Monday, October 31, 2011

How to listen to Mortician



Have you ever looked at a Mortician tab? This is a completely serious question: have you ever actually looked up guitar tabs for a Mortician song. I have no doubt that the very idea of it is making some of you snicker- "What's the point, it's Mortician" (of course that question should have died halfway through its formation due to the sudden epiphany that occurred, but we'll get to that later) but it's actually a fascinating and revealing look at one of the most misunderstood, underrated, and perpetually brilliant bands in the extreme metal scene. In fact, it's worthwhile to pick up some tabs right now- grab anything off "Hacked Up For Barbecue." It's okay, I'll wait.

What does it show? Nothing: the riffs are pointless. The sluggish, grooving chug riffs are the only ones that are actually "composed" (to whatever degree); the tremolo riffs, as you can see for yourself, are almost entirely random. Not only are they essentially indecipherable in the production, but chromatic runs of 4-3-2-1 are the rule rather than the exception. I have no doubt that numerous riffs are repeated through the band's catalog- after all, none of them took any time to write or loosely string together into brief, noisy "songs," so who cares if a riff pops up an album later? You won't remember it.

Why exactly does Mortician get lambasted for being essentially riffless and drifting music, more focused on atmosphere and a pulsing rhythmic drone than discrete songwriting principles while bands like Branikald are roundly lauded for exactly the same features? Is it really just because Mortician is doing it with gore and '80s horror samples where Branikald is doing it with Aryan pride and frosty imagery? I'd like to think it's not so simple, but it probably is, and it speaks to a certain sort of obsessive traditionalism and narrow focus that I find irritating about the metal scene.

Metalheads love to go on and on about how metal is an incredibly artistic, boundary-pushing style of music, devoid of many of the traditional artistic concerns of "high" art. Unfortunately, this is patently untrue: much as how some of the bands most appreciated as "progressive" and "serious music" are those who are closest to rock in structure (Agalloch, Wood of Ypres, etc.), bands like Mortician are cast aside along with Devourment and Sodom as guilty pleasure material at best; something to headbang to and enjoy in the most shallow sense, but of course not designed to be listed alongside "serious" work like, I don't know, Suffocation.

Of course, this is patently ridiculous, as Mortician is without a doubt one of the most artistic projects in the entirety of metal. How many other bands out there manage to execute such a precise, unwavering aesthetic vision time and time again, flawlessly executing a particular atmosphere and style again and again without ever straying from what made it great in the first place? The comparison to Branikald above isn't merely stylistic- it's also a guideline as to how one should listen to Mortician.

No one puts on a Forest album and gripes about repetition, low production values, or the droning, ambient quality of the music, and the same judgments should apply to Mortician. If Mortician were, in an alternate reality, a black metal band, they would be massively appreciated for doing what they do. In perhaps an even more telling display of metal's uncomfortably mainstream artistic sensibilities, I would wager that if Mortician was staffed by Aesop Dekker and Dominick Fernow rather than a couple thuggish New Yawkers, the project would be appreciated as a brilliant, precise piece of artistic commentary on death metal in general.

From here on, we delve into layers of abstraction so bizarre they might be entirely drug or pretense-fueled. You've been warned.

I don't see Mortician as a band, really. Yes, it's a musical collective that releases records, plays shows, and features members, but they've never had the "band presence" that their contemporaries possess. Rather, I see Mortician as a sort of commentary on barbarity in extreme music itself. Isolating individual Mortician tracks as exemplary or particularly brilliant in their own right is a somewhat fruitless task; the purpose of a Mortician song is not to be a great song, but to be a Mortician song. Every Mortician track is designed to be consumed as a part of a tapestry of other, similar songs; you swallow an entire album down in one gulp like a pill and appreciate the whole experience rather than dwelling on its individual elements. It's an atmospheric piece; you don't simply put on one Branikald track, do you?

To narrow and specify: the samples, one of the most widely hated and derided aspects of Mortician's music. Their litany of old, degraded horror samples is as intrinsic a part of their music as the music itself, the way I see it. Of course, the issue isn't that the samples are designed to set up a specific idea of the song that will ensue, or craft an individuated atmosphere; they are there to be horror samples. If one starts seeing Mortician as a commentary piece rather than an artistic endeavor, you'll begin to understand that the samples stand alone. Mortician is a project with a purpose: to create an ugly, dreary, murderous sort of mood, its violence and depravity exacerbated by how mundane it begins to feel alongside its constant repetition and inhuman qualities.

The inhumanity of Mortician's music is a crucially overlooked piece of the whole package. The drum machine is nearly as (or even more) important than the rest of the music: the total lack of fills, inhumanly fast tempos during the blast sections, and absence of frills or variation during the slow parts all come together to form a lurching, inhuman rhythmic presence devoid of emotion or mercy. The ultra-distorted, basically indecipherable guitars and bass and the monotonous, ursine grunting go along with this. If other death metal is designed to sound angry or hateful, Mortician is the sound of the absence of emotion- it's a killer that murders not for pleasure or ideological bent, but simply because it chooses to.

When's the last time you actually listened to a Mortician album, anyway? Try it out sometime. Listen to the whole thing. Turn it up very loud while you're doing something else. Let the tracks blur together. Let the slow nodding start during "Zombie Apocalypse." Let the horror samples drip into the songs and vice versa. Let the total absence of anger, love, hate, joy, or sorrow drive you to kill and kill and kill and kill and kill and kill and kill and

Samhain observance


Not doing much for Halloween tonight, so here's a sonic tribute. This is a Misfits cover, but for me it's the definitive version of the song (much as I love Danzig and the boys). AFI has been one of my favorite bands since I was 14 or so, and always will be. So allow me to get a little defensive: HATERS FUCK OFF. Everything from Shut Your Mouth And Open Your Eyes straight through Sing The Sorrow is pure brilliance. Aesthetically consistent yet continuously developing, that set of albums stands as one of the longest winning streaks in hardcore. Anyone who thinks these guys are "sissy" needs to listen to "Let It Be broke" or "The Prayer Position." And anyone who jams the epic crust but looks down his nose at AFI because they don't conform to the rigid ideals of the DIY club--or its carefully manicured image--should take this under consideration: By any reasonable standards, mid-period AFI produced THE BEST "melodic d-beat" albums ever made.

Happy Halloween, now go forth and revel in the eternal Wild Hunt.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yes, it's THE Ministry


For those of you who haven't heard this little bit of trivia, Ministry started out as a virulently catchy gothic synthpop band. And as far as I'm concerned, Al looked way cooler with spiked hair and makeup than he does as a cyber cowboy. His pouting and prancing is what being a frontman is all about. I do dig the noisy industrial/hardcore they did in the late 80s, but it was all downhill after that. This fey, mannered early stuff is so obviously better than their tone-deaf "metal" output in the 90s that it boggles the mind. A nice reminder that "heavier" is not inherently more worthwhile.

It's THAT time again



Freezing rain and soaking snow pour down like angel piss. White powder clings to the black towers and trusses on the roof of the mental hospital. Wind howls through the back of the elevated train platform. The chill creeps through every layer of clothing. When I woke up the skylight was blotted out. Now it's 4:30AM and we seem to have a leak. It's not winter yet, but it's already Darkthrone season. Hail!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Get Into: Bootblacks



Just got back from St. Vitus where I saw Bootblacks, who have fast become my favorite band on the NYC goth/postpunk scene. I was digging it even more than when I first saw them just over a month ago. Then, they were battling through technical difficulties. Tonight, they were reveling in the venue's awesome sound system. After the show my friend and I congratulated the vocalist and shot the shit for a minute, he was a really chill guy. Before parting ways we told him our names, and he casually introduced himself as "Panther." Nice.

As you can hear in the sick video above, Bootblacks play bass-heavy, bilious art-punk. They owe a lot to The Birthday Party but don't really sound like the Birthday Party. Where young Nick Cave and company usually tried to maximize their songs' destructive potential, Bootblacks' songs are more melodic and structured, emphasizing the play between the rhythm section's anchoring grooves and their shock-headed guitarist's twisted riffage. It's not frantic, it's tense. The effect is quite powerful, and the moments of release are conducive to headbanging. Excellent band, impeccable style. Check them out.

Here are some cool songs on their Soundcloud. I especially recommend "The Things We Did."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fun with the random band button

Figured this would be fun. I decided to go to the The Archives and click on the random band button to see what it'd give me. Lets discuss the first ten bands that it gave me:

Lord Ayphos - Brazilian death metal band that released one demo in '05 and have since split up. What a shame! I was expecting this to be mediocre, but it's actually pretty damn cool. Sounds very Brazilian, and nearly like a more melodic Torture Squad (basically meaning their music has less crunch in the guitar tone.) Here, 'melodic' refers to how their riffs only have a slight sombre edge to them - they never lose the unadulterated power of Brazilian thrash. You know what nasty Brazilian metal sounds like. If you're tired of all the Vulcano, Sarcofago and Precambrian Sep. you always listen to, put this shit on.

Darknation - Thrash metal from France with an element of heavy metal to it. Pretty boring to me, though I think it's just the slick production that kills it the most. Actually upon closer inspection, this is a traditional heavy metal album with a pseudo thrash guitar sound. Poppy, hooky choruses and flashy (but brief) leads pop up regularly in a fashion similar to Wilson's half face in Home Improvement - awkward and not necessarily welcome, but still kinda amusing (just like the show itself.) Eh, pretty middle-of-the-road and just not my type of thrash/heavy fusion.

The Eternal - Gothic/doom metal is what it says on their page. They're also...Australian? Is this gonna work? Can't you only be a good goth/doom band if you're European or Type O? Let's see what we have here. *begins playing songs* Well this sucks a lot less than you might anticipate, and it's really not what I think of when I think 'gothic doom'. Actually it's a pretty ambiguous label to me; I think of no particular band when I hear the term. Not My Dying Bride, or Type O, or Paradise Lost or Katatonia. I actually think it's a fusion that has a lot more room for outside influence than other genres, and I think The Eternal have done it in a way I've never heard. Some parts of their music are almost powerful, but others are just sort of there. Check them out though. It's really so middle-of-the-road I have no clue what to even say.

Evok'hate - A now defunct French deathcore band. After checking them out, it's a damn good thing they disbanded. Holy shit is this annoying. Being French and all, you'd think they could go for an exotic twist. They didn't. Apparently they thought it'd be fun to throw Animosity, Darkest Hour and oh I don't know maybe a post-grunge influence (who knows, I don't care enough to know) in a blender and ape the concoction until it was polished enough to sell in the U.S. I think I've heard everything this band has done before from other bands without even paying much attention to the other bands. Shallow and predictable and just dull as a 180 degree angle. Sounds considerably metalcore for deathcore too, which means it's that much worse. Geez, this makes me hope I don't get another French band.

Greatdayforup - Is it a great day for up? I think it's a great day for being surprised, because fuck me with an eggplant; this rocks! This is seriously like Kansas doing a rendition on stoner rock with all but the barest traces of heavy metal. If I read that description, I'd never check this band out, but shit, I dig this! Totally unexpected fusion of rock and traditional heavy metal from different eras between the mid 70's and early 90's that is both fun and engaging in a deeper way. Hard music to describe, but all stoner rock fanatics and heavy metal aficionados would likely be delighted here. I can even see old guys still obsessed with Leftoverture really getting into this. Kansas had about two good songs, tops, but shit, what a nice surprise!

Killin' Kind - Italian heavy metal with a debut called Metal Rage?! My word, I can hear it already. But I always double check my work, so let's check to see if my psychic powers are still nice 'n acute. *plays "New Killing Breed"* Well, the guitar tone has some beef at least. *continues* Fuck, that shitty strumming shit at the 20 second mark reminds me of shitty bands. *keeps going* Hmm, I think they just pulled out some cool shit @ the 1 min. mark. Let's see now....well, the rest of the song isn't too bad. A bit cheesy at times, but still fun and surprisingly tasteful. Let's check out "Standing in the Shadow." Hmm, kinda like the rest of what I've heard. It's actually not too bad methinks. Sounds pretty good tonight at least!

Guttural Intoxication - Before I even click to re-investigate, I'll bet this band is either South American or Bob Macabre's twenty trillionth project. Let's see. Oop, nope! They're still from good 'ol fucking Pennsylvania, though, so I'm sure they hang out with Bob and drink Coors and stuff. The band's profile pic shows that it's a duo made up of a Johnny and an Ian. Johnny looks a lot like a dude from high school I knew if he was trying to pull of a depressed punk Randy Blythe tough guy look. Ian, on the other had could only have been the child Shaniqua Johnson gave birth to after getting knocked up by Terrance Hobbs on the Effigy tour or something, because shit! Just go have a look. They're also clearly pissed (figuratively and literally) as they stand giving the tall finger salute to the camera from behind a mountain of empty liquor bottles. I can't fucking wait to hear this! *plays* Well I guess they make sure they're plastered for every recording session, because this shit is lazy as fuck. Maybe two or three times they stumble upon a cool nanosecond-long riff, but I was hoping for some sweet Colombian-styled brutal death reminding me of Carnal or Melting Flesh. It's about as tasteless as the Bombay Gin whose bottle they put in front of Spirits Peak.

Von Raeven - I think anything with 'Von' in it sucks. Von Dutch, Von the band, even Kat Von Dutch got ugly. So what do we have here? Well, it's obscure. It's from 1984, it's Belgian (I love Belgian brews, my hopes are now up!) and there are no reviews! I also can't find anything from them floating around anywhere. And I keep getting search results for some Norwegians called Von Raven. I'll try to hunt it down in the future, and maybe you can even look yourself. Metal archaeology is fun, c'mon! All we have to tide us over is this short bio from some quarter-assed official/tribute site with a wall of blue basalt as a background: "Hardly anything seems to be known about this strangely monikered band from the Burst / Aalst area. They most likely started out in the summer of 1983 and their line-up consisted of Werner ? (vocals & bass), Danny ? & Guido ? (guitars) and Morek ? (drums). All members had been in other bands prior to VON RAEVEN, although I have no clue as to which ones exactly. By early 1984 they had recorded a demo, which turned out to include a couple of hard rock tunes, while the remaining ones were more in the heavy metal vein. Their first live gig was set for April 15th 1984."

Hellblazer - The grinding German one, not the almost-nonexistent Turkish one. Think I heard of these guys years ago in like a March 2004 Metal Maniacs issue, but totally forgot about them until now. Weird, seeing as I can't seem to easily find anything about them right now. In my sleepy stupor, maybe I'll just say fuck it for now and hand this one over to Nok for Always Unprotected or something. I'm tired and want to finish this shit already. My loud keyboard is annoying me, so not being able to ramble on is awesome!

Holy Cross - Fuck, coming back to this days later, I can't recall which one it gave me, but since the Brazilian one has "power' and 'neoclassical' prefixes, I know it's really not gonna be my thing. Instead, we'll just go with the heavy/power one from France. Lets jam some stuff from Under the Flag, their sole full-length. Whoa, guess I chose wisely. It's not amazing, but I know it's better than the other one. These guys actually have some balls and chops they serve their shit on, despite sounding a lot like later era Iced Earth and not being exactly what I would want from this style. Anyway, three out of five stars, I'm done, and I'm headed for the waterbed. Lata!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestial Lineage


In his glowing review for Pitchfork, Brandon Stosuy hails Wolves In The Throne Room’s Celestial Lineage as “the contemporary American scene's defining statement.” I couldn’t agree more. Over the last few years WITTR and their ilk have worked tirelessly to strip black metal of everything that makes it fun, dangerous, and musically engaging, and Celestial Lineage represents the culmination of their efforts. There is no better expression of the follies of the USBM movement.

But for us haters, Stosuy has his usual canned response: WITTR are “fucking with the template more than purists would like,” and in so doing are producing easily dismissed “scenester backlash.” Art, for Stosuy, is a matter of progress, and daring innovators like WITTR are saving black metal from stagnation. To resist the rising tide of USBM is to reveal oneself as a reactionary kvlt troglodyte, the kind of person who prefers his black metal “to remain boring and unknown.” With this rhetorical move, Stosuy has reduced the debate to a simple question of stylistic novelty, to whether one is ready for the “ambitious” sound of the new wave. He’s attempting to foreclose any serious discussion of the music itself, because that’s the void at the heart of his review, and most of his writing.

He hears the “sound” and not the songwriting, the style and not the substance, and for this reason writes about Celestial Lineage purely in descriptive terms. Gushing with adjectives like “colossal,” “frantic,” “levitating,” and “anthemic,” Stosuy glibly namedrops canonically hip non-metal genres like shoegaze and post-punk, and even digs out the WITTR press release to shower us with the band’s own chosen imagery. He treats these scattered labels and references as if each showed us the music’s inherent value, spinning them into a summary without including so much as a sentence about why the album is good.


I’d love to talk sometime about how Stosuy’s indie-rocker notion of “artistic progression” is an inadequate—and perhaps obsolete—category for judging music, and about why it’s especially inappropriate for black metal. But right now I’d like to let these concerns linger in the background, and cut to the heart of the matter. Let’s actually talk about the music. Celestial Lineage isn’t some forward-thinking masterpiece. It’s a mere pastiche of black metal tropes, each deployed in a weak and fumbling way that mocks its real musical potential.


While WITTR’s 2007 breakthrough Two Hunters was not exactly a Dissection album, it was enlivened by a few interesting and strongly defined melodies. On this new release, it seems like WITTR have “progressed” beyond all that. Whatever craftsmanship this band once had has been lost or actively discarded. In short, these riffs fucking suck. Just over a minute into the third track, “Subterranean Initiation,” WITTR cut out the blastbeats and bring in the keyboards for what they hope is a cathartic, expansive chorus-of-sorts. If you have ever heard any black metal at all, you’ll immediately notice how familiar it sounds. Yes, it’s one of THOSE riffs again. It’s WITTR’s take on a stock chord pattern that’s been used since the early 90s to impart an “epic” feel. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with calling on a genre’s tropes, it sounds comically weak here. It’s been trotted out as if it spoke for itself, as if merely including this type of riff was enough to achieve the desired effect. But that’s not the end of it. WITTR answer this keyboard melody with a pair of slowly descending tremolo guitar lines that dispel what little atmosphere they’d managed to conjure. These musical afterthoughts sound a lot like “baa baa black sheep,” or perhaps “baa baa black metal.” Rather than answering the first melody or building on it, they awkwardly echo it. The effect is akin to somebody restating the end of a sentence…of a sentence, of a sentence…


Such impotent riffage plagues the whole of Celestial Lineage. Almost every melodic line somehow cancels itself out, dissipating its energy or neurotically turning back on itself. At 3:23 in "Thuja Magus Imperium," WITTR verge on creating a dark, thrashing rhythm riff, but then pull back into an arbitrary jumble of chords that serves mainly to cancel out the dissonance—perhaps to avoid scaring their fans? And the most embarrassing moment on the entire album comes a mere twenty seconds later. In a poorly aimed stab at majesty, they bring in a slow, ringing lead over a bed of blasting. The melody slews around listlessly before trailing off in a trill. I suspect that this sad little combination of notes was chosen purely because it happened to fit over the chords. Even the guy’s playing sounds clumsy and hesitant. It seem that WITTR are incapable—or afraid—of fully committing to a melodic idea. I’ll venture the hypothesis, though, that it has more to do with an attempt to do something stereotypically black metal by writing “atmospheric” riffs, as if atmosphere was defined by the mere absence of a worthwhile melody.


Of course, black metal isn’t just about individual riffs—it’s about a total harmonic environment within which riffs are often just the most prominent forms. It thrives on the play between traditional and chromatic harmony, between “epic” and “evil.” To their credit, WITTR seem to have some grasp of this: They haven’t fully surrendered to the tinkly, one-dimensional prettiness favored by the new crop of “shoegaze black metal” bands. Still, there’s something really wrong here, and it’s something that’s always been wrong with WITTR’s music. The harmonic edges are rounded off, sanded away, so that everything occupies a bland, hazy middle ground. Rather than deftly interweaving harmony and disharmony (like Sorhin) or moving fluidly between the two (like early Emperor), WITTR have created something that has no discernable harmonic character. Even in the moments of “ethereal beauty,” there’s nothing particularly euphonious or ecstatic going on. I get the sense that the band have been listening to medieval polyphony, and much of Celestial Lineage really does sound like a mediocre attempt at that sound, where the voices cancel one another out instead of coming together in a single overwhelming texture. WITTR are working with a totally neutral harmonic palette, and it goes a long way toward making this album drift past like so much New Age elevator music.


Perhaps that's actually what they were going for. Celestial Lineage is dominated by ambient interludes, some in the midst of songs and some between them. On “Prayer of Transformation” WITTR take this logic to an extreme, working guitar lines and screams into an agonizingly painless ordeal that stretches well past the ten-minute mark. Some of the shorter ambient sections aren’t, in themselves, objectionable. In fact, I’d be interested to hear where some of these ideas might lead. But that’s the thing—ritual drone music needs time and space to develop, and if you’re committed to making it you have to give it that respect. You cannot simply insert this kind of thing into a black metal song, or in between two of them, and have it serve any purpose other than distracting us from the fact that the songwriting sucks.


It’s too easy, though, to dismiss the unfortunate ambient passages as a lazy band’s filler. Indeed, this stuff clearly took time to make, and it says something important about how WITTR understand their music. The soundscapes are supposed to generate an atmosphere, to create an experience that is “reverent,” “sublime,” “serene,” “mysterious,” “sorrowful,” “awe-inspiring,” and that sort of thing. Instead, they work more like a statement, a reminder of just how “ambient” and “atmospheric” and “ethereal” Celestial Lineage is. WITTR really pull out the stops, using every trite trick of film soundtracks and New Age music to convince you that something REALLY DEEP is happening. From Enya vocals and “reflective” washes of keyboard to the embarrassing Zen humming at the beginning of “Permanent Changes in Consciousness" and the fucking chimes at the beginning of “Woodland Cathedral,” WITTR gussy up their music with layers of cheap, cosmetic symbolism.


And that’s what this band is all about. In their fixation on the external signs of black metal, WITTR have failed to grasp the genre’s musical logic and emotional core. They’ve encountered it only as a “sound” comprised of stock gestures and affects. And in this respect, they have much in common with the “boring and unknown” kvlt bands that Brandon Stosuy is so quick to deride. WITTR can “fuck with the template” all they want. It’s still a fucking template.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Copremesis - Muay Thai Ladyboys

Paulo recently contacted me after reading this review on the Metal Archives, and via email we reminisced about our meeting a couple years back. He also sent me a gloriously printed shirt featuring the album's FULL artwork- thanks a lot! Upon further reflection on this album (and in anticipation of the band's sophomore LP) I've decided to reprint this review on TBO with an additional addendum containing some elaborations of my thoughts. The more I consider this album, the more I fall in love with it and how much it makes me reconsider just what brutal death metal is. Enjoy.

_____

While this is "brutal death metal" taxonomically, Copremesis doesn't really have the same musical goals as the rest of brutal death metal, it doesn't seem. They're less about crushing the listener or putting them in a state of awe or terror or even disgusting them really- their particular style is more playful, darting, and sort of inviting at the same time. It's brutal death, but it doesn't feel "intimidating," as such. I don't picture these guys standing around in "Butchered at Birth" hoodies like I do when I listen to Severe Torture. This might be colored by the time I saw them live, where all the members were smiling broadly and Paulo was jumping, running, and maniacally thrashing all over the tiny stage. He looked like he was moving in fast-forward; that's how much enthusiasm these guys bring to the table.

If the appropriate expression while listening to Devourment is overly serious and pouty, I suppose this one is more of an arched eyebrow and half-smile kinda thing. Copremesis plays an exceedingly technical and linear style of brutal death metal with periodic dips into slam, but that doesn't quite articulate what these guys sound like. There's the riffs; they buzz, they whirr, they chug and occasionally arpeggiate- in short, they do everything but typical brutal death metal riffing. Slams come out in strange, morphing time signatures and multiple vocal layers slither over and around each other, with different textures of gurgles gliding across the framework of the music in a surprisingly relaxed fashion to contrast the frenzy of the instrumental section below. But that oversimplifies the music, too, as it's not all frantic; in fact, in many ways it's the opposite. I've never heard a band as technical, fast, and extreme as Copremesis sound so oddly... relaxed about the whole thing. It's brutal death metal without the brutality, you might say.

But without getting bogged down in aimless abstraction, Copremesis sounds sort of like Malignancy with doses of Immolation, Vomit Remnants, Cryptopsy, and overt slam tossed in- it's less about creating a brutal death metal album and more about playing around with death metal itself. You can see overt references to individual bands from song to song- a section clearly cribbed from Incantation here, a Levasseur-derived bit of neoclassical soloing there- and it's obvious that Copremesis wanted to make this almost a tribute album to their idols and favorite elements of death metal throughout history. Still, much of their own personality shines through. The thoroughly unusual riffing style is as much Malignancy as it is Dying Fetus as it is Artery Eruption, and again, as it is Gorguts- the guitarwork doesn't really play by any set of rules but its own, and it makes for some fascinatingly textured music throughout. Perhaps the biggest credit has to be given to the fantastic drumming, though: it's delightfully musical, packed with variation and subtle touches, and could be isolated in the mix and released as an album of its own.

Copremesis treats extreme music like a sandbox to imagine in, rather than as a set of legos to construct something from. Nothing on "Muay Thai Ladyboys" is particularly memorable or catchy; it's an album that you instead throw on and sort of sink into, enjoying the little flourishes in the riffs, the crazed, beautifully detailed drumming, and the perpetually gurgling and burping and snorting vocal presence. It's definitely a very curious album, and not one particularly designed for "brutal death people" in my estimation. Kind of unfortunate that more haven't given these guys a try- there's nothing quite like it out in the metal scene today. This isn't an every day item for me, but when it hits, it hits hard. Worth a look from the more open-minded sects.

_____

It only occurred to me after writing the above review that I had totally missed the best way to describe this album: as a Dr. Seuss version of brutal death metal. It's amazing just how much of the standard lexicon of this style of music is used but crafts an utterly different atmosphere from the standard. It's worth reiterating that while "Muay Thai Ladyboys" is a brutal death metal album, as that's where the musical techniques of this music place it taxonomically, it doesn't come off as exceedingly brutal, deathly, and only somewhat metallic. While there are blast beats, extreme, inhaled gurgles, and crushing slam riffs, this music doesn't contain the implied "threat" that other death metal does- instead, it's playful, clever, and agile music that transports you to the sort of oddly-colored world where there are giant mushrooms instead of trees, mammals with seven legs and five eyes, and girls with bigger dicks than you could ever imagine.

If you say that death metal is the sound of horrible monsters devouring helpless victims, this album is the sound of those same hideous creatures playing hide and seek; they're still sort of intimidating and kind of hard to look at given the gnashing teeth and razor-sharp claws, but seeing such perfect carnivores... FROLICKING inspires a perplexed gaze rather than a terrified cower. Copremesis, without straying outside the basic lines of the brutal death metal style, have managed to single-handedly prove that the conceptual and emotional wavelength for such an extreme style of music is infinitely broader that nearly any had previously imagined. When the less clever among us dismiss brutal death as nothing but juvenile misogyny or bland, adolescent rage, this is the album to show them: funny, wistful, free, and happy to invite you to take part in the sort of clever savagery that it's mastered so well.

Get into: X-Japan



Japan has a very strange culture where enormous things can happen entirely within their borders and barely trickle out into international consciousness, as though pivotal moments in their culture are being intentionally dammed in to prevent contamination (whose contamination, theirs or ours, is another discussion entirely.) X-Japan is one such entity- christ, look at that crowd. I understand they're a Japanese band, but when you fill a stadium like that, shouldn't America know at least a little bit about you?

X-Japan were one of the harder-edged frontrunners of the visual kei movement- you know, that thing you probably read about on Wikipedia where Japanese musicians take the most demented excesses of '80s glam aesthetics and overdrive them in a way only the children of samurai are able to. The most surprising thing about the visual kei movement is that a lot of the music is actually pretty excellent- and on a related note, if you have a Japanese metal band that isn't explicitly death or black, it's almost guaranteed that visual kei is at least a part of their presentation. Apparently the visual aspect to this whole "genre" (if you can call it that) is rather important (as the name would suggest,) but it's so culturally bound to Japan the lexicon of imagery and the purpose thereof is basically lost on us baka gaijin. So we're actually in the rather enviable position of being able to judge these sorts of bands without any unnecessary cultural baggage weighing us down or influencing our ideas. It can be a nice change of pace.

To strip things down in a way that makes the term basically lose all meaning, you could essentially consider X-Japan a power metal band: fast palm-muted riffs, fast, straightforward drumwork, soaring clean vocals, periodic dips into ballad territory (including impressively played piano,) the works. Of course, this is a terrible way to explain their sound as they actually sound absolutely nothing like Euro or US power metal. What X-Japan sounds more like is an incredible overdriving of a combination of glam and prog rock, filtered through a sort of cluttered, inconsiderate mash of heavy, power, and thrash metal. The result is something which, despite its speed and aggressive rhythmic presence, resembles Queen a fuck of a lot more than just about anything else in the metal field- apart from other Japanese power metal bands, of course.

Why is X-Japan so notable? Well, it's mainly in their ability to be the exception to the rule in many aspects of metal songwriting. More specifically, X-Japan is infinitely more self-consciously "artistic" and "sophisticated" than I usually allow in my music; the absurdly overblown string arrangements, plaintive piano melodies, and teetering-on-laughably-emotive Engrish lyrics are all the work of a band with something to prove. It uses some of my least favorite musical vocabulary: verse-chorus song structures, ballads, soaring clean vocals, and a completely unabashed, impressively brave sense of melody. X-Japan are in some ways a sort of ritualization and consecration of the very IDEA of rock or heavy metal music- everything they do comes out of a distinct, carefully repeated playbook. It is some of the most formulaic and yet undeniably gripping music I've ever heard.

X-Japan : Queen :: Emmure : Hatebreed

What makes X-Japan so brilliant is a heady combination of their utter shamelessness and their simultaneously undeniable ability as pop songwriters. They're legitimately a case where their musical image (both visual and sonic) are so unspeakably humiliating and delivered with such an ignorant, straightforward conviction that they bypass your irony shields and just leave you gawking at the spectacle. But beyond the spectacle is what keeps you hook after the novelty has dried up: brilliant, propulsive riffcraft, a spectacular sense of complex yet natural harmony, and a burly, proud sense of melody that's nothing more than Nippon's reinterpretation of Iron Maiden within their own cultural context. Beyond the silliness (which doesn't even strike you as silly because it's that far beyond the pale) is a band with remarkable staying power who actually deserve a place in the metalhead's collection.

Does X-Japan make "significant art?" It's a term that's impossible to define, but you all know exactly what I mean when I say it. I don't think there's a yes/no answer to that question though; I think to "get" a band like this necessitates a massive rethinking of how you evaluate art vs. entertainment and what can be precisely defined as "important" in an artistic piece. I'd say that X-Japan falls into a similar aesthetic or philosophically conceptual category as Emmure, Enmity, or Dark Funeral, as absurd as those comparisons sound at first glance. In every one of those cases (including X-Japan,) you could accuse each band of making what amounts to musical candy; giving those who are merely obsessed with the respective style itself a cheap thrill via a stripped down, overdriven version of its parent style. And truthfully, I'd be hard-pressed to disagree with such an assessment.

But I think there's value to such artists- a legitimate, artistic one. They cleanse and clarify their styles, cause discussion in their scenes, and force listeners to reexamine exactly what they're listening to such music for. Like Cephalotripsy's luscious embrace of the most primitive slam tropes, Lil B's ludicrous and only semi-conscious examination of hip-hop, or even Lady Gaga's conscious, unashamed regurgitation of pop music's greatest moments, bands like the aforementioned force us to think about the music we listen to- not just the music itself, but what it means and why we listen to it. And any artist that can do that is I think one worth the time of listeners.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Join our legions and conquer!



We get some 180-250 hits a day on average, but we only have 24 official "followers" or "members." So if you read Trial By Ordeal a lot, we'd love it if you added us to your "blogs I'm following" list on your dashboard. You could even create a Blogger account just for us! It will help you keep up to date with the latest developments in weird, nasty underground metal. Or at least whatever random cool shit we've decided to write about. It will help us get a better sense for how many regular readers we have, and it helps publicize the blog. So join up. Onwards, to total domination of the internet!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Depressive black metal that isn't trash

I'm actually really into depressive black metal- or, maybe, the idea of it. It's a lot like funeral doom in that it's a style that's hard to do overtly badly at; instead of swarms of ludicrously incompetent, totally lame bands like you might see in thrash, the bulk of the scene is made up of mediocre, listenable garbage that slips out of your ear as quickly as it slithers in. Still, again like funeral doom, there are artists who rise far above the pack and transcend the perceived boundaries of the "depressive" style to make music all their own. Here's a few of them.



Nyktalgia

The biggest band by far in this handful, Nyktalgia is one of the bigger, more successful bands in the depressive scene, and also one that's often appreciated by typical detractors of the style. The big difference: they play fast instead of slow. The music is violent and aggressive without sacrificing any of the mournful and melodic qualities that define depressive black metal; in fact, if you break down all the elements, this is pretty in line with typical DSBM (apart from an unusually textured and nuanced interaction between bass and 6-string). It's amazing, though, what the change in tempo does to this music; songs that would have been sort of self-pitying and agonized are transformed into insane, nihilistic rampages that are as angry as they are depressed. One of my favorite bands, period, and probably also my favorite in the DSBM scene. The first album is superior to the second.



Thy Light

Brazilian, a single demo tape that goes for pretty severe prices on Ebay, and simplistic, sluggish depressive black metal- sounds like the sort of thing that would clutter Aquarius shelves. Amazingly, though, there's a method to the madness here; sole member Paolo Bruno was a classically trained pianist before he got into extreme metal, and despite the simplicity of Thy Light's music, this tends to come across in the more nuanced, unfolding melodic sense, where melodic and rhythmic textures stretch across each other in an elegant, vividly listenable way. It's not as emotionally gripping as some of my other DSBM favorites, but the sort of simple brilliance of songwriting this project displays puts it in a class of its own.



Knokkelklang

Familiar to those who are following my download blog, Always Unprotected, Knokkelklang is like Thy Light in that it's a one-man factory of cassette-bound self-destruction, but the method of delivery is entirely different. Still sluggish and simplistic, Knokkelklang's music falls into the category of "depressive black metal" but is unique in that it's some of the most distinctly impersonal music I've ever heard in the genre. Knokkelklang's music doesn't portray self-pity so much as a sort of bittersweet weltschmerz, like the soundtrack to the last humans earth will ever see watching the sun slowly expand to engulf the solar system. It's miserable but sort of sardonic and wistful at the same time; the atmosphere is singular and utterly unique. It's also wonderful music to cook to, I've found. Don't ask me why.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Get Into: Deathchain



Here at Trial By Ordeal we really miss Morbid Angel. But I have a theory. Last year Morbid Angel's collective soul was siphoned away by a cunning and unfathomably powerful denizen of the void, leaving Azagthoth, Vincent, and those two other guys dazed and clueless. For its own inscrutable reasons, that tentacled being conferred the stolen power on an obscure Finnish deathrash band. Bathed in morbid illuminations of the highest order, Deathchain saw a new path open before them, and recorded Death Gods, one of 2010's best and most underappreciated releases.

You will be shocked by the way Deathchain channel Morbid Angel, from their riffing style to their atmosphere of cosmic horror. At first I thought these guys were simply a "perfect clone band" who had achieved the nigh-unthinkable goal of completely absorbing their main influence's style. And I loved it--these guys really do sound just as good as Morbid Angel. But the more I listen to it the more I think Deathchain are onto their own thing. The songwriting here is busier and more dynamic than Morbid Angel's, and the overall feeling is much more immediate, less austere. Where Morbid Angel seemed to cultivate a kind of estrangement from the listener, Deathchain unload on him with a storm of frantic riffola and slamming breakdowns. Morbid Angel is Extremely Serious Music. Deathchain is dark shit, but it's also fun as hell.

"The Lion-Head" refers to the Lamassu, guardian deities of the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. This track slays all the way through, thundering in with a convoluted riff over compressive blasting before opening out into growling chants of "DEMONIC! SEDUCER!" But the golden moment comes just before the 2 minute mark, where the tempo picks up again and Deathchain unleash a beautiful lead melody worthy of Dissection, Sacramentum, or any other classic melodic black metal band. Definitely my favorite off the album.

Basically, get Death Gods. And if you can afford it, buy it. It's well worth owning, and these guys don't get nearly enough attention outside Finland!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Middle Eastern black metal (part 2 of 3) - Ayat



How should extreme music from the third world sound? Well, like this, of course- Ayat's origins in Lebanon really demand the sort of raw, needling, utterly chaotic sound that they bring to the table so flawlessly on their releases. Like most burgeoning third-world scenes, the middle eastern scene is tragically soaked in bullshit Dimmu Borgir-with-Arabic-melodies pseudo-folk metal that the vast majority of the scene demands- after all, Ayat's from Lebanon; they're entirely defined by their cultural musical legacy, correct? Well, apparently not, and bands like Ayat and Halla are proving that they can enter the scene in the same way that so many others did: without concession, trend, or hipster energy propelling them.

Halla and Ayat represent the spearhead of Middle Eastern black metal, defining its sound almost by refusing to define it. You will never find cliched Arabic folk melodies, lyrics quoting passages from the Koran, or other somesuch self-conscious attempts at superstardom. Instead, you'll find primitive, raw, animalistic black metal that gives the best of the rest of its world a run for its money. These bands come from an environment of religious oppression (true religious oppression, the kind where you're executed rather than given a stern talking-to in the mainstream media), almost constant warfare, and a barbaric, murderous, and simultaneously intelligent and rich cultural history- it's only natural that the music sound as chaotic and deranged as the environment in which it was spawned.

The messy, discordant, abstract sounds of bands like Ayat and Halla are both more relevant and more honest than any of the more open attempts at "Middle Eastern Black Metal" that some of their contemporaries are attempting. The overweening obsession that metalheads feel towards "folk" metal (which rarely has anything to do with actual folk) reflects a sort of cultural narcissism at best and unabashed racism at worst, proving that the only way a bunch of white suburbanites can relate to those from other cultures is through watered-down, cliched representations of those cultures. Ayat and Halla have no desire to be scene as Lebanese or Iranian black metal respectively; rather, they desire to be seen as black metal alone. And in doing this, they have created more authentic Middle Eastern metal than Orphaned Land could ever hope to produce.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Keyboards are cool


Are you a generic dude in a Darkthrone t shirt who mistakenly believes he's into black metal? Perhaps you say stupid shit like "keyboards don't belong in black metal, that's just so cheesy." Or "Fantasy cover art is so ridiculous, who can take that shit seriously? My band hired a Real Graphic Designer to do a tasteful minimalist composition for our album." If so, you may also be wondering where your testicles went. Just ask Asmodeus. They have 'em, and maybe if you abase yourself before their iron throne they'll be kind enough to throw them back to you.

I don't know anything about this band, just found em on Youtube. I love the key-ed up bombast and their penchant for brooding over single chords as the drummer just goes to town on his kit. It hasn't blown my mind or anything but it's cool shit, and a nice reminder of how black metal actually sounds. And that cover art, dude, that cover art!

It should go without saying, but this is the sort of shit that benefits a lot from BEING TURNED UP REALLY LOUD.

Booze-soaked riffs/ Bulldozer

Hmm, seems as if I'm relating to that George Thorogood song right now - I'm drinking alone, as it's the first event-less Saturday night in a long ass time. I dropped into the liquor store and bought a couple seventy two ounce bottles of a new beer I've never tried before. It's called 'Three Philosophers';  a Belgian-styled ale brewed in New York. It also packs a nice punch as it's 9.8 ABV and sold in a big ass seventy two ounce bottle or something. I'm not a frequent drinker, but I'm twenty one now and was bored as fuck, so I went to the fucking liquor store just so I could jam some music on the way and then and cop a buzz later (now.) Anyway, with the help of two double shots of El Jimador, I'm zooming in on halfway plastered and and gonna tell you all to listen to motherfucking Bulldozer right now. It's whiskey time, tequila time, whatever to fuck else. But jam some Day of Wrath!


This beer rules. If I (really fucking hopefully) end up flying out to the Big Apple to catch Negative Plane and 'The Drape in early December you bet your sweet ass I'll be taking a tour of the Ommegang Brewery before I head back home! See you soon Cooperstown!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Couple of Badass Bands:


Naked Whipper are like Blasphemy's more impish younger cousin, with a fixation on BDSM themes. They're German after all, so I suppose it makes sense. But who the hell doesn't love that nasty German attitude that you get with practically every great German band ever?! Black metal gets distilled down into punky, blast-happy grind that's two parts Blasphemy, one quarter early Impaled Nazarene and then one quarter Massacra (tell me some of those riffs on Moloch: Acid Orgy couldn't have been lifted right from Enjoy the Violence) and you get a nasty concoction with Chris Moyen artwork. This 'band' was more like Alex Schulz's side project with session work courtesy of the rest of the Malaphar crew, but I like 'the Whipper a hell of a lot more than Malaphar.

 

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Oh how cute, they named themselves after 'ol Jeffrey himself. The music is pretty damn thunking though, I must say. It's groovy and brutal Canadian grind with some dude named Seb caterwauling about serial killers in Quebecois-French. I don't really know what else to say other than it's a nasty mash-up of grind and powerviolence and the bass tone will kill you on impact. Someone was cool enough to just put the first half of the album on YouTube, so I pasted it above. Listen and draw your own conclusions. Another awesome sounding snare album it is as well. Jam some Dahmer tonight and piss off everyone from your neighbors to that old lady next to you at that red light that takes forever.

state violence, state control.



Tomorrow at 6 or 7 AM the pigs will be "clearing out" Occupy Wall Street. You all know what that means. If you've been reading this blog you know I hate hippie ideals...I'm not sure I even qualify as left-wing anymore. But at this point it's bigger than that. It's the first real chance Americans have had in decades to speak out against the disease of capitalism, to say something that has been unsayable in the imprisoning language of American politics. It's an opening, a glimmer of opportunity, and Bloomberg and his goons are determined to close it. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so I'm gonna be there. Fuck business as usual.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Middle Eastern black metal (part 1 of 3) - Halla



desert sand packed hard by tank treads woman stoned to death for adultery hands cut off for theft explosives echoing down through cracks in the earth into bomb shelters crowded bazaars filled with screaming screaming shell casings ejected hot into dry air burning flags burning cities burning god burning world

the last true sound of hate on earth

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If you still haven't heard this band, please do so now.



I just watched the Icelandic crime thriller Jar City. A brilliant film, as bleak as a Caspar David Friedrich painting stripped of any hint of redemption. It's Tragic in the true sense of the word, since it deals with the sickness and contradiction twisted into the skeins of fate by the Norns. There's never been too much black metal out of Iceland, but if you watch this movie you will learn something about black metal. Or, rather, you'll learn something about what black metal is about. The soundtrack consists almost entirely of chilling funeral hymns. It's streaming on Netflix right now, so you really have no excuse.

It was hard for me not to be reminded of the Icelandic band Solstafir, whose 2009 Kold is one of the finest black metal albums released in the past decade. Indeed, it's probably one of the best black metal albums since 1996. And even if we trace the genre back to its origins, it's difficult to find art that matches up to this.

The catch is that, by the standards of many, this isn't black metal at all. If you think of Kold only in terms of its style--the sum of its various formal elements--it's probably much closer to the epic goth rock of Fields of The Nephilim, The Sisters of Mercy, and Disintegration-era Cure, not to mention balls-out rock'n'roll from Neil Young to Motorhead. There's certainly a huge black metal influence in the riffs and the sense of harmony that underpins them, but it's secondary to the...

You know what? Fuck it. What I just wrote looks SO fucking petty, so fucking "music critic" compared to the sound of "Pale Rider" blasting through my headphones. So I'll review this some other time, in the dead of winter, when I can do it justice. For now, I leave you with this line from the spoken introduction to Solstafir's "World Void of Souls:"

"The daylight only lasts for a couple of hours. So I haven't seen any colors for a couple of weeks."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Always Unprotected - TBO's little pirate sister

Just a quick note to let you all know that the download blog is officially up and running! With a debut post of a Misanthropy Legion demo, this new part of the Trial By Ordeal family is sure to frighten and disappoint all! Check it out!

http://alwaysunprotected.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Get Into: Convulse



You all knew this would end up here eventually, right? I mean, Convulse isn't all that obscure anymore, thanks to the recent Relapse reissue, and these guys aren't really my own personal discovery...I downloaded World Without God from Cosmic Hearse a couple years ago. But it's definitely worth reiterating that this is a sick album. Punk-as-fuck primitive death metal, and the closest thing I've heard to Grave's masterpiece Into The Grave, which is my personal favorite album from the genre (I guess Morbid Angel were probably better from an artistic standpoint, but whatever, I love headbanging). Convulse favored a much colder, rawer sound than their contemporaries, creating heaviness with the pure power of riffage and drumming. The meat of the album is the straight-up hate: rabid charges powered by kick-snare punk drumming and twisting riffs reminiscent of Reign In Blood. But "Resuscitation of Evilness" stands out from the rest because it combines that sound with gory breakdowns and barbaric half-blasting. The pacing is perfect. If you like Sarcofago and Nifelheim, you'll like it. If you like Unleashed and Jungle Rot, you'll like it. So get into it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Review: Nefas - Transfiguration to the Ancient's Form

This is a repost of a review of mine from a while back. I'm dropping this off because I was recently contacted by the members of Nefas, who are interested in me reviewing their soon-to-come (and long awaited) follow-up to their 2002 debut full-length. Considering how sick this '99 EP is, I can only imagine how the band has developed in the intervening period. Tech death isn't something we usually cover here, but I can say very distinctly that this smashes 99% of the style out there. You can't go wrong. Enjoy.

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The fact that this isn't regarded as a second-tier brutal death classic is both perplexing and completely understandable: perplexing because it's clearly so far above most in the genre in quality and uniqueness, but completely understandable given the obscurity of the band and its unfortunate timing- 1999 was not exactly the year for this sort of thing, if there ever was a timeframe for it. Nefas' style of technical death has a great deal in common with the particularly spastic end of the modern Colombian brutal death style (which in and of itself has never received extraordinary praise) alongside a good resemblance to some of the United Guttural material coming out a few years after this. It's a tremendously idiosyncratic release that deserves much more attention that I've ever seen it receive.

In another regard it makes sense that this isn't popular due to how sheerly weird and off-kilter it is. Nefas combines a Malignancy-style refusal to adhere to a certain rhythm or riff for more than ten seconds along with the pure fury and unhinged technicality of the Colombian scene with a lot of its own flair; even for heavily trained tech death fans, this can be hard to stomach. This is more on time than most Colombian brutal death (it's much more musical, too, than anything like Mindly Rotten) but completely possesses that style's unbelievable speed and grotesque melodic sense. However, this is more tempered than something like Nihil Obstat; there's a certain recognizable occult atmosphere and many of the riffs are like more-technical versions of NYDM stalwarts such as Incantation and Immolation. While much of this music is ball-shatteringly technical, the band knows when to scale it back and settle into something approximating repetition for just long enough to establish a pattern in the listener's mind before dashing it and going insane again.

What this has over most tech death records is mood; Nefas uses the technicality of their work as a way to advance the sense of doom and techno-occult insanity they portray so well. The vocals are a great part of this: heavily reverbed growls in the NYDM tradition backed by snarling Catasexual Urge Motivation-style goblin rasps which give the music an extra layer of chaos but also a certain focus that isn't really delivered by the instruments alone. There's a ton going on in the music, and oddly enough one of the biggest contributors to this is the bass, which is very high in the production and completely unwilling to follow the guitars for more than a few seconds, regularly playing against the established tempo with slow, plucking arpeggios while the guitars whirl and claw underneath it. The effect is wholly alien and bizarre.

If you can track this down you absolutely should; my copy came from a random Ebay lot so I'm not sure where this is available anymore. But still, if you are into the weirder edges of tech death this is a necessary item; it smashes anything Spawn Of Possession is doing into tiny fragments and is worth all the money you're spending on Willowtip. Find this somehow!

Buy this album on Amazon

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shameless Personal Plug



So I've started doing some writing for this other site, The Bone Reader. It was founded by a really chill Canadian guy who's been on the scene since the 80s, and its coverage leans towards doom/sludge/stoner metal, as well as thrash and hardcore. Bone Reader is great for thoughtful long-form interviews and features, and if you're into the hefty, hairy, bong-ripping side of metal it's an awesome way to dig into the underground (and overground) of that scene. My role is to cover the faster, more extreme shit, especially black metal, and just to be the opinionated asshole that I am. The folks at the Bone Reader are lifers with a staggering wealth of experience in metal, punk, and rock'n'roll, and they staunchly support obscure and up-and-coming bands. They really think of their mission as championing good new music that otherwise might not find an audience, and that sincerity comes through in their writing. So even if I don't always share their taste, I'm stoked to be contributing to their struggle. And you should check it out.

Don't worry, Trial By Ordeal is absolutely still my priority. This blog is my baby, and I'm totally committed to our vision for uncompromising extreme music. You already know what to expect from my writing here, and that won't change. I'm making an effort to offer something slightly different in my writing for The Bone Reader, just to keep my projects clear and distinct. The reviews I do will usually be (a little) more journalistic in structure, since it's not some esoteric kvlt blog like this one, and they'll tend to focus on the promos we get sent. I might occasionally write about some dopesmoking shit, too. Basically, if you want to see what I think of "the year's major albums," the group of recordings from major and mid-size labels that invariably seem to make the Top 10 lists of the critics, you'd do well to check out my work over there. Of course, if one of these major albums happens to be a perfect fit for the Trial By Ordeal aesthetic, there's a good chance I'll end up reviewing it over here instead!

So what HAVE I done thus far? I'm glad you asked, oh avid reader. I just wrote an enthusiastic review of the new Craft album, and about a month ago I flamed Endstille's confused and disappointing Infektion 1813. This week I'll be transcribing an interview I did two or three weeks ago with Aesop of Ludicra, Agalloch, and Cosmic Hearse fame. I asked him about his experience getting into black metal long before it was trendy in the United States, and about the way this experience has shaped how he thinks about music. I don't think I agreed with everything he said--and wish I'd probed a little deeper in a few instances--but Aesop is certainly an insightful dude who is well worth hearing out. And say what you will about Cosmic Hearse, but I don't think I'd be writing this blog if it weren't for that institution. I checked it every day for like 3 years before starting Trial By Ordeal, and it was honestly a really important part of my life.

Anyway, read my shit! And leave some comments on it, since nobody has yet. It would be lovely to hear from our crew of hesher fiends and dungeon dwellers. Hail!

P.S. I just posted the Grand Magus song because it rules and it's doom and I was listening to it today.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The metal nerd's collection (BONUS INSTALLMENT)


Doing a little guest continuation on Noktorn's metal nerd entries, I've selected another five that really seem to bring on the hordes of obstinate cred-seekers that I've found myself surrounded on the 'net by. Enjoy:

1. Voivod - Undoubtedly the dorkiest band ever to enter the thrash arena, Voivod stands at a nerdy epicurean position between just-abstract-enough and a sci-fi premise that is more than enough to make every metal nerd make a wet spot on their carpet. The metal nerd can either like the early albums for being intelligent raw thrash or praise the Killing-onwards albums for "making all other thrash in the 80's seem amateurish." Of course, remembering a riff by Voivod isn't something that happens naturally, so the nerd can invent all kinds of reasons why they're so good. Favorite album: Rrröööaaarrr, just because the metal nerd loves umlauts.

2. The Chasm - This is like a twelve course meal for the metal nerd. Aztec mythology, a lengthy eight album career AND a progressive edge that constantly seems underappreciated?! Jesus, the metal nerd doesn't even know where to begin with this one. Only can an album like Deathcult for Eternity make the metal nerd feel like he's eating saffron butter poached lobster with truffle sauce at a royal banquet. This band is just exotic enough to inflate the music with all kinds of extra shit the nerd can over intellectualize. They're also a great example of a death metal band nerds show off to their metal - hating friends to show how it can be soooo MUSICAL and SOPHISTICATED. Favorite album: any of them, but some just love to debate about if the EP is in fact better than the albums.

3. Ved Buens Ende - If metal nerds were flies, this album is the pile of Triceratops shit in Jurassic Park. The music's not shit at all, but this album is still nerdier than Chris Owen in October Sky. Appearing at a time when the first wave of prog influences in metal were really starting to take hold, VBE's occult lounge rock (and Norwegian origin) fools the nerd into seeing this album as some transitional bridge from black metal into some kind of 'post-' whatever. Seemingly abstract and surreal in nature, Written in Waters has enough artsy ambiguousness to induce a nerd coma in the wrong ears. Note that in this case this is the only time the metal nerd will defend the 'post-' prefix, simply because it's from the 90's and not the 00's and they're from Norway. Go figure.

4. Root - Root never really seemed to know which style to settle on, so their career has really just been a big long mishmash of all kinds of shit. This gives the nerd a perfect reason to invest all kinds of energy into trying to pinpoint just what album could be 'the masterpiece transitional' or the 'incredible display of Root's maturity', and it's the perfect type of variety needed for the nerd to reminisce about how his taste could be more unique depending on which album he calls the best. It could from the early era so the nerd feels like he's listening to legit and underrated black metal, or the nerd may try to love the later era stuff more just to feel more open minded. Either way, the principle would the same. Favorite album: The Temple in the Underworld, since nerds love to defend controversial transition albums.

5. Worship - Certain funeral doom bands emit some kind of cult appeal that inspires certain nerds to latch on like they were Tom Cruise on the bullet train in M:I. Worship seems to be one of them, for reasons that I couldn't entirely explain, but I'll give it a shot. I guess Last ________ Before Doomsday has always been seen as a pedigree release in the FD scene that was always sort of like a third stringer yet also just solemn and depressing and artistic enough (consensus seems to say, not me) to make it perfect fodder for the nerd who wants to earn cool points be showing everyone the best band they've never heard of. I have no idea how Worship fits the template, but I have been surprised numerous times by the amount of times I hear a nerd arguing about Worship is the penultimate funeral doom band - often for all kinds of reasons that seem to have little to do with the music. Sounds like the nerds have found a new migration spot. Favorite album: oh maybe something that's not L_BD!?

Anyway, this series was fun. Whoever leaves the best hate comment will win my original copy of Obscura.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Get Into: Sol Invictus


For whatever reason it's taken me much longer to get into Sol Invictus than Death In June or Current 93. What I'm now realizing is that I enjoy Tony Wakeford's songwriting even more than either Douglas Pearce's or David Tibet's. While for DIJ the songs are but a part of a much larger aesthetic undertaking, and for C93 they're a vehicle for Tibet's elegantly opaque lyrics, for Sol Invictus they are ends in themselves. Tony Wakeford is a folk singer in the truest sense of the word, and if you listen you'll hear just how goddamn musical his music is.

It hits me on a very personal level. I can't think of a time in my life when "Laws and Crowns" would not have held me spellbound...if someone had played it for me when I was five years old, I would've understood. If you're a metal guy who hasn't listened to much neofolk, wait 'til the heavy guitars come in. You can pretty much headbang to this. It will convert you, and you will hearken to the dreams of the sleeping gods.

Dubstep for metalheads

Well, to call this "dubstep" would be pretty inappropriate; it only sort of mimics the general ideas of dubstep, basically overdriving them very much in the same way that slam death does with brutal death metal. I was pretty down on dubstep until I encountered this stuff- colloquially called "brostep" for its idiocy and single-minded focus on heaviness. It's little surprise that much of the material in this style is made by members of death metal bands; it's very clearly designed with that ear for brutality and filth. Tomba, below, is my favorite so far; check it out even if you've hated other dubstep. You might find something to enjoy.

Oh, and to avoid any accusations of hypocrisy: I don't like dubstep. However, I do enjoy the dubstep that sounds like what I already love.