Tag Archives: death metal

Reviews that time forgot: Gorguts- Colored Sands

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I initially wrote this review of Gorguts’ 2013 comeback album around the time of its release, but sat on it for some reason and eventually forgot about it. In the spirit of #throwbackthursday, I’ve decided to finally put it up here with some minor edits. It’s a tad effusive in its praise, but overall I stand by my initial opinion: Colored Sands was a fantastic record when it was released and it’s still fantastic two years later.

It’s rare to come across such a disconnect between a band’s name and its music as in the case of Canadian death metal pioneers Gorguts. The moniker suggests gore-soaked horror movie clichés of the kind exhibited by any number of groups in the genre’s early 90s heyday. And indeed, that’s basically what you find on their first two albums, Considered Dead (1991) and The Erosion of Sanity (1993). Both provide solid, technically sound brutality that fits neatly into established tech-death parameters, with lyrics about mortality and sickened, rotting flesh. Next to the output of scene-defining titans like Death or oddballs like Demilich, though, they can’t help but feel like entertaining but ultimately unnecessary genre exercises.

But when the band’s founder Luc Lemay unveiled a reconstituted Gorguts with all-new members on Obscura (1998), an entirely unique take on death metal was unleashed. Even for those accustomed to aural extremity, it’s still a “difficult” album. The sound is dense, teeming with complex song structures, abrasive textures and atonal solos owing more to avant-garde modernist composers than to Cannibal Corpse. The recording itself is mastered at such a loud volume that it can be literally painful to listen to. The lyrical focus on the body- vulnerable, subject to illness and decay- is not entirely abandoned, but spiritual and mental themes take precedence, thrown into relief by the transient state of corporeal existence. By comparison, the 2001 follow-up From Wisdom To Hate was almost accessible. Still bracingly experimental, but more firmly rooted in the death metal tradition of the band’s early days, the release was slightly easier for headbangers to digest, but no less essential.

The suicide of drummer Steve MacDonald in 2002 led to the band’s breakup, and the years since have been quiet. (Former guitarist Steeve Hurdle also passed on in 2012). A reunion was announced in 2009, and live dates followed, but promises of new material seemed unlikely to be met. Yet four years since that initial announcement, and bolstered by the addition of some of metal’s most talented players, the latest incarnation of Gorguts has released an album that may prove to be as much of a game-changer as Obscura was fifteen years ago.

Putting it simply, Colored Sands is ridiculously, obscenely heavy. But with tremendous skill and thought having been put into its composition and performance, it achieves almost transcendental heights. There’s still a recognisable link to the band’s earlier work, particularly in Lemay’s distinctive growl, little changed from earlier releases. But the dizzying, head-spinning guitarwork of Obscura has been welded to greater control of dynamics and expansive, inventive songwriting. The new players- drummer John Longstreth and guitar wizards Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston on lead and bass, respectively- are metal titans in their own right, and fully contribute to this progression. Skill, finesse and power inform every gnarled and twisted riff, every shift from jazzy shuffle to raging blastbeat. Marston doesn’t quite get to display the flash he brings to Krallice and Behold the Arctopus, but more than makes up for it with his songwriting contribution, the track “Forgotten Arrows”. One of the more immediate songs on the album despite its shifting tempos, its crushing coda in particular sets a new standard for heaviness. Hufnagel brings the similarly accomplished “Absconders” to the table, with a calm bridge bookended by psych-metal terror at either end.

Overall though, this is clearly Lemay’s show. Already one of death metal’s most thoughtful and reflective writers, Colored Sands represents new compositional heights for this scene veteran; the twelve years between albums have clearly not been spent idle. The lyrical focus on Tibet and its experience of being assimilated by China in 1950 pervades the album and provides a genuinely interesting context. But even if you can’t follow Lemay’s growled delivery of lines like “Onward to reach the wheel of time/A path of solitude/Embraced humbly”, the music itself has more than enough depth to keep you listening. His classical training and background on violin are channeled most directly on the album’s most radical departure, a palette-cleansing instrumental piece for string quartet. Gorguts riffs are already orchestral in their complexity and expressive nature; “The Battle of Chamdo” runs with this, playing with dynamics and tension rather than crushing the listener flat. It wouldn’t sound out of place scoring a film, or even an interpretive dance performance.

Coming midway through the album, this brief breather is about the only period of respite the band offers the listener. Thanks to the production and mastering prowess of Marston, Colored Sands is less stressful on the ears than Obscura. Unlike many modern metal albums, it doesn’t attempt to be as loud as possible, instead recording this brutal-sounding music in an almost gentle manner. Even so, much like Obscura, listening to the whole thing can be an exhausting experience. The tracks are tightly arranged yet epic in scope (song lengths are greatly extended compared to previous releases), to the extent that they become overwhelming, too much to fully process in one, or even ten listens. If you play it on crappy headphones through your phone, you’ll miss most of the magic. You either listen to Gorguts with your attention fully focused, or you don’t really hear it at all.

But for this reviewer at least, an overabundance of inspiration is preferable to a dearth of it. And it’s refreshing for a band that now qualifies as “retro” to embrace an old-school album listening experience, while still pushing their music forward. Like any of the band’s releases, Colored Sands does not reveal itself all at once, and in the many times I’ve listened to it already I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. Even if it takes years to fully get to grips with, though, it will be time well spent.

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Sigh- Graveward

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I recently came across a Youtube video that helped me to articulate why it is that, ten years after its release, Metal Gear Solid 3 is still one of my favourite videogames ever, not just because it’s fun to play but because of its story and how it’s told. In it, the host explains how the game is a great example of camp entertainment, which earnestly attempts to convey an emotionally complex narrative and provoke thought about political questions, but also embraces the conventions of cheesy 60s spy flicks, and pits you against a man who shoots bees out of his mouth. It avoids the sometimes po-faced air of its predecessors, but the realistic and the ridiculous aspects are both presented equally straight-faced. We go in expecting mindless fun, and we get that in spades, but the game’s emotional moments are also more affecting because of the contrast with its sillier moments, and especially because the latter are treated with the same care, attention and seriousness as the former, not just tossed off as little “aren’t we clever” jokes.

What does all this have to do with veteran avant-garde metallers Sigh, then? Just like MGS3, the band’s music works as camp entertainment that is still genuinely enjoyable. They’re not deliberately trying to make you laugh with their over-the-top symphonic arrangements, or think “what the fuck is this?” when they take a bizarre detour into some unexpected genre, but for all their technical skill and conviction, their latest album Graveward does all of those things. Like other great metal bands, though, the camp factor is not a drawback, but a virtue. Whether you can take it seriously or not, the album sweeps you along for a ride that combines all the extremity of death and black metal with a strong melodic centre*. For all the occasionally comical vocal deliveries, its thematic obsession with death and the terror it inspires draws the listener in to actually listen to the lyrics and consider what they mean. For someone like me, who generally focuses more on metal’s wicked sick riffs than its often unintelligible vocals, that’s no mean feat. I would argue that, similarly to MGS3, Sigh use camp not to make audiences laugh, but to disarm their expectations about what heavy metal is and should sound like, so that the emotional and thematic content they want to convey has more of an impact.

Of course, labelling this music “camp” carries the implication of incompetence on some level, which is neither fair nor accurate. Sigh have always been tremendously skilled musicians, and ringleader Mirai Kawashima in particular has a gift for composition that few in extreme metal can match. I normally can’t stand power metal or the symphonic end of black metal at all, and yet when Sigh fold these influences into their sound it’s somehow irresistible. It’s not that the band make these touchstones sound less cheesy or ridiculous- they still are those things, they’re just welded to such strong melodies that they sound exuberant rather than pompous or laboured. Across the album Kawashima crafts songs that take you on a journey from dizzying symphonic highs to quiet, contemplative lows, the latter giving you space to breathe and prepare for the next burst of activity. The bridge halfway through the title track is a great example, building up from soft, spooky synths and somehow making subtle use of double-bass drumming before guitars come in to drag us back into the fray.

Speaking of guitars, special mention should be made of recent recruit You Oshima. Any wariness fans might have felt about some upstart replacing founding guitarist Shinichi Ishikawa has thankfully been proven unnecessary; Oshima fits perfectly into the Sigh milieu. From the very start of opener “Kaedit Non Pestis”, his shredding ability is on full display, and he proves equally adept at the melodic leads and chunky riffs littering every track, branching out beyond archetypal metal guitar sounds with a variety of tones to keep things fresh. More important than mere ability, however, is that he plays like he’s on a Sigh album, serving the needs of the song as opposed to just showing off. It’ll be interesting to see how his role in the band develops on future albums, but he’s definitely off to an assured start here.

Regardless of the band’s enviable pool of talent, Sigh has always been Mirai Kawashima’s baby: like any good bandleader, he knows how to make best use of his players, but the group’s vision is unquestionably his own. And what a gloomy vision it is. Sigh albums have long been fixated on death, but beginning with its title, Graveward seems especially so. If metal subgenres were defined by lyrical focus rather than increasingly rigid sonic identifiers, his work would be death metal through and through, and far more evocative of the terror of dying than a thousand gore-obsessed tryhards. Which is not to suggest that he treats the subject with more subtlety than others. “The Forlorn” is an especially morbid tale, with the narrator’s increasingly panicked proclamations that “I am not dead” attempting to deny an obvious truth as much as convince those around him. The track’s howls, wails and sobs are only the hammiest of many hammy vocal deliveries, and yet this camp treatment of the subject is, again, more affecting than death metal clichés of zombies, dismemberment or full-scale armageddon. The theatrics might suggest that we’re in parody territory, but this first-person horror is delivered without irony, no wink to the audience; the juxtaposition of seriousness and silliness is what makes it work so well. And while it might be Kawashima’s show, he’s not the only voice on display. Across the album, he’s offset by an increased use of vocalist/saxophonist Dr Mikannibal’s quasi-operatic singing, handling the high notes while he growls away. Her delivery might be something of an acquired taste, but it certainly fits the orchestral surroundings, and helps contrast Kawashima’s somewhat more typically metal vocals.

In terms of pacing, the album is a noticeable improvement on 2012’s In Somniphobia. That album featured a couple of the most concise and exciting songs of the band’s entire career, but was somewhat dragged down by a seven-song suite that, for all its strengths, got somewhat exhausting by the end of its 40-plus minutes. Graveward is lean by comparison, with most songs staying just over or under five minutes and only one exceeding seven. The sprawl is reduced, but not the scope- there’s still a lot going on in those shorter running times, with the same amount of bombast and excess as Somniphobia compressed into a more immediate form. Rather than stacking fast-paced thrashers one after the other, the pacing is more deliberate, with slower, moodier pieces and transitions to let us catch our breath before something like “Out of the Grave” takes it away again. The aforementioned breathing space in each song is represented on a macro as well as a micro level; the flow from song to song is reflected within the songs themselves. (The only real pacing issue, and the  only place Graveward fails compared to its predecessor is the abrupt ending to final track “Dwellers in Dreams”, which closes the affair not with a bang or a whimper, but a confused “huh?”)

Every review of Graveward I’ve seen has commented on its idiosyncratic production, and it seems important to do so here as well, since it does have the potential to affect your enjoyment quite a lot depending on how much it distracts you. There’s more dynamic range on display than a metal listener might be used to when the current emphasis seems to be on making everything as loud as possible. That seems like it should be a good thing, but at times it sounds as though the volume levels on different instruments are being mixed more or less at random, and the many, many layers of synths sometimes threaten to drown out everything else. There’a a wealth of musical riches to be found here, but they might not be evident on the first, second or third listen while you acclimatise yourself to the aural landscape.

If you’re not already a fan of the band’s funhouse-mirror version of extreme metal, Graveward is not going to be the album to change your mind, particularly if the production puts you off. For those of us strangely drawn to the camp, theatrical musical world they create though, all of that is what makes them so compelling. For better or worse, no one else sounds like Sigh.

Graveward is out now on Candlelight Records. Watch the video for “Out of the Grave” below.

 

                           

* After struggling for a while to come up with an appropriate description for Sigh’s particular microgenre, I’ve ending up settling on “videogame metal”. Since bringing more and more outre elements into their original, traditionally black metal sound with every album, they now recall nothing more than the soundtrack to a Final Fantasy game from an alternate universe where that series hasn’t descended into self-parody.

Bölzer, the swastika and ill-advised reclamation

Like most things in life, I caught on late to Bölzer, the Swiss death/black metal duo whose music has been received rapturously by metal critics over the last year or so. But having listened to a track off their soon-to-be-released Soma EP, I quickly came to the conclusion that the hype was justified. With a teeming, overwhelming sound for a two-piece, aided by refreshingly naturalistic, analogue production, both of the band’s short releases to date show a lot of promise, at times bringing to mind a version of Blut Aus Nord that favours direct bursts of aggression over long-form experimentation. It’s little wonder that these recordings, and a smattering of well-received live shows, have metal sites the world over eagerly awaiting a full album.

But, given recent events involving other underground bands who turned out to hold extremist views, a part of me was cautious about becoming too enthusiastic. What if this group, too, had some skeletons in their closet? In an extreme metal world that more often than not fails to adequately defend against the infiltration of dangerous far right ideology, this caution is not always excessive.

And then, last night, I came across an interview with the band on Stereogum that seemed as though it might confirm some of these fears. Among various other topics, interviewer Kim Kelly questioned guitarist/singer Okoi Jones (aka KzR) about tattoos of his depicting swastikas, as well as other symbols used by ancient religions. I have excerpted the relevant passages below:

STEREOGUM: I have one more question. I wanted to talk about your tattoos, specifically the swastikas and sunwheels. I know you and I know what you’re about, but not everyone who sees you play has that background. I want to just get it all out there before anyone sees a picture of you and makes assumptions. So. What’s up with the swastikas?

KzR: Please, I’m very happy you asked me because only a few people have asked me in interviews and I’m more than happy to tell people because I don’t want to be misunderstood. My sunwheels, my swastikas, my whatever you call them, it’s an ancient symbol used by basically every culture on this planet at some time or another for more or less the same reason, to express their adoration for the sun, the solar power. Most of them were sun-worshipping peoples, or held respect for the balance of the sun. It’s also a lunar symbol in itself for the sun cultures. Its right or left form reversed is a lunar symbol, too, and it’s a female as well as a male symbol; it represents a lot of different energies. It’s a continuum, it can be a destructive force, it takes a lot of natural philosophies into one. If you read about it, it’s really fascinating.

(…)

STEREOGUM: It also recently dawned on me that the title of your much-loved song “Entranced By The Wolfshook” is actually referencing the wolf’s hook symbol, which has got a very heavy history of usage by the Nazis as well as in Hermann Löns’ book Der Wehrwolf and by forestry workers in Germany. You even incorporate the wolf’s hook into the Bölzer logo itself. Can you tell me why you decided to highlight that particular symbol?

KzR: Indeed, man’s lusting for power is as a wolf’s for meat … often leading to self destruction. For us the wolf’s hook, or Wolfsangel, is one of the many symbols of antiquity to become caustically stigmatized as a result of their usage within a fascist-era Europe, something we are soberingly aware of but do not condone. Enough systematic cultural lobotomization has taken place in the past to make any such further demonization of values and symbolism acceptable within a modern and supposedly tolerant society. We promote the growth and enlightenment of the individual, the last thing on our agenda would be to glorify the implements of power involved in the collective enslavement of a people and their individualism. Fascism and racism in that sense are pretty unattractive for us.

Given my previous writing on another band’s association with Nazism and related imagery, some readers might expect that I would be quick to similarly label Jones a neo-Nazi as well. In this case, however, I am not entirely sure that this is so- at least, not yet. It is true that a white person with tattoos of a symbol that has come to be associated with perhaps the world’s most infamous fascist regime is extremely suspicious. The dig at “modern and supposedly tolerant society” also rings at least a couple of alarm bells- it does not seem to come from a position critiquing the hypocrisy of modern capitalist societies which preach the rhetoric of tolerance while still remaining fundamentally unequal and white supremacist in nature. And despite Jones’ proclamation that his band favours individualism over the collectivism of fascist ideologies, and the implication that they are therefore opposed to Nazism, this could be merely a cover for the truth. As contradictory as it seems, the rhetoric of individualism is not always incompatible with fascism, as can be seen in the phenomenon of libertarian types allying or forging ideological links with far-right movements. Certainly, his explanation comes off better than the infamously incoherent equivocation offered by Inquisition’s Jason Weirbach when asked whether he was a neo-Nazi– it would be hard to come up with something worse. But this could simply indicate that Jones is better at hiding his true beliefs than Weirbach.

Nonetheless, I do not think there is conclusive evidence here to declare with reasonable certainty that Okoi Jones is a white supremacist or a neo-Nazi. While there was at least one eyewitness account of the fascist views of Inquisition’s members to add to the evidence of Nazi and anti-semitic imagery and allusions in that band and its associated side projects, nothing similar has yet appeared in relation to Bölzer, at least as far as I am aware. As such, the possibility remains that the band’s leader may be “merely” extremely ignorant of the swastika’s impact, and genuinely (if misguidedly) attempting to “reclaim” the symbol’s older meaning. While I remain skeptical of Jones’ explanation and half-expect to hear more questionable statements in future, I am not yet prepared to suggest that we shun the band immediately.

This does not mean, however, that the best case scenario- that Jones is extremely misguided, rather than an outright fascist- is a harmless one. The fact remains that, in spite of its thousands of years of use in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, as well as in ancient Europe, the swastika is mostly associated in present-day Europe and North America with Nazism and other fascist and far-right movements. It is extremely unlikely that its appearance in a tattoo on a white person will be taken as anything other than support for those movements and their associated violence against marginalised peoples, given the white supremacist views that lurk in such circles.  The Third Reich’s heinous crimes are not even a century old; it seems impossible to hope that isolated efforts to detoxify or reclaim the symbol they appropriated will have any effect after such a short time. And if such a reclamation were to be attempted, it seems far more appropriate that it would be spearheaded by the religious movements who used it in the past* than by people in a musical subculture which has a frankly shameful record in terms of combating the sort of ideology that corrupted the symbol’s meaning in the first place.

As such, regardless of whatever Jones’ intentions are, his usage of an ancient symbol tainted by fascist ideology and its accompanying brutality cannot hope to achieve what he seems to want them to. His championing of individualism in the Stereogum interview leads me to believe that he would fervently disagree with this view, perhaps claiming that his personal motives and interpretations of the symbols should override what others would assume based on what they see (and I’ve no doubt that commenters on this piece will offer similar defences). Unfortunately, I am not swayed by these arguments, which seem to imply a person’s intentions have the magical ability to erase any harm that might arise from their actions. Like it or not, when used in the form of a tattoo on a person who looks like Jones, the swastika is likely to mean only one thing to a survivor of the Holocaust, or to a member of any group targeted by contemporary fascists. Even if his intentions genuinely are to use this symbol in a way entirely unrelated to fascism, history looms larger than our individual desires.


* The swastika is, of course, still frequently used throughout Asia, where its association with the region’s religions is stronger than the taint of Nazism. It should go without saying that this cultural context is vastly different from the situation in Europe, and that any talk of reclamation applies primarily to areas where the symbol is still a reminder of a horrific regime and the crimes it committed.

Dawa Drolma- XI MMXIII

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As I mentioned in my last post, most of my prior reviews here have focused on fairly mainstream releases (as much as there is a “mainstream” in extreme metal). I thought I’d start to redress that balance by highlighting the latest, extremely limited release from an artist I’ve had the good fortune to become acquainted with in recent weeks: Portland, Oregon musician Zareen Katherine Price.

Working under the pseudonym Dawa Drolma, Price has unleashed a slew of splits, demos and EPs over the past year. Mostly released on extremely small runs of cassette tapes (though also available via Bandcamp), these projects have covered a wide swath of the extreme musical spectrum, while also incorporating more reflective, melodic influences; the pensive acoustic collection Chasms, under the project name Complin, is one of my favourites in the latter vein.

With the latest entry in her MMXIII series of cassettes, though, Price focuses more on crushing listeners under foot. XI showcases one song each by her heavy projects Gulag (death metal or “war metal”, a genre tag I’m still unsure as to the meaning of) and Cronesmoon (avant-garde black metal). These divergent strands of extremity allow Price to show off her versatility and musical prowess to the fullest (she performs everything bar drums on both pieces). The vocals for each song are perhaps the biggest point of difference: the bottom-of-the-throat growls on Gulag’s “Icosahedral Keys to the Fleshly Gate” and the howling rasp of Cronesmoon’s “Sister Tongues of Rain” are both deployed with equal aplomb. The former employs halting, stop-start dynamics, building up a head of steam through barrelling riffs only to come to a sudden halt, to ratchet up the listener’s unease and tension. Cronesmoon employs similar dynamics when switching between passages, but the focus here is more on high-register tremolo-picked figures, separated by an anxious-sounding bridge about a minute and a half in.

There’s continuity, though, in the lo-fi production on both pieces, which enhances the menacing, dark feeling without descending into unlistenability. The Cronesmoon song is particularly well-done, with raw and stripped-down guitars that are nonetheless much fuller than the thin, needling sound often associated with underground black metal. The elliptical lyrics Price wrote for each song also share the same poetic sensibility. Nothing is spelled out, and nothing needs to be- the point is to draw your own conclusions from enigmatic metaphors like “My word is erased/with spit and stone/Hollowed and cleaned/like an egg emptied of yolk” (“Icosahedral”) and “the sky speaks to me through the earth/rolling her tongues across my skin” (“Sister Tongues of Rain”). As fun as Death Metal English can be at times, it’s refreshing to hear words that revel in ambiguity welded to musical extremity.

XI is just one of the many strong, forward-thinking releases put out under the Dawa Drolma name this year. Even if you’re unable to obtain one of the extremely limited physical copies of this series, I’d urge my readers to at least check it out in digital form, and consider supporting an underground artist who deserves much, much more attention.

Check out the XI MMXIII release here, or visit the Dawa Drolma Bandcamp page to listen to more of Zareen’s work. 

Vastum- Patricidal Lust

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(Note: this post will be looser and less detailed than my previous album reviews. I only heard this release yesterday and wanted to write about it in time for its release today, which may impact on the quality of this piece. If you’re still interested, read on.)

Those who have read my articles on metal, feminism and patriarchy might be familiar with the Post-Zeitgeist blog and its articles on the relation between extremity and reflection in extreme music. As entertaining as the musical equivalent of a mindless slasher flick can be, I am always slightly disappointed with music that seeks only to wallow in tropes of shock, disgust and tasteless offence. There’s nothing wrong with using those elements in music, but without any thought applied to them, they ring hollow. For me, Post-Zeitgeist hits the nail on the head with the observation that “if there is a problem with extremity, it is due to an absence of reflection. Unreflexive extremity is essentially a form of violence, a string of actions with accelerating intensity occurring regardless of the context (people, environment, society) which it is situated.” It seems as though it’s often easier for death metal groups in particular to craft technically complex, adventurous instrumental parts than it is for them to apply the same reflective tendency to their concepts and lyrics.

Thankfully, there are bands out there using the vocabulary of extreme metal in interesting ways, putting thought and consideration into their lyrical themes. San Francisco death metallers Vastum slot squarely into this category on their debut full-length Patricidal Lust. Sexual and erotic themes are nothing new for the genre, and the album’s over-the-top Freudian cover art (by the always-in-demand Paolo Girardi) makes it clear that this band, too, deal in the dark, murky side of the libido, rather than taking the opportunity to subvert a traditionally negative genre to highlight positive aspects of sexuality. What is different, however, is the conceptual depth Vastum approach their chosen topic with. In a revealing interview with Invisible Oranges, vocalist Daniel Butler and guitarist/vocalist Leila Abdul-Rauf hint at the approach they took to creating the album’s queasy, unsettling mood:

Daniel: I tend to distinguish between erotic and sexual, “sexual” being an invention of late nineteenth-century human sciences. So there is a kind of dialectic between the sexual and the erotic in that we are sexed through language and culture, that we are in a sense violated by language, involuntarily submitted to it, which is an intrusion, a penetration; but that there is an excess that is not contained by the sexual and this excess is the erotic. This is horrifying beyond representation. It is the nameless and faceless dread that trumps any kind of horror one can experience directly. Only an indirect approach, an oblique one, captures this kind of horror — and even then this horror is only captured in the negative, in something that is not, something repudiated and impossible to integrate, something that resists symbolization. 
(…)
Leila: For me, images of perversion are expressed not in isolation but are embedded within a larger context of an experience that is indescribable, confusing, or difficult to put into words. These images are just hints, or flashes of the larger horror moving invisibly in the darkness.

Since their vocals are performed in the traditional cookie monster style, and I have not been able to find lyrics for any of their songs, it is not feasible for me to discuss concrete examples of topics the band approaches in this post. Despite this, and the fact that the Vastum lyrics that have been released conform largely to the ponderous, deliberately convoluted “Death Metal English” style, it appears clear that the band tackle the dark side of human sexuality with thoughtfulness and consideration. If nothing else, they get points simply for naming a song “Incel”, a reference to the online collective of “involuntarily celibate” sadsacks who blame literally everything except themselves (but mostly women and feminism) for their inability to attract partners*.

The uneasy mood conjured by Vastum’s lyrics and vocals is matched by their technical, yet relentlessly groove-based music. The closest comparison I can think of, in terms of modern bands utilising a mostly slow- or mid-paced variation on old-school death metal sounds, is the UK’s Grave Miasma, who Butler praises in the aforementioned IO interview. While both are similar in terms of their production choices, deliberate pacing and rejection of the show-off histrionics of contemporary tech-death, Vastum are somewhat more focused on driving grooves and chugging, palm-muted riffs than the more atmospheric, ritualistic tendencies of GM. Both bands are adept at conjuring a slow descent into horror in the minds of listeners, but the US group are somewhat more direct and visceral.

Even before the release of Patricidal Lust, 2013 was an excellent year for forward-thinking death metal, not least due to outstanding comebacks from genre pioneers Carcass and Gorguts. With this accomplished debut, however, Vastum have proved themselves worthy of a place among that pantheon. I can’t wait to hear what else this reflective, considered yet still defiantly extreme band have to offer.

Patricidal Lust comes out today on 20 Buck Spin. For a stream of the album and a brief, but insightful band interview, check out the Invisible Oranges article I mentioned here.

                                                 

* If, like me, you can’t stop picking at scabs, you might enjoy the @PUAhate_txt Twitter account, a collection of the more egregious of the many egregious comments made by incel adherents on their fora and message boards.

Extreme Conditions Demand Youtube Links

Just realised I probably ought to have linked to the albums I discussed in the previous post. So here, have some links