Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Under the influence

I have never considered myself nor have I ever been a 'metalhead' in the sense that I've never liked plain old heavy metal. I used to find it boring, shallow and definitely not extreme enough for my liking. Plus the fans would best be described as fucking imbeciles. This is more or less my opinion until today. 
My interest in music started in early 80's with the post punk bands like Joy Division and Bauhaus and also bands like The Smiths, all three bands that are still some of my favorites. Sometime in 1985 or 1986 I got trapped into thrash metal's web and then it was a path of no return. Death metal, black metal in 1988 and the heavy involvement in the then burgeoning underground strengthened my roots in extreme music for good. When I started listening to thrash metal the only non thrash bands I had heard before were AC/DC and Iron Maiden's Powerslave. This means I still have a fondness for those bands although they are nowhere close to being my favorites.
These thoughts came to me recently when I was reorganizing my record collection. I filed the cds and LPs according to the genre the band belongs (Black metal, death, thrash, doom, martial/industrial, progressive, folk, post rock and so on). It was then that it became obvious that the category with the fewest records (by very very far) was heavy metal. In fact the heavy metals albums I own are so few that I could write all of them without being bored. Brocas Helm's three studio albums, Helstar's Burning Star, In Solitude's self titled debut, Mercyful Fate's, Iron Maiden's and Manilla Road's discographies, Satan's Court in the Act, Ram's Lightbringer and Running Wild's first two. This is pretty much all the heavy metal I can take. These few bands are the exception to the rule of shallow music, stupid lyrics, crappy and happy melodies that characterizes heavy metal. To put it simply it is not dark and brutal enough for me.

I usually don't talk about music when in the company of other people. It was always difficult for me to meet people that would share my extreme and twisted views in music or even my passion for it, so I stopped socializing (with the few persons I do socialize) on the basis of musical tastes. This has also made music a very personal matter for me. When I recently run into an old friend and comrade from almost twenty years back we had a long talk about the underground and 'the old days'. It is unavoidable when you get older to think of the older era as purer, better and in all senses greater than the present. So, we that lived the golden era of the underground in late 80's early 90's find today's situation pathetic. The things I would like to be different are many but what I miss the most are the printed fanzines. This was the purest indication of the fan's commitment and devotion to the scene. This was also the average fan's attempt to be a part of the scene and not just a passive receiver. The rise of the internet has led to a vast explosion of web zines which logically led to a great amount of rubbish being posted online with the internet acting as a huge dumpster that threatens to bury the underground under vast amounts of shit. I find it sad that the best web zines today are in fact indie music sites that give some space to black, death and doom metal. Sad in the sense that I have yet to find a web zine devoted only to said genres and worth even a couple of minutes of my time. 
Of course I am not the only nostalgic in the world. This means that printed zines still do exist, even in a smaller scale than before. The problem is that most of those that I happened to read suffer from baby diseases that are unacceptable in our times. What was charming in 1988 is annoying in 2010 at least for me as I am now 39 and have much higher expectations. When talking about an old zine the broken english of both the writer and the band featured were among others a sign of the times. Now I cannot stand a zine written in horrible english to the point were the reader cannot even understand the questions being asked and the answers given. I also cannot stand interviews that are anything but thought provocative. Another common feature of any zine was the overwhelming exaggeration and enthusiasm of the writer that led to the glorification of worthless bands and recordings. This was once bearable as this music was new and pretty much in its shaping so there wasn't really a point of reference and comparison so any exaggeration was excused. That's not the case today though. There are no more virgin ears, everybody is one click away from any music he desires so the last thing one needs is an uneducated shithead from the other side of the world ranting about how great is some demo that is actually worse than a pile of shit. 
It is obvious that there are some people that are confused. Making an amateur publication does not equal to making a bad one. Times have changed very much and the needs of the underground today are very different than twenty years ago. An imaginative layout that would not insult the reader's  aesthetics, proper use of the language, thoughtful and insight texts, be it interviews or any other text. The only zine I have read meeting the above criteria and many more is Oaken Throne, probably the best music magazine I have ever read. 
One great zine (and maybe a couple of others that I didn't happen to read). Can this make a difference?

The accused...
Profanatica - Disgusting  Blasphemies Against God
Lucifugum - Xa Heresy
Tortured Spirit - Arkham Sanitarium
The Secret - Disintoxication

Cut your flesh and worship SATAN

Saturday, 21 August 2010


Although I don’t have any particular problem with the constant evolution of technology there are some matters were I am extremely ‘old school’. One of them is cars. In general I don’t have any interest in cars. They are just tools that I use to do my job, as it requires pretty long travels. So when it comes to my car I keep things on a basic level. This among other things means minimum electronics, not even a cd player. So the old and faithful cassette player helps me staying in contact with my music roots as it keeps my tape collection useful.

Having to drive many hours due to job obligations normally doesn’t bother me. Except the other day when I forgot to put my tapes back in the car after I washed and cleaned it (after a couple of years). Under the circumstances the radio was the only alternative. Now, I have never been a friend of the radio and I could never share the affection a lot of people show for the medium. I find it to be shallow and with no real meaning. When I want to listen to music I will listen to my cd's instead of waiting from a radio station to play some music that is of my liking. If I want to be aware of what's going on there's always the printed press and the internet.
This basic belief of mine was cemented after hours of torture, wandering among the lady gagas and rihannas of the world and the awful and unbearable popular greek music, during that recent trip of mine. The lack of choice that I confronted was astonishing. Inevitably my mind made the comparisons with the situation many years before.

It was sometime in 1987 when a 16 year old discovered in awe that there was a radio show on the national greek radio that was specializing in extreme underground metal. I would never think there would be any radio station that would cover the music I was listening to, let alone the national radio. Yet, there it was, an hour every Saturday afternoon devoted to raw and brutal thrash and death metal. Back in the day this was the fastest and easiest way to learn about and listen to new releases as mainstream metal press didn't bother about the underground, fanzines were covering new records some months or years later and the internet was not in the people's vocabulary. The show used to present new records in their entirety as soon as they were released. I remember as if it was yesterday some of the LPs featured...Death's Leprosy, Protector's Urm the Mad, Axegrinder's Rise of the Serpent Men, Sacrilege's Within the Prophecy and Turn back Trilobite , Thanatos' Emerging from the Netherworlds and plenty more. The show vanished somewhere in 1990 or 1991 and with it vanished the one and only attempt of the mainstream media to shed light in the underground of metal. Some years later even mainstream metal disappeared from the greek radio as you couldn't even listen to an Iron Maiden song.

This way we come to here and now. As long as I know there are a couple of self proclaimed rock radio stations with a strange idea of what rock music really is. Metal is an unknown word in the cosmos of greek radio, so anyone can guess what is the situation with black and death metal.
The real problem is that this situation is not a result of business decisions or marketing plans made by the stations but it is what comes from the complete setback of the greek society that started from early 90s and continues until today. In today's context it is unthinkable for a radio station to play something like Leprosy, not because there is no audience but because there would be many that would protest if such music was played on air. We the greeks are fucked up, demented  and peculiar in many ways. I find it strange that the many problems (mostly economical) the average citizen of this shithole faces in his everyday life for many years now, do not result in rage or anything like that. Instead they lead to a strict conservatism and a stupid turning towards harmless and cheap entertainment that further stupefies them.

The league of extraordinary gentlemen

Thankfully we don't need no radio to point us towards two amazing new records that are the best things I heard lately.

Blood Revolt's Indoctrine is the best example of today's extreme metal. It is not black metal, neither it is death, thrash, doom, war or whatever stupid tag would anyone thing. It is all of the above and many more. 'This is the sniper filing down the pin before picking off innocents, this is the suicide bombers sweaty greasy hand on the ignition, dead bodies piled in the politics of the mass grave. Unforgiving and unrelenting elitism' in the words of A. Averill as spoken in an interview (read it here). It is one of those rare occasions where a band describes exactly its work with no exaggerating or falling into the web of megalomania.
This is by far the most brutal music Averill has put his voice along and his performance is stunning. In the same interview he says 'I’ve never done music this violent or brutal, so I just went back to my roots and the old school vocal performances from the likes of carnivore, holy terror, dark angel, slayer etc. this tight sharp thrash approach'. Picture this and add his talent on performing in a unique theatrical manner (spoken word, narration, melancholic passages) and maybe you'll have an idea.
On the other hand this is the most 'well produced' and professional recording C. Ross and J. Read have ever made and their performance is of the highest caliber. It is not often that a record is as complete as Indoctrine is, both in inspirational/compositional level and in execution.

I would also like to pay my respects to  Annthennath's States of Liberating Departure.

 The remarkable black metal records of the year have been enough. One of the absolute best is the debut from these frenchmen. Having formed a scene with strong personality to the point of being considered an established force, france now meets its new pretenders to the throne.
The members are all veterans with the most notable being ex Deathspell Omega vocalist and prolific underground figure Shaxul. His period of Deathspell Omega is anything but my favorite as I find it to be mediocre and uninspired both in musical and lyrical/philosophical levels. But I don't like to bite the hand that feeds me, and since I feed on hateful, raw and filthy black metal mostly, States of Liberating Departure is essential.
The guitars are along the lines of the french tradition, but with no fear in adding melody or being more free-form with leads appearing very often. After all, the guitars have all the freedom to do as they wish having the strong backing of the bass which here acts as another lead instrument almost equal to the guitars. Shaxul contributes his strongest performance ever and all these combined with the great cover constitute a work that is a mandatory listen.

Sometimes when reading comments of any kind on whatever subject interests me, I keep notes. Unfortunately it is often that I don't write down were I read each comment either out of laziness or because I am so naive to believe that I will remember the 'source'. Of course after four or five pages in my notebook my memory fails me. Such is the case with a comment I read concerning Nightbringer's Apocalypse Sun. I only remember that it was posted on a greek blog because I remember me translating it in english. In just two lines it summarizes every feeling and thought I have about this record but I could never manage to phrase myself. I quote 'Uncontrolled. Blatant.No outbreak. No emotional charge. No digestible passages. Black, almost not metal. Guitars built to slaughter'.


Friday, 13 August 2010


Villa 21 was an experimental unit for young schizophrenics, established by David Cooper in Shenley Hospital. D. Cooper was a psychiatrist and one of the leaders of the anti-psychiatry movement. He coined the term anti-psychiatry to describe the opposing methods of orthodox psychiatry. Villa 21 was in fact some kind of an anti-hospital running in the confines of a hospital. The unit was run under the principals of Psichiatrica Democratia as opposed to the authoritarian institutions of the time. A good representation of the latter can be seen in S. Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

Villa 21 was a greek post punk/new wave band formed in 1981. Adopting their name from Cooper's psychiatric unit and taking musical inspiration from bands like Joy Division, The Cure and early Christian Death they were quite productive from early on.
Their first two LP's (A ghost on the move and Men of clay) were among the lines described above and were arguably the best post punk works ever recorded by a greek band.

Their third LP (Electric poison) marked a departure from their known style and was in fact a garage rock and roll work. I am probably out of my usual field here but this was rock and roll that showed its hairy balls in the most impudent manner. The fourth album (Hellucinations, 1990) completed their turn and humbly but loudly ended their career. Of course as is usual with bands of that kind Villa 21 was quite prolific having also recorded several singles, EP's and songs for compilations.

Although back in the day I was well aware of their existence and had a vague knowledge of their work, I only approached their music in early 90's when I learned that the late Nick 'Flesh' Tagalos (guitarist/vocalist of Sadistic Noise aka the best greek death metal band of all time) had played with them. One way or the other I am glad I did so.

Cursed be thee...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Only death is real

One thing that makes me feel optimistic about the near future of the music of darkness is the seemingly endless wave of real death metal bands. I am already fed up by having to use the word 'real' but death metal has suffered in the hands of awful plastic/technical/deathcore/shitcore bands with four or five or more word names.
The genre's decline that started with the coming of the 90's, triggered the birth of the second wave of black metal that came to reinforce the basic foundations on which death metal was created and were abandoned by the bands of that period.
Whether the recent resurfacing of death metal is part of the cyclic resurgence of music genres or a genuine revival caused by the needs of the true underground, remains to be seen. It is probably the former but the important factor here is the great amount of quality bands that deliver outstanding music. Having leaved the golden era of death metal I would even dare say that the quality of those new bands is higher than of those of late 80's early 90's. Of course it is unlikely that we are going to see any classics created by those new bands. The classics are always those that come first and provide the blueprints for those that follow. This doesn't mean that those that follow cannot compete in talent, will and creativity.
Of course many things are yet to be proven as most of the hopefuls are still to the demo stage of their career and the whole thing will show its seriousness in the near future. All the same, the return of death metal in all its glory, filthy, raw, immersed in the swamp of decay, is only to be celebrated.

Whoever is interested in having an idea of the scene back in mid 80's to early 90's shall have a look at the excellent deathmetal.org were he can find a collection of scans from fanzines of that period (go here or fucking die).

Holy Death...
Antediluvian - Under Wing of Asael    
Adversarial - Thralls
Disma - The Vault of Membros
Interment  - Into The Crypts Of Blasphemy
Vanhelgd - Cult Of Lazarus
Bastard Priest - Merciless Insane Death

May you all die a painful death...