On a superficial reading, the last post might seem like an ode to gatekeeping: “let’s keep our passions among ourselves,” in short. It wasn’t. It was an ode to the pursuit of the spirit of things and an invitation to eschew everything that is proposed by the masses. It was an invitation to search for the magic that was inherent in the activities we love and that united generations dispersed around the world before they became public knowledge. It is not about hiding, but placing, contextualizing and not watering down.
Those who know me know that I have no interest in hiding anything of what little I know and have collected. If that were the case, I wouldn’t even be writing in this blogzine. If someone shows enthusiasm for something on which I believe I have some expertise I am pleased to help swell the ranks of this legion. As I daily discover new things that interest me and thank the disseminators for sharing their knowledge. I am getting interested in cocktails and historical fonts right now, to say, and it is wonderful that there are thousands of more or less technical or informative papers on these topics.
The sick gatekeeping is that of insecure people who think that having bought a Sepultura CD in 1996 grants them some form of authority in the genre. These are people who have always been in the shadow of those who were really active and have suddenly found themselves with a lot less hair (I would say by the way that I am not wrong if I assume they are 100% male) and 25 years of militancy in the genre that for some reason should qualify them as veterans (“tell me three song names of the band you have on your T-shirt”) which they are NOT. They are not even now that they have jobs, a few hundred CDs and can browse Discogs from their smartphones, let alone back in the day. They were lucky that in 1993-1994 when the Black Metal phenomenon exploded and most of the extreme metal bands were under 30, the gatekeepers back in the day were still lost in Hard Rock, because if they weren’t, recruit training course bullying would have passed them by too.
I genuinely don’t conceive stupid gatekeeping, it doesn’t really emphasize anybody. Making people think you were tapetrading when you know full well it wasn’t true (and how many I hear today who betray themselves in the details-“a scovà gli infami’ so na spada”, cit.) I can even understand if you can’t find recognition as an old man, but leveraging the younger generation to inflate your ego, that doesn’t serve shit.
At the end of the day, those who do this kind of operation are driven by the frustration of not being in their twenties anymore, of seeing new generations (and a lot of pussy NONE of us had foreseen) enjoy endless technologies and availability of documentation, and in the past few years even several essays on the subject that help to bring razor-level clarity to the most minute details of any corner of the underground. Masking all this with a spirit of altruism is just an exercise in style. If you didn’t do your homework when you were supposed to, you’ve missed the train, and no 5-figure collection will make up for the fact that even today you have nothing to say. The world is progressing, technologies are expanding, and even extreme metal has come to the crossroads of interdisciplinarity just as has happened in so many other disciplines. If one knows how to adapt, the challenges of the new era can expand what has been before on fronts never imagined.
There are, indeed, big problems inherent in the new model, in my view primarily that perverse and demented desire to insert moral and progressive lessons inside of everything, but the opportunities that open up are immense and exciting. Fortunately, music remains an intimate concept of personal enjoyment; no fad can really undermine it at its root.
I was sweeping the floor this morning, picking up the hair of three giant dogs and one fluffy cat reflecting of the state of misery in which we live or will live. Same old middle-aged talk in short. Between passages I caught myself thinking how fertile the soil of necessity really is, in short, scarcity of means at first sends you into crisis mode, but it is when you are starving that your metabolism speeds up and your body becomes much more effective in fundamental needs. Boxing grass does not grow in the garden of the wealthy, they say. Coming out of the dichotomy misery = ugly, abundance = beautiful the new perspective reveals that even absolute deprivation actually hides unthinkable opportunities. The ecosystem of even the most barren desert under a microscope reveals a multitude of organisms capable of coping with extreme temperatures and lifestyles. To the keen eye, billions of bacteria are hard at work. Reptiles, insects, fungi live and multiply in the environment.
Then, when you adapt to an emergency mentality, after a while even the idea of abundance begins to change and that sandwich full of sausages and onions makes you crave it in a completely different way. You no longer want to shove it in your stomach, you want to taste it slowly and get a good feel for the flavor of the mince and spices. Then you are surprised by a thought you never imagined. That maybe you don’t even need to eat it all anymore and maybe half of it you can even give to a friend, or others who are hungry.
Living “without” then leads you to stop looking at the “with” with the same eyes.
This applies to everything from personal relationships, to financial stability, to music and entertainment. It is the evolution of yesterday’s discourse, that gonzo way of shelling out by accumulating and showing off that has become typical of our genre can only be the result of a bulimia now out of control, a victim of the clusterfuck mashup that occurred with the advent of the Internet.
It is, as always, grognard talk, which I am, but I still think it’s time to go back underground and recreate little ecosystems within this big mass of shit a bit like it used to be done in the 80s/90s before certain genres born in the mid-90s made everyone believe that they too could have the experience of that “alternative” spark that united people from all over the world through a real passion. And let’s be clear, this applies to music, to writing, to illustration, to role-playing. Everything.
Which then, is also why even historic labels are making piss poor choices to try to pick up what they had abandoned years ago. I know them. I see. AND I JUDGE. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, the lack of consistency creates situations that ring as false as a 3 euro coin, getting out of one’s identity may bear some fruits, but they are not the fruits of necessity, but the rotten fruits of opulence.
Selecting, believing, reflecting remain the cornerstones for the production of TRUE works both by the artist and by those who are in charge of promoting them in some way as we fanzine editors or small labels do.
Consistency only lives and bears fruit when you do things right, with attention rooted in the things that matter. A genre that is born out of a fascination with the morbid and anger, the discomfort of Man, can only live in that dimension. Use this music to show off and the result can only be crap.
As with all true things in this world, there is a contradiction in terms that makes Death Metal and its satellite genres something three-dimensional in my opinion. It’s kind of like when you bring two sheets of paper together on a table and they curl up. I have never hidden how much I appreciate as a fundamental element of the genre it being rooted in adolescence, both from the point of view of aesthetics and the very way of conceiving a piece of primitive and muscular music that draws energy from a fascination with the morbid. It will come as no surprise, that the genre was created and had its fullest expression in a completely spontaneous way all over the world (on the silly paradox of accusations of being a racist and not very inclusive genre we will get to in a future post) by the fertile pimply energy of teenage boys and reached all and I mean – all – the compositional and message peaks through the hands and throats of people who were unlikely thirty years old. Don’t think that I am here criticizing a genre I adore above all others, on a primal level people have been eating and fucking since forever and I don’t see anyone so far getting tired of it (although there is some counter-message in the air). One can play and create Death Metal even after the age of 30, as long as one maintains that spirit of enthusiasm of youth. This is music that maintains you young. There are also the experimentalists, such as the jazz musician of The County Medical Examiners, but of course, these are special cases that reinforce the concept.
It is a matter of recognizing in his freshness of thought and his exclusively hormonal passion the creative matrix that leads one to smell blood, hate, and dead things.
Acknowledging, however, the pulsating core of the genre does not mean that I accept that it should be approached in a cheesy or, worse, demented way. I’ve never had much sympathy for groups like Lawnmower Deth or Spazztic Blurr, then later early CSSO with the Japanese comic books on the cover, crap like Akercocke’s fancy suits or that whole world of groups at Gronibard. There’s more than one reason why I’ve never gone to an Obscene Extreme show, certainly one of them is that I can’t stand people in their underwear doing ballets dressed as Pokemon. That kind of American movie dementia just doesn’t work for me in this context. I mean, it amuses me OUT of Death Metal. The arrival of the Internet and Social Networking has meant the arrival of an iconoclastic wave made up of memes designed specifically to desecrate a genre of which very few have a clear vision. There are excellent cases, such as Birdflesh and Macabre, even the early Carcass had a morbid ironic streak, but the Gabibbo and Tenerone on stage, I’m sorry but it really tired me beyond tolerance. That is, it has tired me for well over 20 years, well over.
The truth is that Horror and Death Metal once again prove to be one and the same. The humorous and goliardic vein of ’90s horror fucked it all up as the arrival of the Internet brought the generalist audience first through the Black Metal beachhead (more identifiable and manipulable for tabloids) and then to all the other genres of the extreme underground with the advent of the Internet. It was not a random happening that the best horror of the 1980s was that of Fulci, Bianchi, Soavi, etc. To find some decent horror once more, even outside the more underground market, we had to wait some twenty years, and in the end it is not surprising that today we are left with extraordinary almost self-produced realities even in the world of gore and splatter, somewhat the equivalent of gorenoise as far as music is concerned. This kind of irreverent humor is annoying not so much because it comes from people who entered this world more out of boredom than interest as because it tends to be totalizing. It seems that NO ONE today is allowed to pretend a project created to be taken seriously. It amazes me to read that some people think this genre must be gonzo crap to laugh at, just because this is the post-2000 geek culture that has opened all the drawers and made everything available to everyone.
At the root of the topic, metal must be primitive and RAW, and just like every beast, should not possess “self awareness” as mentioned in Don’s quote at the beginning of the post. It may be a bit counterintuitive to bring an adolescent soul to life with a pretense of seriousness, but it is the contradiction that makes these genres potentially inexhaustible.
We all know that Metal = Beer (John McEntee’s quote, not mine*), but have you ever thought how similar these two worlds actually are?
Most good beers give their best when fresh and unoxidized, and more importantly, give their best when just bottled and should be drunk within a few weeks. Like all those bands that lose their polish and energy after a demo, or a few albums. When beer has reached proper fermentation it is bottled, when a group has reached compositional maturity it starts writing its own pieces. The majority of the most interesting groups peaked within 5 years of their formation, just as most beers peaked within the first few weeks. Some, very rare ones, such as certain Belgian beers, withstand the passage of time even improving, but eventually they all come to a meager end. Some groups, even rarer, need a moment of refinement and after an album or two discover their true identity, somewhat like certain beers that need to mature a few years to reach the roundness of their flavors and fragrances. Like the beers, most groups could just follow the production specification with barley malt (or other grains) before getting into some bullshit with honey, flavorings, and herbs that in most cases don’t work. As with bands, most beers that try too hard suck dick. Making a beer with modern, experimental methods often serves only as an exercise in style especially if you don’t know their past just like groups that experiment the fuck out without having a solid identity yet. As one for beer that no one feels like criticizing, the concept also applies to top groups that are very clever and very trendy but underneath prove once again that the king is naked. As with beers, some groups that manage to find their own identity then overdo it, get caught up in an omnipotence complex and screw it up. Then there are the sours, which rediscover flavors forgotten for decades, but you have to be very good to make them critically and have a lot of taste as well as technique, but which then when the chemistry is right discover a niche of true admirers. Just like some groups. Just as with beers there are the periods when one or the other is in fashion, and they all try to do the same thing but few manage to make something that works without too much pretension, just as with musical genres, perhaps fishing randomly from the past.
Ultimately though, as with beers, everyone will appreciate whatever the fuck they like at home because a beer, like a record, is a moment of relaxation and evasion.
Gutted was one of the first record labels that released a bunch of 7″s of the first wave of Death Metal from its headquarters in Illinois back in the early 1990’s. In Italy, probably due to Contempo and Nosferatu, we saw most of these in stock in basically every catalog that circulated in those years, and don’t get me started on how many Internal Bleeding flyers we got in every envelope when tapetrading. A couple of catalog numbers were reused used when the label changed its name to Metal Merchants, although I never understood what happened to GR006 (if you know, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org). I originally intended to take a photo of the records but my 7″s are not currently in the best condition in terms of sorting and cataloging. Maybe I’ll catch up later. Maybe.
The first 7″ that was released on Gutted let’s face it, was not that great. An unripe band that in its earlier form was trying to find out its identity and decided to do so with a couple of demos and this 7″ of Death Metal all chunks and bites, as they used to do in the early 90s where giving two chugs that today we would call “slam” was tantamount to being hard and heavy. Not so, this proto-slam borrowed from Hard Core Punk works 1% of the times, the rest being boring shit that in some years would lead to aberrations like Machine Head and co.
To say that I was surprised when I saw that Symphony of Grief was still around in 2022 would not be true, the band was excellent and I remember well at the time this 7″ came out that they were determined to continue, pursuing a contract with a label, on their musical path (they wrote me too even if I didn’t have a label at the time). I’m going from memory but it seems to me that Frank from Voices from the Darkside managed this band along with Immolation in the early ’90s, which should be enough to recognize that they were a band with the right numbers. But to find out that they have made ELEVEN albums, well that just left me dumbfounded. I haven’t felt like listening to the latest stuff because I have long since dropped that early curiosity for the more mellifluous Death Metal-related genres (imagine the enthusiasm I have for the post-O’Malley crap) although I think I’ll provide out of curiosity in the next few days.
Leaving behind Laceration/Symphony of Grief in Illinois, with Eternal Torment our own Gutted Records resumes a path begun with Laceration (badly) in the city where Suffocation, Pyrexia, Internal Bleeding really perfected that kind of Death Metal all elbow and spade strokes: New York. It’s not like it takes much to figure out where this band is coming from, because every stone-scraping instant calls out to NYDM, with that dirty “Human Waste”-type pitch. I grew bored of the evolution of this genre somewhere during the turn of the millennium, but I still like to listen to these bands sometimes. For the lovers of this more angular and squared breed of Death Metal, this is a band to rediscover.
I’m not going to lie I’m not a fan of Acheron, they have the kind of ideas and stylistic solutions that for some reason a great many people like but to me seem bafflingly banal, not to mention a singing style that goes nowhere. For being 1992 in Florida, though, this 7″ has a point. I think their best efforts came out much later in their career though and their latest album on Listenable was one of the best works they have done. Still, we are talking about that moment in history when Black Metal was changing its skin becoming a genre in its own right proproposed in those years, from a purely scholastic point of view these are recordings that should at least be known. These guys hated Christianity with quite some passion.
This 7″ was released on Metal Merchant but having still a code number starting with “GR” I thought I would include it here. In the beginning Funeral Nation was a Venom/Sodom-inspired band that somehow transitioned into the Professor K machine along with Rigor Mortis, a strange version of a particularly raw Thrash Metal that over the years has unfortunately lost some of that more primitive and barbaric vein typical of that genre, just like Sodom, to say. Yet here the band was at the top of its game, and the 7″ is particularly beautiful to have, ivory-white and with nursery-level illustrations. Probably one of my favorite recordings by Funeral Nation.
I talked about NYDM earlier when I mentioned Eternal Torment and here we are, talking about the masters of a genre that may not be my favorite but that until the arrival of Deeds of Flesh, which changed the game cards forever, stood in stark contrast to the bands going queer and the whole melodic goth strand that was slowly eating all extreme genres from within, from Black Metal to even the whole HC/Punk world with their internalist “emo” variants (no, not “that” emo, but distantly related in spirit). So here is a handful of songs that you could basically hear in different releases on different labels, chugging shit with their bossy NY accent. And their flyers were killer, I wish I could find some in my boxes one day to scan.
Another Metal Merchant release, filthy raw and cheesy like all the very early Meat Shits. Here we hear them in their less noisy version with shitty riffs and great vocals bringing it all together. Worth noting is the cover art by Rob Smits who had already done the 7″ Broken Hope, Excavation, etc. We were all collecting all Meat Shits releases back then, don’t be fooled by anyone who tells otherwise. They went a bit over the top with sensitive 2000-something sensibilities AH AH AH AH. But yeah, I think these vocals are so SICK for the genre. Great stuff as usual for all earlier Meat Shits releases.
I decided once more to hurt myself by continuing the all-personal all-unbiased analyses of the discographies of the giants of death/black/grind/noise and related genres. There will be moments of great discouragement in the future, maybe a few names that some people don’t remember at all, and certainly many releases that I had managed to avoid for years without knowing how low a historical band can dig but had to discover the hard way. Let’s start here, with a band that donated the world a timeless classic and a forgettable comeback. And had to stop right there.
But remember, god can, when you ironize about the metalheads who complain “it was only good on the first album and the demos” because that’s exactly what happens here and so many other times. Though the situation here might not be as tragic as in other cases, going from being fathers of a genre to releasing average grind records that play in the background while eating Churby’s falafel at Obscene Extreme is a completely different situation.
World Downfall, 1989
I really can’t add anything about this album that hasn’t already been said, it is an absolute milestone in the grindcore genre, able to distill those particles of primal rage recessed in Death Metal to refine the most violent breed of punk and noise into something never seen or heard before. THe FLOW here is beyond description. The bass lines have such a fleshripping force that just a handful of thrash metal classics like Illusions or Pleasure to Kill could compare. Terrorizer here created a familiar yet new generation of violent groove, a compact and breathless album that once reached the limit goes one step further with Oscar Garcia’s perfect vocals reinforced by a Vincent at his peak. And then he, the drummer par excellence. What can be said, really, about the greatest grindcore record to come out of the USA?
Darker Days Ahead, 2006
I recently closed by shop when I heard of a new Terrorizer album and given the state of extreme music at the time, the premises were quite bleak. Here, as predictable, Terrorizer loses everything despite the nerve of Jesse Pintado, who on a guitar level could honestly hold the fort with an even darker sound compared to the 1989 classic, a grim sound typical of some early British industrial-breed grindcore. What does not work, or rather is completely eclipsed by the debut, is everything else. The drum sound is criminal, the vocals too static and with those fucking machocore choruses this is a shadow of something vaguely reminiscent of “World Downfall” but lost between hopefully forgettable releases like Nailbomb and Asesinos, which to me personally represent the lowest moment of this music during the ”90s.
Hordes of Zombies, 2012
Six years ahead and another stab comes with this album that should not be. The cover art as well as the layout are those of a third grade band on some obscure east european label, no. If the cover is ugly, the logo miserably modified with subtle yet unnecessary photoshop maneuvering, and let’s not talk about the chouce ot font for the title, on the turntable the record is even worse. This sad Karina can’t hold the reins of Pintado and any grind element despite Sandoval cranking, is gone. Rezhawk as always is grounded on a single note, plus the terrible modulations on the riffs are just hammering nails on the casket of the debut.
Caustic Attack, 2018
The sadness of the previous album’s boiled Vincent and the lack of Pintado left no glimmer of hope open for this umpteenth and final stab in the back of World Downfall’s green Christ, not least because this Molina guy doesn’t sound much better than Rezhawk. Fortunately, the riffs have awakened a tiny bit and Sandoval really goes for the throat here. It’s still average fast Death Metal far from the grindcore of the first great record, but it is not indecent stuff like Hordes of Zombies. I would buy it? no. Would I listen to it again? No. I mean guys, you could have ended it with 1989, eh.
Screening inside my mental schemes with honesty this one, as well as the second album, would not be ratable as 5s, except that there is the shadow of a perfect album looming over everything. Could they do anything that could stand the test of their classic debut? I don’t think so. Nostalgia is not always a good thing.