On The Music Of Timeghoul


Article by David Rosales

Timeghoul’s short lived existence gave us two excellent demos in 1992 and 1994. These both display very distinct facets of the project, each with their own merits and limitations. Even if we see the second as an evolution of the first, the first stands very firmly on its own ground. You could in fact argue that the second is not so much an evolution, as a different overall direction for the band.

The first release, Tumultuous Travelings, had a much more suffocating feeling to it, but already showcasing Timeghoul’s distinct personality, setting it apart from any contemporary. This distinction, however, is one of language and not one of technique; so that the casual onlooker might consider this first work to be a typical release for its time. In reality, once we acknowledge its allegiance to the traditions of death metal, the particular traits of Timeghoul’s music (even on Tumultuous Travelings) are anything but typical.

In 1994 came Panaramic Twilight (sic), which boasted of more explicitly progressive intentions, giving it automatic recognition in the mind of the same simple metalhead who passed off their first demo as standard. Seldom is it recognized that Timeghoul’s “progressive” qualities were already present on the first release, which is a trend that itself fails to stand out as few recognize these leanings in even the most developed death metal of the early 1990s. Timeghoul’s most significant development onĀ Panaramic Twilight was that they stepped up the drama and Wagnerian soundtrack-like constructions, which required longer silences, longer notes and a wider variety of expression.

Now, when constructing music, composers have to strike a balance between intelligibility and variety (a.k.a. outer complexity). Most metal musicians, however, seem totally unaware of this, and this is why bands who, out of a humble degree of proficiency, produce simpler music have a more enduring impression on the audience in general. Aesthetic variety will not keep your interest if the music that underlies it is incoherent, muddy, and lacking in clarity. However, mere clarity is not enough; the image remains blurry if the overall picture has not been built with enough concrete purpose.

This is where Timeghoul excels; coherent and concrete purpose in songwriting is their most meaningful contribution to metal. They have opened this door to a world of possibilities within their paradigm of dramatic and obscure (rather than gory) death metal that does not require a band to clone their approach to follow in their steps. In comparison, trying to learn from Demilich or Immolation often results in blatant plagiarism, unless your efforts and results arise from a detailed technical analysis and are applied only in an abstract manner. Timeghoul compensates for the silences, rapid-fire changes in rhythms, and the use of texture to enhance different feelings in their music by using a very limited range of techniques. This is comparable to what At the Gates did on their own album. The techniques themselves aren’t numerous; nor are they extremely advanced. The band chooses a lexicon of technique, and relies on it consistently within a harmonic/modal framework that lends each song their own “harmonic feel” (arising from the interplay with the vocal’s timbre as well, I presume).

The wide range of expression is achieved through the types of arrangements and the changes in texture and rhythm, which are not selected at random like we saw in the work of Crematory. Timeghoul is very clearly telling a story and each bit of music, each switch from blast beat to silence, from frenetic power chord torrent to slow, single-note melody lines makes sense as a narrative. Timeghoul’s approach is not one of riff-salad, but rather more akin to that of an opera. In short, the music of Timeghoul provides another healthy avenue for metal musicians to explore. What you can learn from this unfortunately short-lived project on the abstract level is of far more value than what you can imitate by simply trying to emulate their sound. It is their intuitional organization that deserves praise; the powerful narrative element of Timeghoul’s music is a rare gem.

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18 thoughts on “On The Music Of Timeghoul”

  1. Daniel Maarat says:

    If Bob Vigna, a self-taught guitar wizard, gave up on finding new ways to Immolate without ripping off himself 10 years ago, then the next generation has no chance. All attempting to combine Immolation with black metal atmosphere and Incantation tempo shifts just ends up sounding like Dead Congregation who at least have a brutal death metal rhythm section to move the songs forward. The “cavern core” NYDM ripoff crowd is hopeless.

    For Demilich, unless you can actually decipher Anti Boman’s unintentional deconstructions of Atheist’s jazz harmonies and fucked up chromatic tritones riffs, copying their style really just doesn’t work. There’s some underlying method to the madness that nobody has successfully explained. The only accurate tabs are for one song and made by Anti Boman.

    1. I agree and disagree with you.
      Intuitively, nobody can do what Boman did, like he did it.
      But to tab Demilich’s music and find its patterns is no “biggie”.
      it’s just that nobody who can has taken the time to actually write them down and make them public.
      That happens a lot with underground metal.

      1. Daniel Maarat says:

        Yeah that’s what I mean. Demilich just had three self-taught musicians (Boman wrote the riffs, the lead guitarist wrote all the leads, drummer did the rhythm and time signatures) willing to take heavy metal as far out there as they could with almost deliberate anti-technicality. To plagiarize their hiveminded “will to create” and jazz it up with other crap just detracts from the whole thing. Many noted and formally-trained musicians have just been awed watching them up close with fingers transfixed on the guitars; any Judas Priest sweeping, neo-classical shredding, or drums taking a blasting percussive lead would just be “shitting on the face of God” as medieval theologian would say.

        Vigna and Smilowski/Hernandez just “did” too. Immolation sounds like ancient Hellenic cultists in a drum circle in some African Heart of Darkness summoning the devil as it just does.

        1. Ara says:

          Anyone with a good ear, myself included, can tab out anything. Time really is the only issue. If the person behind Publico Delgado on YouTube can commit to transcribing and harmonizing human conversation in all of its oddities, Demilich is not the most difficult thing in the world to figure out. I haven’t sat down with the music long enough to really dissect what Boman is doing, but I can tell you from just an auditory experience that a lot of what makes Demilich sound bizarre is to take chromatic patterns and apply the octave of only certain notes in the riff to give the riff an unexpected dynamic range aurally when you really are hearing a jumbled representation of just a few notes in a chromatic pattern. It gives the music a defiantly key-less experience throughout what appears to be a conversative melodic line in that it is single-note based, which is bewildering when spread across unconventionally rhythmic patterns supported by a grooving beat always focused on an even time signature. Immolation has a similarly chromatic approach but applies some saccharine melody interspersed between the barbaric aspects of chromatic riffs, which gives a nauseating quality that successfully mirrors the manipulative aspects of persuasion to a darker side of thinking. They also choose to clash power chords with breaks of wailing single notes to emulate desperate screams among tumultuous underlying chaos.

          The failure to emulate these types of qualities in metal today doesn’t necessarily reflect an impossibility in channeling proper voices within the genre but a lack at developing a unique melodic ear among the writers. Rhythm has been championed in metal over melody for quite some time now, so writers are not seeking to develop an idea melodically to represent a theme, but to jar the audience with the superficial experience of simulated chaos through rhythmic shifts, which is an easy way out and not at all indicative of the soul of songcraft or the true will of the writers involved.

          1. Ara says:

            After just thinking about Nespithe in general, I have to rescind what I said about the continuous even rhythms- the drummer frequently applies 4/4 and 3/4 to the same riff throughout a progression to sound even more alien, although this is not a very uncommon trick. The continuous groove applied to a riff which aurally should not groove however is quite unique.

          2. Man, if you do find time, I’d love to read a several part article on this from you! This is awesome!

            1. Ara says:

              Appreciated! Maybe you can give me an assignment sometime- I tend to work better with a theme presented to me, although time is limited since I’m currently writing for four different records and Street Fighter V just came out so, you know… (looks at watch)

              Further regarding Boman and Vigna, you really are looking at total-package writers here. For the former, everything from the labyrinthine passages to the reverbed soaked voicings is designed to present an alien experience, and the lyrical anagram in the Nespithe booklet couldn’t be a more perfect representation of the deliberately jumbled communication of the chromatic yet dynamically vast riffs; for the latter, the inverted melodies and the extremely short phrases are ideal for the cadence of a fantasized demonic conjuring. The contrast here with modern writers is a sad case, where before the ideas of these writers in question were organic, superficially effortless and granted a full experience- yet today the substance you pull from most metal records is accidental at best.

              1. I think I just suggested something, though it is not my intention of presiding over you and “giving you assignments”, you clearly have pierced into this particular topic from an angle and in a depth you are better suited than most of us to write about. But I do suggest thou make it a several section one, so that it you can separate things more clearly for the rest of us and you give it time to unfold before you over a longer period of writing time. I mean, don’t rush, I want to read all that in more details and have more of your thoughts on it.

                1. Thou? Haha, what did I write there?

  2. Fartsy McFuckaroo says:

    dude timeghoul are fucken sick. jeff hayden the lead song writer was into early NYDM but also medieval music, which is likely where those weird guitar harmonies and clean vocal segments came from

  3. vOddy says:

    I’ll have to check out Tiomeghoul.
    They get praised around here so much that there’s probably some virtue in their music.

  4. morbideathscream says:

    One of my good friends has the timeghoul compilation of both demos. I’ve listened to it on quite a few occasions. Very good band, they definitely had a unique sound, a couple of friends in my circle have compared them to Nocturnus. I’ve been meaning to pick this up, but have yet to do so.

    1. Do so! You’ll be greatly rewarded, it’s much more refined in more than one way than Nocturnus. The comparison strikes me as completely baseless, though, as the music is very, very different. It might be that they were using a very superficial impression (“sci-fi metal”) to classify them.
      About Nocturnus:https://www.deathmetal.org/article/raping-of-nocturnus-the-key-1990/

  5. Mythic Imagination says:

    I’ve always wondered why Timeghoul were never featured in the DLA in the first place. To me they seem to be some of the best composers in the underground. Was it because their material consisted of demos? Why not review demos then?

  6. JizzSurge says:

    Timeghoul is fuckin mad shit hell yeah I love it, and the the thing about death metal is way too many people ripping off the wrong bands. Don’t know how many times I have to say it. Clone Immolation you get messy. Hard fast dirty shit like autopsy or bolt thrower you won’t even get close, but find something else interesting in the process and flaunt it. At least keep it creative. Fuck that Euro shit!

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