As the years have churned by, interest in underground metal has grown as metal fans have become more experienced and come to want more complete assessments of the music of their youth, and as outsiders and new fans discover this field. To support this, a fleet of books have been launched to cover it.
A recent addition is Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011), by Salva Rubio, a writer in Spain. Rubio holds a degree in art history and works as a screenwriter and writer in his native Spain. Right now, the book is only available in Spanish, but it’s possible that a translation to English and other languages will follow.
According to the website for Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011), the book “includes essays about the ethical and aesthetic nature of Extreme Metal, a formal account of what distinguishes each style and how they are meant to be played, a chronological, style-by-style story of how each kind of Extreme Metal evolved.”
The book has a Facebook site in an effort to build some community behind the release.
Swedish band Wan recently released Enjoy the Filth on Carnal Records, creating an album that’s most similar to 1998-faire like Impaled Nazarene Latex Cult and Disfear Soul Scars.
As Wan is trying to break in to the post-modern metal scene, where outside genres often get disguised as metal for the sake of riding the coattails of black metal’s 1990s notoriety, they are emphasizing their metal nature and associating with black metal.
We were fortunate to be able to catch a few words with Wan, who write to us from the darkened winter wilderness of Sweden.
When did Wan form, and what influenced you at the time?
As the song “Day of Reckoning” suggests, we formed in July 2009 with the aim to celebrate the oldschool metal scene. The influences are as obvious as they are filthy. Bands like Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost have a deep impact in our minds and in our tunes.
Are the members of Wan metalheads of long standing, or is this a recent discovery?
We are four old bastards who have been breathing, eating and crapping metal for ages!
What other types of music do you or have you in the past listened to?
Some of us emerged from the early punk I guess. Personally I enjoyed different types of music as a youngster. Depeche Mode was a band that I liked a lot, and I still think some of their earlier stuff is great.
Coming from Sweden, which is a tiny country from which many important metal bands come, it seems it might be difficult to get known, like the bar is higher. How do you hope to overcome this?
As you say, there’s a lot of quality bands hailing from our dark regions. To be honest there’s even more shitty bands as well that, in my opinion, never should have been! So yeah, there’s quite a competition in the scene, but we’re not going to do anything other than to let our music speak for itself. Some people will enjoy our filth, some will be ignorant bastards.
Were the members of Wan active in other bands or artistic activities before Wan? Can you tell us about these?
We have all been in numerous bands and acts throughout the years. The list would be long and bore your readers out of their minds! It has been various styles anyway, but always metal or dark music in one way or another. Also at the present time we keep ourselves busy by playing in other bands. Not gonna ramble any names though… If you’re interested you’ll find out.
This is an awkward question, but I must ask: why do you classify Enjoy the Filth as black metal when it sounds more like late-period hardcore? Do you know of any other black metal releases that sound
like this, and how do you separate them from hardcore bands like Driller Killer, Disfear, etc?
Hmm… we obviously don’t share the same musical references. There’s a lot of punk influences within our music, but all in all I’d say that we sound a whole lot like Venom, classic Bathory and Darkthrone. Rock ‘n’ roll blackmetal that fuck bands like those you mention in the ass!
Enjoy the Filth inspired me because it seems very deliberate; there are no random riffs or bits out of place. How do you write songs, and what’s your “quality control” process?
The songwriting is more like a beerswinging metal process. We just meet up and create our songs more or less spontaneously. This is who we are and the kind of filth we have inside of us, so it comes rather naturally.
How does Enjoy the Filth differ from your earlier release, Wolves of the North?
It differs in the sense of production and that the drum-machine thankfully got a knee in the crotch, and Dimman did one hell of a job! Music and lyricwise it don’t alter that much.
Do you think as a practical matter that a black metal scene still exists, or has it been absorbed by other forms of music?
The underground scene as it once was doesn’t exist today. Still there’s a big metal scene in Sweden even if the focus lies elsewhere these days. The genuine music and minds involved will never be absorbed or replaced by any other forms, and will forever stand strong!
What’s next for Wan? Will you tour on Enjoy the Filth, and/or write more music?
We sure hope and aim to go out on some live performances. A few organizers has showed interest. And perhaps we’ll get together and spit out some new material in the inspiration of the approaching dark cold winter.
If someone wanted to understand Wan, what bands and albums would you recommend they understand first?
Early Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost as mentioned before. If you would prefer some more “up to date” bands, I’d recommend you to torture your ears with acts like Aura Noir and Styggelse.
A new occultist extreme music entity composed of members of Electric Hellfire Club and Kult ov Azazel, Wolfpack44 has begun to record and release material, starting with the professional “Rituale Romanum.”
This song combines the heavy metal stylings of Dissection with raw black metal and pounding industrial, creating an entity that cycles between different moods like an initiate traversing different rooms in an ancient temple. It moves from elegant acoustics to blanching punk hardcore/black metal/industrial hybrid verses that sound like the ranting of the propaganda of hell, and then finds mediate ground in black metal riffs with heavy metal flourishes.
Probably destined to be known as much for its members’ thoughtful and practical approach to the occult, Wolfpack44 nevertheless makes good on the disorganized underground by taking a middle path, and then upgrading it to higher levels of professionalism. This song fits together tightly and leaves a lasting impression, which is more than we can say for the flood of black metal generics.
Further, this style shows a better way to incorporate the melodic side of black metal, best exhibited in Dissection who were primarily an Iron Maiden-styled heavy metal band, than by making the entire song melodic. Instead, melody is used as one more technique in a palette and thus gains intensity where otherwise it wears out its welcome.
“Rituale Romanum” is from upcoming Wolfpack 44 album The Scourge which is being recorded by Ricktor Ravensbruck, guitarist for Electric Hellfire Club, Wolfen Society and Acheron, along with Julian Xes of Kult ov Azazel, with guest appearances by Jinx Dawson (Coven), Reverend Thomas Thorn (Electric Hellfire Club), Dana Duffey (Demonic Christ) and members of Dark Funeral.
As zines return to importance because the internet has overburdened us with facts and options, but depleted our share of sensible opinions about them, more people are returning to reading zines and buying CDs and vinyl as opposed to a download-happy culture that floods their lives with mediocre music and leaves them with few lasting impressions. Codex Obscurum is part of the wave re-vitalizing the metal zine community.
Pestilence avoids controversy poorly. After the legendary Consvming Impvlse, the band went on to produce a series of albums culminating in the synth-sounding jazz-heavy Spheres, which remains one of metal’s most divisive albums: people either love it or hate it, with few in the middle gray areas.
Then after years apart, Pestilence returned in 2009 with Resurrection Macabre followed two years later by Doctrine. These albums showed Pestilence trying more for a contemporary style of modern technical metalcore (sometimes called “tek-deth”) without as much of the crazy instrumental embellishment of past albums. Now, possibly from a better state of balance within the band, Pestilence unleash Obsideo.
Obsideo returns to a long-running controversy in this band which is not metal-versus-jazz as many would think, but among two types of metal. Specifically, the album Malleus Maleficarum showed Pestilence reining back the death metal of their later demos, and trying for a death metal infused with American-style speed metal. Think Kreator covered Megadeth and you have roughly the same style, although in Pestilence’s case this revealing a longstanding tendency with the band: eschewing the phrase-based riffs of death metal for more rhythmic variations on chord progressions in the speed metal style, then filling in the space with leads.
But if we were to extrapolate Malleus Maleficarum into the present, updating its 1980s speed metal on the cusp of death metal with the metalcore-inspired insistence on variety and riffs that ride a vocal rhythm on the nose, we might find the blueprint for Obsideo. It’s more repetitive and confrontational, simpler and less nuanced, and reflects more of the industrial and hardcore influence into metal of the late 1990s. In addition, songs have fewer fireworks in terms of song structure, but more in lead guitar, which is often used as transitional material in song or for kinds of extended fills to denote layering in riff motif.
Fortunately the space-age jazz-fusion guitar of Spheres has returned in the lead guitar department. While not every lead is quite as distant from normalcy as those, these are more confident, both proficient and playful, showing these musicians at a point where they’ve absorbed the changes in their own ability and can put them to better use. Often a song will snowball with power chord riffs but flesh out its mood with leads, and then fade out into the use of similar themes in the lead to take over the direction of the song.
Production sounds like a chunkier, bassier version of Spheres but doesn’t have the compressed and blasted feel of the two comeback albums. This album shows metal at an interesting place as it tries to recap the thirty years of growth since heavy metal transitioned to speed metal, but on the whole, Pestilence have done a good job of it. This is more listenable than their last two, seems more compelling and personal, but also brings musicianship back into the mix in a way that coincides with these musicians’ instrumental focus.
Of all the newer school bands out there, Oblivion struck us here at deathmetal HQ as one of the more imaginative ones.
It is clearly of the modern metal model, following the “great contrast” approach in riffing rather than the integrative nature of the old school, but it displays intense creativity and technical mastery. In addition, Oblivion seem to know how to make a song out of a musical idea and not devolve into randomness like so many of their contemporaries.
Other aspects of Called to Rise impressed us as well. There’s experimentation with sound on these tracks, a willingness to corrupt the metalcore “great contrast” riffing with some integrative ideas, and an adoption of classical forms, songs and approaches that pushes this album over the top.
Oblivion is a modern metal metal band to watch, and Call to Rise is an album that will surely stimulate some depth of discussion. We are thus fortunate here at DeathMetal.org to be able to both stream this album live, and present our interview with Oblivion’s Nick Vasallo:
What got you into metal?
I resisted Metal as long as I could. I was more of a punk rocker as a teenager, but I realized the awesomeness of Metallica’s “One” when it came out. During the double bass, palm-muted, open-E breakdown I was a secret admirer of metal. Seeing a band from Oakland called Eldopa (1332) sealed the deal. Then my good friend at the time (Ben Orum, who is now in Oblivion), turned me onto Death Metal. For this reason I still think Cannibal Corpse’s The Bleeding and Deicide’s Legion are the best albums from this genre.
As you grew into metal, what brought you to your current form? How did you all come together, and what types of music and ideas were influencing you at the time?
I formed Antagony with Ben, our best friend Carlos Saldana, and our late friend Jody Handy. We just wanted to create the heaviest, darkest music possible. We ended up creating something that was, in hindsight, very influential to other bands that came after us. I stepped away from music for a while, but had the urge to come back and write music that was more technically demanding on the musician and listener.
You’ve outlined a clear relationship between classical music and metal on this CD, with three string orchestra pieces and a cover of “Canon in E Minor.” What inspired you to write and cover these pieces?
I wanted listeners to hear that there is a direct parallel between these two musics. For instance, when the song “Multiverse” is initially presented it is a metal song because it is played by a metal band. In context we are stuck to this association. But when the song is reprised it is performed by a strong orchestra and we perceive it differently. Perhaps the complexities emerge because we now listen to it and look at it through a different lens.
Do you think metal and classical share anything in common?
Where did you guys get your technical chops? Are you professionally trained musicians?
I don’t like the term “professionally” trained. There are some musicians I know that have never taken up formal music training, but can play better than someone that has been trained since they were a toddler. Every musician picks up something from another. That is how music was taught originally. But to answer the question, yes – Luis and I have been trained academically. Everyone else has either taken guitar lessons with a talented musician and/or learned in from playing with a multitude of other talented musicians.
Can you tell us how you got the distortion on your guitars? Are you using pedals, processors, virtual amps, amplifier settings or a combination of the above?
We use tube amps with distortion. Ted is sponsored by Rhodes, Ben by ENGL.
Do you think metal is evolving? Where do you think it’s going?
Yes, Metal is evolving. And it better evolve or it will stagnate and die! Most bands stagnate and eventually die. Movement is necessary to encourage growth and progress. I don’t know where Metal is going. If it follows the same pattern, it will continue to find avenues of transgression. Only to revert back to its fundamentals one day, searching for truth.
What’s next for Oblivion? Will you be touring, and/or writing new material?
Begin writing our second album.
If you could ask fans to do one thing in order to understand your music, what would it be?
Put your phone away, put your internet away, and give your undivided attention. Listen carefully…
Do you think metal fans are open-minded or closed-minded or somewhere in between?
A paradox of open minded close-mindedness.
Now that you’ve completed this massive work of complex metal, what’s the next challenge for you as songwriters?
If you bought Immortal’s Pure Holocaust the day it was released, and conceived a child in the ensuing fury, that child would be entering college age today.
Our review, written in the year of this CD’s release, captures much of what makes this album great. There are two levels to its greatness, stylistic and content, and while related they cannot be made equivalent.
Stylistically, Immortal on their second album saw the ambient and atmospheric tendencies of black metal and developed them. First, they used lightning fast chaotic drumming that quickly reduced the drums to a background timekeeper, allowing riffs to change phrase freely without being trapped by a specific rhythmic pattern. Second, they upgraded the speed of their guitars and level of reverbed distortion to create a sonic tunnel of sound that from a distance, sounds more like a synthesizer with heavy sustain than a guitar.
In content, Immortal focused what it was to be black metal: naturalism. Like the creatures of nature, or its mercurial winds and storms, black metal is not “rational” and “moral” in the human way, but practical in a way that humans — even non-Christian ones — are often afraid to understand. However, it is a method that a forest creature or great tree would understand, a cross between Zen buddhism and the feral antagonism of a wandering predator. Incorporating previous themes of occultism, tribalism, cosmicism and warfare, Immortal fused the ideas of black metal into a singular concept. As such, this album defies all categories of logic or music, at least the human ones. To a wolf or jaguar, it would make perfect sense.
The result was a blaze of noise and musical terror that swept black metal into its second age. Pure Holocaust, along with Transilvanian Hunger (Darkthrone) the following year, moved black metal beyond the framework established by its 1980s origins in Bathory and Celtic Frost. Now it was something new, something emotional without being self-pitying, some cold and element floating above the clouds. Something that could not be tamed.
While most popular entertainment fades away after only a few years, and with good reason, Pure Holocaust remains strong two decades later. Without having heard it, or any black metal, a music listener can take this off the rack and throw it on the player — even if that means double-clicking — and be lost in an entirely different world, and inspired to try to create that here on modern earth.
Famed label Thrash Corner Records and Bloodstained World Entertainment will promote the “Metal Expo” in Puerto Rico on March 29-30, 2014. According to the promoters, this festival will feature international and local acts, guitar and drum clinics, seminars, discussion panels, documentaries, exhibitions, competitions and a chance to meet your favorite metal bands and musicians.
Although planning is in the early stages, a number of heavy hitters have signed up for this one, including Nelson Varas and the crew of Puerto Rico Heavy Metal Studies, Khaosmaster Productions Power Music PR, Melek Music and the aforementioned Thrash Corner Records and Bloodstained World Entertainment.
According to Thrash Corner headman Ray López, this project has been in the works but now is an optimal time for it to occur. “Right now our scene is in the best time of the last 20 years. It is time to shine outside the island,” he said in a message on the Metal Expo faceplant page.
“This project has been in my mind for many years now, and finally all the pieces of the puzzle are together and we can make this dream come true. This project is very important for our scene and it will take us one step forward in the international metal community,” said López.
If anyone works for an airline and can get us comp tickets, now’s the time to speak up.
Massacra picked up the mantle of Slayer and Morbid Angel and crafted phrasal riffs into complex constructions which breathed pure energy but yet managed to take your breath away with their vast inner contrasts.
Final Holocaust and Enjoy the Violence never seemed to receive the acclaim that other death metal bands did, in part because for years they were tied up in legal struggles or out of print, but the influences of those two albums can be heard in death metal to this day.
Celebrating the influence of this foundational band, Century Media will on November 4 release Day of the Massacra, a compilation of the re-mastered “Nearer From Death”, “Final Holocaust” and “Legion Of Torture” demos. The sound is surprisingly good, considering that the raw material comes from tape and isn’t easy to work with, although “Legion of Torture” sounds raw enough that no amount of modern technology can save it.
Known mostly for their imaginative riffs, Massacra also knew how to make songs that felt like subconscious patterns that most of us have experienced in our day-to-day lives. There is something natural, second nature and familiar about these songs and how their riffs fit together like forest paths on the ascent of a mountain.
“Nearer From Death” of the three demos is the one that sounds most like Massacra in its final death metal form, and resemble the tracks that made it onto Final Holocaust. “Final Holocaust” reveals more of the latent speed metal influences of the 1980s, but also shows Massacra at some of their most experimental, with unorthodox riffing matching up to rhythms borrowed from old Metallica and Slayer songs.
“Legion of Torture” on the other hand shows this band as it came into form in 1987, and is amazingly advanced for that year. The experimental influence reveals itself as well, but here it’s harder to separate from the contortionist riffing that seems designed to be odd enough to invert people’s thinking about the world around them. There is even more of a speed metal influence here, but this compares reasonably with its primary influences, which sound like Slayer, Sepultura, Merciless and Sarcofago.
Having these formative demos on CD or LP will be a delight for any metalhead, and Century Media suggests that it will re-release the early albums as well. Although most people have focused on early the very early stages of death metal, or its maturity, not many have caught on to its fiery adolescence when speed and labyrinthine decoding ruled the day. Day of the Massacra brings back those amazing days and shows us the majesty of death metal in creation.