Saturday, May 22, 2010

War - We Are...Total War

War - We Are...Total War
2001, Necropolis

Already, not that long into their career (it can't be that long, I remember when it all started, and I wasn't that young) Necropolis is reaching back and reissuing old albums. So what we have here are basically the two earlier War releases, 'Total War' and 'We Are War' (the first fell on ears that weren't really ready to accept it, the second received little notice at all) put together on one disc (which just...simplifies things), repackaged and updated for your consuming pleasure. Fourteen Swedish black metal blasts of bombast, including a rock-steady cover of Sodom's 'Bombenhagel', all ripping past in thirty-four minutes and eleven seconds. As an added bonus, you get to now refer to this band as 'Total War' (such an improvement on the original!) because they ran into marketing/trademark issues with the American band War (you know, 'Low Rider', etc.), which means, basically, that the US War, who are a soul/funk/rock band, are afraid that somehow this band is stealing their thunder (read: money). All I can say is...if there is anyone out there who actually picked up this album when they were looking for a pristine version of 'Low Rider' (it's only on the radio every five minutes), they deserve the horror that inevitably resulted. Speaking personally, however, I would probably rather listen to the American War anyway...anything but this...

I question, seriously, the validity of even issuing these 'albums' in the first place, and, secondly, I can't help but glance aside, in confusion, at the proliferation in Sweden of project bands such as this. At the time it seemed like a good idea, I'm sure. Not only do you have nearly the entire 'elite' (please) of the Swedish scene in this band, you also have the opportunity to tie it to Hypocrisy, Abruptum, Opthalamia, and Dark Funeral...which means (and here the record companies begin to wink) sales, sales, and ultimately: not that many sales. How many Hypocrisy albums have been sold, total? Probably not that many...and, as I was trying to say above, how many other bands were there in Sweden that were more deserving of a record contract, or at least a comp. appearance on one of Necropolis's strange magazine samplers? How many better 'project' bands were there? I'm guessing...quite a lot. And why was Necropolis/Paul Thind, at this time, so obsessed with Sweden, releasing the worst of the entire lot, skimming the bottom of an exhausted scene? Why not move one nation over, where things were actually happening?

When there are already a million Scandinavian black metal bands, it doesn't make any sense at all to release the work of a few 'musicians' who just got together, drank themselves into a stupor (this is the 'official' party line - excuse the pun - but I am guessing it's just propoganda...if I know anything about Swedes by now I know that they rarely, if ever, approach a recording process in such a way), and vomited up riffs that anyone (yes, anyone) could come up with at a moment's notice...as if they are somehow even more 'elite' because they can be called upon to act spontaneously or improvise. Yes, this is scathing, this is angry - or at least seems so, this is fast and raw and to the point...but is it listenable? Once you are past the first three songs, think about this for your own enlightenment...it should be well known, by now, that Bloodbath, for example, that 'project' band that actually had an EP out on Century Media a little while ago, were not a 'drunken' gathering of musicians, but a cold, calculating recording machine in the early morning, led by Swano. Which is to say, all thoughts of alcoholism aside: it wasn't spontaneous, as anyone can tell just by listening to it while not reading the label's propoganda.

What is the most amazing to me is that their may actually be, somewhere out there (if Necropolis isn't just proposing it a priori), a subculture of people who actually care and/or look forward to the work of Messrs. It or All...I've never heard a single song by these men that I would consider mandatory...does anyone remember Vondur? Shudder...it's no wonder It 'left the scene'. How embarrassing their music is, even the more 'serious' productions!

I realize, of course, that on one level or another, or on many levels at once (although this is not openly admitted), this band - much like Vondur - are just a practical joke, a way for the musicians involved to blow off steam, let their hair down, and have some fun at your wallet's expense. Then again, think of the resources that were wasted putting these 'albums' into circulation - literally the thousands of dollars spent printing them, advertising them, pushing them, etc. How many better ways there probably were to spend the money! Not the least being hiring Dissection a capable attorney, or sending Arckanum the copies of their own albums that I have heard they/he are still waiting for! At the last resort, the money could have been put back into the label, and efforts could have been made to sign better bands...oh well...the worst thing about this re-release is that it just reminds me of the terrible status this label once had, a reputation which they are still trying very hard to overcome. At least they are now signing bands that are actually worthy of notice...

In addition, belying, once again, the entire notion of spontaneity or devil-may-care riskiness about this whole thing...all the official agitprop, in other words, are the lyrics...which are so obviously meant to be 'controversial' (they utterly fail at being so) that this whole project leaves a bad taste in my mouth: it reeks of a half-hearted attempt at the manipulation of a captive audience. The track 'I Am Elite' is really anything but...please...a song 'attacking' Jews in language that is almost...polite? And then Necropolis 'refusing' to publish the lyrics in the booklet? Oh my...for the most part they are cock-rock anthems, transcribed into the strange world of mid-90s Swedish death metal refugees...think: Marduk, but without the talent. Pretty bleak, isn't it? I do like the first song, however, the all-out blitzkrieg of 'Satan' (yes, they were pressed for time when thinking of song titles), which features a nice chorus which would doubtlessly shock most Wal-Mart patrons in Kansas, but not many others...it reads, or bursts out of the speakers as: 'Father Satan, take my soul, Father Satan, take my soul' and then 'Satan, satan'...yawn...but the speed of this song and the general feel of it being...almost chaotic, almost out of control, is well-done...occasionally, guitarist Blackmoon coughs up a riff that one feels he was probably saving for Dark Funeral, and things go into lightspeed, summoning, for just a few seconds, that ol' Swedish black metal feel that you are looking for so desperately. However, such moments - glimpses of better bands - are few and far in between. For the most part this is stale, rote, by-the-numbers power chord progressions, straight from punk, and as boring as it can possibly get...four of these thirteen original songs have the word 'war' in their title, which means that basically one-third of this band's entire ouevre are just songs repeating, over and over, the name of their group...you have been warned.