You know, when I said I was going to write about Aborym’s debut album within the lifetime of this blog… I didn’t suspect I would want to do it now. Sometimes, though, it just happens, because my method of choosing what to write about for this site is… fairly arbitrary.
Aborym is a band I learned about fairly quickly once I started listening to metal, although I have long since forgotten the means by which I learned about them. They basically satisfied my ‘electronics’ niche for a while as I was starting to listen to the more rarefied, extreme forms of metal. Of the material I’ve listened to, though, Kali Yuga Bizarre seems to have the strongest compositions. It also doesn’t delve as far into the industrial side of the band’s sound, or any other bits of the aesthetic. There’s less overt electronica, and many of the songs are simply straight up black metal. The lyrics have less of a technological focus – in fact, there is a decent amount of past glorification going on here, exemplified by “Roma Divina Urbs”… and the cover art. It is not very techy.
In fact, Kali Yuga Bizarre often has more in common with the black-thrash movement, which include such bands as Absu and Dodheimsgard. This influence is prominent in the riffing, and shows up most in “Metal Striken Terror Action”. Keyboard/synthesizer presence is actually quite common given the underlying substrate, but most of the sounds the keyboardist uses lean towards the ‘instrument simulation’ side of things more than electronic sounds. Naturally, there are some exceptions, such as “Tantra Bizzara”, which is an accurately named bit of noisy, full on electronic music, albeit with black metal vocals running over it. However, for all the occasional electronic moments, much of this material wouldn’t be out of place on a Mayhem album. Needless to say, Mayhem is more relevant than one would initially think, because their occasional guest vocalist Attila Csihar performs a significant amount of the vocals on this album. Joining him is the band’s official vocalist (an unknown who went by the name “Yorga S.M”) – between them, they incorporate basically every style of vocals used in extreme metal. Given that Csihar likes to experiment with his vox, and that he went on to become the band’s official vocalist on their next two albums, I often have trouble determining who’s performing what – as a general rule, I assume that Yorga S.M is doing the absolutely bestial shouts in Italian that occasionally show up, and are probably the main type of vocals on “Metal Striken Terror Action”.
While this album has been out-industrialized by its successors, which make strides in adding electronics into black metal, the quality of the compositions (as previously mentioned) ultimately makes it more satisfying in the long run. To be fair, since this album doesn’t go all that far into industrial realms, the amount of difficulty in successfully bridging each aspect of the sound probably wasn’t that massive. The key, then, is that the band made the effort, and if they had sought to experiment more with this fusion, that would be important to their success.
Highlights: “Horrenda Peccata Christi”, “Roma Divina Urbs”, “Tantra Bizzara”
This has been planned for a while, but Pickup Lines That (Probably) Won’t Work is no longer going to be a monthly feature. Matt “GrandDracolich” claims that it’s getting increasingly hard to come up with “good” ones (for the definition of good we’re using). But it was a good run – over a year, in fact. I thought I might pay my respects by attempting some bad pickup lines myself. If you’ve been paying attention to the title, you’ll note that these relate to heavy metal music.
When it comes to my metal listening career, Bathory was a band I got into fairly early on, but primarily due to their “mid-career Viking era” that started with this album. Technically, there isn’t much on this album that is specifically Viking related, but from a musical stance, this album is the first to incorporate elements that would later see use on such things as Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods. It is best described as a ‘sandwich’, in that two lengthy mid-paced tracks bookend a series of fast, “primitive” black-thrash tracks reminiscent of main frontman Quorthon’s earlier career.
Not being hugely familiar with the earliest works of Bathory, I can at least say that the thrashy tracks on Blood Fire Death are more intricate (more complex structures, mostly) and tightly played than earlier works. Part of this was apparently the fact that Quorthon had a proper backing band for the first time in quite a while, so there’s a bit less of a “DIY multitracking” vibe to everything. Regardless, it’s not a huge stylistic change. Things remain fast, with hints of melody driving the music forwards. Furthermore, song structures are often based around modulation, with choruses often relying on different chords than main riffs or bridges. This isn’t very complex music, and it doesn’t really need to be (although it can be nice to have sometimes).
The bookends are where the evolution occurs, somewhat. Bathory doesn’t use a great deal of new musical ideas, but the pace is slower, more are used per song, and there are a few new techniques that show up, like Quorthon’s half-clean singing on the title track. Overall, these tracks are more melodic than the shorter ones, and arguably more memorable as well. The middle, in contrast, feels like it’s more about its “intense” aesthetic – even when the riffs are hooky (which they often are), it doesn’t seem like that was a priority in Bathory’s songwriting process. Much is made of these tracks when discussing the works of Bathory, and musically, there are blindingly obvious parallels to the content on Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods (although the two tracks here don’t go as far into the ‘epic’ songwriting style). The lyrics aren’t specifically about Viking culture, though; we get general images of warfare, honor, and so forth.
In other words, Blood Fire Death is definitely a transition album, and since the drastically new types of content only occupy about 30-40% of the album, it’s not a particularly quick transition. On the other hand, the new types of songs are well executed, and the old types of songs are an improvement on previous albums from a musical stance (even if they’re no longer “necro as hell” or whatever the kiddies called it back in the 1980s). In short, this along with the rest of the “Viking” albums Bathory put out serves as an example of how to explore different styles and musical ideologies, or at least as Quorthon succeeding in this regard. Alternatively, it could be interpreted as a bit of a return to previous influences – the album after this was supposedly heavily inspired by the works of Manowar. Overinterpreting Blood Fire Death is probably a bad idea, though. After all, it’s still rather aggressive at heart.
Highlights: “A Fine Day To Die”, “For All Those Who Died”, “Dies Irae”
Sybreed is a bit of an oddity, in that they fashion a very accessible, poppy sound from a set of relatively abrasive aesthetics and techniques. The standard explanation is that their music fuses the general approach of Fear Factory with the off-beat laden, rhythmic approach of Meshuggah. Add to this an overall glossy production and lots of poppy clean vocals, and you have Sybreed. Sybreed is a bit of an oddity, in that they-
…Actually, the strange thing about how Sybreed writes their songs is how they loop. Now, many bands I’ve written about use verse/chorus song structures, but when it comes to amounts of bridge material, Sybreed is near the top. Only a few bands, like Death have longer transitions between various ‘sections’ of their songs, although Sybreed writes better bridges than Death ever did. Despite their relatively basic song structures, Sybreed excels in their aesthetics – electronic and metal elements of their sound fit together perfectly, and are well integrated with each other to boot. Part of this is the very clean, almost sterile production – given the genre the band is aiming for this is justifable. Drums could afford to be more extreme – while there are a few blast beats and otherwise fast patterns throughout, most of the drumming is midpaced.
As it is, Antares is often a very upbeat sounding album, with a few major exceptions (like “Dynamic”). Given the relatively negative lyrics, this is a weird juxtaposition, and much of it is the clean vocals. Somehow, I get the feeling this wasn’t the intent of the band, but I don’t know enough about them to properly pass judgement on that matter. Then again, it might be my history of extreme metal listening continuing to warp my perception of light and darkness. I’ve mentioned this before occasionally; don’t expect it to go away any time soon. Intent of the reviewer and the reviewee aside, the introduction of pop elements into an extreme metal framework is pretty common. In fact, this band’s apparent muse (Fear Factory) did it quite a bit, as did some of the other bands they influenced, like Strapping Young Lad. One could even interpret Sybreed as the spiritual successor to Fear Factory, especially since SYL apparently played up the metallic aspects of their sound more on later works. The problem with this, of course, is that Fear Factory is still alive and kicking, but whatever.
Whether this is worth listening to depends primarily on how much pop/electronic influence you can accept in your metal, but fans of the other bands I mentioned will probably be able to appreciate at least part of this band’s sound, at least on this album. I’ve heard that later works by Sybreed fail to really live up to this, but it would’ve been nice to see them expand their fusion. Personally, if I were looking for extreme industrial metal, I’d probably start with Aborym’s debut. More about that within the lifetime of this blog… probably.
Highlights: “Ego Bypass Generator”, “Neurodrive”, “Permafrost”, “Orbital”
Dwarf Fortress is available from its official website. Why aren’t you playing it? Afraid of what the giant badgers might do to you?
Our friend Matt “GrandDracolich” continues to have an internet presence through here and his blog. There’s also his Youtube channel… but you can reach that through his blog. Might as well take the scenic route, anyways. While you’re at it, check out the previous installment, which insists it’s a jack of all trades.
Exodus with Paul Baloff wanted you dead. Exodus with Steve “Zetro” Souza might’ve wanted to toss you around and maybe break a few of your bones, but they were more about the fun. “Good violent friendly fun”, even. A few things come to mind about Fabulous Disaster that set it apart from earlier Exodus – it seems intentionally less aggressive, the vocalist has an entirely different approach, and there are a few experiments with songwriting – two extended songs and two covers. On the other hand, the overall emphasis on rhythm over melodic prowess remains, and the tempos are about the same. 1980s Exodus, the way I see it, is much more comparable in overall musical approach to a band like Anthrax or Testament than groups like Slayer. It seems to have served them well commercially – with enough underground “cred” to make them look appealing, but with a polished marketable sound, they seem to have sold decent volume during the late 1980s. And Fabulous Disaster is supposedly Exodus’s best selling album… although due to the intricacies of Soundscan, it’s hard to tell.
The first track (“The Last Act of Defiance”), while far from being the band’s signature song, pretty much is this band in a nutshell. After a brief monologue, the first few riffs rely on their bouncy rhythms to hook the listener, but it’s really Zetro who grabs most of my attention. His trademark screech actually sounds a bit like Marcel Schmier on Destruction’s first EP, and the two both share some mannerisms; to be fair, Zetro has a much better grasp of the English language than his Teutonic counterpart. The grooves get more pronounced in the title track (which has an intro riff reminiscent of what a new generation of jazz influenced metal bands would do in the early ’90s, and what the actual “groove metal” movement would do later), and in the hit single “Toxic Waltz”, which is the first song on this album to play up the humor angle. The groovier songs are all on the faster side of mid-paced, which makes for an interesting effect compared to stuff actually labelled as groove metal, such as Exodus’s albums with John Tempesta. Regardless, this is not a very fast or intense album, especially considering to the existence of Bonded by Blood.
Relatively limited extremity isn’t a bad thing, of course, even in the case of a known thrash metal band like Exodus. It’s really a matter of execution – for its first half, Fabulous Disaster alternates between being aggressive, humorous, endearing, and showcases some memorable material. The second half, though, wears kind of thin – the main problem is that it repeats a lot of the ideas previously presented in the first half, but with poorer execution. Frontloading disappoints me, but what am I going to do about it? At least “Corruption” is a pretty good song given its position on the album. As it is, this album is in kind of an awkward spot for me – I usually want to listen to something either more or less aggressive. In other words, I don’t listen to a lot of ‘straight-ahead’ thrash, and when I do I usually want something like Megadeth’s leads or Overkill’s charismatic vocalist, or blatant power metal influence like Helstar or Realm. Of course, there’s always Bonded by Blood… which was actually one of the first things I wrote about for this site, back when I was still finding my voice. I don’t do first impressions posts anymore, I try to write longer reviews, I try to describe things in greater detail. Luckily for Exodus, I feel I’m giving this album a more coherent writeup than their debut.
Highlights: “Fabulous Disaster”, “Cajun Hell”, “Corruption”
Not all that much has been written on Infester, but they’ve probably received more coverage than bands of similar intent and notoriety. Some people say they have extreme right wing political leanings. Some say they’re just a REALLY filthy death metal band. Others praise the structure of their compositions. The latter was what convinced me to check this out, because there’s surely no shortage of particularly debauchery flavored extreme metal, or controversial lyrical/philosophical topics in this world.
It’s a bit bizarre of me to say this, perhaps, but all those three interpretations I suggested? My listening suggests they’re all true. This album does have particularly nasty lyrics about violence and sex (not all of it consensual), although nothing appears to be openly pro-Nazi; which is a relatively common accusation. However, none of it has the tongue in cheek humor you’d associate with Carcass, amongst others. After reacting to that in some fashion, most people, myself included turned to the production. It’s somewhat lo-fi – the guitar is the main culprit, as it has this thin tone that occasionally makes it hard to pick out the notes being played when combined with the downtuning. There are also some keyboard parts – generally of the basic harmonic reinforcement type, and they are similarly thin sounding and low fidelity. At times, the production reminds me of a more extreme Soulside Journey by Darkthrone; I wouldn’t be surprised if the members of this band listened to that one (or for that matter Darkthrone’s black metal albums, particularly Under a Funeral Moon).
The early Darkthrone comparison seems particularly apt not only on the surface aesthetic level, but in terms of how Infester constructs their songs. Tempos are varied – there are significant amounts of blastbeats, but also many slower sections. It’s also similarly monophonic in its instrumentation, therefore relying on vocal rhythms and riff structures to differentiate its songs. The absolute number of riffs in any given song isn’t all that high, but the way songs are structured, each ‘section’ has its own set to work with. Again, this sort of minimalist approach is fairly reminiscent of early black metal, even when the aesthetics differ. The band occasionally also uses melodic sections for further diversity – perhaps the best early example of this is the first slow section on “Chamber of Reunion”.
Anyways, if it weren’t for this album sounding much more like Suffocation or Autopsy than Burzum or Enslaved, I’d perhaps be willing to call this a fusion of black and death metal. Some of the early ’90s Norwegian scene members, to be fair, were reacting to what they percieved as an increasingly technique-oriented, polished approach in extreme metal. Perhaps Infester was doing the same, as this is a lot filthier and sparser than much of the other death metal of the time, while still arguably more extreme than what preceded it. Whether you like this one is really a question of what approach to the genres you prefer.
Highlights: “Chamber of Reunion”, “Braded into Palsy” (sic), “A Higher Art of Immutable Beauty”
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