Heavy metal shows piracy is not killing music, offers new business model

iron_maiden-band_photo

The music industry — and the television and movie industries — appears to be in free-fall. After years of having an exclusive means of delivery, its market hold has been fragmented by the internet and increasing distrust of big media. Looking over the past decade, the picture adds up to a slow and steady decline with downloaded forms of media failing to replace the profits of their physical counterparts.

Although the industries responded with initiatives to stop piracy, many observers disagree that piracy is the root of industry’s woes and think instead that there is a need for a new business plan in the media industries because the old profit model has failed. However, no one is sure what that plan will be, since media is no longer a high margin industry with tons of excess profit between cost and sales price, but a low margin industry where people aren’t willing to pay much for media. Think of the difference between a 1990s-era $150/month cable bill and today’s $15/month Netflix bill.

The new holy grail is to find a business model that allows bands to have more promotion than being independent can provide, but does not lead to the excess and inefficiency of the big record labels of the past. Right now, the industry is all ears to anyone who can demonstrate a working business model that shows a profit. As of recently, one of the possibilities is offered by a heavy metal band you’ll all recognize: Iron Maiden.

“Iron Maiden’s BitTorrent data suggests Brazil is a huge driver of fans – and given Brazil is one of the biggest file sharing nations on the planet, this is a strong indicator of popularity,” said Greg Mead, CEO and co-founder of Musicmetric.

“With their constant touring, [the] report suggests Maiden have been rather successful in turning free file-sharing into fee-paying fans. This is clear proof that taking a global approach to live touring can pay off, and that having the data to track where your fan bases lie will become ever more vital.”

Despite being extensively pirated worldwide, Iron Maiden have managed to put themselves in the £10-20m for 2012. This means that despite the growing popularity of the band on social media, and the extensive and pervasive torrent downloading of the band’s music, books and movies, the band is turning a profit. This is in defiance of the past business model, and the idea that piracy is killing music. In fact, piracy seems to be saving music in Iron Maiden’s case.

One reason for this may be metal itself. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase and a clear brand and identity, even down to the uniform-style black tshirts that fans wear that differ only in band logo and art. The audience identifies with the genre, which stands in contrast to genericized genres like pop, rock and rap. It doggedly maintains its own identity and shuns outsiders. As a result, fans tend to identify more with their music, and place a higher value on purchasing it.

The music industry should listen up. Piracy may or may not be evil, but it’s a way of life for many people. High margins, such as found by selling a $0.25 CD for $18, are now gone. But heavy metal shows us a different business model in which although much of the product is pirated or given away, bands are still able to thrive and in fact do better than they did under the old model. Perhaps the future isn’t so dark after all for the music industry, at least in heavy metal.

13 Comments

Tags: ,

Does metal have a finite lifespan?

keith_kahn-harris

Keith Kahn-Harris, a metal academic whose work in metal academia has been covered here and elsewhere, writes that metal may be suffocating under the weight of its own success:

Metal today is in crisis. Metal’s crisis doesn’t feel like a crisis. In fact it sometimes feels like quite the reverse. This is a crisis in which most are unaware that there is a crisis – and that is the crisis. The crisis is one of abundance.

He goes own to elaborate on how this is a sort of entropy where the proliferation of options has created a form of paralysis. “Almost everything that I ever wanted in metal now exists,” he writes, showing us that perhaps the glory years of a genre are during its time of struggling for recognition. What happens when it becomes fully recognized?

For Kahn-Harris, much of the glow is gone. He ties it to the ease of availability of music and information through the internet, but in my experience, it’s more likely tied to the expansion of metal as a market. When it’s new and fringe, metal is outside of the world of social oversight, including socialization and markets, public morals and most laws.

But as metal succeeds, it becomes a commodity and thus, information about it will proliferate. Today it’s the internet, but in yesteryears it was radio, magazines, and label propaganda in your local record store. To my mind, the internet isn’t anything new, even if it’s slightly more efficient (although with the surfeit of information, this advantage diminishes).

While this abundance has fulfilled my metal dreams, it has been accompanied by a strange sense of deflation. To some extent this is because dreams fulfilled are almost always disappointing. There are also good reasons why abundance does not necessarily satisfy. The ease of finding what was once obscure takes away the pleasures of anticipation, of discovery, of searching things out. The fact that metal music is no longer found exclusively in physical media removes much of that precious ‘aura’ that can accompany physical art objects. Demo tapes were exciting and mysterious objects because one had to ‘work’ to track them down…Today, there isn’t much frisson to googling something and finding it. Stripped of the aura, rare and obscure metal recordings become much more mundane.

Kahn-Harris’ article is engaging and thoughtful and worth reading for any who have wondered why metal seems so stagnant of late. Sure, there’s more bands than ever before, and they’re all technically competent (this is new, quite frankly) but so few of them have anything interesting to convey. All their work is in the packaging, at the surface, in style and not substance. Artistically, metal is dead. What’s the usual culprit?

An unusual source offers a parallel critique of a similar situation in software companies:

Here’s the problem that ends up killing company after company. All successful software companies had, as their dominant personality, a leader who nurtured programmers. But no company can keep such a leader forever. Either he cashes out, or he brings in management types who end up driving him out, or he changes and becomes a management type himself. One way or another, marketers get control.

Did metal run out of leaders, and get taken over by marketers? Or is this natural entropy, where there are so many options that none can compete on substance? Or is it, as is the way of things, that once something gets popular it gets dumbed down for the crowd? Commendations to Kahn-Harris for introducing this germaine and insightful topic.

7 Comments

Tags: , ,

The Art of Metal: Five Decades of Heavy Metal Album Covers, Posters, T-shirts and More by Martin Popoff and Malcolm Dome

the_art_of_metal_five_decades_of_heavy_metal_album_covers_posters_tshirts_and_more-martin_popoff-malcolm_dome

As the interest in heavy metal history continues to grow, it’s natural that attention will eventually expand outside the music. Visual aesthetics have long been important in metal, whether that is album covers presenting an experience before the first note or posters chronicling infamous concerts, in addition to the general culture of style metal imposes on itself.

Newly released tome The Art of Metal: Five Decades of Heavy Metal Album Covers, Posters, T-shirts and More seeks to compile this history in chronological form. Stretching from the early proto-metal bands, up through the NWOBHM, and then reaching the current day; the book attempts to complement visual reproductions with analyzing artistic development from the perspective of the artists and musicians themselves.

A coffee-table style book clocking in at 224 pages, The Art of Metal can be picked up for $30 via Amazon.

No Comments

Tags: , , ,

Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-27-13

sadistic_metal_turkeys

What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? We write about the artistic and musical side of metal, not how many teenyboppers or bloated old guys think it’s “fresh.” In the holiday spirit, we call metal’s turkeys what they are. Expect delicious outrage and denial, with the (occasional) quality release.

massemord-stay_fucking_necroMessemord – Stay Fucking Necro

Black metal is among the hardest genres to master within metal, which is why so few people have managed to do it well. Beyond the mechanical characteristics of the genre, there exists a need for personal integrity and semi-spiritual fervor driving the musicians onward towards higher realms of art. That is not present in this release.

On their questionably-titled album, Stay Fucking Necro, Messemord perform a style of “black” metal that has much in common with post-millennial Satyricon or Gorgoroth. “Black & Roll” cliches are abundant as well as influences from “melodic” black metal, rendered here as irritating arpeggios that push tracks closer to lighter melodies, which are not at all helped by the bouncy drum patterns. Tracks are thrown-together collections of riffs that have been overused for at least a decade, and they don’t become more inspiring hearing them again…although the Transilvanian Hunger ripoff riff is listenable.

There is nothing here to interest anybody who has beyond a surface interest in the genre. Actually, I don’t know why anybody would be interested in this. This band seems to be yet another example of an “underground” band that’s underground only because it’s terrible.

benediction-the_dreams_you_dreadBenediction – The Dreams You Dread

I remember calling this album a sellout, but the truth is it’s probably Benediction’s defining moment. By removing all the extraneous elements that Benediction once utilized like slow doom riffs and a “morbid” feeling on some numbers, the band play up their hardcore/punk influence to seem “rebellious” as was the trend of the time and making their B-grade Massacre songs sound more like something you might hear on a Marauder album. If you can imagine Harmony Corruption-era Napalm Death covering Sepultura’s “Biotech is Godzilla” backwards eleven different ways while lapsing into blockheaded Pantera or later Sacred Reich grooves, you know how this will sound. Generic and mediocre death metal is thrown out the window, making room for the groove infatuated vapidity “with a punk attitude” that this band always had in its heart.

grave_miasma-odori_sepulcrorumGrave Miasma – Odori Sepulcrorum

The verdict is in: Cruciamentum is more interesting than Grave Miasma. Alhough the bands share musicians, Grave Miasma contrive dull and uninspired Incantoclone riffs that are randomly stitched together. There are two decent songs that kept my attention, but the same droning “atmospheric” chords are present in every moment of Odor[i] Sepulcrorum. It’s like they implemented texture for the sake of implementing texture without using it to move anywhere interesting. Perhaps this should be marketed as a sleeping aid instead of a death metal album. The main problem with this release is that it sounds like the songwriter/s ran out of ideas before they even started writing it. This is disappointing since their prior EPs were much better efforts. I’m tired of writing about it and in fact, I need a place to lie down. To sleep, perchance to not hear this thing ever again.

darkane-the_sinister_supremacyDarkane – The Sinister Supremacy

This is basically the middle of the road millennium metal that has replaced the 90s groove trend and 80s Metalli-clones. Slaughter of the Soul-styled mellow-deaf riffs are thrown next to mechanical groove riffs, with songs that go from “angry” verses to “melodic” choruses in simple Wacken metal format. Solos run the gamut from bluesy “rebellious” fodder to ultra pretentious Malmsteen mimicry and vocals are “harsh” but sung with inflection to be melodic. There is no reason to listen to this album or for this band to exist. If you want another version of the same crap Nuclear Blast and Century Media release on a weekly basis, you’ll find more interchangeable extreme pop-metal fare here with nothing to distinguish it from any of the others.

autumnblaze-every_sun_is_fragileAutumblaze – Every Sun is Fragile

Another emo album. There’s no point disguising that this is an indie-rock/punk-rock hybrid from the late 1980s. It sounds exactly like the bands that became popular then and into the early 1990s, just with better production. Even the topics and moods are the same. Even worse, every song is musically very similar, aiming for that moment of double parallax when multiple contrasting directions emerge. Artistically, however, this i vapid, like being lost at a mall and feeling sorry for yourself… for four hours. Every now and then a quasi-metal riff comes on, and gets replaced by a crooner with the indulgent lyrics of a snake oil salesman. How did this end up in the metal queue? Any attempt to insult this insincere, derivative dreck is an insult to some group that in contrast is honorable, like idiots, fools, droolers and lichen rapists.

the_haunted-unseenThe Haunted – Unseen

If metal bands had FDA labels this one would read “100% feces.” The Haunted hang the towel on their crowd-pandering metalcore to make room for the musical ornamentation and forms that bands utilize when they want to make it to the mainstream. “Emotional” vocals more befitting screamo and alt-rock bands croon and drone over listless nu-groove metal. While the albums before sounded like commercial Wacken pandering, this album sounds like something that Roadrunner would have released in the late 90s. With so many people using Slaughter of the Soul as a template for manufacturing artistically-void muzak, something different but just as stupid needed to be tested within the crucible over at Century Media’s headquarters. The result is more worthless music that sounds like it could be Linkin Park, Incubus, or any of those other MTV bands you hear on the radio. It’s hard to believe the man who wrote Kingdom Gone is responsible for much of this rap-rock/emo oriented fare but, then again, we’ve already seen the depths this bunch had fallen since 1993.

arsis-unwelcomeArsis – Unwelcome

“EXTREME” Wacken metal. Aside from proficient performances, this is what death metal would sound like if performed by Bon Jovi. “Hard rocking” blasting verse riffs show you that these guys are “ANGRY”, but don’t fear! The stadium rock melodic chorus that sounds like something Stryper or Europe would play comes in to rationalize the “aggression” with feelings of “bitter sweetness”. Vocals that sound carbon copied from Jeff Walker further makes this album sound no different to the recent Carcass disaster, making this seem all the more vapid. If this band had any common sense, they would look at the European metal fest lineups, realize they still haven’t made it to “the big time”, and retire to being guitar teachers as opposed to clogging the airwaves with more AOR mellow-deaf. The “ironically uncharacteristic for death metal” music video to this album’s closing track further suggests this band is the musical equivalent to watching an Adult Swim cartoon. Worthless music.

ephel_duath-hemmed_by_light_shaped_by_darknessEphel Duath – Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness

When you wander among the teenage social wastelands of the earth, you will encounter many sophomoric characters and each one will have his own catchphrase explaining why he knows something, when he does not. One example is the “I like a little bit of everything” guy who picks music based on it having a great deal of variety. He’s concerned that music might be too much the same if it were consistent, so he likes quirk. This is another form of the mentality that causes people to order variety plates in restaurants; they don’t know what they want, because they don’t know what they like, mainly because they have no idea who they are. Ephel Duath is a band for that segment of the world. It is putatively some form of black metal, but compositionally is heavy metal with additions of all sorts of odd sounds and different riff types. Then if you missed the memo, they’re going to screech at you full volume and have cheesy dramatic song structure changes to emphasize that Something Is Happening Here, when in fact nothing is. As the song ends, you’ll note that it came back to the exact same place where it started. Not a restatement of theme in a new context, but literally, the same stuff after a distracting middle. It’s like window shopping; see the world without having to adapt at all. And correspondingly, it’s both hollow and annoying.

finnrs_cane-a_portrait_painted_by_the_sunFinnr’s Cane – A Portrait Painted by the Sun

This is a nice little emo album, but as this isn’t a punk site (although we support hardcore punk, which is a different genre from generic radio punk a/k/a “punk rock”) there’s no interest. It’s time to drop labels like shoegaze and blackdrift and call this what it is, which is late-1980s and early-1990s style emo. The same dissonant chord progressions, rhythms, vocal inflections, atmospheres, even song topics and naming conventions persist, with nothing new added. There’s a little aesthetic tweaking, but not enough to conceal what’s here. There is zero metal, and zero black metal, in this release. Other than that, it’s OK, I guess, but all these bands sound the same. What, how can you say that, that’s intolerant! you spit. Yes, but the fact is that there’s just not much musical variation between songs by the same band or bands that share this genre (emo). That’s why emo is so popular with record labels and unemployed musicians alike. If you master a few techniques, it’s really easy to do and you’ll sound about like your heroes. That is, before you get a job at a management consulting firm, take out the piercings and hide the tattoos and get on with your self-pitying prole-drone cubicle-bound life as an average citizen of the modern state.

manii-kollapsManii – Kollaps

Utterly boring “depressive-suicidal” black metal from the original Manes personel. While the unsettling open-string dissonance and vocal performance is the same, the music remains in one fixed tempo throughout what could be variations on one song. Aside from the aesthetic reversion towards this band’s original sound, the music is more in line with the commercial nature of the later electronica/alt-rock Manes in spirit. As a result, this could be a Xasthur or Shining album and no one would tell the difference. The mystique is gone, replaced by the saccharine emotion one would expect from a depressive Marilyn Manson song.

9 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Interview with album cover artist Francesco Gemelli

francesco_gemelli_urna_mors_principium_est_21

 

francesco_gemelli_ysengrin_lp_01Art direction for preparing album aesthetics is important for delivering a visual representation for the music that it banners. Francesco Gemelli has been providing visual artistry for numerous bands and other clients. With utmost professionalism displayed in his works, Francesco is expanding his work as art director for record labels and freelance endeavors. He’s amassed quite a hefty resume of album covers and logos.

How did you start out in art and what inspired you?

In general, growing in Italy gives to you the chance to become familiar with Art since a young age. Furthermore, in my case, the proximity to Roman and Greek archeological areas influenced my artistic imaginary that I have later developed progressively at school. I started drawing very early and, above all, I have been attracted rapidly by the computerized graphics. Indeed, I did my first experiments on an Atari St back in 1986, publishing later my first works on specialized magazines.

gemelli_vos_human_antithesis_01What encouraged you to also start creating artwork for album covers?

To create album covers and work with the bands allows me to keep on my relation with the musical environment that represents one of the biggest passions in my life. As often happens, I started drawing logos and put together collages for demos of local bands, but the first significant occasion was given to me by Riccardo Conforti of Void of Silence that, having known some of my oeuvres, entrusted me with the creation of the new symbol/logo for the band and the artwork for “Human Antithesis”. I’m deeply attached to this album that has become a pillar of the modern doom metal and, even today, many people speak with fondness about this great release, pointing out the balance between the musical and the visual components. Moreover, Riccardo honored my work tattooing on his nape the logo that I have designed. His gesture deeply touched me.

More recently, Diego of ATMF and Luciano of I, Voidhanger Records chosen me as art director for their labels and I would like to use this opportunity to thank them for trusting me, allowing more people to know my work.

How much does your art reflect what you perceive of the music or its themes?

I like define myself as “visual interpreter”: when I work with a band my goal is to translate visually the music and the related concept. Chasing this target I don’t try to forcedly impose my personal style or my works but to find instead the right visual elements to complete and enrich the music. That’s why I’m always open to collaborations with other artists: in specific occasions, indeed, I prefer to assume the role of art director, choosing the works of other artists that I like and making those coherent and organic with the music. When, in the making of an artwork, you have the chance, for example, to use the incredible pieces of a genius like the painter/sculptor Nicola Samorì or of the worldwide known photographer John Santerineross, you have only to enhance theirs oeuvres all possible and to create a connection between these and the songs. Recognizability is a central point for an artist in the contemporary art, but for an art director the mark of identifiability has to be the quality of your work and satisfaction of the client.

francesco_gemelli_urna_mors_principium_est_16What other artists, musicians or thinkers influence your style?

My work is extensively influenced by the art of the 1900s: equally by the first years of the century as well as by the current tendencies. Between the different art movements, the Informalism certainly had a big influence on my artistic development.

As you may have figured out at this point, I don’t follow a single procedure to realize my works, so I attend as much as possible exhibitions and galleries to meet and discover new artists and ideas. Working on artworks, I involve a mix of different media and softwares: some pieces grow out only through the pencils, others are the outcomes of computer graphics, some else come out from a mix between handcrafted and digital resources.

Are there certain themes that you naturally gravitate toward? Do you see your artwork as having a naturally bleak or desolate character?

Not at all. A key-point of my research has always been to contrast some aspectŽ widespread in the metal extreme genre and when the bands have been sufficiently “courageous” to share my point of view, I have always tried to take distance from the common solutions. Take, for example, my artwork for the “Inter Uterum Et Loculum” of Locus Mortis: although they play a fast and aggressive traditional black metal, I have described their music drawings gentle figures and using a bright palette of colours. Even when the bands expressly requested me traditional solutions for their artworks, I have always tried to put in there some elements of innovation: from the involved technique of production to the chromatic palette. It’s hard and maybe not useful to eradicate and betray overused commonplaces, but it’s possible to innovate from the “inside” without renege the past, and to try to “educate” people to new solutions and artistic waves.

francesco_gemelli_aus_der_transzendenz_p01You’ve worked with altered photographs (such as in “Aus Der Transzendenz” 2012 Promo Pics) which bring out a majestic nature to your subjects. What is your technique here? How do you decide on the balance between obscurity and clarity? Does your alteration direct the eye to a focal point in each piece?

I usually adapt the photo manipulation technique to the characteristics of the band. In this case, the band asked me to place the group in an “unreal” and “magical” dimension. So, I operated on the background, working also on colors, tones and lights. I didn’t alter the eyes of the members: they were already striking a theatrical pose in the picture.

What pieces of your art have been displayed in exhibitions? Where can people expect to see your work next? Will you expand beyond album covers?

The original pieces that I created as artwork for the debut of my industrial project Eidulon on Malignant Records have been part in contemporary art exhibitions. These stark black and white illustrations were inspired by Taschism and Spatial Art.

francesco_gemelli_600pxWho do you think are the most historically important and/or best metal album cover artists of all time?

I don’t think that there is a most important cover in metal history; I consider, however, some artworks and artistic choices crucial for the development of the “heavy metal aesthetics”: between the late ’70s and mid-’80s, bands like Back Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Venom, Mercyful Fate and Metallica laid the foundation to the process of identification of those symbols and themes that have differentiate the HM from the other genres. This process has gone to influence the audience on how they perceive themselves and, in its turn, the aesthetics of the new bands.

Despite this developing trend, in the 80s, the different bands were visually recognizable and there still was an “artisanship” in producing artworks. By moving to 90s, with the diffusion of PCs, the computer graphics software became something that everybody can have and, even if there’s nothing negative about that per se, the “layering process” permitted by these new instruments resulted in a standardization of metal artworks that started to look too similar to each other.

In the last ten years, with the widening of the process of fragmentation of subgenres and publics, the need to stand out visually is becoming increasingly important. As mentioned before, recognizability is a focus point for an artist in the contemporary market, so it’s implausible, even in the extreme genres, to overlook the visual elements of a musical project.

Where can we expect to see your work in upcoming musical and artistic projects?

I just finished the artwork for the re-recording of the debut album of Janvs, “Nigredo”, on Avantgarde Music and I will cooperate very soon with Benjamin Vierling for the new Spectral Lore album. At the same time, I would expand my experiments to video-art and, since now I’m working between  Montréal and Toronto, I hope to find this opportunity and new inputs too.

I will try to develop new joint collaborations and I would like the chance to work with other great graphics like Metastazis from France, Trine + Kim from Norway and with a band like Elend that I follow and appreciate from the very beginning of their glorious career.

I recently started my Facebook page, so anyone who might be interested can follow my future works there.

Thank you for this interview.

Check out Francesco’s music project Visthia here.

francesco_gemelli_lustre_adt_21

No Comments

Tags: , , ,

Khimaat – Vos-X

Khimaat promo pictureBack in the days of DIY yore, cassettes flooded the underground within a network of die-hard metalists looking for the next innovative sound. The better was praised, and the lesser was cast aside (for the most part).

Khimaat clench to the same methods and self-released their demo EP Vos-X this year on cassette. Though, most will be baffled as to where they can obtain the cassette outside of the band’s inner-circle. There doesn’t appear to be anywhere online where one can obtain a copy, and this is the first article written about it.

Drawing influences from bands like Arkhon Infaustus, Khimaat contrive an assortment of unsettling atonal passages. The harsh production insinuates the cacophonous demeanor displayed in Vos-X and showcases a mélange of discordant textures. With anguish residing at the forefront, Khimaat move forward into parallels of torment and manage to unnerve the listener as the demo EP unfolds. Unsettling as much as it is gritty, the execution of Vos-X is a good effort for a first attempt.

2 Comments

Tags: , ,

Death Metal Underground Weekly Newsletter 11/18-11/24

Death Metal Underground
Weekly Newsletter 11/18-11/24
Because Metal Is Art

Five things every musician needs

Those of us who have had the fortune to hang around the music industry for a few decades tend to pick up a few ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

If you are trying to get your music out there, you’ll get a lot of advice from people with agendas. They want you to do x so that they get y. What follows is generic advice for putting your best foot forward.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/five-things-every-aspiring-musician-needs/

Demilich box details revealed

Back in 1993, Demilich released a killer album entitled Nespithe. The album innovated consciously in every way possible. It took the audience a decade to warm up to it, but by the time Demilich re-united in 2006 for a reunion tour, death metal had fully bonded with this inventive act.

Fast forward a few more years and Demilich is finally getting the recognition it deserves through re-releases of its classic material. These were originally planned in 2006, but got delayed a bit as the wheels of music justice ground. Demilich has just announced the release of a limited edition box set with a 44-page booklet, sticker and new cover art.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/demilich-box-set-details-released/

Black metal album titles illustrated like children’s books

These pictures were originally innocent illustrations for children’s books. They were drawn by well-known but now deceased Czech artist Helena Zmatlíková who illustrated numerous books for children.

At some time after that, they were creatively edited by a member of Umbrtka who also writes for Czech Maxim. The innocence drained away, replaced by the eternal darkness of the blackest of souls.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/black-metal-album-titles-illustrated-like-childrens-books/

Deicide – In the Minds of Evil

If you break any ground as a band, you will suffer from momentum inertia. Your initial direction will carry you quickly to its end, and after three albums, you will find yourself with a loss of direction.

This occurs because in your vision, substance and form were joined, and you made a language out of what you wished to express. For some visions, a lifetime of specifics can be created; for most, there are big picture things to do, and then emptiness.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/deicide-in-the-minds-of-evil/

Cryogen – Continuum

Two revelations before listening to this: first, when I first got into music I thought talent and ability were rare; now I realize they’re commonplace, but the ability to apply them in some non-inert interesting way is rare. Second, that metalcore — the mix of metal genres in the post-hardcore style of “contrast without continuity” riffing — borrows almost everything it has from 1980s speed metal.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/cryogen-continuum/

Micro-songs: the shortest songs in heavy metal

About a decade ago, the trend of flash fiction or micro-stories seized the literary world by storm. The reasoning was that as people did more of their reading via phones and portable computers, they would want shorter, harder-hitting fiction.

Of course, metal was there first.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/microsongs/

Pink Frothy AIDS frontman says metal fans are “close-minded”

Heavy metal music gets a bad rap, not just from people who dislike it, but from people who claim to like it. The problem is that criticism draws attention to the speaker, so there’s no better way to stand out than to stand up and say, “All of this is wrong!”

While some critics of the current way are motivated by a desire to create useful change, most people are motivated by self-interest and change for change’s sake, which lets them seize attention and/or power. Pink Frothy AIDS’s frontman Mikael “Mick” Åkerfeldt recently attempted such a power grab.

His statements, recorded in a Metal Hammer interview via Metal Injection, are harshly critical of metal but suffer a gigantic logical “plot hole” that makes them totally nonsense.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/Pink Frothy AIDS-frontman-says-metal-fans-are-closed-minded/

Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-24-13

What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? These reviews address the music itself, instead of the social impact of assembling a public persona out of bands you claim to like. Since almost all human endeavors are mostly mediocrity, there will be tender self-pity follow by rage. Come for the laughs, stay for the schadenfreude… and occasional quality metal.

http://www.deathmetal.org/news/sadistic-metal-reviews-11-24-13/

DeathMetal.org is the net’s oldest and longest-running heavy metal resource center and home of The Heavy Metal FAQ. We treat heavy metal music as a form of art and culture, and we believe we should bring out the best in it. Our primary focus is death metal; but we remain open to new musical experiences, both within metal and without. To learn more, visit our information center at:
http://www.deathmetal.org/about

To join our weekly mailing list, visit:
http://www.deathmetal.org/mail/

No Comments

Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-24-13

metal_is_for_fun_trends_mosh_and_core

What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? These reviews address the music itself, instead of the social impact of assembling a public persona out of bands you claim to like. Since almost all human endeavors are mostly mediocrity, there will be tender self-pity follow by rage. Come for the laughs, stay for the schadenfreude… and occasional quality metal.

dissect-swallow_swouming_massDissect – Swallow Swouming Mass

Another band that leaves an “I guess it’s OK” impression, Dissect is interchangeable early 90s death metal. The deep vocals, downtuned guitars, and atmosphere are all there, but it’s unnecessary in light of other bands doing this style better. Unless you’re curious as to what Gorefest’s Mindloss would sound like if dumbed down into commercial jingles for Benediction fans, it’s best to leave this one alone. Like most bands from the Netherlands, the music is mediocre, but at least the lyrics are unintentionally funny.

philip_h_anselmo_and_the_illegals-walk_through_exists_onlyPhilip H. Anselmo & the Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only

This has all the hallmarks of Anselmo. The bird squawking vocals, stupid lyrics, and the music sounds like a hip-hop parody of bluegrass given a RAWK makeover are all there, except taken to the EXTREME with blast beats and tremolo picked riffs. Who’s he fooling with this? It still sounds like Pantera with the addition of randomness. The soundtrack to wearing an Anthrax shirt and skipping bail in a pickup truck while smoking a lot of meth after beating up your wife and step kids while a Steve Wilkos marathon is playing in the background.

shitfucker-suck_cocks_in_hellShitfucker – Suck Cocks in Hell

This is basically a hardcore band, with some stylings of heavy metal and black metal. Thus, expect sawing droning high-energy riffs, but with the fills of an Americanized NWOBHM band and occasional black metal vocals or melodic sweep-riffs in the Gorgoroth/Emperor style. However, for the most part this is a middle period hardcore band, sounding like a more spacious version of the Dayglo Abortions. It’s not bad but not compelling.

rottrevore-hung_by_the_eyesocketsRottrevore – Hung by the Eyesockets

Some bands just shouldn’t reform, especially third rate death metal bands from the 90s. Rottrevore return, playing their Harmony Corruption with Craig Pillard vocals form of death metal, but has regressed to a point where there’s no consistency in these songs which randomly showcase “old school” cliches. The typical 90s death metal of these riffs are a placeholder for a “mosh” or “breakdown” part which suggests this band may have been influenced by Pantera and/or metalcore during their time off. Still, about the only thing this band has done that’s of any note is having a member temporarily join Incantation in the mid 90s.

wombbath-internal_caustic_tormentsWombbath – Internal Caustic Torments

This band creates old school death metal with the vocal rhythms and tempo changes of Hypocrisy, but the storming intensity of an American death metal band like Massacre hybridized with the more percussive riffing of the second album from Suffocation. It is too good to remain a local band; however, there’s a reason (besides the goofy name) why this band never rose above the level of second-tier with bands like Utumno, Uncanny and Obscurity. It is highly rhythmic but repetitive both in riff use and song structure without much melodic development, which makes the experience of listening to it about like listening to a wall. There is a verse/chorus loop which is broken up with riffs for texture, and some melodic lead riffing which bounces over the thundering chords, but beyond that the story doesn’t develop much. Some of the later songs show a greater appetite for adventure, but there’s too much of a reek of wanting to be like Entombed with the more basic and thunderous attack of Obscurity, which removed a lot of what made Swedish death metal exciting in the first place which was its use of melody and dynamics. I don’t mind listening to this, but I’m unlikely to pick it up except as a curio of the past.

equinox-of_blade_and_graalEquinox – Of Blade and Graal

This EP begins with a Graveland-cum-neofolk style chanted introduction over acoustic guitar and then launches into three tracks of savage black metal. This band shows a lot of promise, but has two major beginner’s thwarts standing in its way: first, it is unclear on what style it wants to be, ranging between Iron Maiden heavy metal and Graveland black metal and back again with some stoner doom and Danzigish riffs; second, it doesn’t complete songs. These aren’t journeys from A->B, but journeys from A-> to a conceptual space where we think about the many possibilities that might be B. As a result, much like on a GBK record, the listener gets the feeling of something started but losing momentum in indecision. The good with Equinox is that these riffs tend to be very creative and fairly technical in a way you don’t normally hear, which is that they have complexity of phrase and within that, of rhythm, more like a jazz band or a solo. Like many black metal albums, these three tracks cluster themes which are revisited across song boundaries, creating a sense of being caught in one longer song. The lack of landmarks and destinations confuses it however, as does the jumble of styles, including one riff lifted from the first COC album. However, this demo shows a great deal of promise and as the band contemplates it over time, may be the inception of greater things to follow.

hate_storm_annihilation-storm_of_flamesHate Storm Annihilation – Storm of Flames

Despite the rather war-metalish name, HSA is middle period death metal; think late 1990s Sinister crossed with Malevolent Creation from the same period. Good riff diversity and variety, and song structure that holds together while allowing an interplay between elements to emerge, distinguish this approach from the soulless one-dimensionality to follow. Stylistically, there is not much new here, but these guys have their own voice in the content of the song, which is a somewhat pensive approach like early Darkthrone or Infester with a bit more intensity thrown in out of verge. While this is only one song, and the band has a horrible low-IQ name, here’s hoping they’ll produce more in the future.

monastyr-never_dreamingMonastyr – Never Dreaming

Sub-par Polish chug death metal that reduces the NYDM style into being bouncy mosh fodder. The death/grind that Unique Leader would later popularize in the 2000s through Deprecated and Disgorge is found here sandwiched between Deicide style rhythms going into Massacre styled bouncy riffs. It’s like an over-produced and over-long death metal demo from 1994 which sounds like an aesthetically upgraded version of what bands like Benediction and Cancer were producing around this time. So, more vacuous “middle of the road” death metal that accomplishes nothing beyond being vacuous “brutal mosh metal” and as such, unnecessary beyond a one time use as background music.

convulse-reflectionsConvulse – Reflections

Convulse release an album that is arguably their most well-written, but it’s also aesthetically maladjusted and void of artistic merit. Leaving their Bolt Thrower meets Benediction rudimentary “mosh” death metal behind for the death n’ roll trend of Entombed and Xysma, Convulse make a fully functional rock album with great instrumentation and performances. The problem is the gimmickry. A whimsically folky intro does a poor job setting the stage for the album proper, which is a more sufficiently mainstream version of the Xysma and Amorphis albums from this period. Extreme vocals, drums, and happy jazzy riffs are tremolo picked and blasted through giving this the feeling of death metal musicians parodying radio music more than anything. Bluesy and psychedelic as well, it seems like Convulse’s talent for stealing their country mates ideas has culminated in an album that simultaneously does everything their peers strove for better but coming off more poor in making things work cohesively as a listening experience, revealing this to be more of a “quirky” sham born from a conformist outlook than anything honest.

dead_world-the_machineDead World – The Machine

Early “death industrial” band Dead World uses the Streetcleaner formula for aesthetics but is closer to monotonic and mechanical industrial music in their compositions than anything that could be called metal. Lyrics and the “broodingly moody” manner in which they’re delivered reflect the mentality that Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson would use when making pop-industrial themed Xanax accompaniments. The band does a good job of making the downtuned guitars, vocals, and drums work together into making a “hostile” soundscape, but it’s really monotonous stomping rhythms are only interrupted by discordant bridges that don’t build on any of the preceding and the music doesn’t unfold through layers of guitar tracks, making this a bite-sized version of the Godflesh style that is more in line with what mainstream industrial rock bands were shipping out at this time. Very obvious “misanthropic” heavy rock music that doesn’t offer anything over its clone target.

Daniel Rodriguez, Jon Wild, Max Bloodworth and Cory Van Der Pol contributed to this report.

17 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Opeth frontman says metal fans are “closed-minded”

notorious_metal_haters

Heavy metal music gets a bad rap, not just from people who dislike it, but from people who claim to like it. The problem is that criticism draws attention to the speaker, so there’s no better way to stand out than to stand up and say, “All of this is wrong!”

While some critics of the current way are motivated by a desire to create useful change, most people are motivated by self-interest and change for change’s sake, which lets them seize attention and/or power. Opeth’s frontman Mikael “Mick” Åkerfeldt recently attempted such a power grab.

His statements, recorded in a Metal Hammer interview via Metal Injection, are harshly critical of metal but suffer a gigantic logical “plot hole” that makes them totally nonsense.

First, here’s Mick’s statements:

In metal, evolution doesn’t seem to be that important. I think most metal fans just want their Happy Meals served to them. They don’t really want to know about what they’r getting.

For a while, I thought metal was a more open-minded thing but I was wrong. Maybe it’s different from country-to-country. Don’t get me wrong, I love metal, but I’m also open-minded.

I admire some bands that do the same record over and over again – I wonder how they don’t get bored! For us, and Anathema, it seems impossible for us to stay still.

Take a quick glance at that last paragraph. Therein is the point of this whole diatribe: he wants you to like his album. Summary: Our record is totally different and unique, everyone else is bad, buy our record.

Then let’s look at the first paragraph. He says something nasty, which is the “Happy Meals” comment. Happy Meals are not just soulless junk food, but they’re also for kids. He’s saying you’re being spoon-fed baby food.

Then Mick makes some accusations:

  • [Metal] “evolution doesn’t seem to be that important”
  • “They don’t really want to know about what they’re getting”
  • Metal is not “open-minded”
  • Other genres are “open-minded”
  • Metal is boring because the albums by the same band are similar

His assertion that metalheads “don’t really want to know about what they’re getting” seems to make zero sense in a world where people download albums before buying them, or at least hear them on YouTube or via label-sponsored streaming on SoundCloud. In fact, metalheads have always wanted to hear the album before buying, even when they had to do it with CD players and headphones in record stores (as in the 1990s). It seems as if metalheads are picking albums for reasons that Mick just doesn’t understand.

It’s good to ask ourselves if the words he’s using mean what he thinks they mean. For example, what does “open-minded” mean? Does it mean you listen to something, experiment with it and reject it? Or that you include it in the album? On one extreme, “open-minded” means you never throw out an idea if it’s unusual. That obviously makes no sense. On another extreme, “open-minded” can result in you making very similar music if you reject other stylings for logical reasons related to your intent in making that music. For example, if I’m writing an opera about the downfall of a dynasty, including a sudden burst of cheerful carnival music might be completely inappropriate and defeat my purpose in writing that music.

This leads us to the biggest point here, which is that Mick is playing definition games. Without similarity, a genre doesn’t exist. We can call things “heavy metal” because they’re more similar to each other than they are to other genres, or because they have certain central tenets that correspond to beliefs. For example, that dark angry music should be “heavy,” which usually means distortion, minor key, complexity, unusual twists and turns. Or that the genre should use riffs in ways unlike rock, blues, jazz, etc. Or that its riffs should have an internal dialogue, as death metal does, which cause the chromatic equivalent of melodic evolution.

Without that similarity, the genre doesn’t exist. This is proven by Mick’s own decision to incorporate other elements in his work. He has affirmed the genre by saying he wants to operate outside of it. This implies that he recognizes metal by its similarity, which makes his complaining about it seem ludicrous. Further, when he’s saying that metal is “closed-minded,” what he’s really saying is that it doesn’t include other genres in itself, at which point (somewhere) it would cease to be metal, as he has acknowledged his own next album will do. This is the gigantic logical “plot hole” in the midst of his statements.

We could turn his argument around on him and say that he is in fact the “closed-minded” one. If he has to turn to other genres, it’s because he can’t figure out a way to make variety in metal. In part, this may be because he has literally closed his mind to the possibility of there being variation in metal (and this usage of “closed minded” seems more accurate) and can’t understand it or perceive it and thus, can’t reproduce it. If he looks at metal and thinks that Demilich, Gorguts, Incantation, Suffocation, Asphyx and Varathron are all doing the same thing, of course he’ll have to turn to other genres. He can’t perceive vast musical variation within metal.

This perhaps explains a lot about Mick’s band, Opeth. I first heard Opeth while standing in the Wild Rags store when Richard C. put a copy of Orchid on the stereo. Against his subtle advice — “it’s OK, might not be your thing” — I bought it, and spent the next dozen years regretting it before I finally sold it off for book money. My perception of Orchid was that it was the work of a band that did not want to be a metal band, and that they had one primary technique, which was to play up the dynamic change between acoustic and distorted music. They were far from the first to discover this technique, which was later used by nu-metal bands in the same way Opeth used it, which was multiple times in a song to create a verse/chorus differentiation. Here’s Death using a more tasteful version of the technique:

I noticed some similarities between Opeth and the Swedish bands who went before (Opeth was formed in 1990 by guys who had previously been in second-string Swedish speed metal and heavy metal bands). Swedish death metal had experimented with softer sounds before and the use of acoustic instruments, but had used them to atmosphere effect, instead of relying on a simple binary contrast. For example, check out this track from Cemetary which came out a year after Opeth was formed:

Another band that deserves a comparison to Opeth is Tiamat (formerly Treblinka, before they realized how that name could be mis-interpreted). Tiamat also did not want to be a heavy metal band, but a blues-hard rock band with a softer vibe like the English Gothic pop that was in vogue some years before. They had a very pop vibe and used acoustic guitars to set up contrast for crashing distortion as well, and also liked to incorporate lots of other genres:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6gYOh3SZL0

Opeth got famous not on their “open-mindedness,” but rather on playing to the image they had for fans. The early Opeth propaganda coming out from the labels suggested they were progressive and that, while most metal fans wouldn’t understand the complex and nuanced work of Opeth, those who could understand it would love it. If you’re an underconfident teenager, this takes you from zero to “I know something you don’t know” in four seconds. It’s a win for marketing and you’ve probably already noticed that it’s exactly parallel to Mick’s statements about “closed-mindedness.” Summary: Other people don’t understand us, but if you like us then you’re presumed to understand us and thus, you must be both able to appreciate greater musical complexity and open-minded.

As you can see, this whole kerfuffle is based in marketing and not reality. Opeth doesn’t care about “closed-mindedness” in metal any more than I care about orphaned chinchillas in Williamsburg (no, I do… I really do). This is about selling you records by appealing to your damaged self-image and giving you a way of feeling better than other people. That’s the same reason Opeth sold themselves as a progressive band despite lacking the melodic complexity, variable song structures, epic symbolism equated to melodic development and other factors of the original 1970s progressive rock bands. Opeth isn’t progressive; this is progressive:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amBqI4t6JE0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjC1t2i5wm0

And if you’re actually “open-minded” and can see past the narrow expectations defined for you by other media and social forces, this is progressive death metal:

32 Comments

Tags: ,

Classic reviews:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z