death metal

Australia has a long and proud musical history, both in terms of bands who have come from there and bands who have gone there to play.  The people of Australia are clearly in full support of the musical arts, particularly rock and extending into metal.  Still, for all that exposure and support, death metal is rarely thought of as a genre born Down Under.  Set to try and break that stereotype is Hadal Maw, a fast-rising death quintet hailing from Melbourne.

 

In recent years, there has been a rash of nostalgia, and the first wave of every metal genre has roared back to life with new, and mostly well-received, albums. In the world of death metal, there have been mistakes (Morbid Angel, anyone?), but the majority of the old guard has been producing some of their best albums since the mid 90s. Obituary never really went away, but like all of the bands of their time, they got swallowed up by the waves of new genres that came along in the new millennium.

There’s just a certain joy about new projects, aren’t there? They all possess a certain sense of combinative anticipation and mystery that makes them compelling. The beginning of a new project, especially when the members of said musical enterprise have established themselves under other names, is an endless spring of contemplation and speculation that only ends when the result graces us with its presence.

Let's play a little word association game. I'll say a word and you say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? Swedish. Now, you might have replied with "meatballs", "fish" of "chef" but what comes to my mind lately when I hear the word Swedish is "death metal". The Swedish people sure do love their death metal. And this week we've got another example with the band Miasmal.

It's not easy anymore for a band to come out and bend the rules of death metal, creating a sound that is utterly unique to themselves. There isn't much room in the sonic palate for diverse sounds, and the songwriting of death metal is formulaic enough that most bands wind up falling into a very narrow range. It's one of the things death metal fans love about death metal, and one of the things that makes it so hard for me to ever get into that kind of music. At a certain point, when everything sounds the same, there's little incentive to keep trying.

At first blush, MaYaN’s new album “Antagonise” seems like an exercise in formulaic death metal with some melodic tangents, not so different from Soilwork, Susperia, Hypocrisy and a million different also-rans. Do yourself a favor; don’t let the first blush be your only consumption of MaYaN. There’s a lot more going on here than the initial impact alludes to.

Deicide's career has been one long roller coaster ride. They helped set the standard of American death metal with their first two albums, then fell into disrepair as stagnation set in. As all this was happening, I was completely oblivious to anything they had done, since death metal still only existed in my periphery. It wasn't until the Deicide that became famous was fractured that I came on board. The resulting album, “The Stench Of Redemption”, was a remarkable album, and the shot in the arm the flagging Deicide brand needed.

Hail Of Bullets did something remarkable with their first album; they made a record that actually sounded like an army of enemy tanks storming into town ready to crush anything in their paths. These death metal veterans made a statement right out of the gate, becoming one of the biggest and most important death metal bands since the nascent days, all with one record. That they were able to then turn around and use their second album to further their sound with new elements and more expansive songwriting meant that this was no one trick pony.

Anyone who knows me, or has read enough of my writing, knows that I'm not much of a fan of death metal. Most of it is too sloppy, too noisy, or just too far removed from what I consider the heart of music for me to get a lot of enjoyment from it. I understand why people love it, but I would never be able to throw myself headlong into the genre. In a discussion I had with my colleague Drew a while back, I challenged myself to make a list of my five favorite death metal albums. Smack dab in the middle of that list was Carcass' landmark “Heartwork”.

Dan Swano is as much an extreme metal legend as you can get. From his work with the seminal Edge Of Sanity, to his years spent behind the desk making every band he worked with sound better than they ever had before, he is one of the key figures in the history of European extreme metal. And all of that is before even mentioning “Moontower”, his solo triumph. That album, in my eyes, is the single greatest death metal record ever made, and a towering achievement that single-handedly proves the merit of growled vocals.