As an unfortunate byproduct of growing up in the asshole of the Midwest, I live in a city, but I’ve never truly experienced The City. I’ve spent pretty extensive amounts of time in places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Minneapolis, but I’ve never fully immersed myself in the everyday chaos that is living in the clutches of of a wasteland dominated by skyscrapers and surrounded on all sides by unforgiving concrete and steel. I’ve never lived in that grotesque, hyper-active human funk that I imagine city life to be; I’ve only been a long-term guest at best, a lame-ass tourist at worst. Fortunately I can live vicariously through Diapsiquir’s A.N.T.I., an album that epitomizes what I imagine existence in the bowels of urban Hell to be.
I haven’t exactly been keeping up with Anaal Nathrakh. Sure, I’ve heard a track here and there over the years, but the last time I actually listened to a full album was 2004′s Domine Non Es Dignus. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the band, in fact quite the contrary, I absolutely loved the balls-to-the-fucking-wall slab of filth-grinding extremity that was The Codex Necro, and the aforementioned Domine… received a glowing review from yours truly when I was writing for my college paper. But the way Mick Kenney and Dave Hunt continuously crank out albums, especially when the music is so patently assaultive, is extremely overwhelming; I have a hard enough time keeping up with metal as it is. So, here I am revisiting Anaal Nathrakh with Vanitas after missing four full lengths, and damn it feels good to be back.
Over the past several years, Chicago black metallers Nachtmystium have made a career out of throwing musical curveballs. It all started with the USBM acid trip that was 2006′s Instinct: Decay, followed by 2008′s Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1, a blackened psych rock odyssey with hints of punk, and finally culminating in the disco-damaged cocaine rodeo of 2010′s Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2. They are among the most wildly unpredictable bands in the scene, and although their experimentation occasionally falls a little short of the mark, it is always made up for by the sheer enthusiasm they exude while fucking with the black metal program; one can easily imagine Nachtmystium’s instruments being powered by the tears of tr00 kvlt internet message board warriors.
I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about checking out Wreck and Reference when I first heard about them. As deep an appreciation as I have for forward-thinking heavy music, I still have at least one foot (or maybe just a toe?) stuck in the old school, which means a metal band that doesn’t wield a single guitar of any kind throws up a huge red flag. I know, I know, it seems silly and more than a tad close minded, but hey, we all have our hang-ups; at the end of the day, I’m a guitar guy, a fucking RIFF guy, so I’m bound to approach a band like Wreck and Reference, who lack the one instrument that is in my opinion the foundation of heavy metal as the Gods (Iommi, Mustaine, Warrior, Quorthon, etc) intended it, with extreme caution.
If you haven’t yet heard Iperyt’s No State of Grace, you’re missing out on one of the finest slabs of industrialized black metal to come along in years. The Polish quintet’s mix of eviscerating, blackened riffage and pummeling electronics pushes the intensity so far into the red that few if any can ever hope to match it. I spoke to programmer/vocalist Shocker via e-mail to get the lowdown on No State of Grace and the inner workings of Iperyt’s nihilistic musical assault.
Josh Haun: For our readers who might not be familiar, can you tell us about how Iperyt started and what your motivations were for forming the band?
Shocker: Hi! To make a long story short: it all started a long time ago when I met Hellhound (guitar). I was coming from a speedcore/hardcore techno world and he had been involved in black metal for a long time. We found a common ground on our views, music and world and we decided to experiment a bit and try to compose some music together. And that’s how the whole idea of Iperyt came to life. Later Black Messiah (guitar) joined and finally People Hater (vocals) and Abuser (bass). Our first EP Particular Hatred was released. Then some gigs, some problems, new releases and so on. Typical stuff for a band.
In recent weeks I’ve made several attempts to contact New York death metal duo Mortician for an interview. Those attempts were not responded to. The band hasn’t released an album since 2004′s Re-Animated Dead Flesh and only plays a handful of live shows a year, so one can only assume that this relative lack of activity has something to do with it. I can’t say I blame them. But, I’ve wanted to write about Mortician for a long time, and even without an upcoming national tour or new album on the way, there is still much about the band’s totally unique and oft-misunderstood take on death metal that’s worthy of discussion.
Industrial black metal isn’t an easy genre to pull off. In order to successfully fuse the two genres, a band must be able to both comprehend and effectively harness the chaos and primitivism inherent to black metal, and then twist it into form via the cold, mechanical precision of industrial music. Poland’s Iperyt succeeds where many other bands have failed, using technology to rein in black metal’s tendency toward entropy and forge a pummeling post-apocalyptic sonic landscape on their second album, No State of Grace.
Iperyt conforms black metal to the (relative) orderliness of drum machines and samplers on No State of Grace, while at the same time ramping up the hatred beyond the red. Hate is arguably black metal’s most important emotional component, and let’s face it, there’s plenty to hate in 2011. Lyrics such as “I am the maggots crawling out of a beggar’s wounds / I am the rapist’s seed in the anus of your wife” and “We wield the banners of nihilism / Fist-fucking God’s creation”, as well as the blasting musical genocide of tracks such as “Antihuman Hate Generator” and “Into the Mouth of Madness” offer no shortage of spite. No State of Grace abuses both the body and the mind, as the vocals, guitars and synthetic drums lock in to pulverize or sodomize everything within earshot. These machines are controlled by barbarians.
The quintet achieves their goal of total sensory overload, yet the band also knows when to pull back from the relentless mechanized battering and allow the album (and by turn the listener) to breath. These moments of calm (again, relative) are few and far between, but they do serve to make the band’s all-out assaults that much more crushing, especially the pounding, gabber-style bass drumming that’s frequently employed throughout No State of Grace. I’m no expert here, but I get the distinct impression while listening to the album that the band may be influenced by electronic music beyond the usual industrial suspects. Iperyt’s music doesn’t approach danceability by any means, but there are some thick and menacing grooves scattered throughout the album.
No State of Grace might not be as varied and nuanced as say, 666 International, but it is arguably one of the finest examples of blackened industrial brutality to come down the pike since Anaal Nathrakh’s The Codex Necro. It is an exercise in musical savagery that oozes contempt from every nook and cranny, making it a perfect soundtrack to the misanthropic rage many of us feel as we’re forced to subject ourselves to the cesspool that is humanity on a daily basis. In an era where so much conventional black metal comes off as tired and limp, and so many musicians are attempting to pretty up the genre in the name of “progression”, a filthy and furious killing machine like Iperyt is exactly what’s needed to make us feel the hatred again.
Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus is a bad album. A shockingly bad album. An album that doesn’t work on so many levels that it’s difficult to know where to begin. It’s hard to believe that it comes from the same band that gave us death metal classics such as Altars of Madness and Covenant. Hell, let’s be honest, it’s hard to believe that this comes from the same band that gave us Heretic (I’ll never understand why that album gets such a bad rap). After eight years of silence, many were expecting Morbid Angel to come back from the death metal void and blow our minds, but to be perfectly frank, Illud Divinum Insanus just plain blows.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people in positions of “power” within the metal industry are hopelessly out of touch. Bands, label owners, journalists, you name it, typically the more successful and longer in the tooth one gets, the further and further away they get from being aware of/understanding what’s actually going on in the metal underground. Illud Divinum Insanus is a classic example of this. This album is the sound of a band desperately trying to stay current, but the problem is that they are utterly clueless as to how to do so. What we’re left with is a train wreck that sees under-developed death metal slapped haphazardly up against hokey electronic/industrial elements that sound like they were swiped from 1998. The results are about as stimulating as a Sasha Grey film with the sex scenes edited out.
I can’t help but wonder what Trey Azagthoth and David Vincent were thinking when this album was being conceived and recorded. Were they looking to go mainstream and live out some sort of twisted rock star fantasy? Were they genuinely in the frame of mind that what they were doing was cutting edge, groundbreaking or experimental? Were they doing a shitload of coke and listening to Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar on repeat? I would kill to have been a fly on the wall during the sessions, especially when Vincent was recording the “killa cop” bit from the song “Radikult” (Earache’s Digby Pearson claims that Vincent is actually saying “killa kult”, but I’ve yet to see definitive proof. You can read his sac-less assessment of the album here). That shit is hilarious. Don’t even get me started on the rest of the lyrics.
I’m not going to lie to you, I enjoy electro-pop metal/shock rock gems such as the aforementioned Antichrist Superstar, Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe and the like (if I’ve just killed all my underground metal cred with that statement, that’s just a case of tough shit), but that shit has no place whatsoever on a Morbid Angel album. If the band had actually worked to make this album a legitimate techno-industrial-death metal freakout, I might have been interested, in fact I would have welcomed it. Death metal could stand a bit of a shake-up, not to mention a bit of futurism to counteract all this retro business that’s currently running rampant. But Illud Divinum Insanus reeks of shameless (albeit dated-sounding) pandering to the mainstream, not of experimentation or artistic growth. Songs like “Too Extreme!”, “Destructos vs The Earth/Attack” and especially “Radikult” aren’t good enough to lick Marilyn Manson circa 1996′s boots. Who am I to tell Morbid Angel what they can and can’t put on their records? A longtime fan, that’s who. This album is a slap in the face to all of us that have followed the band and excitedly awaited their return.
And what of the legit death metal tracks on Illud Divinum Insanus? They sound like afterthoughts, like they were ghostwritten by the bands you’ve never heard of on that used Morbid Angel tribute album that’s collecting dust in the ninety-nine cent bin at your local shop. Songs like “Nevermore” and “Blades for Baal” feel like half-assed attempts to appease the band’s original fanbase and don’t come anywhere near the past glories of quintessential Morbid Angel compositions such as “Maze of Torment” or “God of Emptiness”. At this point it’s clear that the bands that Morbid Angel directly inspired, the Niles and Behemoths of the world, have surpassed their once powerful masters.
More interesting than the album itself (at this point about anything would be) is the potential fallout. The album has already taken a critical bashing, but how will the metal masses react? How will Morbid Angel and their label Season of Mist handle what is shaping up to be this decade’s Cold Lake? Will the mainstream embrace tracks like “Radikult” and give them a spot on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Tour? Will the band continue to put out albums and go even further down this bizarre path? Will oldschool fans riot when they attempt to play “Destructos vs the Earth/Attack” live? It is difficult to speculate, but one thing is for certain, Morbid Angel deserves to be called out for releasing this steaming turd.
You’ll notice that no actual songs from Illud Divinum Insanus were posted along with this review. I only post good music here.
Click here for a link to what is possibly the only positive review of Illud Divinum Insanus in existence. Thanks to THKD reader UA for the tip.
With that said, those of you who are still having trouble washing the bad taste out your mouths after listening to Morbid Angel’s nadir would do well to give Season of Mist’s other, less-publicized recent death metal release, Nader Sadek’s In the Flesh, a try as a palate cleanser. The album features ex-Morbid Angel bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker on vox, Cryptopsy’s Flo Mounier on drums and ex-Mayhem six-stringer Blasphemer on guitar. In the Flesh is concept piece based on the work of Egyptian-born visual artist Nader Sadek, who also played and helped w/ songwriting. Below is the video for “Sulffer”.
Pictured above is one Harold Camping. Creepy looking old fucker, eh? Mr. Camping is the California-based Christian radio broadcaster who started all this Rapture nonsense that we’ve been hearing so much about lately. May 21st, 2011, Camping’s predicted date for when the proverbial shit would hit the fan, has come and gone without any signs of God’s wrath. Turns out the crazy old coot also predicted the end of the world for September 7th, 1994 and has now revised his most recent epic fail for October 21st, 2011 (probably so he could swindle more suckers out of their life savings over the next five months). Give me a fucking break. Nonetheless, it got me thinking, if any of this poppycock were true, what metal albums would I put in heavy rotation in order to ring in the Beginning of The End? After some deliberation and debate standing in front of my CD rack, I chose the following four albums as the soundtrack to the impending Twilight of the Idols.
VON – Satanic Blood Angel (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
San Francisco’s VON only recorded a handful of material during their brief original incarnation, but that material, collected on Satanic Blood Angel, is encoded in the malformed DNA of black metal as we know it. The hypnotic repetition, lo-fi recording quality and themes of Satanism create a blueprint for the genre that is continually being copied, re-shaped and built upon to this day. Black metal is an inherently apocalyptic form of music, so including one of the fountainheads from which the genre sprang is a must for any Armageddon festivities. Unlike a lot of other black metal, VON’s recordings sound genuinely frightening and ritualistic without being comically over-the-top. This is raw, grim ‘n’ gritty stuff that just might be a field recording from the depths of hell, the invocation that begins our march towards oblivion. Pray Satan. Pray Satan. Pray Satan.
Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones (Century Media/Prowling Death)
Tom G. Warrior has been working on crafting the perfect soundtrack to the End of Days for almost three decades. He came close on multiple occasions with Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, but his vision seems to have reached a climax with Triptykon’s Eparistera Daimones. A lurching, heaving leviathan of an album, the Earth shudders under the sheer suffocating heaviness of tracks such as “Abyss Within My Soul” and “Myopic Empire”. Warrior refers to his lyrics as “epistles” (a term typically referring to parts of the Christian Bible’s New Testament which were written as letters to groups of people, i.e. First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, etc), but if anything they are sermons for black masses to be celebrated during the Tribulation. Eparistera Daimones is an utterly draining listen, physically and especially mentally. Prolonged exposure to its haunting blackness could ultimately lead to complete and total erosion of the soul, which might be the only respite from Hell on Earth.
1349 – Revelations of the Black Flame (Candlelight)
For Revelations of the Black Flame, Norway’s 1349 largely abandoned their monotonous, blasting brand of black metal in favor of noise and ambience, creating an utterly polarizing album in the process. Once the initial shock wears off though, the soundscapes 1349 conjure here slowly begin to seep out of the speakers and infest your ears, worming their way into your soul. It’s none too surprising that Tom G. Warrior also had a hand in the recording, as the claustrophobic blackness here is very similar to that of Triptykon and latter-day Celtic Frost, although the material on Revelations… is much more adventurous in its execution. It’s no mere coincidence that Revelation is the hallucinatory book of the New Testament in which the Apostle John describes the Apocalypse, because while some call this album 1349′s nadir, I call it their first (and so far only) foray into a sound that is utterly deranged, horrific and esoteric, a perfectly sublime sonic accompaniment to Ragnarok if ever there was one.
Godflesh – Streetcleaner (Earache)
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The quotation is from George Orwell’s 1984, but it perfectly sums up Godflesh’s 1989 debut album, the monolithically heavy Streetcleaner. The recording is the equivalent of having your skull marched over by a thousand dirt and blood-caked mechanical boots, while visions of a world irrevocably scarred by over-population, urban blight, unchecked greed and absolute power corrupting absolutely run through it. The crushing, metronomic pulse of the drum machine gives the album a soulless, mechanical vibe, while the grimy distortion of the guitar and bass, as well as Justin Broadrick’s beastly vocals, are undeniably human; the sounds of mankind struggling against the onset of subjugation via technology, only to be crushed under its aforementioned heel. Regular readers will remember that I recently used almost identical imagery to describe a trio of forward thinking Norwegian black metal albums. Streetcleaner is a direct precursor to those recordings and its apocalyptic visions are far more terrifying than any hellfire ‘n’ brimstone sermon, precisely because it is rooted in the all too tangible realities of our everyday world.
Of course the sad thing is that twenty or thirty years ago, before the of the internet, social networking and all the other platforms we now have in place for wackadoos to advertise their messages of moronitude (yes, I made that word up) across the globe, Harold Camping would only be known as California radio’s local nutcase for Christ. Articles such as this one wouldn’t be necessary because Camping would be a regional footnote at best. But regardless of what you think of faux-doomsday prophecies and whether or not the universe implodes, I think you’ll find these four albums well worth your time (though hopefully you’ve already explored at least some of them). If nothing else, they prove that Satan has the best tunes, even on Judgement Day.
I like black metal. I like industrial music. I’ve never really cared for industrial black metal. The subgenre never made sense to me. I see black metal as inherently primitive and belonging to the natural world, whereas industrial is inherently futuristic, a product of technology, the unnatural. Satyricon and Thorns brought black metal closer to industrial music with the cold, mechanical atmospheres of albums like Rebel Extravaganza and Thorns’ s/t (both of which I enjoy), but the “true” industrial black metal bands always left something to be desired. The juxtaposition of blasting drums, tremolo riffs and tin can production with rave-worthy synths and canned beats just didn’t work for me, even after multiple attempts to appreciate it.
Enter Aborym’s Psychogrotesque. Finally, an industrial black metal album that I can fully get behind. I always had a feeling that this Italian/Norwegian band had a great album lurking within them, but their previous work never felt like the cohesive blend of the primitive and the futuristic that it should have been, as if the band was still searching for an identity to call their own. With Psychogrotesque, they have finally found that identity and managed to create one of the year’s most imaginative pieces of heavy music in the process.
I don’t have the lyrics to Psychogrotesque (damn you, digital promos!), but the imagery that keeps coming to mind when I listen to the album is that of a mental institution, more specifically a decrepit insane asylum, nestled in some dark corner of a dystopian future. Of course some of this stems from the cover art, which depicts a dark building with only a single light on while a pasty black metal dude/mental patient appears to be using the milieu itself as a blanket to hide under. The scant press information bears out the notion that the album tells a story set in a mental hospital and doesn’t go into much more detail than that, so without printed lyrics I don’t want to speculate too much on what the full concept behind Psychogrotesque is. I will say that the album sounds like an alternate black/industrial soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island.
Whatever the true nature may be of the tale guitarist/frontman Malfeitor Fabban is trying to tell, what makes Psychogrotesque great is the music. Aborym have finally concocted the perfect formula for integrating black metal’s savagery with dark electronic music’s sleek malevolence, like grafting cybernetic appendages armed with buzzsaws and grenade launchers onto the body of a rabid wolf and letting it loose in the middle of a crowded urban center. The album is by turns violent, creepy and danceable, and it all weaves together seamlessly. Aborym have become experts in dynamics, capturing a wide array of moods with their insanely broad musical palette.
I’ve complained a lot about modern metal production schemes lately, but the pristine recording quality of Psychogrotesque actually works in the album’s favor. One of the main problems I’ve always had with industrial black metal in the past is that the audio never seemed to be clear enough to handle everything that was going on musically, either the electronic elements overpowered the riffs, or the electronics got lost underneath the blastbeats. This is not the case with Psychogrotesque, every detail is completely audible thanks to the nuanced production provided by Emiliano Natali and Marc Urselli (Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, etc.). Aborym’s sinister sonics are further augmented and diversified by a horde of guest musicians that includes Karyn Crisis (Crisis), Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath) and saxophonist Marcello Balena.
Indeed, Psychogrotesque is a metallic future-shock for paranoid androids shaking their tin-can asses at a post-apocalyptic rave, before either being committed to the album’s derelict looney bin or committing mass suicide. With it, Aborym have finally blossomed like a nuclear mushroom cloud and reached their full potential. All hail the new (cybernetic) flesh.