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 email@example.com). 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’ve probably never seen as many concerts in a row as I did the last couple of months (at least after 2004), which is especially strange because I’ve also begun to appreciate them again whereas for years the titanic battle between couch and pain in the ass in the car had always ended in favor of the former. To be fair, all the last few concerts I saw had a percentage of interesting bands above 50 percent, and at least something to see on stage in terms of set design and presence. The night of Saturday was among them, with an interesting surprise as well. Usual urban location with a handful of scattered headbangers, a low turnout but unfortunately it was to be expected.
I will not spend many words on the wild and ferocious horde that is VOMITMANTIK because they recently released the CD on the label (allow me an invitation to buy a copy though), except that it was the first time I had seen them live outside of a rehearsal room. The keyword definition here is crude barbarity. VomitmantiK is a rough embryo that draws its strength from being primitive, from that atavistic, primal ferocity that embodies the instincts of the woods, the totemic bloodlust of ferocious beasts that feed on carcasses and entrails. Hammer and nails: simple tools for channeling instinct into massive, direct songs. Powerful and raw, as the genre must be.
Here is where the evening took an unpredictable direction. I was imagining yet another Australian-like nostalgia product that might end up on the endless roster of photocopy bands on Iron Bonehead or Unspeakable Axe, but on the contrary, things went in a totally different direction. I had heard a few of their songs on the fly online in the past and was not particularly impressed, even after a quick review in the last few days to see if anything had changed.
Seeing HELLCRASH live, however, has been an entirely different matter. This group rocked the stage to fucking splinters. Even if my infatuation with thrash/speed metal wore off fast around 1992 when the genre had lost that raw polish that made albums by bands like Whiplash, Razor or Rigor Mortis timeless classics that still give me the sudden rush of twenty energy drinks, and honestly never came back despite various more or less pathetic revivals (don’t get me started on Earache bands). Yet, evidently, the magic in the genre is not gone forever because Hellcrash’s set was devastating. The arena that somewhat encapsulates all the obvious influences is Possessed and Venom but within the continuous shredding coexisted instances of Blood Feast, Exciter, Sadus, early Whiplash etc. It’s interesting to witness how simple things always work, at the end of the day you never get tired of eating bread after all. Square and precise, textbook stage presence, studs and leather, a drummer who crashed the skins like a poacher clubbing a baby seal, Becerra/Cronos-esque throaty vocals, spread-legged headbanging, and everything else that could serve the cause. If they pass through your area, don’t miss their show.
GOAT VOMIT NOISE, on the other hand, is a very strange beast. If the first two bands took you into the comfort zone, here we are talking about somebody that manages to put together a unique compositional style even if clearly inspired in spurts by this or that other sound, a bit like what happened in the days of NEFAS, when you knew exactly the language, but could not recognize the words. The concert was airless the whole time, there is not a moment of melody or breathing in the whole set. It’s a bit like walking through some post-apocalyptic, gray, lifeless urban scenery, gasping for some air or fresh water. I had listened to some interesting things online before, but let me say that after witnessing this set I now believe that speaking of Black Metal this is one of the ten most interesting bands we have in this country right now. Having a look at the performance on stage, once again, allowed me to box the view into a whole different perspective. Goat Vomit Noise’s world has no color or hope. It is a finite, bleak black granite wasteland where the only life left is armored and covered with fangs. It is indeed an experience to follow the monolithic, inescapable flow through GVN’s circles of lifeless hell. Excellent.
I took no pictures of Slaughter Messiah because I left the room halfway through the first song. Uninspired, boring, and derivative second-grade black/thrash with riffs so overcooked and overdone you could grate parmesan on them and cook everything in the oven the day after an hangover. This is the kind of band I was mentioning above, that adds nothing to the music world. Which was doubly weird since they were headliners too. All form, no meat. Nice packaging and merch, but apart from that, there was nothing substantial to sink your teeth into.
I was supposed to review these releases from the great label Unholy Domain, generous sly offered as promos by the label, a long ago. Better late than never, they say, after all.
I don’t know if it’s my tape deck that it’s getting decrepit and possibly oxidized in several components, but the sound on this tape is rather bass-heavy and confused. Which might fit, being a demo (or better, a repress of a demo originally on CD-r), but I definitely need to give it a try on a different set one day.
The tracks on this cassette are quite old and represent a rather immature version of the band, who in my opinion will give their best in their debut album on Hellthrasher the following year. I haven’t really followed their releases but it seems to me that the second album is a bit underwhelming. Here, as well as in the debut, the sounds are more similar to that of a certain Swedish Death Metal a la early Therion, but it is the vocals on this demo that will really give the best in the 2012 album.
Nothing particularly exciting, but worth a listen.
A collaboration between two of the most stalwart Italian labels who in spite of everything and inexplicably manage to maintain enthusiasm for such an unprofitable genre. Despise the Sun from the capital and Terror from Hell from the northwest join forces for these two discographies (only on CD I think, for the moment) of two bands that may be little known outside the underground environment of the early 90s.
Iconoclast came from my hometown and among their various releases include a 7″ on the famous Drowned records. Inspired by the Greek and English scene of the time, they played a type of Death Metal with vaguely melodic but malevolent overtones.
On Funeral Oration there would be no need for an introduction, Nicola Curry’s of Metal Destruction zone appear on legendary covers from the time and his fanzine is still a legend for those like me who devoured every issue. He’s still active as an artist today, by the way.
A full hour-long plus massacre of pummeling South-American influenced Death Metal with a full-bodied production that properly complements the album. This is a band that holds the same banner as the Demonized of some years prior with some spectral moments that mark the slow descent into the lower layers of Hell, sometimes reminding The Chasm. Mostly however this stuff is a machine gun of blast beats and guttural vocals of finest Death Metal, I never get tired of albums like these. Get it.
Talking about Memento Mori, on the 25th of April the second Rotheads album should be released. The first one was pretty rotten and this one looks good so far.
Il 25 di Aprile dovrebbe uscire anche il secondo album dei Rotheads, sempre su Memento Mori. Il primo era bello marcio e questo per il momento si presenta bene.
Maybe I’m not the biggest fan of this band, but the third and final album of the trilogy that came out on Hell’s Headbangers showed a version of Denouncement Pyre that was evolving from that mishmash of second rate Australian bands that sound a bit like the unfortunate cousins of their Swedish counterparts a la Nifelheim or the recent Ultra Silvam, and unfortunately, under a hat of bands of the caliber of Abominator, Bestial Warlust, Cemetery Urn or Eskhaton there are a lot of them that repeat the usual riffs in a D666 key with more or less protein.
With the third album “Black Sun Unbound”, however, we saw a version of Denouncement Pyre that came out of the trap of the first two, entering into fluider dynamics made of multilayered and well-balanced compositions. We shall see.
As anticipated, after three albums on Hell’s Headbangers they switched to Agonia, which may not be a guarantee of quality but has an established rapport with bands like these.