Thursday, May 3, 2012

Get Into: Knelt Rote

In the search for some new grindcore done the way I like to hear it done, I remembered the name Knelt Rote popping up into various discussions on forums. Finding their name choice interesting, I decided to sample some tracks, and upon pressing play, was treated to the sensation of a good, mean ass kicking. Knelt Rote chose the perfect name, because this intense shit is the type of sonic violence you can only bow down to. Their formula seems simple enough: play powerviolence-gone-death metal, add a sprinkle of old-school hardcore and play it with the conviction and nuance of legit ass grindcore. The result seems to lie squarely in its own territory, exuding the vehemence of Assück, the anger of Dropdead and the slick barbarity of Inhume all in a cohesive and smart manner. The influences might be worn on their sleeve, but Knelt Rote have a more bleak way of unleashing their violence which makes this a more atmospheric affair than you might expect. Here's a good one; eat it up:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

shameless personal plug

Sup dudes! If any of you are still keeping track of this blog, just wanted to let you know that I've finally started writing again. My first new piece is that Amebix interview I kept talking about here and could never get around to finally posting. That shit's done, now, and I just published part 1 of 4 at Lurker's Path. Lurker is a sick site, serious critical writing focused mostly on BM but also other extreme shit, and I'll be writing for them regularly. Most of my metal-oriented stuff will probably go there. I still intend to start my own blog, a kind of informal thing that will be fun to post in every day (but will also have reviews), and I'll let you know as soon as that's actually up. It needs a cool name. Also keep an eye on The Quietus, they should be publishing a Gravenhurst interview of mine in a week or two (I have yet to actually do the interview--later this week hopefully).



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Get Into: Articles of Faith

I've been on a real punk and hardcore kick lately. It seems to hit me every spring, so I guess it's only natural. What band have I been jamming a little bit more than most of the rest? Articles of Faith, that's who. Since I haven't even visited the blog since my disheveled post on substance and shit (and revealing a bit about substance abuse, heh) I thought I'd chime back in to share some cool shit. AoF were one of the earlier examples of hardcore punk shaped with a little bit more scope, and a little bit more restraint - shaping their style into a sort of progenitor for post-hardcore. The band was the type to kick your face in, but look classy and cool doing it too. It has all the attitude that makes Jerry's Kids and most of the early Boston scene so cool, but AoF had this experimental side too - showing they could be punk as fuck and still make music with a bit more dimension than expected. The entire Give Thanks LP has been played to death by me, and I suggest the same for you. You could keep reading my blah blah bullshit or you could just get into them yourself....

Brooklyn Vegan Reveals the Music of the Future

In the relatively recent morass of comments found on Brooklyn Vegan, it appears that every genre of music is no longer being identified by what it always has been. Genres are dying and sub-genres just entered postmortem. Forget your indie rock, your punk, your death metal and all else; for Brooklyn Vegan's commenting community has made it easier for us all. Tired of explaining to your friends why Band X is mainly Genre A with traces of Genre B? Fed up with pretentious genre labels and analytical critique of music? Well now you don't have to! From this point on, all music is being split into two simple categories: sausage and non-sausage.

Frequent commenter “Anonymous” boldly states, “Well, music only exists to get chicks into bed, so if it's a band who has more guy fans than girl fans, we call them 'sausage' because their shows end up being sausage fests.” Another commenter, also known as “Anonymous” continues with the notion; “Yeah, shows are all about looking to hook up. We don't even pay attention to the music. If you're good enough to pull a girl between songs when she can't really hear you anyway, you know you're good. So that's why we go to these shows – to see how good we are.” Experts suggest that general, arbitrary young female sluttiness remains the most deciding factor in this matter, though BV commentators posit otherwise.

Unfortunately, the ratio of more sausage than non-sausage music covered has legions of commentators up in arms. One particular commenter, known for wiping tears away from his eyes, recalls the time that he couldn't find enough non-sausage pictures to figure out what show he could pull bitches at the quickest. “It's so awful,” he mutters. “Why do so many musicians have to be too fat, too ugly, too poorly-dressed or play too heavy for girls to want to see? Where else am I supposed to meet easy girls at?” Another anonymous chimes in; “Yeah, when you like a band with gross members, it means you're gross too. And if the band sounds like, too loud or weird, then it means you're weird and crazy. It's weird.” Haha, now it all makes sense. How silly have we been all this time for treating music as a varied art form and not as the social binding agent it really is? Thankfully, BV's commentators have shed the light upon us.

 Javelina: From Sludge Metal to Fat Rock in less time than it would take Chubbs to eat a bowl of Chili     

It appears that metal and punk heats them the most, though. Considering that literally all those musicians are overweight, ugly, dumb and live in their parents basements, it should come as no surprise that they won't reel in the good nookie. “The nookie crumbles the cookie, especially in music,” says Anonymous. “Besides, metal is loud and scary and evil and noisy and it makes me confused. Women confuse me enough, so I don't need that shit,” says another commenter whilst stroking his striped scarf. Words of wisdom, indeed. Especially if you're considering starting a band. Make sure you write at least fifty songs people can get laid or dance to, and if you decide to change your sound a bit, don't dare touch the gain knob on your amp, or you'll become sausage: zero female fans, zero groupies. But the worst fate of all that you'll suffer will be Brooklyn Vegan commentators evaluating your performance. Executive Tear Wiper, head of the Brooklyn Vegan Fashion Committee reminds us, “These pics of bands are just like snapshots of models on the runway – except this time everyone looks as bad as possible and we turn it into a humor thing. Like, the instruments they hold are just props to enhance the shot; it's not like any of those guys can actually play or anything.”

Hopefully, this socially-useful information can trickle out to the younger generation. With knowledge like this, even the shy guys have a chance. Under these circumstances, your socially inept sons can go to a show and get a girl without saying much, and your precocious teenage daughters can know where to be found and seen even more! Troubled parents from across the nation are celebrating. One parent says, “Thank you Brooklyn Vegan. All the music you cover is awful, but at least my kids know the right shows to go to.” Another gives her thanks; “I'm so glad the commentators at Brooklyn Vegan made sure that all that punky rock and deaf metal look uncool – I don't need my teenagers around that sort of stuff.” What will become of such things as twee pop, alternative rock, house and trance remains to be seen as fully, though it's already on a similar route. Notably, for the best bands on the site, finding the right cameraman is just as important as the music itself. “Because audience shots are more important than band shots, yet usually fewer in number, the cameraman must be skilled yet not be as into the music as everyone else", explains the owner of a sausage-frowning venue.

On a conclusive note, if the band's article sees the word 'sausage' pop up in the comments at any time, avoid that band at all costs. Rare exceptions do exist however, and must be taken with some discretion. For example, “Sausage” didn't pop up in a Danzig article, which confirms that you might pull a girl – she'll just be a pasty, somewhat overweight twenty-something that you'll regret boning the next morning. So be sure to browse regularly, and keep up on the latest trends, sound fashion and opinions for your active lifestyle! I will spread the word about BV's valuable, resourceful credentials, and you should too.

                                         How much deer sausage can you handle?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Style, substance and the relationship therin

Since Pavel and Noktorn have expounded upon the philosophical ideas and ethos behind this blog, I felt like talking a bit of time to ruminate about a subject that often rears its head amongst the more intellectually-involved circles of the metal scene. The people who know what they like, but yet aren't satisfied with merely being satisfied. The people who feel the calling towards pondering the components of what they enjoy, in an effort to substantiate their reasons for classifying music and grouping it. Style and substance are two words that lie close to one another in the metal scene; nearly becoming sister terms in the conjectures of the analytical and often deft minds that come to question what each term means. It's a simple notion that has often elicited many thoughts of my own, about the relationship of art vs. entertainment, appearance vs. character and other similar concepts in structured music. For me, the style and substance issue is one that often intertwines the two terms logistically - almost like they lie together in a binary-like fashion. I'll expatiate what all this means to me, as I feel that it's an important analytical element as an appreciator of art, but music specifically. I believe it may point to answers I seek, such as, "Why do certain albums sound good, yet lack replay value?" "What must be in place for true mediocrity to ensue?" And, "What separates good from great?" I feel like getting at this a little bit...

Style: Style is at once used both under a more and a less precise connotation than 'substance.' Style often denotes a grouping or categorization of something. In music, style has come to represent not just this, but an essence of comparison amongst artists. Style is often a selling point; often being the first big piece of perfunctory information that is used to firstly investigate and than assess a given artist. 'Style' is always something itself, before the artist themselves becomes something. More bands than not often to strive for a style as a means of identity. This is by all means a common first step in the writing of music, but in metal, it becomes a bit more of a tricky animal. It's in this manner, that it's nearly as if more bands are reaching outwards for ideas and inspiration than inward. The mental association of worthiness as being attained by certain means; manipulating traits of a genre or style for ideas, substance, inspiration. This is a very integral process in the formation of mediocrity, and relates a lot to what Nok expressed in his post about mediocrity vs. failure. It's the realization that so much in metal has been done and transcribed, that the challenge of its construction has been lost and in turn, writing a metal album has more in common with a how-to-do manual than a truly arcane exploration of rhythms, distortion, production and composition. As metal remains stringently codified by a distinct and unique set of principles (though that paradigm shifts regularly and always has) there is a very concrete grasp on the general spirit of its various spawns; where each sub genre has a place in the spectrum. Where anymore, a sub genre isn't as much of a genre itself as it is a mere label.

This is preserved by the fact that so much variety exists within the shell of a given sub genre, that that style has almost lost its original meaning and like I said, grown into more of a label than a real term. "Death metal" is at a point where it merely describes abrasive music with a fixation on the generally negative and arcane. It describes an idea, and while that has always been true, it now describes less because its meaning has become so broad. Of course, to the seasoned listener, this isn't as much of the case, but on a general scale, it describes how any term remains as a label that seems to just label, rather than really point to what goes beyond the label - the 'style', and composes the substance within the music.When artists aim for a particular style, it seems to reflect a condition where a personal musical identity hasn't been created or even set out to be discovered - but rather merely assembled by means of manipulating the ideas and work of others. Style is at once what often both gives inspiration and ideas to groups, yet vanquishes their delicate, own character. It's the cognitive outsourcing of ideas, more often than not. After all that, it may sound as if style itself isn't a good thing. It is and isn't. It's a yes/no answer with a less direct response.

There's a bit of a flip-side to what I just stated. They've said that "Nothing's original - all things are derived and molded from various sources." This is a yes and no answer. Everything can be seen as a slight or subtle successor to all else before, especially in a genre like metal - where a generally myopic compositional attitude often finds itself lurking within the minds of many underground metal musicians. As a phenomenon that produces dozens of musicians with nearly identical ideas, it's the striving for a particular style that may be what adds the nuances and subtleties of character to an otherwise generic sound. One band may rearrange what made another so good until it's just different enough to pass off as 'different'. It's a common case. Other bands may travel far outside the box in an effort to garner a 'progressive' or 'post' prefix. At either end, it's a sort of musical idolatry that often causes a band to strive for something they initially perceive as 'beyond their sound'. This may make a band or break a band, which is why this is such a fascinating issue. If it makes the band, it's often because the band were close enough to greatness on their own merits, and were lucky enough to stumble upon extra substance to carry their sound that much further. If it breaks the band, it's usually because the band strove so hard to create what said band values in their favorite music, that it has blinded them from their own vision - and the impulsive, almost thoughtless way of allowing the music to come naturally from within.

Substance: Initially, it almost makes sense to say that substance is birthed and then even dictated by style. There's a bit of interchangeability between the two, though they still mean two very different things. However, I also feel that substance is synonymous with the very notion of looking inward rather than outward for ideas and inspiration - and therefore can also be the fundamental foundation upon which a style can emerge. Of course, when any major or sub style is brand new or hasn't evolved too far into a label from its origins. 'Substance' doesn't refer to a general idea or sound like 'style' does. It's the term that both means much more, yet is more difficult to articulate given how nebulous of an concept it represents. Substance is at once both style and not style. It's style in that what it is may resemble certain genre traits, but it's not, in that what it means within a given band is something that cannot be pinned down or given a formula. That's because said band in question has eschewed the convenience of emulation, and rather strove for a more insular and unguided path of writing. Style becomes the key to a formula, where substance is the keyhole. A concept understood, yet given no concrete definition or parameters - the route in which to channel a more unhinged and natural way of expressing musical ideas - untainted by ideals or goals. The condition which allows for music to flourish and be written naturally - free of contrived influences.

Of course, even if a band is completely original and seems to overflow with substance over style, it doesn't necessarily ensure greatness. Music isn't so simple, especially metal music. The conflicting trouble of metal continues to be the relationship between the integrity to stay within boundaries, yet nursing the secret to setting oneself apart. The distinction between style and substance isn't meant to provide a useful philosophy on how to be more original or worthy. It merely tries to touch upon different sources of inspiration and song-craft, and offer an understanding of how they can lead to different sounds within a genre. Nonetheless, the two terms do mean a lot on their own merits, and can offer some (not very deep, yet somewhat satisfying) answers.

After all that, you might or might not understand what I'm getting at. But to illustrate it simply before I conclude here, I'll put it like this: Style is, "We should sound like _____________ - they're badass!" Substance is, "Who cares what we sound like, as long as we like the result." And in an overcrowded metal underground where distinction grows more elusive than ever, it should be obvious as to which term is more important to the preservation of quality, and artists who matter because they truly offer something. And while it may read like I'm trying to unveil a codex to all this, it's still a matter mostly submerged in the mysteries of subjectivity. But with this, at least I'm trying to find a starting point to rationalize from.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just saw this band tonight...

And wondered why the FUCK I hadn't seen them before. Perdition, probably NYC's best d-beat/crust/noisecore, whatever. The sound quality on this is not great even for raw punk, but it's their only studio material on Youtube. So just turn it up. If you wanna hear more, download a 7" here. You can even supplement my half-ass post by reading Adam's smart and succinct write-up.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Usurper, "Blood Passion"

I have to go to bed "early" for work tomorrow, but here's some ridiculously heavy black metal from Diabolosis (1995), the first album of Chicago stalwarts Usurper. The obvious description is Hellhammer/Frost taken to a gut-busting extreme, and in that these dudes are a lot like Winter. But listen to that greasy main riff--it wouldn't sound out of place on an Alice In Chains track or an early sludge album. Long before "USBM," Usurper were playing a distinctively American strain of black metal, and one that actually sounded American. This is Lucifer's blues.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The neurosis of metal nerds (part 1 of 2)

Metalheads are simply an individual species of nerd. A nerd, most simply defined, is just a person with an intense fixation on a particular aspect of culture. Being a nerd isn't a bad thing in and of itself; it just means that you are more distinctly interested in something than a casual fan is. There's all kinds of nerds out there, with obsessions ranging from model trains to Star Trek and everything in between, and the vast majority of them are perfectly cool people who don't let their nerdy fixation overwhelm who they are as an individual. Unfortunately, there's a minority of bad nerds out there who ruin things for everyone due to their own personal hang-ups and arrested development. Since most nerds discover their particular passion in their teen years, they tend to form a fairly close emotional attachment to it that sticks with them throughout their lives, either through active participation in their hobby or through simple nostalgia should they hang it up. The negative side of this, though, is that those who don't quite make it out of high school unscathed end up using their hobby as some sort of metaphorical diary for their own misery, putting all their frustrations into it and fixating on it as a lone venue of control in an otherwise uncontrollable and unsatisfying life.

Most metalheads tend to be the good nerds, but there's plenty of bad ones out there who make heavy metal obnoxious for the rest of us and unappealing to most of the world. The bad metalhead is the one who ends up forming their identity around heavy metal, becoming overly protective and defensive about it due to an overgrown sense of their role in the metal scene. They obsessively bar outsiders from entry unless they go through some sort of hazing process, denigrate other genres of music reflexively, and desperately espouse the supremacy of their personal fixation at the cost of others. A lot of metalheads go through a phase of this (and I'm no exception) that usually leaves them when they gain a bit more perspective, but others become stuck in it, relating to the world through heavy metal alone and becoming progressively more obnoxious and vehement as the years wear on and frustration steadily mounts due to being perpetually 15 years old mentally. Do you know the grotesquely obese guys who play Magic: The Gathering primarily to mock new players and assert their own superiority? Well, the bad metalheads are those guys, just in a different form.

Bad nerds tend to arise from a lack of personal identity. The human brain is pretty good at protecting itself from uncomfortable criticism, so it tends to rearrange one's perceptions in a way that are more favorable to the individual. These particular odious metalheads, devoid of any accomplishments or personal qualities to define themselves by, desperately search for an external thing to define themselves by, confusing an interest in a particular subject as the equivalent to a real identity. Heavy metal is a great option for these types: it's big, complicated, has a ton of classification and compartmentalization, and most importantly, has a community built around it. The community's important because it's a social group with different standards than a more mainstream social group, who are more tolerant of social awkwardness and obnoxious behavior, and (like most nerd social groups) are much more resistant to ostracizing a member than well-adjusted people in everyday society are. Bad nerds flock to communities like this; having failed amongst their more well-adjusted peers, the lower bar set for decorum and a premium placed on general knowledge rather than the more ephemeral aspects of social interaction form a more comfortable environment.

Of course, the bad metalheads don't stop at seeing themselves as defined solely by their taste in music: that fixation becomes a worldview which gets projected on everyone else as well. The same thing happens in most intense musical subcultures: out of resentful narcissism (almost always there to mask self-loathing,) the bad nerd begins to promote his personal genre as being the greatest in music, requiring the greatest compositional skill, presenting the most high-minded of concepts, and featuring an audience of only the most discerning and intelligent listeners. Metal has a bonus of featuring a history of minor moral panic (which most of the nerds weren't even alive for) and misperception by the public which allows the nerd to soak up the delicious juices of manufactured victimhood and oppression. Suddenly, it all becomes clear: metal is the style of music for intelligent and strong people who are mocked and disregarded by the public out of stupidity and fear. Metal is a genre by and for the elite who perceive life as it REALLY is, devoid of the fictions and irrational notions of the herd. Metal is for geniuses, warriors, philosophers, and heroes, and by listening to it, I am all those things!


The best way to identify a bad nerd isn't by looking at what they love, but what they hate, which is usually the sort of thing which reminds them of their "oppressors": the likeable, socially capable, popular people who ostracized them in the past and began the cycle of self-loathing they were never able to escape. A great example of this is among people who play video games or tabletop games: if you want to immediately pick out a loathsome gamer, all you have to do is ask their opinion on the Call of Duty series. Some will enjoy it, some won't, but the bad nerds are the ones who venomously decry it as a horrible mockery of the fine art of video games. The more vociferous the reaction, the worse they are, but you're looking for one key element in particular which removes all doubt: whether or not they direct particular anger towards the people who DO play and enjoy the games. If they begin to express a torrent of irrational hatred for the series' fans, you've struck gold and have found the very definition of the bad nerd.

Why is this? Well, for those of you who don't play video games (which probably isn't a whole lot these days,) it's because the Call of Duty series is currently the most popular video game series in the world. More importantly than that, playing Call of Duty is seen as a perfectly normal activity; while playing an obscure Japanese RPG will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows from non-gamers, enjoying a few rounds of Call of Duty with friends is common for just about every young male in the country. Most importantly of all, and the linchpin of this particular breed of nerd's anger, though, is this: Call of Duty is not seen as "nerdy," and has a following among mainstream social groups who don't typically get engrossed in video games. Call of Duty is played by jocks and frat boys who wouldn't be caught dead with a copy of Eternal Sonata, and even though they're both video games, the jocks and frat boys blowing each other away with MP5s on Xbox Live would STILL laugh at the nerd despite the general resemblance in activity. The people who ostracized the nerd and humiliated him have now followed him into what he thought was a protected community and are slowly but surely changing its social standards to match those of the mainstream world. The nerd is left feeling enraged, confused, and powerless- just like he was in high school.

Feeling some annoyance at sudden interlopers in one's community is understandable to a degree, particularly if they're attempting to impose their own cultural values on a community that already has its own standards, but was distinguishes a good or bad nerd is in their response. The good nerd will roll their eyes, mock it a bit, and then just ignore it, understanding that in all likelihood it's not a genuine threat. The bad nerd, however, goes from zero to sixty without pausing for breath; it becomes a matter of life and death rather than annoyance, because for him, it IS a matter of life or death. If the interlopers succeed in changing the culture, the nerd will have to adapt or be ostracized yet again and have to find another community which will accept him. Because of this, the nerd isn't really just fighting to preserve a community he loves: he's fighting to preserve himself, terrified by the idea of losing the identity he's spent so much time and effort in creating. This is the source of the really crazy, overblown stuff you see from any kind of nerd who has a complete breakdown: they literally can't handle the idea of change, as they were unable to handle it before.

Bad metalheads work the same way: when they feel threatened, they freak out, and much like gamers, freak out a little bit extra due to the infatuation with victimhood they've embraced. The most obvious place that this can be seen is in the absurdly overblown hatred they have for whatever pseudo-metal genre happens to be popular at the moment. There was glam, grunge, nu-metal, metalcore, deathcore, and probably something else coming around the bend right now. It's readily apparent that the nearly psychotic rage many expressed towards these ultimately harmless offshoots is hardly indicative of a well-adjusted personality. Not only are these displays dumb, embarrassing, and incredibly inappropriate, but they have the side effect of making metalheads appear to be either crazy or mentally retarded. How heavy metal is perceived by the public at large should hardly be a substantial cause for concern by the scene, but if those bizarre outliers (who rarely contribute in a real way to the community anyway) could be ejected from the scene simply so others don't have to be afflicted with their presence, the added bonus of appearing less like petty men-children can be safely considered a net plus.


It's interesting to take a look at some of the metal artists out there who provoke the most ire and the syntax used to complain about them. There's no such thing as a synonym, really; there's a specific reason behind the words that we use to express ideas, whether conscious or not, and looking at the phrasing of statements can often elucidate their meaning better than the content of the statement itself. Take, for instance, Pantera, a metal band that's widely listened to by casual metal fans who often don't consider themselves "metalheads"- what sort of complaints to we typically see leveled at them? From my experience, it tends to involve phrases like "redneck music," "tough guy," "meatheaded," "jock metal," or references to Phil Anselmo's profanity-filled lyrical style and sometimes aggressive or offensive attitude in interviews or onstage. In fact, Phil Anselmo in particular is the target of the most ire of any member of the band, oftentimes treated like an idiot or someone who's not a genuine metalhead. But Phil's proven himself very intelligent in interviews, and his discography outside of Pantera, while spotty in quality, features black and death metal records made without receiving nearly the attention of Pantera. So what's the real issue?

Peel back the layers on the weird, personal-sounding criticisms of Phil and Pantera and you'll find a pretty simple core to a lot of them: the words used to describe them are the same used by outcast teenagers simmering with resentment towards "those asshole jocks" who make fun of them for being socially awkward. Phil has a shaved head, a gruff, hardcore-style vocal presence, and writes lyrics that express simple, straightforward, blue collar aggression without the Satanic metaphors, established symbolism, or intense hyperbole that defines a lot of metal lyricism. The band's aesthetic is that of hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hard-living Southern outlaws, and their music is immediately comparable to an intensified and stripped down version of stuff like Van Halen- all elements which are more immediately appreciable to a mainstream audience than the more overwrought elements of most extreme metal. This isn't at all to say that disliking Pantera is an inherent sign of social failure and insecurity, but citing social or aesthetic reasons which on inspection have almost nothing to do with the music itself certainly is. If you're angry at a band for social reasons, it's time for self-examination: more often than not, it's because you're afraid or resentful of the fans for reasons that have nothing to do with the music.

Ironically, given metal's overall aesthetic and thematic nature, a lot of the shots taken at bands like Pantera or styles like nu metal tend to run along the lines of them being "tough guy music," "thuggish," or "blunt"- the words used are those which suggest an intense, straightforward display of masculine aggression. A great deal of metal involves a hypertrophied display of stereotypical masculinity, with stories about war, honor, violence, and extremity taking up a large chunk of common lyrical themes. The difference between this and the way bands like Pantera express intensely masculine themes is that most metal bands convey them in an intensely exaggerated fashion: war is catastrophic and inescapable, violence is unbelievably brutal and elaborate, and distaste for Christianity takes the form of church burning and literal Satan worship. Pantera and other "tough guy" bands, on the other hand, express these masculine themes in an immediate and real fashion: instead of threatening torture and murder, they just offer the ass-kicking of a lifetime. For the insecure nerd, this is much more immediately threatening than the obvious fantasy of most lyrics: the members of Pantera most likely could beat the living shit out of the average metalhead (myself absolutely included,) and the fact that they indirectly laugh off the inherent absurdism of metal's aesthetic tropes means that they aren't afraid of the nerd's protective symbols. Angry nerds love to study martial arts, convinced that the elegance and skill needed for the form will allow them to overcome a much more physically imposing opponent, when in reality, their first attempt to use their Jiu-Jitsu techniques on one of their football player tormentors more often than not will result in them being face-down on the pavement within seconds.

In short, these bands and styles of metal (or metal-influenced music) tend to capitalize off the intensity and aggression expressed by metal, but couch it in terms more immediately applicable to the average individual. The neurotic metal nerd needs these tropes and stylistic ideas to direct his aggression, but he also needs them to be couched in fantasy to make him feel safe. The "jock" interlopers threaten and taunt him with a confident and practiced masculinity which reminds him of the social groups he was unable to be a part of and the qualities he was unable to embody. He cries and gnashes his teeth at these bands and styles and their constituent audience because they're often the authentic realization of the fiction he's built for himself. The normal, well-adjusted metalhead sees the drama of extreme metal for what it is: a fantastic interpretation of real thoughts and feelings which, divorced from a true persona with a genuine force of will, is completely meaningless. The nerd, though, thinks that he's granted that persona and will through the music itself, and is time and time again denied the satisfaction of realizing his fantasies whenever they're confronted by reality.

Occasionally, they believe too greatly in their fiction, and this happens.


Part 2 coming soon.

Forgotten Albums: Sodom - Tapping the Vein

With this post, we're gonna begin a new feature called Forgotten Albums, where we take a look at some of the more overlooked works of major artists' discographies. To fire it up, I'm gonna take a quick look at my favorite Sodom album ever: "Tapping the Vein."

Released in 1992, "Tapping the Vein" came out at a time when thrash was basically disappearing left and right in favor of either death metal or "groove metal" (I've always preferred the term post-thrash.) In the early '90s, there was a prevailing sense that every thrash band had to go SOMEWHERE; there were a few stalwarts who decided to stay the course and did all right, a lot who stagnated, and a lot more who wandered off into more experimental territory with varying degrees of success. Of the Teutonic trinity, both Kreator and Destruction ended up dicking around with pretty awful bids at mainstream success, but Sodom ended up doing really well for themselves by doing what seemingly no other thrash band decided to do (apart from, oddly enough, Testament years later): get more extreme than ever before.

"Tapping the Vein" is an unbelievably fucking brutal album. It's not unreasonable to call it a full-fledged death/thrash album, but rather than getting to death metal via actual death metal riffs or blast beats, Sodom takes the Demolition Hammer approach of simply playing thrash so heavy, fast, and extreme that it basically borders on death metal simply due to sheer ferocity. Tom Angelripper's vocals are a full-throated death growl, easily the most extreme he ever performed in the band's history, and the guitar and drum presence of newcomer Andy Brings and Chris Witchhunter is razor-sharp and rhythmically convulsive. There's an incredible sense of speed and tense, gnashing energy behind the songs on this album; the palm-muted tremolo riffs and hyperspeed skank beats give this stuff a feeling of claustrophobia and and dark energy that most full-fledged death metal can't even match. This stuff's definitely cut from the mold of "Darkness Descends," another thrash album that seems intrinsically designed for death metal fans, and both should be heard by such listeners.

I've never been particularly big on thrash, but "Tapping the Vein" represents a sort of ideal form of the style to me: it manages to be incredibly brutal and stack up against even modern death metal in sheer barbarism, but never sacrifices anything about its intrinsic nature as a thrash record to achieve those heights. It's unfortunate that it gets passed over so often in favor of Sodom's more formative works, but it's definitely worth more attention than it's received so far.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Get Into: Tyrant 666

I don't have the energy to write much tonight, so here's some shit that speaks for itself. 4 years ago I found this band on Myspace. This was well ahead of the current fad for cocktails of bottom-shelf black metal and watery hardcore, so when I saw that Tyrant listed their genres as "Black Metal/Punk/Blues," I was basically sold. The album, goofily entitled Reclaim The Flame, was not a disappointment. This doesn't really sound like any of today's trendy bullshit, perhaps because these dudes were actually in kvlt Swedish Second Wave bands like Vinterland and The Black (with Nodtveidt himself!). It also sounds totally old-school without sounding retro at all--the influences are apparent, but the style is distinctive, and this shit is heavy enough to go toe-to-toe with any modern-sounding band. Tyrant bring a bonecrushing wall of fuzzed-out guitar and bass, a brutal midtempo riff-form based on bludgeoning down-picked quarter notes, and a vocalist who sounds like Tom G Warrior in the Hellhammer days, only twice as tough and angry.

Part of the charm of Reclaim The Flame is that Tyrant clearly wrote it all at once and cranked it out in a single drunken recording session, probably live in the studio. Most of the slow songs are virtually interchangeable with one another, but they rule anyways. Tyrant broke up after recording this and a split with Alehammer, which bummed me out. But not too badly, because it's not like they really gave a flying fuck. Brews were crushed, Satan was hailed, black metal was made. Bang your heads, fuckers.

BONUS BATHORY COVER! notice how on the chorus they make it sound like The Misfits.