Marty Friedman, in his excellent guitar tutorial Melodic Control where he illustrates following chord progressions accurately and soloing over them with corresponding arpeggios instead of staying in one key throughout as is the studied norm, talks about the importance of choosing the right notes at the right time, and how this aids in the creation of meaningful melody. To paraphrase him, “..music is all about making melody. Doesn’t matter if you’re playing distorted or playing quietly by yourself in the corner. All you’re trying to do, always, is make music“.
On face value, Friedman’s suggestion would not seem to apply to a band such as Pseudogod. These Russians play an extremely toxic style of death metal, or war metal if you will, influenced by the likes of Blasphemy and Revenge. Fast blasts and harmonically unambitious riffs which carry something of the simple intensity of grindcore are the calling cards of this particular brand of extreme metal. Pseudogod are obedient enough practitioners of this template and it is unfair to hold them to standards different than what they purport to as a band.
But be that as it may, they still stand guilty of being willing perpetrators in the redundancy that has plagued this form of metal for the longest time. With the unrelenting, self-conscious preponderance on being brutal and evil and chaotic, bands are left with little room to truly evolve as songwriters. All incidences of melody are generally frowned upon as being effete in this scene but bands like Pseudogod fail to appreciate the significance that melody has played in classic death metal. The mistake fans and musicians of this ilk make is to confuse melody with the overly saccharine strain that leaves a cloying residue behind. By melodic awareness is meant an awareness of the sonic possibilities afforded by the full extent of one’s instrument. These can then be used in the service of creating appropriate moods and textures…yes, even warlike poses. Pseudogod‘s knowing embrace of musical deconstruction is understandable from the viewpoint of grindcore and noise but death metal was not intended to be like either.
Unfortunately, Pseudogod elect to stay rooted to a simple cluster of bass notes for vast portions of Deathwomb Catechesis, running through them time and again until all is little more than a blur of unidentifiable noise whizzing by. The occasions when they slow down consist of all the patented tricks currently in vogue for manufacturing evil atmospheres, and don’t do nearly enough to offset the monotony of the surroundings. Yes, this is a heavy, uncompromising album but also one that is a little thoughtless. There is a very real audience for this sort of thing, however, easily swayed by the air of mystery that has risen about the band, diverting attention from the somewhat more important matter of the music itself. Death metal fans can certainly try to be more demanding of themselves and the music they celebrate.