Chuck Schuldiner who once played crushing music that popularized Death metal before attempting to follow the mid 90s phase where every Underground band had to somehow rise to face the more rock influenced bands at their own game through whinier passages and trivial lyric matter. During that period his technical abilities increased but his inability to arrange worthwhile music become obvious rather as he relied exclusively on rock structures that culminated in a solo before repeating the whole process without any thoughts on progression, narration or momentum. This created the effect where some truly incredible melodies were juxtaposed next to some very mediocre sections derived from rock and other genres. This device was then taken by a large number of bands who have then used it to promote a singular idea over everything else and has contributed largely to the decline of metal in general. Let us look at a few moments where the Chuck Schuldiner syndrome was very apparent.
Today’s F-grade death metal is brought to you by Corey M.
Mortuary – Nothingless than Nothingless (2016)
The opening track is made up of the same chords for two and a half minutes. That the drummer can play five different beats over the chord progressions illustrates the pointlessness of the progression. This happens with most of the progressions in any given song – the drum beat is switched up in middle of the passage. Why does the band even bother writing these progressions if they’re so boring that not even the band wants to hear them played with the same beat for four cycles straight? This is the kind of “metal” that fans of modern “hardcore” get into. I can practically hear the PETA stickers and Vans shoes. You needn’t listen long to hear the influences – Pantera, Rob Zombie, and various Warped Tour-tier metalcore. At least Mortuary spared us any ironic rap verses or shout-outs.
Phobocosm – Bringer of Drought (2016)
Though it was easy to feel optimistic about Phobocosm’s future based on 2014’s Deprived (which this author still recommends – C.M.), it’s now time to give up on the band. Bringer of Drought shows Phobocosm embracing the Deathspell Omegacore post-modern metal virus, complete with songs of absurdly excessive length, mind-numbing guitar drones, artsy-fartsy dissonant chords that ring and grate, and minimal blasting-riffing which is the one part (all of about two minutes) that still sounds like death metal. The term “sellout” is severe and reserved for dire circumstances, but in this case it applies; Phobocosm has abandoned their obscure malevolence and Immolation-style warped riffcraft in favor of inoffensive but “deep”-sounding D-grade post-rock (see also: Adversarial). People who hate metal are the target audience.
Ferium – Behind the Black Eyes (2016)
Extremely repititous, faux-angry-man vocals set to white-boy groove-metal rhythms. Choppy, math-rock-wannabe drum beats. Guitars that barely even play melodies, just semi-random notes on whatever beats the drummer somehow decides to play. My guess is that he is using a random number generator, or maybe a set of dice, to decide the rhythm. One cringe-inducing track made up of three piano chords and a whining voice repeating “She feels like home”. Mix all these ingredients in a big rusty pot, heat over an open flame til melted to a liquid, apply liberally to your (or a consenting partner’s) scrotum, and then revel in searing agony. Recommended for fans of being raped.
NilExistence – Existence in Revelation (2016)
Terrible band name, terrible title, and terrible art aside, this is some tastefully brutal blasting with skillful musicianship and some evocative riffing. The vocals quickly become overbearing, which is a shame, since the intriguing Morbid Angel-style riffs sway to and fro, one moment up-close and vicious like a buzzsaw held to your face, the next distant and vast like a yawning cavern begging to swallow you whole. As usual with bands that try this, NilExistence trip on their own artillery by crashing together too many dissimilar riffs, like pages of a book shredded and then glued back together at random. These songs lack focus and therefore lack identity but something good may come out of these guys if they stay true to their influences and reign in the random deviations.
Hemotoxin – Biological Enslavement (2016) Human-era Death worship by competent musicians with a keen sense of exactly how much melodic variance per riff it takes to keep a listener’s attention from wandering. This could be a strength rather than a handicap but the riffs aren’t related through anything other than temporal closeness. The feeling of each song jumps from here to there with little rhyme or reason. Slow, chugging sections interrupt tremolo-picked blasting segments, then vice-versa. Occasionally, a tasty guitar lead explodes out of nowhere and then vanishes without so much as a trace of smoke, leaving us longing and dissatisfied. Lyrically we get a mish-mash of edgy lyrics about homelessness and suicide that seem to hint toward some insincere positivity by outlining gruesome subjects in a “profound” light. This all makes for a very frustrating listen since it’s apparent that the band care much for their presentation and musicianship but lack the crucial element that makes metal tolerable: the natural intuition required to coherently structure songs. Sound familiar yet? Not even AIDS can keep Chuck in the grave.
A riff-salad is often deemed to be intrinsically affiliated to music with no order and random ideas. But the best use of this song-writing approach make use of different kinds relationships between one riff and the next, and between all riffs in the song. Given the superficial independence of motifs and patterns of different riffs, stylistic consistency is, above all, indispensable.
Advertised as Thrash, UnKured make schyzophrenic music materializing the worse riff-salad nightmares. Not only does each new riff that comes do away with whatever the previous riff was saying, but influences from the most undefined and messy prog-speed albums like The Sound of Perseverance to almost deathcore-like breakdown rhythms and back to late 1980s barking death metal make an appearance.
Fans looking for the fun provided by Chuck Schuldiner’s naivete will enjoy this release even though this is less organized and more confusing for anyone trying to get an integral view of the music.
Massacre carved a place for themselves in the death metal community years ago and with their foundational From Beyond, an album of tremolo-picked columnar death metal with big fuzzy production at a time when many death metal bands were still trying to emulate the muted-picked speed metal of the previous era.
Over two decades later, Massacre returns with Back From Beyond which sees release on April 1, 2014 via Century Media records. We were fortunate to be able to grab a few words with bassist Terry Butler, whose work with Massacre, Death, Six Feet Under and other Florida death metal bands has made him a towering legend in the community.
You’re about to unleash a new work, Back From Beyond. Since the title effectively compares it to your breakthrough album From Beyond, can you tell us: how are these albums different in approach, in style and in production?
In the case of From Beyond, the songs had been written five years prior, so when we signed to Earache, we just jumped in the studio and recorded them. We tried to keep the production simple and raw. The approach for Back From Beyond was “let’s not rush and re-hash songs for a quick release.” We took our time with the songwriting and production. It’s been 22 years, why rush? The production is better on Back From Beyond. Tim Vasquez did a great job!
What do you think Back From Beyond is adding to death metal, twenty plus years past its inception?
We are just playing Death Metal the way we like it. Heavy riffs, catchy in your face and brutal. I like rhythms I can remember. As far as adding something new, no one is adding something new these days. It’s all been done. We are just doing what we do.
You released an EP, Condemned to the Shadows, in 2012. How different is that material from what we’ll hear on Back From Beyond?
It’s musically in the same vein. More of the same basically. We re-recorded the two tracks from that EP. They are sonically different and production-wise sound different.
Can you tell us how Massacre assembled? I know it pre-dated Death, but after Death fragmented the members came together for From Beyond. Can you connect those dots for us?
Bill Andrews formed Massacre in ’84. At that stage it was mostly covers. Kam [Lee] joined in ’85 and a three-song demo was released. Rick [Rozz] joined in ’86 and a four-song demo was released. In early ’87, Rick, Bill, and I joined Death. After four years in Death, Bill and I contacted Rick, and Massacre was back together. We signed to Earache and put out From Beyond and Inhuman Condition. After several tours the band split up again. Now 22 years later, we are back. That’s the gist of it. In a nutshell.
At the time when From Beyond came out, most of Florida death metal was focusing on blasting and choppier, more muted strum percussive riffing. Massacre went for the full on fast-tremolo strum and big fuzzy burly warm sound guitar production. What made you take this different path?
That’s the Massacre sound and philosophy. Rick was in Mantas in ’83 writing this way and in Death in ’84 and ’85 writing this way. He wrote most of the material on From Beyond. He wrote half of Leprosy. I co-wrote four songs on Spiritual Healing. So what I’m trying to say is: this is our style. The songs on From Beyond were written in ’86. No disrespect to blasting, but the Massacre sound was cemented years before.
Do you think your different path helped ‘From Beyond’ achieve the cult status it has among death metal devotees?
Yes, in a way. The band didn’t at the time, no, but we were influencing the likes of Napalm Death, Carcass etc. Joining Death, then coming back and putting out From Beyond only helped the status of Massacre. The whole time I was in Six Feet Under, people kept asking about Massacre. For the band to still be relevant in 2014 speaks volumes about the music!
Was Bill Andrews unable to make the reunion? Is he still into death metal at all?
Unfortunately… no. He doesn’t play anymore and doesn’t listen to Death Metal. I still talk to him regularly though. He lives in Japan now.
Rick Rozz has an entirely unique guitar style marked by, among other things, “whammy bar abuse.” What influenced this style, and are we still going to hear the torturing of whammy bars?
The whammy bar is still in effect and deadlier than ever ha-ha… He draws a lot of influence from K.K. Downing and Kerry King, as far as the whammy goes. I personally think it’s a lost art these days.
What do you think determines whether a band is death metal or not? Is death metal the same genre it was back in 1992, or has it changed?
I think it’s mix of music and vocals. Obviously the first thing is vocals. If you put opera vocals over Cannibal Corpse songs it’s not Death Metal, and if you put Cannibal Corpse vocals over Journey songs it’s not Death Metal. Darker, heavier music with low brutal vocals is the formula for Death Metal. I believe Death Metal has changed since ’92, a bit. There are more off-shoots, such as Black Metal, Crust, and Grind, these days. I think Death Metal back then was more about riffs and grooves; now it’s about speed and fashion.
About what mix of old/new songs do you think you’ll play on tour? How are you preparing for the tour?
The mix will be about 50/50. We still have to play the hits ha-ha. We will practice as much as possible for the tour.
From Beyond featured mostly “mythological” lyrics, drawn from Lovecraft and horror movies. It wasn’t so much “social consciousness.” Do you think metal tends toward a mythological direction?
I think it’s a mix of both. Obliviously you have your satanic lyrics and religious themes, but a lot of bands do sing about current events. The satanic and mythological lyrics are kind of written for you already.
How do you all feel about launching a huge new album and tour two decades after you started out? Did you ever think Massacre would get this big?
I think it’s amazing and we are very excited about it. Like I said earlier , it says a lot about our music that we are still relevant after 22 years.