Ruin – Plague Transmissions Vol. I (2017)

Ruin from California released one demo back in 1991 before disbanding. This compilation contains recordings of those tracks as well as new music released by the band on various splits since reforming in 2015. The style here is death/doom but don’t let that by-now prosaic description chase you away: the two components are perfect counterparts on these songs, the death metal grinding in irreverent Impetigo fashion while the doom straddles the chest with claws around the throat. This is truly punishing extreme metal, at home in the rumbling low end, with each motion carrying the bite and spite of the flagellant’s whip.

There is a refreshing unambiguity about these songs. Chord changes traverse discrete intervals across the spectrum yet retain consistency of dark, dissonant tone throughout. Never shy of breaking into an impromptu skank beat when the muse calls, Ruin hearken back to the the early 90s when bands like Impetigo, Hideous Mangleus, Phantasm, and Hemdale bled the edges between death metal and punk to present a specifically gruesome vision. Liberal use of audio clips from macabre horror and 911 telephone calls might make the overly serious listener dismiss the band as parody, but to the vast majority of the underground that came of age with horror cinema and metal as constant companions, these flourishes are joyous relics of a time our music has unfortunately forgotten about and genuinely add to the depraved atmosphere Ruin strive for.

It never ceases to amuse me when newer, politically “woke” listeners try to drag extreme metal into the realm of social conscience by equating it with ethical notions like justice. Singing pro-this and anti-that lyrics over randomly distorted music that only tenuously borrows tropes from death metal and black metal does not make it so. Through all the years of listening to this music, I can honestly say that not once have I associated extreme metal with issues of social import. I have been empowered by it, certainly, but at no time has it made me feel like extending that empowerment to others or taking up cudgels on behalf of those that are “oppressed”. I have considered it an intensely private and individualistic music, advanced by an unremittingly bleak view of mass humanity that is almost Darwinist in tone. The virtues I have detected and interpreted in it have been founded on contempt for others’ existential turpitude. One might say that I am merely feeding my own personal misanthropy into the music and drawing false inferences, but I turn that observation around at the musicians in Ruin and the many other true death metal and black metal bands of history, and ask: is that not really so?

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Desultory – Through Aching Aeons (2017)

Many bands from the classic era of death metal suffered ignominious and often self-inflicted downswings in fortune. The mood that once prevailed to inspire an entire generation of metalheads changed into something altogether base and material in aspect. Following the precedent set by Metallica, a previously noble band like At The Gates streamlined their sound to the point of banality and struck gold. Others strove likewise only to see their legacies tarnished beyond the point of no return. For Desultory, that nadir arrived with 1998’s Swallow The Snake, an assortment of Pantera and Korn cliches that to all appearances embarrassed the band into an early retirement.

A friend suggests that age and maturity grant at least the more percipient among musicians with a wider perspective on the transgressions of their past. So would seem to be the case with Desultory‘s staggered rebirth over the last ten years. Over and above the obvious rediscovery of the sound which made them a band to be reckoned with in the first place, the overwhelming feeling on Through Aching Aeons is that of an ensemble trying to atone for previous sins, not to whatever fans might be left, but, crucially and as would befit a true repentance, to themselves.

The Desultory sound is one part chainsaw Swedish death metal and the rest exquisitely catchy melody. A cursory listen may make Through Aching Aeons seem little different from any other band flaunting these stripes, but where once-contemporaries like Autumn Leaves and In Flames resorted to blatantly mainstream maneuvers, Desultory‘s melodic accessibility on this album does not come at the cost of songwriting integrity. What might initially sound like a made-to-order speed metal riff, bouncing and chugging away to redundancy, is invariably built on and extended with painfully acute harmonic sense; in the greater reckoning, these feverish exertions create intricately textured songs with very real identities and a vague wistfulness.

That melancholy is the defining characteristic of Through Aching Aeons and great European death metal at large. Not given to despair, rather it is the strange bottom-heavy feeling one experiences while reminiscing over a special time of life. The lot in the present might be perfectly satisfactory, but knowing that that time and the situations and actors involved in it are gone forever breeds a certain restlessness of spirit and the realization that you just might be less than you once were. Through Aching Aeons is one of the most sincere expositions of such subjective notions in recent years and a fine way for the band to bow out.

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Harsh noise

Under the right circumstances, possibly at the right time of day, listening to harsh noise can be a meditative experience; if per chance you are involved in an activity demanding mental concentration, it can even provide the kind of unemotional, unprejudiced, and unmusical background that drowns out distractions and spurs productivity. It seems counter-intuitive to use noise so, especially to those of us in developing parts of the world, where noise factors into every waking, and sleeping, moment of life: unregulated construction, chaotic modes of transport, above all the dense, omnipresent press of human beings and the veritable Tower of Babel that rises from their interactions, make us treasure the rare instants when things are calm and tranquil. To despoil those moments by listening to something like harsh noise, as entertainment no less, seems like an act of sadomasochism.

But a recent month-long stint working nights led to quite the opposite realization. Staying up through the night at first disturbs and then rewires the body’s diurnal rhythms. From the overstimulated trappings of daytime living, the individual is thrown into the almost physical stillness of night and therefore in some way must come to be psychosomatically altered. Given such a reconstitution of mind-body makeup, music that holds one’s attention during the day may conceivably lose that appeal into the small hours of the night, too. Its structure feels oppressively restricting and its emotional resonance becomes cloying; in other words, the qualities which drew one to it in the first place can now only engender indifference. This music feels out of place in the social vacuum that now envelopes the individual subject, its virtues of past now like so many distant and petty machinations incapable of piercing through to that alienated mental sanctum.

Harsh noise, however, is different in that it is not music but rather an auditory – but all too often also a surprisingly physical – experience. It does not play to the same gambits that anything remotely construable as music does; instead, it discards all putative judgement through musical tone and immerses the listener in an ocean of shifting pitches. Patterns manifest themselves in an impersonal and mechanistic fashion, as brief spikes standing out in relief against the greater wall of noise. Do they have real existence in the design of this noisescape, or are they something conjured up by an overwhelmed mind grasping, desperately hoping, for something familiar to orient itself around? In all events, what is incredibly abrasive initially slowly ascends through degrees of intensity until the listener reaches a plateau of equanimity beyond which no further heightening of sensation can happen. At this stage, the noise is no longer on the peripheries of the listener’s consciousness but has actively embedded itself into his perception of being. He has become indivisible from it, and it from him, in an intermingling as elemental as the pressure of wind beating against the eardrum and the flow of blood through the vein. By the time he reemerges out from this bath of hiss and hum, his listening palate and mental space at large are thoroughly cleansed and the purest of silences rushes in from all corners with healing motive.

On one level it feels pretentious to read such depth into noise, but as fans of metal we might be guilty of approaching it with a flawed perspective. We are innately suspicious of postmodernism and its constant realignment of historical boundaries. Noise in its harshest, most distilled form, however, stands even farther afield of those boundaries, and if used judiciously can legitimately contribute towards enhanced insight across various aspects of experience.

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More Fool Me

How do you engage with somebody on a point of dissent when they don’t have the required vocabulary, literal or experiential, to do so? There is great wisdom in ceding ground when one doesn’t possess that vocabulary, but there is even greater wisdom in acknowledging that dearth in the first place. The latter unfortunately is a rare quality indeed, hence the incessant ego-fueled wrangling we witness over subjects that ideally should be approached with an inquisitive mindset and not a confrontational one. But deep-seated insecurity manifests itself in just such fractious ways. The insecure individual would rather feast on his opponent’s – or should I say someone he perceives to be an opponent – frustration, and come away smirking with a misleading “ha! I showed him!“, rather than accept that the role of the learner in a conversation is not an inferior one, that mutual participation enhances both parties’ qualitative experience: the “learner” learns, obviously, and the knowledge-giver gets a chance to examine the sanctity of his opinion.

Experience and knowledge builds up cumulatively, but you don’t know that when you are busy being a vindictive viper out to guard its feeble nest. An acquaintance of mine, someone who we would call a fairweather metal fan, meaning he does not obsess over its mysteries the way the rest of us do, can’t for his life understand how I can enjoy old Immolation more than new Immolation. He has heard all the big names, and more than a few obscure ones, over the years, but in passing and not with any deal of energy or conviction. Therefore he is sincerely flummoxed over my preferences, because new Immolation has loud, shiny production and attractive melodies, and aren’t those the be all and end all of music?

I am amused and sense what’s happening here. I tell him that it’s no crime to like what you like. But he persists in his inquiry, and like a fool I take the bait and try to put into words things that should never be put into words. I talk to him about how the band no longer jams as a unit in the same location but instead overwhelmingly depends on Bob Vigna to send in ideas from whichever part of the country he is in. How this splintered songwriting process has taken a toll on the cohesiveness of the music. How parts are now written to accomodate Steve Shalaty’s staggered drumming style, but in probability the situation is the other way around. How there is overconscious development of mood instead of the spontaneous atmosphere through death metal on the old albums.

On and on I go, rummaging through my head for other points pertaining to Immolation, many of which can be found on this blog. Not to prove a point, because debates are very much not my thing, but because it really is fun to talk about metal. But I can sense his eyes glaze over; you see, he doesn’t know about such things; let knowing well alone, he hasn’t even imagined that music can be thought of in such terms. But instead of it being a revelation of sorts to him, that music can indeed be an entirely different dimension of being, he fumbles about for something with which to knock me off my tenuously preserved composure. He says, “Ah, I don’t know, man. Nothing has ever quite thrilled me as much as Immolation. Deicide, for example. Blame it on God! I always found them too funny. Never understood why you liked them so much.

Classic, isn’t it? And more fool me. With age, I find I am as likely to give someone the benefit of the doubt as I am to dismiss them outright, but the former almost invariably leaves me burnt and needlessly aggravated. How then does one engage on a point of dissent with someone lacking your literal or experiential vocabulary? Judge the spirit in which they make their approach. Gauge their body language. If they seem amenable to a healthy exchange of ideas, then by all means indulge in it yourself. If, however, they’ve come to prove a point – and they leave blatant hints to this effect throughout, you just have to not be bloody naive to see them – simply ask them to fuck off.

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Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned (2018)

Up till Ageless Venomous, Krisiun played a furious, if slightly unmemorable, style of death metal consisting almost entirely of cyclical, tremolo-picked riffs. From Works of Carnage onwards, that came to be replaced with the preponderance of a staccato element in the songwriting, culmination of which was the surprisingly accessible Southern Storm. However, as Immolation have gradually discovered over the last fifteen years, overuse of staggered riffing can interrupt song flow and even open the door for other more undesirable elements like groove and melody as artifice to creep into a once-uncompromising music. Krisiun have not been immune to these failings either, so it is interesting that Scourge of the Enthroned arrives as possibly the third incarnation of the Krisiun sound.

At a high level, Krisiun have essentially combined the previous two aspects of their technique. The cyclical nature of riffs is back, but not always in the erstwhile near-black metal style; instead, now, the staccato is as likely to be incorporated into the actual body of the riff itself as it is to serve its traditional role as riff demarcator. A somewhat vague impression to explain, but to these ears this effect is achieved by chopping up the individual riff into discrete portions by way of overt trills and palm-mutes. In other words, these riffs repeat as much as anything on Black Force Domain, but in micro increments, at the interstitial level.

On the periphery of this new mode of attack also lie the by-now ubiquitous arpeggiated dissonant stylings of orthodox black metal. It is strange how these flourishes have come to be a part of the repertoire of even experienced bands; they add no individuality to songs that are already difficult to individuate, but like the flamboyant understrike so irresistible while signing a document, guitarists seem compelled with an involuntary reflex to emphasize their riffs with these addendums.

To their credit, and unlike a band like Adversarial, Krisiun don’t get entirely carried away with the new toys in their creche, and look in equal part to their own past for inspiration. Within the very specific niche of Brazilian death metal and bands like Raebelliun, Horned God, Ancestral Malediction, and Ravager, Scourge of the Enthroned occupies a no less violent spot. Krisiun‘s finest hour may have come and gone, and while they will never truly rise out of death metal’s second tier, this is still a refreshingly no-holds barred comeback from a veteran band.

 

 

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Monstrosity – The Passage Of Existence (2018)

While Monstrosity albums from the 90s are true genre staples, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the band have come to be so well-regarded by the underground as much for staying out of the spotlight as they have for their music. One hopes the underground detests attention whores and prima donnas; Monstrosity have been anything but, making appearances without undue fanfare and then disappearing as inconspicuously leaving well-wishers in a state of perpetual speculation. But with years falling away like so many leaves in between albums, one wonders about the muse that has motivated Lee Harrison & co. to assemble the current batch of songs. With time comes even greater technical proficiency and hopefully wisdom too but is such protracted pensiveness really beneficial to a music as spontaneous as death metal?

The Passage Of Existence is not as intimately confrontational as the band’s first three full-lengths. It does not contain the speed-drenched rhythmic violence of Imperial Doom, a quality that saw the band making hairpin bends in songwriting without missing a beat, or the sheer bullish swagger of Millenium. In Dark Purity introduced more deliberate melodic phrasing that helped the band move beyond its formative influences in Slayer into an altogether more menacing direction. On this album, Monstrosity wrote legitimately epic, technical death metal as opposed to mere spidery exercises in adrenaline, using contrasting textures to embellish the struggle between light and dark.

Rise To Power continued in the same general vein as In Dark Purity, perhaps even upping the intensity, but while being serviceable for its time and a near replica of the previous album’s breathing patterns, it is not blessed with the same meaning; the cadences have lost their metaphysical significance and verge on the gratuitous, much like any other album from this shapeless, forgotten period in death metal history. Spiritual Apocalypse, notwithstanding token efforts at variety through a new vocalist, some melodeath riffs, and extravagant but out of place guitar solos, ultimately followed Rise To Power‘s lead, in an unfortunate trend of diminishing returns.

The Passage Of Existence drops belatedly into this staggered timeline, retaining much the same line-up from Spiritual Apocalypse. Obvious immediately is the greater attention to individual song theme, something sorely missing on the previous two albums. The band achieves this identity partly through a juxtaposition of traditional death metal dissonance with heavy metal overtures, an unlikely marriage at first but which in the grand telling creates unified and even evocative narratives. As expected, rhythm guitars are intricately syncopated, dripping with melodic information and often in harmony during riff refrains. Lead guitar, however, is frequently given over to overt 80s Shrapnel Records-style acrobatics, and while one can admire the skill required to play these parts, acknowledge the role of the lavish guitar solo in bands as diverse as Immolation, Brutality, and Intestine Baalism, Monstrosity in an effort to accommodate these technical showcases shift the chord bed below them in undesirably saccharine directions.

Which is unfortunate, because these are well-written songs capable of standing on their own with minimal embellishment. Floridian death metal, gritty as it can be, has never shied away from instrumental flash, but there still is a fine line to be toed in terms of preserving the mood of the song. Monstrosity, like old Kataklysm, even make the enhanced melodicism work at the level of the riff, but ideally should have exercised more control over the lead guitar’s contributions in the studio.

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Profanatica’s artful simplicity

All music ever aims to do is capture one aspect of psychology with sincerity and a degree of verisimilitude. Music doesn’t necessarily have to cover the entire breadth of human emotion; such a task is not only near-impossible, but also undesirable and frequently prone to a cheap consumerism of the soul. Emotional states aren’t ephemeral except perhaps in the pathologically ill; a state of mind exists with consistency and duration, and therefore, if music is the balm one chooses as accompaniment, then it only makes sense to listen to something that is resolute in ambition and delivery.

This dynamic becomes all the more enjoined on the minimalist musician on account of the redundancy inherent in his art. Because he willfully denies so much of the musical vocabulary otherwise available to the rest of the world, he is forced to focus all the more acutely on the slice of psyche he chooses to expose. When this approach is used merely as ruse and trend, without any basis in conviction or imagination, it can easily become tedious, but the talented artist employs this form of musical-intellectual asceticism to capture his audience ever more securely in a communion of will and thought.

There have certainly been many projects, in and outside of metal, more musically minimalist than Paul Ledney’s life’s work in Havohej and Profanatica, but that hasn’t saved Ledney from accusations of peddling a boneheadedly simple and rehashed music. That he has remained steadfast to the anti-Christian vitriol of younger years also renders him easy prey to horn-rimmed hipsters mouthing witticisms like “you hate Jesus Christ, we get it already!” But realistically, in what way exactly would these critics want him to diversify? Should Ledney conveniently surrender his blasphemous preoccupations at this late date and become yet another politically aware cosplayer in what already is a nauseatingly saturated political climate? Moreover, does anyone truly think the few textures he employs in his music are suited for any purpose other than religious desecration?

Profanatica sounds the way it does for a reason. Unlike something abstract and essentially non-committal like ambient or noise, Profanatica has very real emotional logic about it, only that that logic is the obverse of anything carrying an even tenuously positive connotation. Vomiting on Christianity is but the surface aspect of an undeclared ideology that in fact thrives in a valueless aether. Whatever one holds sacred to the point of it actually becoming that individual’s identity, to the point where the individual ceases to be an individual in the real sense, this ideology ridicules. Christian, Satanist,  Black, White, Hindu, Muslim, Antifa, Alt-Right, Metalhead even, any label whatsoever regarded and co-opted with self-serving pride comes under its ire.

One is almost tempted to call such a destructive ideology, if it is indeed what Ledney purports to, fatalistic, for what good is negation for the sake of negation? I like to think of it as a kind of nativistic individuality, where a person’s innate but initially obscured sense of being comes to be realized and consolidated at a relatively young age, somewhere in between the time when the haze of childhood indoctrination wears off and the bombardment from competing philosophies begins. This does not mean that the person stops growing or absorbing valuable sense-data from his environment, rather that this constantly fluctuating environment can never make corrosive inroads into that being which is now nothing less than iron-girded. Nor does it mean that he lacks agency if need be; he can and should act, but the thing to consider is that he now takes stands with prejudice according to the dictates of that being and the gravity of the situation, and not because he’s expected to or came to be under the proprietorship of a mass-market label promoting some ideologism fundamentally alien to him.

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Medieval Steel

“Beyond the sands of time, in the realm of the mind, there is a land where life and death are ruled by steel.”

Of gigantic mirth and gigantic melancholy, Medieval Steel‘s eponymous song is the finest they ever wrote. It wouldn’t be cruel to say that this one song somewhat sustained and certainly resurrected a sputtering career, at least to a point where the band is regularly invited to true metal gatherings before audiences old and young. There are other songs in the band’s armory, including those from Dark Castle, the belated, self-financed follow-up released in 2013, but ‘Medieval Steel’ the song understandably remains the centerpiece of their performances, a real galvanizing force of nature that can raise goosebumps on the arms of metal’s most curmudgeonly.

Or can it? Apparently, some people’s sole vocation in life lies in being perpetual buzz killers. A live video of the song on Youtube, amid all the applause, draws a comment to the effect of: “Dance Metal plays. Crowd is happy

Do you sense the small-mindedness, the vicious pettiness on display here? There is an unhappy breed of person who thrives on belittling a thing of honest adulation with irony and sarcasm. Lost on him is the incongruency of using these tools of derision against a song which in spirit is the very antithesis of everything craven, underhanded, and effete. The irreverence and clueless rebellion of teenage years may have helped him think himself unique and against the grain in a time of hormonal turmoil, but to hang on to so much self-loathing in advanced age is a sorry sight and one unfortunately only too prevalent in current metal discourse. Conceivably, as others tell me, irony, sarcasm, and satire are not without literary value; that may well be the case, in literature, but not in metal, never in metal. If you care to talk about this music, make your words blunt and resound like hammer blows, and not the mewling, life-denying sophistry of the hipster dandy.

For no one, no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts…  This you can trust ...”

Steel of sword and steel of conviction, painfully simple yet profound philosophy. In such things is found some essence of ‘Medieval Steel‘, too. What man with hot blood rushing through his veins has not identified with this ideal at one stage or other in his life, claims of toxic patriarchy (hah!) be damned. What man, if not a dog, if not given to delusions of martyrdom, can gleefully turn the other cheek when he or his are bathed in the antagonist’s spittle? Polite society might domesticate him, its constraints might gentrify him, but instinct prevails when pushed to the brink like the proverbial call of the wild.

This then is the essence of ‘Medieval Steel‘. Truth be told, there is little that is novel about the song as a piece of music. It is an anthem, it plays to the arena, it has very standard structure, all attributes that can be used to describe countless other songs from the era. The song’s rhythm is based around a simple galloping E-D-E-G-C-D progression in the natural C major scale. There is delicate interplay among these four notes, from which C, D, E are shared by C major with its relative minor scale Am. They are the source of the vaguely wistful air of ‘Medieval Steel‘ which when contrasted in passing with the decisively bright major note G usher it into the realm of the epic transcendent.

All this is hyperbole to the cynical ear, probably, but how else to describe this feeling of almost overwhelming love when you hear a certain section of metal music? I feel it when the brief guitar solo appears in the opening bars of ‘Medieval Steel‘, I have felt it when shimmering arpeggios introduce Manilla Road‘s ‘Astronomica‘, I have even felt it on a level as granulated as a single bend on Deceased‘s ‘A Very Familiar Stranger‘. It is a feeling of complete surrender, what the philosophy of my country calls “bhakti” or devotion in conjunction with a supreme deity, when all you can do in the moment is sit back in awe and muse with vindication on the existence of such an innocent, unadulterated thing. It is the closest thing to a spiritual experience I know of.

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Living in a neurotic world

How does one keep their wits about in a neurotic world? All lives have their troubles, but it seems to me that the notion of suffering in solitude, with grace and dignity, has gone entirely out of fashion. Instead of internalizing their aches and pains and perhaps growing stronger as a result of that slow deliberation, people seem hellbent on infecting the world’s consciousness with their misery. How much of this is genuine, how much of it a puling cry for attention, who knows? To be sure, mental illness is nothing to be scoffed at; its origins are generally traceable all the way back to the earliest stages of a child’s development, right from when it hasn’t achieved a sense of identity, through incipient individuation and the separation anxiety manifested as it strikes ever farther out from its parents to consummate that burgeoning identity. When one really thinks about it, parenting emerges akin to walking a virtual tightrope; the slightest tug in the wrong direction at the wrong time, and one risks foisting an insufferable brat onto humanity’s collective head.

But does this absolve the individual of all responsibility for how he conducts himself? Can he go along his way happily souring the milk of the world’s weal, all so he can gain the temporary satisfaction of being heard and pitied like a member of some endangered species? Far from it. There are many instances of people with less than ideal upbringings who nevertheless, somewhere along the way, also developed a keen sense of introspection and the ability to arrest the needier aspects of their personalities. How can such a person be anything but revulsed when confronted with the swarms of crybabies prevalent today? When someone has never expected solicitude from the world for the hurts in their life, when they have achieved relative equanimity on the other end of the tunnel, can they be beholden to feeling even a smidgen of sympathy for these killjoys? Are they Christ strung up on a cross to willingly bear the burden of another’s sickness and emotional ineptitude?

An individual I was once close to had remarked, “But ODB, you have no problems in your life!“. For the longest time, I took that as a sort of indictment, as tokens of my very own neurosis, those being a lack of empathy for another’s suffering, an extremely low threshold for drama, and a general refusal to take stock of my situation in life. But it eventually dawned on me that it wasn’t my immaturity that was the issue; it was their inability to subsume their sorrows, real or make-believe, within a greater love, of any kind, with any degree of sincerity and consistency. And that is the key when you don’t really have any problems in life, at least none worth moping around in bed like so much dead weight on green earth, in other words, in the curious parlance of this time, when you’re too “privileged” to give a fuck: the only way to withstand the constant barrage of negativity is by distancing yourself from these professional ravagers of optimism, these pathological anhedonists, and their polemics and pity-plays. Rather, develop a routine, retain context, but most importantly invest your time and energy in something you simply love better.

 

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Condemner – Burning The Decadent (2018)

Condemner – Burning The Decadent

Condemner return from a brief hiatus with a debut full length that tries to balance the chromatic progressiveness of Omens Of Perdition with the insistent simplicity and brutality of American bands like Embalmer, Cardiac Arrest, and Profanatica. The latter development is chiefly evidenced in abrupt, near-grinding, repetitive riffs terminating on a note of ambiguity; where this device in the hands of above bands often results in a willful fracture of the song, a sort of stream of consciousness irreverence for the riff’s head or tail, Condemner find a way of logically juxtaposing these brazen departures with the immediate and larger body of the song. Burning the Decadent on initial listens may lack some of the fluid, well-tempered dynamic of the demo, but exposure reveals something of far greater import: this is the sound of a band that is fast realizing the subtle distinction between foresight and instinct and how the two seemingly opposing virtues can be brought to exist in harmony.

Burning The Decadent ends with the eighteen minute long behemoth ‘Extinguishment‘, modeled after Incantation‘s album-closing dirges. It offers the first instance of Condemner slowing down, if only relatively, and working through a range of tempos and textures. Doom as writing trope is almost entirely absent from the rest of the album otherwise; doom as oppressive sentiment, however, pervades all. Like Prosanctus Inferi, Condemner are not averse to straying away from the low end; riff lines composed of inverted or jumbled notes from the chromatic scale when played in rapid succession among climbing harmonic registers contribute greatly towards creating a uniformly thick and malicious atmosphere. This “thickness” in fact is the ultimate tribute that can be paid to Condemner; it is a veritable coagulating of one’s immediate soundspace in the presence of this recording, a manifestation almost physical in its urgency of whatever destructive portent the band is trying to convey.

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