Festering – From the Grave (2015)


Most of us now forget how much of the early death metal experience was shaped by the speed metal story arc: starting in 1983 as a rebellion against the glam explosion of hard rock, it re-metalized NWOBHM with more complex riffs using the muted strum to expand rhythm, and then promptly began selling out. Most fans got queasy when Metallica came out with Master of Puppets, but there are other culprits to just as easily finger. The point is that everything sells out in humanity when it gets exposes to the masses because the masses demand the same old crap in new form, instead of new ideas deviating from the same old crap, and that took down speed metal, which caused death metal bands to try to be more aesthetically extreme.

“How would you ever sell out this?” a friend asked once when I was listening to Incantation. My response to him was that aesthetics does not correspond to composition. I can take a Justin Bieber song, translate it to guitar and transpose it to a lower key, then play it with lots of tremolo picking, guitar squeals and crunchy power chords, doubling the tempo and adding distorted vocals. To most people, that will be “death metal.” To a death metal fan, it is a sheep in the clothing of a wolf. Death metal is not its aesthetic traits alone; those exist to aid the composition, which is (1) phrasal with complex song structures to support (2) collective without individual superstars (3) emphasizes cadence and melodic development over off-beat, quirkiness, ironism, etc. Death metal is musically distinct from rock and blues, themselves only a simplification of European music from the past century with a false label of African-American origin added to sell them as “unique” and “different,” which makes it one of the few genres which is not fake in all of popular music. Accept what you know to be true: popular music is just as fake as Big Macs, Cokes or reality TV. It has always been fake because it has always been a product with a conveniently oddball but totally untrue history. If you have heard the music of the African coast, you realize it is far more complex than the limply distilled methods of rock and blues. Similarly, European folk music had much more going for it than country or rock. Death metal threw all of this back in their faces, and their revenge was to sell it out. This does not involve evil indie rock musicians creeping into death metal band studios late at night to covertly record disguised rock themed as death metal; rather, it involves the transmission of social memes and attitudes about what constitutes death metal, which then lowers the bar so “everyone” can participate. At that point, you get the same old crap dressed up as a revolution.

Festering, on an aesthetic level, is perfect for death metal fans. It sounds like Swedish death metal played with the rhythmic precision of speed metal. It has gnarly vocals, great distortion, and uses the right techniques: it layers each new riff, applies tremolo in the right pattern to introduce secondary ideas as new primaries, and drifts into tempi at about the right pace to have cadence. But it also works in the static-style rock riffs, the cheesy color notes as the basis of riffs from the blues, and the constant off-beat that sounds to me like a labrador running with its tongue out of its mouth. Not to mention the constant verse-chorus song structures that remind me of Bruce Springsteen. In short, this band is a well-executed forgery that conceals rock within death metal, and so while I want to like it for aesthetic reasons, the music itself remains unsatisfying and leaves me with a queasy feeling. Good effort that should be avoided by all death metal fans, but rock fans weekending as death metallers should love it.

Tags: , ,

33 thoughts on “Festering – From the Grave (2015)”

  1. “Most fans got queasy when Metallica came out with Master of Puppets” -Brett Stevens

    which fans?
    heavy metal fans into Ozzy and Triumph and Saxon?
    metallica fans?

    “How would you ever sell out this?” a friend asked once when I was listening to Incantation. -Brett Stevens

    I admit to not paying too much attention to Incantation since their debut, but when did they become trendy?
    Have they changed that much since the first 7 inch or debut LP?
    I thought they would forever play what sounds like a collapsing wall on you the listener; a sonic wall of satanic death.
    Bands that crush and suffocate like that, I the type of band that not not everybody will like.
    I am out of touch. I stopped attending most concerts after 1992, and hope I am granted my wish someday to push the button to blow up this planet of stupid people.
    because they are all stupid stupid stupid !!!
    Your Stupid Minds! – Plan 9

    1. Exfoliation Killed my Sis says:

      No, he wasn’t saying that Incantation became trendy. He was saying that they could play Pop songs disguised by Incantation techniques and amp settings… a weakened, simplified incarnation of Incantation.

      Shit…should be a band called Incarnation. Or like In A Carnation. That sounds like an emotional Deathcore band.

      In your Plan 9 clip, I liked the ending, wherein the hot guy backhand-bitchslapped the panicking nerd.

      1. Exfoliation Killed my Sis says:

        HAAAAA, love it! That nigga just fell out!

      2. You correctly intuited my point. The focus is actually not on Incantation at all, just that they chose a style which initially appears hard to sell out. Why might I mention that… in a time of Incantation clones who miss the majesty and power of the original entirely?

    2. Ara says:

      I recently went through the entire Incantation discography, and the description you have for the band as a sonic wall of Satanic death became well left behind by Diabolical Conquest, which isn’t a bad record, but you can really feel the impact of the lineup changes. They went from being totally suffocating to a subtler, kind of more innocuous take on blasphemy brought about by more immediately gratifying twin guitar harmonies which will indeed get stuck in your head but not leave you totally ravaged like the relentless chord bashing of the first two records. I can’t say they have an outright bad record, but what you’re in the mood for will dictate the kind of Incantation record you’ll want to hear.

      1. Well-stated, I think. Diabolical Conquest is where my Incantation fandom ends, although I’m also not really prone to throw on the second LP, preferring the EP (which later grew to the size of an LP). Good analysis.

        1. Daniel says:

          The loss of the Onwards to Golgotha lineup and becoming the John McEntee band really hurt them in terms of songwriting talent and the cohesive refinement of individual members’ ideas. Mortal Throne is rather phoned in as you pointed out in your article and Diabolical Conquest is the start of the straightforward speed metalish composition applied to doomy death metal, which is now random as hell with the riff glue. Harder to play but easier to write than the old stuff. It’s not offensively bad like later Death, just completely unexceptional and unmemorable. Incantation can still put on a good live show though.

          1. Ara says:

            I read the article here on Mortal Throne and was kind of surprised. I love the record, and I can see the arrangements being hard to approach but it’s a great record to get lost in.

    3. which fans?

      Speed metal fans, generally.

      I admit to not paying too much attention to Incantation since their debut, but when did they become trendy?

      I don’t know. The point was not to use Incantation as a subject for analysis, but to point out that their style at least initially appears difficult to make into a mainstream-friendly version. Alas, the Incanoclones of the 2010s have done that, but it took them awhile :)

      1. Daniel says:

        Some of them like Grave Miasma even bought retro gear to get an all-analog, filthy production but have no fucking idea how to write a compelling metal song. That’s hipster as hell.

      2. Noktorn says:

        Whyd dod you call it spped metal if its called Thrash ???
        Nobody uses that term any way.

        1. Yeah, just follow the herd, you mean?

          1. trystero says:

            A bit much. You cant call it the herd when its literally everyone else. Language forms out of consensus, not out of historical `accuracy`. The only real issue is people (who dont know) occasionally inventing supposed differences between thrash and speed metal. Not even people who frequent this site use the term speed metal except in these very discussions.

            `My special, correct knowledge` <— avoid

            1. Noktorn of the metal archives says:

              Trytero, so you agree the historically accurate term is “speed metal” however not consensual ?

              Ultraboris is a fag. “Riffs and more riffs here comes the large boner of Thrashhhh”

              1. SFDYSH says:

                Hey noktorn, don’t you have some “cloud rap” to listen to?

  2. Felix says:

    Aesthetics does not correspond to composition, but aesthetics must support and reflect composition and enhance its spirit.

    1. We must correct our use of this terminology. Aesthetics, academically, includes composition in the sense of form, which, I take it, is what you are trying to point out.

      But I do think that composition includes much more than the choice of aesthetics (which includes form and organization on the ‘material’ level). Composition includes the ultra-musical thinking behind, which is a much foggier territory.

      Then again, I am just rambling here.

  3. Daniel says:

    I wouldn’t call this a good effort. Googling Skogsberg’s production techniques doesn’t take that much effort. Fester are obviously just another bunch of musically clueless knuckle draggers who idolize the crusty caveman Swedeath of Grave/Nirvana 2002/God Macabre and now have the disposable income to buy themselves studio time. This album sounds like Benediction on a bad day trying to ape Wolverine Blues so god fucking awful.

    1. OliveFox says:

      My brother and I have a BENEDICTION song title “competition.” We try to find the worst title from album to album and explain why it is so horribly stupid. “Confess all Goodness” and “Face Without Soul” are often the winners, though “Paradox Alley” (seriously…a whole Alley) is becoming my new favorite.

      1. Daniel says:

        Hey at least Dave Ingram eventually got to do vox on a Bolt Thrower album…

  4. ODB says:

    Incantation’s style is far easier to copy, on the surface of course, than say Immolation or other more idiosyncratic bands of the early 90s like Timeghoul, Atrocity, Revenant, Gorguts, etc. It’s surprising that bands actually took so long to latch on to a good thing and whore it out.

    1. Daniel says:

      Incantation only really has Father Befouled as a total clone. The others “Incantaclones” crash and burn.

      Gorguts has been superficially aped too. The “Luc Lemay is Jesus” techdeath bands usually consist of hardcore bros who got into later Gorguts instead of At the Gates and sound like it. The same as Biolich with Demilich.

      Immolation is worshiped by Dead Congregation and Maveth. DC make good but not great death metal. That’s a compliment for a modern band but AV and TK are in their forties…

  5. Exfoliation Killed my Sis says:

    Brett Stevens, I like where you’re going with this: resist the constant attempted incursions into Death Metal, by keeping the boundaries/characteristics clear.

    But could you clarify a few things? >>
    “rock and blues, themselves only a simplification of European music from the past century with a false label of African-American origin added to sell them as “unique” and “different,”…”

    Here you must be referring to the 1950s’ rock ‘n roll + R&B, right? Chuck Berry, Little Richard, hell: Elvis, etc? As a simplified European genre?
    In any event, it isn’t false to say that Rock became a distinct genre via Black musicians. The narrative (as I know it) is that the Black guys couldn’t hit the big time precisely DUE TO their Blackness, while it wasn’t until Elvis Whitened it, that rock ‘n roll was truly saleable.
    Plus, Rock & Blues actually WERE unique & different to kids back then. Music was finally wild & liberating, vs. Glenn Miller ‘n Lawrence Welk-type shit.

    “[Popular music] has always been fake because it has always been a product with a conveniently oddball but totally untrue history.” LOL, your cynicism runs far too deep, my nigga! Is the ‘untrue history’ that Black people invented rock ‘n roll? True or not, that history has so little bearing on the practices of popular musicians or consumers of popular music. That history has no relevance to the marketing of popular music. We weren’t tricked into liking the stuff. Holla!

    1. Meek Metalhead says:

      Your name reference is hilarious, but it outed you as a troll.

      1. Exfoliation Killed my Sis says:

        …but it didn’t. Just having some fun, certainly you don’t begrudge that.

    2. Is the ‘untrue history’ that Black people invented rock ‘n roll? True or not, that history has so little bearing on the practices of popular musicians or consumers of popular music. That history has no relevance to the marketing of popular music.

      The point is that New World music was, on a musical level, no different than old world music. An aesthetic dimension was added, but you are correct when you say it was all marketing. Just like selling people deodorant and TV dinners. It may have been more convenient, but it was not accurate.

      I despise all lies.

      If you are going to look into black music, look into jazz and reggae. Again: only new on an aesthetic level. But it expressed the spirit of a culture, and that is more admirable than making a product that dumbs-down the past to “invent” a future.

      1. La Bette says:

        Brett, you’ve always expressed contempt for verse-chorus composition yet I know you enjoy this song, how come?


  6. Demonseed says:

    I agree with Ara about Mortal Throne being an awesome album , as well Brett’s take on where the band lost him. Mortal Throne broadened out into a bit more doom plus that first riff on track 1 is black metal. And the artwork for that album was also sick.
    In terms of the underground band in this review I think we need to be careful to not discourage merging genres. Because merging can lead to innovate . That said the DM/Rock thing has been done a lot .But there still could be room to do something with it like how about merging trashy glam rock parts with some black metal or doom, or psychadelic rock with grindcore? You would think there could be some possibilities.

    1. There are many possibilities, but the question remains as to whether they provide a voice that gives rise to art evocative of some spirit or part of existence. Arguably, any genre can do this, because music is still just music, separated mostly by aesthetics and degree of complexity of form. For example, Mozart could write the same piece of music as a symphony or glam-rock piece, but the glam-rock piece would be far simpler and have less intensity of effect.

      As far as glam hybrids…

      Glam + Prog = Queensryche
      Glam + Shredder = Dream Theater

      Certainly there must be more. Glam itself is interesting in that it was a parallel to NWOBHM: a fusion of proto-metal with hard rock (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple). Where NWOBHM went with more punk speeds and aesthetic, Glam followed the 1980s big stadium rock model. For that reason, it fit more easily into what people were already hearing on radio, in the same way nu-metal fits into the rap and rock people are hearing today.

      1. Ara says:

        When you say music must reflect a spirit or part of existence, do you mean an already existing, familiar spirit? Because that would make a lot of sense as to why you uphold rigorous standards for maintaining clearly defined genre boundaries. I don’t know all of the answers about life and the mystery of what I have yet to experience is more enticing to me, so while I like to hear the spirit of metal echoed in familiar styles, I’m much more excited about what a different reflection of life experience under the metal umbrella can make me feel.

      2. Exfoliation Killed my Sis says:

        Let’s throw out a few more:
        Glam + techDeath = ?
        Glam + Grindcore = ?
        Glam + martial Industrial = ?

        1. Meek Metalhead says:

          “Glam + martial Industrial = ?”


  7. Parasite says:

    Can someone compile a torrent that contains all the best albums as see on the DLA lists? or Whomever has the CDS, can they upload and pop em up in the Audiophile/Forum. I lost a large portion of my RAR files and all i got is Vinyl, so ripping those is out of the question. If anyone can point me in the right direction please email me.

    Thanks guys

Comments are closed.

Classic reviews: