Monday, March 1, 2010


Death metal is undergoing a resurgence. There seems to be a legion of aged diehards who want to resurrect the sweet, musty scents of their youth and transform them into chaotic deathsong, paying homage to the true sounds of old (Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Bolt Thrower, Entombed) while eschewing all the technicality and focus on competency that modern death metal has highlighted. When i was a teenager death metal fucking ruled my world. I once told my friend Erika that by the early 2000's death metal would be the only genre that mattered or even existed, as people would grow tired of bland stagnancy and regurgitation-the hunger for more extreme musical outlets emotionally, intellectually and philosophically would force people to turn towards aggressive strains of music. So faithful and yet so naive. By the end of my high school tenure death metal had pretty much died out and it was easy to see why-the genre was incapable of expansion. It was extremity to the utmost and there was nowhere else it could go, no other place it could evolve to. Extremity either becomes more extreme or regresses and devolves. In the case of death metal it was both. Tech metal blossomed in the hands of bands like Creation is Crucifixion, Dillinger Escape Plan, Neuraxis and Necrophagist while the roots of death metal transformed into something simpler and more groove-oriented thanks to the efforts of Six Feet Under, Sleep and the once mighty forefathers themselves Entombed. The best of the best died out. There was no more room for Deicide or Incantation, no more foothold for Dying Fetus or Suffocation. These bands retreated back to the cults from which they had sprung, their names to be whispered reverently on the lips of those who had listened devotedly and fanatically, wishing for the day when true death metal would rise again.
That day is now upon us. Death metal is enjoying a new slew of dedicated practitioners hoping to revive the true and sacred art, to elevate the genre back to the unapproachable, sick levels of old. Profound Lore has done much to advance the modern movement, showcasing a focus on death metal with an arsenal of awesome releases by Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Crucifist and now Vasaeleth, a band as dedicated to the crusty sounds of old as anyone.
I hate music as intellectual exercise alone and any sort of revivalist movement runs the risk of courting this wicked muse. Vasaeleth are either very, very good or very, very true and i choose to believe the latter as they run through eight hymns of poorly recorded (four or eight track) chromatic metal juggernauting, with riffs as unidentifiable as bones tossed in acid and vocals reminiscient of Chris Barnes before he became self-aware. Everything reeks of the occult, from the sickeningly Satanic sigil-laden cover painting to the hopelessly obtuse and archaically obscure lyrics. Magicks are invoked and demons are called up; the end result is death, destruction, chaos and horror. Smoke vomits from the roofs of burning villages and screams haunt the choking air-this is medieval punishment and plunder rendered into song. The influence of Bolt Thrower hangs heavy over Vasaeleth, especially in terms of guitar sound and the plodding simplicity of the riffs, but the spectre of infant Napalm Death haunts as well, showing its hand in the go-for-broke blast beats and whirlwind pace of the record as a whole. This is heavy, heavy damage.
The fact that such an orchestrated approach yields only a blur speaks volumes about the effect. This is death metal as a force, a rebellion,a sound that no one dared practice. Time has eroded the true sense of futurism that the best death metal bands displayed but in its place in Vasalaeth is a ferocity and a desire, two qualities that are in horribly short supply in today's environment. I hope that ferocity can sustain for a few more years.

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