The Evil Divide

Heavy metal scene is actually swarming with cross-genre bands, and then there are a few like Death Angel. Over thirty years, and they still wield an uncompromising intense arsenal of old school thrash. Decked with stunning guitar harmonies, intricate progressions and ultra-thrashy riffs — ‘The Evil Divide’ is a new album with mid-80s sound. Thrash at its creative best.

With that NWOBHM train of break neck riffs and pristine melodic hooks, Death Angel is elegant and aggressively loyal to their founding roots. They are sort of unique in persisting with this age old musical terrain. As expected, most of their illustrious contemporaries have mellowed, and now fear to tread through these very furious paths.

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

Under the Red Cloud

Unlike their neighbors to the west, Finnish scene evolved late and also in relative isolation. Quite like how they took their own time for economic industrialization, Finnish metallers were also late to the planet’s extreme metal feast. Finns do come across as one wary lot. But, circa 1990, evolution took a huge leap. They seamlessly adapted their classic metal roots into a Black Sabbath influenced death/doom, and accomplished it within an absolutely meager time. Not surprising why Amorphis developed such distinct signatures — they never did follow that conventional trajectory.

Now, after twenty five years of folk and melodic metal, you would think they won’t have much to say. Go with that expectation and get ready to be mowed, by some quirky progressions and subtle rich melodies.

Moments where you get to experience glimpses of their glorious past are frequent. Creative folksy hooks and abrupt bursts into melodic death segments – guaranteed to overwhelm even their ardent listeners. Undoubtedly, Under the Red Cloud forges more than quite a few steps, onto a distinct path carved over the past two decades.

By Cecil (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Blackwater Park

Recently a fellow metal-head shared one of the Blackwater Park songs; it’s been ages since I heard this album. Music has this impressive ability to bring back memories. In my case, decade old vivid images from heavy metal pubs, long distance motorcycling and even longer days dedicated to embedded engineering.

Had once motorcycled six hours straight to see Opeth live, at this college town in a little known part of the world. Crowd simply exploded to the opening riffs of “Bleak”, a ferocity matched only by Åkerfeldt’s own growls.

Blackwater Park is that one album which conveniently illustrates Opeth’s early years. Everything from funk to folk — doom to death — packed into one funereal epic. Wide range of actual genres fit into that melancholic sound, and Opeth weaves those influences into one dirge symphonic print. Album seamlessly illustrates meandering proggy passages resembling Camel, to Tom Warrior like curt grunts. With blankets of blues, prog and folksy lament built straight into that vital progressive death skeleton, Opeth manages to eclipse all genre boundaries.

After all these years, listening to them again made me realize, these Swedes orchestrate all those vibrant influences more elegantly than most genre specialists themselves do.

By deep ghosh [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Hunted

Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and the remaining doom metal bells and whistles are obvious. But, Khemmis goes further, and shapes a melody built on mystical and sorrowful passages. Every aspect, including the distressing vocals is tailored to accentuate these very qualities.

Doom metal is a constrained and a well explored area populated with numerous Scandinavian and North American greats. In the past 30-40 years, they have managed to excavate all the darkest corners in this genre. But, Khemmis, quite confidently introduce sharp magical qualities to these stagnant waters. With an equally engaging Artwork, Hunted makes a compelling case for a brand new variant of old school doom.

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

Majesty and Decay

Study claims extreme music purges depression, in that case, Immolation should be among the most effective antidepressants. Emerging from the most fertile era in death metal, these New Yorkers effortlessly stood their own against Tampa and Stockholm scene’s invasion. A dose of bludgeoning drums, some excessively intricate guitar patterns, followed by sheer death metal growls – simply bulldozes depression and anything else in its path.

Immolation’s brand of dissonance is multifaceted; no other band rips your senses into such divergent paths. In other words, response to this imposing symphony can be – a still veneration, an accepting nod, or just violent moshing – depends solely on the listener’s filter. More crucially, this near deathly experience can be at times overwhelming – crossing those boundaries from being a mere antidepressant, and moving straight into the territory of ecstasy – illegal.

 

By commons: Lilly Mpl.wiki: Lilly Mreal name: Małgorzata Miłaszewska (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Eric Ain (1967 – 2017)

Years ago I had visited this rundown record store, and tucked away into one corner was this used CD – a grotesque cross-over artwork with Morbid Tales stamped on it. Of course, picking that up for the long drive back home was the next obvious step. Definitely not my first encounter with Celtic Frost, but this time they stunningly hit all the right notes. Not every day will someone inadvertently stumble into a Morbid Tales, quite an understated introduction for a viciously influential record.

How that eerie album intro explodes ‘Into the crypt of rays’—making an instant and deep impact. With the dusky coastal highway as an idyllic backdrop – a moment forever engraved in mind.

The whole experience was almost like discovering a trap door, straight into the nether vaults of metal. Suddenly, numerous aspects of late 80s and early 90s black/death wave starts to make sense. Those coarse structural patterns, surreal and nightmarishly poetic lyrics – they afflicted and spawned hordes of imitators. Some elevated those very elements to stratospheric levels. Quite like Venom, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost are vital, to grasping an era which otherwise might sound like sheer white noise.

Martin Ain might have departed this mortal world. But, what he invented with Tom Warrior remains vibrantly ablaze.

Image Attribution:
By Jarkko Iso-Heiko [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

Black Seeds of Vengeance

Nile rumbles — “The scourge of Amalek is upon you” – hardly a hyperbole. These South Carolinians construct some of the most sinister patterns known to man. 180 beats per minute blast beats, brutal growls and Middle Eastern influences — all weaved into an intricately vicious arrangement. Drawing from their illustrious Florida death contemporaries, Nile crafts a truly ravishing Egyptian dissonance — a sonic intensity unparalled in metal. Here, the assault patterns are uniquely recognizable and atmospheric, a rarity within this lineage.

Egyptian chants and not so poetic gruesome mythology – “Horus hammereth them. Nepthys hacketh them to bits. The eye of Ra eateth into their faces. Their carcasses will be consumed in the desert”. Guttural growls, sharp temporal variations, and ruthless bass lines – all peacefully coexisting with electrifying guitar melodies. With these rich layered signatures, Karl Sanders effortlessly heaves the listener into an enchanting extreme terrain.

Image Attribution:

By Alexandre Cardoso (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_8503) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons