Saturday, 1 July 2017

METAL HISTORY / OPINION: Chuck Schuldiner and the Perennial Quest, 23 June 2017

“Won't you join me on the perennial quest
Reaching into the dark, retrieving light
Search for answers on the perennial quest
Where dreams are followed, and time is a test”

'Perennial Quest' from the Death album Symbolic

Death: stronger than hope, stronger than love, stronger than life. Chuck Schuldiner was Death. Death was an anti-band, unable and unwilling to sustain a stable line-up. Schuldiner enlisted some of the most talented musicians of his generation and through them he refracted his musical vision. He was the Miles Davis of metal. But the reaper likewise was fascinated by him, and Schuldiner succumbed after a two year fight with brain cancer in December 2001, aged 34.

May 2017 would have seen Schuldiner turn fifty, but instead it sees Death’s debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, turn thirty. It is a juvenile work in every sense of the word. Recorded when Schuldiner was in his late teens with drummer Chris Reifert, it represents the first step from blood-soaked innocence to experience, out of which he attained his reputation as The Philosopher Of Death Metal.

As his career progressed, Schuldiner’s music became more complex, his lyrics more reflective and nuanced, his concepts more bold, to the point where he had almost departed the genre he had helped create by the time of final album The Sound Of Perseverance (1998). But it was still all shot through with the killer instinct and sense of violence that suffuses Scream Bloody Gore.

His mother Jane has said Chuck took the name Death in the wake of his older brother dying young in an accident. The resulting inchoate rage and a desire to shock fuels Scream Bloody Gore. Unable to copyright his original band name (Mantas), Death is as absolute and final a moniker he could have chosen. It immediately put Schuldiner in contention, and often conspiracy, with The End itself.

At the beginning of Scream Bloody Gore, the crashing power chords of ‘Infernal Death’ herald the gates of Hell yawning open, and Schuldiner’s raw-throated screams and gnarled vocals bombard us with images of bodily immolation: “Human coals are burning”. As with much of the album, the song soon speeds up and the overall impression is of striating flurries and lacerating guitar lines. ‘Zombie Ritual’ follows and survived in their live set for many years. With an Egyptian guitar melody that summons images of ancient evil in the sarcophagi of the moon-dappled pyramids, it shows Schuldiner’s already burgeoning melodic instincts.

Schuldiner was not trained in music and could not tell you the Phrygian from the Ionian mode, but with the deftness of the gifted natural he worked new and unknowable sounds from his BC Rich Stealth guitar and Marshall valvestate amp, with just a little chorus effect on the solos (or so he claimed). Here his lead work is more frenzy than flair but considering for how long he had been playing the guitar (only a couple of years), it’s full of rough electricity.

‘Denial Of Life’ shows how this early incarnation of death metal, and the way its chord progressions move through the barrage, owed much to Slayer’s Reign In Blood, released the previous year. It raises questions about what musically distinguishes proto-death metal and thrash metal, apart from its more unintelligible vocals (some of the fanzines called the band “deaththrashers” early on). What is more interesting is how Schuldiner’s trademarks are developing: particularly how he carves out little harmonic passages in the slipstream of the overall assault.

It is with ‘Sacrificial’ that we run into problems. It is hard to re-appraise Scream Bloody Gore in 2017 and gloss over how problematic the lyrics are on this album. This song was originally called ‘Sacrificial Cunt’ and though they excised the offending word from the title, its content is still basic and unsavoury when Schuldiner vows to “ram an axe/ into your mound” and “shit onto your guts” as “a stupid cunt we sacrifice”.

In ‘Torn To Pieces’ (musically even by these standards outstandingly savage) this lyrical misogyny surfaces again, depicting an Umberto Lenzi-inspired Cannibal Ferox scenario meriting “a hook right through your tits” for a “pathetic rancid cunt”. Though for balance Schuldiner depicts a similar violation on the male of the species: “Trying to escape/ They torture you by/ Cutting off your cock”. Equal opportunities torture maybe, but then he really lets the side down on ‘Mutilation’ with this slice of homophobia: “I celebrate a faggot’s death, human disgrace”.

Schuldiner spent a lot of his later career distancing himself from this period of the band on the grounds of being young, naive, musically unsophisticated. This is often depicted as the “brutal” era of Death which he later transcended. I would argue that what makes Death such a compelling project is that the throbbing heart of brutality remained beating throughout the progress of his music. That makes it more complicated to uncouple these issues with the first album from his later efforts.

Should we forgive the teenage Schuldiner this unnecessary homophobia in light of the fact that he made some of the most groundbreaking music in Death with two gay musicians, Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal, on 1991’s Human? Is it unfair to hone in on these lyrics on an album that flails wildly in all directions, picking its way through dismembered limbs, regurgitated guts, lobotomized corpses, and any available bodily desecration that comes to a teenage male when constructing their sonic portraits of pain? This is the genre of Cannibal Corpse is it not, so when Schuldiner shrieks about “Decapitated head licking your cunt” (on the title track) is it not merely apposite for the lurid dreams of violence that death metal communicates? Better out than in, right? For me it is relatively harmless but that doesn’t make it less objectionable.

The most vulnerable Schuldiner’s lyrics get is on ‘Evil Dead’: “Trapped Inside a life which is not yours/ Spirits within causing terror, fear and darkness.” It starts with a sparkling, almost synthesized melody (a processed, tube-filtered sound he nurtured) that seems to rearrange some of the bare-bones piano motifs from the soundtrack of the original Evil Dead movie, directed by Sam Raimi in 1982. It’s useful to compare Death’s shock-and-gore mistakes to those made by Raimi in his lo-fi cabin-in-the-woods video nasty. The film garnered most controversy for its “Rape of the Vines” sequence, where a female protagonist is sexually assaulted by a tree.

In its aim to shock and transgress, Evil Dead crossed a line which Raimi later wished it had not. As if to make amends, he remade the film in a much more focused and violently funny mode in Evil Dead 2, also released in 1987. Death’s second album, Leprosy (1988), similarly honed its attack line, and its most famous song ‘Pull The Plug’, sees Schuldiner take the lyrical perspective of a patient on life support, a position which is at once more empathetic and darkly humorous than anything on Scream Bloody Gore. It also saw him tackle his brother’s death head-on with ‘Open Casket’. Death had started to part ways with morbid fantasy and that is when the music got much heavier.

Like an element that needs to form a compound, Schuldiner was drawn to other musicians to spur him onwards in service to the development of his art. When they failed to live up to his standards, he could be cruel and damning, such as in interviews he gave about the lack of professionalism of Rick Rozz, second guitarist on Leprosy. For Schuldiner, lack of preparedness live and slow improvements in musical proficiency amounted to an insult. In reality, there was a callous, Darwinistic streak to Schuldiner – it was survival of the fittest musicians for the sake of Death’s evolution.

On Spiritual Healing (1990), Schuldiner plays out an electrifying duelling-guitarists battle with James Murphy, who had not previously played in such an extreme band. Murphy’s style is very distinctive, favouring weird chromatic patterns and sudden, often very graceful leaps across the fretboard which drove Schuldiner’s squalling soloing style to adopt its own internal logic and character. The title track is like a death metal symphony of multiple movements that encompasses grandstanding theatrics, venomous speed and its repeating “Practise What You Preach” hardcore groove. Its righteous fury at the religious neglect of the sick and dying relocates Death’s music to a vivid “real-life hell”.

The cover art by Ed Repka depicts a bald, almost ghoulish patient in a wheelchair wearing a hospital gown, more disturbing now considering Schuldiner’s future terminal illness. He stares out with vacant, red-rimmed eyes as a cowboy preacher puts his hand on the patient’s head, with the other extended in a kind of blessing. The crowd, as Repka’s sketchnotes state, are “forcing sick guy to submit to preacher’s healing”. In the final version the middle-aged woman to the preacher’s left and man to the right bear a startling resemblance to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Sadly, Schuldiner dropped Repka from future album covers, tending towards abstract stylisations as his music matured. This development reached its apogee with 1995’s Symbolic, an album that begins with the lines “I don’t mean to dwell/ But I can’t help myself”. This reflection situates it as far away from Scream Bloody Gore’s viscerality as possible: “Do you remember when/ Things seemed so eternal?”

The opening three tracks of Symbolic – ‘Symbolic’, ‘Zero Tolerance’ and ‘Empty Words’ – represent a high water mark in all of metal. A lot of this comes from Schuldiner’s at-this-point masterly songwriting. The choruses of the latter two songs particularly reach for loftier heights. But a huge amount also comes from drummer Gene Hoglan as creative foil. Simply a revelation of a drummer, from the opening bars of ‘Symbolic’ Hoglan twists and wraps Schuldiner’s strident opening riff like a snake charmer manipulating a cobra. His thrashing runs are peppered with astonishing cymbal work and fills. His double bass drum work during the song’s chug-out is monstrous. Schuldiner’s instructions to him when he sent the songs-in-progress was simply to “go sick”.

When it comes to Hoglan and Schuldiner it is fire meeting fire. They were not without their history. Death had bitched extensively about Hoglan’s Dark Angel when they had been treated poorly on a co-headlining tour after the release of Leprosy. Unlike Schuldiner, who used Death as a vehicle for his questing, Hoglan was a traveller between bands, his work with Death only perhaps surpassed on his boundary-breaking albums with the similarly mercurial Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad. Hoglan was a very big man and used a walking stick because of back problems from losing some weight around the time of Symbolic. He could also drink heavily and perform godly miracles behind the kit without remembering a thing about the gig in the question.

Even now Hoglan is posting clips of himself playing Death material like ‘The Philosopher’ (from 1993’s Individual Thought Patterns), claiming that he didn’t even rehearse it before playing it through in one take. Of the numerous collaborators that became part of Death they all served to define Schuldiner’s journey deeper into the ‘Crystal Mountain’. They helped him understand himself and the nature of his being in all its good and bad aspects.

Death successfully encased and contorted a brutal sound into new progressive shapes; Schuldiner did not split the two streams. The most successful and interesting death metal bands today do the same. It is understandable that Schuldiner recognised Bill Steer of Carcass as a kindred spirit, fusing melody and aggression, when he praised Steer’s guitar work on 1993’s Heartwork: “That playing had that magic rarely heard anymore.” Steer has spoken recently about consciously “writing for the stage” on Heartwork, which is certainly the mindset that would have appealed to the Kiss fan and showman in Schuldiner. In the video tribute his family created for his memorial, there is a telling transition between home-filmed footage from a Kiss concert and Death onstage in their prime.

Ultimately, there is death metal, and then there is Death metal. How much did Death nurture the genre’s trademark sounds, really?

Didn’t Cannibal Corpse perfect cookie monster vocals? Didn't Morbid Angel master slow riffs and atonal solos over thunderous double bass drums? Didn't Entombed pioneer the buzzsaw mid-range guitar attack?

In fact, Death can sound not much like classic death metal at all. Like some of the most pioneering bands, they are an outlier, bursting with creativity, innovation and growth (and their attendant difficulties under a bloody minded owner-driver). Bands since have borrowed and stolen small elements of their sound and blown them up to define a genre.

In this way, Death are beyond their own boundaries and created their own mini-history of outstanding music. It was made by a cast of characters that constitute a rock family tree unto itself, fathered and orchestrated by Schuldiner. Scream Bloody Gore is the first step on an epic journey and for that reason (though it is certainly not his best) it is his most important work.

Friday, 30 June 2017

WAWANCARA BARU: Wawancara kami pertama dengan SINUSITIS (Cijantung, East Jakarta Death Metal)

Kieran James (Busuk Chronicles)1: Hai, bisakah kamu menceritakan sejarah awal terbentuknya band kalian hingga sekarang?

Sinusitis band: Sinusitis tebentuk di jakarta timur tepat di cijantung pada bulan maret 2000 dengan mengusung genre death metal. Sinusitis di ambil dari na sebuah penyakit saluran pernafasan.

KJ2: Bagaimana respon orang-orang dengan mini album/album/demo band Kamu?

S2: Kami bersyukur video clip kami (promo single 2017) dapat respon yang sangat baik dari kawan kawan pendengar musik metal khusus nya death metal.

KJ3: Band apa yang paling berpengaruh bagi Kalian dalam bermain musik?

S3: Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Sepultura, Cannibal Corpse, Dream Theater, Cynic , etc.

KJ4: Apa rencana kedepan kalian bersama band?

S4: Terus menginvasi event event metal dan Mulai kembali menggarap materi baru untung album terbaru kami.

KJ5: Apakah lagu-lagu yang kalian buat menggunakan Bahasa Inggris dan Indonesia.

S5: Iya, ada yang berbahasa inggris ada yang berbahasa indonesia.

KJ6: Apa yang kalian ceritakan dalam lirik-lirik yang kalian buat?

S6: Masalah kejiwaan, kekerasan, sosial dan perang.

KJ7: Mengapa kalian semua suka memainkan musik death-metal? 

S7: Karena hobby dan masing2 personil memiliki hoby yg sama.

KJ8: Kapan pertama kali kamu menjadi fans band metal? 

S8: Masing2 personil menjadi fans metal berbeda beda twrgantung umur.

KJ9: Apa yang Kamu katakan kepada orang-orang yang bertanya mengapa Kamu memainkan musik bergaya barat? 

S9: Selama ini kita belum pernah menjumpai orang yg bertanya seperti ini.

KJ10: Apakah para istri dan kekasih para personil kalian mendukung apa yang kalian kerjakan?

S10: Sangat mendukung.

KJ11: Apakah hal-hal yang terbaik dan terburuk tentang komunitas di kota kalian?

S11: Hal terbaik adalah menjadi ajang silaturahmi dg kawan. Dan hal terburuk selama ini kami belum pernah dapatkan.

KJ12: Rencana apa yang kalian buat bersama band untuk kedepannya?

S12: Penggarapan album ke 2 sinusitis.

KJ13: Di acara apa kalian merasakan, itu stage yang berkesan?

S13: Semua stage sangat berkesan buat kami.

KJ14: Ada pesan untuk kawan kawan?

S14: Support terus sinusitis death metal.

KJ15: OK, terima kasih banyak.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

NEW INTERVIEW: Our first interview with ILLYRIA (Perth, Australia Hard Rock/ Post Black Metal), 22/7/17

ILLYRIA band from Perth, Australia. Left to Right: George Blacklock, Matt Unkovich, Ilija Stajić, James Warren, and Daniel Hacking.
Kieran James (Busuk Chronicles)1: Hi, can you tell me the early history from the formation of the band up to now?

Ilija Stajić (vocalist)1: I started the concept of Illyria in my ancient history class in high school back in 2012 reading up about Roman provinces and ‘Illyria’ really stuck out to me as it sounded similar to my name and where my heritage is from (Serbia). It was great as a solo project for the first few months; the boys one-by-one came along the way until the line-up was settled in 2015.

KJ2: How is the response of people to your album?

IS2: It’s been an amazing experience observing our compositions travel around globally, special thanks to the internet. Overall it has been very positive and if there are things to work on it’s been mostly constructive criticism which we have taken on for the next efforts. We are doing surprisingly stronger in Europe and the Americas than our Australasian home-base.

KJ3: What are the most influential bands for you guys in playing music?

IS3: Numerous post-black metal bands from Alcest, Deafheaven and Lantlos being the main three in our eyes but we are also heavily influenced by a lot of prog rock/metal bands like Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist and anything touched by Devin Townsend just to name a few.

KJ4: “Swansong” is not part of the album track listing; is it a new song and is it going to go on a new EP or album?

IS4: Album II is in the works and we are taking a considerable amount of time to make it perfect. Swansong is just a taste of what is to come and will be part of the next full-length album.

KJ5: For the song “Swansong” you can call the lyrics almost Christian. First we have: “I will pray for you” then “if heaven exists”. Is that the humility of just not being certain? Is it a Christian band and / or do you personally identify as Christian (Serbian Orthodox)?

IS5: Swansong is about my maternal grandmother passing away as she had a big influence on my life, she was my first word as a baby and raised me as much as my parents. It was painful to see her slowly succumb to cancer but I will continue on with her in my heart. When it comes to the Swansong lyrics – I have to clarify that I am no holy saint, so if an afterlife exists, I really need more time here on Earth to purify my soul and reunite with her again. I tried to keep it as open as possible for some who need that spiritual boost regardless of faith and also those who find comfort in other ways.

Being half-Serbian and half-Greek born in Australia, I have always been around the zealous Orthodox community from both sides. I, of course, practice Orthodoxy, and I especially love singing the Divine Liturgy in my choir. The rest of the band members are non-religious which we both respect as it makes us who we are not just as a band but as mates. We write songs about any topic but there is a distinct difference between being a ‘Christian band’ and having a ‘Christian in a band’. Our listeners understand that which is perfect.

KJ6: More philosophically does Christian Black Metal or Unblack Metal have a right to exist in your opinion?

IS6: Overall definitely not, in the sense that I don’t enjoy ‘over-labelling’ something. Personally, it’s very much hits and misses for me – a really awesome Orthodox black metal act I recommend to check out is Hesychast.

Art is meant to create reactions so when a listener labels something as ‘kvlt’,‘blasphemous’, Christian, Satanic etc. it means the artist is doing something right symbolically, the band shouldn’t enforce it though. I believe to leave it up for the listener to decide what or who they like/dislike.

KJ7: How closely, if at all, do you identify or connect with that early Norwegian scene and its main bands and individuals?

IS7: I personally do not really tie-in with the early Norwegian scene when it comes to black metal; the other guys in the band really enjoy that sort of stuff and bring that flavour into our music. As a band, yeah we respect it but we try to sound like Illyria. Our philosophy is to achieve the goal of a listener knowing instantly that is our music upon listening.

Despite that, George and I love watching the black metal personality flicks like ‘Until the light takes us’ and Varg Vikernes (Burzum) on YouTube with his polarising views, I really enjoy his insight of European history, spending time with his young family and it makes me feel connected with my homeland. A positive European theme definitely has an influential inspiration on our next album, especially when the band is named after a European region!

KJ8: Do you wear corpse-paint on stage and, if not, might you do it in the future?

IS8: I kid you not, we talked about this at a point when the full line-up was formed and we believe that imagery is just as important as the aural sensations established. We decided not to wear corpse-paint for the primary reason that we don’t want to bottleneck ourselves only titled as black metal and secondarily that we were a bunch of lazy 18/19 year olds who weren’t keen on the rigorous skin clean-up post-show. It takes a special kind of commitment to do that stuff so we respect bands that get into character on-stage.  

KJ9: Do you write all the lyrics and do you do all the vocals? Someone described your music as having “clean vocal” parts and I understand what the person means but they are obviously not clean-clean in the power-metal sense. Do you feel the clean vocals are very important to what the band is trying to do?

IS9: I write and perform all vocals and lyrics in our music aside from the guest vocalists. I push the other boys to join in the fun when recording and live but they don’t have the courage to do it and that’s fine; not everyone finds comfort in it.

Vocals are very important to the band but I must respect the texture of the instrumentals which means I have a choice in sections whether to sing, scream, both or do nothing. I enjoy the versatility and the rest of the band believes that too. I enjoy singing and screaming – when it comes to a whole album I can’t do one without the other.

KJ10: What are the best and worst things about the metal community in Perth at the moment?

IS10: Perth is a tight-knit musical family; an artistic culture with an emphasis on open-mindedness when exposed to a plethora of genres is great. The post-black metal scene is thriving now with bands like Waste Not and Staos emerging through and our fellow contemporaries in Deadspace now signed to a label and touring internationally. The only negative is that we are so isolated to the rest of the country, wait scratch that – the rest of the world! Financing a tour is a thorn in our backside.

KJ11: What are your most memorable shows or experiences onstage and where do you like playing most?

IS11: Nothing will surpass supporting my idols Alcest. That was the best night of my life and to top it off we got to hang out with them afterwards until the early hours of the morning.

Nothing beats a house show. Everyone having a good time and playing in a sweaty, cramped shed is definitely the best for us. Until we start playing bigger shows if we keep working hard, the hearty habitat of a close, intimate show is our favourite.


KJ12: Here is a big one. What is the future of Black Metal?

IS12: Black metal is more and more being exposed to new parts of the world. I just saw a video on Facebook of an ‘all-black black metal band’ in Soweto, South Africa. I can only see positives with exposing more people to the niche genre and I hope that more bands incorporate their own touch and influence to make their own unique sound for black metal. I see an evolution for sure. Never forget where you come from but always look to progress artistically to stick out from the rest of the pack – who cares what others think. 


KJ13: Lastly, have you got any message for your supporters?

IS13: Thank you for loyally staying by our side and enjoying the journey with us; if you have read this and are now aware of our existence, feel free to suss us out at illyria.bandcamp.com and join the Illyrian family on our social media. Album II coming soon. 

Band tracks:
https://illyria.bandcamp.com/track/swansong (Swansong, new track)

https://illyria.bandcamp.com/album/illyria (full debut album)

Thursday, 8 June 2017

NEW INTERVIEW: Our first interview with LECTERN (Rome, Lazio Italian Death Metal), 3/6/2017

LECTERN - The new second full-length album Precept Of Delator is out now (Via Nocturna Records).

Kieran James: Hi, can you tell me the early history from the formation of the band up to now?

Fabio (bass / vocals LECTERN): We formed in 1999 and made three demos, and two records. The third is in the pipeline for 2018.

How is the response of people to your second album and to the new songs?

Fabio: People and critics seem to appreciate, reviews are always almost good. Personally, I think that Precept Of Delator has some interesting points, but we will see Lectern only in the years.

What are the most influential bands for you guys in playing music?

Fabio: All that is death metal.

What are your future plans for the band?

Fabio: Concerts and a new record.

You are slightly famous for song titles that appear not to make sense but somehow just scream death metal is that fair comment and will it continue?

Fabio: Craps!

What are the lyrical themes for the forthcoming album and can we expect changes?

Fabio: Satan.

Why do you all like to play death metal instead of deathcore or other modern styles?

Fabio: Because death metal kicks ass!

When did you first become fans of metal bands?

Fabio: I don't know!

What changes can we expect musically for the forthcoming third album?

Fabio: Nothing at all than death metal!

Do the wives and girlfriends of the personnel support what you are doing?

Fabio: Yes!

What are the best and worst things about the metal community in your city?

Fabio: I don't partake any!

What are your most memorable shows or experiences onstage?

Fabio: Incantation gig! [KJ note: LECTERN supported INCANTATION's 25 Years of Death Metal gig, 26/4/2016.]

Have you got any message for the fans?

Fabio: No!

Okay please pick your favourite and give a reason. Deicide or Cannibal Corpse?

Fabio: Both. The first four Deicide records; for Cannibal Corpse from Eaten Back To Life to The Bleeding then from Kill to A Skeletal Domain.

Iron Maiden or Judas Priest?

Fabio: Venom.

Deicide or The Stench of Redemption?

Fabio: Reign In Blood.

Icons Of Evil or Forever Underground?

Fabio: Legion.

Chris Barnes or Corpsegrinder?

Fabio: Billy Idol.

Lasagna versus spaghetti bolognaise?

Fabio: Hamburger.

Lazio or Roma?

Fabio: Juventus.

West Ham versus Millwall?

Fabio: Italy.

What city or country would you most like to play in where you have not played before?

Fabio: Paris, London, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Sydney, New York, Miami, Tampa and Los Angeles.

Okay thank you very much.

Fabio: Stay brutal!

Fabio Bava: vocals, bass
Pietro Sabato: guitar
Gabriele Cruz: guitar
Marco Valentine: drums.