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

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

Psychologists and Death Metal

Ran into this Scientific American article on Death Metal.

“Those positive emotions, as reported by death metal fans in an online survey that Thompson and his team conducted, include feelings of empowerment, joy, peace and transcendence. So far, almost all of the anger and tension Thompson has documented in his death metal studies has been expressed by non-fans after listening to samples of the music.”

Probably, psychologists should be studying the non-fans, on why they are unable to decipher that grand symphony.

From a related Progarchy post.

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.

 

By Äppelmos [CC BY 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

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 /

Anticult

Within  the pantheon of death metal Gods, Decapitated stands out. They are one of those gatekeepers of the sub-genre — the one bridging the old with the new. The cross-over blend of old school death metal meets the newer (200 time-signatures-per-min) technical mayhem.

Recovering from a tumultuous past and successfully restructuring the sound is not trivial. Anticult is easily among the best illustrations of those stunning groovy prog elements within death.

Dimebag Darrell like riffing, downtuned uniquely melodic leads, and vocals bordering between screams to growls — Decapitated successfully integrates groove metal into their pristine Polish death terrain. Seamless switches between musical traits are numerous, and they span divergent eras — from Entombed like leads to Gojira like towering guitars. With everything layered on top of their precision blast beats, these compositions are as sharp as a guillotine. Getting Decapitated has not been this blissful in a long time. The band has evolved from Vitek era technical death, but they are still absolutely about adapting old school structures to stunningly creative musical contexts.

By © Markus Felix (talk to me) [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

The Conductor’s Departure

Heavy and incessantly shifting contours — ‘The Conductor’s Departure’ is simply riveting. That constant progression here can leave anyone speechless. Like any technical death sound, these textures are tangled and layered. But when combined with that relentless melodic progression, it only becomes more captivating. This level of  sophistication in braiding tech death with complex drawn-out song structures is rare.

Anata is not only meticulous, but their compositions project an offhand feel, as if the record was composed on-the-go. In other words, they tread this demanding terrain of understated refinement, and tortuously rugged, yet dazzling display of spontaneity. Adds refreshing aspects to an otherwise grinding framework of measured technical progression. Undoubtedly, this blend of old school with modern technical death is melodic and yet dissonant — a cross-over act of the most demanding kind.

Image Attribution : https://anata-earache.bandcamp.com/

Human

Discerning structural progression with that all-consuming guitar harmony –it’s 1991, but Chuck Schuldiner was already crafting that musical transformation of Death. Chiseled with mathematical precision, these riffs can be overwhelming. Add some layering and complex transformations to the mix, and Death successfully exacts an emotional toll on their listeners. A musical arrangement so aggressive and poignant — baffling how such contradictions can gracefully coexist.

A revisiting of this classic album was purely accidental. I was driving up the Cascade Loop for a quick weekend hike and Death started playing on the radio. A drive through the tunnels with “Lack of Comprehension” on stereo was one of those fine death metal moments. An uneventful afternoon hike with stunning PNW visuals — but in my head, Death’s riffs were still playing in an endless loop.

 

By A Sniper [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

Decibel Metal & Beer Fest, 2018

An Easter weekend music fest might seem whimsical – but it’s heavy metal – and it is Decibel fest. Except for some metalheads and lost travellers, an otherwise crowded Philadelphia streets were absolutely deserted by Sunday. At the Gates on Easter Eve and those picturesque Old City images on a drizzling Sunday morning – Decibel fest Day 2 had the best of preludes.

Spectral Voice, with an absolutely dim stage lighting and a matching sound is an ideal opener. Dial down those doom metal like qualities and we pretty much get the sound created by New York City death metallers — Incantation. The final three bands seek no introduction or picturesque settings. They would simply make their mark even in the void. The calmness with which Repulsion vented dissonance might have defied all the laws of physics. These grindcore veterans, perfectly composed on stage, wrecked pandemonium below.

Needless to say, Mayhem would simply double down. After that initial intimidating stage presence, an unprecedented frenzy befell. The Fillmore has seen its performances, but here the decibels were off the charts. Only the fittest survived to finally face Carcass. Two days of beer and dissonance ending with an unyielding train — of grindcore and melodic death — riffs which simply explain metal as we know it.

Organic Hallucinosis

“I remember when I first heard DECAPITATED’s ‘Organic Hallucinosis’ and it just blew me away!!!!”–Tomas Haake, (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 pattern of rhythm, leads and drumming — synchronized and complex. Whether it’s “Day 69”, “Post(?) Organic” or the intricately progressive “A Poem About an Old Prison Man” – Organic Hallucinosis shifts technical death into demanding musical terrains. And Decapitated accomplishes that by remaining rooted in old school structures.

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

Vitek (R.I.P. 2007)

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