Although most likely viewed as a mere footnote in the immense catalog of Deeds if Flesh, “End of All” from Inbreeding the Anthropophagi is deceptive in that its brief run time and violent introduction mask the fact that it may be one of the only instances in truly linear songwriting present in the metal genre. Having heard the song countless times since its release but still not fully grasping the nuances of its composition, I decided to figure out how it’s played only to realize that aside from one brief moment where a segment of a phrase is repeated, there are no repeats of any kind in the song either regarding whole riffs or portions of melody. It had still somehow become a track that had tangible substance despite there being so little to retain in one’s memory, so I made a video of a playthrough of the track to point out what exactly is happening to give the song resonance where typical structuring would normally provide support.
The song begins with an ascending chromatic movement of major thirds and a final chromatic climb to provide a sense of tension, only to have the suspense killed by a barrage of palm-muted 4th and 5th chords (preceded by a tritone interval) just before descending chromatic triplets clash under the utterance of the song’s title. What is of note here is that in this short introduction, all of the dominant relationships between notes that we will see later in the song are established: chromatic, major third, and tritone. Because the song has no repeating full measures, in order to give the song any sense of resonance, these relationships between two more intervals will be the tangible essence of the song instead of what would normally be provided in a cyclical arrangement which assigns values to certain passages based on the relationship between phrases and their reoccurances.
The next spastic bit of music (0:14-0:17) is the most angular segment, in which the tritone and chromatic elements are rapidly fired and moved around the neck in a jumbled way before thunderous 4ths give the song its only dynamic reprieve. A bit of staccato chords (0:20-0:24) follow this as a palette cleanser before the song’s most memorable passage, in which an ascending line climbs over a pedal-tone and retreats, then moving up an entire 4th to allow coloring of the phrase to take precedence over the need to repeat it (0:24-0:31) What follows next is the only time any segment of a phrase is repeated, but the different ending placed on the riff’s repeat gives it a momentum that a second full playthrough would not allow. The familiar starting point of this phrase moves down chromatically (0:38) echoing the foreshadowed relationships in the song’s intro.
The next sequence (0:41-0:47) is a single line of palm muted fifth and major third chords shifting up and down chromatically, which although is not a melodic centerpiece of the song may be the best evidence of the reliance on interval relationships as shown in the intro. What follows might be the most typical Deeds moment, as a tremolo-picked melody is truncated by stabbing palm muted fifth chords, but in between these moments is a tremmed major third chord to give the segment a melodic identity that coincides with the whole piece (0:47-0:53).
The final passage of the song is a frenzied tremolo-picked passage that, similarly to the moments from 0:24-0:31, moves a majority of the initial melody up a 4th instead of repeating completely, yet still alters its second iteration enough where the ever-shifting momentum is still upheld. The song ends as single-note melodies give way to 4th and 5th chords, ending on the dull thud of one final 5th.
In just a minute’s time, Deeds of Flesh managed to create a piece that arrives at the cathartic conclusion of a cyclical song without repetition due to the strength and reliance of relationship intervals in each phrase. Had there been greater jumps in between the notes used, the tenuous glue of the composition would be completely undone. Perhaps this type of songwriting could be what could invigorate death metal once again, as in this linear writing, an organic momentum is achieved and the writer’s desire for basic human comprehension from the audience is dutifully ignored. The greatest death metal transcends the trappings of humanness, and there is potential within this linear style to use the language of music to carry the message of the composer rather than to rely on human inference through a knowledge of the crutches of the listening and retention of the audience to arrive at what will most likely be an adjacent conclusion to the author’s intents.
Tags: an exercise in linear songwriting, deeds of flesh, end of all, linear structure
8 thoughts on “An Exercise in Linear Songwriting: Deeds of Flesh “End of All””
Impressive job learning all that. Did you do it by ear, Creed? If metal musicians are going to abandon the “riff”, this is the way to do it, as opposed to “atmospheric” meanderings through boring, drawn out, faux dissonant chord passages. However, it would be interesting to try composing something this linear with a bit more emotional nuance than Deeds of Flesh has the capacity to explore. Indeed, such technique could be a new frontier for metal. As implied by the exceedingly short time-span of the song referenced, it must be painstaking to produce enough content for truly linear writing. Perhaps a sufficient middle ground would be to maintain the essence of the riff, but with each repeat, permutate some element of it.
Check out some early Therion.
It was all figured out by ear except for one part that I couldn’t tell what the fuck was going on in towards the end. There’s one pretty inaccurate tab online that I used for that part. I had actually written a song like you suggested once that was 5 minutes long, but it was written on the road and forgotten before I could record it in some way. I’d like to try my hand at the style again though.
Deeds of Flesh play manly metal. Ver embodied.
Great work. Always felt linear song structures could use more exploration in axtual metal outside of the “deathcore” style
Well, it is some kind of solo. I remember infernal torment’s « mans true nature » contained so much riffs that it was almost impossible to mesmerize as a listener.
If you listen closely, Inbreeding… is wholly composed of such organic bursts, just shorter.
To compose whole album in linear way would be very exhausting, both for artist and listener. Of course it would turn into gimmic very quickly and result in even more unlistenable music than we have today. Yet it is some logical step to take, so one such song per album as an experiment will suffice. Just as traditionally there is a place for some ambient intro/interlude or short instrumental on metal albums, or 2 second song on grind album.
Even better though, first let’s start with utilizing longer phrases which actually makes sense.
Great analysis, and overall, what a quality output lately here on DMU. The site’s truly back on track to the days of old — keep it up Creed, D.A.R.G et al!
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