Monday, May 17, 2010

Deteriorot - In Ancient Beliefs

Deteriorot - In Ancient Beliefs
2001, Repulse Records (my version is a CD-R promo)

As far as the death metal scene goes, I am one of those few people who just don't agree with its pattern of progression over the last decade. I sometimes wish that things could be reversed, that I had a time machine and that either I or someone much more eloquent and/or persuasive could go back and single-handedly swing things away from goregrind and grindcore into another stream, another path of pursuits. I say this out of desperation, because I, who have been a death metal fan ever since there was death metal, going back 15 years now, have not found any satisfaction in the scene in at least a decade. This is not an exaggeration. Almost all (about 85%) of the death metal albums that I listen to probably came out before, or around, 1992-3, the year that I stopped feverishly following (with a magnifying glass) the evolution of the style. Something - some extremely important segment of inspiration, a key, a sense of destiny - was lost at this time, and most of the bands who released albums afterwards were either just flogging a dead horse, circling and spinning in futility, or else they 'progressed' to inanity, or devolved to subhuman noise. Sad but true. Because of this strange phenomenon (and believe me, there are a lot of people - especially here in Texas - who just don't see this, and are convinced the death bands just 'hibernated' during the reign of black metal) I gave up on death metal. There, I said it...I am not ashamed. I am still disappointed, however, with the current status of the scene, and the way in which groups just wait a few years in order to bring the same old clich├ęs back as 'innovations'. Don't these bands realize that boredom is not the sole motivating factor behind music, and that the causal loop that runs between ennui to art to ennui is not a law of the universe but in fact evidence of their own sterility?

For a number of reasons I am guessing that this band, although I don't know them at all personally, feel exactly the same way. There is barely even a tint or tone of the mid-to-late '90s on this album, it is all taken from earlier influences, earlier loves, earlier inspiration. As such, it points to the past, to be sure, but it completes and rounds out a style of death metal that was never really adequately (read: excellently...yes, I am being ironic here) explored by talented bands: the mid-paced, bottom-end emphasized, chaotic, melancholy well of blasphemy that is the nexus of a few (if not a direct tradition, a 'generation' of groups who released important albums contiguously) key bands: Bolt Thrower (the influence of that group is all over this record), Death (the solos), early Entombed, very early Amorphis (how many others truly appreciate the sheer beauty of the 'Privilege of Evil' material or the Abhorrence 7-inch that Seraphic Decay put out?), Dismember (in the guitar sound, at times), etc. You get the picture: a cursed night flight, never seeing the sun, leaving Helsinki, through London by way of Stockholm, and then on to Southern Florida to founder in the swamps. In other words: slow, long songs, a measured, doom-filled pace, a wall of guitars buzzing mournfully, crazed, screaming solo work, and deep, deep vocals filling the listening space with resonating tones of anger, loss, disgust, hatred, or just a grim delight in pure darkness. What I at first took for a definite Incantation influence is, as guitarist Paul assured me, just a case of both these bands being exclusive paramours of almost exactly the same early death metal bands...interesting. In the end you will have to 'judge' the validity of this for yourself, but it rang true for me upon repeated listenings. I was convinced. Because of this, Deteriorot and Incantation can be listened to almost as a series of twins, rival trees springing from the same seed, and their contrasting paths (how they each built upon their shared influences) evoke emotions or ideas enhanced by one's study of the differences and affinities between the two. What has Deteriorot sought to stress or accent, and why? And Incantation, whose music I am much more familiar with, why did they pick the particular direction they went in? Is it all just a matter of personal 'taste' on the part of the different writers? Can such a thing even be quantified?

Because this album seems to remind me of so many of my favorite death metal records...it's almost as if I had to like it. But Deteriorot do have a strange sound of their own, even though at times it just feels like an 'idiosyncratic' combination of traditional influences. But how many groups are there (especially now) in the scene who can claim complete self-sufficiency? These guys obviously have a deep love for older death metal, and it makes their style stand out in a musical movement that often runs forward at a breakneck speed into the nothingness, the 'abstraction' of the future, of progression-or-death, instead of solidifying and building upon the foundations of bands that came before them. Even more important: how many bands can actually claim that they write songs that feature strong, identifiable, native, memorable melodies? Songs that are built upon a single theme, a single idea - compositions that actually make use of the skills of song-writing, instead of just being random collections of riffs? Deteriorot can. I, for one, would rather listen to bands like this than any other kind of death metal...I hope I am not alone in saying that. Also, one can not overestimate the value of nostalgia here. For those of you who were not brought up on this kind of music, it will just not be the same...as such, it is difficult to listen to this and imagine what it would sound like to people who do not have Esa Holopainen, Gavin Ward, and Barry Thompson's woeful guitar meanderings acid-etched in their cerebrum. For those of us who do, however, 'In Ancient Beliefs' can only be chillingly rousing, demonically stimulating: it is a eerie summoning of the spirits of the past.

My favorite song on this album would be the second, 'Unholy Return', which features a nice main melody or riff, a chiming theme and return or variation, modeled on Bolt Thrower's personal sense of melody, but which is filled out and explored in depth in the beginning of the song, and then pressed under a ton of iron to release all of its black blood, its immediate legacy of evil. This is a perfect death metal song, and the beautiful, moving solo - ending on top of a nice bridge and reprise of the main riff - is like a condensed summary of everything that's right in metal. I also atypically enjoy the fourth, the disturbing/brooding 'Fallen Misery', which is a morose cycling of abysmal tones and anguished, funeral gray utterances of malevolence and forlornness, a gathering of crematory smoke on the horizon...the echoes of which storm through the preceeding three songs, and have, by this point, already drowned you and desecrated your 'beliefs'. Its first two minutes take first-album Paradise Lost and warp that august lineage of melancholy through a hellgate of Swedish guitars and early Amorphis to make the melodies/messages even more isolating, vengeful, and nauseating.

In this realm of darkness...
Alone into a world of silence...

Lovely, painful, morbid, suffocating, claustrophobic bliss...true death metal, from the grave.

Ultimately I can't help but wonder where Deteriorot will go in the future, what they will come up with...but for now I am enjoying this album immensely, and I exhort you to seek it out if any of the above seemed in any way appetizing...there are very few bands like this left.