“It feels it hath been buried under the ashes of aeons!”, whispered I in amazement to malaise personified as I pried its dusty sarcophagus open with the crowbar of divine knowledge. Angst, this song’s for you.
It seems only yesteryear I made a post that hasn’t involved some manner of review or another, and that just ain’t right. I would like to take a moment to bring myself back to the type of posts I made in the olden days. The ones where I gave a status update, mainly detailing what I’ve been listening to or thinking about. If you missed them, you’re in luck, but if not, then there’s always next time.
It has come to my own attention recently that I’ve gone cold-turkey as far as affiliating with any subculture. If you know me, then you’re aware that I once called myself and to a certain extent acted like your ordinary Metalhead; clumsy afro-headbanging, horn-hailing, going out of my way to complement someone on their shirt whether or not I actually knew the band, and a fervent anti-Hardcore mosdancing stance. I had a good time, yes, but eventually it came time to realize that I wasn’t cut out to keep my pinky and index extended toward a band, regardless of genre, just cos y’know, Metal. In time, as I slowly lessened my dependence on the salute of steel, I also became less willing to lay my life on the line for Metal itself. If I try listening to a Death Metal band I had never heard before and it doesn’t immediately capture my interest, I don’t pursue it. Thrash? Don’t mind if I don’t, since it begins to sound painfully samey after a few hundred bands. Black Metal still has a shot, as long as it goes beyond pots’n’pans in the dårk førest or is otherwise experimental. As far as Gothic Metal goes, if it’s not Tiamat or Therion, chances are I won’t give it a second glance. “War Metal”? Keep out with that fucken shit.
In short, Metal just doesn’t captivate me in that same essential fashion the way it used to when I went under the tag Metalhead. And this does not mean that I was never truly into the music, or am not now, because that would just make me a faker on a monumental scale. Had I continued espousing everything “fuckin’ metal” for the sake of consistency, then I would be a poser in the truest sense. I’m not gonna regale you with all the points I made in the post where I explained why I no longer call myself a Metalhead, but you get the idea.
I’ve had an epiphany in recent months regarding how being part of a subculture, or “scene”, can really affect how one chooses to view others. Belonging to a scene, in my experience, was restricting, you have to dislike or even ignore people from others even though you’re in the same boat as outcasts. It hearkens back to the Catholic/Protestant divide, but far sillier because usually people don’t die. Usually.
Different shades of alternative cultures are always at pains to identify and make fun of the “others”. I don’t really see the point in allying oneself to a “counterculture” if the main activity is to trash others behind their backs for doing what they do. Clandestinely snickering at scene kids, pointing out “poser punx”, making fun of how Hardcore kids like to mosh versus your own way, saying “look at that fuckin’ mallgoth”, or bashing Metalheads; All are tired and vain ways to wile away one’s time that could be spent making friends with whoever you deem to be interesting or even better, just paying attention to what you enjoy. Making bloodsport of what you hate without even the self-awareness to see that it’s pointless is so widespread a malady that fabled Greek tragedians would be fain base a comedy around this phenomenon.
I am in no way proposing that no one ally himself or herself with a subculture; By all means, if you enjoy headbanging along to Reign In Blood with a group of buddies, do so. If you like slamming around in dingy basements with people that spend equal time drinking cheap beer and not showering, be my guest. If you’re all about feathered hair and shirts that are coloured like a box of Fruity Pebbles vomited on a robot unicorn, you are quite free to. If you’re all about The Decemberists or Kanye West, Lady Gaga or mainlining Emmure’s entire discography, that’s your life. Just know that even though my latest preferred mode of dress leans heavily towards Allston gutter rat, I’ve refrained from carrying any sort of subcultural banner, because to be frank, I can’t see myself fitting in perfectly with any of them. Just take a peek at my last.fm, and see that while it is mainly Metal, Rock, Hardcore or related veins, I’d never be accepted into any particular group if my eligibility were judged by scrobbles, though truth be told, I kind of like it that way.
My main reason for this distancing myself from any particular label unless humour calls for it was an evaluation of the types of people that I get along with, which turned out to be a little bit of everything. I can converse with a Metalhead, a Pop Punk kid, a Hardcore kid, a straight up Punk, and even “normies” with equal awkward deftness. Then it hit me: If I am equally daft around an Indie leaning person as I am with someone who is mainly into Metal, Punk, Hip-Hop, what have you, then why bother walking around with a tag that says “Hello, My Name Is Sean and I’m a Fucken Hipster”? It’s the focus on the outward appearance or subculture that one identifies with rather than the content of that person’s character that leads to bullshit like the Punk vs. Metal wars of the 80s, the anti-Scene kid fervor of today, and the Sophie Lancaster murder of 2007. It goes without saying, and is well into the realm of cliché, but it rings true nonetheless: If you don’t like it, don’t pay attention to it, and if you’re gonna jock someone for their preferences, make it quick, and above all make it funny, cos you’re no better than anyone else.
This video of Trash Talk taking the stage to play “Radicals” with Odd Future is a great example of how subculture barriers can break down to participate in a superb instance of countercultural unity. Whether or not you like OF, my point stands, so no bitching.
Whether they were Hardcore Kids, Punks, Hip-Hop fans, “Hipsters”, or what have you, when the chorus of “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” emitted from the speakers, they all feel it in the same way, they all shout along with equal passion and vitriol towards the majority that tells them to dress normally, cut their hair, act like everyone else. I fail to see how when all subcultures basically share the same base view of the norm being boring, they insist on arguing about which one hates cops more. Get out of your scene, or stop fighting with others. Enjoy yourself by your own rules, not by how other people say you should, least of all your friends, because real friends transcend genre.
Endless Procession Of Souls (Century Media)
Let me tell you how good of a band GRAVE is; They’re the kind of catchy, nasty, no-frilly laces Swedish Death Metal that almost made me want to go to the MORBID ANGEL/DARK FUNERAL show just to witness live. I very well could have, but I must be conservative with money, you see. GRAVE’s running not only on ten full-length albums, but associations with other legendary Swedeath bands like THERION (old, of course), ENTOMBED, and THE PROJECT HATE MCMXCIX, so yes, they have what may be called a career. Look ’em up on LinkedIn. The question that arises is, how does Endless Procession Of Souls measure up to everything else in the Death Metal scene after existing for over a quarter of a century?
It pains me to say it’s quite underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent album, packed to the bursting point with groovy headbangers, pooka-pooka-pooka circle pit bits, and classic slowdowns that will get a good zombie mosh going. Though these elements are used well by guys who clearly know their craft, they almost seem to be resting on their laurels and not trying their best anymore. For the first song or three, you’re finger-drumming along and whatnot, clearly diggin’ where it’s going, but by them time you’ve reached “Flesh Epistle”, you’re already wishing they’d either try something different or just begin eating each other.
One hearkens back to the Into The Grave, where they simply blazed through the album in an idiotic brutal frenzy, armed with can-of-bees production and guitars that sounded like gore soaked chainsaws, or Fiendish Regression, which saw them move in a slightly different direction from the standard Swedeath sound, while still maintaining what made GRAVE entertaining. Now, it just feels like something’s missing. Something that could ideally turn just another Swedish Death Metal album into a masterpiece that would re-claim their spot on the throne as the kings of all that is ugly in Sweden.
One glaring weakness is the vocals. Where the fuck did the intensity run off to? I’m guessing it was stolen by Travis Ryan of CATTLE DECAPITATION fame. While I’m not one to trash bands, AUTOPSY’s vocals, as far as I have been exposed to them, grate on my senses, and I feel like even I could have done a better job at the mic. GRAVE, while they’ve never had a bad vocal performance as far as I’m concerned, have done much better in the past, and it begs the question as to why Ola decided to neuter himself with the standard everyman style of Swedish Death Metal vocals that you’d probably hear on an UNLEASHED record.
Speaking of UNLEASHED, they get dangerously close to sounding like them on this record. UNLEASHED does what they do best, which is writing and playing songs about Vikings, war, Norse mythology, and evil stuff, who knows, really. GRAVE is just supposed to be all about death and rotting stuff. While the music is not entirely unsuitable for a zombie invasion (though I’d personally pick a better album that Endless Procession), the lyrics could easily be swapped out with nothing but tank bombardments and trench warfare. Not only is the music and atmosphere created uninspired, but they insist on using the same songwriting techniques over and over and over. How many times can you have every instrument cut out aside from the guitars to segue into a Thrashy part, or have a slowdown section with a random solo over it, or recycle the same punky Swedeath section that we all know by heart with a slightly different SLAYER police siren solo over it? Not enough times, if you ask GRAVE.
The highlights are few and far between, but the straight up Thrash section in “Perimortem”, as well as the consistenly doom-tinghed crawl of the closing track “Epos” are welcome change-ups from the endless procession of tired riffing and cut’n’paste drum patterns from the Swedish Death Metal handbook. While it’s still a well-produced bit of face-ripping from a band that was crucial in inventing the formula, the mediocre outweighs the good.
The verdict: It would be better with fresh ideas, more gore, and a production that made it sound like it was recorded in a tin shack dripping with fungus.
By Sean “That Black Metal Dude” Genovese
Since I was unable to attend Ghost due to unforseen technicalities of the show selling out variety, I’ll be forced to divert my energy to a post that would be dedicated to them, but is now going to focus on a band that has a long history and is equally visual, though not nearly as spooky. Therion is a band you may not know or care much about, given that they are “Opera Metal”, and are quite unashamed of this fact. However, I’m here to be the lone whippoorwill excitedly chirping whenever I hear a tune by them, and lemme tell ya why.
First off, they used to sound like this:
Damn fine Swedeath of the cask strength variety eh? You’d certainly label them akin to early Tiamat, Entombed, Grave, and all the other bands with spaghetti guitar strings that resembled a large hog’s grunting rather than an instrument. Therion is a band that likes to operate through extremes, and there will be no compromise or middle ground with them, unless it’s Symphony Masses, which displayed some weaker Death Metal influence and the creeping influences of Classical, Prog/Jazz, and bladerblah that has become associated with their name. I’m sure that if you know of Therion, you’re used to hearing things like this
Sweet ambrosia. It begs me to ask, why the hatred of this band? Certainly they have a little something for a lot of different audiences. Power Metal in some of their faster songs, Progressive Metal on any album that isn’t their first two, straight up Death Metal in their first three or four releases, hints of Thrash and Doom scattered here and there, frequent audial homages to traditional Heavy Metal, Psychadelic Rock, and an aesthetically pleasing Gothic flair that only the most closed-minded among you would shun as homosexual and an aberration to all that is manly and Dave Matthews.
Whatever your reason for disliking this band, I certainly hope it’s not because they’re “gay”, since that is a well established fact. Just look at them!
Therion may be a bit overblown and get carried away trying to sound huge, but if that’s not the spirit of Metal to you, I think you’ll be fain to seek comfort in the wobbly hi-grav ritualism of dubstep. And with that, I have no clue how I will view this writing tomorrow, but it’ll most likely be the same reaction someone gives H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors: Mind breaking terror and the realization I am doomed to eternity in eldritch hell. I’m off to bed, and depending on your time zone, you should be too. I think next time I’ll do another Wacky Band thingy, but that’s only if I can come up with at least 5 made-up words. Adieu.