Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Halloween Pictures

If you don't believe these pictures are scary, you should try having a 4 year old and 4 month old twins.

Absu: Abzu (2011)


Absu is a Texas blackened thrash metal band that began back in 1990. Lyrically and thematically, their albums are grouped together in distinct cycles based on myth and magic. Abzu is the second album in a planned trilogy.

This is my first experience with the band, but I don't feel like I've missed anything by jumping in midstream. The music is something I can immediately grasp. It sounds like a combination of Skeletonwitch and Melechesh, although to be fair Absu has been around longer than either of them.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Providence v. Noise


Normally it wouldn't make much sense to compare Immolation to Wormrot. One is a death metal band out of New York that's been around for over 20 years. The other is a grindcore band out of Singapore with a 4 year tenure. But both have recently released free five-song EPs through the controversial Scion A/V.

The question of corporate sponsorship for music has been discussed many times by many other people. I don't feel I have anything to add to the discussion, so I'll just tell you where I stand. Free music is good for the consumers, and when a band can get paid to release it, then it's good for the band, too. The company gets good will and viral marketing out of the deal. Everybody wins, so long as the company doesn't exert undue influence--and by all accounts, Scion A/V does nothing of the sort.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Skeletonwitch: Forever Abomination (2011)


Athens, Ohio is known for three things: being a college town (and therefore home to hipsters), the former site of Midget Motors Corporation, and the home of one of the Midwest's most treasured metal bands, Skeletonwitch. They released their fourth full-length this year in Forever Abomination.

The album does not bring anything new to the table. This is clearly Skeletonwitch-brand blackened thrash, with short, fast-paced thrash attacks with some blackened riffing and rasped vocals. It's raw, pure, and simple. If it ain't broke, as they say.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My 6 Favorite Horror Films

I Zombie do not die

Metal and horror movies have such obvious, longstanding connections to each other that it hardly needs explained. So I won't. Instead, I'll share with you my 6 favorite horror movies, and suggest metal songs to go with each of them. And just in time for you to pick them up for Halloween.

6. Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (which is based on the excellent novella The Hellbound Heart) "explores themes of sadomasochism and morality under duress and fear" (per Wikipedia). Angels to some, demons to others, as the poster says. A mysterious puzzle box is used by a hedonist, because it promises pleasures yet unseen. But pain goes with that, and soon the protagonists end up in a place that's kind of like hell, but with pleasure. All senses are stimulated.

For the music selection, I thought the puzzle box deserved a Chaosphere, from Meshuggah of course. "Corridor of Chameleons" is just as bewilderingly insane as the place portrayed by the movie.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Black Oath: The Third Aeon (2011)


If there is one genre dominating 2011, it's doom. A staggering number of fantastic doom albums have come out already this year. Personally, I think you can never have too much doom.

Italy's Black Oath released their first full-length, The Third Aeon, to a very positive reception in Terrorizer. It's easy to see why. The sound of this album could be the standard by which all traditional doom can be judged. The overdriven guitar tone contrasts with meaty bass, the drums are natural, and organ adds drama. A close comparison would be Candlemass if they had organ. Most importantly, it sounds like human beings are playing the instruments, fingers audibly sliding to the next chord.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Metal Briefs: Bandcamp, Part 3

The Doom Edition

I keep slugging through Bandcamp looking for free or pay-what-you-want music that's worth your time. Here's a little of what I found in the slow and heavy category.

Domovoyd: Mythonaut EP (2011)

Domovoyd is a Finnish stoner doom band, and the Mythonaut EP is a clear statement that these guys have listened to a lot of Electric Wizard. Heavy riffs, high-pitched clean vocals, and long psychedelic freak-outs make it an obvious choice for EW fans. But they give the formula a twist with a sludgy edge that's sometimes violent, sometimes faster and more upbeat. Even if their production quality isn't in the same league, the music is interesting (even the psychedelic parts), although they do drag out "Summoning (Part 2)" a tad. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Metal and Christianity, Part 2

How my faith is compatible with metal

If you are a Christian, you have no business listening to metal. You are not welcome. And you will always know and feel that.
--anonymous comment

In a previous post, I addressed the topic of how my musical preferences don't conflict with my faith. Here, I address the less obvious topic of how my faith doesn't conflict with my musical preferences.

Where Do You Stand?

My recent poll asked, "How do you feel about Christianity and metal?" I was surprised that nearly a third (9) of the respondents answered that being anti-Christian is an integral part of metal. They might be offended to find out that a lot of church leadership looks at it exactly the same way. I was also surprised that an equal number of people answered that they are Christian metalheads. More of you (11) are neutral toward Christians and Christian lyrics. Honestly, I thought many more would be neutral, and am honestly shocked at how many fell into the pro- and anti- camps. And 45% of you think the (often anti-religious) lyrics of metal are important, compared to 11% who don't believe they're important and another 42% who think they are sometimes important.

Assuming my poll is accurate, about a third of metalheads think that being against God is a necessary part of metal. I suspect due to both things being important to them, and finding a lot of support for their religious ideas in the metal community. But it's hardly necessary to the genre. In fact, early Black Sabbath lyrics were far from Satanic--they faced the devil, but did not embrace him. Doom metal pioneers Trouble had overtly Christian lyrics. And believe it or not, there are actually a few good Christian metal bands out there in just about every genre (including black metal).

There are a lot of good reasons that Christianity and metal can blend well.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Negative Plane: Stained Glass Revelations (2011)


I am pretty much the only metalhead who didn't like Deathspell Omega's Paracletus. There are 14 reviews on Metal Archives, with an average score of 91%, and the next-lowest score is 79%. I gave it a 40%. The crux of my problem with it was summed up thusly: "[W]hen all you have are dissonant riffs--without anything to ground them--then it doesn't make any sense."

Even though I didn't publish my review until February, and Stained Glass Revelations came out in January, it sounds like Negative Plane know exactly what I was talking about and set out to write the record Paracletus should have been. Or at least one of the forms it could have taken.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ysengrin: Tragedies - Liber Hermetis (2011)


Have you ever listened to an album a few times on a stereo or in your car, and been underwhelmed--but then you listened to it on headphones and got blown away?

Tragedies - Liber Hermetis is French band Ysengrin's second full-length after forming in 2005. Their sound is death/doom (death growl vocals and an overall death sound at doom pace) with some black metal elements, including an occasional black metal rasp and a blackened guitar tone. They also use perfectly restrained synths for atmosphere. Setting them apart from the crowd are lyrics entirely in French and a healthy focus on the bass.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005)

I watched the documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey quite a few months ago, and wrote this review. It was left in draft status and got buried, but I just now dug it up.

The movie presents a sociological analysis of many aspects of heavy metal music in a compelling way. It was made in 2005, but it hasn't lost its relevance.

Metal - A Headbanger's JourneyThe film was created by one Sam Dunn, who became a metal fan at the age of 12 (in the 1980's) and went on to study anthropology. Being told from the perspective of a metalhead is essential to the subject matter, because, as he notes in the film, other people don't understand it. But his anthropological background also gives him the ability to approach the topic in a mostly neutral manner as he addresses the history, fans, and culture of heavy metal, as well as several areas of controversy (religion, sex and gender, and censorship).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Metal Briefs: Death Metal 1994

The Golden Era, Part 5

The golden age of death metal was coming to a close in 1994, with grunge "killing" metal in the eyes of some, black metal coming to prominence for others, and the simple fact that the first creative juices were running out. Because of death's surprising level of success and expectations that sales would continue to climb, record labels were releasing albums by the bucketful. Many of those releases are decidedly nonessential, and the glut may also be partly responsible for death's downfall. But there were still many good ones coming out.

Infester: To the Depths . . . In Degradation

Speaking of grunge, Infester was from Seattle. And speaking of black metal, they incorporate some of the strained vocals, tremolo riffing, and overall symphonic aesthetic of black metal into their ugly death. It doesn't go far enough to be true blackened death, though, and at heart this sounds like a New York death metal band. They bear the strongest resemblance to the doomy death of Incantation, lo-fi recording, guttural death growls, and all. Even with the occasional synths in the background, there is no mistaking this as pure, grotesque death metal. Allegedly, they have a racist agenda incorporated into their sadistic lyrics, but if you can understand them I'll let you decide. And, by the way, it's fantastic. I give their only full-length 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Aberrant Phase: Aberrant Phase (2011)

Summary Judgment

Aberrant Phase is a mathcore band who play a style of music that can be described as a more metal The Dillinger Escape Plan. In other words, it's crazy, spastic material. Their self-titled EP showcases a band that has a knack for songwriting that's tough to accomplish in the genre. Some put spastic weirdness in front of coherent songwriting. Only a few understand that those two features are not mutually exclusive, and Aberrant Phase get that.

Unfortunately, what they have missed is equally important: intensity. Any high-speed extreme music style must be performed with (at a bare minimum) balls-to-the-wall intensity. For grindcore and mathcore, an even higher threshold is required, something in the realm of "epileptic seizure" or "housewives on Black Friday". (If you've ever worked big box retail, you know what I'm talking about.) Sadly, that feature is not on display here.

Still, intensity can be learned. Perhaps good things are in store for this band. As it is, I issue summary judgment against the EP.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New Polls

For those of you on feed-readers, I'm not sure you can tell, but I have two new polls up. They will be there for a few more days.

Friday, October 14, 2011

1000 Funerals: Butterfly Decadence (2011)


Since Iran is in the news, I thought it would be a good time to talk about 1000 Funerals. It takes a lot of balls to play metal in Iran, a country that's not exactly noted for tolerating freedom or Western ways. You can get in trouble just for having a haircut that's too Western, so I'm not sure what playing funeral doom will get you.

But 1000 Funerals dare it anyway. They play a style of funeral doom with a full wall of sound, complementing the slow crush of drums and guitars with a range of synthesizer sounds (including strings and piano). The vocals are extended, deep growls in the two actual funeral doom tracks, whispers on a synth-based track, and a female monologue on another synth track. Two other tracks are instrumental (including the highly memorable Shape of Despair cover that closes out the album).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Remake of The Thing

Yes, I know that the 1982 film is itself, in a sense, a remake of a 1951 film. Although really it's a re-adaptation of the source material, but whatever. But I don't think they should have remade The Thing. John Carpenter's classic--starring my favorite actor, Kurt Russell--is my favorite movie of all time. The special effects are perfect (except for one shot at the end where they used claymation), the characters are classic (if a bit flat), the mood tense, the story thrilling, and the ending absolutely perfect. All this is enhanced by the fact there's not a single woman in sight to screw things up with some side garbage about sexual tension.

But they remake it, changing much of what made the original great. Screw that. I don't think I'll see it.

Hank Williams III: Ghost to a Ghost / Gutter Town (2011)


If you're not already familiar with Hank Williams III, you should be. The grandson of the legendary Hank Williams and son of the equally legendary Hank Williams Jr., he embodies the outlaw mentality of underground country music. Most of us forget (or don't know) that there is such a thing as underground country, since what's passed off as country these days is just bad pop music with a twang. As Celtic Frost was to Poison in the mid-80's, so Hank 3 is to mainstream country. On top of that, he's been involved in projects with Phil Anselmo, and his shows are legendary for starting out country, turning punk, and ending metal.

Just released from a bad label deal (sound familiar?), Hank simultaneously released four albums: the weird speed metal / auctioneering experiment 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin, the stoner doom Attention Deficit Domination, and the double country album Ghost to a Ghost / Gutter Town.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Flourishing: The Sum of All Fossils (2011)


Flourishing has been mentioned alongside Ulcerate and Mitochondrion. Since I enjoy those bands a great deal, I picked up their debut full-length The Sum of All Fossils.

The aforementioned article posed the question: Is post-death metal a new genre? It's been addressed in other places as well. Based solely on this album, you couldn't come to a definitive conclusion. Flourishing certainly exhibit some of the "post-" tendencies--especially their dissonant atmospheric riffs. But I understood this album as an example of death metal blended with hardcore.