Dutch insurrectionary black metal band Tarnkappe has released both of its albums on CD as a bundle for those who appreciate black metal that stays true to the late-90s form of the band, which is equal parts later Darkthrone and Zyklon-B.9 Comments
Asphyx announced their upcoming album, Incoming Death, will be released September 30th on Century Media Records. Vocalist Martin Van Drunen said the record would be the “best Asphyx album ever”:
Four and a half years after the release of “Deathhammer” we finally managed to finish its long awaited successor. It will be out on September the 30th, as always on our beloved label Century Media. Expect 11 unmerciful battering tracks in the typical ASPHYX death/doom style, but also the most varied ASPHYX material up to date without losing our rawness, brutality and heaviness. The album will be entitled “Incoming Death”. And like “Deathhammer”, it’s a phrase that doesn’t really exist, but refers to what entrenched soldiers cry out when under severe artillery fire. Thus “Incoming Death” implies another relentless bombardment of monstrous ASPHYX death/doom metal!
Recorded on different locations throughout 2016 and once more mixed and mastered by the mighty Dan “The Man” Swanö. Serious ear bleedings guaranteed! It’s also our first record also featuring “Husky” on drums, who is now with us for already two and a half years molesting the pig skins with the absolute perfect ASPHYX attitude, passion, pride and mayhem. We are very proud of this best ASPHYX album ever! And knowing our dedicated fans worldwide, they will be proud of us as well! Soon we will hit the stages on every continent to do what we do best; Intense, loud, sweaty, filthy and ruthless live performances!
Article by Corey M. A more skeptical take appeared last December.
Visions of Exalted Lucifer comprises the type of surefooted, almost passive confidence that a band like Cirith Gorgor can be expected to gain with as much experience as they’ve had in black metal. Experience (not to be confused with longevity, as many bands have been around for a long time yet never learned from their mistakes or successes) alone has no intrinsic merit but does provide for musicians a way of mapping their excursions into the imagination, so as not to become lost or distracted by pointless tangents on their flights of fancy. Rarely does a band hone their skills through experience without losing that primal virility that drove them to reckless discovery. Usually, one strength overcomes the other as time wears on. Cirith Gorgor like most any black metal band active from the early ’90s into the mid-’00s, began producing clean, smooth, uninspired-and-uninspiring music that never ventures far from familiar topical territory.
Cirith Gorgor show no signs of exhaustion from their long service in the war against all that is modern and mundane, even though their current method of composition exhibits a firm grasp of a decidedly contemporary style of black metal instrumentation. Featuring intricate guitar melodies that weave about one another like caducean serpents, this constant use of counterpoint achieves a delicate balance between consonant resolution and dissonant suspension. This relentless feeling of teetering between sappy harmonic indulgence and chaotic keyless atonality without the music ever succumbing to one extreme shows the guitarists’ songwriting prowess. A band riding this knife edge of tension with efficient agility inspires a nervous awe.
Emphasizing Cirith Gorgor’s fearless wont to take black metal techniques to their logical extremes, some interesting “progressive” bits appear in the album. First, during the main riff in the second track, “Visions of Exalted Lucifer”, there is a somewhat hesitant stutter in the middle of the crucial chord change, shifting the beat count into 9s rather than 8s. In one of the verses that build up to a more unifying crescendo in “Rite of Purification – Vanished from this World”, this reoccurs; The guitar melody rises and falls in an arrogant refusal to be subjugated by the simple 3/4 time signature. While many might think that such technical meddling would negatively impact the direct delivery that makes black metal great, this opinion is understandably misguided thanks to the unprincipled pseudo-prog tendencies that modern metal acts are likely to shoehorn into their otherwise bland songs. For Visions of Exalted Lucifer, these odd phrases and atypical harmonic mutations are actually necessary to lead each song through its natural ebb and flow. They sure each riff’s opening, closing, and transitionary moments are satisfyingly wrapped up without exception. The drummer deserves credit for deftly assisting the chemical reaction-like relationship of guitar melodies, playing aggressive bursts only as needed at any given time, providing traction for the motivating riffs and assuring that a song never spins its wheels.
Listening to this album can be psychologically draining. Due to the constant whirling spiral of guitar harmonies, it is impossible to guess whether some riffs will resolve on a consonant closing chord or introduce more tension by shifting into a new key with its own harmonic space. Almost always, a lead melody is playing over the rhythm chords and spiking out toward strange and uncomfortable modulations. Whether the modulation occurs or is only hinted at is also difficult and sometimes impossible to anticipate. The modulations are not random, they are enigmatic. The stressful ambiguity of any proceeding direction can leave the listener with the vision of Dune‘s Paul Muad-Dib after ingesting a high dose of spice for the first time being assaulted by the infinity of possibilities as every potential future unfolds indistinctly at once. The listener will probably either be annoyed, rejecting the perceived unreasonableness, or submit and allow themselves to be dragged along for the wild ride, coming away with glimpses into the strange depths of alienated human minds. This is not an album for passive listening; it is appreciably polarizing and meticulously crafted.
Visions of Exalted Lucifer may be listened to on Hammerheart’s Bandcamp.2 Comments
Dutch modern death metal act Hail of Bullets has parted ways with vocalist Martin van Drunen (Pestilence, Asphyx). The band issued the following statement:
We are sorry to announce that Martin van Drunen is no longer part of Hail Of Bullets. On a personal level it’s no longer possible for us to continue the cooperation with Martin.
Unfortunately this means we have to cancel all upcoming shows until further notice.
This does not mean the end of Hail Of Bullets. The main reason for starting this band 8 years ago was our mutual love for real Death Metal and to have fun playing our favourite kind of music and we did not want to lose this ‘fun part’. We acknowledge the fact that Martin’s a good singer with a distinctive voice but he’s not the only great singer on this planet. For the record, there’s no hate or anger here, but this simply wasn’t working out anymore.
We wish him all the best in his future career. To be continued…
Stephan, Paul, Ed, Theo
With the recent release of Kaeck Stormkult, it seemed a good time to look into the members of the band that is leading the charge toward primal yet melodic black metal. Two members of the group come from Noordelingen, a black metal band from the Netherlands, and were placated with the carcass of a fresh-killed hipster for long enough to conduct this interview.
When did NOORDELINGEN begin?
Oovenmeester: I think it began in 2010 as a spontaneous project. I had the lyrics already and Swerc was up for a new project.
What does the name mean?
Oovenmeester: The name means “those from the north” Or “dwellers of the north.” We both live or have lived in Groningen which is a province and city in the northern part of the Netherlands. And I have a lot of affiliation with both city and province. The lyrics used in Noordelingen are stories based in a medieval, fantastical version of this region. Where drunk horses graze under a brown moon, giant homarids look for the rare and valuable substance known as URFT and de kattenmepper van Groningen (the cathunter of Groningen) can be found stalking the streets.
It is different from the term “Noorderlingen”?
Oovenmeester: I think Noorderlingen is the official Dutch spelling, but that’s just not right for us. Just not right… It doesn’t have the right taste.
Who is in the band?
Oovenmeester: Just Swerc and the Oovenmeester that’s enough!
What were your musical influences, and how did that change as you began writing?
Oovenmeester: I think Lugubrum is a very important factor for me. They have absurd lyrics which I really like. With a similar smell and feeling.
Musically you can’t compare it to them, while Noordelingen is more melodic and faster.
What material have you released, and how do people get it? Is there any source of news or information on the band?
Oovenmeester: just follow your nose. Furthermore, there is nothing official out, but I believe Swerc is going to put the Noordelingen album Vaelt on YouTube soon. A real release would be cool though.
I understand you’re now involved with KJELD / SAMMATH members in a project named KAECK. How did this come about, and how is it different from NOORDELINGEN? Will NOORDELINGEN continue?
Oovenmeester: I was asked by Swerc to provide lyrics and vocals for Kaeck. Its content and style are very different indeed. Kaeck is about visiting dark places in your mind. And has a more to the point aggressiveness in it. Where Noordelingen has more of a filthy vibe to it. We will probably continue Noordelingen at some point. But we have nothing planned yet.
Is it hard for quality black metal to get noticed these days?
Swerc: Depends of what you mean with ‘noticed’ actually. If you want interviews, tours and lots of releases, then yes. But I think the scene is very active and always looking for new quality music. If you are good enough, you will be noticed. But that’s not our priority. We have a very busy normal life, so ‘getting big’ isn’t our goal. We do this for ourselves. If others like it as well, then it’s just a good bonus.4 Comments
Black metal band Kaeck showed the world a glimpse of its first offering today with “Holenmuur.” As this new band composed of Sammath, Noordelingen and Kjeld members prepares to introduce itself to a new generation of fans, this track provides the first glimpse of its fusion of war metal and melodic vitriolic black metal.
As our first glimpse of this band asserted:
To the experienced ear, comparisons arise immediately to Impaled Nazarene and Zyklon-B, both of whom used the blasting full-speed attack with undertones of melody to its advantage. A more bestial presence occurs here, taking influence from both the death metal crossover of later black metal and the burly high-intensity rhythm and noisy attack of war metal. The result melds sawing riffs with rising hints of melody and then runs that violence into archly ascending phrases which emphasize a union of the aggression and the beauty into a rejection of all but the pure feral naturalism of both beast and forest. [I]t achieves the rhythmic intensity of current metal in concert with the elements of black metal that made it the most enduring underground metal genre, namely its ability to find purpose in nature and alienation from the corrupted mess that is our society. Both listenable and true to its genre roots, Kaeck opens a door to new possibilities in black metal.
Look for more from this promising old/new fusion that upholds the spirit and outlook of the old underground!
Update: Kaeck has added a second track.
People forget that the 90s were among other things a pervasively trivial time, which was one of the things that death metal was rebelling against. We finally got over the terror of the Republican 1980s, and the ex-hippies took over and that meant we were due for some good times. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure satirizes this best with its view of adult society in Southern California as completely oblivious, obsessed with the inconsequential and generally wrapped up in itself without any purpose or direction to life beyond consumer glory.
Immense Intense Surprise reveals this mentality of triviality, which is the concept that you can take something very ordinary and cover it with shiny objects and unique, ironic and different (UID) adornments and somehow it will be transformed into a revolutionary idea. This is not so: the underlying idea remains in control. In the case of Immense Intense Surprise the underlying idea is that same alternative rock that everyone else was pimping back then, but they have dressed it up as bouncy technical death metal of the Afflicted school, meaning that you will not find any epic or amazing melodies or song constructions here, only technical tricks on guitar and keyboard.
To keep us distracted, Phlebotomized constantly change layers of vocals, synths, drums and lead guitar that sounds almost plasticine in its tendency toward “chaotically” repeated similar structures. And underneath? Quite a few hard rock and classic heavy metal riffs reborn, some influences from 70s rock, and a bit of death metal that as with all ill-conceived hybrids, builds itself around the vocals. Notice also the novelty song structures. This release distracts from a missing core with a surface level of weird, much like so many people distract from their absence of soul with “interesting” personalities.
Not all of Immense Intense Surprise & Skycontact — a combination release of two late 1990s albums — is bad. Much of this material shows insight in songwriting and an ability to craft a good tune. Phlebotomized interrupt themselves on the way to a good song by instead of finding a voice for their many influences, trotting them out in serial fashion, creating the kind of “variety plate” music that fails to endure over time. Think, people: there is a reason these albums went out of print in the first place after haunting the sale bins of used record stores across the world. Surface-based music does not endure. They were not alone in their quest for experimentation. Bands like Disharmonic Orchestra, Supuration and Mordred were each trying to re-invent death metal by mixing in influences from previous genres. The problem with such a conflicted approach is that it destroys the voice of the genre which had achieved clarity, and replace it with the usual modern grab-bag of options unrelated to a purpose.
Phlebotomized put out an earlier album, Preach Eternal Gospels, which spent quite a bit of time in my CD player during the 90s because it was good, solid B-level boxy death metal. Bands at that level either accepted second-tier status and moved on, or became consumed with the desire to be the next Dismember or Morbid Angel and so embarked on a path of accessorizing their music to make it stand out. Their only real problem was that the mainstream rock discovered that tactic long before they did, and they were better at it.6 Comments
Pestilence avoids controversy poorly. After the legendary Consvming Impvlse, the band went on to produce a series of albums culminating in the synth-sounding jazz-heavy Spheres, which remains one of metal’s most divisive albums: people either love it or hate it, with few in the middle gray areas.
Then after years apart, Pestilence returned in 2009 with Resurrection Macabre followed two years later by Doctrine. These albums showed Pestilence trying more for a contemporary style of modern technical metalcore (sometimes called “tek-deth”) without as much of the crazy instrumental embellishment of past albums. Now, possibly from a better state of balance within the band, Pestilence unleash Obsideo.
Obsideo returns to a long-running controversy in this band which is not metal-versus-jazz as many would think, but among two types of metal. Specifically, the album Malleus Maleficarum showed Pestilence reining back the death metal of their later demos, and trying for a death metal infused with American-style speed metal. Think Kreator covered Megadeth and you have roughly the same style, although in Pestilence’s case this revealing a longstanding tendency with the band: eschewing the phrase-based riffs of death metal for more rhythmic variations on chord progressions in the speed metal style, then filling in the space with leads.
But if we were to extrapolate Malleus Maleficarum into the present, updating its 1980s speed metal on the cusp of death metal with the metalcore-inspired insistence on variety and riffs that ride a vocal rhythm on the nose, we might find the blueprint for Obsideo. It’s more repetitive and confrontational, simpler and less nuanced, and reflects more of the industrial and hardcore influence into metal of the late 1990s. In addition, songs have fewer fireworks in terms of song structure, but more in lead guitar, which is often used as transitional material in song or for kinds of extended fills to denote layering in riff motif.
Fortunately the space-age jazz-fusion guitar of Spheres has returned in the lead guitar department. While not every lead is quite as distant from normalcy as those, these are more confident, both proficient and playful, showing these musicians at a point where they’ve absorbed the changes in their own ability and can put them to better use. Often a song will snowball with power chord riffs but flesh out its mood with leads, and then fade out into the use of similar themes in the lead to take over the direction of the song.
Production sounds like a chunkier, bassier version of Spheres but doesn’t have the compressed and blasted feel of the two comeback albums. This album shows metal at an interesting place as it tries to recap the thirty years of growth since heavy metal transitioned to speed metal, but on the whole, Pestilence have done a good job of it. This is more listenable than their last two, seems more compelling and personal, but also brings musicianship back into the mix in a way that coincides with these musicians’ instrumental focus.1 Comment
Sammath rose out of the ashes of post-1997 blackmetal with a flair for classical-inspired architectural riffing within the shorter format of metal songs that were both listenable and radically opposed to the complacent normalcy invading black metal. The A.N.U.S. interview staff were able to intercept J. Kruitwagen’s cell phone from an abandoned ferryboat off the coast of England, and captured this interview by pretending to be investigators looking for clues about al-Qaeda.
What event or idea triggered your desire to release music? It seems like many play instruments, and only some go on to publish or be in bands.
When I first heard Gehenna “angelwings and ravenclaws” I was already writing music but not at all with the intention to release anything. This 7 inch inspired me the most, the atmosphere they created was something I really wanted to do myself. The only problem was that no one I knew wanted to record anything. I even used to play along with Slayer on a acoustic guitar before I had a electric one when I was ten, you have to start somewhere.
Are your songs designed around emotions, visual perceptions or purely musical “shapes”?
A combination of all. Mostly musical shapes, I try not to let emotion get in the way but thats impossible. You can’t write hateful black metal after you just had a great day with your girl. Watching a war movie on tv or old world war two documentaries really is the most inspiring. Reading about Stalingrad and the hell in the midst of war. The songs are all written the same way, I get the lyrical concept and build the music around this.
What things inspire awe in you?
Anything that deserves respect, in any way.
If you patterned your music after anything you found in your outside world, what were these things? Or do you see the patterns of the outside world as stylistic inspiration, and the poetic content of your songs deriving from somewhere else?
The outside world has its influence, even if you dont want it to. I would say that everyday violence, war, despair, hate finds its way into the music. I of course have never been or seen war. I don’t glorify war but the way destruction and chaos always win intrigues me. The content of my songs just appear and naturally find their way into a track. If my music should represent anything from the world outside it would be a falling bomb with the listener sitting on it.
What is the hardest part of songwriting?
The hardest part to songwriting is knowing when a track is finished and should be left alone, I have heard so many great tracks by other bands to that just take too long or have to many riffs jammed into twenty seconds. The thing about black metal is that it is a combination of feeling and music, no one of these should lead. Luckily noone interferes while I write the music. Sammath is just me, I have a great band for live acts but they don’t write any music.
You had a promo tape and a demo before your first album; how did the music of Sammath change across these three releases?
The first demo “zwaardbroeders bij de bergengte” 1996 (brothers of the sword at the mountain pass) was really underground, bad sound, but the ideas for later SAMMATH where there. At that time I had someone else in SAMMATH, due to total lack of interest I kicked him out. The music at that time was heavily inspired by early Emperor and Satyricon, not even close to their level of songwriting but the atmosphere on the tape was good. The second demo/promo tape “de ruines fluisteren (the ruins whisper) was a full length demo with eight tracks varying from fast black metal to old style black metal. Both these tapes are four track recordings. From the first demo to the release of the cd “strijd” their was only a improvement on the sound, the music grew as it should but did not change much in style. The only difference being that it started to sound more original, the SAMMATH sound.
How is the new album different from Strijd?
Verwoesting/devastation is more violent in every way. The keyboard is gone and the music is faster. The tracks are of better quality as is the recording. There are also more death metal influences, after seven years of pure black metal it was time to evolve. I spend two years on this cd, everyday two or three hours. I finally had the opportunity to work with Fridus Klaasen a great producer. He does not have any connection to the metal scene and usually just masters classical music. This way you get a fresh sound, not like all bands who record in well known studios. The lyrics are no longer about dark forests and so on but realistic, war, death, questions upon faith. The whole concept is more brutal, every musician always prefers the latest album, go listen to the tracks and compare yourself. The music has evolved from being a rip off of other bands to a SAMMATH sound.
What do you think of mp3 trading (Napster, WinMX, Kazaa, Audiogalaxy); has it helped or hindered the underground?
I think it helps in one way, everyone can hear your music. Problem is that less people buy albums, the value of a cd is just no longer what it was because of the easy way to copy a cd but the prices remain the same. I am not in it for the money; that’s pretty obvious or I would have been writing pop music but I don’t see why everyone should get everything for free, if you like the album buy it. If noone buys albums there will be no more scene. On the other hand, there are so many releases that are not that good at all that you want to listen to but not buy. Folter records has told me he has had no problems. I believe that the older generation still buys what they want. What I like is vinyl, the best sound for metal.
What things do you love? Hate? Do most things fall in between?
I hate everything that has to do with religion, satanists are just as pathetic as christians, anyone who needs to be part of a group is just weak. I also hate the political talk within the scene. A couple of years ago those right wingers tried to get into the house/ trance scene, those people didnt want it so they thought, lets go and try the black metal underground. Not much falls between. Love is not really much of an inspiration for this music. Hate turns to music.
Is belief, or logic, more powerful to you?
Belief is emotions and not realistic, except if you want a life as a priest so you can get through life without having to face reality and you get to meet al sorts of nice little kids. Feeling though is a big part of SAMMATH, hate, war. Belief stands for weakness and self made comfort to get through life believing heaven is their for you, the truth is you die, get buried and rot. If we are all god’s children then our father is a ruthless bastard. He probably listens to metal.
What do you see as the differences between black metal and rock music?
Probably the state of mind of those involved. I think rock musicians think money earlier. Black metal has more passion. We evolved from rock music to metal to even faster. Rock music is written for a large audience and black metal however you want it to be.
Which were your earliest influences in black and death metal?
The earliest influences are not at all black or death metal, too numerous but Coroner, Mortal Sin, Rose tattoo, Slaughter (Fuck Of Death), Autopsy, early Cannibal Corpse. Mostly local Australian rock/metal bands that I saw live. I still get very pissed off when I hear anything from the mighty Autopsy. The earliest black metal would be Gehenna, Satyricon. Celtic Frost, Hellhammer. Good thing about Celtic Frost and Hellhammer is that you can play along pretty quick and just stand their headbanging to frost tracks, gives you a good boost, “I can play this shit!”, then improvise my own riffs over the originals on the LP. I think I listened to the same bands as everyone who is now near to thirty years old.
You are referring to Sammath’s music (on the site) as being “furious black death metal.” How do you conceive of the unifying factors behind the labels we use for music and other things? is black metal an ideology, a musical style, an attitude or an artistic style only?
We have to label music, even if we don’t agree with the term. Everything needs a name so that people can place it somewhere. It is so damned pathetic but mankind needs labels for everything. I created the furious black death metal mainly for the t-shirt design. I thought it fits the music well. Some people agree some dont, who cares. Black metal is whatever i want it to be. It’s all that you mentioned above and more. Everyone has different ideas about black metal. I try not to get involved in all that discussion about what is true or not. Foremost black metal should be just a artistic style. Some people get so worked up about how it all should be, I don’t give a shit who does what as long as its fast and brutal. A lot of people look very evil but have no idea what they are on about.
It seems to me these days people are negative about nationalism for the most part, but I always think they have patriotism and nationalism confused. After all, nationalism used to mean pride one’s specific tribe or culture, and didn’t have much to do with the flag-waving and Iraq-bombing we see these days. What are your thoughts on this?
Its going to get worse, wait till the USA and Europe split in about ten to fifteen years. Due to the fact that the world is getting smaller and more crowded people are grabbing on to whatever they know and understand. This means that nationalism and patriotism are automatically combined. Here is the danger. Culture is also being overthrown by Nike, Coca Cola and whatever else. So every kid al over the world looks the same in their youth. When they get older they want to reunite with their culture from their own country, not liking what they stood for so the line between patriotism and nationalism fades. The whole Iraq bombing situation is just going to go on until the USA decides to listen to europe or bomb everything. It’s a great place for them to test weapons. In europe the fine line has also disappeared. You cant wear the dutch flag on your jacket because then you must be racist, as you already mentioned people are confused. “the timeless splendour of chaos”
What are your favourite sensations while creating music?
The whole process of writing music. When a track works out well and turns out the way you thought it to be. When you write music like this al is a great sensation, letting your ideas twist into brutal fast metal.
Do you listen to much metal? If so, anything notable of late?
Very much metal, lately I listen to mostly older stuff but some good new bands are Abominator from Australia, not that new but damn good, Trimonium from Germany also on Folter Records, I don’t really follow the scene as fanatically as a couple of years back. There are just too many releases. Older dutch metal bands as Sinister, Pestilence and German thrash is what I mostly listen to these days. I still have great respect for Sadistik Exekution, Destroyer 666 who still have that “fuck you” feeling in the music. The Dutch scene is growing very quickly and some good bands are starting to appear.
Do you think that popular music will ever turn toward being more like classical music?
Ha ha, not in the near future. Their is no way that popular music will evolve to anything worthwhile soon due to the fact that people dont care about the music. If it’s got tits its good. If it looks cool it’s good. Those forms of music are about as far apart as possible.
What bands do you think are most responsible for the black metal sound as we know it today?
Venom, Frost, Hellhammer, for the younger generation is would probably be cradle of filth and dimmu boring. I think the early black metal evolved differently everywhere, with its roots in the mentioned bands. Black metal in Poland has a quite different approach then the Norwegians. Those bands inspired thousands to pick up a guitar, bass or start beating on a drum kit. Mayhem and Darkthrone probably played a big part as well.
What activities do you have outside of music upon which you rely for inspiration?
Outside of music I teach history, not the teaching but history inspires me to write music in many ways. Read any account of a battle during both world wars and that should give many ideas. The vast universe gives enough to think about.
Where do you hope to take the band next? Any future evolution’s of the art form?
The next album will be recorded with a real drummer. Koos Bos is probably the fastest drummer i have ever met. I want to record the album with the band members. I play guitar so I play bass as a guitar player; that’s not good for the sound. Recording everything yourself also has its disadvantages. I want to go on tour sometime next year when i return from australia. I still have a contract for one more cd with Folter records. I am pleased with his work for Sammath and the new tracks that I have written are in the same line as “verwoesting/devastation” I want to master the art of furious black death metal.
Do you think there is an ambient or atmospheric quality to your music?
Definitely, hypnotising riffs. Not for all. It doesn’t have atmosphere as Mortiis does. I create chaos, chaos has its very own atmosphere, more straight forward in your face. Everyone burning candles and listening to ambient would probably disagree.
Please speak on anything I’ve forgotten, and talk about anything you’d like.
Thanks for the interesting questions, metal or die!
Really unreflective people are now inwardly without Christianity, and the more moderate and reflective people of the intellectual middle class now possess only an adapted, that is to say marvelously simplified Christianity. A god who in his love arranges everything in a manner that in the end will be best for us; a god who gives to us and takes from us our virtue and our happiness, so that as a whole all is meet and fit and there is no reason for us to take life sadly, let alone exclaim against it; in short, resignation and modest demands elevated to godhead – that is the best and most vital thing that still remains of Christianity. But one should notice that Christianity has thus crossed over into a gentle moralism: it is not so much ‘God, freedom and immortality’ that have remained, as benevolence and decency of disposition, and the belief that in the whole universe too benevolence and decency of disposition prevail: it is the euthanasia of Christianity.
– F.W. Nietzsche, Daybreak
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the seven living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on Conquest. – Revelation 6: 1-2
Summoned forth to rage fury upon the unsuspecting but no less innocent, Pestilence, on each of their first three albums ushered in a predestined Apocalypse of the mind and struck at the heart of the dark forces of the Kali Yuga thus completing their microcosmic responsibility as “Kalki”, and providing the foundation upon which a new golden age and conciousness would hopefully arise. On their uncompromising and frenetic debut album, Malleus Maleficarum, Pestilence as corporeal manifestation of death and conqueror, harnessed the power of becoming to destroy the destroyer that is illusion and ignorance, and defiantly placed themselves within the torrential stream of becoming in a quest for truth. We as listeners are thus treated with no less than a passionate and structurally free form album that through its fluid, intelligent and precise use of riff craft probes and attacks on multiple fronts the lyrical themes tactfully explored by Van Drunen and Co.
Although one may be quick to argue that that the addition of socially conscious lyrical subject matter such as genetic manipulation and religious strife defines Malleus Maleficarum as a strict Speed Metal album, it is nonetheless better characterized as a highly refined and progressive speed metal album that straddles the death metal fence. Indeed, indicative of their speed metal roots is the common use of hysterical and staccato driven guitar technique reminiscent of bands such as Exodus, Destruction and Slayer that, coupled with an emerging yet competent sense of dynamics, melody, development and recapitulation of themes, successfully places “Malleus Maleficarum” outside the realm of pure Speed Metal and onto a pedestal of its own thereby providing the impetus for not a few debates regarding the essential nature of this album. Not to be missed of course is the embryonic vocal performance of Van Drunen, who while courageously exploring the memes that have driven modern society into calling forth the forces of plague and death to precipitate the end of this current cycle of humanity, opts for a hoarse rasp like yell in contrast to the later visceral death metal growl he is better known for.
Considering the less than inspiring output Pestilence has recently spawned, it is worth recalling and meditating on the legendary albums birthed by the youthful genius of this legendary band if only to provide inspiration and the soundtrack for a new generation of Hessians who will march forth triumphantly into the dreary haze of an uncertain but exciting future. With that said “Malleus Maleficarum” remains essential listening 20 years after its initial release. Standing out as a thought provoking album of much symbolic depth it also remains an uncompromising and virile album that successfully bridges the gap between speed metal and death metal and reveals the genetic ancestor of the latter genre. Not only a dramatic album in its own right Malleus Maleficarum stands as an interesting historical document that should not be overlooked by any serious Hessian.