2001, Earache Records
I really don't have any kind of tenable position on the entire topic of the 'progress' of the Norwegian scene surrounding Moonfog records anymore. And while I first started disliking Satyricon's last album 'Rebel Extravaganza' (I still cringe when I say that out loud - it's as good an example of a foreign language concept not translating into English as you're ever going to hear) based purely on thematic reasons or issues of content and image, I finally started to turn away from contemplating it because I just thought it was a terrible album all around - the lyrics are horrible, the music is boring and one-dimensional, the 'futuristic' sound is demeaning and unoriginal (anyone ever hear of Voivod?), and the whole push Moonfog made for the 'mainstream' is disappointing. Satyr couldn't even sell out properly, or with a clear conscience. And who cares, anyway? Face it: we live in an age when the themes behind the creation of music no longer seem to matter, because the majority of listeners have completely lost the ability to distinguish between different 'types' of art. With all of the cross-breeding going around, and with the innovation (read: sterilizations) in sound production that can make a band like Immortal sound absolutely harmless (I mean here the over-processing of the guitar, etc.), it is a matter of little interest to the average listener what the music is trying to say, where it originates from (both in terms of geography and inspiration), or what emotional ties can be formed in the process of listening. All popular music now says the same thing, regardless of its scene affiliation or origin: 'let your mind go to sleep, and let your body move'. The world of music right now, whether it's pop or extreme or 'alternative', or anything else, is one giant vanilla wafer. Bland, bland, bland...
A lot of this is just a symptom of the metal scene's utter exhaustion. Because innovation or originality is not viewed as possible, it is then seen secretly as unwarranted, and what we get from the artists involved is a lot of talk about 'new sounds', when it's just the same tired formulas in new packages. Fine, I say. Let the Norwegian scene proceed merrily into sterility, they've outlived their usefulness anyway. The only problem is that they will continue to release albums and thus draw away attention and resources from other places that need (or deserve) it more. This is a constant burden, though...it's not new either.
And so it's depressing to me when, once again, I hear even more of the same - especially as it's (surprise!) being aggressively marketed as something different...in this case Cadaver, who were present before the Norwegian black metal boom (the Earache website praises their first album's thanks sheet, saying it 'reads like a who's who of the Norwegian black metal scene!') and who now stand up and take notice of what's going on after the entire scene died (why?), plug directly into the melding of electronics and black that is fermenting over at Moonfog headquarters, borrow a few musicians from other bands (the former drummer of Dimmu and the singer for Aura Noir, among others) and churn out eleven songs that sound almost exactly like what Satyricon were trying to do on their last album, and what Dodheimsgard easily accomplished already. That is: a 'black metal' take on Voivod and Fear Factory. Yawn.
I don't really understand why music like this is supposed to be 'futuristic' - what does it have that other bands don't feature? What does it point to? And it's also very interesting to me that when bands now want to create some kind of 'apocalyptic' future landscape or atmosphere with their music, they strip it down to its barest elements - 'metal modern primitive', I guess you could call it. I think that we all know that the future is going to be even more complex than the present - shouldn't the music reflect that? Maybe not. And so Cadaver, here, is really just an experiment in creating 'songs' out of the same old Thorns progressions, with an emphasis on minor chords and those atonal up-stroke sweeps that chime out at opportune moments (Krupp's single real innovation), and boosting the drums in the mix to the point where it sounds almost exactly like Satyricon.
Some of these songs have memorable melodies...out of all the chaos, for example, the initial blast of 'Primal' tends to hit home on occasion, and 'Killtech' (I know, I know) features actual attempts at singing. Or at least...growling in harmony with the guitars. This is just a good, catchy composition. I like it. The last song, the title track, features riffing that is right off 'Dimension Hatross', and while it's also attention-grabbing because of its dissonance, it's ultimately derivative. Blah.
To be fair, the drumming here, which sounds a lot cleaner than Dimmu or Emperor or bands of that sort, as if less processing/triggering was involved, is really, really good. The main themes of the skins are just speed and precision, that German military efficiency that Norwegian bands almost always bring to their records, and if you really appreciate that sort of thing (I do sometimes) you'll definitely want to hear this album. This drummer needs to be in a different band - right now...I would love to hear him in a group that actually took advantage of his full range as a musician, not just his capability for acceleration.
Because this record - with Earache's ties - is probably going to receive a much larger distribution than the earlier Satyricon or Dodheimsgard material (I know that Earache is sending out about a million promos), it will be interesting if it comes down through history in a spotlight, while the others that came before it are thrown into its shadows. In any case, if 'Satanic Art' and 'Rebel Extravaganza' (shudder) launched the 'electronic' or 'futuristic' trend, and Mayhem, Red Harvest, Zyklon, and the Thorns album solidified it, this is surely a good new spokesmodel for the movement...but like most spokesmodels, there is a lot more flash and glitter here than substance...approach with caution.