overground scene


Is this where I came from? #10 Dean Koontz and Autopsy

This series of posts has traditionally been about obscure examples of musical intertextuality across genres. I have so far discussed several examples of riffs, melodies and song structures traveling through time and space; from 1970s English Hard rock to 1990s Swedish Death metal (#5), from 1980s Irish Shoegaze to 1990s US Progressive metal (#3), from 1990s Welsh Alternative rock to 2000s German punk (#8), and others. In this, the 10th installment, I will do something slightly different. I will focus on song lyrics (as I have done in the past in a post on H.P. Lovecraft) and I will hypothesise that Autopsy got the idea for the song “Dead” from a section of Dean Koontz’s book The eyes of darkness.

dean_koontz-1Dean Koontz – The eyes of darkness (1981)

For a long time I considered Koontz a horror/mystery writer who was good, but by no means of the order of Clive Barker or even Stephen King. That opinion changed when I read the absolutely fascinating Phantoms (1983), a book whose plot is amazing, the different avenues that the plot follows and the crossroads on which these avenues meet is mind-blowing, and it is quite gruesome as well. The eyes of darkness is a book that was definitely enjoyable, but nowhere near as good as Phantoms. It is about a mother who tries to solve the mystery around her son’s death. I will not go into more detail because the plot is irrelevant to the aim of this post. What is relevant to this post is a description of the protagonist’s dead son on page 6:

“Torn and crushed in a bus accident with fourteen other little boys, just one victim of a larger tragedy. Battered beyond recognition. Dead.

Cold.

Decaying.

In a coffin.

Under the ground.

Forever.”

14c-autopsy-bandAutopsy – Dead (1991)

Mental funeral is an unprecedented masterpiece, and my all-time favourite Autopsy album. The song Dead is a strange song, in that its lyrics are just 10 words, morbidly narrated (and written) by Chris Reifert, on top of a gruesome riff. The melody preceding and then following the narration proved to be an extremely influential one in the death metal genre, with countless bands imitating it (you can hear the similarity on Entombed‘s “Somewhat peculiar“). The muddy composition, the singing style and the lyrics make it one of the most memorable and creepy songs in one of the most memorable and creepy albums of all time. The lyrics/theme are almost identical to the short text by Dean Koontz:

“Dead.

Stiff and cold.

In your box.

To decay.

Dead.”

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Back to the grave

Over the last decade a large number of death metal bands that I consider important have reformed – or come back to death, if you will – and released albums after many years of absence, including Atheist, Asphyx, At The Gates, Autopsy, Broken Hope, Brutal Truth, Carcass, Desultory, Gorefest, Massacre, Obituary, Pestilence, Morgoth, and Suffocation. While I found some of these comebacks to be disappointing (Pestilence, Asphyx, Massacre) most were brilliant.

At-the-Gates-Should-Make-a-Reunion-Album

Re-united At The Gates.

Suffocation‘s comeback album (Souls to deny, 2004) might be my favorite album by this indisputably perfect and influential brutal death metal monster. The song structures, breakdowns, riffs, vocal delivery are just insane (check out the eponymous song). The production is also flawless and “real-sounding”, as opposed to their last two albums where the sound went from plastic to horribly overproduced. Gorefest returned to death with an album (La muerte, 2005, check out the massive and melancholic “You could make me kill“) that leveled me and made me crave for more. It’s a shame they folded again after Rise to power (2008). Obituary‘s comeback (Frozen in time, 2005) made me happy back in the day, since it reminded me a lot of my favorite Obituary album (that is, The end complete, 1992). I have slightly gotten less excited about it over time. Brutal Truth‘s comeback (Evolution through revolution, 2009) is another example of a fierce and full-on comeback. It is as if not one day had passed since their last grind offering more than a decade earlier and, in my books, it is every bit as perfect as Need to control (check out “Fist in mouth” and treat yourselves to some grindcore insanity – that change at 1:03 is sublime).

atheis

Re-united Atheist, in a picture reminiscent of their second album.

Atheist‘s comeback album (Jupiter, 2010) impressed me when it came out five years ago and still to this day I consider it a flawless old-school technical death metal masterpiece. In this album one can find clever and imaginative lyrics, interesting arrangements and variety in songwriting (check out “Live and live again“). Autopsy‘s comeback E.P (The tomb within, 2010, check out “Seven skulls“) and all albums since have been great, yet I never considered it a real comeback, as the Autopsy legacy lived on in Abscess. Desultory‘s comeback album (Counting our scars, 2011) is also brilliant and just keeps sounding better with time. It probably is my favorite album from them; I still cannot get used to songs like “This broken halo“, “Leeching life“, “Dead ends” and “Uneven numbers“. Broken Hope‘s comeback offering (Omen of disease, 2013) has also left a lasting impression on me. I thought it would be very difficult for the band to recapture the brilliance of their old albums, especially with Brian not being part of the reunion and Joe no longer being with us. However, the band with Jeremy and Shaun at the helm managed to offer an awesome album (check out the brilliant “Docking dead“).

carc

Re-united Carcass.

Carcass‘s brilliant comeback album (Surgical steel, 2013) has been widely accepted as a masterpiece. As I have discussed in more detail here, it is an album that respects the huge Carcass legacy by sticking to the compositional canon that Carcass invented, without regurgitating their past. It is an album that both musically and lyrically gives what only a handful of bands manage to do: impress, cultivate, entertain, and influence. At the Gates‘ comeback album (At war with reality, 2014) is still fresh but I have listened to it enough times to be able to have a full-formed opinion about it; albeit non-comparable to their back-catalogue I consider it an awesome album full of great ideas (check out the brilliant “The head of the hydra“).

After all these awesome comebacks that happened, I imagine, for various reasons (nostalgia, creative need, friendship, habit, fame and money?), the question is “who next?”. Dismember disbanded four years ago. Although Dismember used to be my all time favorite death metal band, near the end I thought that they gave all they had to give. The last few records, although I did like them, were quite repetitive and felt a bit forced. There were a few brilliant ideas here and there, usually coming from Fred Estby (“Bleeding over“, “Chasing the serpent“, “Blood for paradise“, “Feel the darkness“) and David Blomqvist (“Questionable ethics“, “Combat fatigue“), but all in all, their main influences (Autopsy and Iron Maiden) tended to take over instead of being woven in their style, like in the early albums. Moreover, Karki’s obsession with war and militarism (especially the nazis) started to feel awkward and I would hate to see such a seminal band associated with fascism. Although a part of me wants Dismember to reunite, another part of me does not. Today, David, Fred and Christian are focusing their energy in The Dagger. Carbonized used to be one of the most brutal ambassadors of Swedish death metal. Their demos were a brutal mix of death and Grindcore. Their first album, a true masterpiece, also flirted with some weird dissonant melodies which they took further with their sophomore album. How cool would it be if Carbonized got back together and tried out some crazy death stuff! Of course, it would be extremely difficult to get Johnsson off his high horse. Comecon is another band from the 1990s which I love. Their leftist politics combined with a very unique musical style used to appeal to me in a big way. However, given that the core of the band (Pelle and Rasmus) have not done anything musical for two decades now, and since they never had a large following, I wouldn’t expect them to reform. Massacra is one of my all-time favorite bands and Signs of the decline (1992) will always be one of the most excellent albums of all time. Although I found their last two albums at best mediocre, I would love to see whether they have thirst for death metal and what they can do with it. Of course Fred is no longer with us, which I imagine makes things much more difficult. The last time I heard Jean-Mark Tristani’s name was on Dismember’s Hate Campaign promotional copy – he was the representative of the distribution company in France, or something like that. I wouldn’t mind if the Laws of the scourge (1992) era Sarcofago got back together with the desire to play some genre-defying death metal. For a while there were rumors that Unseen Terror would re-unite. Their debut and other demo songs provided the blueprint for grinding death metal, and Human error (1987) was only a powerful production away from being the definitive masterpiece of grindcore. However, given that post-Enemy Napalm Death resemble a lot old Unseen Terror, a modern Unseen Terror would sound like modern Napalm Death , so maybe there is no real need for a reunion. The band that I would love to see getting back together is Pungent Stench. Hopefully someday their un-released album from 2007 will see the light of day.

Now treat yourselves to a playlist of bands that have gone back to the grave:



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



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. 



With deadly force they take control and bring to us old school death

People who know me know that I generally have the tendency to exaggerate about things. Whenever I talk about music, for example, I use the phrase “this is the best record ever!” every 30 seconds. However, I make a conscious effort to avoid being hyperbolic when I write in this blog or elsewhere. What I mean to say is that in this post I am not exaggerating when I say that in the year 2013 Tormented is, in my opinion, the best Death Metal band from Sweden.

I have only known Tormented for a few months. One day I was wondering what happened to Andreas Axelsson, of the mighty Edge of Sanity. Edge of Sanity is a band that I have loved since the mid-90s when I started listening to death metal. The first album I ever listened from them was the newly released Crimson. I was instantly hooked. While throughout the years Swano’s various endeavours were noticed by the media (including his dreadful resurrection of Edge of Sanity in 2003) the rest of the band – namely Andreas Axelsson, Sami Nerberg, Anders Lindberg, Benny Larsson and Robban Karlsson – was nowhere to be seen. It should be noted that Swano was not the mastermind behind Edge of Sanity. Axelsson and the rest of the band contributed equally to make Edge of Sanity one of death metal’s finest. Using the invaluable online source Encyclopaedia Metallum, I found out that Axelsson formed the death metal band Tormented in 2008. Axelsson plays guitar and sings in Tormented and he is enveloped by Robban Karlsson (who sang in the excellent Cryptic after Swano’s departure) on bass, Jocke Ollund on drums and Claes Holmberg on guitar.

Tormented_image002             Robban is clearly disgusted with the photo-shoot session

It is hard to describe how much I like this band. As a person who has been longing for good old Swedish death metal for more than a decade I cannot describe what pleasure it has been to find out about this band. It is well known that since the late 90s several bands have tried to recapture the feeling of old school Swedish death metal. I remember Repugnant with their Hecatomb E.P. as one of the first bands that tried to resurrect Death metal’s rotten corpse. Bands that followed include the now popular Bloodbath and the now defunct Kaamos and Chaosbreed. None of these bands really cut it for me. The Hecatomb E.P. was pretty amazing brutal and dirty death metal and Bloodbath’s first CD was also pretty cool albeit too polished and the voice sounded too fake. Most of the bands that followed, however, I found ridiculous until the glorious arrival of Death Breath in 2006. However, even with Death Breath and although Andersson’s compositions are some of the best I have ever listened (check this out and this), some of Pehrsson’s songs felt to me kind of forced. Some other bands like Interment, Evocation and Entrails, whose origins are in the first wave of Swedish death metal but never released a record back then and have recently reformed, again do not impress me. Truth be told, these three bands are loyal to the old school and their music is honest and really good. However, to my ears they are nothing more than first-class Dismember and Entombed clones. As far as the veterans go, and as much as I like the albums that Dismember and Entombed released during the last decade, I cannot help but feel that there is something missing. In other words, I thought that I would never again get the feeling I used to get from listening to Swedish death metal when I was young.* Enter Tormented…

rottenTormented’s first album, Rotten Death (2009), is a fucken masterpiece of old school death metal. It is as if not even one day has passed since Leprosy came out. To my ears, Tormented’s debut is a tribute to Death‘s first two albums, Scream Bloody Gore (1987) and Leprosy (1988), but with a punk attitude. It is a galore of fast tempos, catchy choruses, creeping rotten slow passages and minimal haunting melodies over an angry voice that growls about gore and death. And the best thing is that it does not feel forced! It feels natural! One of the most amazing moments is on the song “Death owns the night“. Near the middle of the song (at 1:35) the raging tempo gives way to a more restrained passage where Andreas sings “his work is perfection and his art is to kill, deadly dissection, it is your blood he’ll spill”. This passage is boiling with tension which eventually erupts into an amazing riff and the chorus. The genius of this song is that the specific verse appears later on in the song but this second time the drummer keeps the fast Slayer beat. I doubt that any old death metal fan can listen to this part without going berserk! In the same song the band pays tribute to Death’s song “Leprosy” with the lyric “with deadly force they’ll take control and bring you to your death”. Another awesome part is on the super fast song “Come back from the dead“. The part I refer to is the way Andreas sings the lyric “a sea of flames is where he drowned” and the ensuing auditory massacre. The album closes with the masterpiece called “Reversed funeral” which also pays tribute to the old school of Swedish death metal by name-dropping Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed, Grave, Merciless and Unanimated. This album is, in three words, relentless, powerful and enjoyable.

Tormented-Death-AwaitsTheir second album, Death Awaits (2013) is equally amazing. The main difference between Rotten Death and Death Awaits is that the latter is much slower. If I had to compare it to an old school Swedish death metal album, that would be Grave‘s You’ll Never See (1992). On this album Tormented keep the Leprosy-era recipe of death metal combined with the heaviness and brutality of early Swedish death metal. Again the freshness of these songs is unbelievable. Every single song has awesome vocal patterns – which, by the way, are less repetitive than on their first album – and really cool structures. The way each song develops brings joy to my ears. I don’t know if that suggests that I’m just happy because a band simply managed to meet my expectations by successfully following a well trodden musical path, or whether they really enjoy what they do which is then reflected in the music. What I can say is that these songs make me feel good! The album kicks off with a song that changes moods, starting with a majestic heavy intro, moving on to a thrashy vibe which reminds of post-Morning Star Entombed and Death Breath and eventually settling to a slow and heavy apocalyptic section dragging until the end. The two very fast songs on the album, namely “Blood orgy” and “Black sky” are classic relentless death metal songs with excellent vocal patterns, buzzing fast-picking and cool choruses. The more mid-tempo/D-beat tempo songs are my favorite on the album. “Incantations of the dead” has a main riff that reeks of early Entombed, nice rhyming lyrics, and an awesome bridge that builds to the redemptory melody of the chorus. Right after the second chorus the song goes into a brilliant slow crawling section typical for Swedish death metal. “Insane with dread” is another awesome song with a driving tempo, a tense bridge, a catchy chorus and a slow section with a powerful chord progression. “Into the crypts of death” is another brilliant mid-tempo song with an amazing opening riff, a rotten main riff, a bridge which breathes Swedish death into the song, leading once again to an awesome chorus and a brutal slow section. The album closes – like their previous album – with a majestic song called “In the presence…“. The opening riff and chorus give a blackened quality to the song and the main riff is classic Autopsy (hear for example, “Ridden with disease“). This album is, in three words, majestic, powerful and enjoyable.

It is true that Tormented do not attempt to break any new ground with their music. It is also true that their style of Swedish death metal is not even as evolved as Dismember’s first two albums (1991, 1993), Entombed’s Clandestine (1991) or At The Gates’ With fear… (1993). However, an album such as Clandestine is a mystery still to this day. It is impossible to grasp its perfection. So, it would not be fair to judge other bands on the basis of trying to surpass something so indisputably perfect. Axelsson himself has been involved in albums  of sheer perfection in the past – Unorthodox, Spectral…, Purgatory…, Crimson, Cryptic – that took the genre much farther from where Tormented are today. However, what Tormented do should not be underplayed. They credibly compose and perform utterly awesome death metal with passion, conviction and no gimmicks. In this sense, they are the contemporary leaders of true Swedish death metal.

*Desultory‘s comeback album Counting our scars is an exception, as I consider it a masterpiece of Swedish death metal (check this out). They haven’t been active lately. Hopefully they will not fold again.



BOLTFEST

It is an honour to have been a part of Bolt Thower‘s 26th birthday bash. Boltfest took place at the HMV forum in London yesterday, Saturday April the 7th and for many people it was a dream that came true. It is particularly hard to find so many amazing old-school death metal bands at the same place nowadays. It certainly cannot get any heavier than this bill. Bolt Thrower, Benediction and Autopsy are the ringleaders of heaviness in Death Metal (the only one missing was Asphyx). Discharge was and is the heaviest punk band of all times. Vallenfyre, apart from being one of the best things that has happened in death metal for quite some time, manifests levels of heaviness and brutality that match the prementioned bands.

Vallenfyre started the show around 6 as scheduled. The sound was not the best, but the songs are just so brilliant that can guarantee an enjoyable performance. Gregor’s voice was excellent and he was a pretty cool frontman too (and a musical genious). They played 8 or 9 songs which included grinding treats such as Ravenous whore and Humanity wept, brutal swedish-sounding offerings such as the excellent The divine have fled and Cathedrals of dread, and heavy mounfull dirges such as the majestic Seeds and The grim Irony. They ended their set with the amazing Desecration.

Benediction blew my mind. Even though I thought I was prepared not to get very excited with any of the bands in order to have enough strength to enjoy all of them, I failed to control myself. Benediction was the first death metal band I ever heard so I have a special relationship with them. Plus, they kicked off with Unfound mortality… Other masterpieces that were performed include Nightfear, Nervebomb, Jumping at shadows, The dreams you dread (I almost died on this one), Subconsious terror, they must die screaming, nothing on the inside and the ended with Suffering feeds me. I was expecting Karl Willetts to join them on Jumping at shadows as he did on the record but he did not. Also they cut that song short, which was a bit disappointing.

I had relatively recently seen Discharge, so when they played I decided to relax a bit and have a beer with my friends. Some of the songs I saw them play include Hear nothing, see nothing, Never again, Decontrol and some new songs as well (cctv). While Discharge played I went outside to get some fresh air. There I saw Anders from Unleashed who came all the way from Sweden for the event. True Death-metalhead! So I approached him and we had a nice talk. Again, I was pretty chuffed to meet him since Unleashed has been one of my all time favourite bands since high school. Discharge kept on playing and me and my friends decided to join the ridiculously long merchandise queue.

When Autopsy came out I was at the balcony and decided to see the rest of the concert from there as I was already a bit tired and it had amazing view and, as it turned out, very good sound. Autopsy are also big heroes of mine and true geniouses. Danny must have been completely wasted and he was acting like crazy but it was actually pretty cool to look at. However, I think that the mess-up of the monumental solo on Slaughterday might have been his fault. Joe and Eric were serious and particularly Eric demanded our respect! Chris was maniacal and his voice is probably the best voice in Death Metal. Included in the 10-11 songs they played were Charred remains, gasping for air, ridden with disease, severed survival, twisted mass…, in the grip of winter, dead.

Bolt Thrower‘s entrance was very epic and their overall performance was monumental. They played songs from all their albums in chronological order. From In batttle there’s no law and Honour, value, pride they played one song – In battle there’s no law and Inside the wire respectively. From Realm of chaos, Warmaster, IVth Crusade and Mercenary they played two songs from each and three songs from For Victory and Those once loyal. The highlights of their performance, personally, were World Eater, For victory (which Karl dedicated to his newborn daughter), The Powder burns (in which they skipped the intro and went straight to the melody), At first light and the amazing ending with When canons fade. I think that the audience particulalry appreciated the more groovy songs (From Mercenary and Those ones loyal). Before the concert I told my friends that it would be great if they ended the show with When canons fade and they did! A truly breathtaking song as was the entire concert. I hope that we’ll see more of those bands in the future not only because they are all part of a scene that offered the world of music something new and exciting, but also because all are sincerely into music regardless of money and success.



Autopsy and Morbid Angel: Intolerance and conformity in the metal community

Early Summer is the time for new releases and this year these include releases from two bands that constitute cornerstones of Death Metal; I am talking of course about the new Autopsy and Morbid Angel albums.

Autopsy – Macabre Eternal

This album marks the return of one of Death Metal’s finest and most inspirational bands. However, this is hardly the truth. The spirit of Autopsy has always been burning bright after the demise of the band in 1995, through the involvement of Chis Reifert and Danny Coralles in Abscess. Although Abscess’s sound, especially in “Seminal vampires…”, is quite different from the classic Autopsy sound, it also has similarities with Autopsy’s two last albums, “Acts…” and “Shitfun”. And after ” Tormented” Abscess started sounding increasingly like the classic Autopsy. So, although Abscess were different, probably more so due to the involvement of Clint Bower who contributed amazing compositions and vocals, the philosophy is pretty much the same. Now, regarding the reformation of Autopsy… The songs written by Reifert, Coralles and Joe Trevisano on this album sound more like Abscess than traditional Autopsy. Which means that they are awesome. Danny’s song (the eponymous one) is an amazing classic Abscess bluesy/death metal song. Joe once again contributed only one song (Sewn into one) but, as in “Dawn of inhumanity”, it is one of the best songs in the album. The lyrics are inspired by the movie The human centipede and the first verse reminds me a lot of “Greenflies” by Nuclear Death! Chris’s songs are also great, as usual, although I sense a bit of repetition, thing which did not seem to be present during the Abscess years. The song “Bridge of Bones” sounds too familiar… Now about Eric Cutler. Eric wrote a few songs all by himself and some others in which Chris wrote the lyrics. On the ones Eric wrote the lyrics he also sings. These songs I cannot listen to. It is not that I don’t like his voice. I indeed dislike it and sounds nothing like 20 years ago on “Slaughterday”, but the real problem is the content of the lyrics. They give me the impression that they have been written by a five-year old person with serious psychological problems. The lyrics are plain mean. He obviously has an issue with women which he should seek expert help for. However, I have to admit that his other songs (seeds of the doomed, deliver me from sanity) with Chris’s lyrics are probably the best on the album. The music these songs have is as haunting and inspiring as those two first Autopsy albums. Cutler definitely has some amazing things to offer. Chris’s vocals are once again unique and flawless and his performance simply awesome. In conclusion, the new Autopsy album sounds to me pretty much like the average Abscess album (not the phenomenal “Through the cracks of death” though) with some nice touches of old Autopsy and some songs that I find distasteful. I am afraid that people who never gave a chance to Abscess will rally around the reformed Autopsy for the wrong reasons, which are image, reputation and conformity. Which takes me to my second review.

Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus

There is a war waged against Morbid Angel and their current musical direction by fans and critics alike. Morbid Angel are, of course, a death metal institution and there is not one contemporary death metal band that has not copied their sound, either directly (by listening to Morbid Angel) or indirectly (by listening to other bands that have copied them). Morbid Angel did not only affect bands in their own genre but their influence has crossed to other genres. Satyricon (post Rebel Extravaganza) were influenced by them and Immortal (post Blizzard beasts) too. Bands such as Vader that we now consider to be cult, have been hugely affected by Morbid Angel. Anyway, the scope of this post is not to praise Morbid Angel. Nevertheless, Illud Divinum Insanus is to my ears brilliant. The first listen of the album made me think that it was pretty good. But subsequent hearings made my skin crawl and when I started being drawn into the atmosphere of the album I even reached the point late one night to think that it is one of the best albums ever made. But it was late at night and people tend to become very emotional during these hours… I think that with this album Morbid Angel perfected what they have been trying to do for many years. All these short instrumental passages on Blessed are the sick, Covenant and Domination and later albums now fall into place and, to my ears, make a perfect impression. This album has the production and overall sound of a different era, both Ancient and Future one. But first things first… I consider Vincent’s return a very good thing for Morbid Angel. I like Vincent’s voice way better than Tucker’s, I like Vincent’s songwriting better than Tucker’s and I like his bass-playing more than Tucker’s. I find Tucker’s vocals very monotonous and hence I did not think that they fitted with Morbid Angel’s flexible and atmospheric music. Vincent on the other hand is extremely versatile and powerful. He sings with a different voice in each song, and he comes up with amazing vocal patterns. Instead of simply growling he sings properly. I still can’t get over the amazing things he did in Domination on songs like “This means war” (Tis time for reparations, tis time to settle scores…). Also he sounds like he is enjoying himself! On this new album, his brutal vocals are more varied than ever and they are a sensation. This fact alone makes the new album great. As far as the songwriting goes, there has been much debate both by the band and the fans. Some of the songs have many elements of electronic music (techno, hardcore, gabba, etc.), fact which has divided traditional death metal fans. Morbid Angel talk about innovation and about not sticking to formulas and so on. I most certainly agree with them they don’t play it safe. They do what they like even if it proves to be a career suicide. From Youtube comments and online music forums, it appears that the majority of people hate this new direction and some of the go as far as to declare it the worst metal album of all times. What most people don’t realise, however, is the difficulty to overcome established music norms and conventions. What is even more difficult is to understand a different music genre once you are unfamiliar with its subculture and the norms and conventions that come with it. Of course, Morbid Angel did not do something completely innovative. The pop (or at least traditional metal) structure of ” I am morbid” has been attempted in the past by extreme bands such as Satyricon (listen to Fuel for Hatred) and many others. Mixing extreme techno music with extreme metal music has also been perfectly done by Dodheimsgard! And of course, there are loads of industrial metal bands. Still Morbid Angel are different because they have their own unique type of sound on which these new sounds build. In the case of songs like “Too extreme” or “Mea culpa”, the infrastructure is techno and so is some of the material used for the execution, but there is the morbid angel element also creeping in the background. In the case of the brilliant “I am morbid“, the foundation is traditional/commercial Rock music, but the orchestration is Death metal. I am not reluctant to say that I am totally chuffed to listen to songs that stick in my head and make me want to sing along and at the same time make my skin crawl through Trey’s creepy riffs and insane solos. The same goes for “Radicult”. It is clearly a commercial sounding song which could be played in a club, but the music behind it is creepy and insane, and Vincent is just genius! With regard to the more straightforward death metal songs there is not much to say really. The new addition to the Band (Destructhor) has risen up to the challenge and he became a worthy replacement for Erik Rutan. The songs he wrote for the new album (Blades for Baal, Ten more dead) are magnificent. The fact that Vincent gives some of his best performances ever helps too. I cannot stop listening to these songs. The main riff of Nevermore and the way the drums come in is pure genius. Only Morbid Angel could come up with something like that. It is important to say that it is finally the combination of factors that make a song excellent. It is a very good production, an amazing drummer, a great guitarist, a great song and a great vocalist. Most new death metal bands are lacking the latter two. But Trey’s guitar playing brings tears to my eyes and Vincent sounds like a Lovecraftian god. The solo on “Blades for Ball” must be one of the best ever written.  Finally, many people didn’t like the fact that Pete Sandoval did not play (although he did write some of) the drums on this album. Initially, I did not like that either. When I heard the news a few months ago I was disappointed. Pete is undisputedly the greatest of all death metal drummers. Gene Hoglan is better than him, but he is more traditional. Pete is the definition of death metal (alongside with players such as Mike Smith of Suffocation) drummer. However, I did not like the choices he made in the last couple Morbid Angel albums regarding the sound of his drums. Furthermore, one of the reasons why I don’t like the latest Terrorizer album is his performance. Therefore, I don’t really mind that he is not present in this album. And Tim Yeung does an amazing job replicating his playing anyway. In conclusion, I consider this album a masterpiece of contemporary death metal, better and more interesting than any other band. Plus the artwork is captivating.

You come to us in torment
And we make your bodies heave
Our sounds invoke your demon
Together too Extreme!