Everything must run its arc, and for grindcore that arc apparently ends in being commercialized just like everything else. Rendered in plastic, served up on styrofoam, simplified to obsequious edginess, and yours for the low, low price of $19.99, the new Napalm Death Scum “Reaction Figure” glows in the dark just like your FBI agent.34 Comments
Grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, now playing a hybrid of death metal, grindcore, and indie rock as they have for the past two decades, launch their Spring North American Tour 2020 with tourmates Aborted (April 17-May 16), The Locust (April 9-April 15), Nastie Band (April 9-April 15), Tombs (April 24-May 16), and Wvrm (April 17-May 16) for select dates.21 Comments
On 7th April, another edition of a long standing Polish festival Metalmania took place. One day, two stages, twenty four bands. It was the second one organized after a recent reactivation. The original Metalmania was an early big metal event in that part of the Europe – quite a feat given Polish Communist and post-Communist realities. Then, due to various reasons, the festival was gradually losing its relevance, dwindling and finally went into hiatus for 8 years. There is no sense, however, to cling to its bygone local importance or whatever glorious past. So how does it look now?
While too much reliance on more mainstream gothic and heavy contributed to a collapse of previous incarnation of the festival, and now it was death and black oriented, the music on the big scene is rather consistently aimed at straight metal through all of its generations and styles, ending with bands like Dead Congregation or Blaze of Perdition and with some of the more modern sounds on a small scene. On a downside, the fest resurfacing mainly as a stage for classic bands may be reflecting the actual state of metal, indicating that the newer bands are unable to fill the void with something equally strong to their predecessors.
The festival was obviously rough around the edges (and surprisingly violent – I almost got caught into two different fights just from where I was standing) and the sound was uneven and average overall. It was organized better than in the past, but still perceptibly within Polish standards, that is crudely and with lack of imagination or simply negligence in some areas (although Martin van Drunen said on stage that the organization was great!). Perhaps a very fortunate by-product of these characteristics, which may contribute to the positive reception of this festival, is how – I dare to say – conservative it is, both in terms of lineup and general spirit. With Napalm Death and (I suppose) liberal speed metallers on one side and sort of crypto-nazis on the other, who always find a way to show up in some form, the fest also covered broadest ideological spectrum that is possible for a mainstream event.
As of 2018 this festival is yet to experience types of modern degeneracy, often coming from outside, which can be seen on festivals elsewhere. There were some obligatory side attractions, like exhibition of works of Christophe Szpajdel (who actually speaks Polish fluently), meet-up with the bands and lots of merch, but nothing delving too much into a fan idiocy or really not related to metal. Very few freaks, zero exotic people, no random participants, just fairly traditional metalheads, mostly in the 90s style, as it should be, world without end. However, those spoiled by abundance of propositions and by big festivals in Germany or Czech Republic will probably miss out on some of these modest qualities.
And then there’s the surreal, sci-fi sight at the arrival – a monumental, Communistic “The Saucer” occupied by nothing but a tribe of long haired, black clad drunks…18 Comments
Grindcore band Napalm Death have pulled out of Blastfest 2016 presumably due to the booking of the politically-incorrect to Barney Greenway’s white liberal socialist worldview black metal band Peste Noire. The Norwegian festival’s organizers should be commended for not catering to the socialist reactionaries by canning the less-mainstream artist. Napalm Death have once again proved themselves irrelevant since the Eighties.
As we see many have been speculating about on our page, you were right. Napalm Death has decided to cancel their show at Blastfest next year. We are about the music here, and we welcome everyone with pure intentions to come and have fun in Bergen, but we do respect NDs decision, and welcome them back for another year of course. More bands will be announced soon!
While the new last.fm redesign seems to me another exercise in pointless self-justification by middle management, the ability to see statistics on my listening has entirely changed how I view the music held closest to my heart. Seeing the numbers has shown me how it is one thing to list a band as a favorite or recommendation, and one far different animal to listen to it on a monthly basis. One is assessment alone, as if listening were your sole task, and the other utility, showing that this piece of music has a place in your life of many tasks and goals.
This assessment filters among the upper level of the highest echelon of metal. The assessment itself filters out the nonsense, all of which suffers from a single sin — disorganization — which takes many different forms but reveals a lack of will, purpose and principle in constructing art and always red-flags a directionless listen. But among those bands who have escaped the madness, there is no equality in listening. Some have risen and some have fallen over 20 years of pounding out metal from my speakers as I work or relax at home. In most cases, the reaction was first shock and then realization that the seeds of this knowledge were there all along. Let us look at a few pairs where listening habits elevated one album over a similar one…
Blasphemy Fallen Angel of Doom vs. Blood Impulse to Destroy
Over the years metal has frequently benefited from punk influences because metal, as befits its partially progressive rock heritage, has a tendency to create layers of abstraction and complex musical discourse where punk cuts to the chase. This is both a strength and weakness for each genre; metal is abstract, which makes imitators very obvious but can get lost in muddle-headed musical wanderings, and punk is concrete, which makes it effective but imitation easy. Blasphemy introduced a punk-based genre, grindcore, into black metal. It adopted the aesthetic approach of Sarcofago but underneath applied the percussive lower-five-frets texture musik of grindcore. The result is very effective, and easy to listen to, but also — if you have many other options — kind of boring. In fact, many of these riff patterns are the same ones, albeit simplified, that speed metal bands tried and failed to use to revitalize that genre. As raw motivational material, the music is fantastic, but over time, it fades a bit as one realizes that its strength as low-complexity high impact music also means that its content is one-dimensional. Over the past 20 years, I have thrown this record on five times and apparently terminated it early each time.
I chose Impulse to Destroy because Germany’s Blood also occupies the narrow space of grindcore bands who think like black metal or death metal bands. Grindcore generally self-reduces to extreme minimums and must, like junk food, reintroduce sugar and salt at the surface to spice up the otherwise one-dimensional utilitarian approach. Death metal on the other hand is not utilitarian, while it is consequentialist (“only death is real” being the ultimate statement of that belief) and yet also has a highly aesthetically-motivated but not aesthetically-expressed transcendental outlook. At its best, grindcore overcomes its utilitarian tendencies for a ludic or playful view of the collapsing world, and from that some of the best material emerges. Blood for example creates a dark and morbid absurdism which brings to light all that our society suppresses with itself, and like Blasphemy, creates it through patterning cut from the chromatic strips of the lower registers of guitar. In this case, however, the textures take on a life of their own, like a three-dimensional house made from flat punch-out cards. Different riffs interact with one another and dramatic pauses and collisions give rise to interesting song structures. Like Disharmonic Orchestra Expositions Prophylaxe, Impulse to Destroy provides a wealth of riff archetypes applied with enough personality and purpose to create unique compositions which may be enjoyed for decades or longer despite their simplicity.
Napalm Death Scum vs. Carbonized For the Security
This is one of those albums that most people get for the sake of novelty. “But check these guys out, they’ve got one second songs and stuff, it’s just about noise…” — rock music does not get more ironic than that. And ultimately, that was the power of grindcore. Like punk a decade before, it removed all the pretense of rock and boiled it down to simple songs. It then sometimes added in new flourishes of song structure which made those songs more interesting than radio pop, which had been studied by MBAs and PhDs and reduced to a simple formula distinguished only (barely) by rhythm, production, instrumentation and vocals. But once the money men and white lab coats were able to look at rock as a product like any other, they saw that to please enough people in the audience to make it a hit, they did not have to innovate at all. They only needed a new skin for the same basic patterns and they could produce it over and over again with high margins (well, until digital piracy hit). Like the punk rock and then hardcore punk, grindcore stripped away illusion and replaced it with innovation. The problem here is that these songs are very similar themselves because they rely on dramatic confrontation within each song, which like all things “turned up to 11” becomes expected and thus a sort of background noise. Every time I have listened to this album it has made itself into sonic wallpaper before the halfway point.
Some of the albums which were considered “also-rans” back in the 1990s had more to them than people initially considered. This one has been a favorite for me, along with the second album from Carbonized but not the third, for two decades. I listen to it regularly, finish the whole thing, and sometimes start it over. Record labels tried to shoehorn Carbonized into the “death metal” model despite some clear warning signs, and consequently bungled — the root of all evils is incompetence at some level, starting with the ability to be honest — the career of this promising band, but for those of us who lumped this in with aggressive grindcore like Terrorizer and Repulsion, the similarities outweighed the differences. For the Security expresses paranoia, existential insecurity, melancholic doubt of the future and a desire to explore all that life offers in depth, all within and as part of the same outlook. This is the music of a brighter-than-average teenager who perceives the world honestly and rejects the foolishness but wants to look deeper into the interesting stuff that, because it does not affirm the dominant lie, is rejected by the herd. Chunky riffs alternate with broader rhythms derived from punk and yet are dominated by a desire to make song structure vary with content inherited through metal from progressive rock. Each song forms a sonic sigil to the topic at hand and the response of the artist, making each bursting with personality and reality portrayed in finely-observed ways at the same time. This is a masterful album which will never bore.
As you can see, Dear Reader, these albums are both quite similar on the surface — and quite different underneath. That bands can do so much with a handful of power chords, and have such different outcomes, is endlessly fascinating. Yet not every metal-influenced album is, even among A-listers like these. It may be time for all of us to go back through our listening, search ourselves honestly, and see what has actually stood the test of time.18 Comments
Intent guide results and results reflect intent in a mirror-like relation akin the blurred causality presented by modern physics where the only ordering factor is time. We get a clear hint from the song names, but should not be hasty towards concluding everything abut a work without inspecting all the evidence. Being a work of music, it is our main interest to examine that, first and foremost, and then try to link our conclusions about the musical part with other observations and in an attempt to sniff out possible originating intentions.
While the likes of Napalm Death sought to shock, surprise or amuse in different ways and with different purposes (from insults and nonsense to social and political issues), their early albums were balanced out as a whole between the different concepts, to form a whole that was both entertaining and full of content while remaining constant in their choice for aesthetics. Grindcore must be strictly appreciated on an album basis, not a song basis. By themselves, many tracks lack any sense, but in the context of the whole work of art (not in the context of an extra-musical agent, which is a different topic) they attain a purpose and/or a meaning.
Napalm Death approached their goal using different techniques in a coherent manner and this gave albums like Scum a wide range of expression to produce a collection of songs of different duration and speed but like character. The technique would accommodate to the character and mold around it as needed. Songs with mid-paced sections are allowed to flesh out the groove before they enter frenetic trance. The tracks that are mini-bursts of demented blasting were also given their place and were not over-extended. In an undeterred flow from primal reactions to sonic expression, the early music of Napalm Death completely forgets about the self and like all great works of authentic art becomes an entity unto itself.
In Nekro Drunkz we see a band bent on projecting an image of disgust and fun. Admittedly a work of comedy, Absolute Filth has little staying power beyond the “catchy” brutality inherent to the grindcore genre. The reason for this lies in the poor and uneventful sections put together to support an ironic expression whose sole purpose is to shock. Musically, what we find in this album is song after of song that pair two or three riffs that do not do anything in particular. They do not escalate, they do not accelerate, they do not twist, riffs do not play on one another. Songs all express the same thing musically and lyrically. The lyrics are intended to tell you how disgusting they are and the music is only recognizably grindcore yet does little else than carry the voice while it blurts out its tired, “shocking” and friendly softcore gore.
While recognizing the intended goal of a work is paramount to understanding it, it is not an excuse for low quality. The argument usually runs along the lines of “And what if they wanted to make a piece of shit of an album?”. This is fallacy that assumes that if something is explained or is voluntary then it is exempt from any quality judgement. I do not see how this is so but it seems to be a popular belief. The fact remains that this album is, whether intentionally or not, a piece of shit.5 Comments
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
Sporting the grindcore label, Maruta try very hard and not altogether without failure to insert technical deathcore riffcraft into a grindcore overall approach. While the technical abilities of the band is not in question as the musicianship in this album is superb and clinically precise, and neither is their creativity challenged, as they remain in focus in terms of style and approach through and through as they bring distinct ideas into the album, the premise of it all is not entirely convincing. The reason for this is that the carnival approach that the technical deathcore, although not completely incompatible with grindcore, is deficient by nature, bringing down the music against the effort of a talented band like Maruta.
Grindcore is known for short songs with abrupt beginnings and endings. The genre is characterized by spasmodic outbursts of madness with ventures into heavy and slightly groovy mid-paced sections whose focus remains on the brutality and aura of the music. All this is achieved by Maruta on Remain Dystopian, however, this is only the superficial description of the genre, the first impression it gives to an audience, and this is where most bands, including this one, get trapped. The grindcore of early Napalm Death, Blood or Repulsion can be described in that way, each with different percentages and variations of said description, but there is something that sets them apart from the crowd and it is that at the construction level, the relation between riffs is still carefully maintained. In Impulse to Destroy, Blood remains fluid through riff transitions even when the they switch between speeds or intensity levels, the smoothness within the song is maintained. At the risk of sounding contradictory, I would venture to say that even relatively abrupt transitions remained smoothed out through execution of small fills or very brief affectations that are characteristic of Blood. Maruta, on the other hand, obfuscate the music with the carnival approach of modern metal bands, creating interest through surprise instead of coherence and build up.
All in all Remain Dystopian is a far more accomplished effort than the vast majority of its contemporaries and fans of the genre should keep one eye on them. While fans of modern metal call this incoherence of the music “experimentation” and “nonconformity”, it all boils down to a lazy gimmick. Maruta has the technical chops, and they definitely have the vision as their focused compositions show us, but the chosen direction is perhaps not the best. Were Maruta to correct this direction and it is possible we would have a modern giant of grindcore in the making.
Here is a list of the upcoming Napalm Death shows that are announced so far:
- 29.05. Bolzano (Italy) – Full Tension Festival
- 30.05. Warsaw (Poland) – Ursynalia 2015
- 06.06. Bangalore (India) – Bangalore Open Air
- 03.07. Deventer (The Netherlands) – Burgerweeshuis
- 04.07. Trier (Germany) – Ex- Haus / Death Shall Rise Festival
- 05.07. Köln (Germany) – Underground
- 06.07. Osnabrück (Germany) – Bastard Club
- 07.07. Freiburg (Germany) – Atlantik
- 09.07. Novi Sad (Serbia) – Exit Festival
- 10.07. Strasskirchen (Germany) – Plutonium Klub
- 11.07. Berlin (Germany) – SO36
- 07.08. Jaromer (Czech Republic) – Brutal Assault Festival
- 08.08. Derbyshire (UK) – Bloodstock Festival
- 28.08. Gigors et Lozeron (France) – Freakshow Festival
- 29.08. Wörrstadt (Germany) – Neuborn Open Air Festival
- 04.10. Yaroslavl (Russia) – Gorka Club
- 06.10. Samara (Russia) – Zvezda Club
- 07.10. St. Petersburg (Russia) – Zal Ozhidaniya
- 08.10. Moscow (Russia) – Volta
- 11.10. Tokyo (Japan) – Saitama Super Arena / Loudpark Festival
Arising from modern popular music, underground metal has retained many vestigial traits that several artists have consciously tried to erase and that some observers have started to question as detrimental to the effective expression of the genre. As the title of this article reveals, the case in point is the matter of albums as song collections. A good example of this becoming a hindrance to the message of the music is Gorguts’ Obscura.
Clocking in at one hour, Obscura consists of twelve songs, a little over the typical ten tracks of metal albums since the mid 1970s. The number ten has traditionally been associated with wholeness or completeness. In the most mainstream heavy metal circles it is considered only right to fill that exact number. No more, no less. A lot of death and black metal albums have veered slightly away from this rule and tend close their albums with eight or twelve tracks. Grindcore degenerates have never let numbers stand in their way and have completely given the finger to this rule as Repulsion, Napalm Death and Blood have shown us with their two-digit track lists.
The reason why more original and progressive-minded artists pay no attention to these unofficial guidelines is because whatever the artist has to say in an album should not be restricted by too many tracks. Even worse than being limited by the number of tracks is having to fill up tracks in order to reach the required number. This is precisely how we get the albums with “filler” tracks. Tracks nobody cares for but which make the album more “meaty” for those who care about such things.
More important than the adherence to a particular number of songs or tracks in an album is the fact that most bands produce precisely that: individual tracks bundled up in collections. This is Gorguts’ worse enemy even on their classic of classics. Every one of the songs up to the sixth track, Clouded, expresses a very distinct message in its method. After that, we basically get more of the same. The songs aren’t bad at all, but they do not add anything more to the album except extra minutes and more good songs whose essence is not any different from the ones before them. It’s basically thesaurus recitation.
Some propose that metal needs to look beyond the number, both as a rule and as a kind of indulgence. Just because that you have more songs does not mean you have to put them in the album. Just because you have more riffs does not mean they need a song to contain them. It is suggested that the album format in underground metal be exchanged for the classical opus format, where we have movements belonging to a coherent whole work, in which saying the same thing again and again is unnecessary and highly discouraged but in which consistency in style and voice is required to a healthy but not over-restrictive degree. Metal is not young anymore, the time to consciously take the step to the next level has come.23 Comments
Tags: 2015, albums, Black Metal, blood, Classical, Clouded, death metal, gorguts, Grindcore, movement, napalm death, Obscura, opus, progressive, repulsion, song collection, underground, underground metal