DEATH RATTLE #1

Greetings and welcome to the inaugural installment of Death Rattle, the new bi-monthly Your Flesh column showcasing the best and worst of all things metal. Now…

The sheer scope of metal, what with its subgenres and numerous bands that number far more than a small country (and also now completely accessible to everyone in the far reaches thanks to these inter-tubes separating, by a single degree, your grandmother and the bleakest figures in the genre), is something else unfounded in this day and age. Take, for instance, death metal. Its roots travel back to the eighties where some of the flipped-bill wearing kids were sick to death of thrash and wanted something more. What happened was a cultural overthrow whereas the new “death” metal would procure something more evil, more “metal.” As time goes on, the same cycle happens and the black metallers overthrew the death dudes and now we have black metal ne’er-go-aways Mayhem playing venues like the House of Blues. Where is it going next? The answer is goddamned everywhere. Metal is constantly re-inventing itself and changing with the times. The only mainstay is that metal is prevalent in the here and now. So, without further adieu and bullshittery, let us begin…

…and what a better way than to lift up some scary dudes a few hollers south where yours truly grew up and honed my metal skills? The Hoosier State’s Black Arrows of Filth and Impurity (Bloomington—Indianapolis to be exact) have released their debut full length, 1984 (Eternal), via Rifleman Records and it is quite a slab of HATE, not to mention the obvious “Filth” and “Impurity.” Featuring current and former members of Hoosier metal mainstays The Dream is Dead, Worldeater, and the nearly unclassifiable/unbeatable Racebannon, BAoFaI are equal parts Pig Destroyer grindcore, Converge chaos, and Merzbow noise wrapped into one ferocious nugget of destruction. “Pearl Harbor Necklace” opens the collection perfectly as to introduce everything these boys are about: vacant soundscapes torn apart by the sounds of four eighteen-wheelers dropped onto two dozen screaming, lashing demons. Songs bleed into each other seamlessly and purposefully displaying both the band’s overall objective (unrelenting punishment) and savvy (an equal amount of care has been put into the noise tracks as into the, er, “conventional” tunes). Vocalist Dave Britts said it perfectly with a line from the wonderfully-titled “Damn, Girlfriend, That Napalm Exfoliates as it Burns” in which he simply states, “Run for your fucking lives.” (Overall winning song title: “If Shit Were Gold, the Poor Wouldn’t Have Assholes.”) Note: as a proponent of vinyl, I suggest grabbing the 12” but the CD has a bonus noise track, “Your Noise is Weak,” well worth a listen.

1984

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From the up-and-coming we venture to the well-established Swedish black metal outfit Arckanum. Formed in 1993, Arckanum have been around and, fortunately for us, get better with age. Staying on the subject matter of the worship of chaos and anti-cosmic Satanism, Shamaatae (aka Johan Lagher) and co. deliver nothing surprising with their latest, Antikosmos (Moribund Records), which further demonstrates their steadfastness and consistency with pure black metal. What can you expect from someone who has spent nearly his entire life in the black metal scene (beginning at age 11 with the band Conquest) except displaying, quite literally, the slogan of fellow countrymen Watain’s Black Metal Militia: “To the Death?”

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On the subject of black metal, Italy’s Absentia Lunae have a fresh plate for you to lick entitled (ATMF Records) that is sure to please the strong-necked headbanger on your Summer Solstice gift list this season. Combining sweeping metal anthems (“There are Chilling Signs of an Eternal Farewell,” “The Timeless Call—Cruelty Does it Resound!”) with downright dangerous noise pieces (“Neuropa Calling,” “Hyperborean Sun Found”), Absentia Lunae rest on the precipice of black metal superstardom. Yeah, that doesn’t exist and thank whomever for that.

Historia

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Deeper into riffs we go. The Bay Area’s Pegataur seemingly live in a mid-70’s Camaro with the T-tops lost and the rain interrupting their nightly slumber. While in the non-traditional waking hours, this two-piece assembled Eternal Flight (For Once Records) for the sole reason of hanging out in an eternally warm mall parking lot, smoking cigarettes, and getting to second base with that Trisha girl that gives it up for anyone. Lick-monger Eric Murray delivers Sabbath-y riffs with the punctuality of a young Halen while competent Aaron Levin merely keeps a tasteful time. After all, if the soundtrack is all over the place how can one sync the carburetors perfectly?

Eternal

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Returning to Europe, Norway’s Old Man’s Child have released their latest offering, Slaves of the World (Century Media). For those unaware, Old Man’s Child is the wunderkind of Dimmu Borgir’s, Galder and plays black metal not that much different than its big brother (in the sense of popularity, that is; both Old Man’s Child and Dimmu Borgir began in 1993) with gigantic symphonic accents coexisting with sometimes catchy, safe, and melodic song structures and production. That is not to say that Slaves… isn’t enjoyable, it’s just what it is: black metal that can be enjoyed by both longtime metal fans and angry suburban kids alike.

Slaves

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Black metal via Huntsville, Alabama seems scary enough, sure, but add vocalist Pest (ex-Gorgoroth) and you are sure to be shaken to the core. Unfortunately, Blood Stained Dusk’s Black Faith Inquisition (Moribund Records) merely delivers on the “metal” part leaving everything else aside. Sure, there’s evil, darkness, and despair aplenty but to have a singularity demands much more than that. The ten-plus minute song lengths an unexciting venture from riff to riff and leaves much to be desired, most notably real danger. Par for the course has no place in real metal. Make it nasty…

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…maybe like Horna (Finnish for “abyss” or “hell”) on their latest, Sanojesi Äärelle (Moribund). These cretins from Finland continue black metal to the utmost decrepit-ness with rasp shrieks, full-frontal and interesting lines, and an overall punishing delivery fit for no one upon this Earth. The trudging of “Verihleto” cements this band in the upper echelon with the punishing, mid-tempo 4/4 combined with a grunt not that much unlike Tom G. Warrior himself.

Sanojesi

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Bad names (Centaurus-A [a lenticular galaxy about 14 million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus… yeah, I don’t care, either]) in a ridiculous genre (technical death metal) is a formula for worst record of the year… for those not open-minded enough to give it a chance. Turns out, Centaurus-A have found a way to make technical more enjoyable on their badly named Side Effects Expected (Listenable Records); a middle ground has been exercised so as to let the circle of fifths geeks get along with the everyday metal fans. The showmanship is there, of course, but only in small spurts leaving room for less ridiculous parts stand side-by-side with its smarter sibling. The tech dudes have sent diplomats and the talks have begun…

Side

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…so maybe someone should tell Hacride? Lazarus (Listenable) is packed full of changes and movements galore, but where is the restraint? The songs freely move from part to part smoothly enough but without taste the listener can only take it so seriously. The piano in opener “Act of God” attempted to push the song deeper than it actually is. As the press release says, “…(the scene has lost focus on) writing primarily good songs. Everything is blending into a seemless (sp) mess of bland and generic material.” Hacride couldn’t have played it better themselves.

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Deathspell Omega have resurfaced again, this time in the form of a one song EP Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeternum: Chaining the Katechon (Norma Evangelium Diaboli). These faceless French black metallers have a knack for constructing an intriguing twenty-minute epic with more power and beauty than many bands can attain in an entire record. Blasting through the gates, this one song EP begins its journey in a wall of fire violence that then simmers and smolders only to release the maelstrom time and time again. At 4:15 is when the legacy of Deathspell Omega will be heard forevermore. Self-proclaimed avant-garde black metal? Sure, it’s ballsy. Listen to this and you will see why.

Chaining

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The Legion (from Sweden, not to be confused with the Legion from Switzerland) continue their onslaught of death/black metal in a most glorious way. A Bliss to Suffer (Listenable) incorporates symphonic without being too boring, genre-crossing without ripping off Behemoth, and quality production without compromising in the least. Opener “Shining Redemption” welcomes the listener with a shake, not unlike the timeless Pleasures of the Flesh by Exodus. With Lazr Martinsson again at the helm of the throat, The Legion again nestle into their comfortable place as one of a growing number of Swedish black metal bands ready to take the helm for neighboring Norway as the epicenter. This is deep, downtrodden, and furious…in other words, untouchable.

A

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Wanna talk about the split of Gorgoroth into two separate entities enititled “Gorgoroth” and “Gorgoroth”? It will be here next time. Also, new releases/reissues from Exodus, Acid Bath, Origin, the legitimacy of Christian death metal, and other things possibly unknown.

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