Sadistic Metal Reviews: Late Stage Civilization Version

Published: April 05, 2024

What is our purpose? Resurrecting a dead genre via natural selection, which means promoting the good, smiting the bad, and ignoring and accepting everything else.

Why would anyone care? In the transcendental view, life is worth living for the experience of life itself. It is there to be enjoyed and as a learning process; we are reporting back, not to a perfect moral Heaven, but to a much larger world that needs a source of finite decisions.

Metal is worth enjoying. Metal is part of life. It appears in the form of the avatar of the heavy metal genres, now, but it is an eternal spirit like one might find in The Odyssey or The Mahabarata. It is a view of life as realism with transcendentalism and aggression.

A quick reminder about success and selling out:

I’ve often said that Nirvana were the last band to reach the very top on their own terms. It didn’t hurt that they embodied the rags-to-riches type stories the press love so much. Cobain had an unhappy childhood and his art was a solace while he worked shifts as a janitor, relying on his girlfriend to fund his band.

It is hard not to believe that Cobain would have something to say about today’s identity politics (Cobain once declared he was “gay in spirit and … probably could be bisexual” and called himself a feminist). A man for our times, in his times, so to speak.

Nirvana got to the top by pitching easy answers in easy music for mentally lazy people. In other words, they did what every other pop band has done, but made a virtue of demonstrating humility, empathy, and indulgence of the underdog… these are Crowd-friendly traits.

With that in mind, beware of mainstream recognition of death metal, since it is a mixed bag:

Morrisound Recording – the Tampa studio where such bands as Death, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel recorded their most seminal albums – is receiving a Historical Marker from Hillsborough County, Florida.

The studio’s previous site in Temple Terrace, on the outskirts of Tampa, will be honoured with the plaque to acknowledge its contributions to the music industry.

No word on whether Sunlight Studios and Grieghallen are getting the same treatment. The classics of death metal came from all over the world, but it would be hard to discount Tampa since as a low-cost living area, it fostered an expansion of art of all sorts.

Onward to Golgotha, or rather, the sadistic reviews:


Delirium – Zzooouhh: this release from 1990 captures the point of death metal but is simply not all that exciting, running through the riff tropes one might expect from Slayer, Death, Master, and Possessed in songs that have some internal structural variation but seem to aim toward falling back into a mid-paced groove, making this into sort of a doom metal equivalent of middle period hardcore, competent but unexciting.

AthanaTheos – Alpha Theistic: at this point, this sub-sub-genre has become comedic: pig squeals, guitar squeels, percussive chromatic riffing, and predictable song rhythms and structures that resemble speed metal crossed with NYHC more than death metal or grindcore; however, the worst problem with this sub-sub-gener is its ostentatious complication which amounts to lots of distractions from the fact that at their heart, these songs are simple later hardcore style foot-tappers with no internal development.

Innsmouth – Consumed by Elder Sign: if you wanted that Exodus/Asphyx/Mortician crossover that never quite made it into the 1990s catalog, this band does a reasonable job of giving verse-chorus songs enough spin with tangential riffs to shape atmosphere and allow the band to intensify it with layered technique, making for a somewhat plodding listen that nonetheless is “heavy” more than “brutal” and not entirely terrible even if there is not much incentive to revisit this work.

Putrefaction Sets In – Repugnant Inception Of Decomposing Paroxysm: California hardcore verses, death metal riffs for transition, and then choruses ripped straight from the second Carcass album allow this album from members of five failed Carcass clones to stand above most of its competition, but these riffs barely relate to each other and feel more like flogging the past, as the imagery and song titles suggest, even though at its heart this is warmed-over 1991 punk band from when everyone was cloning aggregates and averages of each other.

Slaughter to Prevail – Kostolom: another deathgrind band with Pantera influences, this “modern metal” band sounds exactly like all the others with the same vocal rhythms and riff shapes in songs that loop and go nowhere, showing just how much Biohazard influenced this whole genre with its embrace of pointless existence as an artistic statement, but really the bottom line is that you can find ten thousand bands writing fungible material in the same style and it will still be artistically irrelevant and boring for 100+ IQ listeners.

Atrophy – Asylum: clearly a career best for Atrophy, Asylum shows the band stripping down their sound to a half-dozen riffs per song and making each one count as a verse, chorus, presentation, or transition — these songs arrive at a point of conflict having become integrated at which point they present their inner core, usually in guitar solo form — without the randomness or dead riffs of earlier albums, but while my mid-teens self would have loved this speed metal album, I FUCKING HATE SPEED METAL at this point.

Sequestrum – Pickled Preservation: this band nails the old school sound, a hybrid between Mortician and Carcass with nods to Impetigo, but songs aim for a wallowing in the atmosphere of the past without any of the context, so entanglement entropy is low unless you listen to this sandwiched between B-level gore-grind bands of the era, at which point it seems like a continuation without distinction, which sort of illustrates its superfluous nature.

Sirrogha – Sirrogha: this album tries to keep up the old school spirit of actual dialogue in the pieces and a dark atmosphere, but somehow misses black metal as a spirit and instead creates simply a dark bittersweet atmosphere, such that while it is very much in line with the past it also has no dialogue with that past except on the level of aesthetics, which leaves me appreciating this but not wanting to hear it again.

Daevar – Amber Eyes: stoner doom is the new glam because it is basically hard rock mixed with a few metal touches but for a mixed-sex mixed-class mixed-experience audience that just wants to hear a familiar riff with a twist repeated into oblivion, and that is what this album delivers, basically sped up Kyuss riffs and female vocals in a droning package that provides no glimpse of anything greater than materiality but does so in a comfortingly fedora edgy package.

Maul – Seraphic Punishment: this is a Megadeth album hidden in layers of Incantation cloning and Swedish death metal style trills, but ultimately it goes back to bouncy riffs that are there just to provide a groove and then end the song where it started, which means this is not death metal and not really interesting unless you are fascinated by the production, type of distortion, vocals, and other surface-level attributes.

Vastum – Inward to Gethsemane: riffs need to relate to both the prior riff and to some idea for each song that makes all the riffs relevant to each other, but here we get one bold riff and commentary on it from other riffs without any kind of direction, so you end up with guitar practice in the mode of Onward to Golgotha but with more heavy metal and slam metal elements, meaning excellent aesthetics but a feeling of inner emptiness afterwards.

Smoke Mountain – Queen of Sin: “stoner rock” transforms metal back into 1960s Boomer rock through vocal-led verse-chorus songs in which guitars are simply a rhythm instrument and riffs barely have any form, consisting of emulation of a few well-known patterns from the classics of the doom metal genre, and this band is no exception, leading one to wonder why from an economic analysis they even bothered unless the whole point was to use some fame as a jumpstart for some other career.

Convulsing – Perdurance: all avantgarde prog metal bands sound the same, which is layers of contrarianism fighting each other to be unexpected and quirky, but this means that the core of each song is not only simple but devoid of conflict or evolution, such that you are essentially hearing what might as well be a looping recording of all the quirky guitar tricks that hipsters can invent without a soul.

Conan – : a band finally paired up the power metal reboot of NWOBHM with doom metal and came up with these songs that do not hold together because their parts are not communicating, but offer us a vision of doom metal that has some energy and epic potential, getting out of the pit of pure stoner doom, and by incorporating some faster riffs like Cathedral did, allows songs to breathe; someone else is going to take this new style farther especially since it has non-distorted vocals and few of them instead of being dominated by singing.

Deathcorp – Toxica: promising pure old 1980s [speed metal], this band delivers what is more an homage to European speed metal like Destruction and Scorpions than an exclusively Bay Area outing, focusing on melodic leads and toe-tapping riding riffs that would feel at home at a local pub, but uses little of the riff structuring that made American speed metal interesting, so you end up with vocal-driven music based around a throbbing but predictable rhythm and the song pattern that adapts easily to this.

Kerry King – “Idle Hands”: did you miss early 2000s Slayer? Now it has returned through Kerry King, who fuses the chunky monkey stylings of the era after Divine Intervention — basically a Slayer clone album by Slayer — with the simplified speed metal with modern metal touches of the last full Slayer release, giving you the urgency and sneering misanthropy that you need but in a compact and cyclic form.

Grave Monolith – “Demo MMXXIII”: All of the elements are right, but a lack of animating spirit means they are based in convenience to the linearly preceeding element and not tied to a central idea except an aesthetic one, which makes what would otherwise be a strong doom-death band stand out, but the carnival music tendency means that a good riff leads to something with no relation to it, leading to a listener experience of being in a pit filled with random objects while someone rants drama overhead.

Sol Ether – I: Golden Head: all stew tastes roughly the same because you pile a wide range of ingredients in a pot and boil them, and you end up with roughly the same result, which is also true for this album that borrows widely from metal genres but focuses on the lowest common denominator uniting them and ends up at pop with emo touches and lots of metal on the surface, but since the parts do not work together, you end up with a soundtrack of neurotic confusion.

Sigils of Ruin – “Demo I”: basic rushing death metal competently executed with a very simple model and occasional doom-paced passages, nothing new but for a rarity the songs hold up and are reasonably distinct from each other, staying well within the underground metal style and avoiding all recent accentures, but probably not going to appeal beyond those who really like Thergothon, Mythic, and Asphyx.

Cosmophobe – Existential: why are we supposed to cheer for the same stuff that avantgarde bands have done for decades but now with a picked-up pace and some death metal riffing but without the riff shapes? This entire subgenre is a fraud, this band is a fraud, and there is no reason to listen to this recombinant imitation of once-great genres by people who are obviously outside-looking-in because they refuse to consider the why of the genre and substitute jazz fusion technique for content.

Corpse Pile – Hardgore Deathmetal: self-referential titles are usually a bad thing and this EP is no exception, being a hybrid of slam, deathcore, and old school primitive deathmetal like Baphomet and Morpheus Descends that sometimes sound like people moving heavy boxes in a small room, varying patterns to try to get a little gap, but in this band the sense of purpose and perception those bands had is not evident, so you get repetition of past technique without understanding.

Counting Hours – The Wishing Tomb: post-metal that emphasizes surging minor key punk riffs on the choruses and derives much of its pacing and chord progressions from Skepticism, but always takes them back to that mixture of smarmy and low self-confidence that makes rock become emo, and then you get the crossover between Coldplay and Fugazi playing out as a slow cessation of energy, tapering off with the album, making something listenable in ten-second blocks but unlistenable as an album.

Plaguemace – Reptilian Overlords: the problem with being Scandinavian is that everything is easy for you to conceptualize and execute, so often you settle for a mediocre core and fiddle with the details of implementation, a type of neurosis common to advanced high-IQ societies; this song tries to combine old school death metal, speed metal, and newer groove metal, ending up with some bouncy crowd-pleasing riffs and tightly fit together songs that ultimately are not that expressive thus not that memorable.

Insolitus – Grandeur: imagine dungeon synth with a strong affinity for 1970s action/adventure show theme music, and you get this pleasant sonic atmosphere which like most antipodal music is binary, meaning that you have two contrasting themes that repeat and then fizzle out, sort of like the quest of a created people for answers beyond donuts and democracy, but internal layering keeps the songs afloat with their own tension enough for the warm bath of vaguely heroic and ancient sounds to make its statement and then fade away like the 1970s.

Bloody Apostles – Bloody Apostles: although it is hard to want to hear punk or jazz or any other genre that has gone senescent after the weight of its knowledge exceeded the will of new audiences to compete with the past, Bloody Apostles make Cro-Mags styled hardcore with the rhythmic approach of Black Flag and a very thrash sensibility to song structure, pulling songs out of riffs and then inverting the process two-thirds of the way through with a vital change, centering around the anti-poetry of the lyrics in blaspheming the calcified and antiquated symbols of the holy.

Neurectomy – Overwrought: postmodernism suggested that all truths had multiple facets and therefore there was no absolute truth, which is true, but in the process rejected reality itself by insisting that all people were the same and therefore universal truths, values, and communications still existed despite the differences between groups and individuals, which led to another false reality based on the idea of external or surface influences being the only differences between us, i.e. the facet of reality we see relates to our experience and not our souls, which meant that postmodern art because entirely focused on surface aesthetics through tricks and stunts, which produces something like this Disney ride through metal riffs that remain unconnected by melody or structure because they are entirely surface, resulting in carnival music that shows off a snowball of amalgamated techniques from jazz fusion, emo, heavy metal, death metal, punk, and rock, but goes nowhere and becomes sonic wallpaper screaming neurosis and insufficiency instead.

Endseeker – Global Worming: essentially an early Entombed tribute band covering power metal, this band works some good compelling melodies in with the bouncy riffing but ultimately falls back into some old heavy metal tropes instead of developing songs, which means like almost all of the Swedish death metal inspired bands the death metal is an aesthetic graft onto what is essentially just some pretty heavy metal that never gets anywhere other than triumphant reprise of theme.

Malformed – The Gathering of Souls: this band shows great promise in a hybrid of death metal and black metal atmosphere with some deathcore stylings that distract from its strength, which is producing dark atmospheres in which riffs battle it out for melodic supremacy, since too many rhythm riffs and drum pounding distract from the building sensation of voracious emptiness that this band creates in its best moments.

Cloak – Black Flame Eternal: really we can blame Dark Funeral for kicking off this microgenre of Hot Topic metal that is essentially grandiloquent heavy metal with black metal stylings, which mostly focuses on a slower version of the Destruction/Samael style of intensely rhythmic metal based on pounding the audience into a subtle groove then bashing them with faster drums while short melodic riffs unveil, meaning that it is pleasant to hear but not something you reach for repeatedly.

R´n – Black Hell: combine early Bathory with black ‘n roll like Nifelheim and you get this high-energy band that suffers from formless riffs sometimes and too much bluesy rock influence at others, calling into play a Motorhead influence, but also keeping its own sense of loping pace and atmosphere with elbow room, which makes this less a presentation in the style of black metal and more like a soundtrack.

Dire Descent – Martyrs: if you wanted The Haunted style metalcore mixed with some aggressive elements of deathcore and black ‘n roll, this release provides lots of emo-influenced searing vocals and sudden rhythmic breaks, familiar Swedeath(tm) melodic riffs, and precision percussion synchronized to pounding power chord riffs, but in the bigger picture, these songs develop little and leave a sense of profound disconnection.


Consider that we are now in a condition of metal heat-death. That is, everything sounds about like everything else, absent a few holdouts like Demoncy, Sammath, Kaeck, and so on who have their own voices and want to express something other than cosmopolitan bourgeois consumer contentment.

Most bands, now of the emo/indie/core hybrid type, simply want to express membership in a metal community, a tame edginess that threatens no actual authority, and promotion of the massive flowering egos of the people involved. After that, they get careers in entertainment for having been “relevant.”

Like we wait for Western Civilization to finally fall so that our stupid compatriots do not oppose our attempts to rebuild, in metal we are waiting for the crash so that there are no opportunities and therefore, we can build new ones that reward quality instead of participation.

We must think of this in terms of market forces. In its classic era, black metal was a rising but unrecognized genre. Quality was rewarded, garbage discarded, and everything else ignored. This enabled quality music to emerge there off the radar of commerce and popularity.

Now metal is a bloated and dying industry like Silicon Valley. The good ideas came long ago, but people are doing just fine flogging irrelevant imitations. The world does not need Rust, Go, Node.js, etc. to survive. These are jobs creation programs for mediocrities like “technical” metal is.


A brief insight into technology in music from Karl Bartos:

When we came up with the idea of making an album called Computer World, I always compare it to the book Neuromancer by William Gibson, which was written on a typewriter; analogue. The things he was imagining in his head were so far ahead of the time. So, when we did Computer World we had a Moog synth, an ARP synth and a 16-step sequencer but we had the image in our head. We couldn’t have imagined that in 2023 you could, in theory, reach everyone in this world with your music via a mobile phone.

And yet, Neuromancer was based on the internet which came out of 1960s computer technology. Perhaps we could blame J.R.R. Tolkien with his idea of a network of palantir seeing stones, or even the idea of divine intuition from ancient fiction.

The ancient is the future. It just occurs in layers. Technology may be a new layer, but the idea was always there. This is why remaining true to the Earth features in black metal: we aspire to the eternal, not the temporal.

The instability lies in the coupling of a disabused hostility to liberal-capitalist ideologemes with a Nietzschean ‘grand politics’ of natural degrees and ranks.

Instability? You either support order or individualism. If you support order, you love nature and biology, therefore see hierarchy of quality as innate to humanity like any other species, and you value the transcendent since this is how we understand and enjoy nature.

Speaking the transcendent — think of the final scene — it looks like we are going to get a sequel to Repo Man which may attempt to take on those ancient future notions:

Variety reports that the movie, titled Repo Man 2: The Wages of Beer, is backed by Buffalo 8 Productions and stars Kiowa Gordon in the lead role of Otto (played by Emilio Esteves in the original). According to Variety, “The film picks up after Otto has boarded his trusty 1967 Chevy Malibu to journey across the infinities of time and space. In that time he has aged exactly 90 minutes.”

If we had a wishlist for a sequel, it might involve it doing what the original did: trivializing the neurosis of a dying society by showing us how much we hunger for something greater than the material, popular, and profitable. One can wish.

Speaking of dealing with a broken era, the link between smoking and prior abuse seems to be a bit unsettling:

However, this study showed an association between trauma-related alexithymia and nicotine use, suggesting that for some individuals with childhood maltreatment, smoking may be driven by blunted affective awareness related to diminished FI-DMN engagement.

Perhaps most social ills are merely people self-medicating because of trauma caused by familial instability. That is, if you get raised in a stable environment and a rising society, you turn out with fewer pathologies.

Consider that in the context of the question of evil and the enduring popularity of horror fiction:

Throughout history, major artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow and Francisco de Goya have also dealt with horror and dark dreams in their works.

The exhibition notes that the macabre motifs served as reminders that life is fleeting, but also that “eternal damnation” should be seen as a real threat.

Excerpts from German Expressionist horror film classics such as “Nosferatu” (1922) and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920) and posters from famous later horror classics such as “The Exorcist” (1973) and “Halloween” (1978) show the continuity with which horror has been inscribed in film history.

What is evil? As the article points out, heavy metal has a fascination with the disturbing:

The aesthetics of Gothic, wave and especially metal bands — whether on record covers, band T-shirts or the lettering used for their names — are heavily inspired by old myths that deal with horror and disgust.

Horror movies offer in my view an eternal plotline: an illusory peace and unity exists, then it is attacked, and humans must come to realize that the situation has changed in ways they could not anticipate before fighting back. Not all can do this.

In that way, horror brings natural selection back to the table. Some humans end up in solipsism; others rise above and open their minds, fighting the new disaster in order to restore order. In this way, horror is a transition from individualism to realism and the transcendental.

Not surprisingly, much of it involves the supernatural. Stick around long enough on this Earth and you too will be amazed at how little we know, especially how we know what we know, and how much we think we know is in fact an approximation or partial truth.

Music provides a language of experience that conveys, among other things, the transition from individualistic fear to transcendental order:

“Certain acoustic features of music were associated with similar emotions in both Western and Asian listeners. Music with a clear beat was found happy and danceable while dissonance in music was associated with aggressiveness. Since these sensations are similar across different cultures, music-induced emotions are likely independent of culture and learning and based on inherited biological mechanisms,” says Professor Lauri Nummenmaa.

“Music’s influence on the body is universal. People move to music in all cultures and synchronized postures, movements and vocalizations are a universal sign for affiliation. Music may have emerged during the evolution of human species to promote social interaction and sense of community by synchronizing the bodies and emotions of the listeners,” continues Putkinen.

Music appreciation is not universal across cultures, but that refers to the interpretation of key and not the patterns within those keys:

New research led by Western Sydney University has found that perceptions of major and minor chords and melodies—what Western culture commonly thinks of as “happy music” and “sad music”—may not be universal and is likely the result of culture-dependent familiarity and associative conditioning.

These patterns may be, as Schopenhauer argues, a reflection of nerve impulses, or more in the traditional explanation, an evocation of patterns we find in our daily lives, just in sonic form. They also reflect differences in intensity.

Not just intensity of music, but volume, has an impact on living things. This might explain why eco-acoustics exists:

A new study has found fungi respond to noise in soil, unlocking the potential for improved ecosystem recovery.

The novel study involved burying regular teabags in soundproof boxes to enable the growth of biomass as the organic matter degraded. Some were exposed to ‘loud’ high-pitched monotone soundwaves about 80 decibels at 8 kHz frequency for up to eight hours a day for 14 days. Teabags in the control sample produced less fungi growth when exposed to only 30 decibels of noise.

One wonders what happens to humans in cities exposed to a constant fifty decibel hum of background noise: cars, air conditioners, pumps, trash compactors, leaf blowers, even electric lights in giant grids across the empty parking lots.

Society seems to regulate its own noise, including heavy metal, which it saw as interrupting a functional social order:

It also took aim at heavy metal, targeting lesser-known groups W.A.S.P., Venom and Mercyful Fate.

As time has gone on, faith in the functionality of that social order — which was changing at that point as the 1940s mixed-white-ethnic BOBOs took over — has faded, and the heavy metal bands which shocked back then now sound like prophets of doom.

It turns out that music can serve another cultural role, namely that of bringing people together in shared experience, which unlike shared conclusion (propaganda, science, academia, politics) is understood as structure and not a boundary as all rules tend to be.

The synchronization of heart rates while listening to music shows us the cultural power of music:

This theory is known as “embodied cognition”—the idea that the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind—which, while arguably intuitive to lay people, has been controversial in scientific circles.

To investigate, Tschacher and colleagues observed 132 audience members across three classical concerts.

Overall, they found statistically significant synchronization on several measures—people’s hearts beat faster or slower during the same musical passages, as did their levels of “skin conductance.”

A group of people listening to music are sharing the same experience of cognitive programming and therefore, are falling into rhythm with one another. Perhaps the metal concert experience has a sacred dimension after all. Perhaps it has… a transcendental function, even.

It turns out that this effect works better on introverts than extroverts because they are more open to intuition, inner experience, and therefore the bond between inner self and nature that is required for transcendental awareness:

As one might expect, people whose personality types indicated “openness to new experiences” and “agreeableness” were more disposed towards synchronizing with others.

Those who rated highly for neuroticism, “a person who tends towards fearful behavior, warding off things, being more depressed,” in Tschacher’s words, were less likely to synchronize—but so too were extroverts, which might seem counterintuitive.

“Extroverted people are very social, they tend to intermingle with people, they want to be in power, and they want to have a certain self-value,” he said, adding he had seen this result in previous research too. While extroverts are outgoing, they focus less on the music.

Ironically, loud music like metal diminishes the external self and lets the inner self woolgather with clarity of mind, sort of like intense physical exercise or risk. This may be the clarifying experience of living, and what we are here to do in the first place.

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