Motörhead Sunday

From the movie Airheads:

Chazz: Who’d win in a wresting match? Lemmy or God?
Chris: Lemmy.
Chris: … God?
Rex: Wrong, ********. Trick question. Lemmy *IS* God.

Was at this technical death metal show yesterday, headlined by Obscura, Beyond Creation and Archspire. In short, the most tortuously intricate sounds on the planet, playing back to back at one venue. A sonic feast. But, before tech death, thrash metal, and even before first wave of black metal, there was Motörhead.

When blues based psychedelic and space rock collided with punk riffs, it sparked an uncontrollable causal chain. So dissonant that it consumed the whole planet. Motörhead is probably what they might have termed as extreme metal in the 70s — combining that elegance of Jimi Hendrix with some distracting discordance. Rooted in blues, but playing the riffs loud enough to keep the dainties at a safe distance — essentially crafting that first clear cross-over from proto-punk to metal. In other words, Lemmy accomplished that seemingly impossible task – fusion of polar opposites – of molten lava with freezing ice – of harsh punk sensibilities with elegance of electric blues.

Subtle is Exquisite II

Quite an illustrious Decibel Fest lineup, but one band simply stood out. The dim onstage setting aside, the mere presence of Mayhem itself was unsettling. But once everyone managed to gather themselves, there was a brief and inevitable mass instagraming session.

Setlist was a mix of old, new and their classics from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Couple of songs from ‘The Grand Declaration of War’ too, and here it was obvious the crowd was not in a perfect harmony with the sound, response to these experimental progressions can be sometimes confounding. Mayhem definitely transcends black metal, and sometimes even metal itself.

Just about half way into the set the real unhinged pandemonium begins; “Deathcrush” sets the stage — for ‘Carnage’, ‘Freezing Moon’ and ‘Life Eternal’ like sonic obliteration.  But this time there was perfect harmony in the pit – with these classics the crowd knew exactly what hit them. Such an alloy of elegant atmosphere, technical musicianship and crass aggression is uniquely Mayhem. Again, what’s exquisite tends to be subtle too; there is simply enough substance in these compositions, and they function without any exaggeration whatsoever. To paraphrase an earlier post – ‘very little about Mayhem is instantly discernible’, and even here, ‘the most complex of patterns is comfortably buried beneath a wall of rich chaotic sound.’


Bongripper simply proves vocals are optional for an idyllic doom atmosphere. For an instrumental sludge/doom album clocking 43 minutes, and with just two songs, it takes stunningly creative song writing directions. Sublime and adequately downtuned, Terminal integrates those dreary elements from doom straight into an atmospheric sludge wall.

With thick bass lines and precision beats interleaved with dreamy solos, at times it’s slow to the point where time itself stands still. Almost like ‘Dance of December Souls’ meets the legendary ‘Odd Fellows Rest’. When this sonic grind of sludge meets doom like guitar hues, it tends to become a perfect introspective complement – to a misty weekend evening wasted at a dim tavern, with suitable amounts of your choice for that chilled beverage.

—————- IMAGE Attribution —————-


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 /

Spectre of Ruin

Layered and melodic, aggressive and measured — Black Fast is old school extreme metal at its roaring best. Firmly rooted in the late 80s, Spectre of Ruin illustrates German thrash to early Florida death, but with progressive riffs and even more sinister old school hooks. Almost like a melodic variant of early Sodom or Kreator, but with the same turbulent levels of ferocity and intense screams.

With sharp and frequent compositional shifts, the band effectively reconciles progressive sensibilities with extreme thrash. In other words, there are no meandering passages here, just devastatingly precise twin guitar assault and thrashy progressions. Integrating the best of the both worlds, Spectre of Ruin is old-school cross-over at its brutal best. Essentially Black Fast is what they might call as an anachronism, misplaced in time, but undoubtedly channeling the Gods — of metal.

—- Image Attribution

By paul hudson [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons


Black Sabbath meets Pink Floyd, in other words it’s heavy metal, but quite psychedelic, atmospheric and drawn-out. Kraków’s Minus exhibits significant post metal and stoner hues too. The album actually progresses from stoner straight into post rock territory. From a three minute album opener to nine minute compositions essentially reflects that trend. From fractious Soundgarden like textures to introspective drone riffs – the journey couldn’t be more seamless.

De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

For an album which emerged out of utter chaos, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is flawlessly breathtaking. Just imagine, some of the real world events surrounding its release included suicide, murder conviction, conspiracy and deception. An ancient Greek philosopher once said — “The whole is more than the sum of its parts” – never been this evident. Musically and culturally, seems like Mayhem just defined the pinnacle of Norwegian black metal, which includes all its marvels and malice.

The album derives on that Darkthrone like dissent, the same aesthetic and cultural statement. But then proceeds to elevate black metal to a stunning jazz like refinement. It’s sophisticated and raw, complex and grounded, malevolent and dazzling. A rare infernal blend – beneath the layers of intricate drums, riffs and abominable vocals is a sheer morbid coherence. Halfway into the record Csihar wails – “The past is alive” – followed by a staggering Hellhammer drum passage. Just about then you will realize, the album is unforgiving, and it’s just not going to let off on that technical intensity.

***************** Image Attribution ***********************
By Cecil [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons