Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Never Realized How Much a Mastodon Resembles a Wooly Mammoth

So what's the big metal news of late? Oh yeah, Mastodon's new album dropped yesterday. I don't feel like typing up a review so I will give you a quick rundown. It's awesome. It is much less metal, and way more prog than they have ever been. The vocals are all clean and there are organy style keyboards. If you are one of those folks who want Remission Part 2, well sorry. If you like the song off Leviathan called Hearts Alive (my personal favorite Mastodon track) then you will love it. Big, epic, prog-rock with metal flourishes. But it still sounds distinctly like Mastodon.

While listening to it today I noticed something. There are multiple songs where they have parts that sound almost identical to other songs by other bands. I am not accusing them of plagarism, but there are a good number of ripped off parts. I think most of these were accidental or subliminal, but many devotees of heavy music will catch them.

1. In song 3, Quintessence, there is a vocal melody that is exactly like a song from an old Baltimore post-punk band called Onespot Fringehead. This vocal melody is very unique, so to hear the same note progression really made me take notice. The chance that this was intentional is probably zero, as maybe 100 people can still remember old songs by Onespot Fringehead.

2. In song 4, The Czar, there are background vocals that go "Ahhhhhhh.......Ahhhhhhhh". The tone and duration sound identical to some vocals off a song on the Rated R album by Queens of the Stone Age.

3. Song 5, Ghost of Karelia, has two dopplegangers. The first is a guitar part that is almost identical to a Tool song of off Lateralus (I think- it could be another album). Anyhow, if you like Tool you will notice this. The second is a vocal melody that comes straight from a song by dancey, punk band Death From Above 1978. Again, probably way coincidental.

4. Song 6, Crack the Skye, has some splaining to do. The verses are exactly like the verses of a Neurosis song off their Times of Grace album. This one can't be overlooked. The Mastodon boys are devoted Neurosis fans (I mean, really, who isn't?) and I have heard them espouse their love for this record on TV. They might as well fess up. Neurosis won't mind and will probably be flattered, as I think they are friends.

Anyhow, I'm not pointing this out to disgrace Mastodon or to disparage their new record. I love it, I think it is rad as shit. I just have never heard anything on a Mastodon record in the past that I had heard before from other bands and it threw me for a loop.

Am I nuts or has anyone else noticed these similarities?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Aura Noir- Hades Rise

So I picked this up because they are playing at the Maryland Deathfest 2009 (see you there) and am trying to familiarize myself with as many bands as I can before I go. I knew nothing about them or what they sounded like. Holy shit, these dudes are awesome. I don't know how to describe it, but to say it is sorta thrash, but not uber technical in the Metallica or Testament kinda way. It is kinda like European bands from back in the day like Kreator. But it mostly reminds of what I can only call "proto-death". This is a term I use for bands like Venom and Hellhammer who helped to mold this entire genre. When I call Aura Noir "proto-death", I guess I mean they sound old-school. Back when thrash and early death metal were kinda the same. They have killer heavy hooks and sound grimey and filthy. And a lot of fun. This is a headbanging treasure trove. This is just plain metal: rockin', kinda evil with a distinct black metal bent, and catchy as all hell. The vocals are reminiscent of Lemmy. And the guitar tone is excellent. The album sounds great. This a great beer drinking, horns throwing, rock and roll experience. I can't recommend it enough.

After getting my mind blown by this album, I did some research on the band. Turns out that the guitarist is Blasphemer from Mayhem, whose guitar work I find very unique and interesting. Then I find out the drummer used to be in Enslaved. Then I find out that Fenriz from Darkthrone contributed vocals on one of their older records. No wonder this is amazing. This is like the Traveling Wilburys of black metal. Wow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sexual Archtypes and Extreme Metal

So as you can see from my last post I am totally into Mayhem right now. So I was on Youtube checking out some live footage and some interviews. One of the clips I watched was this one:

I was struck by how feminine the whole thing was. The application of base make-up, the mesh shirt, and Manaic in the background putting on a necklace. It reminded me of something I read somewhere that said that black metal was the feminine side to extreme metal with death metal making up the masculine side. I didn't think too much about it, but there is something to this. These comparisons came to mind:

Vocal style:
Death- Uber-masculine, almost primate low end grunt
Black- Higher pitched screaming and rasping

Death- Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers
Black- Leather, jewelry, and makeup. Lots of makeup.

Musical aura created:
Death- Precise, clinical, brutal
Black- Emotive

Emotions expressed in music:
Death- Anger, disgust
Black- Sadness, grief, desolation

Common imagery:
Death- Gore, horrific things, and yes, death
Black- Nature

Now I realize that the above list does not apply to every death or black metal band. For example, I think Decapitated was an amazing, emotionally driven death metal band and Mayhem is a pretty brutal and clinical black metal band. But judging the genres overall in where they stand today, I think it fits pretty good.

And I also realize that the things I have labeled masculine and feminine are also generalities. There are plenty of cold, harsh females and overly dramatic, emotional males. But I still think the juxtapostion works.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mayhem- A Grand Declaration of War

If you know metal or even just pop culture, you know the Mayhem story. Suicides, church burning, and murder. Their original guitarist was probably the most important person in the creation of the modern genre of black metal before he was killed by another of the most important figures. It's like Desperate Housewives, but the norwegians wore way more makeup. Case and point:

So I have been going back and getting acquainted with Mayhem lately. I've had their Deathcrush demo for awhile and have always enjoyed it as piece of very dark, aggressive atavistic metal. I never ventured into much of their other work with the exception of some songs off of their debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. I recently got Chimera (their 3rd album) and was blown away by how clinical and accomplished it was. These guys clearly learned alot between Chimera and their demo. I never realized that this band was way more than hype. These guys are one of the most original and interesting black metal bands I've ever heard. I needed more, so I picked up A Grand Declaration of War which was their second album.

Wow! What a mindfuck! This is nothing you would expect right after their debut album. They went from excellent and evil sounding black metal to this. This album is a huge concept album all based around the idea of war. Instead of by-the-book black metal, they gave us a record that is difficult and huge and vey well put together. The launching pad is black metal, but the album is so much more. The most striking thing is how militaristic it sounds. Some of the songs have snare drum rolling beats that sound like marches. The only thing missing is the sound of marching jackboots. The majority of the typical black metal vocals have been replaced with clean vocals that are spoken as opposed to sang. The spoken vocals sound as if they were spewed from a dictator behind a huge lectern with one fist clinched and raised. Then there are all kinds of electronic and ambient stuff going on as well. One of the songs is totally electronic, which I'm sure really riled up all of the kvlt hordes when this came out. This album is insanely metal because it doesn't give a fuck what you think. Mayhem just did what they wanted and the end results were crazy cool.

I am so impressed with Mayhem right now. I had no idea that they were this big thinking and artistic. This album is so weird and so cool. I guarantee that you do not have an album like this in your collection. That's because there is no other album like this as far as I know. You owe yourself the priviledge of hearing this thing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cattle Decapitation- The Harvest Floor

So let's start by saying that I like Cattle Decapitation. To Serve Man was killer, and Karma Bloody Karma was even better. And their live show kicks ass. And I totally love how they remind people how disgusting and vile we really are. Their pro-vegan stance and animal compassion ideas are very cool in a genre so filled with hatred. Next time you eat a steak, look at the cover of Human Jerky just to make sure you are cool with being a part of that. If so, more power to you. But more of you than would admit wouldn't like what you see.

So basically, they would have to fuck up for me not to like this album. They did not fuck up. In fact, they hit it out of the park. This is best CD album by far. The sound is the same basic formula. It is a mix of grind and more traditional death metal. Songs change tempos a million times, careen all over the place, and sometimes resemble avant guard free style craziness. They are amazing musicians and their vocalist has a perfect death metal grunt. This is not music for the un-adventurous.

So, all that is the same. What has changed to make this album the best they've done? Two things: songwriting and atmosphere. They have always been a band that could mix some catchiness into their trademark chaos. Every album had a couple of tracks where you could really here some rad melody underneath. On this record, every song has those melodies. This is so brutal, but so catchy. And this is a band that should inspire dread and a sickly kind of feel when you hear them. On this album, that atmosphere is present throughout. This album is dark and gloomy and emotional. Most bands in this genre can't or won't inject this kind of gut-wrenching sadness into their metal. And I don't mean doomy, I just mean dark and sad. You have to hear it to understand. And please do hear this. It is amazing.

Check out tunes here and buy the album for goodness sake. And eat tofu for dinner.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Psycroptic- Ob(Servant)

My last post of 2008 was my Top Ten records of the year. One of the big problems with these lists is you can't hear all the music that comes out in any given year, so some classics are gonna slip through the cracks. If I had heard this album in 2008, it would have made the list. Pretty close to the top.

Psycroptic are a technical death metal band from Tasmania of all places. They are only the second metal act from this country that I know of and listen to. The other is black metal weirdo Striborg who puts out some seriously damaged buzzing darkness. These guys play death metal with tons of intricate guitar runs and interesting tempos. They also write death metal melodies that are obviously influenced by thrash metal, which is to say that they are catchy in a more traditional way. The vocals are not as harsh as most death metal ranging from a hardcorish scream to a cookie monster-lite growl. They even manage to work in some metalcore sounding breakdowns without sounding like dicks. All in all, it is an amazing mixture. This is some headbanging, ass kicking, technical yet still brutal death metal. This is the record that anyone who is flirting with dm but is put off by the brutalness or the vocals should immediately pick up. This is not to denegrate what they are doing. Even though they write really catchy, memorable songs, they still are death metal to the core and all fans of the genre should be blasting this disc from every Ipod, car, and home stereo.