Subtle is Exquisite

Was reading this write-up on death metal – ironic that the genre itself might be in death bed, but it leaves us with over 30 years of music. We can actually spend a lifetime exploring that aesthetic defying trajectory. From Hellhammer’s punk coarseness to Decrepit Birth and Necrophagist like sophistication — seems like death and its variants were always an acquired taste. Just imagine, Morbid Angel and Obituary still play in basement venues and divey bars. Couple of years ago I saw Entombed with just 30 other metal heads at this venue in San Francisco. And these are like The Beatles of death metal!

It’s inaccessible not just because of the harshness. The main barrier is the subtle aesthetics and musicianship, other than over-the-top aggression there are no exaggerated elements. Absolutely no extended passages – structural progressions are in fact measured, convulsive and precise. In other words, very little about death is instantly discernible. The most complex of patterns is comfortably buried beneath a wall of rich chaotic sound. So, in spite of being substantive, intellectually and physically demanding, the uninitiated simply may not have the ear. We can appreciate the textures and the grand symphony only with some ability to abstract away that pulverizing sound. Actually mandates higher levels of cognition – sort of the mark of an ageing and civilized genre.

Image Attribution —–

© pitpony photography /

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