Ghoul’s Night Out: THKD’s Halloween Mixtape

Every year as Halloween approaches, I begin doing things to put myself in the mood to enjoy that most horrific of holidays; decorate the house with all manner of skulls, queue up a slew of horror DVDs, revisit the literary genius of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and most importantly, scare up some appropriately creepy tunes to celebrate the Season of the Witch. Though I typically pick out entire albums rather than individual songs, I thought it might be fun this year to compile a morbid mixtape to share with you, my loyal THKD readers. So, grab a handful of candy corn and gather ’round the jack-o-lantern, not for ghost stories, but for a night of unspeakable audio terror. Although there were many tracks from a variety of genres that could’ve been worthy of inclusion, I decided to keep things as much on the metal side as possible, in the true spirit of THKD. The player is embedded directly below this paragraph, followed by an explanation of each track. Enjoy or die.
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Blitzkrieg #6: Metal’s Cult of Regression

I’m tired of metal nostalgia. I’m tired of new bands trying so hard (and often failing miserably) to sound and look like old bands. I’m especially tired of seeing two of my favorite bands, Mercyful Fate and Entombed, being shamelessly ripped off by new bands that seemingly come up out of the woodwork on a daily basis. I’ve most definitely had it up to here with metalheads going on and on about the fucking eighties and early nineties, especially the ones that were children or worse yet not even alive at the time. As I’ve previously documented, I’m too young to have been a part of the “glory days” of tape trading and fanzines or the dawn of death and black metal, so I have to take other people’s word for it that it was such a great time for metal. I was only ten years old when the eighties ended, which means I discovered this music in the mid-to-late nineties. I come from a time of cassette singles, CDs in cardboard longboxes, RIP Magazine, Riki Rachtman, and MTV playing Metallica and Megadeth videos during the day. I thought it was great at the time, and I still love many albums from that period (as well as the eighties), but I have no interest in fetishizing it. I also have no interest in this culture of regression that is currently so prominent in the metal underground, or in listening to a bunch of bands whose music serves no other purpose than to emulate a bygone era.

Of course it isn’t just new bands sounding and looking like old bands.  Various labels have been digging up and reissuing albums from seemingly every forgotten, mediocre death metal, thrash and NWOBHM band in existence in order to capitalize on the retro fever that’s sweeping the scene.  Some of these reissues, such as Uncanny’s excellent  MCMXCI – MCMXCIV compilation (released by Dark Descent in 2010) and Hell’s Human Remains (technically re-recordings of old demo tracks, rather than a full-on reissue) shed light on the discographies of bands that were unjustly buried by time and dust. The majority of them however, make it pretty apparent as to why these groups never ascended to greater heights and were subsequently brushed aside.  They also serve as a reminder that the legendary bands of their respective eras are legendary for a reason.  For whatever reason, these retro-fetishist metalheads lap this shit up, no matter how crappy the band in question might be.  In their eyes, “old = good”, end of discussion.  At this point, you could probably put out a limited edition, triple splatter vinyl box set of boombox recordings of the bowel movements of some teenage Swedish death metal band from 1991 that never made it out of the garage (do they even have garages in Sweden?) and make a fucking fortune (of course this also ties into the “Antiques Roadshow/Comic Book Guy” mentality of metal, but that’s a whole other post).

The question we need to ask ourselves is, why is this happening?  Part of it can surely be attributed to the good ol’ “music is cyclical” argument.  metal is just now getting to the stage where it is old enough to experience this, and we first saw it with the re-thrash movement that started (and quickly petered out, save a few bands) a few years back.  Now it’s death metal and traditional/NWOBHM metal’s turn.  How long these two will last is anybody’s guess, but it seems like we are already reaching our saturation point of bands shamelessly aping the sounds of yesteryear, but largely lacking the songwriting panache to get the job done.  Not only are bands like Entombed, Mercyful Fate, Killers-era Iron Maiden and early Judas Priest legendary, they are completely untouchable.  Your band will never be as great as their band.  Then again, I’m not even sure that retro copycat bands aspire to greatness.  If they aspired to something greater, they’d be blazing their own trails the way the aforementioned elder bands did, instead of riding coattails.

The other likely reason for retro metal mania is that metalheads aren’t happy with the direction so-called “modern metal” is taking.  They prefer the old classics, but the old classics are finite (you can only listen to Left Hand Path on repeat so many times), so they gravitate towards bands who sound like the old classics.  I can hardly say I blame them, being that a good portion of modern metal is nauseatingly saccharine.  Many labels have thrown their remaining weight behind bands plying a combination of subpar At The Gates-worship and boy band vocals that calls itself metalcore these days (remember when there was such a thing as good metalcore?  I do).  Death metal has become bloated, overly technical and overly produced.  Shit like deathcore, crabcore, slam death and assorted other types of bro-mosh friendly bullshit is parading around as the future of metal, being perpetrated by kids that look like some bizarre combination of wigger, circus clown and Hot Topic employee of the month and behave like they have the mental capacity of toddlers.  I still don’t know what the fuck “djent” is, and I hope I never find out (I didn’t read it, I just linked it).  Even nu metal is still alive and well on your local hard rock radio stations.  There’s a lot to be disgusted with, so it’s no wonder that fans of “real” metal are adopting a culture of regression, when everything that’s happening now is telling them that it “was better back then”.

Regardless of what “the kids” are doing, or how little we may think of metal’s latest bastard subgenres and their practitioners, regression is not the answer to the genre’s woes.  We must push forward, we must carry on.  Bands such as Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, Thorns, DHG, Godflesh, Death, Opeth, Voivod (to name just a few) and a slew of others have successfully proven throughout the years that compelling, worthwhile progression within metal is possible.  The envelope is continually being pushed, and in some cases, ripped to shreds.  Of course, not every band can be expected to blaze their own trail, but I would respect a band that at least tried to do something original a hell of a lot more than the self-consciously retro shenanigans that are currently flooding the market.

I’m interested to hear reader opinions on this stuff.  Is metal hopelessly slipping into regression and as a result, self parody, or is this merely another flavor of the week trend that will die out in a year?  Is the “music is cyclical” argument complete bullshit?Are the Blut Aus Nord’s and Deathspell Omega’s of the world enough to keep pushing metal forward, or is some kind of paradigm shift needed?  Tell me.

Abominations of Record Collection Domination…

Over the weekend, I picked up a used copy of Napalm Death’s Smear Campaign. While preparing to file it in my CD rack, I noticed that I now owned nine total releases from Napalm Death. This, combined with a recent article about bands with very long discographies, got me thinking, which bands/artists do I own the most releases from?  I decided to take stock of my music, including all physical formats and all types of releases (EPs, singles, collections/best-ofs, etc) to see which bands dominated my collection.  In my estimation, the results were not particularly surprising…

Darkthrone – 15
Danzig – 14
Misfits – 12
Six Feet Under – 11   (I like them, fuck off.)
Johnny Cash – 10
King Diamond – 10
Megadeth – 10
Napalm Death – 9
Cannibal Corpse – 8
Metallica – 8
Neurosis – 8
Vader – 8

Darkthrone, easily my favorite band ever at this point, leads the pack.  However, if you study the results and analyze them further, things get more interesting. Technically, my favorite singer of all time Glenn Danzig dominates with a whopping 22 releases if you combine the Danzig total (14) with the number of Misfits releases I own where Danzig was the vocalist (8).  Danzig’s total jumps up to 24 releases if you include my Samhain boxset and the Black Aria album.  If you really want to stretch, throw in my Danzig VHS and you’ve got the undisputed king of my music collection at 25.

Chris Barnes’ much-maligned Six Feet Under comes in 3rd with 11 releases owned.  I’m bound to get flack for this since about everyone I know seems to hate this band.  But, there is something about their bludgeoning, uber-simplistic sludge-laden caveman death metal that I love, and fuck you if you can’t understand me.  Mr. Barnes’ total increases to 14 if you include the Cannibal Corpse albums I own that he sang on (3).

Johnny Cash obviously sticks out like a sore thumb here, but I’m not afraid to admit that I have been fond of classic-style country music since high school, which started with Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series and working backwards to At Folsom Prison.  I am from the Midwest after all.  My grandmother’s favorite singer was the great Patsy Cline, so a little of that was bound to rub off on me.  I’m glad that it did.

King Diamond and Megadeth tied with Cash for 5th place.  I’ve loved Megadeth since junior high, so I’ve had plenty of time to pile up their releases (I’m excited to finally be seeing them next week, even if it is just MegaDave and some hired guns, but that is neither here nor there).  King Diamond took me a while longer to embrace, but once I did he quickly became my second favorite metal vocalist behind Danzig.  Of course, much like Danzig, ol’ King jumps up several spots if you include my Mercyful Fate stuff, which would bring his total to a fairly impressive 17. Only falsetto is real.

In my opinion, Napalm Death are one of extreme metal’s most consistent bands, and have not lost any of their potency over the years in spite of stylistic evolution and a lack of original members.  I can always rely on ND when I’m in the mood to get some aggression out and headbang myself into a severe neck-ache.  Even their so-called “experimental” phase has its merits and all their albums are pretty much essential.

Finally, we come to a 4-way tie between Metallica, Neurosis, Cannibal Corpse and Vader.  Four bands that in my opinion couldn’t be more different from one another.  Neurosis is probably one of the greatest and most important metal bands to come out of the ’90s and I wouldn’t mind picking up the rest of their releases.  Metallica is one of the bands I listen to the least these days, but of course their discography (specifically the early releases) is heavy metal bedrock and pretty much essential to any collection.  As for Cannibal Corpse and Vader, well they’re basically my two favorite straight-up classic death metal bands so I’m bound to own a lot their releases, although I still have several more albums to go for each one.  Again, the theme of consistency pops up, since I can’t think of many DM bands with more consistent discographies than Vader and Cannibal.

So how about you guys?  Which bands do you own the most releases from?  Are there any of you out there that have ridiculously obsessive collections of a single band? What does it say about you as a fan/listener? Tell me about it.

THKD’s Summer of Satan Mixtape Vol. 1

Back in the days when the cassette was still a widely used and accepted form of media, I loved making mixtapes.  There is just something special about crafting the perfect mix of your favorite songs and sharing it with others, a craft that was lost with the dawn of the compact disc.  Burning a CD just isn’t the same as sitting in front of the dual cassette and painstakingly dubbing off crucial tracks.

Even though it isn’t anywhere near the same, I wanted to somehow capture a little bit of that old magic in the internet age.  Since I’m no fan of illegal downloading (which probably seems hypocritical after telling you how much I enjoyed dubbing off cassettes for my friends), and I don’t currently have the capability to stream MP3s on this blog, I present the first ever THKD mixtape courtesy of Youtube.  Ten tracks of favorites old and new, with no alarms and no surprises… You’ve probably heard all of these tracks before, so consider this mix the heavy music fans’ equivalent of comfort food.  Enjoy or die.

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