Cuff – Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere

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Joining the crowded field of late model death metal that tries to tie together the influences of the last decade of chaotic metal hybrids, Cuff introduces a style that aims for a hybrid of Cryptopsy-styled brutal death metal and recent West Coast brutal death/tech-death/gore-grind hybrids like Deeds of Flesh. This album delivers basic linear riffs with compelling rhythm while sneaking back in some of the technicality and lead-guitar melody of older death metal, in addition to imaginative Voivod-style sci-fi lyrics.

Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere — the ergosphere is the liminal region just outside the event horizon of a black hole where energy can be sampled from the rotation of the field — brings out the intensity through raw technique of these genres but stops short of a new style. It uses the brutal percussive death metal late genre addition of vocals in trope with drums and guitars, creating an almost GWAR-style comical insanity, alongside more of the styles of explosive grinding popularized by Cannibal Corpse. While much of this follows the late grindcore model of technicality, touches of musical creativity hide in many details and niches.

As with many things in life, this genre of recent brutal gore-grind mashup will not be for everyone. To those outside the genre, it seems to be ludicrously simple and repetitive. Within the genre, fans enjoy the duality of material that is both catchier than a Taylor Swift album and more extreme than early Napalm Death in terms of sheer rage-venting riffs mated to pounding, transgressive drums. Cuff intensify these aspects and, while not inventing anything new, push the sub-genre closer to the musicality of later Cryptopsy.

    Tracklist:

  1. Spastic Craniotomy
  2. Malignant
  3. Transfusion of Bodily Fluids
  4. Gorging the Sacred Carrion
  5. The Transcendence of Mankind
  6. Sub-sonic Impacts
  7. Through the Ergosphere
  8. Breeding Diverse Entities (Re-recorded)
  9. Supreme Genital Goddess (CBT COVER)
    Personnel:

  • Zach Smith (Guitar, Bass, Drums)
  • Bob Shaw (Vocals)

Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere will be released November 18, 2014 on Gore House Productions. For more information, see the band website.

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National Cat Day playlist

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According to my calendar, October 29 is National Cat Day, or a day for celebration of all things feline. As mentioned in earlier posts, metalheads love their kitties and bands have been known to put their felines before careers.

In the spirit of this holiday, here are some songs that while not kitty-themed, at least seem tangentially related:

Motorhead – “The Chase is Better Than The Catch”

Asphyx – “Evocation”

Cathedral – “Picture of Beauty & Innocence”

Imprecation – “Nocturnal Feast of the Luciferians”

Obituary – “Intoxicated”

Suffocation – “Anomalistic Offerings”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYIuKfQxbBE

Uncanny – “Indication vitalis”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNaKrs8YrbQ

Belial – “The Invocation”

Catalepsy – “Compulsive Bestiality”

Blood – “Hecatomb”

Deicide – “Revocate the Agitator

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What “we” should do is nothing

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Currently the gaming world struggles with something called “GamerGate,” which involves two groups of fans. There are those who want gaming to be more socially responsible, and those who want it to be more like 4chan.

Sound familiar? Some thing we should create the same division in metal:

Heavy metal fans have been targets for scorn and derision for decades. The metal community is supposed to be a place where misfits and outcasts can find shelter in the face of that intolerance. When you throw around bigoted slurs, whether you know it or not, you’re eroding the community we’re all supposed to be a part of. More importantly, you’re reinforcing the prejudices of every mouth-breathing homophobe within ear or eye shot, and you’re very possibly harming another human being for no reason. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to call someone a fa* or describe something you don’t like as gay. Hopefully you’ll think twice about the language you use in the future. But if you still don’t care, please do everyone a favor and keep your stupid comments to yourself.

Personally, I wish to fall into neither camps. The first camp wants to offend no one and make sure that humanity all gets along so that heavy metal can be accepted by mainstream society. The second camp wants to keep us as perpetual outsiders, which is fine, but they want to do so by appealing to the lowest denominator among us. I have a problem with that, too, because it seems to me that being the opposite of a wrong thing is often to make a different version of that wrong on the level of method and not goal. Or rather, by removing an actual goal, you create a lack of goal, into which method fills the gap.

That’s a subtle argument. It also takes some subtlety to understand why the offend-no-one argument is wrong. At a gut level, we are metalheads: we do not stand for speech codes, social morality and being nice to people. We specialize in saying thing as we find them and if that offends someone, too bad. We also are some of the last defenders of a way of life outside of society, where you can think what you want and say what you want and not care what other people think you should think. Someone else really nailed the biggest reason for avoiding the Nanny People: they are a lynch mob, witch hunt, high school bully, and nagging aunt all wrapped up into one, and what they do is create destruction and conformity in their wake:

A moral panic doesn’t have any relation to reason. It’s a mob expression of rage against an issue that threatens the social order, usually relating to the violation of some cultural taboo. There exists a long American tradition of moral panics, from Prohibition in the 1920s, to the Red Scare of the 1950s, and most egregiously the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. People were jailed and lives ruined over obviously false accusations made by children trying to please psychiatrists and other adult authority figures.

You can see there is a range of opinion about this. I pitch an unusual idea to you today: do not take a side. Do not join the Louts and do not join the Nannies. Instead, trust nature. There has always been a diversity of opinion within metal ranging from the anarchist to the totalitarian and back again. People are going to have their own opinions and they will not get along. There is no “we.” Metal is a refutation of the idea that we can all get along. Trying to make us all get along will create more problems than it solves and might also foster a nasty backlash that will turn metal into a permanently alienated battleground.

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Neverlake (2013)

neverlake

Neverlake attempts the holy grail of postmodern horror film: to unite the supernatural and the modern into a single narrative where one reveals the other. Despite focusing perhaps too much on “atmosphere” at the beginning of the story, the movie creates compelling supernatural narrative within a very modern plot.

The plot centers on a young English-Italian girl, Jenny, who goes to visit her semi-estranged father in the Tuscan countryside. A self-assured young woman who spends most of her time with her nose in a book, Jenny begins having visions of the supernatural connected to a nearby lake. As her father relates, this lake has been used for three millennia by Etruscans to commemorate their dead… and possibly, much more. The plot then develops in parallel between Jenny’s exploration of her thoroughly modern and dysfunctional family, and her deepening learning about the ancient lake with the help of a nearby group of children recovering from mutilating injuries. During the process, Jenny needles her father for more information about her Italian mother who died when Jenny was very young.

While the word “atmosphere” sometimes takes on a connotation of euphemism for boredom with a soundtrack, it does not fully take on that role here; the movie develops slowly and in retrospect, this is less necessary than the filmmakers thought and probably more intended to lull us into submission. That is an error because the wide pans of the lush Italian countryside tend to do that quite effectively. The first third of the movie sometimes lapses into atmosphere pieces that achieve less than their screen time; instead, a more plausible use of screen time would be to give us more of the geography of the house in which Jenny and her family is living, of which we see two rooms, which becomes disorienting later. The plot is cryptic but not “clever” in the sense of handily tying up a bunch of quirks into a plot that technically makes sense but slips too far beyond known reality to be interesting except as a kind of mental party game or hypothetical conjecture. Sadly, the film is blighted with a title that seems like a broken neologism and film posters that, at least in the US, make it seem as if this movie were about combat with lake-zombies. That poster served to simultaneously attract people who will hate this movie and exclude the people who would enjoy it. It deserves a second look.

Neverlake builds its tension on a solid plot and a mystery that enmeshes its different parts with one another to make a kind of self-referential maze. It reinforces this with music that intensifies the atmosphere and cinematography that brings out the isolation of its characters. The music fits within a strange zone between soundtrack, Dead Can Dance with no solo vocals, and some of the more recent ambient neofolk material. Although written using modern instrumentation, it captures an ancient feel, clearly familiar with both Carmina Burana and Ancient Airs and Dances. Keyboard symphonic music without solo vocals or consistent drumming gives this film the spacious air and gravity that it needs, where throwing in the usual alt-rock B-sides as many horror movies currently trend would have savagely trashed the atmosphere. Cinematography also reinforces the mood; the filmmakers opt for a dense, saturated scene with wide contrasts in color, allowing the lake to dominate like a gleaming life-form and to show people as somewhat washed out, empty and terrified. They do this without over-processing and thus ruining the lush natural detail.

The script for Neverlake strategically builds to a conclusion which is as intense as the earlier part of the film was vacant. This balance seems intentional, just perhaps miscalibrated. Daisy Keeping creates a simultaneously disingenuous and headstrong Jenny who stumbles perfectly into the role set for her by the script, while more mature actors manage to combine creepiness and standard postmodern adult vagueness and incoherence into a single mode, which makes them both comfortingly background and potentially complicit. Combined with the intensifying music and intensely naturalistic filming itself, the plot development helps create a sensation of slipping beyond the modern and known into a world of the ambiguous and threatening, which is then explained through the modern — but questions remain. For those who like a good horror film that is more internal existential and moral terror than chainsaws and centipedes, Neverlake provides a powerful escapist fantasy.

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Kraftwerk nominated for Rock and Roll hall of fame

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Electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, whose work along with Tangerine Dream and Dead Can Dance influenced all of black metal, have received a nomination from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to finally be recognized by the semi-official industry group.

Kraftwerk burst into electronic music in a time before the personal computer or the programmable sound chip; instead, they created their early sounds with analog electronic instruments and by modifying their own synthesizers and sequencers to achieve a wider range of sounds than previously thought possible. Their greatest contribution however came through their transportative melodies and alert arrangements, as well as songs that through subject matter peered into the dark heart at the center of the glittering chrome positivism of modernity.

Black metal bands found the dark atmospheres and moral questioning of melancholic, alienated works such as Computer World (1986) to be highly influential, and bands as diverse as Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone inherited influence from Kraftwerk and other German-revival “cosmic” bands. Perhaps the greatest observation from Kraftwerk comes from their 1978 hit “The Robots” in which the ideal worker lauds obedience and tractability as a form of victory. Such cynical takes on modern time, coupled with a positive alternative vision of technology, defined the Kraftwerk approach during its classic years.

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Organic (formerly Organic Infest) release new material

organic-logo

Puerto Rican death metal band Organic Infest took a new direction with new members and became Organic, which has re-issued its discography and recently unleashed a new track, “The Holocaust,” which shows the direction the band will take upcoming recordings.

As usual defying the conventional method and trends alike, Organic features a drummer, a bassist and… a second bassist. Chew Correa plays a piccolo bass in place of guitar which prompts unconscious fear by metalheads that the music will not have the same crashing intensity as regular death metal. “The Holocaust” puts these fears to rest.

Organic takes an approach to death metal which differs from the more aggressive riff-based attack; this is a layered, spacious and highly melodic vision of death metal without seeping into the sappy land of warmed-over heavy metal made pretty for listening at parties which is essentially what “melodic death metal” has become. Instead, Correa leads his team in an approach more like structured jazz, with deep percussive texture allowing the stringed instrument players time to overlap one another in patterns that do not quite mimic guitar, but push bass in a new direction as well.

“The Holocaust” shows Organic ripping into fast death/speed hybrid riffs with room for melodic touches and rhythmic fills, creating variety between the shredding straight-ahead approach and the more nuanced layering. Complete with roaring vocals that approach a “bestial” side of metal instead of the more uniform barking or riot shouts, Organic use this track to forge a new style based on their strengths and many attributes of classic heavy metal.

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Summoning at work on new material

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Flowing black metal band Summoning have issued the following update:

After having turned our attention on different things during the first half of this year, we are back to concentrate on summoning again. There are already some new riff composed and rearrangements have been done of songs from the O.M.D session. Protector also started to recreate our homepage, with a total new design and updated content.

So the hammers are pounding loudly again in carven deep and far on the horizons the first ray of light are bearing witness of the return of the old ways …

This announcement cheers many who have come to appreciate the Summoning brand of black metal: longer melodies more tightly integrated with keyboard counterparts, slower pace with more atmosphere, and a medieval/Tolkien-esque escape from the nominalist insanity of modernity.

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Soulburn unleashes “Under the Rise of a Red Moon” from upcoming The Suffocating Darkness

soulburn-the_suffocating_darkness

Dutch underground metal band Soulburn — formed from the ashes of Asphyx and related acts — carries on in a new direction with new track “Under the Rise of a Red Moon” released in advance of forthcoming November release The Suffocating Darkness.

This track shows more of a black metal vibe and trope to this band, eschewing the percussive feel (and left-hand-mute sheeting distortion guitar technique) of Asphyx in favor of a dark atmosphere with melodic continuations driving the song, which was the style of black metal that exhibited the last gasp of an underground through bands like Deathspell Omega and Inquisition. However, the band cites first-generation proto-underground bands like Celtic Frost and Bathory as well as NWOBHM band Venom as inspiration, although Soulburn exhibits technique from later black metal.

Soulburn features Asphyx anchor and drum talent Bob Bagchus but also Eric Daniels, who wrote some of the more interesting guitar on early works up through the self-titled album, although by that point he had exited the band. Added to the list are Remco Kreft on guitar, who played with Daniels in Grand Supreme Blood Court, and Twan van Geel on bass. Notably missing is Wannes Gubbels of Pentacle who may be responsible for the melodic direction that Death… The Brutal Way took which was missing from the more mechanistic Deathhammer. However, Daniels and Gubbels serve similar roles in creating the melodic understructure of songs.

Billing themselves as “blackened death metal,” Soulburn clearly seek to distinguish their music from the choppy explosive death metal that Asphyx and related acts like Hail of Bullets are currently producing. “Under the Rise of a Red Moon” features a dark and lush ambiance with song structure mutations in unexpected places, leading to a sense of destabilization and ambiguity. This contrasts the style of Asphyx, which increasingly sounds like a reduction of the world into discrete and concrete statements, and embraces a future of dystopia and confusion.

Drummer Bob Bagchus, who left Asphyx at some point after they started to sound like Hail of Bullets, leaves us with this summary: “This track shows well what Soulburn is all about: cold, dark and grim blackened doom/death metal. ‘Under the Rise of a Red Moon’ is furious and contains all the elements we love the most about metal. This song also shows that one does not need many riffs to create a grim atmosphere…this is a mid-paced assault with a pure and heavy 80s feel, just how we wanted it!”

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Nunslaughter – Angelic Dread

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This band have been around for over 400 years and have made the same album over 75 times, but each time it is good for a simple reason: this band know what they are aiming for and carefully edit their songs to make sure all parts fit together into a smooth musical experience. While it is tempting to categorize Nunslaughter as death metal, they are in fact speed metal, as most of these riffs come straight from the late-1980s fully-developed speed metal that incorporated advances by Slayer, Exodus, Anthrax and others into the Metallica standard.

Although Nunslaughter first came to the US on the Mayflower many years before Metallica existed, it is believed that Nunslaughter developed this style on its own and may have in fact invented it before the band was formed during the final days of the Roman Empire. While some may be tempted to categorize Nunslaughter as dinosaurs, the fact remains that this band takes the raw ingredients of power metal, speed metal and most death metal and makes a stripped-down, hardcore-punk style ripping version of this that remains highly listenable even if not particularly distinguishable on a song-to-song basis. Like other collections of many short songs, such as Dead Infection or Carcass, Angelic Dread operates like many small insights into roughly the same idea.

When paleontologists recently unearthed a complete Archaeopteryx fossil, they found early Nunslaughter recordings beneath it. Somehow, what this band creates never gets old, in part because they understand their riffs as a language from the same basic source, and in part because like a thrash band their song format carefully fits the particular clash of the two riffs (with a few budget transitions, and sometimes rhythmic variations, Nunslaughter uses two riffs per song on average) and the need of presenting them in the best light. The result is compelling and enjoyable and upholds the best tradition of riffcraft and expressive violence in underground music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7xz6lqOAOc

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