Organic Hallucinosis

“I remember when I first heard DECAPITATED’s ‘Organic Hallucinosis’ and it just blew me away!!!!”–Tomas Haake, from MESHUGGAH. This was in the context of Vitek’s unfortunate death, at the age of 23.

Importance of Decapitated cannot be exaggerated. Intensity aside, that layered combination of rhythm, leads and complex drumming pattern is absolutely devastating. Whether it’s “Day 69”, “Post(?) Organic” or the intricately progressive “A Poem About an Old Prison Man” – Organic Hallucinosis shifts technical death into even more demanding musical terrains. And Decapitated accomplishes that by largely remaining rooted in old school structures.

Extending the scope of an already established genre mandates more than just musical skill – a broader grasp of the context is equally crucial. Essentially, Decapitated captures those alien progressive tendencies into the same old confines of tried and tested death framework. Needless to say, it’s a surgical balancing act. Sheer progressive melody brewed into old school death — and without many deviations from the genre playbook. In short, Organic Hallucinosis is a ruthless exhibition of musical and aesthetic craftsmanship, and undoubtedly a masterful swan song too.

Vitek (R.I.P. 2007)

By Selbymay (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Phoenix Rising

Among the best to have emerged from Down Under is this band named Deströyer 666 – safe to say subtlety is not exactly their virtue. These guys only entertain a single goal – stamp out the last remaining understated qualities in metal. And that’s exactly what they accomplish. Synthesized from black and thrash elements, Phoenix Rising takes extreme metal aesthetics to unprecedented loudness.

Rough harping choruses, over-the-top guitar melodies, black metal screams and galloping old school riffs. In short, 80s/90s heavy metal signatures exaggerated to the point of no return. From “Rise of the Predator“ to “I Am the Wargod” to “The Eternal Glory of War” – lyrics pretty much mirror exactly what the music conveys. With this brazen approach to composition, they manage to get through to even the most obtuse of listeners. With no frills old school structures, a style absolutely devoid of all pretenses and adequate in substance – Deströyer 666 becomes that essential cross-over band to darker genres. Needless to say, album is rated 666/666.


By Christian Misje (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Three Decades

Morbid Angel to Archspire is an interesting shift – from morbid dissonance to morbid like precision in about 30 years. There are numerous incremental steps between them, but this systematic dial up in technical intensity is a broader pattern evident across all metal genres. But, whether this is a progression or regression is a matter of perspective. Definitely there is no absolute hierarchy for benchmarks, they are always personal and often idiosyncratic.

These broader genre shifts are eventually propelled by all aspects of the music industry — listeners, artists, labels — everyone plays their own structural role. Within the economic constraints of the real world, music evolves only when all the involved factors reinforce each other. In other words, independent of our personal opinion, aggregate benchmarks are constantly emerging. It’s sort of a dispersed process with its own layered feedback loops. Artistic shifts experiencing positive feedback simply thrive. And in turn also become a factor propelling broader genre trajectories – just like any other interconnected ecosystem.

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By invisibleoranges (IMG_1643) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Odd Fellows Rest

At New Orleans moderate temperatures, 70s Black Sabbath and hardcore punk riffs are known to fuse, forming what we now know as sludge metal. Crowbar essentially crystallized it into a grinding atmospheric doom. It’s downtuned to the abyss and propelled by stocky hardcore punk riffs — dragged out to its limits. Rare bluesy strumming and more than adequate raspy vocals – “Slave to no one but your misery. Broken man lies where you used to be” – adds to the essential low. But even at this bleak pace, anyone can easily sense the grinding force that Crowbar inflicts.

These thoroughly grayed out hues may not be everyone’s delight. Crowbar’s creations are essentially tailored – to just fit into the two percentile of the brooding end of the emotional spectrum. But, if gloom is what you seek, ‘Odd Fellows Rest’ is splendid company.

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Nonexyst [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Might sound like a cliché, but progression is the only constant in life, and this is especially true in music. In fact, incessant change is the norm in prog. For instance, Dream Theater used to define progressive metal. But it’s safe to say that benchmark is now comfortably buried — under layers of odd time signatures, robotic precision and polyrhythms.

But change is also an obvious broader pattern, manifesting over time and at numerous levels.

Both artists and their listeners tend to evolve, often in different trajectories. We are all simply wired differently and more importantly — we constantly learn. At least most of us do. In that sense, it’s also impossible to listen to the same song twice – because each iteration would be perceived through a slightly different neural filter.

Nothing illustrates this more than going back and listening to our decade old favorites. This will inevitably reveal a new facet to the very same sound, something which was never obvious before. Essentially, artistic experiences tend to forge new sets of mental connections, and this way we progressively develop our own individual palate.

A fellow metal-head and a Progarchy reader had recently managed to summarize her own progression, and that also in just about six artists. This sort of prompted me to jot down and share my own seven song list. Needless to say, Powerslave to Funeral Fog took a few years.

Stained Class

It’s 40th year of Stained Class.

70s sort of form that bedrock of heavy metal, those initial rungs of a genre now riddled with thousands of sub-categories. With early Judas Priest we actually get to experience that seismic shift – how that relatively upbeat hard rock and electric blues start to exhibit darker tones. In other words, Stained Class provides numerous glimpses into the impending transformation of metal.

“The streets run with blood from the mass mutilation, as carnage took toll for the bell” – is definitely not characteristic blues rock Led Zeppelin or an Aerosmith take. Nor is that intense and multi-faceted– “You poisoned my tribe with civilized progress, baptizing our blood with disease” – lyrics which could be easily perceived as a commentary, critique or British sarcasm.

Scorching leads, layered and progressive dual guitar melody and that inimitable steely Rob Halford scream. All the vital components which would later shape 80s metal can be traced back to Judas Priest. Essentially, they accentuate the downtuned darker aspects of blues rock, and did that without significant deviation from that blueprint. Stained Class is part of that framework which directly leads to speed, progressive and power metal – essentially triggering a wave – still mutating and afflicting all corners of the civilized world.

By Sibuachu (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons