Death Metal Battle Royale Round 2: Format

March 22, 2017 § Leave a comment

For Round 2 battles, I’m tweaking the format a little. Head-to-head comparisons between albums will now be made based on a series of objective/subjective criteria. Depending on how the albums fare against each other in this regard, a point will be added or deducted from their score. In case of indecision, both albums will be awarded one point each; in case of a tie, the result of the poll will be honored.

The criteria are as follows:

  1. Internal cohesion at the level of riff
  2. Overarching logic in the context of song
  3. Melodic contiguity through the song
  4. Role of percussion
  5. Progressive aspiration
  6. Album-wide unity as a sum of the above
  7. Ideological/Philosophical significance as death metal
  8. Emotional resonance

May the best album win.

 

Was Bölzer’s Hero inspired by Vangelis?

March 20, 2017 § Leave a comment

 

Vangelis‘ third studio album Heaven And Hell greatly contributed to popular and, as it turns out, underground consciousness; ‘Movement 3‘ is the immortal theme to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, while the liturgical ‘12 O’ Clock‘ is the introduction used by Pagan Altar on their eponymous classic. Opener ‘Bacchanale‘, however, reveals textures that are strikingly similar to what Bölzer attempted on their debut full-length Hero. The Roman Bacchanalia and its precursor the Greek Dionysia were festivals dedicated to Bacchus and Dionysus, respectively, both the same God of fertility, wine-making and revelry. Versions passed down the ages evoke images of unbridled excess and a tide to wash away the difference between slave and citizen as both came together to celebrate the amoral, animal aspect of existence.

Vangelis adeptly captured this aspect – exaggerated, apocryphal, or otherwise – on ‘Bacchanale‘. The album Heaven And Hell itself is a two-part suite, presented as Heaven and Hell individually, and with all the tonal flourishes and recessions that one would expect from such a thematic division. ‘Bacchanale‘ is a riotous assemblage of colors, centered around an exotic, Byzantine-like motif; augmented notes shadowed by mixed choirs create a musical landscape of wide, bright-sounding intervals which Vangelis escalates relentlessly to an optimistic apogee. It is a sensuous vibe and a libation to the regenerative qualities of nature, pregnant with all that is insinuated by such a premise.

I will not use this space to discuss Bölzer‘s virtues or lack thereof as a metal band, as that subject has long since stopped being of interest. But is any purported influence of Vangelis on Hero legitimate or is it a simple case of misattribution? That the cover art on Hero uses approximately the same color design as Heaven And Hell is probably a coincidence, but Hero also seems explicitly structured around the kind of augmented chord progressions and vocal cadences as ‘Bacchanale‘; being a metal band, Bölzer inject a healthy amount of dissonance and minor notes into their melodies, but the core proposition of movement heard here remains the musky, ambient component found in Vangelis‘ neoclassical repertoire.

Death Metal Battle Royale Round 2: Demigod’s Slumber of Sullen Eyes vs The Chasm’s Deathcult for Eternity: The Triumph

March 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

  

On we march to Round 2. Slumber of Sullen Eyes continues appreciating with time, and is one of the most exquisitely written death metal albums ever. It runs into a sentimental favorite in The Chasm’s Deathcult for Eternity. Who will get one step closer to the crown?

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Eternal Champion – Armor of Ire (2016)

March 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

A good song sung with conviction never goes out of fashion. Eternal Champion craft very good heavy metal songs indeed; in their slower moments reminiscent of post-reformation Manilla Road, as heard especially on Atlantis Rising and The Spiral Castle, in faster times perhaps doffing the hat to older Ozzy and Jake E. Lee’s work on The Ultimate Sin, it is still hard to conveniently pigeonhole Eternal Champion as being entirely derivative of this or that band.

Confusion over what constitutes hard rock and what is legitimately heavy metal arises because of the shared lineage between the two forms. Armor of Ire is replete with verse-chorus structures, and its composition, while elegant and logical, does not aspire to the progressive aspects of extreme metal. What makes it heavy metal, even at its most streamlined, is its attack, and the ambition found at the level of the individual riff and harmony and their generally taut nature; nearly-classical/folk motifs lie embedded inside the make-up of these riffs; that Eternal Champion, and heavy metal bands at large, don’t develop them in the manner of progressive bands should not be leveled as a criticism against them, because that is plainly not what music of this ilk purports to achieve. Do peasants in the field obsess over developmental variation? Do soldiers on the march give a damn about vocals shadowing riffs? No, because what they need during and after hours of back-breaking, foot-blistering toil is something to sustain and uplift the spirit, so that the day to follow can be endured with some degree of stoicism. The brain may be the driver of great things, but the heart is the seat of action in the instant.

Death Metal Battle Royale Round 1: Infester’s To The Depths, In Degradation vs Vader’s De Profundis

March 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

  

Impressionistic appraisal: Infester’s To The Depths, In Degradation (1994)
To The Depths, In Degradation is the finest album from the sub-strain I like to call Backwoods Brutality Death Metal. Grainy of texture and uniformly joyless in tenor, a coagulation of the darkest proclivities evident in North American death metal from the era, this album throws no bones whatsoever towards the casual listener; technique is pared down in favor of conceptual progression, and accessible melody and groove denigrated as utter anathema. Atmosphere, that much-maligned excuse for a lack of ideas, is super-abundant, but it is realized with an effortlessness that should be the envy of all bands. Death metal may include a wide range of styles based on territory and individual pedigree, but it is hard to think of an album that personifies the term – in theme, sound, and ambition – more than Infester‘s grim classic.

Analysis: Infester’s To The Depths, In Degradation (1994)
Discrete, tenuously related riffsets resembling nothing so much as the shambling gait of the undead form the basis of the Infester sound. Inverted harmonies – ghoulish takes on nursery rhymes – frequently blanket individual songs; a core theme sometimes played on cheap midi synthesizers introduces the germ of an idea; chief notes therein are then rearranged in suitably tangential configurations, so that a palpably fresh melody emerges while still remaining within screaming distance of the original impetus. Ever so often, segues within songs consist of seemingly random shards of power chord noise like the splatter of paint on an abstract canvas, but Infester‘s sense of dynamics is classical of aspiration and their vision indivisible. This truly is death metal songwriting from the subconscious, done inside a cocoon, under the influence of substance and self alone, and complete with lulls and bouts of supernatural fury; perhaps unwieldy at times because of the free rein it enjoys, it is hard to imagine this album sounding as unpredictably fecund if it were to be subjected to the rigors of a professional editing job.

Impressionistic appraisal: Vader’s De Profundis (1995)
Released at the fag end of death metal’s heyday, De Profundis represents Vader‘s most technical work, and a slight detour from the heavily Slayer-influenced music that preceded and followed in its wake. Crushing like a well-drilled battalion from the wars of the early twentieth century, De Profundis is nearly the polar opposite of its opponent in this match-up; technically accomplished and even showy in the tradition of speed metal, De Profundis, like all Polish death metal, intimidates by force of muscle to be sure, but behind the brawn also lies a cold and calculating intelligence, distilling all excess, and landing a frighteningly direct punch to the face.

Analysis: Vader’s De Profundis (1995)
De Profundis is death metal of impending climaxes unto perpetuity. Everything here builds to critical mass before gratefully emptying its stock of tension. It is a breathless approach to songwriting, allowing no recession in hostilities, and thereby compromising something in the way of subtlety; but not at the price of coherence or indeed progression. Where albums in the near future would be streamlined to near-linearity, De Profundis evolves in rhythmic micro-cycles periodically interrupted by broken-riff sequences after the manner of Sinister; Vader adopted the circular style of riff-writing established by Morbid Angel on Covenant; under iteration, the nature of that style creates the impression of a lyrical groove, which then transmits its energy to the next component in the song’s chain, creating a domino effect of ever-increasing momentum.

Verdict:
To The Depths, In Degradation does not hold a candle to De Profundis in the performance sweepstakes. Nor is it necessarily better-written from a sterile analytical perspective. But with due credit to Vader, To The Depths, In Degradation exists in an altogether deadlier – and, paradoxically enough, evocative – paradigm, and perhaps even compels a further reconciliation between the phenomenal and the transcendent in death metal.

Infester go through.

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Funebrarum – Exhumation of the Ancient EP (2016)

March 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

For smart money, Funebrarum have done the Finnish style of raw death metal better than the rest of the resurrectionary guard. Sophomore album The Sleep Of Morbid Dreams skipped over geographic boundaries and adopted a distinctly Swedish styling, but this EP brings back the suffocating atmosphere perfected on Beneath the Columns of Abandoned Gods. Short-lived cult band Abhorrence and early Grave are the chief influences here as ever, but song writing now fleetingly reveals a twisting dynamic reminiscent of Hallucinating Anxiety-time Cadaver, the grinding mannerisms of bands like Dead Infection and Xysma, and vocals distorted like Antimo Buonnano’s work with Mexigorge.

Those are a lot of references, but they come in handy while describing this style of death metal. Build-up is Godhead to it; Funebrarum approach their music much like how a doom metal band would. Rarely do they jump headlong into a song; there is a premise, its deliberate development, and eventual conclusion. Like all Finnish death metal, these songs are not without a sense of melody after its own kind; a moody lead guitar plays a pivotal role in driving that melodic momentum, acting as both solo organ and harmonic accompaniment; that this is a death metal of vast spaces, even when the band is in the midst of a spell of intense activity, only serves to accentuate the musically necrotic universe in which it exists.

Death Metal Battle Royale Round 1: Deicide’s Legion vs Revenant’s Prophecies of a Dying World

March 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

legion  prophecies-of-a-dying-world

Impressionistic appraisal: Deicide’s Legion (1992)
Many years have passed since I first heard Deicide, years in which the band themselves have gone on to become a parody of their once ferocious selves; but I refuse to believe I’m alone in crediting them for drastically affecting personal philosophies worldwide. I read somewhere the other day that it has to be a hollow simulacrum of a world one inhabits if something as peripheral as music can make them pause and reorient themselves. But this is a precariously literal and ironic way of interpreting music. Great music works on subliminal levels in conjunction with other mitigating factors, and challenges notions that may only be half-formed; in some cases, it even postulates altogether fresh notions. Great music provides a different vantage point from which to appreciate the stuff of life, and in its essence is a showdown with first principles.

I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious family, nor did I have the Judeo-Christian background that Deicide so virulently raged against. My early adolescence was spent preoccupied with little else than sport. Ritual was performed dutifully, but only as a means to childish wish-fulfillment. My parents’ deteriorating marriage and my father’s alcohol addiction was steadily poisoning the climate at home, to the point where I think we as a family slipped into a collectively introverted coma for a number of years. I still went through liturgy by rote, but religious feeling is easier to sustain when a mind exists in relative harmony with those immediately around it. Incipient faith takes a terrible beating when you see your father smash the family Ganesha idol to the floor in a drunken fit. I have no fond recollection of this time today; it was a dull and stultified time which gave no chance or impetus to higher consciousness.

What I’m trying to get at is the effect that listening to Deicide for the first time had on this morose and indifferent state of mind. Much of my affection for metal has developed retrospectively as I’ve come to appreciate its tradition and philosophy. But the first two Deicide albums were not only intoxicating hammer blows to the senses from the very beginning, but also legitimate catalysts to intellectual stimulation like few others. I will not deny that the iconoclasm present on Legion – so attractive to impressionable youth regardless of religious denomination – is its most important aspect; nor do I have much patience with those who purport to spin this music’s fundamentally transgressive nature into something aligned with their partisan views. But what makes Legion endure is the sheer musical-physical intimidation it brings to bear on the listener, and in its wake compelling him to reinspect himself and his values in the raw. It brooks no casual acquaintance; it molds the listener in its confrontational image, it makes him inquire after obscure detours, and it strikes the palm perpetually upturned in servility; and though life may subsequently take him on diverse roads, well-begun, as the saying goes, is half done. Legion, and Deicide, then become worthy first principles for a philosophy of metal.

Analysis: Deicide’s Legion (1992)
Steve Asheim times each drum hit to the guitar strum; when one considers the clustered and syncopated nature of these riffs, his performance reaches the most rarefied heights in genre history. Legion retains the patented Deicide groove from the debut, and introduces the short-form, rhythmic intricacy of contemporaries Suffocation and Sinister. Songs are unabashedly rooted in speed metal arrangements and use reiteration to make themselves known. Within a base platter of dissonant notes, varying degrees of angularity between note choices is employed to realize an apocalyptic sense of melody; broken riff sequences – best heard on classic closer ‘Revocate The Agitator‘- violently disrupt the natural progression and seemingly taper off into the ether before reuniting with the theme proper. It is a delicate balancing act, one that risks dissolution into incoherence, but which ultimately creates extreme white-knuckled tension at high speeds. The Hoffmans solo like Slayer on roids, Benton roars like hell’s warden, the whole affair awash in innocent blood takes about twenty-eight minutes, and death metal is changed forever.

Impressionistic appraisal: Revenant’s Prophecies of a Dying World (1991)
Poetic and progressive, Prophecies of a Dying World is one of the earliest realizations of the death metal epic, a side-genre which Timeghoul would only posthumously bring to wider recognition (Revenant would unfortunately be consigned to obscurity). Like a Terrence Malick film, Prophecies of a Dying World is an album of stark images, alternately bleached and imbued with breathtaking poignancy, and offering yet another approximation of what an instrumental death metal style would sound like. Admittedly, Henry Veggian’s lyrics are indispensable to the album; literate, fantastical and perhaps ecologically fatalistic, they eloquently present the case of a consciousness reduced to singularity, travelling through time – or should that be alongside time instead?- to avenge the crimes of the ancient past (read this superb interview with Henry Veggian).

Analysis: Revenant’s Prophecies of a Dying World (1991)
Prophecies of a Dying World is meticulously crafted and conceptually dense to the point of bursting. Revenant accomplished this admirable ideal not only through baroque maneuvers or cramming musical space with notes, but with palpably literary visualization put to music. Hearing this album following one of the progressive rock classics of 70s makes the debt it owes to that musical universe apparent. Revenant were first among death metal bands to tap into the expansive potential available to the genre; so much so it wouldn’t be stretching credulity to suggest that Prophecies of a Dying World makes use of certain ambient and developmental techniques – bookends, repeating motifs, multiple chapters and cadences, and subtle grasp of dynamics – that might be found on King Crimson‘s Red or Van Der Graaf Generator‘s early albums (hear ‘After The Flood‘ from The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other for an off-the-cuff reference); far from making any direct allusion to the sound of those classic bands, what I’m trying to say is that Revenant reached much the same end destination while conforming to a distinctly caustic and metal tenor.

Verdict:
As much as Prophecies of a Dying World represents a desirable way forward for death metal, Legion is a logical and unsurpassable culmination of one strand of the genre; when encountered at the opportune moment, it carries little less than the very force of revolutions. Legion goes through.

Updated tournament bracket

Death metal Battle Royale Round 1: Carnage’s Dark Recollections vs Fleshcrawl’s Descend into the Absurd

February 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

dark-recollections  descend-into-the-absurd-cover

Impressionistic appraisal: Fleshcrawl’s Descend into the Absurd (1992)
Influenced by Autopsy in both name and timbre, Fleshcrawl eschewed for the most part the necrolibidinal obsessions of that fine band to create a relentlessly dark and epic brand of death metal. At high volumes, on a good music system, in a closed environment, perhaps in a state of intoxication which has lasted through the night till the break of dawn, with friends gathered and banging in unison as a prelude to a long-awaited concert, Descend into the Absurd creates a dense swirl of atmosphere rivaled by few death metal bands.

Analysis: Fleshcrawl’s Descend into the Absurd (1992)
From small acorns grow mighty oaks; Descend into the Absurd is near-innocuous on first encounter. For 1992, when death metal had already captured the peak of its technical and compositional potential, this must have seemed positively anachronistic. But Fleshcrawl, like their mentors in Autopsy, worked a different schedule. Theirs was a death metal less of ostentatious activity and more of suggestion; of identity created through blocks of slow-moving power chords and deliberately-plucked single note melodies; of percussion occupying the crevices between this lumbering motion, becoming something more than mere accompaniment, in its free-ranging expression elevating rhythm as a palpably physical abstraction unconforming of contrivances like “style”, even approaching something of the melodic character existentially denied to the phenomena of rhythm itself. Despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of it, Descend into the Absurd represents an ultimate flowering of the dark subconscious aspect of death metal.

Impressionistic appraisal: Carnage’s Dark Recollections (1990)
A guitar tone like Leatherface’s chainsaw slicing through flushed teen flesh introduces Dark Recollections. And just like slasher movie varmints and the psychological demons they figuratively represent on screen, it never lets up. As hallowed as the Carnage pedigree was, even the classic Entombed and Dismember debuts had their share of accessible moments (hear the legendary Phantasm-outro on ‘Left Hand Path‘ the song or the equally unforgettable intro guitar solo to ‘Dismembered‘). But Dark Recollections has literally no instances of levity. It hounds and it haunts like some presence trapped between dimensions. Everything from the classic cover art to the music screams the stuff of deadly nightmare, and it is precisely this unforgiving nature that makes it the grittiest death metal album to have come from Sweden.

Analysis: Carnage’s Dark Recollections (1990)
Reams have been written about the Swedish death metal sound. While Dark Recollections retains the punk predilections of that strain, it is never “bouncy” or effervescent in the way the scene was far too often prone to be. Carnage went one step farther, and adopted the song-setting ethos of grindcore classics like Scum and F.E.T.O., while transplanting a drumming style somewhat more ambitious than the D-beat-happy aesthetic of the times. The hybrid automatically creates a loop of mutual reinforcement, resulting in more progressive structures than were the norm.

Progressive is naturally a relative term to use in context with Swedish death metal. Dark Recollections will never be the torch-bearer for internal riff development in the manner of a Morbid Angel or an Immolation. But what it loses in the way of internal motion, it more than makes up with acute spatiotemporal awareness and sheer sonic violence. This is a music of bruising increments, workmanlike in assembly with nearly no egregiously distinguishing facets, but which in the eventual accounting of scales encapsulates nearly everything we imagine death metal to be.

Verdict:
If Descend into the Absurd is the pre-gig ritual, then Dark Recollections is the gig itself. The former gets one in the mood, the latter is the very embodiment of the hessian ideal. Knuckles raw, ankles sprained, and all bets off, Dark Recollections goes through.

Updated tournament bracket

Death Metal Battle Royale Round 1: Necrophobic’s The Nocturnal Silence vs At the Gates’ The Red in the Sky is Ours

February 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

the-red-in-the-sky  nocturnal-silence

[Paul Bacque of now-defunct death metal band Condemner was kind enough to offer an incisive, preliminary analysis of the ongoing Battle Royale match-up between these two hard-to-score classics. I have added brief comments in italics below his.]

Despite both loosely belonging to the category of “melodic Swedish death metal”, Necrophobic’s The Nocturnal Silence and At the Gates’s The Red in the Sky is Ours are albums that are almost diametrically opposed to each other. The Red in the Sky is Ours is about as forward looking as death metal from Sweden would ever get; tremolo-picked melodies, sometimes angular and sometimes with a black metal-ish sense of consonance rule the day here, always with the very even beat-emphasis that marked the flight of black metal and post-Incantation death metal from traditional heavy metal. A sense of harmony that goes beyond power chords, use of modern classical composition techniques, the stubborn avoidance of anything remotely resembling a chorus, and the inclusion of violins further mark this as an album that’s looking beyond death metal as we think of it, tending towards a style that can only be described as “extreme progressive metal”. Indeed, much of this album is reminiscent of the last Emperor album, if that album was written and recorded by musicians that still had any sense of taste.

[The Red in the Sky is Ours is all that Paul says it is. It extracts the best aspects of music as high art; whether it be its classical aspirations, or building on the foundation laid by Atheist as far as technical, non-static death metal goes, this album opened the door on the possibilities available to death metal, and metal at large]

The Nocturnal Silence, on the other hand, takes a look backwards at metal’s past. A strong classic heavy metal influence pervades the entire album. Toe-tapping rhythms abound, and the sense of melody is more traditionally tethered, with lots of traditional speed-metal pedal point and ear-candy diatonic modal lines. Even when the album launches into a straight death metal tremolo-picked section, there’s usually some hook, either in a rhythmic turn-around or some pedal-point implied rhythm, and there’s lots of pseudo-choruses all over the album to make sure it stays stuck in your head for days.

[There isn’t much I can add to this. The Nocturnal Silence is near-flawless in the theater it operates in, effortlessly creating an elegant but also sinister take on blackened death metal]

From reading the above, it would be easy to say “The Red in the Sky is Ours continued death metal’s direction away from rock, The Nocturnal Silence ran back towards it with open arms, The Red in the Sky is Ours wins,” but reaching a conclusion so easily would be a mistake. There’s no denying that The Red in the Sky is Ours is a work of forlorn beauty, but its compositional and aesthetic complexity take it away from the lizard brain and force it into the realm of the intellectual brain, and the melancholic lyrics and presentation combined with the minor-key harmonies mean that while evocative, it can’t be described as rousing. The Nocturnal Silence, on the other hand, manages to avoid ever being caveman enough to be dumb or conventional enough to sound happy, but is immediately ear-catching enough to be rousing. It’s the sort of album that makes someone want to drink blood and crucify the messiah… and isn’t that why we all fell in love with this genre in the first place?

The Nocturnal Silence wins.

[I feel like a schmuck overturning Paul’s verdict, having invited it in the first place, but god damn it, I can’t have my soul chewed on any more! In a conversation in private, we were debating what order of precedence do the reptilian and intelligent centers of brain activity follow with respect to death metal. We arrived at an uneasy consensus that the two frequently feed into one another to the extent that it becomes difficult to extricate them again. A strange paradox, this; on the one hand we extol the structural qualities of death metal,  qualities that are obviously concerned with the intelligence-processing, analytical portion of the brain, but on the other we also expect it to be reconciled to the primitive. That such contradictions are allied together perhaps constitutes the greater beauty of this music; further deliberation on these things, however, is best saved for another post.

I will not slight The Nocturnal Silence to express my preference for The Red in the Sky is Ours. But in favor of the latter, I will say that it works in a far more literary capacity which, while certainly more intelligent than the norm, also excites the material of raw emotion better than any other album. Death is the stuff of blood and gore to be sure, but it is no less the pain of reminiscence; as much as hinting a way forward for the genre, The Red in the Sky is Ours works on these many unsaid levels, too, and therefore is the superior piece of art.

At the Gates go through. Sorry, Paul!]

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Death Metal Battle Royale Round 1: Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey vs Master’s On The Seventh Day God Created…

February 10, 2017 § Leave a comment

soulside-journey  master

Impressionistic appraisal: Master’s On The Seventh Day God Created (1991)
Death metal was always angry music, but Master – founding sinew of the genre – dialed down nearly all pretension to progressive writing and brought a decidedly hardcore approach to the genre. If Motorhead united punks and metalheads, then this band can be held directly responsible for doing the same for hardcore and death metal.

Analysis: Master’s On The Seventh Day God Created (1991)
Note how short each riff cycle is, how recursive, how insistent, internal movement be damned. Master excelled at clutching onto the first aggressive idea that manifested itself and banging it out for all its worth. The simplicity of that premise by its nature compromises aspirations to any sort of surface grandeur; but through crevices in the discrete, power-chord dominant structure escapes light of a sort of contiguous, phrasal beauty. A phrase is a melodic shape endowed with identity – an identity arising out of note choices and the timing with which those notes are struck – so that it stands out in relief but also in harmony with other adjacent phrases. The note choices available at Master‘s disposal were limited; riffs consist entirely of floating power chords, or bass/root notes of those power chords being assaulted with conviction. Arranged in a staggered yet ultimately ascendant configuration, splitting time equally between the punctuating influence of the drum beat and an existence liberated from punk/rock’s self-same percussive chains, and driven on by Paul Speckmann’s disgusted-with-politics bear grunt, On The Seventh Day… feels intimate like a beatdown, and more memorable, and intelligent, than its humble, primitive appearance would suggest.

Impressionistic appraisal: Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey
Initially cold and unwelcoming like the ice-bound stragglers seen on its cover, Soulside Journey represents Darkthrone at their most structurally intellectual, as opposed to the music of the id which they would achieve notoriety with shortly hereafter. A watershed for technical death metal (it bears to remember that this was released before both Gardens Of Grief and The Red In The Sky Is Ours, readers feel free to make the necessary comparisons), Soulside Journey is a rich and immersive experience unfairly dismissed by the casual fan as “Darkthrone’s death metal album“.

Analysis: Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey (1991)
Coincidence has set up this particular match-up to highlight the differences between punk (with all due respect to Master) and death metal. Soulside Journey is the diametric opposite of On The Seventh Day… in every manner imaginable. Here are a few salient differences:
(1) Tremendously greater intra-riff movement. Phrases are dynamic of texture and show very high turnover of notes.
(2) Riffs exist in an uneasy detente with the drums. Gone is the patronizing role of the drums to emphasize the culmination of a phrase; rather drums and strings exist in mutually exclusive worlds that are, however, still locked together in dance and exercise a subtle gravitational pull on each other.
(3) Verse-chorus forms are discarded for good, ushering in the promise of death metal as a viably free-form, independent, and progressive expression of music.
(3) Like At The Gates and Atheist, Darkthrone in their death metal avatar had a surplus of ideas, and the ability to construct motion out of dead spots. Soulside Journey is always on the prowl, and proves adept at throwing curveballs even at listeners acquainted with its wiles.
(4) Ambition. I have seen Soulside Journey described as a competent but ultimately as one among a hundred similar death metal albums from the era. These are extravagant remarks to make about such a mind-bending force of nature, and they demand justification. Soulside Journey is quite literally seamless in concept and execution, and one of the finest examples of developmental variation that death metal has to offer.

Verdict:
Master retains a soft spot and a more than occasional place in my listening habits. Its atavistic nature, however, pales in comparison with the possibilities of a new paradigm revealed by Soulside Journey. I doubt any death metal fan disagrees. Soulside Journey goes through to Round 2.

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