Relentless Mutation

At the frontiers of metal, and probably beyond that, resides Archspire’s dizzying precision. Here compositions tend to proceed in convulsive strides — of synchronized riff–drums and robotic vocals, stepping from one atypical rhythm to another. Abruptly and frequently switching to varying palates — from “Sound of Perseverance” like scathing guitar harmonies, to math rock signatures. But everything stitched together into a seamless train, propelling at dissonant pace and agility.

Drum pattern on the title track — with every single beat audible and precise — pretty much illustrates this measured rich approach to compositions. Rooted in the ‘Effigy of the Forgotten’ like riffs, but those dialed down hardcore-punk influences make the band more symphonic, in the classical music sense. So, akin to a brutal-math-metal orchestra, with novel and yet coherent influences, Archspire is well into inimitable territory.

 

Scourge of the Enthroned

With subtle dynamics, and a uniquely synchronized riff-drum assault, Krisiun forges ahead. Signatures here are inimitable. Not only is it old school as it ever gets, that intricate shredding and precision temporal switches simply elevates the band, altitudes above the numbing turbulence of run-of-the-mill death metal releases.

When a steady synchronized hammer of riffs and double bass runs into that hardly decipherable characteristic growls – “Slay yourself for the glorious day. When the bell tolls for the sins you have made” – it just provides that vocal finesse to this old school technical train. But, as expected, “Devouring Faith“ finally scorches its path into an electric blues like shredding, searing and relentless.

S. Bollmann [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Exercises in Futility

When that punk coarseness is braided with some outside influences, black metal becomes something more. Whether it’s ‘In the Nightside Eclipse’, ‘Nemesis Divina’ or the stunning ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ — it’s crassness with sophistication, that has elevates the genre to unusual heights. Exercises in Futility is not completely rooted in the 90s, but they channel that very sensibility, and same crudeness with atmospheric elegance.

Mgła mellows that black metal fury, almost like they applied some post-metal filters to a Burzum sound. With that constant strumming interleaved with adequate doses of tremolo picking and blast beats, the sound here becomes more streamlined. In short, there are no jarring temporal switches, but more tempting progressions. It’s not an all-out melodic assault like Dissection or Watain, but a more contoured, and structured aggression. But, quite like the black metal greats, Mgła is also moving the genre forward, beyond the confines of its Norwegian creators.

 

 

S. Bollmann [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Pleiades’ Dust

There are bands which reinforce your conception of a symphony, and then there are the ones which broaden them. Gorguts is willfully rooted in that second category. Luc Lemay’s compositions are intimidating, and at the same time curiously captivating too. It might take a while to comprehend this level of discordance. But, quite like Meshuggah, or early Slayer, Gorguts is forging new neural pathways. In other words, they are creating a totally new classification for what we call an elegant symphony. Subtly, but effectively influencing how we perceive music itself.

If Obscura is too intimidating, then Pleiades’ Dust might be that ideal prescription, something that helps us mere mortals comprehend this transformative force.

 

 

Rubén G. Herrera [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Metal Moments, 2018 Edition

“I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.” – said that guy from ‘The Fast and the Furious’. But it applies to all sorts of fanatics, whether it’s music or cars. Try living a concert at a time – and for those ten seconds of fast and furious deathly riffs, you are free. For some, a year can be simply about those collective 10 second memories.

Few months ago on my way to a Neurosis concert, I actually ran into their bassist Dave Edwardson. For a second it was difficult to believe. Fifteen feet away from crossing each other, I just stopped and looked at him. He noticed that puzzled look on the guy wearing Vader T-shirt, and simply acknowledged with a nod and a friendly smile. If this was a fortunate accident, running into Thomas Gabriel Fischer at an L.A. Koreatown Denny’s is what some might call a windfall. And this was the morning after we saw him perform a full Celtic Frost setlist. “Circle of the Tyrants” played live – as good a metal moment as it can get.

Entombed was among the most stunning live experiences of 2017, but was sort of quickly eclipsed by this year’s Easter Weekend tryst with Mayhem. Watching De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas playing out live – is as good a life moment as it can get?

But it’s not always just about epic moments, sometimes it can be epic with a touch of weird. After all metal sub-culture resides right at the fringes of civic society. For instance, Krisiun opening for Suffocation was an absolute high, but watching these death metal greats at a Salsa bar was a tad unusual. Outside the venue it was a richter scale 5.5 earthquake — walls vibrating and shutters rumbling with every dissonant note. The venue was simply not built for death metal. Well, if this was just whimsy, Dying Fetus show was positively bizarre. Midway into their setlist, Sean Beasley said — “Everyone’s welcome on stage, let’s f*** this sh*t up”. Of course, after that announcement, stage diving was off-the-charts! It was like watching an extreme metal video, people swarming on to the podium, but only this time it is unscripted. Madness went on till the event organizer came on stage and pleaded.

Unexpected moments can also sometimes leave a deeper mental imprint, and they need not be Dying Fetus level audacious. It can be just about drinking À Tout le Monde beer (Megadeth beer) and crashing a Red Fang show, even though you have tickets for Armored Saint. Or headbanging to Mastodon in an open air arena, while enduring some pacific northwest drizzle. Or all those moments when you are reminded, metalheads are fortunate for affordable tickets, and thoroughly spoiled for getting to experience legends like Paradise Lost and Morbid Angel up-close at small venues.

But there are rare disappointments too, like the new Amorphis record, and how deeply detached it is from their Black Sabbath roots. Or that moment when you read about the next leg of Slayer’s “final” tour once again passing through town – but this time only with a slightly different set of opening bands. But, highs outweigh the lows, thanks to engaging conversations and stunning riffs.

Metal X-mas and a Heavy New Year to all!