death metal

What a surprise out of left field. When you look at Skeletal Remains album “Beyond the Flesh” and consider the name of the band combines with the album cover’s Cannibal Corpse motif, you think you know what you’re getting.

Yet, you would be wrong! Okay, there are the given deathmetal and grindcore standards, including the scowling vocals, nightmarish lyrical themes and generally ghoulish presentation, but the twist comes in the unexpected form of catchy and melodic riffs and purely free-form Van Halen style soloing.

The history of heavy metal has seen bands rise from all corners of the earth, but when the numbers are crunched, the majority of bands who have achieved a degree of notoriety come from a select few regions. It all started in England, then spread to America, Germany, and the countries of Scandinavia. Between them, they have amassed the most numerous and most influential metal bands we have ever seen. There are countries outside of those cornerstones that have made an impact on metal, but each time a band comes from somewhere else, it's almost viewed as an accident.

Brace yourselves. What you are about to read are words that I never, ever, in a lifetime of music reviews, thought I would say about an album. It is Pathology's new record "The Time of Great Purification" which brings me to this astounding, heretofore thought impossible revelation.

You know, this album reminds me a little of the old band Cock and Ball Torture.

Rogga Johansson is the closest thing we have to a death metal machine. Even in a world where bands swap members at random, and everyone has multiple projects, the amount of projects he has put his name to is staggering. You would think that after enough time has passed, there would come a point where the need and the inspiration to continue making mountains of old-school death metal would wane. The amazing part is that we have yet to reach that point, and we may never will.

I will admit that I don't share the same affinity for death metal that a seemingly massive portion of the metal world does. It's not that I'm against the genre on philosophical grounds, or that I've never found any bands that I enjoy, but on the whole I've simply never been gripped by the constant onslaught of brutality that so many others lap up. I can appreciate the talent and skill that goes into writing and playing much of the material, but at its best death metal feels emotionally hollow to me, and at its worst it feels downright silly.

There's a phenomenon in sports where once great athletes, on the verge of the end, return to the teams they made their legends with on one-day contracts, giving themselves a sense of closure as they fade away into the land of archive footage forevermore. Musicians rarely get that kind of self-serving charade. Bands who reunite after years or even decades seldom manage to live up to the standards we remember of them, and members who return to the fold after time in exile often fail to grasp the passage of time that has altered the group they disappeared from.

Death metal has, over time, become a uniquely divided sect of the greater heavy metal catalogue. To ask metal fans on each side of the Atlantic what "death metal" should sound like would elicit two wildly different answers. Overseas, death metal is a genre characterized by high-frequency screaming and a veritable avalanche of non-stop guitar. Meanwhile back at the ranch, American death metal is partially infused with the facets of modern hardcore, to produce a sound that shares a relationship with its European cousin, but is marked with guttural growls and heavy-handed distortion.

In due time, it's almost a guarantee that every sub-genre of metal will end up blended with every other. Bands like to break new ground, to establish legacies, and being able to claim an entire sub-genre as your progeny is an effective way of doing so. As the combinations are used up, it leaves some interesting amalgamations unexplored. What might at first thought sound like an undesirable experiment, could actually turn out to be a pleasant look into the future.

I have never been a fan of Nile. I should probably start by saying that.

It seems like I should be. High speed death metal? Check. Ancient Egyptian mythology? Yep. References to H.P Lovecraft? It's got those, too! If Nile could see fit to squeeze in a couple tunes about chocolate cake and the Oakland Raiders, they'd have a bunch of the basic tenets of my personality covered. Yet, it doesn't work for me.

One of the questions that has long puzzled me as a music fan is to what degree an artist's standing as an innovator and genre-definer should be incorporated into their legacy. While being the first to travel down a certain path does necessitate a historical remembrance of that person's efforts, it doesn't mean that the work done to blaze that trail is worth remembering.