Heavy metal music

Decline of the West is back!: Heavy Metal’s Ghost and their irrational number: or, a diabolical infinite regress where capitalism and Satanism are literally indistinguishable

[Editor: Yes! Dex is back!]

So I just blew my own mind, thinking about Sweden’s neo-traditional heavy metal band Ghost.

It was as fun as it sounds.

Reading some recent article on SawtoothWave.com, some hyperlink led me to their review of Ghost’s Opus Eponymous.

For those of you who don’t know (and I definitely didn’t)– there’s this band, Ghost. They’re Swedish. They released this LP, Opus Eponymous, late in 2010 (here’s the Allmusic.com review of it, if yer innerested) and apparently quickly became wicked popular.

Allegedly, no one knows who’s in Ghost.  Allegedly, they are Satanists out to enslave/destroy the world. They perform in weird costumes (the leader up there, called “The Nameless Ghoul”), is dressed to the nines in Pope Gear© (mitre and everything).

Bottom line on the critical-consensus of Ghost:

They’re essentially Blue Öyster Cult with subtly-Satanic/diabolical lyrics that are also pretty literate: for example, there’s a tune on there, one “Satan Prayer,” which has a parallel structure and lyrical content to one Nicene Creed, from the Catholic/Episcopalian mass.

Sinisterly-literate.

Now, I love BÖC. And since their latest oeuvres are, shall we say, less than stellar, the chance to listen to a sound-alike was too much to resist.

In a recent interview with Decibel magazine (who loved their album), the leader, said nameless ghoul (NG), claimed (as he has in many an interview) that Ghost’s explicit plan was dominate and control the world in the name of Satan.

So far, so metal, right?

What was interesting was NG’s possibly-chilling candor regarding their game plan/war strategy in dominating said Welt:

he said that there were actually counting on people assuming their gimmick (anonymous Satanic cult) was a marketing strategy.

Now, let that sink in a minute.

As I was washing dishes today, stoned as hell, I realized something:

As Hemingway might say– speaking in clean, honest prose, this is the claim of NG:

“We are a Satanic cult bent on world domination; we will achieve this by using your capitalist savvy/cynicism to allay your fears about our true motives– i.e., you will relax your vigilance (allowing us to convert you to our cause) because you will assume, quite incorrectly, that we are only a clever marketing ploy.”

This claim enters his proposition into a strange philosophical conundrum where it is literally impossible to logically determine their true motive (based on this information alone; you could abduct the nameless ghoul and torture him until he tells you the truth, but that’s neither here not there for purposes of this discussion).

So let’s think about it like this, in conversation form:

“Hey, have you heard that band Ghost? They claim they’re Satantic so people will listen and buy their album. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy.”

“But what if they’re really Satanic? Their best chance to get you to drop your guard would be to get you to think they’re just savvy capitalists.”

“Right… but if they’re actually trying to move units, capitalistically-speaking, making you think they’re a Satanic cult who are savvy capitalists is genius.”

“Unless they’re really Satanists, in which case making you think they’re only savvy capitalists is genius.”

…and so on, and so on.

Ghost, and their implicit argument as detailed above, have made two premises, logically-speaking, where each premise both suggests and negates the other.

Forever.

Ad infinitum.

Un-re-solve-able.

It’s the Epimenides paradox, fer Chrissake. It’s an infinite regress. Christ, Kurt Gödel used a version of this to scientifically prove (this is what they tell me) that computers can never achieve sentience!

It’s an irrational number, one that, mathematically-speaking, repeats forever and never resolves.

Not unlike 6.66.

Whether you’re talking about the Capitalists or the Satanists– it’s in either version’s best interest to pretend to be the other.

And, neurologically-speaking, since the brain can never logically-conclude a definite motive here, it will keep going back to said problem to resolve it. In other words, it will keep listening.

And this is not excepting that the songs are all extremely memorable purely musically and prone to becoming earworms on their own, even if you couldn’t even understand the lyrics.

Well done, Mr. Nameless Ghoul.

In this virtually-soulless, capitalistically-whored out culture, I say, if you can’t find morality– accept skill.

I don’t normally pimp out records (sorry, Henry!), but I dare you to see if you can resist conversion.

[Original article here.]

hour of 13, The Ritualist

The Ritualist is probably exactly what you know and expect at this point, what with retro traditional metal acts like Ghost, Devil and In Solitude:

They’re minor-chorded, Sabbath-worshiping alleged-Satanists….

OR:

“Pink Sabbath”/ “Black Floyd”

AND POSSIBLY:

“Deep Skynyrd”/ “Lynyrd Purple”….

What’s I’m trying to say is:

Hour of 13 are best classed as late 70s/ early 80s-ish psychedelic detuned proto-metal/ heavy rock–

They’re Graveyard’s weird cousin, that sorta looks like them, and yet not really, that no one has ever seen in the daylight.

There are craaaaazy hooks here: each tune is nearly instantly memorable. The best ones:

“Naked Star,” “The Ritualists,” “”Possession” and “Evil Inside” have a great series of riffs in them, “Evil Inside” in particular sounding like a radio-friendly Candlemass.

The singer sounds like a simpler David Coverdale, and it works here: there’s a stripped-down production and little detuning (they’re in D).

There’s cliched simple lyrics, a la early 80s metal– The Ritualist is as simple and straightforward as doom gets, really; like my old cassettes of Sabbath, listening to this makes me wanna learn the riffs –they are pretty cool and succinctly heavy– but not necessarily listen to this repeatedly: slow this one down even more, detune and gain-up the amps, and this would be an absolute monster: as it is, it sounds like a well-made demo.

Now, all we need’s a high-res, arty/ high-concept video as a cool juxtaposition to the retro-production here.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Skeletonwitch, Forever Abomination

This is one of the blurbs that came with the advance of Skeletonwitch’s Forever Abomination:

Skeletonwitch has been called every name in the fucking book: death metal, black metal, thrash metal, speed metal, heavy metal, epic viking blackened thrash ‘n’ roll, and so on. It seems the only description everyone can agree on is metal.

Something you might need to know here:

The blurbs that come with advance copies of albums are RIDICULOUSLY hyperbolic– “this band will take your virginity, change your gender and make you smart enough to build a trans-dimensional teleporter to visit God himself– and then bitch-slap him in the face! (Also you’ll lose weight and gain lean muscle.)”

They’re almost an art form of intentional, nay, Voltaire-esque, excursions into world-bending parody. They’re so far over the top that their children never even knew there was a top to be over.

Have I made my point?

This in mind, the above Skeletonwitch quote is actually completely spot on: “epic viking blackened thrash ‘n’ roll” is a great description of the SW sound– as is “metal.”

“This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)” the album opener, starts with (old-school thrash style) the acoustic intro, segues into a very cool bay-area thrash breakdown riff at about 2:00, then fires off Maiden/Priest style dual-leads…. “Reduced to the Failure of Prayer” (great title) starts with particularly effective roaring from vocalist Chance Garnett (who I normally find a bit underwhelming) over Testament-like riffs and solos….

…and in all the songs you can not only hear the bass, but it’s usually playing a part separate from the leads– which illustrates the level of songwriting (or at least riff writing) here…

Track 3, “Of Ash and Torment” has a great melody at 1:00, and overall the best hooks on the album– comparable to “Within My Blood” and “Crushed Beyond Dust,” to me the highlights of their first two albums. This track also illustrates the second, and arguably best, illustration of SW’s songwriting skill–

These songs are short.

Not Grind/ punk short, but rarely over 3 minutes. They get in, they rock out, they get out. The songs are usually over before you realize it– and makes me wish SW would hold a workshop for doom/sludge bands (my true love) about how to write short songs. Yeah, sometimes length is the point, but more often than not a good doom song could be made great by being half as long, amirite?

All the tracks, particularly “Shredding Sacred Flesh” and “Cleaver of Souls” are unapologetically metal (i.e., awesomely ridiculous/ ridiculously awesome), and as the songs unfurl all the melodies sound something Maiden’s “Flash of the Blade” (not a bad thing at all) and the guitars have that Gibson-straight-into-Marshall sound from Kill ’em All.

In fact, that’s the best description of Skeletonwitch as heard on Forever Abomination: 1982 Metallica covering Iron Maiden with Cronos singing.

Not original at all, but excepting that– perfect.

Revocation, Chaos of Forms

Holy. Shit.

When’s the last time an album made you say that while you’re hearing it? I can’t remember, myself. I remember loving albums, or thinking riffs were great, or just grooving off something, but actually saying, out loud, “holy shit?”

Chaos of Forms is fucking awesome. Easily on track for my album of the year. And it’s not even sludge, or doom, or stoner, or ambient. (And as you know, the Hornmeister loves his de-tuned down tempo sounds.)

It’s heavy, it’s fast, it constantly changes (and I mean constantly), but never feels forced or show-offy (okay, occasionally, but it’s still cool, and it still changes before you get bored).

Revocation is thrash/death/prog/math/ power/ etc. metal. The nearest band comparisons I can make are all old-school west coast metal bands (though Revocation are from Boston): Forced Entry, Toxik (minus the operatic vocals), Last Crack and Sadus. If these names mean anything to you, they’ll give you some idea of what Chaos of Forms sounds like.

Full disclosure: I didn’t like their previous record, Existence Is Futile: too proggy, too show-offy.

I guess their deal with the devil went through.

Souls well spent, fellas. Souls well spent.

They kept their proggy aspects, while at the same time making these tunes as hooky as a Hellraiser remake starring the major Peter Pan characters.

Tracks in particular:

“No Funeral” makes me happy: it’s Candlemass’ “Into the Unfathomed Tower” with vocals. There’s ridiculous shredding going on, but nearly every minute of it is hummable and loaded with hooks.

“The Watchers” has both a horn (ha!) section and an organ section, and may be one of a handful of times those things actually work (however briefly) on an extreme metal album (and this from someone who loves jazz and has played it for years).

Every musician is STUPID good: the drums are tight and as athletic as Mia Hamm and Jack Johnson’s illicit love child, the guitars are consistently spewing finger-mangling riffs…. wow.

Frankly, I don’t know what the fuck happened between this album and the previous… but if this evolution continues through subsequent albums… they’ll be founding religions around future Revocation releases.

Chaos of Forms is really that good.

 

Interview:Dave from Southern Discomfort [Also: free album!]

Released 5/1/11 (and reviewed here and here) Kassel, Germany’s Southern Discomfort put their blend of New Orleans-style sludge and Sodom/Kreator thrash together in the form of a monster called Confrontation. We recently internet chatted with singer/screamer Dave, who very politely entertained our questions.

What inspires Southern Discomfort? What music (metal or otherwise)? Books? Other artists?

Dave: First, our music is inspired by bands like Pantera or Down, but there are also thrash metal influences. For me the biggest inspiration making that kind of hard music is to create a valve for things you can only scream or shout– and I love the energy that is behind that music.

Why do you play the music that you do, and not, say, jazz or classical? What made you want to play heavy metal?

I started playing music (first as a guitar player, now a singer) in a punk band: in those days me and my friends listened to German punk stuff, Nirvana and stuff like this. One day the older brother of our bass player showed me a song from Apocalyptica (Do you know them? They play metal music with three heavy distorted cellos)– it was a cover of Sepultura’s “Refuse/Resist,” and I thought, Wow…I want that heavy sound on my guitar. So I found a new band called “Silent Violence,” and start putting my amp to eleven (you know what I mean) and start screaming and shouting into the mic. That’s my story….

Why do you play music, instead of painting or writing or sculpting or whatever…?

Today I’m a singer in a metal band and I love that. For me there is no better way to express bad thoughts: while you play a song you can focus on the problem which your song describes and you can scream, sing or shout it away from you…it’s a feeling of freedom. This is why I play that kind of music.

Southern Discomfort has seemingly been very influenced by New Orleans’ bands and imagery. This imagery seems very different from “typical” German bands like Sodom, Kreator, Rage, Helloween, KMFDM, Accept, and so on– in fact, there is not much doom or sludge metal coming out of German today (arguably besides The Ocean, Ahab, or Lacrimas Profundere). Why are Southern Discomfort so into doom metal in general, and New Orleans-style metal in particular?

These New Orleans influences came from our guitarist Sascha. He is the one who has this New Orleans sludge/doom style in his guitar playing. Of course, we like the music of Kreator or Sodom, but it’s not our way to express ourselves. Especially for me, the sound of Down or Eyehategod has that heaviness I like and need to express myself.

How do you think Germany has influenced your sound? Or has it?

Hmmm.. I don’t think that Germany has some influence to our sound… because all of us listen to so much music from all over the world and from so many genres.

What’s your favorite part of Confrontation?

There are so many favorite parts for me… the slow intro off “Driven by the Moon” and than that heavy start… the breaks in “Coronis”… the feeling in “Snake Eyes” (which was the first song we played as band together)… the memories in “Storm of the South.”

What’s your favorite song to play live? Why?

For me, it’s “Fuck ’em all,” because this song [says] exactly what I mean about creating a “valve” [to release pent-up aggression]… it’s against so many fucked-up things in our society… and I love it to put this attitude to our audience and see them screaming FUCK ‘EM ALL…!

Do you ever play covers live?

Oh, yes: at our first gig we played Pantera’s “Walk” as [our] last song. All the people totally freaked out… It was totally amazing. I love this song, it has so much power.

With whom would you most like to play?

Of course as supporting act for Pantera… or touring with bands like Weedeater, Eyehategod, Down… yeah, this would be great.

Why did you choose the guitar tuning you did? What type of guitars do you like to play the most? How do you get your guitar tone?

[Guitarist] Sascha plays a Randall transistor amp with many effects, like the whammy, Dimebag distortion and the Dimebag crybaby. He plays Dean guitars tuned down to D. In our new songs, it’s more a chainsaw than a guitar, so we created a very big distorted bass sound to get a kick-ass sound.

If you’re going to worship a guitar player’s setup, Dime’s a good choice.

What questions, during interviews, do you most dislike?

It was fun to answer every of these questions… thank you.

What questions have you never been asked that you’d like to hear?

Only: WHY? Haha.


Dave’s got that German sense of humor that I dig. Second favorite, if you wanna know.

And since Dave’s fave song is “Fuck ’em all,” check that out below, and click the link to hear the whole album.

Like what you hear? Dave gave us 40 free downloads of the album. Just leave your email address here* and we’ll email you back a download code and where you can redeem it.

Free Southern Discomfort! What more could you want at this second?


*We don’t spam. To avoid bots, leave your email address like this: johnsmith [at] yahoo [dot] com (or whatever your domain name is; just make sure you write out “at” and “dot”).

Symfonia, In Paradisum

You ever get really drunk and order a pizza?

And even though you were so bloated you couldn’t breath, let alone sleep, it was the greatest pizza ever?

In Paradisum is that experience, in album form.

It’s everything you might imagine: European metal (e.g., Helloween, Riot, Stratovarius, Rising Force, etc.), modeled distantly off European composers, playing heavily-distorted metallic symphonic music; so cheesy it’s beyond semantics: tapped guitar solos and, ahem, symphonic chord progressions….

In the right mood, it is goddamn glorious.

Track one, “Fields of Avalon” intro’s with fucking harpsichord…! Then operatic vocals, telling a tale of epic woe over a riff George Lynch is mad he didn’t write! An updated version of Yngwie’s “I’ll see the light tonight”….

[You’re either totally in by now, or not. You know. If not– you disgust me. Don’t even look at me. I can’t stand the sight of you.]

Next– the fucking solo starts with harpsichord! Then…! a guitar solo that would make Herman Li ejaculate!

“Come By The Hills,” track 2– again with the harpsichord! Yes, they will abuse it, and you will love it, bitch! Then: a menacing guitar/bass backup! Holy Fucking Buddha, could this get more awesome?!

Yes.

Yes it can.

Track 3, “Santiago,” is symphonic Motorhead, complete with D-beat… somehow managing to squeeze in a solo reminiscent of Warrant, of all bands….

Holy Shit– I’m actually trying to listen to this in sections, a bit at a time, but I can’t stop listening… In Paradisum draws me in….

“Alayna,” the exemplary power metal ballad, won’t let me stop listening… it’s every relationship I had my Junior year in High School, down to its up-bent final note… It’s actually freaking me out how it’s completely transporting me back to 1987…. I feel so sad about this chick Alayna, and I have no idea who she is… whoever she is, she fucked up the singer…that whore!!

[This is what I’m talking about! This fucking cheesy shit grabs you and makes you take a stand…! Regardless of how stupid you sound!]

“Forevermore,” (who else would dare call a song that?) starts with manic riffs, both heavy and melodic….

“Pilgrim Road,” melody in the thin-guitar-stringed riff with keyboards, 1987’s Helloween in 2011, essentially… face-fucking solo at 2:15….

Possible album highlight “Rhapsody in Black” is Accept meets Queensrÿche with a dash of Journey and Kiss’ “I Was Made for Loving You….” “I walk in neon” suggests Geoff Tate and Co. again with the title and the opening harpsichord….

Closer “Don’t Let me Go,” another ballad with what is probably a cello in the background… this should’ve been on MTV’s top 10 in 1986… sad, cheestastic: my inner teenager could not be more involved now….

You will hum every Goddamn inch of this album. It’s a earworm waiting to happen, again and again….

All irony aside: In Paradisum is cheesy as shit– but it’s completely unironic, optimistic, exalted Heavy Metal, in all senses of the term– and it will rock your goddamn face off, like nothing else.

“Irony” has a half-life. “Irony” is for hipsters and people too cool (read: afraid) to believe in something.

Symfonia believe.

Mock them all you want, but they love their music.

The term “Heavy Metal” either has a religious, holy, sacred connotation to you… or you smirk at the notion.

If you know, and I mean know, in your heart of hearts, know to your very studded soul, throughout your denim-jacketed world, what Heavy Metal means–

GET.

THIS.

ALBUM.

10/1o, two thumbs up, Gold Metal, whatever:

Beer chugging, horn-throwing, spliff-smoking perfection.

Thank me later.

PS: Fucking suh-weet album cover. Get that shit airbrushed on the side of a van, PRONTO.