Thursday, December 29, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 9!

"The most ferociously original death metal demo of the year."
-Stephen King

(Abysmal Sound)

If the thrash revival a few years ago made you blush then the latest rehashed metal trend should have you squirming like a maggot: OLD SCHOOL DEATH METAL™! I feel like there should be some terrible tagline after I type those words like, “It’s back from the grave…and it doesn’t smell good.” If I had a dollar for every time some frowning youngster with a scraggly beard described his new band as “old school death metal” this year I’d probably have enough money to repair the transmission in my fucking car. “Occult” is another misused term that I don’t need to hear again for quite some time, although in all fairness I’m about to drop the O-bomb a few more times before these year-end posts are done. The good thing about trends is that if hundreds of dudes are suddenly recycling the same riffs, at least a dozen or so are bound to really excel at it. The problem of course is that trends are always driven by imitation and, with painfully few exceptions, followers rarely achieve even a semblance of the creative impact of their original reference point. Doesn’t it seem like suddenly everyone is citing Incantation as an influence? Don’t get me wrong, Incantation is really good. But where were all these doomy longhairs back in the 90’s when McEntee and crew were struggling to fill bars and nobody seemed to care? It’s just weird how the world works. Anyway, my point is…what the hell was my point? There have been a lot of Old School Death Metal™ releases recently but this humble little Grave Upheaval demo rose to the top of the smoldering funeral pyres that are my ears. I'm not even sure if this was released in 2011 but since the cassette doesn't have a date and it only recently made the rounds in my neck of the woods, I figure it's fair game. Remember that sound the demons made in The Evil Dead as they ripped through the woods toward the cabin? It was sorta like Gregorian chants being backward-masked on a dying stereo and then sped up through a crappy handheld tape recorder. The portly dude from Grave Upheaval sometimes sings like that. This is very satisfying metal of death featuring two of the masterminds from Portal and Impetuous Ritual- so you know they’ve got insane chops- but this is not so much about nauseating riffs as it is throbbing mortuary atmosphere. These four mangled hymns are never overly technical and don’t outstay their welcome like so much other bethtial (sic) death metal I heard this year. I realize I’m a gay moron with the attention span of a toddler but who really wants to hear a death metal song longer than 6 minutes? Answer: NPR. Yawn. What was I just talking about? Oh yeah, the Aussies also killed it at Rites of Darkness. I overheard some chain and spikes in the hotel elevator complaining about their sound but I’m pretty sure that swampy cacophony was exactly what the band intended since they had their own guy cranking the knobs (which, incidentally, was exactly the sort of mandatory D.I.Y. initiative that was required all weekend to allow this avalanche of cancellations and mismanagement to happen at all- it was quite moving actually). My cinematic admonishment for 2012: children shouldn’t play with dead things.

Photo by Anna Wilson.