While you’re there, you might enjoy the metal-based conversation, or head over to Interzone for no-holds-barred and no-topic-required conversation and raging. Unlike the rest of the internet, we don’t pretend we’re anything but memetic anarchy and social chaos.No Comments
People thought the golden age of metal zines was over. However, now that the internet has flooded the world with low quality information, including Garage Band musical projects, there’s a new need for zines: to find the good stuff and celebrate it.
When you think about it, almost everything you’re exposed to on a daily basis is a commercial message. Whether it’s some commercial on TV selling you Viagra, someone soliciting “likes” on Facebook, renting your apartment on AirBnB or even a news broadcast, money is changing hands.
How this works is that the person creating the information makes it about a topic on the surface, but in its inner structure, it’s about the sale. Some material works from the opposite direction, and makes its inner structure about the music itself. We call that media “underground.”
Codex Obscurum’s second issue has two dimensions to it. The first is how it looks, and the second in the quality of information inside. As someone who lived through the years of four-track production and grainy xeroxed zines, the former doesn’t influence me much. It’s in the information zone that Codex Obscurum thrives.
The staff behind this magazine have clearly put a lot of effort into acquiring interesting interviews, stories and relevant record reviews. What other zine do you know would contact Burzum mastermind and known church-burning neo-Nazi Varg Vikernes, and only ask him about his new role-playing game? Or would create a Slayer tribute that’s this personal?
In addition to the human interest stories, the bread and butter of this zine is its scene reporting. An interview with Incantation shows more of the band than we’ve seen in a long time, getting into the depths of its motivations and musicality. There’s a killer Morpheus Descends interview and a wad of record reviews that are not only coherent but insightful.
No zine will be perfect in form or content. Some of what goes into this issue of Codex Obscurum struck me as irrelevant to my personal pursuits but it’s hard to argue against inclusion of longstanding local scene veteran bands, and those interviews turned out to be interesting, so it’s a quibble at best.
In form, this zine could improve. Luckily, their error is that they are trying too hard. The editors created a number of different layouts, with different fonts and background colors, to try to liven up the layout. My advice is to stop doing this, and to go back to the whitespace backgrounds of bygone days, but use space more efficiently.
Codex Obscurum could fit in more content by modifying its layouts in this way. Similarly, for record reviews, just use a table grid. You don’t need to come up with something visually arresting in every case because if you’re using the space efficiently, it will be packed with information. Typerwriter font is fine because it copies well, unlike some of the Olde English and Stencil fonts used here.
That being said however I thoroughly enjoyed this zine and its writing style. Unlike the blog-influenced writing of the mainstream media, this zine does not take a few nuggets of information and drown them in a sea of happy social noises. It cuts to the chase, and starts dishing the vital knowledge without a lot of backstory and chatter.
Best of all, this zine understands the underground. Codex Obscurum is written from the perspective that the truth is out there and most people don’t want to see it and refuse to even take hints that it exists. Thus, that which wants to keep its integrity must stay underground, and requires dedicated zines to explain it to others.1 Comment
You can hear a sample track in high definition at the Hammerheart Records Sammath Godless Arrogance page for “Fear Upon Them”. This track showcases not only the songwriting of the new album but the production you’ll hear which improves upon past Sammath releases.
Creating music in the style of fast ripping death metal with the underlying melody and moodiness of black metal, Sammath deliver a blast of fury and beauty that resembles the second Immortal album crossed with Fallen Christ. Godless Arrogance may help renovate metal in 2014.1 Comment
Bearing one of the more enjoyable band names of recent note, Parasitic Ejaculation bring a focused, percussive take on death metal while simultaneously grotesquely offending any person with mainstream sensibilities.
The band chooses to play death metal in its purest form, with a focus on the morbid and postmortem. Riffs naturally lead from one into the next, without ever letting the listener get complacent with verse-chorus simplicity. Instead, the songwriters focus on the underlying structure and how modifying its form can produce creative results.
Rationing the Sacred Remains utilizes competent instrumentalism in which all instruments are well-played and eject an exciting contribution to the whole. Steady low-pitched belches provide a framework that pushes the songs forward. In its best moments, the band plays in a highly evocative manner, in which melting chords and pinch-harmonics simulate the death throes of the prey of a violent predator.
However, at times the band seems to dip into parody, such as allowing harmonics to become the driving element of a song rather than as ornaments, in addition to incorporation of rhythms that become self-referential rather than contributive to the overall design. In such instances, the “spell” is broken and the listener is given the impression that the song is merely something to mosh to, rather than the art it has the potential of being.
Regardless, this is a band to keep an eye on as they refine their music into the future. Their debut album, Rationing the Sacred Remains, can be heard in full over at their Bandcamp page.
Abominant make midwestern death metal which showcases its extensive and varied influences within the metal genre. Astute observers will note charging death metal like Afterlife, but simpler and more direct, mixed with heavily Iron Maiden influenced heavy metal.
Onward to Annihilation exhibits Abominant at the height of their powers, having been making metal for over two decades. The tempo changes are crisper, the riffs faster, and the vocals put the sore abraded throat sound of death metal singing to a powerful use. The lengthy fast and emotional bluesy solos are still rippling through the bridge riffs.
Songs are fundamentally riff salad wrapped around a verse-chorus construction like a DUI driver wraps her SUV around a light pole. Structures veer off the beaten path, but do so as a way of returning, and tend to go through a series of riffs from heavy metal and speed metal before returning to the death metal norm.
Abominant have improved on previous efforts by evening out the balance of melodic material to the rest, and keeping the intensity up by tossing out less intense riffs. This shows the band at their leanest and meanest, smashing their heavy metal-death metal fusion into the faces of an oblivious world.
Onward to Annihilation, Abominant’s 10th studio album, is out now on Deathgasm Records.
- We Are Coming
- Conquerors of Dust
- Left to Rot
- Onward to Annihilation
- Hold Your Ground
- Beside the Dying Flame
- Legions of Hell
Dark Funeral, the Swedish black metal band started by Necrophobic guitarist David Parland (whose untimely demise this year shocked the metal world), has a long and storied career. The band is now re-releasing its earlier works with the usual remaster and rare tracks treatment.
The important album to look forward, however, is In the Sign…. This one, which features the guitar work and composition of Parland, shows melodic Swedish black metal at its raging best. With the energy of Belial, and the general aesthetic of a simplified Dissection, early Dark Funeral is a more heavy metal take on black metal that often resembles tremolo-picked version of Ride the Lightning.
In the Sign… as re-issued will be almost twice as long, with the original self-titled MCD/EP combined with four Bathory covers to produce an approximation of an eight-song album. These titles will be released in Europe on September 9 and in North America on November 12 via Century Media Records.
In The Sign… (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as CD, LP (plus poster), digital download**
1. Open The Gates (4:36)
2. Shadows Over Transylvania (4:22)
3. My Dark Desires (3:52)
4. In The Sign Of The Horns (3:43)
5. Equimanthorn (BATHORY cover) (3:21)
6. Call From The Grave (BATHORY cover) (4:34)
7. Open The Gates (live 2003) (3:54)
8. Shadows Over Transylvania (live 2003) (3:16)
9. My Dark Desires (live 2003) (3:48)
NOTE: tracks 1-4 are taken from the self-titled MCD (1994), tracks 6-7 are taken from ‘In Conspiracy With Satan’ BATHORY-tribute sampler
The Secrets Of The Black Arts (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as 2CD, Gatefold 2LP (plus poster), digital download**
1. The Dark Age Has Arrived (00:18)
2. The Secrets Of The Black Arts (03:40)
3. My Dark Desires (03:46)
4. The Dawn No More Rises (03:58)
5. When Angels Forever Die (04:06)
6. The Fire Eternal (03:54)
7. Satan’s Mayhem (04:52)
8. Shadows Over Transylvania (03:41)
9. Bloodfrozen (04:20)
10. Satanic Blood (VON cover) (02:12)
11. Dark Are The Paths To Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal) (05:56)
1. Shadows Over Transylvania (Unisound version (03:39)
2. The Dawn No More Rises (Unisound version) (03:40)
3. The Secrets Of The Black Arts (Unisound version) (03:26)
4. Satan’s Mayhem (Unisound Version) (04:48)
5. Bloodfrozen (Unisound Version) (03:36)
6. My Dark Desires (Unisound Version) (03:21)
7. Dark Are The Paths To Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal) (Unisound Version) (05:39)
8. The Fire Eternal (Unisound Version) (03:38)
Vobiscum Satanas (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as CD, LP, digital download**
1. Ravenna Strigoi Mortii (04:26)
2. Enriched By Evil (04:40)
3. Thy Legions Come (04:11)
4. Evil Prevail (04:28)
5. Slava Satan (03:56)
6. The Black Winged Horde (04:37)
7. Vobiscum Satanas (05:00)
8. Ineffable King Of Darkness (03:38)
9. Enriched By Evil (live 1998) (04:43)
10. Thy Legions Come (live 1998) (04:14)
11. Vobiscum Satanas (live 1998) (05:00)
12. Ineffable King Of Darkness (live 1998) (03:28)
So-so occurs not because an album has too much bad, but because it doesn’t have enough good. And this isn’t a by-the-pound determination. It needs to be good in a number of ways, including structurally and conceptually, or it devolves into chaos. Randomness. Disorder.
The average album usually has no defects. The instrumentation is good, the production is good, and individual members put in strong performances. They can write songs according to the book, and often have a unique concept. It just doesn’t hold together because it lacks a central idea.
Withdrawal is an example of a truly bad album. It is not bad because it is incompetent, but because it is whore. Woe takes the techniques of orthodox black metal and applies them to hard rock with touches of indie. This produces disorder with a face value different from its content.
On the surface, this album emulates Gorgoroth and Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger; a little bit under the surface, you find Ulver and Taake. Dig down deep enough and you find recycled Def Leppard and Quiet Riot riffs, with repetitive use of black metalTM technique like blast beats, melodic drone, bad production, and so forth.
As a product, Withdrawal is great because it’s open to everyone. On the surface, it’s rebellion; underneath, it’s the same complacent crap your parents were listening to. Maybe it’s a good pop album; I got bored halfway through. But it’s not black metal.
Black metal doesn’t hybridize with much because black metal is by itself a distinctive genre. This distinctiveness comes not from its technique, which is borrowed from atmospheric heavy metal and crustcore, but its attitude and outlook.
Unlike almost every other genre on earth, black metal is not about people in the singular. It’s about life itself. It has no pretense of stooping to your perspective, or making itself appealing and interesting like a crooner. It is like the cold winds of winter nights: untouchable, aloof, lawless and immune to human guilt, morality and fear.
Aborym blend black metal of the blasting type — think Mythos, Zyklon-B or Impaled Nazarene — with both extremely clubby techno and 1980s Gothic power pop. The result is compelling but more on the side of those other genres, because the black metal technique is absorbed. To counter this, Aborym create clever song structures out of variations in texture and on top of those drop in additional layers of melody or rhythm.
Like more mass consumption musics, Aborym uses static riffing here, where a chord is used to sketch out a rhythm. This is different from the normal phrasal riffs of black metal and death metal, where chords are used as notes in melodic phrases that resemble the objects of their symbolic role in the song.
The mixture of sheer keyboards and heavily reverbed guitar chording creates an immersion of sound that must be an unholy terror live. It creates total disconnect in the listener and puts emphasis on the voice and excessively front-ended percussion, which causes the overall song to more resemble 1980s rock than 1990s black metal.
On Dirty, the band work hard to keep each song interesting. The initial thrust of the style is overwhelming, but would becalm itself without the quirky variations that the band throw in for later tracks. As a result, it is listenable without being abrasive, but I’m not sure I’d reach for this a second time as a black metal listener. As a Gothic pop or techno fan, most definitely.
Aborym find themselves in a difficult time frame where black metal has burnt its initial thrust and waits for more clarity. Many of us think it is not stylistic, but a lack of ongoing growth in attitude and outlook. By returning to deconstructed roots and hybridizing, Aborym inject the black metal spirit into something else. However, it is a mistake to approach Dirty as a black metal album.
This is a 2-disc release, with the first disc being extensively techno-industrial new material from this band, and the second reworking of older songs and covers.
One effect of the recent uptick in nostalgia bands and reunions is that newer bands have seen the light. This illumination is that if a band simply continues where the past left off, it can both have a unique perspective and uphold the traditions that have made metal great. This escapes the dual ills of false novelty and being a tribute band.
Scalpel combines the West Coast style of blasting percussive death metal, commonly called the Unique Leader sound after the label that signed the innovators of this style, with the East Coast post-Suffocation form of grinding pneumatic explosive technical death. The result is high-intensity percussion mated with simple riffs that proliferate into layered textures that expand in complexity as the song develops.
Sorrow and Skin will immediately call to mind recent Deeds of Flesh and Northeasterners Dehumanized, who made similar percussion-intensive death metal with similar pacing: frenetic, but with lots of pauses and interludes, drawing together high intensity moments like scenes in an atmospheric horror film. Scalpel pair up riffs and let them develop, but keep it simple so that no element rises above the others.
The result is high-intensity music that also has enough internal musical meat to keep the brain occupied and searching for meaning in its patterns, which creates a vertiginous effect of discovery when the unpredictable occurs. Use of melody allows songs to embed moods within previous sensations crafted only by the pattern of riffs.
While Scalpel uses little of metal’s classic phrasal riffing, preferring the more speed metal percussive and choppy styles, these riffs branch out to include different textures and rhythms. The result is a sense of each song like a mini-golf course, where each riff has a mechanism and after you play through, a surprise that reveals its purpose in the whole.
In keeping with the West Coast school of percussive death metal, Scalpel uses the “dog barking into the wind” style of vocals that are both guttural but not exclusively bass-heavy, giving them greater range to match instruments. The result packages a good deal of musical activity within songs that, while made from simple parts, end up being tiny visions of inward journeys that take us to more interesting places than the sum of their pieces.
- The Woodsman
- The black juices
- Sentinels of Severed Flesh
- Sorrow and Skin
- The Exterminator/Human Slaw
An interested reader wrote in, and so we continue our discussion of whether modern metal is important at all, and whither the future of metal.
So, metal music is over? Or do you that have a big journey to happen?
No, it’s not over. It needs to find new content. Its form is a refinement of its original form, and it can be refined further, but not by hybridizing it with other genres. Jazz-metal is dead, math-metal is dead, blues-metal is dead, indie-metal is dead, alt-metal is dead because these were always old and tired ideas. Alternative rock is punk mixed with 1980s indie rock. It’s self-pity music. Indie metal is emo and Fugazi mixed with d-beat and black metal. Post-metal is just slowed down indie metal. All of this music sounds more like Nirvana, Jawbreaker, Fugazi, Rites of Spring, etc. than metal. All of that stuff was born dead. What’s alive is the metal spirit. From Black Sabbath through Judas Priest through Slayer through Incantation through Immortal, it’s a continuum. Metal has just finally left rock behind with death/black metal and it needs to continue that transformation. It needs to finally become its own musical language entirely separate from everything else.
What is your opinion about mathcore (Botch, Converge)?
It’s an extension of late hardcore. Black Flag “The Process of Weeding Out” is the grandfather, and they ran it through the Fugazi filter. Neurosis was a better direction but the people who’ve cloned that don’t understand what Neurosis was on about. They can imitate the music, not understand the soul.
And what will happen with the black metal genre?
It died in 1996. Since then, with maybe five exceptions, the new bands have been imitators. Their goal is to make music that’s like black metal on the surface, but like regular indie rock underneath, so they can sell it to the kids for weekend rebellion but not so much that it sets them off-course and they can’t return to school, jobs, watching TV and voting for idiots during the week.
What will happen with metal? It’s over? There new things to create?
See the first question. “Big journey” is more true than “over.”12 Comments