Oberdada's Guide to Obscure Metal

This is Part I of a series of probably three parts.

How it began

In my youth I played synth in a hardrock band, hopefully I'm forgiven by now. I wasn't sufficiently captured by any of the heavy metal I had heard to bother buying any album and didn't pay much attention to those bands.

Much later, back in the early days of youtube I stumbled upon one extreme metal band that impressed me more than any other bands that would come up in the recommendations. The riffs were chromatic, the variation consisted of rhythmic augmentations and diminutions, the drum sound was dry and crisp, and the vocals were spectacular. In fact, the vocalist seemed to be stuck on the vowel 'u', always rendered with a guttural gargling. The song titles were unsavory references to long forgotten medical malpractices and the imagery unmistakably misogynic in such an exaggerated ironic way that one could only suspect this trio of being mom's nice little boys, childishly pretending to break free. I was bemused by their equally aggressive and ridiculous demeanour and wanted more. Unfortunately they haven't released much since their first album, but they seem to still exist.

The band in question is Cephalotripsy. They deserve a special place in Hell.

When I think about it, there must have been a reason I started looking for metal bands and accidentally found this one. A few years before I had found an album by Slayer on a file sharing site. I did not care much for Slayer in their first years, but this must have been around 2006 with their Christ Illusion which I enjoyed, in part for their political stance.

     \m/

I'm giving one of Slayer's early albums a chance, Hell Awaits (1985). It's funny when you listen to such an old recording through the reference of current production techniques and aesthetics. Yes, it has come of age, with Black Sabbath as an historic anchor and already foreboding what would become today's extreme metal. The sound is more relaxed, not over-produced and loudness-warriorized as many recent bands are. The playing is almost slack compared to the hyper-tight precision timing everyone expects today. There are a few abrupt tempo shifts, apparently not by any simple ratio but just a slight increase in tempo, a trick that's become common currency since then.

A word about Black Sabbath too, since some of my friends used to play some of their records for me. My first reaction must have been: Oh, that drummer surely has played some jazz! And then, listening to Harry Partch's The Dreamer that Remains - a study in living (1972) with its somber but incisive strings and smattering percussion, it struck me - now wasn't that something Sabbath could have come up with, or should we call Partch the harbinger of metal?

     \m/

That should do for an introduction. The point being that I don't know much about metal, despite spending quite some time perusing lists of bands and listening to mostly recent releases. I don't know much of its history. Nor do I understand the categorisation system with all the sub-genres, and I couldn't care less:

  • death
  • suicidal
  • depressive
  • mortal
  • dying
  • lethal
  • sick
  • black
  • gray
  • blackened
  • stoner
  • hipster
  • experimental
  • avant-garde
  • technical, mathematical
  • all those cores
  • progressive
  • doom
  • speed
  • grind
  • I didn't make up all of them! Well, gradually some of the genre qualifications are beginning to make sense, but often not.

    The metal archive

    Since about 2017 when I discovered the metal archive I've scavenged it for bands to discover. At least in periods.

    https://www.metal-archives.com/

    In fact, I took the trouble to go through the complete list of currently active bands categorised as experimental or avant-garde, and the list wasn't short. Even worse, it kept growing as I slowly looked up and listened to the bands. When I came across something extraordinary, something weird, or anything I might want to return to, I wrote down the band's name in a notebook. I intend to revisit these bands and write more about them in another part of this guide. Some newer bands that cross my path will be reviewed in Part II if there's anything to say about them. Certain efforts are best met with silence.

    More reading and listening around the corner

    Here's a list of metal bands, most of which are unknown to me although I might look them up later.

    gemini://voidcruiser.nl/music.gmi

    Another list. Again, I've never heard of the majority of the bands.

    gemini://ftrv.se/7

    Two more resources on the web:

    https://www.metalmusicarchives.com/

    http://www.metalunderground.com/

    The political aspect

    I usually don't care much about the political opinions of folks who make music in such a way that you can't readily guess what they vote for, and if you can hear it they'd better vote wisely or make uniquely fascinating music. There's been this debate lately about far right metal bands and the merits or otherwise of cancel culture.

    There is an article originally from The New Yorker,

    Metal confronts its nazi problem

    mirrored in the depths of

    gemini://gemini.lost-frequencies.eu/

    which I can't link to for some reason, but it's easy enough to find here on gemini if you do a search.

    Nothing to add to that now. I'll post short reviews of bands in the next post.

    Metal Review (Part II)

    index.gmi

    ^