overground scene

Propagandhi, intertextuality, and YouTube.

Propagandhi is one of my all-time favourite hardcore-punk bands, a band that constantly develops its style instead of resting on its laurels. They have proved themselves time and time again over their 25 years-long career. One of the things I really like about Propagandhi is that lyrically their songs are quite obscure. In some cases I find their lyrics relatively straightforward, but mostly I experience them as labyrinths of signifiers very difficult to navigate.

A classification I like, although I do find problematic at the same time, is the distinction between “readerly” and “writerly” texts. Barthes (1990) defines readerly texts as those that are there for passive consumption, whilst writerly texts are those meant for active consumption. The reason I am critical of the concept is because I am aware that lyrics I unproblematically decode are not “objectively” more straightforward, reactive, but rather deal with issues with which I happen to be familiar.

Nevertheless, I still think that the distinction between readerly and writerly texts is valuable. To the extent that there are forms and traditions that can be considered mainstream or hegemonic, and others that are counter-hegemonic, those two concepts have heuristic value. It could be argued that most of Propagandhi’s songs are writerly texts; their meanings are not immediately and unproblematically decipherable because they often deal with counter-hegemonic or non-mainstream topics. For this reason, they require dedication and cultural labour on behalf of the listener.

Indeed, I was recently reading the lyrics of “Rock for sustainable Capitalism” off their masterpiece titled Potemkin city limits (2005). It is clearly a song about the appropriation of underground protest music by the Capitalist music industry. The beginning of the song, however, eluded me completely; I had no idea what it was referring to. The same goes for another awesome song whose lyrics I happened to be reading one day, the song “Potemkin city limits” off Supporting caste (2009). The lyrics tell a story of oppression, escape, capture, and death, but the specifics of the story always eluded me.

Recently I found myself listening to “Rock for sustainable Capitalism” on YouTube. At some point I hovered over the comments section, and I came across a discussion that focused on the beginning of the song. Through this discussion I discovered that the song actually refers to Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards‘ song “To have and have not“. This discovery allowed me to appreciate the Propagandhi song even more, although I’ve been listening to it for 12 years. For the first time I appreciated the comedic element of Chris’s lyrics, and even now I find it hard to listen to the song without cracking up. I then looked for “Potemkin city limits” on YouTube. In this case, too, the mystery of the lyrics was quickly solved by reading the comments. The sad story of oppression and murder was about a pig that briefly escaped death in the abattoir and roamed free for months in the countryside, before it was eventually captured.

The YouTube user Tommy Lindberget informed the audience about Francis the pig.

“Rock for sustainable Capitalism” and “Potemkin city limits” are intertextual; they refer to other texts, and knowing those other texts reveals hidden meanings. One of the texts the former references is the Lars Frederiksen video clip. One of the texts “Potemkin city limits” references is a real-life text/urban legend of animal liberation, torture and murder. YouTube and music fans, in this case, work in unison forming an intertextual enabler (Fiske, 1991); YouTube gives the platform to music fans to produce commentary that reveals those hidden meanings that, in my case, were lying dormant in the song lyrics, waiting to be discovered.


Barthes, R. (1990) S/Z. London: Blackwell.

Fiske, J. (1991) ‘Moments of television: neither the text nor the audience’, in: Seiter, E. et al. (eds) Remote control: television, audiences and cultural power, London: Routledge, pp.56-78.


Is this where I came from? #8 Manic Street Preachers and Cross Stitched Eyes

In this the 8th installment in the “Is this where I came from?” series of posts I claim that a song by Manic Street Preachers, from an album that is considered to be a landmark in the history of alternative rock, influenced the contemporary crust/punk band Cross Stitched Eyes to write one of the stand-out tracks off their debut album.

manic street preachers - quartetManic Street Preachers – Ifwhiteamerica toldthetruth foroneday it’sworldwouldfallapart (1994)

This is the only album I have listened to from the Manics, as their devoted fans refer to them, and I can say that I do understand why someone can become obsessed with this band. First of all, judging by this album, this is a band that in spite of having enjoyed some widespread popularity (I distinctly remember being exposed to their music on popular music TV shows during the 1990s), it was not afraid to stray away from popular music conventions. Indeed, this album is chock full of musical ideas that can catch someone off guard. Each song requires from the listeners to be particularly attentive and active if they want to be part of the process of popular culture in which the band invites them. While listening to Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins is undoubtedly a form of productive consumption, I would imagine that it is not as demanding as listening to the Manics. Based on my own musical background, I can relate to the Manics in different ways. This song starts with a jazzy riff that reminds of late 1980s Nomeansno. Shortly after that it moves on to a minimalist, dark, dissonant riff which repeats itself for several times and a beat that complements the dark vibe of the riff. The singer’s pitch, theatricality and use of vibrato are reminiscent of Jello Biafra. The song then goes through several other changes, including a happy bridge and chorus that anchor the song to more mainstream alternative rock music, before the band returns to the main dark and dissonant riff. This main riff is the one that influenced Cross Stitched Eyes. This album has definitely been influenced by Faith No More, and, in turn, has definitely influenced System Of A Down.

cseCross Stitched Eyes – End (2008)

I first listened to Cross Stitched Eyes back in 2008 when their debut album (Coranach) was released and I thought they were great. I didn’t think that they were particularly innovative, but it was obvious to me that they were music fans who had embodied their influences and craftily blended them in their own sound. These influences, I would imagine, include Amebix, The Cure, Motorhead, New Model Army,1980s crust music in general, and, as I suggest in this post, Manic Street Preachers. The song “End” which closes the album is one of the best songs in it and is driven by an awesome opening riff and drum beat, which are very similar to the arrangement around the main riff of “Ifwhiteamerica toldthetruth foroneday it’sworldwouldfallapart” (on the video that follows the song starts at 2:30).

In hindsight: great albums omitted 2010-2014

Since 2010 I have been writing a post at the end of each year accounting for each year’s music offerings. However, as it happens given financial, time-related and other constraints, many great albums often go unnoticed in time for each year’s recount. In this post I will mention some brilliant albums that deserved to be on the five lists that I compiled over the last five years, but were not. Before I get on with this task I will also mention some albums that I heard over the years and, although I would not include them in the best-of list I still enjoyed them a lot.

I consider Foo Fighters to be a very unreliable band. They have released an album that I consider to be a flawless masterpiece (One to one) and then a bunch of albums that I cannot listen to. Their 2012 album, Wasting Light, is an awesome album full of awesome tunes which at times flirt with grunge, at others with garage rock and hard rock. A song like “Dear Rosemary” could have easily been written by Nicke Andersson. Moving on, although not a fan of melodic technical death metal, Gorod‘s A perfect absolution (2012) is a pretty cool album. Fans of the genre will definitely appreciate some excellent riffs and structures that borrow a lot from post-Whisper Supremacy Cryptopsy and post-Goremageddon Aborted, Necrophagist, as well as Atheist, the forefathers of technical death metal. “Sailing into the earth” has some super inventive riffs. The more clean and shouted vocals still make me cringe, but overall this is a good album. Weapons to Hunt is the continuation of Infinited Hate, the band fronted by Aad from Sinister and the former guitarist of Sinister, a death metal genius, Ron. The album they released in 2012 titled Blessed in sin, is an old school death metal monolith, a bit more thrashier than both Sinister and Infinited Hate. Although I think it suffers production-wise (I cannot stand the sound of the drums), it is a great death metal album full of insane riffs that embody the trademark genius of Ron. Dark Tranquility‘s Construct (2013) is another album I eventually liked, but didn’t blow me away. Henriksson’s limited involvement in songwriting is quite apparent, as there is an almost complete lack of fast songs (with the exception of segments on the brilliant “Science of noise” and “Apathetic”). Nevertheless, DT is lucky to have several great songwriters and the result is a very emotional and dark album with some great tunes.

I will now move on to some albums that are marked by pure excellence, but, for various reasons, were left out of each year’s best-of lists:

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg1. Danzig – Deth red sabaoth (2010)

Danzig’s Deth red sabaoth is quite a treat of an album. Although I have been a huge Misfits and Samhain fan for many years I never really got into Danzig’s solo band.  I liked his first album, although I have not listened to it for many years. Many of his other albums sounded boring to me back in the day, but if this album is even slightly representative of them I think I should revisit them. Darkness and heaviness are two things that are not stranger to Danzig, and this album is full of both. At times it reminds of Black Sabbath and Type O Negative, but a much deadlier and sicker version of both. Time has definitely taken its toll on Danzig’s voice, but his songwriting ability is still sublime. I like all of the songs on it, but particularly “Rebel spirits“, “On a wicked night“, “Deth red moon“, and “Left hand rise above“.

enfr2. Enforcer – Diamonds (2010)

Enforcer is probably the leading heavy/power metal band in Sweden’s expanding old-school heavy metal movement. Diamonds, their second album, is a pure masterpiece that I listened only recently and completely blew me away. While their debut album and their third one are closer to the Germanic interpretation of British heavy metal, reminiscent of the faster moments of Accept, Avenger, and early Rage, as well as US power metal, Diamonds is much more pure British heavy metal. On songs like the unbelievable “Katana“, “High roler” and “Diamonds”, the NWOBHM praise is crystal clear. From time to time other influences find their way into their beautiful musicality, such as early Queensryche (on “Running in menace”). On the faster songs the influence of other British bands, like Satan, is also apparent. Everything is perfect about this album; awesome, riffs, awesome choruses, awesome solos, and perfect playing ability by all band-members. An absolute masterpiece.

majes3. Immolation – Majesty and Decay (2010)

When this album came out in 2010 I was slightly disappointed, which is the reason why it was not included in that year’s best-of list. In hindsight, it should have definitely been included. At the time I felt that this album was quite stagnant and did not introduce anything new in the Immolation legacy. The introduction, as well as the fact that it had an instrumental piece near the end pissed me off because I always considered Immolation a no-bullshit kind of band, and I thought that all this filler crap were just gimmicks of lesser bands. I still always skip the intro and the instrumental piece. I also had an issue with the awful drum sound which unfortunately persisted in Immolation’s next album. Immolation always had this swampy and under-produced sound, which I think was very special and integral to their identity. Going from that to the fake triggered sound of this album was disappointing. However, the song-writing is excellent as always. Songs like “A glorious epoch“, “A token of malice“, “Divine code” and “The rapture of ghosts” are up there with the best songs in their career.

morbus-chron-sleepers-in-the-rift-cover4. Morbus Chron – Sleepers in the rift (2011)

The first Morbus Chron album is a masterpiece of Swedish death metal that stands proudly next to giants of the genre, like Entombed and Dismember. Having said that, the references one immediately gets are not necessarily Swedish death metal bands but those bands that Dismember and Entombed drew on back in the day, such as Autopsy and Death. Indeed, there are riffs directly lift off Autopsy’s first couple of albums. However, the manner in which these influences are woven in MC’s style is almost magical. The tempos are a bit more spasmodic and intense than any old Swedish death metal band, with the exception maybe of Afflicted. Robert’s singing is fascinating, he is a truly brilliant performer. I listened to this masterpiece a year after its release and it took me at least another year to find the vinyl version, which includes the brilliant “Obscuritas“, one of the most excellent songs of Swedish death metal.

AMON-Liar-in-Wait5. Amon – Liar in wait (2012)

I properly listened to Liar in wait a year after it was released and my initial contact with it was an awkward one. The song that opens the album is one that still I don’t consider representative of the rest of the songs, in fact I consider it to be the worst on the album. The rest of the songs are monuments of furious old school death metal, where one hyper-brutal riff follows the other without giving the listener any room to breathe. In one word, this album is relentless. The prevalent tempo is the blast-beat, with a few short slower passages and a few slayer-beat sections. The singer has some genuinely brutal vocals and the capacity to sing really fast, albeit the style is quite monotonous. The winning point of this record is definitely the purely astounding riffs. In many cases there is a certain quality to the riffs that is reminiscent of classical music and I often envision them being played by an orchestra. Some bring into mind Deicide‘s Legion, such as the opening riff of “Lash thy tongue and vomit lies” and the second riff of “Semblance of man”. The excellently harmonised manic riffs on “Eye of the infinite” and the riffmageddon on “Semblance of man” and the ABSOLUTELY MIND-BLOWING “Sentience and sapience” are jaw-dropping. The vinyl version comes with a great cover-art and a lyrics inner sleeve. I really hope they will release another album, ’cause this one is a masterpiece.

zt6. Tragedy – Darker days ahead (2012)

Tragedy’s latest album was a bit hard to digest and I have to admit that when it first came out it confused me. Having released three masterpieces of fast brutal hardcore – whereby the D-beat constituted the backbone of almost every melancholic and depressing melody which contributed to the establishment of their unique identity – the considerable slowing down of pace came as a surprise. In hindsight, this album is not that different. Anyone interested in Tragedy will instantly identify Tragedy’s distinctive attitude. It is not even that more miserable than the earlier albums. The main difference is the abandonment of the D-beat. I still find it a bit difficult to listen to, but every time I do I get chills down my spine. “Darker days ahead“, “Power fades” and “To earth like dust” must be some of the best songs ever written.

black7. Black Trip – Goin’ under (2013)

I listened to Black Trip at the end of 2014 and I couldn’t believe my ears. Heavy metal hasn’t been so awesome in decades. Black Trip is the brainchild of Peter Stjarnvind, a brilliant musician who has left his mark on pillars of Swedish metal, such as Entombed (Peter’s contributions among others include the awesome “What you need” and “Night for day“) and Merciless (Peter’s contributions include “Violent obsession” and “Fallen angels universe“). While Black Trip obviously stand on the shoulders of giants, they do so in an inspiring way. The songs of this album are reminiscent of early Iron Maiden (e.g. “No tomorrow“, “The bells”), Saxon and Thin Lizzy (e.g. “Goin Under“, “Radar“), Kiss (e.g. “Putting out the fire“), and Mercyful Fate (e.g. “Tvar Dabla“). The way these songs are being put together, however, is magical. Joseph Tholl is a genius singer/lyricist, Peter’s soulful solos are perfectly complemented by Sebastian’s furious leads, and all the energy is craftily captured and engineered by the competent hands of Fred Estby and Dolf De Borst in Gutterview studios, the new Mecca of Swedish hard rock and heavy metal. (*Some of the lyrics on the song “The bells” are taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem of the same name)

3803938. Imperial State Electric – Reptile brain music (2013)

The reason I did not listen to ISE’s latest album when it first came out is that I could not find the vinyl version, so I had to wait until the early 2014. Music-wise, I guess this album picks up where the previous one left off. Nicke has written some of his best tunes so far, like the contagious “More than enough of your love“, the bluesy “Faustian bargains“, the furious “Born again“, which brings into mind another tune Nicke wrote years ago, “I wanna touch” (Hellacopters). “Nothing like you said it would be” draws heavily on Kiss’s first album. One of the exciting things about this album is Nicke’s collaboration with Fred Estby in putting together the song “Dead things”, a dark and heavy song whose atmosphere is reminiscent of their previous collaboration in Necronaut on the song “The tower of death“. It is obviously a fascinating album, yet I can’t help but compare it to the previous two albums which, in my ears are much better. The main thing I disliked about this album is the lyrics, which, compared to the previous two albums, seem a bit rushed.

pentagram19. Pentagram Chile – The malefice (2013)

Pentagram is a band that has been mentioned as an influence by several bands that I worship, such as Napalm Death, Dismember and Entombed. I was also aware that Anton, who replaced Jesse in Lock Up, was Pentagram’s guitarist. That made me look them up a few years ago and I found a video of their awesome demos on YouTube. This album is officially their first ever and has new songs that could have been written in the late 1980s. The style is very similar to Anton’s main band, Criminal, although Pentagram is much less groovy. If anything, this album is extremely addictive, the way albums used to be in the past; full of catchy riffs, choruses and clever yet approachable arrangements. In that sense, what Pentagram do on this album is a lost art. While the vocals and lots of the arrangements are very brutal, the thrash elements are also strong on Pentagram’s sound. “The apparition“, a song that is meant to become a classic, is reminiscent of early Slayer on songs like “At dawn they sleep“. The German thrash influence can be seen on several songs, especially in “Arachnoid”, whose main riff sounds a lot like Kreator‘s “Terrible certainty“. In some ways lots of riffs on this album, like the riff that opens the album, sound a lot to me like Cannibal Corpse. Tomas Lindberg’s vocal contribution on “Sacrophobia” is pretty cool, while I thought that Schmier’s contribution on “Spontaneous combustion” was a hit and miss.

Awesome music in 2014

The end of the 2014 is closing in compelling me to account for all the awesome albums that were released during this time. Music-wise, 2014 has been one of the best years I can remember. Some excellent albums came from Sweden, but also from the Americas. It seems to me that every single band on earth released an album in 2014, and there are many which I would have liked to listen to properly but didn’t have the time (and were not a priority), such as the new Mayhem, Obituary, The Haunted, Triptykon and Septic Flesh. As usual I will start with the albums that I liked less and continue with the albums that have impressed me the most.

The reunited – and now defunct again – Massacre, featuring only two members of the classic line-up (Rozz and Butler) released an album, Back from beyond, which to my ears is an embarrassing shadow of their former selves. I listened to the new Judas Priest album a couple of times out of curiosity to see if there’s any creative spark left in the band, and I don’t think there is.

Vaitor offer yummy, albeit derivative, Thrash as it was played in the late 1980s.

Vaitor offer yummy, albeit derivative, Thrash as it was played in the late 1980s.

The old-thrash resurgence holds well in 2014 with lots of new bands that pay homage to 80s thrash bands, often with some really good results. My personal favorite release from this new wave of old school thrash is the album Deto-nacion by the Colombian band Vaitor. Vaitor’s style is often reminiscent of RDP (listen for example the chorus of the eponymous song) as well as Invocator. Another band that impressed me was Korzus from Brazil. Their album Legion is a high energy thrash attack in the vein of Sepultura, Demolition Hammer and Epidemic. On songs like “Time has come” and “Die alone”, apart from speed and a super-tight rhythm section one can also find some great melodic choruses. Executer‘s Helliday (an 80s band from Brazil that had disbanded and reunited a few years ago) sounds like a modern version of old Destruction. The vocals especially sound a lot like Schmier’s and riffs like on “No sense” are pure Eternal Devastation.

The Adolescents are primarily driven by Soto (second from right) and Reflex (second from left).

The Adolescents are primarily driven by Soto (second from right) and Reflex (second from left).

Moving on to California, The Adolescents released a cool album, only one year after their previous release. The new album, titled La vendetta, is similar in style to what they have been doing since The fastest kid alive; mid-tempo melodic punk with lyrical themes around government politics, corporate politics, friendship and everyday life. I think that side B is excellent, testifying that the Adolescents are still a punk force to be reckoned with. Listen to the beautiful “Rinse cycle“, “Nothing left to say”, “Sludge”, “Sanctuary…” and “Let it go“. Side A however, in my opinion, is not equally strong, although it has a few songs that I like.

The sophomore album by Vallenfyre is raw and cold.

The sophomore album by Vallenfyre is raw and cold.

Going back to the more extreme end of the metal spectrum, Vallenfyre, the band led by Gregor Mackintosh – one of the most important contemporary musicians in the world – released its second album this year titled Splinters. Although I consider it to be a very good album, with lots of awesome songs, I cannot deny that it is miles away from being the masterpiece the debut was. On this album, Gregor focused on the crust and grindcore elements of the debut and almost completely ignored the death metal elements. The two songs that are more in the traditional sludgy death metal vein – “Bereft” and “Splinters” – are indeed my favorite ones in the album. Note the excellent use of feedback on the more grinding songs. Behemoth also released a new album and although I stopped following them since after Thelema.6 – and everything I heard by them since I considered to be derivative and boring – I quite enjoyed the new album titled The satanist. Some of the songs are typical Behemoth, sounding exactly the same as anything after Satanica (i.e. a mix of Morbid Angel, Vader and Satyricon). Still one cannot deny the distinguishing features of Behemoth, such as Nergal’s infernal voice and their ability to create some chilling and majestic music. The eponymous song, for example, sends chills down my spine.

Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost (in the front) returning to his roots.

Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost (in the front) returning to his roots.

Another extreme metal band in which I lost interest since the early 2000s – after their first album – is Bloodbath. I gave their albums a listen over the years, but I always thought they sounded uninspired and forced. Their new album, Grand Morbid Funeral, however, sounds pretty cool and the addition of Nick Holmes definitely helps – I found his vocals much more genuine and honest than Akerfeldt’s. I thought that songs like “Famine of god’s word”, “Let the stillborn come to me”, “Beyond cremation” and “Total death exhumed” are pretty awesome, but I liked the rest much less. Misery Index released a cool album titled The killing gods which is very straightforwardly death metal compared to their previous releases. There are lots of simple fast-tremolo picked riffs lots of thrashy riffs, blast-beats, and some very powerful arrangements (check out the insane breaks in “Gallows humor”). However, I personally found it quite monotonous, although I’m pretty sure that most fans of extreme music would disagree with me. They also did a tremendous cover of Ministry’s “Thieves”. Sinister, in my opinion, lost part of their identity when Aad resurrected them and started singing and stopped playing the drums. Moreover, in the last couple of albums the line-up changed drastically and the identity of Sinister suffered even more. The post-apocalyptic servant, just like the previous album,  sounds like a common brutal death metal album. Only a couple of songs, like “The end of all that conquers”, sounds like old Sinister. Having said that, there are some great songs here and some mind-blowing riffs that give praise to the great ones of US death metal, such as Monstrosity and Cannibal Corpse (listen for example the beginning of “The macabre god”).

I will now move on to the 10 albums that I liked the most this past year. Four out of these 10 albums come from Sweden, five from the US and one from Brazil.

MorbusChron-Sweven-Cover1. Morbus Chron – Sweven

My favorite album from 2014 is Morbus Chron’s Sweven. I feel blessed to have lived the release of an album like this one. As I have said several times during the last year, Morbus Chron is the pride of contemporary Death metal. Their latest album is musical in the old sense of the word; that is, it has songs that are thought-through, coherent compositions, musical narratives, with an introduction, a story that musically unfolds in the main part of the song and a conclusion. The production of the album was craftily handled by none other than Fred Estby, a veteran of Swedish death metal. The result is a sound that is completely different from all the homogenised contemporary productions where everything sounds fake. Instead, here one can actually hear a band of people playing music, doing mistakes and being passionate, elements that I think are lost with modern productions. For a more detailed review of Sweven read here.

img-1023105-seculo-sinistro2. Ratos De Porao – Seculo sinistro

My second favorite album from 2014 comes fron Brazil. RDP is for hardcore what Napalm Death is for grindcore, what Slayer is for thrash, what Blind Guardian is for heavy metal; that is, a consistently awesome, if not the best, band. Gordo’s throat is one of the best in extreme music; he is a beast and he’s getting better with time. I have been a fan of RDP since the mid-90s and I was initially exposed to their Roadrunner thrash period. Over the years they gradually went back to their hardcore roots, without however ever dismissing their love for thrash. Although, the previous two RDP albums were brilliant and I did not think their perfection could be surpassed, I think that the new album might even be their best yet! This is a collaborative effort by all the band members. Everyone contributes in the writing process and the result is a monster of an album with scorching thrash riffs, D-beat worship and aggressive vocals and rhythm section. The pure energy of “Puta, Viagra e Corrupção”, probably my favorite song off the album (I cannot get used to how perfect the chorus is), the unique mix of hardcore and thrash on “Boiada pra Bandido” and “Viciado Digital”, the dissonant riffing and mosh-inducing mid-tempo of “Grande Bosta” and the head-on thrash attack of “Stress Pós-Traumático” and “Pra fazer Pobre Chorar” are simply mind-blowing! Sick album.

dagger3. The Dagger – The Dagger

My third favorite album from 2014 comes from Sweden. The new band by former Dismember musicians Fred Estby, David Blomqvist and Tobias Christiansson could be perceived as a nostalgia act; as music made by people who did not experience late-70s and early-80s heavy metal when it was born and who have a distorted, fabricated idea of what heavy metal used to be. This, however, would be an unfair judgement given that both Fred and David have always been heavy metal aficionados since the 1980s and even in their death metal days they drew on that tradition. I have to confess that I did not expect to be impressed by The Dagger. Traditional heavy metal took form within a specific historical – cultural, social, political and economic – context. Any effort to replicate this “feel” under different conditions is doomed to failure. However, seasoned metal musicians like Fred and David have embodied the principles of heavy metal. This old heavy metal logic in the present context resulted in an album that is great to listen to over and over again, just like old heavy metal, without however sounding old or like anything that could have been released back in the day. Jani Kataja, the singer, has a beautiful and flexible voice, that at times sounds like Dio and at others like Ian Gillan. There are certain songs where one can easily guess the influences, such as “Skygazer“, which resembles a lot Deep Purple and Rainbow. The beginning of “Ahead of you all” sounds like something Iron Maiden would come up with after the mid-80s. Some of the twin guitar harmonies also remind of Iron Maiden. However, lots of the music on The Dagger is much darker, bringing into mind the more doomy sects of the genre, and bands like Trouble and Candlemass. In any case, each song is better than the other. Some incredible moments include the awesome chorus and guitar harmonies of “Skygazer”, the bridge and chorus of “Ahead of you all“, the last section of “Electric dawn” (starting at 2:51), the driving pace, the melody halfway through and the chorus of “Dogs of warning“, the entire “Inside the monolithic dome” (which sounds ridiculously like Deep Purple’s “Pictures of home“) with its brilliant harmonies, chorus and sing-along melodies and the brilliant closing track “Dark cloud“, in which Jani gives a stunning performance and also has one of the best endings I have ever heard.

AtTheGatesAtWarWithReality4. At The Gates – At war with reality

At the gates’ comeback album is awesome. To be honest, I did not expect ATG to come up with something impressive. In the case of Carcass’s comeback last year, Bill Steer, the main songwriter, had abstained from extreme metal for two decades, and, in that sense, I expected him to be thirsty and full of ideas for some extreme music. In the case of ATG, though, I always thought that the Bjorler twins’ riffing ability reached saturation by the time The Haunted released One kill wonder. And, at the end of the day, I don’t think I was wrong. To my ears, there is not one single riff in the new album that can compete with the perfection of any riff off “Slaughter of the soul”. Furthermore, in terms of pushing the envelope they are not even close to what they achieved with the first two albums either. Nevertheless, even the worst ATG album is much better than the best effort of most bands. ATG are in a league of their own. The fact that I think that the new album cannot compete with the old ones doesn’t mean that I don’t love it. I consider most of the songs monumental. “Death and the labyrinth” is a perfectly crafted song, with a beautiful bridge reminiscent of The red in the sky is ours era. My three favorite songs off the new album are, “The book of sand“, “Order from chaos” and “The head of the Hydra“. The latter has some of the most beautiful riffs on the album (that trill on the main riff gives me goose bumps) and an awesome chorus. “The book of sand” is one of the most breathtaking songs they have ever recorded. In this song they repeat what they did in the past on songs like “The break of autumn” where they replace the electric orchestration of a theme with a clean rendition of the same theme. The final section off “The night eternal” is extremely beautiful and ends the album in a monumental manner. “Eater of gods” and “Upon pillars of dust” – the latter having a main riff that would make Exodus blush – could have been in the sophomore The Haunted album, although they are maybe a bit too dark for The Haunted. I thought that the second riff on “Eater of gods” was cringeworthy, and I’m really glad they only repeat it once throughout the song. Another thing that disappointed me was the production of the album; all the instruments are crammed together and the drums sounds fake.

entom5. Entombed A.D. – Back to the front

The first listen of the new Entombed album – after their official transformation to Entombed A.D. – left me unimpressed. The first thing I noticed was that no songs really stood out. However, I also noticed that Entombed haven’t been so coherent since Wolverine Blues. And although I have loved every single post-wolverine album, maybe with the exception of Uprising, I realised that I had indeed missed the stylistic consistency of the first three albums. With the second listen of the album, however, I started paying attention to the nuances and the beauty that can be found in simple and straight-forward death metal. For sure Entombed A.D. is nowhere close to being as extreme, groundbreaking and brilliant as the first three Entombed albums, but it is still pretty awesome. Slow songs like “Eternal woe” (maybe my favorite on the album) and “Soldier of no fortune” (fittingly ending the album like “Soldier of fortune” closes Deep Purple‘s Stormbringer) have a certain Clandestine vibe to them, which send chills down my spine. The opener “Kill to live” is a powerful song with a wicked main riff, genius tempo changes, melodies and solos, a true gem faithful to Entombed’s early death legacy. Other brilliant moments in the album include the break near the end of “Bait and bleed“, the chorus of “Second to none”, the atmospheric sections of “Bedlam attack” and overall the awesome arrangements on “Digitus medius”. Several songs follow a particular recipe, namely, they have a slow or mid-tempo start which then develops into a fast double-beat or d-beat. “Waiting for death” is a thrasher in the vein of Ritual Carnage or even late Infernal Majesty. The only bad thing about this album is the production/mix. Disappointingly, sometimes the lead guitar and other times the rhythm guitar are way too low in the mix, with the result of either some awesome melodies or some great riffs to be inaudible. Nevertheless, Back to the front remains highly addictive and satisfying, like only very few albums can be these days. Attention hordes!

incantion-dirges_of_elysium-600x6006. Incantation – Dirges of elysium

Incantation has been one of the founding monoliths of brutal death metal. Founding member John McEntee and long time partner in crime Kyle Severn have served the unholiest sects of extreme music without ever straying and following trends. Over the years many members have come and gone, but always, no matter who was in the band, they submitted their compositional style to the swampy, dark and dissonant mission that McEntee set on since the beginning. The last two albums saw the inclusion of Alex Bouks, who revamped Incantation’s style by adding some very memorable melodic passages. Unfortunately Alex left after the recording of this new album. Dirges is typical Incantation; brutal and blasphemous American death metal, shifting from sludgy sonic pessimism to intense grind. It starts majestically with a instrumental called “Dirges of elysium” and continues with a super fast “Debauchery“. “Bastion of a plagued soul” is another full-frontal attack with an excellent slow dissonant break followed by an incredible gloomy section that only Incantation can pull off. The intense and fast “Impalement of divinity” and the massive, swampy and ceremonial “Charnel grounds” can successfully summarise the character of this album. An excellent album by a consistently awesome and committed band.

Mastodon_-_once_more_'round_the_sun7. Mastodon – Once more around the sun

Mastodon is a band that I only started appreciating after I heard their mind-blowing fifth album, The hunter. The new album is just as perfect. It kicks off in a very dramatic way that reminded me of the first Tragedy album. Sanders is wailing through the opening song (“Tread lightly”), a majestic composition with some super heavy riffing towards the end. With certain songs, like “The motherload” and “High road”, Mastodon take an even more laid back approach to song-writing than in The Hunter. To be fair, even in the more melodic and straightforward songs, behind the simple melody the musicians are restless. With songs like the brilliant “Aunt Lisa” (which reminds of something off Faith No More‘s Angel Dust) and “Asleep in the deep” they fully explore progressive and technically proficient routes to composition and performance. In some cases I felt that Mastodon repeat themselves (for example compare the singing on songs like “Chimes at midnight” and “Feast your eyes”). In any case, this remains a brilliant album that invites the listener to explore its nuances for a long time after the first listen.

cannibal-corpse-a-skeletal-domain8. Cannibal Corpse – A skeletal domain

CC have rightfully earned their position as a death metal institution through a series of awesome albums in the early-mid 1990s. Over the years, however, I thought that they stalled and kept repeating themselves. Still, especially in albums like The wretched spawn and Kill, I thought that they kept a high quality of death metal musicianship. I found CC’s new album much more interesting than Torture. While in the latter the band sounded as if they were making a conscious effort to revisit past glories, in the new one they sound more free and in a more experimental mood. The new album has some typical CC “hit songs” with catchy choruses and vocal patterns, like “Kill or become” or “Vector of cruelty”. However, there are some pretty interesting arrangements and, of course, heavy doses of extreme brutality. The opening song is obliterating and the chorus of the eponymous song has one of the most excellent vocal patterns that Cannibal ever wrote. The more I listen to the album the more interesting stuff I discover and the  more I enjoy it! “The murderer’s pact” showcases Webster’s trademark sick melodies and “Vector of cruelty” is easily one of the most awesome mid-tempo songs in the CC roster (up there with “Sentenced to burn”, “Nothing left to mutilate” and “Slain”)! “Icepick lobotomy” is another masterpiece by Barrett with an awesome breakdown half-way through. “Asphyxiate to resuscitate” must be one of the most memorable songs CC ever wrote. All in all an awesome album.

tourni9. Autopsy – Tourniquets, hacksaws and graves

Tourniquets… is pretty awesome in the typical Autopsy way; sometimes swampy and sometimes fast, always creepy death metal with the sickest vocals possible. However, I like it much less than last year’s brilliant The headless ritual. I think that Cutler composed some extremely memorable and chilling songs, like the eponymous one, or “King of flesh ripped”, which are my favorite on the album. Two other songs I really liked, “Deep crimson dreaming” and “Burial” were composed by Reifert. Coralles contributed the crazy “Parasitic eye”, a typical Coralles composition, with a great intro-melody and a fast chorus. All in all, Tourniquets is a good album by musicians who know their craft well and are the undisputed leaders in this specific sub-genre of extreme metal.

rigor-mortis-cover10. Rigor Mortis – Slaves to the grave

The comeback, and I imagine last, Rigor Mortis album is both a reason to celebrate and mourn. The leading member of the band Mike Scaccia, tragically passed on during a Texas show two years ago. His awesome guitar work is present on this album nonetheless. This final offering is an awesome album worthy of their three masterpieces from the late 1980s – early 1990s. The line-up features all original members as appeared on the debut album. Slaves to the grave comes with an awesome cover. The musical recipe includes ridiculously fast tremolo picking, fast songs in the vein of “Contagious contamination” or “Shroud of gloom” (such as “Flesh for flies” and “Poltergeist”) and punk-influenced songs in the vein of “Throwback” (such as “Rain of ruin”) and pissed-off vocals. There is also an instrumental song titled “Sacramentum gladitorum” whose chord progression reminds of “The call of Ktulu”. It is always interesting to confirm what lasting impact Metallica had in the world of extreme music, given that so many bands have written instrumentals that use “The Call of Ktulu” as template. The introductory section of “The infected” reminded me of Iron Maiden. The only song that I don’t really like is the last song on the album. All the rest are delightful thrash anthems. I’d like to see any modern band trying to compose equally memorable and catchy thrash songs.

2014 playlist

Whatever happened to Pelle and Rasmus?

Classic Swedish death metal is readily associated with bands like Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed, Grave and maybe At The Gates. All these bands defined the genre in their own special way. Comecon is one of the bands that followed shortly after the big bang of Swedish death metal in the late 1980s – early 1990s but never became popular and, hence, its influence can by no means be considered definitive of the genre. Given the lack of a (real person) drummer and of live gigs it is not difficult to imagine why this band never became popular. Additionally, it cannot be denied that Comecon’s music was neither as brutal nor as technically proficient as the music of its contemporaries, and both brutality and technical proficiency have always been crucial parameters upon which death metal bands have been judged.Comecon_logo

However, I have always considered Comecon a unique and brilliant band. The masterminds behind the band were Rasmus Ekman (Guitar/Bass) and Pelle Ström (Guitar/Bass). Both played hardcore and thrash in various Swedish bands, including Agony, Omnitron and The Krixhjalters, before forming Comecon in 1989 (source: Encyclopedia Metallum). In Comecon, they enmeshed thrash and hardcore elements, such as the Ramones drum beat, D-beat and thrash riffing, with death metal elements, such as Blast-beats and fast tremolo picking riffs. As such, music-wise, Comecon were fast, intense and some of the songs had frequent breaks and rhythmic changes, just like most of death metal bands of the time. It is true that they also had more straightforward songs, created in line with the hardcore/punk compositional canon (for example, The dog days). What really set Comecon apart from their peers is not as much the style of music as the explicitly ideological lyrics, another element they shared with thrash and hardcore. Comecon were critical of capitalism and its European manifestation in the form of the EU, they were eager for resistance, anti-fascist, and, in the end, pessimistic about the future of humanity. However, as opposed to thrash and hardcore bands’ often childish and inconsistent revolutionary rhetoric, Comecon offered poetry that included serious and sophisticated socio-political critique.


From left to right: Petrov, Ekman, Ström and Green (the fake drummer). Note Ekman’s trademark attire and Petrov’s “I eat christians” t-shirt!

On each of their albums they recruited a different vocalist, L.G. Petrov (of Entombed fame) on the first one, Martin Van Drunen (Asphyx and Pestilence) on the second and Marc Grewe (Morgoth) on the final one. All three of them gave with Comecon some of the best performances of their careers; especially, Grewe and Van Drunen blow my mind! The style of the music also changed from album to album. Some of the more punk/hardcore elements of the first album (Megatrends in brutality – 1992) gave way to more death metal elements and emotion on the second one (Converging conspiracies – 1993). On the third album (Fable frolic – 1995) they shed lots of their speed in favour of a more dissonant, almost industrial sound.

In their life-span as a band, Rasmus and Pelle composed music that was at times heartfelt and compelling (listen to the magnificent Imploder, The whole world and Worms), at other times intense and devastating (Icons of urine, Wash away the filth, Slope, Bleed/Burn) and at other times dark, pessimistic and suffocating (Canvas of history). Their lyrics provided food for thought during my adolescence and influenced me artistically. Unfortunately, Comecon broke up, so the world never experienced the next incarnation of this great band. Pelle’s and Rasmus’ whereabouts after the demise of Comecon are unknown to me.

“Who opened the door for the democrator?

And how come he let in the market conquistadors?

Why is he acting as if he has something to hide?

The privilege of the stupid is to be taken for a ride.” (excerpt from Democrator)

“How many poor do we need to prosper?

How much starvation to make GNP rise?

Why are we sliding into hell when they’re pointing at heaven?

Let Europe recollect what must be done, with bourgeois lies.” (excerpt from Community)

“All over the world,

the carcasses of cultures drowned in civilisation.

Crawl over the world,

the carcasses of our cheap seductive virulent commodification.” (excerpt from Aerie)

Six songs about Johnny

A while ago I realised that I have come across the name “Johnny” in songs of many different artists. I started thinking about what is that which makes different people around the world named “Johnny” interesting to write about, or what makes “Johnny” a good name to give to the character of a song. The first thing I thought was that maybe “Johnny” happens to be a very common name, so maybe these musicians happened to know somebody named Johnny who was worth writing a song about. Then I also considered that there is something cultural about the name “Johnny”; some specific meaning attached to it in different cultural contexts that might explain why an artist would use this name in a song. My first assumption proved to be a plausible one, when it comes to the USA. It appears that “John” was the second most common male name in the 1990 census in the US (see Wikipedia entry here). However, it is much less common in other parts of the world. In the remaining of this post I will test all these assumptions against six songs about Johnny.

1. Reagan Youth – Degenerated

“Degenerated” is a brilliant song off Reagan Youth’s first collection of songs from the period 1980-1984. The song talks about Johnny whose life is consumed between doing drugs and watching TV; his identity is derived from being a “man”, a role which he performs through finding women to get laid. The song ends with the prediction that Johnny’s degenerate lifestyle will be reproduced through creating a family and having children. As mentioned earlier, the name “John” is pretty common in the US, where Reagan Youth came from, so it could be that Reagan Youth chose the name that came to mind first. Or maybe the song was written for somebody, among the many people named “John” is the US, whom they knew personally.

2. Dead Moon – Johnny’s got a gun

Dead Moon is and will always be the undisputed leader of garage rock, and this song is a testament to their awesomeness. While one might think that it is a direct reference to the anti-war book and movie “Johnny got his gun”, or a song about young soldiers ready to die for their country, it is actually a song about resistance to oppressive rule and the willingness to die in order to shake off the shackles of oppression. The aim of a title which is very similar to the book might be to juxtapose the folly of fighting for the interests of the elite with fighting against injustice and oppression; a bad violence, good violence thing…

3. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Johnny was

Another amazing song which talks about “Johnny” comes from Bob Marley’s album Rastaman vibration (1976). It talks about a man who was shot dead on the street. Maybe it was somebody that Rita Marley (Bob Marley’s wife), who wrote the song, knew. In the case of this song, however, the choice of the name “Johnny” is more likely to have a cultural explanation. For one thing, it could be reference to the book. Even if it is not a reference, it could be argued that to some extent, through such a popular novel and movie, the name “Johnny” was culturally constructed as a name that is associated with war, suffering and death. Stiff Little Fingers did a brilliant cover of this song on their debut album.

4. D.I. – Johnny’s got a problem

“Johnny’s got a problem” is a song off D.I.’s second full length album Horse bites, dog cries (1985).  Although it is a less remarkable song among the explosive “Youth in Asia” and “Hang ten in east Berlin” and the genius “Little land” and “Spiritual Law”, it is a very catchy sing-along tune, typical for Californian punk. It talks about a guy who is wasting his life and who does not care if he takes others down with him to satisfy his selfish aims. On the one hand, the lyric “we used to look up to you” suggests that this song was  probably written for somebody that the band knew personally. On the other hand, the lyric “Johnny after Johnny you’re all the same” could suggest that there is a negative connotation to the name “Johnny” itself.

5. Riot – Johnny’s back

“Johnny’s back” is one of the most beautiful songs off Riot’s Thundersteel album. In a typical heavy metal fashion, it is an apolitical song about a guy whose effort to leave his old life behind did not come to fruition, so he returns to his hometown where he used to be a “somebody”. The song is sang in first person, although none of the band’s members is named Johnny. Maybe it refers to a person the band knew. It could still be an autobiographical song with the specific pseudonym chosen either due to specific cultural significance or because it is very common a name.

6. Chuck Berry – Johnny B Goode

“Johnny B Goode” is an archetypal rock ‘n’ roll song by Chuck Berry. It talks about a African American country boy from Louisiana who was an awesome guitar player and was meant to be famous. It is a testament to the dreams of a young man who comes from a disadvantaged background and his desire to use the only resource available to him, his talent, to improve his social and economic position. According to Berry himself, the song is part autobiographical and was initially inspired by Berry’s piano player, Johnnie Johnnson. Berry has written 30 more songs around the Johnny B Goode character (check out the Wikipedia entry here).

Music worth listening to from 2013

The year 2013 has been a great year music-wise. Lots of new albums came out from some of my favorite and not so favorite artists and I got the chance to listen to many of them. As usual, I focused my attention mostly on extreme metal this past year. I will start with the albums I enjoyed less, continue with albums that I enjoyed a lot and conclude with my favorite of the year.

On their new album titled End of disclosure Hypocrisy kept the style to which they returned with their previous album which is more akin to The Final Chapter (1997), Into the Abyss (2001) and The Arrival (2004). I liked some of the songs but I was overall not impressed. Helloween released another album which I did not particularly enjoyed (Straight out of hell). Interestingly, the songs I find myself liking off the previous few Helloween albums came from Markus – a musician who did not contribute at all in the old days – rather than Michael or Andy whose song-writing style used to appeal to me the most. On this new record, Markus has written a couple of cool songs and Michael also came back with a couple of good songs as well. I was not impressed by Ghost‘s second album (Infestissumam). For sure they refrained from shamelessly ripping off Mercyful Fate and other popular bands this time around (good for them). However, apparently the ripped-off elements gave me a reason to hate them and like them at the same time. Now without them they just sound dull to me. I also disliked Deicide‘s new album (In the minds of evil), just like all albums since the departure of the Hoffman brothers. The Ocean is a band that represents the influence of hipster culture in metal music. I got drawn to their new album because of the praise it received on the press. To my ears sometimes it sounds like Mastodon, but the way I really interpreted their music is no more than contemporary pop metal. By this I mean that many of the melodies and structures, although played with electric instruments and big, heavy orchestrations, are akin to pop music (and by pop music I mean both boy-bands and pop-rock music of the nineties). As a person who has grown up with Metal music and who has despised the different incarnations of pop music throughout my life I cannot relate to this band. Sepultura made a pretty brutal and intense album (The mediator between head and hands must be the heart). The new drummer gives a nice groove and when he is fast he respects the old-school Cavalera beat. Although I eventually got bored of the album after a few listens, it is apparent that Sepultura enjoy what they do and that they put all their passion in putting together a song.

Moving on to the albums that I actually enjoyed, I start with a Megatherion of Death metal. Suffocation‘s last album (Pinnacle of Bedlam), although I preferred it to its predecessor, did not destroy me. Nevertheless, there were a few songs which I consider to be some of the best Suffocation ever composed, such as the excellent “Sullen Days“, “As Grace Descends” and “Eminent Wrath”. Not that the rest of the songs are not really good. My problem lies with the sound which was a bit too modern for me and the drumming which – being the typical Culross drumming – was amazing albeit, in my opinion, not as fitting to Suffocation’s sound as Smith’s. Finally, Frank’s vocals sound a bit weird to me. In some cases I can tell that it is him singing but most of the time it could be anyone (maybe his limited lyrical contribution made the songs less interesting for him to sing). Broken Hope made a comeback with an extremely brutal and really good album (Omen of disease) mostly reminiscent of their pre-Loathing days. This means that it is quite simpler than Loathing (1997) and Grotesque blessings (1999), without this meaning that it lacks in awesome riffs and groove. However, as much as I like it I cannot help but think how much better it would have been if the album was comprised of only five of the existing songs (“Womb of horrors”, “Ghastly”, “The flesh mechanic”, “The docking dead“, “Choked out…”) and Brian Griffin was also part of the reunion and had written the rest of the songs… I was pleasantly surprised by Darkthrone‘s new album (The underground resistance) which sounds to me much more coherent and interesting than their last few albums, nailing the mix of traditional heavy metal with the black metal aesthetic. Sorcery‘s Arrival at six is another really cool album from 2013. The style is typical early Stockholm death metal, with buzzsaw riffs, a fair share of D-beat and slow atmospheric parts. At times it sounds a lot like early Dismember, especially the singer who sounds something between Kärki (Dismember), Bröms (Afflicted), Grewe (Morgoth) and even a bit like Jan-Chris from Gorefest.

One of the non-metal albums I got and liked a lot was the new album from the Adolescents (Presumed Insolent). This new album and the previous one (The fastest kid alive) sound like they were recorded at the same time, which is why, although I loved their previous album, this new collection of songs did not offer me something new. That being said I still think that all the songs are really cool (check out the awesome “Here comes the summer” and “Tic tac at the alligator tree“). The album also includes the song “Daisy’s revenge“, the continuing saga of “Stage diving Daisy”, a song which appeared on the sweet ADZ record Piper at the gates of Downey (check Tony’s Blog for more info on the story). The new Bad Religion album (True north) was also quite amazing. It is not too different from New Maps of Hell (2007), but with a more stripped down sound bringing into mind the mindblowing Suffer (1988)No control (1989) and Against the grain (1990). 1916 from 1990 was the last album by Motörhead which I found amazing. After that album I only liked a few songs off each album, which if put together would make a masterpiece**. Exceptions to the rule was Kiss of death (2006) which I thought was through and through excellent. Coming to their new album (Aftershock), I have to say that I enjoyed it much more than their last two albums. Fast songs like “Going to Mexico”, “Queen of the damned” and “End of time”, bluesy diamonds like “Dust and glass” and “Lost woman blues” and mid tempo songs like “Silence…” are great!

Other albums that I have either paid little attention to or I have not listened to their entirety and, as such, I cannot offer an informed opinion include the new Rotting Christ, Trouble, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine and Exhumed albums. The few songs I heard from the new album from Trouble sound pretty much like their awesome eponymous album from 1990 (check this out). A couple of songs from the new Exhumed album also sound pretty cool (check this out). The new Jello Biafra, from the little that I heard, also sounds awesome. Which leaves us with the albums I enjoyed the most and could not stop listening:

1. TormentedDeath Awaits

tormentTormented is a good example of a band that does not need to be technical or to break new ground to be brilliant. For these guys, playing old-school death metal is in their blood. Their simple and old-school death is so captivating that after listening to this album non-stop for the last five months I still cannot get used to how awesome it is, making it without question my favorite album from 2013. For a more detailed account of Death Awaits read this. My three favorite songs off the album these days would be, “Into the crypts of death”, “Black sky” and “Insane with dread”.

2. CarcassSurgical Steel

Carcass-Surgical-Steel-300x300Surgical steel would be my second favorite album from 2013. An unexpectedly phenomenal come-back from the band which defined to a large extend what extreme music is. I will not get too much into how amazing it is, I have written a much more detailed review here. I will only make a short mention to some of the lyrics which are fucking amazing, and I could not know that when I did the other review (the album had not been officially released yet). After the immature “Thrasher’s abattoir”, in which Jeff pours out his hatred towards posers and hipsters, starts an anti-war trilogy, an attack toward the military institutions, religion and the fetishism of violence. The theme of “Non-compliance” brings back some of the silliness, with Jeff singing about how the death metal scene is just a bunch of copy-cats, about how every new scene is doomed to be born, grow and die (‘this is the way of all flesh will decay’) and about the stale state of extreme metal (‘the cycle of death exhausted’). My favorite songs would be “Surgical steel”, “The granulating dark satanic mills” and “Cadaver pouch conveyor system”.

3. AutopsyThe Headless Ritual

autopsy-the_headless_ritualMacabre eternal (2011) did not cut it for me, but I think that Autopsy’s new album is brilliant. Reifert, Cutler, Coralles and Trevisano shine through as seasoned musicians who have perfected their craft and give their best in this album full of wonderful songs. It is really difficult to come up with favorite songs, so I’ll just go with one song from each band member: “She’s a funeral” composed by Reifert is a death metal monument, “Mangled far below” by Trevisano is heavy and punky with excellent lyrics, “Arch cadaver” by Coralles is definitive of Autopsy’s sickness and “Running from the goathead” showcases Cutler’s brilliant madness and ability to use well-tried musical recipes in a creative way that is breath-taking. Plus, hats off to the band and Peaceville for producing an aesthetically amazing record, making the process of listening with lyrics a pleasure.

4. ImmolationKingdom of Conspiracy

immolation-kingdom-of-conspiracy-300x300Immolation is one of those strange cases of bands that develop their unique style of music and stick to it without deviating at all from the basic formula, yet manage to not repeat themselves or get redundant. After more than two decades of playing the same devastating, cerebral style of death metal they keep coming up with songs that challenge and impress. (To my ears, however, and although most bands look tiny before “Kingdom of Conspiracy”, I cannot compare it to their back catalogue up until “Harnessing Ruin”, when each album was an unprecedented masterpiece.) The main theme across the album could be described as Foucauldian, in the sense that all lyrics have to do with the control of information by powerful institutions (governments, religions, corporations), the production of what Foucault calls knowledge-power, and the indoctrination of the masses. I would have liked the album much more if the drums did not sound so fake and were not so loud and prominent in the mix. Some amazing moments are the  part were Dolan growls ‘No one but ourselves to blame, no one but ourselves to shame’ on the eponymous song, the massive breaks on “Serving divinity”, the untamed brutality and the second-to-last riff on “Indoctrinate”, and the Morbid Angel-esque touch on “A spectacle of lies”. If I had to pick my three favorite songs these would be the monumental “Keep the silence”, “The great sleep”and “Serving divinity”.

5. Black Sabbath13

Black-Sabbath-13The impression that I got from various webzines and forums is that for many people Black Sabbath’s new album is a disgrace. For me, on the contrary, it is a pretty awesome album. For sure, to a large extent this album is a product of the higher and non-productive echelons of the music industry, a fact that I don’t like. For sure I would have preferred Tony Iommi not having been instructed by any producers what to compose. For sure I would have liked executives and managers having stayed away from Sabbath. And I would also have liked Ozzy to have actually been able to sing without the use of technology. However, if I leave all these things aside and if I accept this album as merely a studio project, I have to admit that I love it! For sure Iommi provided songs on Rick Rubin’s demand, but the stuff he came up with are awesome. I also have to admit that Ozzy’s melodies are awesome. Butler’s bass-lines are addictive as always, yet less frantic than in the past, and Iommi’s leads are, as usual, from another world. The drums are boring but, with the exception of the albums that Bill Ward was on, all Sabbath albums have boring drums in my opinion. Although all the songs are amazing I would say that my favorite ones are currently “Age of reason”, “Damaged soul” and “End of the beginning”.

** For example, “Asylum choir”, “Jack the ripper”, “Too good to be true”, “Lost in the ozone”, “Death or glory”, “Don’t let daddy kiss me”, “Sacrifice”, “Out of the sun”, “I don’t believe a word”, “Dead and gone”, “Take the blame”, “We are Motorhead”, “Stagefright”, “Wake the dead”, “Brave new world”, “Smiling like a killer”, are songs that I love from the 1990s and early 2000s Motorhead.