Sweden

Witchcraft, Legend

If this isn’t on Bill’s (thesodashop.us) end-of-year list, I’m maxing out my credit cards for strippers, because the world’s about to end…

Like Graveyard, their nearest common ancestor (?), in the same way that two twins are alike–

One is slutty, and obvious, and ready to party (Graveyard), while the other is a bit weird, obsessed with the occult, and much frostier than her sister (Witchcraft)….

How is Legend like Hisingen Blues? Witchcraft is the same band as Graveyard:

Whereas Graveyard is rowdy teenagers at a kegger in the middle of a sweltering summer, Witchcraft are the same members, years later, in late Autumn/ early winter– chillier production, more sober lyrics, a bit more involved with the occult….

Legend is as hard as hard rock gets without actually being metal (not a bad thing at all)… you forget that hard rock done right (and this so rarely) is quite an awesome thing…. It’s AOR rock, if that still existed; very hooky and heavy at the same time….

There are great, actual songs, here– and these, easy to play (learned two while tuning a guitar in a common tuning, Eb) while still being awesome… singer (and no longer guitarist) Magnus’ voice is rippingly distinct, his lyrics even more so.

In all honesty, it surprised me how much I liked this one; my year-end list was almost exclusively grind and doom metal, but this one hits the top 5 of the year, easy; probably top 3 or 2….

amazon.com

Grave, Endless Procession of Souls

I won’t bother to do a track-by-track here; I’ll just hit on the great tracks and why I consider them so. Sound good? Sure it does. You’ve got shit to do.

Overall, Endless Procession of Souls is on par with Asphyx’ Deathhammer— a great, slightly-modernized version of old-school/ brutal European death metal, with wildly detuned riffs and gutteral death growls not particularly-heavily modified electronically… no blast beats, but fast as fuck for the most part, with completely-unintelligible yet ironically-literate lyrics….

“Amongst Marble and the Dead” has a great sludge/doom riff between its galloping sections (and you notice the production is particularly nice: dirty/ ugly, yet each part is surprisingly distinct and clear… you’d think those two states would be mutually-exclusive, and yet this is apparently not so)…. “Flesh Epistle” swirls, back and forth, to and fro, hither and yon, like Discharge covering Swedish DM… “Passion of the Weak,” besides having a great title, flies hard and ugly out of the gate with a great riff and tempo… “Winds of Chains” (wouldn’t it be cool if this were a perverse cover of the Scorpion’s tune?) also starts with a great doom-ish riff and chugging drums (does anyone in Grave have a side project in doom/stoner/sludge?) and at 3:20 falls back into another great riff (reminds me of Ramesses for some reason)… and finally, “Perimortem” lashes forward like the second half of Slayer’s “Postmortem” (ironically or intentionally? I couldn’t say)….

It’s worth checking out. Investigate. See what you think. They put some serious work into this one.

[Endless Procession of Souls is released 8/28/12.]

Century Media Pre-Order

Ghost, Opus Eponymous (review 2.0)

So– many moons ago, I publicly-decried the Swedish traditional-metal stalwarts Ghost.

Here’s my apology–here’s why I was totally wrong.

iTunes (the computer program) doesn’t lie.

Opus Eponymous is my most-played metal album of the last year– according to its coldly-calculating statistics.

I even bought a ticket to see them play in October 1, 2011– only for them to drop off the tour.

I even play this fucker when I’m doing dishes– because I love the tunes that much.

Instrumental “Deus Culpa” opens the proceedings, in clearly-liturgical-fashion, followed closely by “Con Clavi con Dio,” which, in its lyrical-literacy (even if it’s dying to denounce the Catholic liturgy) is frankly inspiring, and an intellectual antidote to modern pap like Jersey Shore-

I’m obviously an over-intellectual, but still–

what does it say about America when publicly-avowed Devil-worshipers like Ghost are an obvious alternative to the typical American television offerings…?

Track four, “Elizabeth,” (Ghost’s first single) is also (arguably) the most memorable tune here (while also enunciating the career of Elizabeth Báthory),

Track six, “Satan Prayer,” in all honesty, inspired me and fills me with soul– because this allegedly-Satantic band went to such literal lengths as to mirror the Catholic/Episcopalian mass-based tune of the Nicene Creed in its lyrical content– honestly: in an age filled with shit like Nicki Minaj, this attention to detail, Lucifer-espousing as it may be, is truly inspiring to a former English major.

Are Ghost essentially Satanic Blue Öyster Cult worshipers?

Yep.

But they’re still definitely worth hearing– especially to the metal/rock world, who so seldom get acquainted with “hooks.”

I, admittedly, hated on Ghost because of their generic-ness– but I never dreamed that their musical talent (and Satanic message?) would overcome this.

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.]

Marduk, Iron Dawn EP

Begin the ritual: get some time to yourself, put on a good stereo or good headphones, and put the volume up slightly louder than you would normally.

Then wait–

It starts, and continues, with a bass-heavy air raid siren– when the blast beats start, a London blitzkrieg later, you (seriously) might mistake them for machine gun fire.

So much bass on this; very cool and a nice improvement to the (already good) sounds of previous LP Wormwood.

Martuus’ vocals, unlike Watain’s (rageful, exultant) or Nefarium’s (just rageful), sound like he’s rasping out his unfiltered, genuine hatred– because he’s being strangled to death.

He’s dying, and he’s got no reason to lie to you.

And Mortuus HATES you.

I love the plain cover, barely an image, but a powerful nearly-monotone one, with an Old English font title and the band’s name as legible as can be– old confidence for a black metal band. And for some reason, adding the “by” in by Marduk makes for seemingly subtle modesty, which makes them seem supremely confident, and is the crowning moment of awesome for the cover.

Track one, “Warschau II– Headhunter Halfmoon,” with it’s bombastic five-tone riff, Track two, “Wacht Am Rhein Drumbeats of Death,” culminates in what may be wolf howls, and–

Three, “Prochorovka – Blood and Sunflowers,” is the “ballad”– Marduk playing sludge/doom– and it is fucking awesome. A combination of Marduk, Earth and Winter. I’ve read about this track being considered “filler,” and while it is different from most other Marduk stuff, if it was in fact intended as filler, they should do that more often. I really dug this song.

Iron Dawn is three songs, and it’s the perfect length: enough to blow you away, not enough to desensitize you.

Speaking of which, fun Iron Dawn story:

I had been listening to an LP and reading. For some reason on my stereo the LPs have to be turned up more loudly than do CDs, so the volume was way up. A storm front was passing through, and it knocked out the power for about a nanosecond– just enough to turn off the stereo and back on.

Now, if the stereo does in fact cut off, for whatever reason, it autoplays whatever CD is in it. At whatever volume it was on.

The record had finished a while ago, and I didn’t even notice that the stereo had reset….

…until, at jet engine fucking volume, “Warschau II– Headhunter Halfmoon” started playing (it intros, remember, with air raid sirens) and scared the HOLY LIVING JESUS SHIT out of me.

Ear-splitting air-raid sirens, just after a power outage, during a storm…?

I’m pretty proud I didn’t piss myself.*

The point IS– Iron Dawn, three songs or not, is a mighty record.

Especially in the wrong hands.

*I actually did piss myself.**

**I’m kidding.***
***No, I’m not.****
****Or am I?

Drinking Mead with Amon Amarth’s Surtur Rising

This is… gonzo journalism!

This is… method reviewing!

Come on, Strasberg and Stanislavski, let’s rev up my affective (race?) memory and feel the pillage! (I’m German-American, so surely there’s pillaging memory in there somewhere….)

I, in the spirit of the pillaging Viking hordes (pretty sure that name’s copywritten), have written this entire review of Sweden’s Amon Amarth and their newest, Surtur Rising, while drinking mead.

Mead– the honey-wine every Viking and his mother drank.

You're welcome.

You know how Goddamn hard it is to find mead around here?

The things I do for you….

So: the Mead I actually found,  Oliver’s Camelot Mead, tastes like, well, Honey wine (though apparently I should’ve tried this or this kind).

A lot stronger than beer, less so than wine, it tastes like really light liquid honey with alcohol in it. I can’t stand wine, but this is not bad. Not as good as beer, which I do so enjoy, but not bad at all.

One 5 oz. serving in:

Opener “War of the Gods” hammers in the intro theme with a crushing downbeat with melody that segues into a chorus that you could chant over a fire…. Amon Amarth sound confident and strong, and old Viking ruler –Odin?– who’s seen a lot and knows it back to front…will make you mad mead is so hard to get in comparison to beer;

Former albums have been fairly filler-dense, with a couple or three songs that are so good you forget the rest… I’m curious how this will pan out….

“Töck’s Taunt: Loke’s Treachery Part II” follows their pattern in songwriting: somewhat memorable verse followed by hooky-in-a- somehow-Viking way chorus… not quite as good as the first track, but quite good… we fade out into:

“Destroyer of the Universe”  which thrashes its ways, at 200 bpm, into a rager of a tune– sounding like a cousin to “Twilight of the Thunder God” from their previous work, this time faster and with more solos and riffs….

“Slaves of Fear” a rager, though not to the previous degree, but is nothing near filler and rages and rages and rages….

Two Servings (10 oz.) in: “Live Without Regrets” continues the Viking-themed melody with death metal vocals motif… but does little new with it, Amon Amarth’s riffing in B standard, a fifth below standard tuning… somehow making up for the lack of nuance….

“The Last Stand of Frej” is suitable epic (and yet tragic) in its sonic recounting of the tale of the Norse goddess of majick, war and death… fades out to “For Victory or Death,” which, clichéd title or no, which starts like a combination of Mercyful Fate and Bay Area Thrash….

Forget “Wrath of the Norsemen” overall, though at 2:10 it drops briefly into a nice little dirge/breakdown… “A Beast Am I” brings the fury back at 230 bpm, leaves behind the melody and just fucking rages…. “Doom Over Dead Man,” though I’m not sure what the title means, is perhaps the most emotional (read: bittersweet) track on here– primitive instrument melodies about: conches, horns, shouts, abound… the rallying cry of a race (sadly?) long dead….

Long may they live…!!

And: though you know always what you’re getting….

Bottom Line (15 ozs. in):

It’s their stride.

This is feasting hall music.

This is music you scream with your barbarian friends after you’ve bested Grendel’s mother.

This is war music that manages to avoid the cheese of Manowar (said with love).

Now hoist your Goddamned tankards…!

To Amon Amarth!!! To Mount Doom!!!

May their kingdom resist weather, time and treachery…!