Monday, December 23, 2013

Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013 Preamble

The Malicious Intent crew in the middle of a typical debate.  Mark of the Beast is usually the first one to burst into tears and run from room, calling us all "assholes" and slamming the door on his way out. 

One of the most annoying things I find about myself is that I can get fairly obsessive about "completeness". I'm not even entirely sure how to explain it...but I do know that a lot of times it results in me not being able to keep up with shit or constantly failing to meet deadlines. For example, if you haven't noticed, almost every metal magazine and blog has published or posted their own "Best of the Year" lists. For me, I can't release mine until January 1st of the next year because there's something in my brain that has convinced me that it's entirely possible there will be an album released on December 31st of this year that will obliterate the fuck out all the other albums that made everyone else's lists. You might think this is a little ridiculous, but just look at Nokturnal Mortum's "The Voice of Steel" (2009). Yeah yeah, they're a controversial group because their extremist right wing ideologies and political affilations and probably wouldn't have made a lot of critics' lists anyway because of it, but STILL!! It's an absolutely killer album and easily one of the best metal albums of 2009, which happened to be released on December 26. If I would have made my Top 10 list early and missed it I would have had to either edit the list, which is annoying and kind of pointless after everyone's already read it, OR I'd have to make some goofy new post about how it should have been on my list to begin with or whatever. I guess the latter isn't so bad since its absurd to be expected to somehow have listened to EVERY album that came out, but I guess that's why I have a problem to begin with. I'm convinced that if I hold out for just a couple more days I'll be able to somehow come up with a better list after discovering some obscure, yet amazing record, or re-listening to an album I previously thought was shitty and finding it to be mind-blowing. Even this rant is starting to get pretty irritating.

Rob Gordon was so fucking hip, he read Decibel before it even existed!!
Anyway, I just came on here to write a quick post about how my Top 10 is going to be a little late this year! The main reason actually isn't because I'm holding out until the new year (although that's something I'd do anyway out of principal), but because my headphones are kind of fucked up right now and it's going to be a couple weeks until I can get them fixed up and make sure my list is solid. That's another kind of annoying order to truly judge an album's quality, I have to hear it on headphones! Computer speakers, a tablet, a phone...nope!! Anyway, for everyone out there eagerly anticipating my list (i.e. Judge Dredd), just know that my list will be out soon!!  So should we leave it at that? ;)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sergeant D is Coming...AND WE'RE ALL ON HIS LIST

Love him or hate him, infamous Metal (and non-Metal) writer, Sergeant D, has made a valid point about the collective obsession that Metal fans have with the past.

If I may summarize his point, he writes that there are far too many Metalheads who are content to listen to nothing but Metal music from the past and who shun any new Metal music. What’s more, this creates a market for bands who simply follow trends (or revitalizing old trends, such as with Old School Death Metal and Thrash), rather than really trying to do something unique. This aspect might account for the creative stagnation at which Sergeant D points.

In his post, Sergeant D includes two promotional posters for two Metal festivals. The headliners are all at least 10 to 20-year-old bands. Most of the headlining have also never really strayed from their trademark sounds.

I do certainly agree that Metalheads (especially IMNs) are too quick to dismiss new and experimental sounds in Metal. One can even look as far back as “Focus” by Cynic (truthfully, probably even farther). They toured with Cannibal Corpse after they released that album, and you can easily search on YouTube for live footage from that tour where people in the audience are audibly booing Cynic. In the present day, “Focus” is one of the most revered albums in the Death Metal genre (if it can even really considered Death Metal) and its influence has traveled far and wide.

So obviously, this conservative nature of Metal fandom is not new. Bands that are exceptionally avant-garde or simply doing something new and interesting are often cast aside for whatever is hot at the time.

Of course, one should point out that there is a canyon of difference between dismissing new music because it’s new, avant-garde, or experimental, and dismissing it because it just doesn’t line up with your musical preferences.

In many cases, it seems like words (used by IMNs) used to criticize are the same in both instances: “untrve” or “gay”. The most recent example that comes to mind is Deafheaven’s “Sunbather”. OK, it’s straying from the black metal (some may even say post-black metal) form with brighter tones and more triumphant highs than most other Black Metal. What happens? It gets pummeled by IMNs.

Now I will totally acknowledge that the criticism of “Sunbather” is also partly due to the fact that it has become the Metal baby of 2013 for “hipsters” - but this is also part of the issue. To IMNs, if it doesn’t appeal to their most kvlt or br00tal musical preferences, then it is “untrve” or “gay”. By the same token, if it appeals to an audience outside of the Metal community, it is also “untrve” or “gay”. Is “Sunbather” a bad album? In my opinion, no. It’s one of my favorite albums of 2013. You might think it’s a bad album, because it doesn’t align with your musical tastes. But it’s hard to deny that they are pulling, if ever so slightly, the Post-Black Metal form in a new direction and that is something commendable.

To give another example, I am not really a fan of Kayo Dot’s music. However, I respect them for their experimental nature and the way that they completely fuck with what our preconceived notions of heavy music should be.

In turn, this all creates a chasm of creativity: not many bands are willing to try something new or at least experiment with the form, because it’s just easier to get accepted doing something everyone else has heard before.

However, Sergeant D failed to point out that EVERY genre of music has its purists and conservatives. That’s just the way it works. Even what I would consider some of the most “progressive” music genres have their purists. For example, I would consider Jazz a very progressive genre of music. However, one needs to look no further than famed trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis, to see its puritanical side. Marsalis plays a very old style of Jazz and refuses to adapt. Many of his critics say that it’s as though Marsalis doesn’t realize that new Jazz music has come out since 1965.

In any case, it doesn’t make puritanism right in any musical genre. If you don’t think art should progress, you’re just ignorant.

Wat u think?

(the picture at the top of the post is taken from this Sergeant D article on more or less the same topic...also worth reading)

Wulf's Official Response to Decibel Magazine's Top 100 Black Metal Albums (part 3)

80. "In the Streams of the Inferno" - Mysticum

I know next to nothing about Mysticum except that they were playing black metal in Norway in the early '90s and and did a split with Ulver in '94. Other than that I guess this is some sort of forgotten classic? Like a lot of these albums on this half (100-50) of the list I'll have to check it out later. Sorry guyz.

79. "Fex Urbis Lex Orbis" - Ludicra

Man, part 3 of this list is starting out pretty badly. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get into Ludicra when they were all the rage several years ago. I know Judge Dredd was all over them, but for whatever reason they just didn't click for me. Add this to the growing pile of albums from this list I should probably revisit.

78. "Om" - Negură Bunget

OK, finally a band I know something about!! I've been interested in these dudes ever since I read an interview with them in Metal Maniacs (RIP) a long time ago where they talked about how their take on black metal was heavily inspired by Romanian folk tales, legends, and mysticism. Sign me up!!
Anyway, many people consider "Om" to be their best album (and if IIRC one of Terrorizer Magazine's Top 10 metal albums of the 2000s!), but unfortunately I'm still not too familiar with their stuff, even though I really like what I've heard!! I'm still pissed I didn't get to see these guys when they came to Sydney, but it was one of my first days at a new job!! :(

77. "Darkspace I" - Darkspace

I'm listening to this CD right now!! From what I can tell, it's somewhat similar to Wroth's other one-man BM band Paysage d'Hiver, except I prefer the latter. Paysage has a more varied sound, and his ambient stuff rules!! Really great for D&D (even if Professor Grindstein thought it sounded like NPR's Hearts of Space, bah!). Anyway, if you want unrelenting, emotionless, cold and uncaring black metal, then knock yourself out!

76. "Phoenix Rising" - Destroyer 666

Yeah!! Finally an album I'm somewhat familiar with!! Maybe it was because I was in Australia, but while living in Sydney I listened to this album all the time on the way to work!! I'd say "Lone Wolf Winter" is arguably the best song on the album, but almost the entire thing is chock full of killer riffs and savage energy. I don't know if I'd necessarily count this is a black metal album, but whatever. I'd say this is actually a pretty good spot on the list for this album!

75. "Written in Waters" - Ved Buens Ende

I haven't listened to much of this album, but based on what I've heard I think this album sucks and don't know why so many people like it! Maybe it's just too "weird" or whatever, maybe it's because the vocals are lame, maybe it's because the cover art blows, but if we're making a Top 100 black metal albums list then this would definitely not be one of my selections. Sorry, but no thanks!!

74. "Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum" - Deathspell Omega

Even though it took me awhile to get into Deathspell just because they're style is so unorthodox, this is a great album, even if it is arguably the weakest of the "trilogy" that makes up their three latest full-lengths. Anyway, not too sure what to say about this record other than that it's dark, evil, disorienting, and has done a lot in taking black metal to a new, more intellectual and philosophical level.

73. "Battles in the North" - Immortal

One of my favorite Immortal albums!! I remember first checking out Immortal back in the Kazaa days and downloading as many black metal music videos as I could find. Besides Emperor's "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" and Satyricon's "Mother North", "Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms" was arguably my favorite, even though not much happens in the music video. I think I just liked the song the time, I didn't understand why the band was perhaps trying to sound like shit on purpose and was mainly into stuff like Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar, and In Flames. Anyway, it took me awhile but Immortal's pre-"At the Heart of Winter" sound really grew on me. I started realizing that crystal-clear production wasn't everything, and while "Sons of Northern Darkness" sounded awesome, there was a certain charm and mysterious atmosphere that went with this record's icy, hyperspeed riffing and blasting, rickety drums.

72. "Maranatha" - Funeral Mist

Always wanted to check out Mortuus' solo project, but didn't realize anything he had put out was critically acclaimed!! I'll investigate soon!

71. "Ultima Thulée" - Blut aus Nord

Seriously?? I guess it's a kvlt album and shit, but I found it to be kind of cheesy, amateurish, forgettable, and nowhere near as great as Blut aus Nord's later stuff!! Maybe I'm missing the point, as this is a much more dark, grim take on Nordic mythology (usually a lyrical theme completely beaten to death at this point by ever viking/folk metal band ever), but still!! I'm still working on BaN's earlier albums, but as far as I can tell the band didn't become truly relevant until "The Work Which Transforms God" (2003), which was also the leader in a renaissance of twisted French black metal that is still going strong today!! Anyway, sorry but I don't believe this album is good enough to be on here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Assault and BA-TAH-RY!

The other day I was watching some live footage of Converge, and there was a point in the clip where Jacob Bannon's hoodie is getting pulled on by a fan who is attempting to stage dive (around 5:40).  Bannon proceeds to knee the guy in the face and then punches some other fan in the face (one can only assume he was trying to punch the same guy that he kneed, but who knows). 
After watching this, I realized something that hadn't occurred to me in my more-than-15-years of listening to Metal: assault and battery takes place at almost every decently attended Metal show.  OK, maybe not at EVERY decently attended Metal show, but at least at all of the shows that involve some sort of moshing or any sort of physical..."interactions"?

I consider myself a law-abiding citizen (ok, MOST of the time), yet it has never once entered my mind that by voluntarily (or involuntarily via my 14-year-old self at Hatebreed shows) joining a mosh pit, I am committing a crime against my fellow Metalheads.
I'm certainly not a lawyer nor an expert on law by any stretch of the imagination but think about it: unless you're playing American football, it's certainly illegal for people to run into you, which can sometimes result in your getting knocked to the floor (aka mosh pits). Those metalcore and hardcore guys who fly around like ninjas doing karate kicks?*  Pretty sure that's illegal.  Grabbing someone by the hair in order to toss them off stage (a la Randy Blythe)**?  Yup, illegal. Cutting someone's throat with a knife: DEFINITELY ILLEGAL.

 These guys all have black belts in karate.  Too bad they're breaking the law.
With the advent of smart phones with built-in video cameras, it's easier than ever to record the world around you at anytime, anywhere.  Of course, "anytime" and "anywhere" also include Metal shows where people beat the shit out of each other.  Thus, it is easier than ever to have irrefutable evidence that assault and/or battery took place at some random basement show in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
What I find slightly surprising is that even with this type of video technology widely available, there aren't Metalheads suing one another (and the bands!) left and right!  I guess that means that for the most part we're pretty chill dudes and dudettes...who like to beat the shit out of each other.

Anyway, am I missing something here?  Shouldn't we all be going to jail?!?!  I guess I need to talk to a lawyer.  

...Actually, I did talk to a lawyer.  A good friend of mine...ahem...I mean, one member of my legal team...has been out of law school for a couple of years now and is currently employed with some hot shot law firm (the rest of my legal team, The Inverted Cross Examiner and The Lecherous Litigator, were unavailable for comment).  To protect his identity, I will refer to him only as "The Cryptic Prosecutor".  Here is what The Cryptic Prosecutor had to say on the subject:

"When thinking of situations like this, one may consider other entertaining baseball games. A baseball fan is presumed to assume some risk in attendance. This is because a "reasonably prudent person" knows what to expect at such an event. Like a foul ball, or bat even, coming into the stands.

OK, sure.  Any "reasonably prudent" Metalhead, who has gone to more than one show, knows that mosh pits are to be expected. 

"So, the question is rather would a reasonable person take a risk in attending these type of concerts based on the knowledge these events lead to this risk. In this situation, it is not a subjective observation, rather, an objective observation."

OK, makes sense.  We objectively know that people will beat the shit out of each other at Metal shows.  Brutal.  Moving on...

"Another thing to consider is that a court may not care about two people getting into a fight in a consensual manner. Each party may be liable for the injuries for the other party. This can apply in a civil and criminal court."

Alright, courts don't give a flying fuck about consensual moshers.  

"At the end of the day we have to hope that a court will try and make a reasonable decision, not always the case, in which the parties are restored to where they were before they were injured. Civil courts lacks superhuman powers, so this is usually done through financial means."

So if you and some other dude get your bones broken ravaging each other in the pit, you BOTH may have to pay up until you're both not horribly disfigured.

Thanks, The Cryptic Prosecutor! 

So, since one would generally expect a mosh pit to take place at a Metal show, one would make an implicit acceptance of the risk, and therefore, could not lay fault on others for moshing.  If two hardcore kids get into a karate match, then chances are the court may make both parties pay for losses incurred by doctor visits or reconstructive surgeries. 

Case closed.


*Note: Assault, by legal definition, is merely the "threat of violence"...that is one law-related thing I do know...

**Note: Yes, I know he was not convicted.  I'm not saying he killed someone, I'm saying he grabbed someone's hair in order to remove them from the stage.  This is clearly seen on many a YouTube video.