Editor’s Choice: August 2016
I’m going to make an educated guess: Most IO readers own at least one vinyl record. Heavy metal retains a fetish for physical culture (band shirts being the prime example), and the vinyl industry’s resurgence is both the physical media success story of the decade and also the next bubble to pop. Ergo, it’s an easy bet that dyed-in-the-wool metal fans collect a form of physical media that’s rising in popularity.
That said, no metalhead has a record collection approaching that of Brazilian businessman Zero Freitas. A lifelong record collector, Freitas is amassing the largest record collection on the planet, and plans to catalog it for public use.
It’s doubtful that metal makes up a large portion of Freitas’ collection. His obsession lies with bossa nova, samba, and other particularly Brazilian forms of music. Given that, I wouldn’t put it past one of his six-foot stacks of LPs to contain Vulcano, even though that’s not his focus.
In the aforementioned article, author Dominik Bartmanski underlines both how vast Brazil’s music output is, and how poor most of that music’s distribution is. Many of Freitas’ albums no longer have master tapes, and the musicians who made those records, sometimes do not have record of their own albums.
One might look at the Freitas project and think, with some contempt, ‘Of course he’s interested in academic and highfalutin' genres like folk and jazz, and not extreme rock music.’ There’s some truth to that sentiment, but it’s rooted in a misconception. Academics propagate the study of old things because they are old and have been studied before. If you’re writing about Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, not only is that piece well-documented but so is much of the written work addressing that piece, meaning there’s a deep well to draw from for academic study. The body of academic work on metal is still shallow.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from Freitas. After all, diversity in metal is growing at an exponential rate. Samba and bossa nova are older styles, but metal’s rate of diversity could grow to match theirs rather quickly. Unlike those styles (and even though metal culture fetishizes objects) metal is married to the internet, which makes it much easier for metal to be published and travel internationally.
Metal is achieving the same kind of creative explosion that bossa nova did through inverse means: metal has insane distribution, even if that distribution is not profitable. But that distribution is contributing to a similar problem to the one Freitas is addressing. Tons of metal has no physical media, no source to be replicated from. Meaning that when the last versions of some of these songs and albums we cover are deleted, that’s it, they’re gone for good.
This doesn’t just happen with metal, this even happens with pop stars. Here’s an example:
That song “Realiti” was recorded by Claire “Grimes” Boucher, who works with Jay-Z’s management company. That video for “Realiti” was released as a stopgap between albums.
Here’s the version that exists on her last record, Art Angels.
Notice the difference? Boucher completely re-created the song from scratch for the LP. And yeah, the LP version sounds ‘better,’ or at least more polished and layered, but she could have just as easily put the music video version on the LP.
Except she couldn’t. Boucher doesn’t have the original files of the first “Realiti.” They were lost in a hard drive crash, so she had to reconstruct the song from memory with the YouTube version as a guide. This shit happens all the time. Kirk Hammet says he lost a phone full of material for Hardwired ... To Self Destruct.
People see digital media as superior to physical media in part because it is not physical and therefore indestructible. Before vinyl came back, the fragility of those discs was a joke, and I’m sure nobody misses compact discs getting scratched to an unlistenable state seemingly at random. The truth is digital media is as fragile as physical media. It’s all stored somewhere - either on your (fragile) hard drive or some large corporation's (equally fragile) hard drives, and like anything else, hard drives can be destroyed. Sure they don’t scratch as easily, but solar flares don’t wipe vinyl blank, either.
People, mostly readers, send me their private metal projects literally every day. Most of these records never get a physical release. The current metal boom is every bit as endangered as the bossa nova Freitas wants to protect. The difference is, when these albums are gone, there won’t be a physical backup to re-digitize.
Selfishly, I like to think of Invisible Oranges and the Freitas project as being in the same ballpark: projects that archive music worth listening to.
Except that’s not true either.
For one, we don’t preserve music, we just collect paths to it one place. We only control the point of collection, not those paths. The internet is a fickle place. Ever looked at an old Invisible Oranges article? Most of those links are dead.
More to the point, we curate our collection. Most of those one-man bedroom projects don’t wind up on this page, because I don’t like them and also because I don’t have the time to write about all of them.
In that sense, I envy Freitas. He gives no shits for quality. He sees all of that vinyl as worth preserving. He’s escaped the idea of media preservation and curation as a consumerist commodity and progressed into historical resource. He’s better at beating capitalism for music's sake than I am, and he’s a successful capitalist!
Metal deserves a Zero Freitas, but that archivist has their work cut out for them, because when most of the metal made today is dead, it’s stone dead forever. There are albums on this site that may have already had all of their physical copies destroyed, and their digital-only masters deleted.
Now that we’re feeling mortal, we need a pick me up. How about some music?
Here’s a big track premiere I didn’t get around to: “Born in Dissonance,” the first song from Meshuggah’s new album The Violent Sleep of Reason. At four and a half minutes, in length, it clocks a little shorter than the Meshuggah I’m used to, but in every other respect, this is business as usual. Time signatures undulate while the guitars chug with mechanical timbre. In this instance, maybe the most mechanical yet: the main riff sounds more like a palpitating oil rig, not strings, magnets and a circuit board. That’s the point, of course, Meshuggah exist to bring normal life into question, hence the title of the record. They do not, however, bring themselves into question. The song fulfills my expectations so precisely that it never exceeds them. Maybe I’m desensitized to the band’s sound after so many imitators, but ”Born in Dissonance” doesn’t sound like a copy of a Meshuggah copy - it sounds like a platonic ideal of Meshuggah. But it also sounds like the top of the bell curve.
First Asphyx in four years? Nice. Well. Four months if you count their Decibel magazine theme song. Repeat much of the above here. “Incoming Death” sounds exactly as I expect Asphyx to sound and lasts less time than I’m used to. In fact, it’s so short and ends so suddenly, that I thought the YouTube player had errorred out the first time I heard it. That said, it’s riveting for a solid two minutes, and Martin Van Drunen still sounds like a champion.
I didn’t expect Arthur Rizk’s band, Eternal Champion to sound like this. Rizk’s probably most well known as the producer of Inquisition’s Obscure Verses for the Multiverse and Power Trip’s Manifest Decimation and rightfully so. Anyone who bears any responsibility for the insane testicle-popping gag shouts in “Crossbreaker” is a hero. Eternal Champion sounds heroic as well. This is some hairy-chested power metal with Rizk’s hot, bottomless production.
We shared this on our Facebook a few days ago, but in case you missed it, Romania’s Valborg have a new two-song EP coming out called Werwolf. It’s worth the price alone for the cover, another great example of the band’s impeccable design aesthetic. Notice the skull’s bitten a curb.
But what about the song? Getting there. I meant to write up Valborg when their last album, Romantik but never found a decent summation of my thoughts. It was melodic, morose, slow, all things I enjoy in conjunction and separate. I liked listening to the record and then never revisited it. Werwolf has already gotten more plays. This EP crushes with the kind of high-rez death-doom that Triptykon does so well, albeit with more manageable song lengths. A whole album of this, please!
When it comes to old school death metal, I prefer Swedish fish to gummy bears. That is to say, I’ve never been over the moon for Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse. Death is excellent, however. Obituary slot somewhere in the middle. Their classic output, especially Slowly We Rot, provide an ideal middle ground between swampy lurch and deadly precision (though I’d prefer no lurch at all) - and who can argue with “Chopped in Half”? Additionally, they rip live.
Their latest, “Loathe," reminds me of their classics in a good way. When they downshift into the main riff at around 1:20, my head bangs of its own accord.
This song comes from Ten Thousand Ways to Die an upcoming kinda-live album with two new tracks, which means “Loathe” will probably be lost as curiosity not too long from now - who buys live records anymore?
I have always found Candiria more appealing in theory than in practice. Blistering tough guy hardcore mixed with jazz appeals to both sides of my urban intellectual-meets-midwestern-jackass personality divide. That said, I tend to like the groups that followed in this seminal NY band’s footsteps better - what’s up Dillinger Escape Plan? The ‘They Live’ art direction of While They Were Sleeping, their first new album in seven years, doesn’t help things either. I love John Carpenter as much as anybody but why not go whole-hog and call the album Wake Up Sheeple.
“From the Dust of this Planet,” the new song by Car Bomb strikes the proggy nasty itch a little better. More than the new Candiria or Meshuggah, this feels vital and real, with some weight and ferocity. You can tell Joe Duplantier of Gojira produced the record, he’s pitched Car Bomb’s high-frequency squeaks so that they sound like pew-pew lasers. Coincidentally the new Gojira (the monster not the band) movie also features pew-pew lasers. Coincidence? I think not. Fuck you, Tokyo. Get wrecked.
Extreme metal’s fascination with outer space grows by the year. One of 2016’s best-reviewed albums fixates on the heavens. I’m all for anything that gets away from Satan and toward science, but muddy classic death metal production doesn’t suit space as a subject. If there’s no atmosphere to obscure the light from distant stars, then why should there be overlapping frequencies interfering with my shredding? Leave it to an old school death metal group to understand that. Mithras formed in 1998, and “Between Scylla and Charybdis,” taken from their upcoming album On Strange Loops, is the most modern and clear-sounding song they’ve ever done. Crystalline lead tones have been a part of their sound from go, but seriously listen to that riff. The greater metal public has slept on Mithras for too long; I’d put them in the same too-well-kept-secret drawer that contains The Chasm. Maybe On Strange Loops will change that.