Releasing Savage Land in April of 2015, Gruesome have released a new lyric video. Gruesome boasts band members who have previously been part of Exhumed, Malevolent Creation, Possessed, and Derketa and is said by some to play a style that “honors” Chuck Schuldiner’s work. This is partially true as Gruesome played a dumbed-down death metal consisting of simple, groovy rhythms played single-string riffs and intermittent sections of faster and slower d-beats. But I would venture to say that Gruesome’s songwriting is definitely superior to pre-Human Death (post-Human Death being a different kind of music, and belongs to a slightly different discussion).No Comments
I discovered the music of Blood Urn through the recommendation of a friend. Like most of what I listen to now, it is music that upholds the spirit of older underground metal, the earliest prog rock, and early metal bands like Black Sabbath: a desire to look past the official one-dimensional categorical narrative and uncover the organic life beneath, and through that, to avoid the manipulation of the mass culture around us and discover personal truths that also correspond to tendencies in reality itself. In the style of the oldest death metal bands, Blood Urn knits together riffs into a complex narrative that continually reinvents itself, creating a roller coaster through a labyrinth effect that incorporates both the progressive and psychedelic ancestry of metal. Fortunately, I was able to have brief speaks with the founder and composer of Blood Urn…
When did Blood Urn form and who are the members? What have you released so far?
The name was given to the project in 2010, but a vague idea already existed for several years before, slowly becoming a definite force. We are not a band. I write and record all the music, a friend records the vocals and some allies contribute small parts. We have released two demos on tape: “Unchain the Abhorrent” (2011) and “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” (2014).
What inspirations and influences helped propel you into starting Blood Urn?
A deep love for darkness and metal music. My influences are mostly the music that I listen to. But of course I also cherish certain occult literature, splatter movies, mythology, paintings… What I like about making (death) metal is that one can incorporate all these influences in such a naive way; there is no need for huge systematic concepts, but a lot of space for instinct and eclectic working. It never looses it’s reckless teenage approach but also provides a sense of depth and seriousness.
You say: “My influences are mostly the music that I listen to. But of course I also cherish certain occult literature, splatter movies, mythology, paintings…” Can you list your musical influences, especially when you started out with Blood Urn, in addition to literature, movies, mythology and paintings? I think people are fascinated by this kind of stuff because it often reveals a lot about what you value.
Things that are a continuous influence for my work with Blood Urn (and sometimes beyond):
Absu (death metal era, especially the first album and earlier stuff)
Nile (especially the first album)
Cryptopsy (first two albums)
Morbid Angel (old)
Occult stuff like Peter J. Carrol, Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, but not so much recently.
Philosophy like Nietzsche, Camus, Evola, poetic works from Baudelaire, works on religion and spirituality like Mircea Eliade.
Stupid splatter movies, horror movies like Evil Dead, Hellraiser, experimental stuff like Begotten.
Only Norse and celtic mythology when it comes to Blood Urn.
PAINTINGS / ART
I don’t have vast knowledge when it comes to art, but I know what I like when I see it. Rubens’ “Medusa”, Hieronymus Bosch, old woodcuts illustrating death, plague and the devil. VERY much old anatomic illustrations, for example by Andreas Vesalius. Specific Austrian art: Viennese actionism, Hermann Nitsch,… everybody should check this out!
Why did you choose an older style, when newer styles are more likely to get you record contracts, interviews and fame?
If cared about that, I would make different music. But I don’t even think that I would be able to make other music than this kind of metal in a decent way… For example, I am into prog/folk rock and would love to play that style as well, but it just ends up horrible every time I try it.
On the other hand, I am doing an interview right now and people have been responding better to my creative output than I could have ever wished for, so. I am pleased about all the feedback the way it is. If there is something like an underground metal “scene,” then I have to compliment it for being very responsive.
What is it that appeals to you about these older styles? Do you think they are still relevant? How do we measure “relevant”?
Right now, being traditional, backward-looking and a little bit nostalgic is a strength of the black and death metal scene since it spawned a lot of interesting bands that adhere to these ideals. I think tradition will always be relevant for metal music and I am extremely enthusiastic about its complexity. But that is no excuse to replace artistic vision by mere reproduction of the characteristics of a certain style/era… that is a danger for creative potential and I am a little skeptical about the way things are. I don’t know how to measure relevance, but I sure see the danger of becoming trivial. Especially after all the buzz about old death metal vanishes again… which of the records that we bought in the last five years will stand the test of time? Blood Urn? I don’t have the highest hopes, to be honest. And I don’t really care.
I could not identify a single dominant influence to Blood Urn. This makes the band stand out as different from retro/revivalist bands which seem to target a specific sound from the past. How did you find your own artistic voice in your music?
Thank you, I appreciate that observation very much! I think I like re-arranging elements from different scenes / bands / eras, sometimes by intuition and sometimes intentional. But that is not a main aspect of my songwriting. Maybe it adds a little character. For “Unchain the Abhorrent” I had a vision of a bastard descending from stuff like Archgoat and old Suffocation, I can’t really say if it worked out (there definitely is room for improvement and refinement). For “… of Gory Sorcery and Death” I went for rather pure death metal.
Are there any plans to release an album? Are there advantages to releasing demos first?
“Unchain the Abhorrent” was purely a demo. It came together spontaneously, I did not care too much for sound issues, I just wanted to get something done. But after that, I have to say that I put a lot of work into “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” and it feels like the best I can do at the moment. So maybe I should have put it out as an album; I don’t know where to draw the line to be honest.
Do you listen to any current metal acts? Can you list them, if so?
I do listen to a lot of new metal. Dead Congreagation, Karnarium, Katharsis, Deathspell Omega, Triumphant,… I don’t buy every demo ever released, but I think a lot of worthwhile stuff has been going on in the last years. I also listen to other musical genres, like 70s rock, folk, hardcore punk, grindcore, ambient, noise and so on.
How do you compose your songs? Are they riff-based, melody-based or idea-based?
I would say the emphasis is on ideas! A good part of the songwriting may be jamming around and stringing riffs together, but most of the time I have an abstract concept for a song structure and then try to find fitting riffs.
How do you determine what riffs, songs, parts, etc. to keep and what to reject?
I write a lot of riffs and it is hard for me to reject any of them. I know, there may be a few filler-sounding riffs on my demos, but I don’t mind that too much. It gives certain other parts a climax-like effect and I like that, because it adds structure to the songs. I know a good riff when I stumble upon it, but I sometimes have hard times with parts that don’t click the first time. I tend to keep all the material I write as placeholder for better parts, but sometimes I familiarize with it after a while. A riff has to make sense in the context of a song and it has to serve the song, that is what’s most important to me.
If people like what you have been doing, where should they go next to learn more? Any upcoming news you can share?
Blood Urn does not have a website or facebook page, but feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are plans for a re-release of “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” on Vinyl as well as a new 7″. I haven’t been working on Blood Urn for the last few months, but there will be something new this year.
“Unchain the Abhorrent” (2011)
“…of Gory Sorcery and Death” (2014)
Post-metal, a dirty word in knowing circles, can and should be applied to Gorguts‘ classic Obscura. Post-metal is an offshoot of post-modernism, a school of thought that attempts to reject overarching structural meaning and belief in greater narratives. To the post-modern mind, existence and experience consist of pluralities, splintered into fiercely individualistic cells prone to subjective rule, and inimical to any attempt at establishing a universal system of knowledge. Under this philosophy, adherence to a common-law guidebook serving as a framework for value judgments would amount to giving tacit approval to an authoritarian scheme of things.
The post-modern mind rebels against the idea of linear progress and containing edges. Instead it chooses to break free of tradition and to chase the open-ended horizon, giving wing to its often reactionary attitudes; in fact, it can be said that post-modernism, as an approach to inspecting knowledge and the various forms it finds expression in, exists only to uproot convention. It seems to lack a defining purpose of its own, mired as it is in its perpetual obsession to bring down pre-existing ideological superstructures.
However, in the absence of a time-honoured, governing set of principles, can ambiguity be far away? Can a severing with tradition with no motive other than just the severing and that alone ever have an impact beyond the momentary fascination that novelty engenders? A need to improve on boxed-in ideas is natural but is doing so by gleefully discarding much of what goes into the making of the original idea any improvement at all?
The original idea, as metal goes, is as much structural as it is ideological. There are a few qualities that are common to how all true metal should be constructed.
- Melodic contiguity: All forms of metal, even the harshest strains, are inherently and recognizably melodic in nature. This means that the individual phrases that make up a metal song obey cohesiveness, as tenuous as it may seem at times. Though individual phrases are often in different keys, it is paramount that they share the same musical space.
- Movement towards a discernible and logical conclusion: This is the will to motion previously outlined in these pages. Metal’s roots in traditional story-telling with a beginning, a middle, and an end, are not to be forgotten in eager exchange of a need to experiment. There has to be a gradual ascent, or a plummet as it were, towards an ultimate punctuation. Though various approaches can be used towards achieving this, playing for time in false hope of creating mood, while using ideas containing little intrinsic worth, is anathema to metal.
- Rhythm section to assume a strong yet only supporting role: Metal is a predominantly lead-melody oriented form of music. Bass and drums are integral to creating a fuller sound but should only be viewed as swells on an ocean on top of which riffs and songs float. Often, swells rise and raise their load with them, but this hierarchy in relations is crucial and is to be preserved.
- Atmosphere created not through textural embellishments and quirks but as a by product of composition: All claim to that shady word “atmosphere” should come from immanent qualities in the way the music is written. Metal does not need overt experimentation with harmonics or tone if these asides are incapable of holding together on isolated inspection.
- Awareness that all forms of groove play to a far baser inclination in the mind’s analytical apparatus. They can be enjoyed on a case-by-case basis but are not something to be eagerly sought out or encouraged in metal.
- A keen comprehension of repetition as device: Repetition is to be used as steadily outward-growing eddies that take a song to a different place, yes, but one that maintains a tangible relation to the place left behind. Individual components within the repeating phrase should have some emotional consonance and not serve as mere padding.
- Conscious realization that metal is in fact composed music and not free jazz.
How does Obscura, universally regarded as Gorguts‘ creative zenith, fare in context with these? On an individual song basis and on an album-wide scale, Obscura flouts more than a few of these observations. Obscura‘s sound is a swirling melange of dissonant tones under cyclic orientation, created on a wildly giddy bedrock of percussion. Conventional melody is used not as the driving force behind the songs heard on this album, but as ballast to the band’s almost painful need to expand the template of extreme metal prevalent till then. Guitarists coax unnatural sounds out of their instruments, resembling those made by scurrying creatures of the night, and mold them into a form of strange melody not without appeal, but on honest reflection little more than an outlier gimmick.
While not all associations with the band’s previous classic Erosion Of Sanity have been severed, Obscura greatly favours repetition of its themes, themes that at times fail to register as true motifs, often to the point of tedium. Where the band’s younger work had irrepressible momentum on its side, they now seem stuck in a rut of their own making with no clear vision of how to extract themselves from it. Songs regularly lapse into the kind of navel-gazing that is so aggravating in modern technical bands, in hindsight obviously influenced by this album. The most obvious example of this would be ‘Clouded‘, an idea that would be deemed insufficient even for the most basic of interludes but here stretched beyond all limits of endurance.
It would be disingenuous to suggest that Obscura detonates the core of music entirely, contrary to epithets of “chaotic” and “cacophonous” regularly appended to its descriptions. There is a kind of twisted logic to these songs but it is so far removed from what has gone before in the metal canon that it barely, if at all, qualifies as metal. Perhaps the album’s greatest failing as a purportedly metal album is in the lack of a human aspect. One would have to project really hard to glean any kind of meaningful emotion from these songs, uniformly monochromatic, mechanized, and without hope, or rage, as they are. In its abundant jagged outcroppings and in its constant search for the next unorthodox detour, Obscura
What essence, then, does Obscura have to relate?35 Comments
Having watched this zine grow from humble origins to the reliable source of underground metal feature stories that it is today, the metalheads who comprise the underground — including death metal, black metal, grindcore, and some speed metal and doom metal — now expect high-quality on-point content from this zine, and Issue Seven delivers with style. Now possessing the journalistic weight and audience to command high-profile bands, Codex Obscurum returns with wide-ranging interviews, reviews, features and editorials with adventurous literary fiction as well.
Interviews have always pushed this zine above the rest because of their conversational nature but tendency to explore the thinking behind the musical decisions made by the band, with little attention spent on the surface fluff, but some questions that bring out the personalities of the musicians and explain their connection to the art. In this issue, the biggest name in interviews is Deceased, but perhaps the most powerful interview belongs to Thanatos. Covering both Hail of Bullets and Thanatos, this interview with Stephan Gebedi is as detailed and congenial as death metal interviews get, and covers a lot of history. The Deceased interview will strike most as idiosyncratic because it covers much of King Fowley personally and recent news, with less emphasis on background, but this reflects the general abundance of Deceased interviews on the early days. This updates us on the status of the band including information new to most sources. Other interviews with Wastelander, Drug Honkey, FaithXTractor, Crypt Sermon, Magic Circle, Dawn of Demise, Untergang, Slaughtbath and Blood Incantation follow similar patterns of compiling biographical details and consulting on musical intent, with the Untergang and Crypt Sermon being most compelling. All of these are well-executed and constitute the backbone of this zine.
Issue Seven contains a number of features, one of which takes the form of an interview. Artist Tony Cosgrove gives his points of view in a story which interweaves his images with his words, creating the sensation of being a museum exhibit with slightly longer detail cards. A feature on asymmetrical board games offers a glimpse into a world that overlaps with metal but is too nerdly for the mainstream tuffguy websites to cover. A lengthy write-up of the Kill-Town death fest in Denmark follows, which captures much of the atmosphere without excessive detail, but also skimps on a few vital points and may be the least powerful part of the zine. Then again, fest writeups are nearly impossible because everyone is tired and/or drunk (and stoned) so what remains are hazy recollections and the ability to look through the heaps of scored merch. Possibly my favorite features lurks at the rear of the zine, which is a malevolent and tongue-in-cheek editorial about the nature of battle jackets and how they should be worn. This piece reminds me of the 1980s text-files that hackers used to pass around: it has an off-the-cuff feel to the writing, but the thinking seems refined over time, which creates an interesting casual intensity. One intriguing feature, to my knowledge unique among current zines, comes in the form of a short story. Like a condensed zombie sci-fi horror movie, “Evil Seed” (named for the Morbid Angel tune?) efficiently whips through a haunting mystery of an experience with a powerful organic metaphor. This story not only adds to the zine, but its placement dead in the middle creates a break like that when flipping over a vinyl album to hear side two.
Toward the rear of the zine festers another important section: reviews. For metalheads without much time to wade through the mountains of spurious and often spiteful opinions in online comments, or the completely idiotic sales jobs that mainstream zines and web sites put out in place of reviews, where every release is the greatest ever and will tear your head off or make you look intellectual to the girlies, zine reviews offer peace of mind in purchasing by offering better than even chances that a given release will be a match. This occurs both through qualitative assessment, and quantitative description, both of which are featured here. These take a conversational tone but know when to drop the one or two lines of most vital description, and then an assessment, separating observations from judgments enough that the reader can shop by the relative distance between the taste of the reviewer and their own. In this issue, the selection of reviews is a lot more strategic and covers all of the vital ground for what was released during the press period of this issue.
As Codex Obscurum has grown, so has its proficiency in layout. This is the most readable issue yet, generally sticking a band logo at the start of an interview and then being sparse with other images and keeping the text high-contrast usually of a light grey on black variety. This format works well and the use of distinctly shaped fonts also keeps this from falling into the trap of the illegible muddy blur of a xerox disaster that many zines are. Reviews are black text on grey background for added readability, and whether from rush or deliberation, the black-on-white table of contents is if nothing else clear as a bell. Writing standards have inched upward, too, with tightly edited pieces and almost no typos and spelling errors. All of the above make it easy to pick up this zine, which at half-page size can be handily carried anywhere you would take a paperback, and to relax and absorb the content. It would not be surprising to see someone whip this out at a university library, transhumanist rally or on the international space station, because it has that kind of density of information and yet casual enjoyment factor. It is good to see this zine getting the recognition it deserves and its growth both in size and technique for an intensely professional and yet familiar metal reading experience.
- Codex Obscurum – Issue Seven $4 + shipping
Hailing from Israel, Psynthesis plays a style of death metal with riffing that shows a connection to speed metal in the same way that Slayer’s Hell Awaits is, by definition, a death metal album while maintaining a riff-style and vocal-music interplay similar to speed metal. Following a conservative line, Psynthesis’ power lies in its deliberate limitation of musical scope and expression which results in a focused and clear result.
While the band has only released one track, “Den of Wolves”, they are planning to either release an EP or a full album in the near future. The band consists of two members and are still looking for a permanent drummer. If the full album parts from the quality of this single, Psynthesis promises to give us one of the best albums this year worthy of remembering years later as mature and subtle metal in a traditional vein.No Comments
This collection of Scandinavian metal shows these bands migrating beyond their speed/death roots into death metal and struggling to implement their most ambitious ideas. Demigod launches the split with its “Unholy Domain” demo which displays songs that later made it onto Slumber of Sullen Eyes but with more muted-strum riffing, divided syncopation in placement within tempo, and over-active drumming. Like the early works of Possessed, these twin seven-inch recordings show bands emerging from the older paradigm but not yet able to grasp the full implications of the new. Demigod does so on a structural level, where Necropsy assesses the riffing style more accurately. Together these form a historical document of much interest to those who find the separation of death metal from heavy metal as a pivotal moment in the history of the genre.
Demigod leads off the split with its “Unholy Domain” demo which shows later songs in a more downstroke, muted-strum heavy form that consequently has less fluid tempo changes and as a result, misses somewhat on the dark atmosphere which Slumber of Sullen Eyes created. However, the formation of the songs reveals itself through how these riffs interplay, with the strummed riffs occupying space so that others can take the fore, showing which themes are dominant and which are merely supporting. This reveals Demigod without the pervasive atmosphere of enigmatic doom that defined the later album, but instead shows them as a band striving to place interesting riffs into combinations which brought them together as more than the sum of their parts.
Necropsy, on the other hand, unleash what may be the best recording of the band because it lacks the self-consciousness of later releases. It does not attempt to be hard, but resembles a three-way cross between Morgoth, Powermad and Asphyx, plodding through doomy passages and picking up the rhythm with speed metal riffing before building to a classic death metal melodic confrontation between internal themes. Much of this carries the same murky atmosphere as Darkthrone Goatlord, but with more internally-reflective syncopated riffing in the style of the first Deicide album, albeit slower to fit a mid-paced approach much like early Kreator. This recording shows the creativity of this band achieving a result that is not completely formed, yet shows direction more clearly than the more artificed later versions. Together these two recordings make a compelling view into early death metal.No Comments
Getting into underground metal styles has never been a straightforward thing for anyone. The exception might be the Cannibal Corpse crowd that approach this music as fix for a certain mood, but see little beyond the most sensual appeal of the music. For those actually trying to appreciate the music anywhere beyond the surface either in a technical manner, it’s significance or the experience it provides beyond simple monochromatic sensual indulgence, the path consists of several steps in not one path but a multitude of paths that conform to the singular state and journey of each listener.
The present list does not attempt to give a template that will fit all as that is impossible. It is simplistic in its attempt to generalize and exemplify. The most important starting assumption is that the listener is at least fond of traditional heavy metal or hard rock in the worse case. I tried to avoid using of overtly offensive gateway bands like Craddle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir or Arch Enemy but these should not be completely discarded as possibilities to enable a smooth and pleasant transition into death and black metal.
For this example of a road map towards understanding and appreciation of death metal I have distinguished five different steps with suitable albums as follows:
I. Easy-going quasi death metal
- Carcass – Heartwork
- Entombed – Left Hand Path
II. Welcoming and easy-to-understand simple death metal that is only complex on a local level and so can inspire a sense of technical wonder in the listener while maintaining mood.
- Death – Spiritual Healing
- Adramelech – Psychostasia
- Demigod – Slumber of Sullen Eyes
III. Excellent, but mostly on a technical level, with raw power and refinement in style, solid and well-produced albums that do not transcend their technical aspects
- Morbid Angel – Covenant
- Cryptopsy – None so Vile
- Vader – Litany
IV. Authentic, representative of the core of the death metal spirit while being original
- Demilich – Nespithe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjutXYAwc_0
- Deicide – Legion
- Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten
V. Completely past appearances and technical infatuation, almost on the spiritual level of true and good black metal
- At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
- Immolation – Unholy Cult
- Gorguts – Obscura
Bringing together the grindcore of Napalm Death and the primitive black metal of Bathory and Sarcófago into a death metal way of thinking, Blasphemy gave the world a solid although juvenile Fallen Angel of Doom. Racing in consisting grinding expression while going beyond the riff and into an atmosphere-inducing state as a result of the progression of riffs that is fitting of that primitive black metal, the songs in this album open a portal through which disturbing visions come to alienate us, inducing a feeling of aloneness, doom and fear.
That strong evocation is accomplished from the fusion of these two genres, in my opinion, because they are not just smashed together but rather assembled in a different mold, that of death metal and made into one language. The other thing is that you do not hear interleaving riffs in different styles, although we do hear a good deal of flexibility in riff type in terms of rhythm, texture and note length. The riffs themselves are both completely fitting for grindcore, but it is the duration of their repetition and the effect of their arrangement that results in a similarity with primitive black metal. In order to achieve a stronger result coming from goal-oriented development, the structural-minded songwriting of death metal comes to round off and concentrate the raw energy of the other two genres.2 Comments
Self-identifying with the “Slam” tag, Dysentery play a mid-paced, groove-oriented deathcore. The music is based on two poles. The first is very simple grooving rhythms either in slow tempo or in blast-beat-ridden sections with very obvious and simple stress points. The second is the use of pinch harmonics (aka squeals) to round off some phrases.
The music shows a single-minded ambition: grooving brutality. Simple rhythmic indulgence in a pleasure-oriented music. As such, this music is little more than the reggaeton of “extreme” metal. The band might as well change their guitars and drums for a computer software simulator of a mixer and start playing with beats and singing about big-ass girls and how macho you are and what not.4 Comments
Opening with a piano section that is completely out of place within the context of their music, Suppuration give us brutal meets groovy streamlined and uneventful death metal with croaking vocals whose creativity and character borders on the comedy of pornogrind. A major cause for this might be the production which sandwiches everything into a very narrow frequency range. The drums feel as if they were behind everything else, the guitars and the voice almost superimposed. But the production is not to be blamed for the composition blunder this whole affair represents.
Devouring Your Prayers shows several marks of incompetence. In this album we can find distracted riffing and drumming that doesn’t completely match, it is as if the musicians where just doing their own thing and they assumed that as long as they were playing in the same tempo and time signature everything would be fine. Second the interludes are completely extraneous to the album, from the musical point of view. Even worse, we find the modern tendency to move from one idea into a completely unrelated one in order to move the music forward. This is a metaphor for denial of reality, not progress.
The band manages to sound both overt yet devoid of character and completely lacking an individual voice. Presenting us with the fireworks, bells and whistles aimed at casual listeners of “the brutal”, Suppuration exemplifies the mediocre, the sell-out and the moronic side of death metal all at once.No Comments