Sadistic Metal Reviews – “Fuck Nostalgia” Edition

This world is composed of snares that waste your time. Their job is to reach out, grab you, and destroy your chances of doing anything more impressive with those moments. One snare is nostalgia. It’s Pavlovian. A scent, a sound or a shape reaches out to your senses and before you know it, a chain has formed in your mind. You’ve linked this new thing to a happy older memory and by sheer impulse, since memory is more idealized and thus sweeter than present tense, you just leap into enjoying it. It’s only later that you realize it’s empty.

obliteration-nekropsalmsObliteration – Nekropsalms

Borrowing the aesthetic of nocturnal death and grind from Carbonized through Cadaver, Obliteration make a type of doom-death with heavy metal underpinnings that is very easy to listen to. Indeed, hours can pass while you listen. It may in fact be like being dead. There’s nothing wrong with this sort of pleasant withdrawal from active participation in life. However, although it doesn’t have any negatives, it also doesn’t add any positives. This is basically riff practice shaped by tempo into songs, sort of like those “modern art” sculptures made from whatever the artist had at hand. “So then I welded the dildo the engine block, wrapped the condoms around it, dumped paint on it and put a doll’s head on top.” Songs catchy and you’ll have a few favorite parts. Over time you will start hearing the lifts from Slayer, Deicide, Mayhem and others. Eventually this will leave you feeling empty. You will realize that these are riffs and nostalgia and nothing more. Total time elapsed: two weeks.

sarcofagus-cycle_of_lifeSarcofagus – Cycle of Life

As I go through life, it amazes me how many people know so much and yet can do nothing with it. They are able to memorize the outward details and even excel at that, but their understanding of the structure beneath is lacking so what they produce sounds like an imitation. This band, who are painfully awful and remind me of everything that makes metal loathsome, are an Angel Witch clone who through in more of the moddish blues and rock influences of the late 1960s and early 1970s to try to differentiate themselves. I don’t mean to be cruel; this is just painfully bad. It is not cliches, but rather slight modifications of known riff archetypes jazzed up with a little bit of well-studied technique, thrown together randomly. These aren’t songs; they sound like songs. They are imitation from the outward in, a student emulating the masters without grasping what motivated them. Turn it off… this is cringeworthy.

chtheilist-amechthntaasmrriachthChtheilist – Amechthntaasmrriachth

Gosh, we all remember the day we first heard Demilich like we remember the day we first “got it” with many iconic metal bands. That day is gone and will never be back. If you try to bring that day back, it’s like believing that a gold-plated aluminum idol is a god. You can’t restore that day by imitating it. Just like it wasn’t the beer, the temperature, the cycle of the moon, etc. that defined the day you remember as “the best day of my life,” it isn’t the outward characteristics that make Demilich. It was a vision in the minds and souls of its creator that was became the freaky music you know because that ecclectic combination was the only means to express what needed to be said. Imagine “It’s Raining Men” sung by heterosexuals; it just doesn’t deliver. Demilich isn’t its own style. Demilich is whatever motivated those artists to see the world a certain way and then express it. That being said, this Ctheilist album is an attempt to imitate Demilich and Timeghoul but because it’s outward-in emulation, it ends up being all technique. Underneath this is a very basic death metal album that uses relatively normal chromatic and minor key progressions, riffs and stylings. It resembles a collision between Nocturnus and Broken Hope. It’s quite good for that zone, but it’s not Demilich and while the tribute is touching, it doesn’t make this relatively ordinary music any more interesting.

ofermod-tiamtuOfermod – Tiamtu

It’s hard to dislike this band aesthetically because it imitates the best era of Mayhem, the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas year(s). Makes you want to kick back, open a beer and a light up a church, right? However, all things that are aesthetic without soul are pointless. Soul means a principle of organization that the artists want to express and communicate. It may be a feeling, a shape or a memory. But it is being expressed, or rather described, as the song takes you from a place of ignorance to a place of doubt to knowledge of the whole thing. When bands have no soul, it is because they are imitating the aesthetic of something. They are like OJ Simpson’s defense lawyers. However, there is no highest principle of organization because it is a checklist of things that imitate the past with no core, no center, no idea behind them. This album sounds like Mayhem’s Wolves Lair Abyss done in the style of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, since it cycles like circus music and goes nowhere. Beware nostalgia, it is a death grip on your soul.

entrails-tales_from_the_morgueEntrails – Tails from the Morgue

Swedish death metal is the sleeper hit of the last 21 summers. Even babies and dolphins love Swedish death metal. Combine the crunchiest distortion possible with simple melodies and aggressive tempo changes, not to mention the characteristic use of textured strumming to give each piece an internal rhythm, and you have pure win as far as metal style goes. It’s like the phrase “do it for the children” in a political speech. But what made the greats great as opposed to footnotes like everyone to follow is more nuanced. At the end of the day, it’s two things: songwriting, and having something to write about. The best Swedish bands had about three good albums in them while they unleashed their perceptions as shaped charges of emotion mated to careful realism. The result was a shuddering cascade of layered sensations of total alienation that conveyed how intelligent people saw the yawning abyss of post-1980s modern society. And then there are those who imitate this, and like a costume ball or a carnival, it must be “fun” because it has no content. The immaculate production on this record is like a doctor’s rubber mallet tapping the knee, because the reflex jerks… and that’s about it. The lack of any further depth and the insistence on using the antiquated hard rock cliches of the 1980s makes this dubious, but the real absence is anything to tie these songs together and make them anything but jam-room projects. Might as well write “NOT Left Hand Path” on the cover to warn people.

sargeist-let_the_devil_inSargeist – Let the Devil In

Post-1996 black metal is out of ideas. For example, how many times can you imitate “Bergtrollets Hevn” and “Måneskyggens Slave” (Gorgoroth) before you truly admit you’re using Silly Putty to life an image from a newspaper, then pretending it’s the real thing? The vocals on this album surge so consistently that it sounds like someone riding a merry-go-round while screaming at the top of his lungs. Despite an obviously intensive and thorough study of older black metal (probably with note cards and those little colored tab things in a binder) Sargeist has none of what makes the songs good. Like Ancient, it tends to like to use melodic minor scale patterns and then drift into more cheerful whole intervals, creating a sense of lifting out of darkness. Unlike Ancient, this band has no idea how to structure songs; these don’t go anywhere, but cycle around until you’ve heard all the good parts, and then evaporate. It’s tempting to want to like this because it’s catchy, sounds like old black metal from a distance, and isn’t all wimpified like more recent black metal. But it’s missing that core, the substance and the unique beauty that black metal found in darkness.

Remember, nostalgia is a way of thinking that says your best days are behind you. You might as well write VICTIM on your forehead (remember to do it backwards if you use a mirror). The best days are ahead. They may not look like the old days, but that’s what life is all about: structure, not appearances. Celebrate the best of the past, and redouble your efforts toward a better future. There’s no reason you can’t do it at any age; Milton wrote Paradise Lost in his 80s, Raymond Chandler got published in his 50s for the first time, and Brahms was in his mid-40s before his first symphonies saw a performance. Take heart! Charge forward! Take no prisoners (and if you do, sodomize them)! Kill! Fight! Win!

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18 thoughts on “Sadistic Metal Reviews – “Fuck Nostalgia” Edition”

  1. Tralf says:

    A proposition: for the next post, write up an exposition of a classic metal album that explains this je ne sais quoi, or “soul”, that is constantly referred to but never really elaborated upon except in lofty, garbled metaphor by an obviously high Prozak in reviews that are over a decade old.

    Explain analytically, song by song, riff by riff if you have to, just what makes said metal special. I ask this of you because I cannot do it myself; best I can do is “the riffs are imaginative and flow together really well”. Other hessians I’ve met haven’t faired much better, resorting to the “it’s just like a feeling you get” explanation that every inarticulate music fan ever gives as to why they like what they like.

    Do it for the children.

    1. Madhu says:

      The point isn’t that “the riffs are imaginative and flow together really well”, at least for me. It’s more of a question of WHAT they’re imagining, than the mere fact that they’re ‘imaginative’ – it’s the content that matters, not just the delivery. Fixating on the delivery is like admiring a well crafted piece of prose while remaining totally oblivious to what the author is saying.

      Similarly, it’s not “just like a feeling you get” in some kind of arbitrary way that can’t be further unpacked – it’s really a very specific feeling, connected with a specific set of ideas. Don’t you ever listen to a metal song and think something like, “this riff sounds like heroic striving, but because the texture of the guitar distortion is so grainy and rotten, and because the vocalizations accompanying it are so harsh and inhuman, that heroic striving is contextualized in an atmosphere of universal decay and darkness” or anything like that?

      The music itself is intrinsically communicative. It inherently points to a fairly consistent set of ideas and aesthetics.

      1. Tralf says:

        I was exaggerating the inadequacy of my descriptive powers; my statement was intentionally vague so as to underscore this. But allow me to play devil’s advocate: Could we not say that there is a positive correlation between the significance behind an instance of symbolism and the amount of imaginative exertion required? Or in other words, the closer to reality art gets–and I mean this in a philosophical sense–the more imagination is required?

  2. Tralf says:

    Also, I’m still holding out for Chthe’ilist. They’re still in the demo stage, and some bands don’t come to fruition until mid-career, like Sinister.

  3. Rob says:

    I like Chthe’ilist personally. Very exciting demo and I expect really good things from them.

    Entrails are boring. No seriously, they have no taste, especially uncooked. It’s best to saute them with mushrooms and onions. Oh yeah, the production on that song is straight from “Left Hand Path” ass worship.

  4. Andy says:

    perhaps should do a list of post 1996 DM AND BM metal albums that are worth listening to. Separate the good from the crap and nostalgic etc.

  5. Steve08 says:

    I couldn’t disagree more about Chthe’ilist (although I don’t know any of the other bands). The note choice and some of the riff structures are clearly influenced by Demilich but it’s not as if they are just aesthetically ripping them off and not producing any of their own distinct songs; whereas Demilich often focus on shifting motifs across rapidly changing riffs, the former band focuses more on Timeghoul-esque melodic development of long, extended phrases. Plus, there is a noticeably consonant, almost doom-oriented mid section in each Chthe’ilist song which implies an almost funerary sense of melancholy atmosphere, and Demilich have certainly never had anything like that; the construction of the riffs themselves are also really effective, in that can hear many recurring motifs throughout the songs which “set up” the next phrase and all contribute to a logical progression from one point to another. I hope that Brett wasn’t the one to write that about them…

  6. Kvlt Attakker says:

    I think Chthe’ilist could stem to be something great. Of course their current Demilich meddling is noticable, but they differentiate into other realms.

    The demo appears to be an open puzzle box with many of the most colorful pieces exposed. It’s up to them to put it together and mold their vision.

    Way better than what’s trending.

  7. Kvlt Attakker says:

    This Sargeist is immensely generic.

  8. metal bob says:

    Bit harsh on the Chthe’ilist i thought, its definitely no Demilich but it does stand out from other recent bands, especially the ‘retro’ ones.

    The rest was spot on.

  9. Tralf says:

    I don’t think Butt Stevens or whoever wrote this was saying Chthe’ilist sucks, but rather, they’re not of the same caliber as an A+ metal band like Demilich or early Demigod. Which I agree with.

    That being said, I do like Chthe’ilist. I think they’re more than just Finnish DM worship, but rather contributors to the style, however late to the game they may be. The demo isn’t perfect, but the band is still the most promising new death metal in the scene. I’m eager to hear the full length, especially the Majora’s Mask inspired songs.

  10. lost wanderer says:

    When we compare the Chthe’ilist’s songtitles with those of Demilich, we can see they were influenced by the later but those from Demilich a more evocative, have more depts in them. I think it says it all.

    1. Jeff says:

      Chthe’ilist’s songtitles are lovecraftian in nature. The only nature they share with Demilich songs is that they’re long and “puffy”. In that sense the music is definitely darker. Obviously these dudes aren’t going to reach Demilich and Demigod status at their first demo; and like it has been stated before it’s a breath of fresh air.

      Who doesn’t love Timeghoul AND Demliich?

  11. John S. says:

    “The vocals on this album surge so consistently that it sounds like someone riding a merry-go-round while screaming at the top of his lungs.”


  12. Madhu says:

    Obliteration definitely lifts their vocabulary of riffs from Autopsy and other older bands, but I didn’t ever feel like it was just a random pastiche of sounds while listening to that album. An exercise in aesthetic, maybe, but not a hamfisted one. I thought it came across as artistically coherent, even if the tools used weren’t at all original.

  13. Belisario says:

    About Ofermod and Sargeist I have to point out that, although both bands are clearly second rate, none of them is pretending to be top-class nor groundbreaking. They just do what they love, and they do it ok. Not enough to fill one’s life or to become the next big thing in black metal, but fairly correct to be enjoyed from time to time or as a decent opener in some concert. Not that I want to defend them from criticism, but there are certainly other bands to bash in first place.

    1. metal bob says:

      but why does the world need second rate? second rate whether deliberate or not is just landfill at the end of the 4-5 months of distraction you’ll get out of it.

  14. “There’s no reason you can’t do it at any age; Milton wrote Paradise Lost in his 80s, Raymond Chandler got published in his 50s for the first time, and Brahms was in his mid-40s before his first symphonies saw a performance”

    And NHV gave us ENGRAM at age 37!

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