underground was something special – a person had to take time, to go out of their way to write a letter, to produce flyers, to create tapes, to make a trip to post a package, etc. It felt like there were few of us and we should stick together.
The Internet has given everyone a voice. There is no journey of exploration which leads to knowledge – it’s all available at your fingertips at all times. Following the journey of Bathory from heavy metal fan to black metal innovator to Viking metal pioneer took a decade, with years between each album to study and absorb it. Now it takes minutes. Context is lost.
Forgive the digression… to answer more directly, there is no “underground” any more.
Every band – from bedroom metallers with their digital desktop studio and drum machine to the most skilled at their craft – all have equal voice and opportunity courtesy of the Internet. Word of mouth can spread faster than I can type this response. Everyone is a critic, quick to dissect and dismiss the stack of music they received this week alone if the first ten seconds of each song do not make sounds like they expected to hear.
As much as such a web of connection could be a great tool for a true collective “underground” in the spirit of the old days, it is just not so. Everyone is an island and is quick to judge. As such it’s very difficult for there to be anything “new” of value.
Also, the music industry as a whole seemed to realize in the mid-late ’90’s that metal has the potential to be commercially viable and has proceeded to milk the lowest common denominator to death, shoving it down the throat of the populace at large. I could walk into the nearest shopping mall and buy a Darkthrone shirt in a store. By no means am I suggesting that Darkthrone represents the lowest form of metal, not at all – I love Darkthrone – just using such marketing tactics as an example of the creation of “hipster metallers” or “mall metallers”. Marketers use brand recognition that bands have worked hard at creating over a few decades to sell the idea of metal. Such dilution is common when a power feels threatened – divide and conquer.
Metal isn’t “threatening” any more. The mysticism that once empowered the music and brought like-minded individuals together is gone. Now it is a perpetual seeking of the next trendy band or sound. Very little time is spent digesting what is in your speakers now or searching for quality among the masses.
Do punk and metal have an ongoing relationship and if so, what is it? How did it affect modern metal?
Absolutely. Look at some of the earlier “cross-over” albums (a term which doesn’t really exist anymore) from bands like Cryptic Slaughter, COC, Die Kreuzen, Life Sentence, DRI, Crumbsuckers, etc. Punk pre-dates metal and as such plays a role in the evolution of anti-popular music, music that is at odds with society in general. There are many common threads – the anger and aggression, neo-political and/or anti-establishment, anti-religion lyrics, etc. Any societal more that seeks to bind, limit or brainwash people was fair game to be attacked. It was/is an outlet for the unheard few.
There was also an element of “street”, “urban” or poverty in some punk. It was an expression spawned from life experiences at their basest, not just anger or “anti” for their own sake. It was true and pure, as was the earlier metal. But all innovators were eventually bastardized by those who were physically capable of mimicking the movements and sounds but who lacked the life experience or hunger to create meaningful art. Both genres saw a dilution.
Metal saw a fork where the music and ideology went more toward mythos and fantasy/fiction for some while others retained a foot firmly in the reality of “now”. This is where punk begot grindcore, with bands like Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror and Doom leading the way. Without punk bands like Discharge, there would be no Napalm Death I think. Musically there were other bands that had played such speeds prior, but I think the UK kept the punk spirit and ethos alive in grindcore. Some poetic justice for punk there, some geographical truth.
I think Slayer’s “Undisputed Attitude” album illustrates the relationship pretty well.
Is metal rock music? Is death metal? Is hardcore (punk)?
Insofar as we are cavemen, yes.
Music evolves but its lineage can easily be traced. Foundational rock featured the guitar and was guitar-driven with easy-to-understand song structures. From there you can pretty easily trace a direct route to punk rock to metal to hardcore to death metal to… ad infinitum. If one took, for example, an Immolation record back to the late 1950’s and played it for someone, would they see the similarities? Probably not, but we have the benefit of time and perspective with which to view the musical timeline. Lyrically, the themes are clearly different, but we have no way of knowing how much of that is influenced by external factors and how much is evolution of thought.
Do you think metal has a future at all? Some think it reached its apex, did all it could, and now we’re all living in its shadow. Others think the good days are just beginning.
I am not sure how to answer that question. I mean, take Lemmy as an example. He has been doing the same thing for decades and is more popular now than he has ever been. Same for Iron Maiden, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, plenty of others. Not citing any of these as the pinnacle of artistic contribution to the romantic idea of metal, just pointing out that the appetite for metal remains strong. I do understand how some take this as a sign of critical mass and predict that metal will implode in the same way as grunge, but what some overlook – particularly newcomers – is that metal is not a “fad” or “trend”. Just because the major labels decided to really push it within the last ten years doesn’t mean it didn’t exist for decades prior.
I think there will always be the “wow” factor – metal is more often than not a very difficult genre to play and requires a relatively high degree of proficiency and mastery of one’s instrument, and this is almost always appreciated even by the casual listener. I also think there will always be an audience for hard, angry, aggressive, meaningful music.
There may be a feeling that there are just far too many inferior, lesser bands out there in the metal world. I can see that – look on the internet, there are thousands upon thousands of bands releasing self-produced albums and demos every day. I’m sure some of them are quite good, but the signal-to-noise ratio is far too high to ever hear them. I don’t think this is a new phenomenon by any means, I just think that the lens of the Internet makes it seem so.
Anyone who was around in what many now consider the high point for death metal can tell you that this has always been the case. Even in Tampa, the “death metal capital of the world” in the early ’90’s, there were a small handful of bands that were really good but there were also tens upon tens of other metal bands that were copycat bands. These are the bands that would play venues on off-nights to help keep the lights on and cut their teeth. They would come and go usually without much notice. But now with the Internet, those same types of bands have the ability to flood the market with demos or what have you, spam mailing lists screaming their existence to the world, etc. Simply because we hear of so many bands these days does not mean that this has not always been the case.
I do think, however, that what we’ve been witnessing the past few years could be another fork in the path of metal. As certain flavors of metal become more mainstream and accepted, there will be the other end of the spectrum that goes back beneath the surface and proceeds in counter-balance to what is popular. There will be a certain degree of “You think that’s metal?? I’ll show you true metal…” feeling. Maybe this will lead to a new type of “underground”, a new banding together of like-minded fans of metal that refuse to just let it die away when it feels like so much has been left unsaid and undone.
Did the audience for metal change between 1995 and today?
Certainly the audience changed. Some people who were fans back then “grew out of their metal phase”, others are still fans and still come to shows. But looking out from the stage it seems to me the core audience is still the same demographic – 15-35 year-old males are a majority with females of the same age group making up the rest. People that come out to shows still demonstrate the same passion for metal as fans did 20 years ago.
Shows are just as chaotic and unpredictable now as they were then. I will say that it seems metal fans are a much more discerning bunch as a whole, demanding a certain level of quality now whereas 20 years ago anything resembling other metal might have been acceptable. If you want people to surrender their hard-earned money to come see a show these days, there had better be some quality on the bill.
What for you defines a band or song being “metal,” and how is it important artistically?
It’s difficult to come up with some sort of qualitative description about what makes certain music “metal” without using very subjective terms. Not only because it is inherently difficult to describe such a thing – something akin to explaining the color blue to someone who was born blind – but because there are so many different kinds and types of metal.
I have an extensive music collection and I struggle with this all the time when filing. It’s something you immediately know upon hearing. It’s the feeling the music elicits from you when you listen. It’s the passion so obviously put into the creation of the music. Loud. Distorted stringed instruments. Bombastic drums. Dissonant, minor chord progressions. Angry, aggressive vocals. Many ingredients make up the stew that is metal, and each adds a unique flavor. Not all ingredients are always present, but it can’t be metal without at least one of those things.
Of course, taking any one or more of these ingredients and applying it to other types of music doesn’t necessarily make that other music suddenly “metal”. Many popular bands in recent years have adapted and integrated some of the elements of “metal” for various reasons and to varying degrees of success. None of this bastardization necessarily makes these other bands “metal”. To me it usually seems like a contrived attempt to reach a more broad audience or to make them seem somehow more “dangerous” or “rebellious”.
There are exceptions where I think the melding has succeeded, but the by and large it seems shallow. This further complicates defining “metal” to a newcomer, or explaining what I do to someone.
Metal was really guitar-driven when it started but over the last decade or so it seems to have moved to being more drum-driven, which is a shame. To me that perpetuates the idea that there isn’t a lot of true songwriting to be found in metal, that metal is largely just a collection of riffs. Metal can be about speed, yes, but the idea that it’s a constant competition to see who can be the fastest is asinine. I’d much prefer “interesting” or “moving” music to simply “fast” music or technical wankery.
And there you have it: food for thought from Clayton Gore. Thank you for being with us today, Clayton, and let’s let the videos roll so our audience can decide for themselves what they think of Harkonin and through it, modern metal. You never know… you might redeem the genre.
Harkonin – Cult Of Sin (Ghanima)
Harkonin – Lost Cause (Ghanima)
Harkonin – Exhauster of Souls (live)
Harkonin – In The Shadow Of The Horns (Darkthrone cover)
Wolves howl and demons prowl on all sides of the mythical mountains of the Slavic kingdom, and each one of you well knows the quests of glory from Poland, Austria and Ukraine; yet, Slovakia in between, shadowed in behest of the more expulsive, westernizing Czech Republic, remains without any internationally celebrated “status whore”. As usual, this is not because of a lack of intrinsic quality or statements regarding vital manners and occult pathways; reasons are dealing with the superficial and corrupt nature of mankind. Until about 1989, the communist government hated the rock influenced expression as a tool of capitalist destruction, but worst of all free thinking and youthful rebellion, the enemy of all governments everywhere.
Remember our story of the modern day Toltecs? The same archetypes permeate other heirs of great nations now caught as underdogs of globalist forces. Grindcore influenced thrashers in the vein of Protest were the first to give birth to an underground scene (punk was always vital in Slovakia) which reached fruition with the pure olden Death Metal power of Depresy, Nomenmortis and Dementor, some of the best Eastern European death metallers (on their early works) besides Poland’s Vader and highly reminiscent of the unhallowed Finnish movement in style. It would be hard to go into these obscure phenomena any further without the aid of local infiltrators/collaborators and thus we highly salute our friend Namtar of Aeon Winds who compiled us an immersive overview of Slovakian metal through the decades, from the grave exhumations of Apoplexy and Acoasma to the barbarian Black Metal winds conjured by names such as Ancestral Volkhves and the hordes of the UBMR Circle (the Slovakian “legions”). We implore you sustain your disbelief and listen for yourself if you deem interesting the battle-skills of the Slavs.
Megadeth rocker Dave Mustaine refuses to play heavy rock anthem The Conjuring live – because the track is laden with black magic imagery and occult spells.
He tells Total Guitar magazine, “Performance wise, The Conjuring is one of the heaviest songs on the record, but unfortunately it’s got black magic in it and I promised that I wouldn’t play it any more, because there’s a lot of instructions for hexes in that song.
“When I got into black magic I put a couple of spells on people when I was a teenager and it haunted me forever, and I’ve had so much torment. People say, ‘Goddamn, Dave never gets a break, he’s had such a hard life,’ and I just think, ‘No, Dave didn’t – he got into black magic and it ruined his life.’ – Total Guitar via The Random White Third World Metropolis Sun
More likely, Dave, your worship of dollar bills and turning your back on metal is going to get you raped by a rhino.
Obviously everything that follows in that link is troll material. This part especially sounds like it was written by someone who barely once listened to half of a song and decided that they are crap:
Opeth “sounds like” prog even if it has none of what made prog great: real musical development, song structures that build upon themes instead of being random, and truly mindblowing chops.
And I’m pretty sure I’ve never read or heard anything about Mike saying they are a progressive death metal band (though they most certainly are imo), but rather just a death metal band so really the foundation of that article, which is to slam their approach to prog music, falls upon itself. Fakken trolls they troll don’t like em – ANUS topic at official Opeth forum
The trivialist band OPETH, who specialize in making boring simple death metal “sound like” progressive rock so that emosexual manpanties neurotic tweebo children of divorced homes and failed lives can cry together, and then consider themselves smarter than the rest of us peons, make their money selling what’s basically warmed over Dave Matthews Band songs with death metal riffs (sometimes). The foolish, unaware, uneducated, illiterate, inexperienced, confused, lost, low self-esteem and possibly uncle-raped flock to it as they search with mooning faces for some kind of meaning in their disposable, interchangeable part lives. And then they get upset when we point this out to them.
I want to make a fatwa here, which is that we make it illegal under ANUS Shariah law to compare Opeth to homosexuality. To do so is to insult homosexuals. Instead, we must focus on the truth of Opeth, which is that it is music for boys to cry to so that they do not have to become men. It is music for people to feel like they’re having a profound experience to, when really they’re just projecting their own neurosis (expanded rectums from parental rape, divorce and repetition of failure). If you like the thought of telling a rapist to go ahead and have his way with your ass, because you’re just too into yourself to muss your hair fighting back, Opeth is for you.
You know, 19 brave people flew planes into the World Trade Center and while I think we should take it seriously, our methods sometimes go too far.
I say they were brave because I think it takes real guts (and total hatred for your enemy, which is always love) to destroy yourself by flying a giant plane into a landmark. If you need me to re-assure you that I think they were evil, or that I think they were misunderstood and really meant to bring us falafel and multiculture, I can’t help you; I can tell you they were brave. Imagine doing that sometime and you’ll see what I mean.
But now, we’re not being brave. We’re busting people for the wrong crap, and not busting enough people who need to go to jail. It’s both deterrent and security theater. I’m sure it works, but what the hell is the point in busting death metal bands from Eastern Europe? Al-Qaeda hates death metal.
We arrived Tuesday morning in Holland and after intense questioning we proceeded to the eye and body scan machine. Along with the other passengers we proceeded to the plane. We arrived in Detroit and went to passport control. I waited for about two hours for any word on the guys.
The police came to explain that the visa waiver program didn’t apply to musicians. So they sent me to customs and proceeded to tear apart everything and sent me on my way. I waited for six hours to get on another airplane and return to Europe. Thankfully the lady at the Delta checkout counter was very helpful and confirmed that the guys would be on the next plane in the evening and I could return with them. The guys were escorted to the plane by four police officers and returned their passports when we arrived in Amsterdam.
Since when are musicians and terrorists in the same category? Again I apologize to all the bands, organizers and fans of course.
While I think this is ass, and am somewhat upset at the loss of a Master tour, it’s time for metal bands to start querying actual immigration lawyers before making assumptions about how USA visas work. Unfortunately, at this time the process is so complex that you pretty much need an egghead with a law degree to sort it out. Anyway, the Master tour is canceled, we’re all poorer for it, and Al-Qaeda is laughing at our asses while they plan to destroy us with economic terrorism.