#008: To The Death And Far Beyond
verything has its opposite. For the righteous, there are the wicked; for the lucky, there are the unlucky, and for those that live, there are those that die. The ancient Hebrews gave us yamin; the ancient Romans, sinister. Inevitably, these words grew into even more divergent connotation—that of the Right Hand Path and that of the Left Hand Path. This monthly column will celebrate all that resides in the shadow of the left, regardless of religious allegiance or format.
ANTICHRIST VANGUARDS TOUR; 5.18 ATLANTA
For a week I opened my fridge, grabbing a beer, eggs, bread, bottled water. The blood was there in the bottom, above the crisper, above the carrots and the celery, turning darker every day. Every time I opened the fridge, I thought about Watain and the show that seemed to never arrive.
Friday night and the club’s doors are locked—one hour after they were supposed to be open. Huddles of heads pass smokes and guzzle beers. Cars root around the lot looking for parking. Laughing bones emerge, one after the other. I talk to some guy who’s made it down from North Carolina for the show; after a few minutes he points at the plastic gallon jug in my hand. “You must be the blood guy,” he laughs.
Blake is a big fucking guy and the band he had assembled little resembled any notion I had of them; they didn’t match the DVD I own, nor various photos that I had wrangled from Internet message boards. Tight, focused, and potent, every single song was delivered with assured conviction and hatred. The heads were rolling; the fists were pumping and I was doing my best to take the worst photos of my life.
There’s a lot of drinking going on. Standing in line for another beer, I hear bottles hit the trashcan, some hit the floor, others clink in toast. Everything’s getting a little rubbery around the edges and I’m starting to feel like the bartender’s cocking an eye at me every time I slur another drink order. Thick tips keep him from cutting me short and seconds later I find myself in line for the shitter talking to some dwarfin Latino head with a Morbid Angel shirt on. We trade shots; his comes from a crumpled plastic Coke bottle. It’s fucking Guaro, and I realize this after I notice the entire right side of my body going numb. He appears to like the Wild Turkey as he’s hissing like a lobster above a rolling boil and laughing maniacally. By the time I get into the restroom I’m not so sure I’m psychically prepared for it: someone has literally smeared shit all over the toilet; there's about two inches of piss and shit and toilet paper on the floor and I have to hold my hand over my mouth to keep from vomiting. Once my business is done, I warn the leather-clad sprite next in line: "It smells like death," I tell him. "So do I," he quips. Then I realize it is Erik Danielsson.
This must have been how it was to see Mayhem—the old and “true” Mayhem; it must have been how it was to see Mortuary Drape in their heyday: a stage of macabre accoutrements, all assembled to harness some sort of innate and darkened power.
Watain invoked the old and the new, making Dissection’s “The Somberlain” its own, honoring Nödtveidt and setting a hard and fast standard for future hordes. “Through raging fire, death and hail; clinging to the dragon’s tail. And as the world behind me burns, I ride its wings on paths of No Return.”
ANTICHRIST VANGUARDS TOUR; 5.14 NEW YORK
Faced with an audience concerned more with socializing, club-housing, and static viewing (I guess what happens when you collectively fail to produce more than a handful of bands of any merit in the last decade); a ruthless club policy that rakes in 30% of merchandise sales, exacts (and enforces) the ludicrous charge of $10 for a table seat and serves drinks beginning $8 and up, as well as the looming constraints of the cities renowned sanctity of sanitation, the prospect for the complete Watain experience seemed doubtful from the onset.
The evening redness to be became a matter of stage light, not plasma. But at a venue which every Sunday hosts their own Gospel brunch, the sight of burning candles, sheep heads (eyes intact), inverted crosses, and bowie knives stabbed into amplifiers—of Satan and spinal remains—not only transformed but fortunately blurred lines between the sacred and profane.
Not long after, the newly reformed Angelcorpse arrived, bringing with them high expectations and a surly disposition. In the interim between the group's split and subsequent rejoining their music appeared safely not forgotten. Nor were certain points of controversy. Earlier this year, Oaken Throne magazine virtuously refused a suggestion by this writer to contact the band, reasoning that frontman Pete Helmkamp, having once published a slapdash philosophical / occult pamphlet entitled The Conqueror Manifesto, influenced by the likes of Crowley, Nietzsche, and Ragnar Redbeard's “might is right" doctrine, had thus qualified for full "Nazi" status.
And then it was time. Battling elbows and whipping hand gestures as I was set upon by a small army of possessed and loudly entranced Latinos, Watain finally took the stage, clad in leather and shredded cloth, caked in powder mixed with blood. Up close their makeup appears less like the standard “war paint” and more like affliction, disease—persuading through presentation that seems thoroughly ingrained with their character as emissaries of some lost and graven order; they look like they've been wearing it forever. The reception was collectively thrown into the barrage of "Underneath the Cenotaph," "Devil's Blood," and "Satan's Hunger," during which the not uncommon splatter of hops was made a pale substitute for the more frightening douse of stale blood and entrails. With each wet spray I stood glaring down at my hand, looking for a sign of deep color. But there was no reeking ooze, only back metal.
That was the immediate audience anyway. I suppose those statues in the back had their fill as well. Fine for them, but only cunts would clap for Watain. The sentiment, while not definitely confirmed, had by night’s end at least some echo of truth in vocalist Erik Danielsson's parting words to The Big Apple: Fuck you all.
Dark Messiah – Rise of Black Dawn
[Full Moon Productions]
Dark Messiah, a four piece from the city of Kozani in Northern Greece, have been around since 2000 playing black metal in the Hellenic style. What this broadly means is black metal composed mid- to up-tempo with scathing but uncrusted melody derived more from folk and heavy metal than the standard Oslo fare, songs interspersed with acoustic breaks and an atmosphere that feels less positively evil than it is ancient and grey. This five-track MCD marks the group's debut on Full Moon Productions, having previously released about an hour’s worth of demo material in the vein of old masters like Rotting Christ and Varathron.
How Dark Messiah separate themselves from tradition, however, is by a wanton aggression which steps outside this cooler approach and rages for moments that sound closer to Teutonic thrash, marked with hoarse vocals, firm bass fills, and production that pacifies the quartet enough so that speed and drums actually matter. Of the myriad song titles to deal out some combination of the words "black," "storm," and "hate," there's is the most charged and refreshing to hear. Although the disc is collectively uncomplex, it’s also perfectly short on time and never tires in the midst of its own thunder and intensity.
Deathevokation – Chalice of Ages
It’s telling that not only is the best death metal in over a decade being released today with steady regularity, but that the music essentially picks up right where it left off. It’s as if the whole nightmare that began when bands actually started to take seriously and follow after the pieties of bands like Napalm Death and prissy idols like Chuck Schuldiner—becoming “political” messengers or emboldened to use the false, mind-melting euphemism of “maturity” to account for their near-total compromise and mass-groveling for acceptance that eventually became their swansong—never even happened.
Today, “death metal lives.” Not in the form of awed drum clinics and goofballs noodling out incomprehensible and absurd scales from front to back. It is a heaving memory, crawling, possessed, and hungry and returning from all across the globe: Necrovation, Verminous, Kaamos, Crimson Massacre, Nominion, Portal, Helcaraxë, Repugnant, Ignivmous. Even Nicke Anderson got back into the act last year, if only to revel in a not long amusing parody of his—and others—early work. And now, from La Jolla California (Once home, Wikipedia informs me, of Dr. Seuss) comes Deathevokation. A band that’s swiped their name from a Dismember track is surely not one to hold back on the wretched refuse.
What follows is a gushing tidal wave of rancid DNA from which the band (re)animates into their debut Chalice of Ages. Though holding up Holland’s Asphyx as their main influence, any number of groups from the early rosters of Relapse, Nuclear Blast and Earache can be traced back through these nine accomplished tracks. “It’s got your eyes”: Amorphis, Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Dark Tranquility, and God Macabre—with vocals first seeded by Unleashed’s Johnny Hedlund and classical guitar solos paired with viola that bring it all to an elegiac close, sealed together by a production worthy of standing in for Sunlight.
To be sure, Deathevokation are not coasting on cartoon imagery and reduction, evidenced by “Embers of a Dying World,” a very thoughtful and necessarily grim portrait of mankind’s perennial and warring state. “Make me a messenger of my soul instead of a reciter of mindless lines,” founder Götz Vogelsang has been quoted as saying. One hopes this is just the beginning.
Ignivomous – Path of Attrition
Ignivomous (to vomit fire) play music closely patterned after legendary groups like Incantation along with a less distinct smattering of the early Swedish sound (Nihilist, Nirvana 2002 etc.). Once again, when people say "support real death metal," this is invariably what's in store. Echoes of the former's well known "Profanation" are already present in the demo's opening title track, a great black funnel of arrant speed and sick decision that carves its way through with brute force and unpleasant opacity. Three tracks on pro tape. Now sold out from the band—a 10" EP version is set for release later this summer on NWN Records.
Lugubrum – De Ware Hond
[Old Grey Hair]
It was a great surprise to see a portrait of Helmut Döring, who long ago played a Lilliputian gang leader of ex-prison inmates in Werner Herzog’s comedy of the absurd, Even Dwarfs Started Small used as this album’s cover. Greater still was watching a recent video made by the band which perhaps means to emulate that film’s closing minutes of a camel shitting by documenting a dog relishing his own anus. Pure guesswork and I feel ill-prepared and unequipped at tackling the context as it is. And so it goes with much of De Ware Hond.
The Belgium’s seventh album is a greasy confit of their own excess flavors. Having broken long ago from whatever style of black metal could still casually be associated with the group, Lugubrum continue with another jazz-fingered exhibition, this time recorded live in studio with no overdubs. Titled as movements 1, 2, 3, and 4, De Ware Hond’s lumbering advance doesn’t sound psychedelic so much as the aftermath of fatty opiates and too much Duvel. Reverberating bass and drums take lead for much of the way, giving in and out to vocalist Barditus and his inebriated, inimitable style fixed with unsavory growls, moans, and many rolling R’s.
For their part, the guitars continually and almost magically join in from separate conversations. What often makes the “avant-garde” approach so tedious, unpalatable, and grossly self-interested is resolved in these 40 minutes, where somehow, despite the implied absurdity, everything (the neon love of a saxophone, bongo drums, and an accordion’s equal share of Parisian debauchery all meet throughout the second half) actually seems to “fit.” Rejoice in that contradiction and raise a glass to little Hombré.
Spear of Longinus – …and the Swastikalotus
Brisbane’s Spear of Longinus is one of those bands whose interviews turn out more interesting than any of their releases. The group’s David Icke-styled ideas serve up equal shares of intrigue and repulsion, blending spiritual fascism, Aryanism, Atlantean legend, conspiracy, and science fiction into a crude form of metal that includes, but is not limited to variations of speed metal, black metal, and grunge.
Their latest cassette (a holdover from the recording of 2002's Tyons album) contains more quotes from Hitler, Crowley, and Goethe than it does actual song lyrics but even in their better days, essence held reign over their (nonexistent) literary or technical prowess. Of the tape's 11 tracks, few broach some higher sphere of affection. Only the feeble, extra-terrestrial croon of vocalist, Camozotz, drunkenly floating inside the rough mixture of otherwise aimless dirges, careless punk flirtations and languid drum stutter, is all that's left as the main attraction.
For all their esoteric rigamarole, one might expect that the music would individuate itself from those aspects of the genre not previously engendered to the great awakening. It does not. And while there’s something charming about balancing pretense with tracks like “Penis Abominator” and “Great Goat Architect of the Universe,” a weak instrumental (“The Guilded Culprit”) cribbed from Nirvana's Bleach LP is about as lively as things get. Might be worth the $5 for the set of striking, mythologically themed artwork by Italian Tattoo artist Nicola Solieri.
Terror Throne – Death is the Cleanser
Terror Throne takes its name from creator Robert Campos’ early 90’s print zine (later renamed Pagan Pages and finally discontinued in 1996 when the present act was begun). Campos remains Terror Throne’s only permanent member—still unusual for death metal based music—handling all instruments (sans lead guitar) while recording intermittently at his home in Chicago, Illinois.
Because of this, results are expectedly mixed, but while still in its creative adolescence the “band”’ is a rare find that follows through with a raw, uncompromised album caring little for rules and conventions. By influences foully consumed and expelled, much of Death is the Cleanser slips past the first few listens, its labyrinthine contours plastered in a nauseating, phlegmatic spew of bilious green gurgles slicked by (im)melodious trills recorded a second or two out of synch, knotting into each other while weirding through a style both unique and alienating in its discord. (The closest reference, while still short of the mark, are the early albums by At the Gates.)
Drums are dodgy at best, and their lack of dimensionality hinders their ability to carry Campos’ more explosive fits of manic-yet-brilliant guitar work. As this momentarily relents, however, breaking down into wandering arpeggiations pocked by ugly thumping bass lines, the beat settles into exhausted moments of blackened, fog-laden remove that top a fascinating, even privileged exploration of chaos. Highly Recommended.
[The Left Hand Path logo was created by Patrick Delaney.]
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By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2007-06-07