What is Death Metal music ?

Death Metal is a Heavy Metal genre, emerging itself at the beginning of the eighties, and always as popular in the Heavy Metal scene as of today. The Death Metal movement find its origins in the USA, particularly near Florida, although we can include other important scenes around the USA (New York notably) and others less important around the world.

Death Metal, as well as Trash Metal and some forms of progressive metal are some of the hardest varieties of Heavy Metal, and maybe of all music with Jazz, Blues and certain forms of classical musical, to play and produce.

The diverse genres of Death Metal, going from technical death metal to progressive death metal, and including slam death metal or deathgrind, make it a very intriguing musical genre.

Death Metal is not only a very technically challenging form of music to play, it is also a very difficult genre to compose properly.

Death Metal music

Origins of Death Metal

Unlike Black Metal, there are no distinct and official Death Metal waves. Yet, we can easily retrace the history and evolution of Death Metal music throughout the ages.

The pioneer bands which really contributed to the creation of this Heavy Metal genre are Necrophagia, Obituary and Morbid Angel. I recommend you maybe look for some of their albums, to see what “first wave” Death Metal was about.

Another major influence was the band Death, which can be label as the pioneer of modern Death Metal. But the true influence of this genre was the release of the Death Metal demo, in 1984, by the band Possessed.

In the early nineties, bands acknowledged a more modern playing style and structured musical genre for Death Metal. More modern bands include Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation and Cephalic Carnage.

With the arrival of the “second wave” bands also came a wide variety of Death Metal sub-genres, including Deathgrind and Progressive Death Metal.

Death Metal musical style

In Death Metal, the most common lineup is a combination of a vocalist, one or several guitarists (as the Lead Guitarist and Rhythm Guitarist), a bassist and a drummer. The roles and characteristics of each musicians are of the following :

  • Death Metal Vocalist : The Death Metal vocalist will, at least in theory, use exclusively Death growls. Death growls are a form of vocalization where the musician grunts, expiring (or inspiring) air through his lungs. It is highly discouraged to use the throat to achieve that kind of sound, at risk of irritations or lesions in that area. Although most Death Metal groups are trying to sound the heaviest possible, often at the point of being unintelligible to listeners unfamiliar with the lyrics, some bands prefer sacrificing the heaviness in favor of music and words easier to understand, which is the case in certain groups of technical or melodic Death Metal.
  • Death Metal Guitarist : To be able to maintain a heavy sound and atmosphere, the guitars are generally tuned in C, which is two notes down compared to the original and traditional tuning. D and B tunings are also present, sometimes used respectively in the Melodic / Technical and the Brutal Death Metal sub-genres. As in Black Metal, heavy distortion is very present and sometimes seems greatly exaggerated. Also similarly to Black Metal, techniques such as tremolo picking or Palm Muting are commonly used. Death Metal riffs are often extremely complex, especially in Brutal / Technical bands, and require not only great precision but also great speed since the tempos are very high. Finally, it is not rare to see long and complex guitar solos in most forms of Death Metal.
  • Death Metal Bass : The Death Metal bassist often has a role of great importance, as we are very far from a musical style where the bass is just following the guitar as in Black Metal. The bassist often plays differently than the guitarist, and sometimes even solos, or openings. Similarly to the guitar, the bass is often tuned in C, to bring a heavier sound.
  • Death Metal Drumming : The role of the drummer in Death Metal is once again essential. Not only does Death Metal drumming require great speed, but it always requires a mastery of complex sound structures. Drum patterns are generally quite complex, and their drummers frequently use methods such as blast-beats, gravity rolls, gravity blasts and others.

Death Metal example : Dying Fetus

This is a very good song from the death metal band Dying Fetus.

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Ceremonial Castings, black metal band

Ceremonial Castings is a Black Metal band formed in 1996 by Lord Serpent and OldNick. Producing Symphonic Black Metal, they are often recognized and accepted by other notorious artists.

Their two major album were produced respectively in 2005 and 2006, under the names Immortal Black Art and Barbaric is the Beast. Ceremonial Castings has also released many demos, as well as no less than 7 quality full-length albums.

Ceremonial Castings is one of the top black metal bands ever, and one of the best currently active today. More recently they have also released a re-issue of some of their previous albums.

Ceremonial Castings – Symphonic Black Metal

The music produced by the Black Metal band Ceremonial Casting characterizes itself by a predominant musical style composed of symphonic Black Metal. The synthesizers are used to add atmosphere, but not relied upon as in bands like D-emo Borgir or Satyr-emo.

Despite the loyal following that this band has received from 1996 to today, Ceremonial Castings remains an underground Black Metal band. They are even mentioned in my top 10 Black Metal Bands list.

They themselves name their music as Deathphonic Black Metal, which can be qualified as Symphonic Black Metal with a few Death Metal elements, notable in some albums.

During their evolution, Ceremonial Castings various their playing style quite a few times. In their first releases, the dominant musical atmosphere was more of a raw and blizzard-like Black Metal, in the style of bands like Frost Like Ashes, accompanied with some symphonic elements. While in their further releases, the band Ceremonial Castings showed some more structured and melodic song-writing abilities. Their last album to date, 1692 is one of the most experimental Black Metal masterpieces to date, combining some Symphonic Black Metal with Avant-Garde elements.

Von – Satanic Blood

Von is certainly the Black Metal band with the most interesting history. Not only did they set the landmark for what was later to become traditional second wave Black Metal, but they also contributed to the progress of Black Metal music, especially with their Satanic Blood demo.

As said by many, if it wasn’t for Von, Black Metal wouldn’t even exist.

Maybe you have already heard some of these tracks from the 2003 compilation Satanic Blood Angel, as they are also available on that album.

Von Satanic Blood album review

Although officially Satanic Blood is only a demo, it is regarded as if it was a full-length album. And not any album, as it is now widely accepted as one of Von’s greater efforts and one of the best Black Metal albums of all times.

Recorded soon after Venien’s departure, this album was released in 1992 which makes it one of the earliest Black Metal projects.

Whilst Satanic Blood can best be described as raw and atmospheric Black Metal, it is not the slow-paced atmosphere of ambient Black Metal bands like Xasthur or early Leviathan, it is a cold and brutal atmosphere that fits the mood of an ancient torture chamber full of despair.

The vocals are pure and chaotic, everything you want to hear in Black Metal music. Despite the fact that Goat uses here some low-pitched growls which is mostly uncommon in this genre, they fit the music perfectly.

The guitar work is brilliant. Goat has once again managed to create a dark and macabre atmosphere with simple yet catchy and hypnotic riffs.

The drumming is minimalist, which fit perfectly the mood of the album once again.

Surprisingly enough for an album this gruesome, the lyrics are obscure and almost cryptic. A beautiful contrast with the brutality of the music, especially on the track Watain :

“Lucifer killed his unborn child
So he may be a victim of circumstance
Undone evil
The wicked child lays in shallow, crowded graves
This unholy place is where the black sacrifices are performed
Here is where He kills…
Watain”

Satanic Blood track by track review

Devil Pig – 5/5

Devil Pig starts of with a dark combination of distorted guitars with a gruesome blast-beat. Goat’s vocals seem to pop up randomly on an irregular interval, breaking the monotony of the song yet adding to the macabre atmosphere. After a little more than a minute and a half, a diabolic solo kicks in : it is both beautiful and cruel. Then it comes back to the original riffs, and it goes on for the rest of the song.

Veinen – 4.5/5

Then comes Veinen (not to be confused with Venien). A complex and raw riff starts the song out, and soon Goat’s vocals make their apparition. They are more structured and add a dark feeling to this song. Close to the two minutes Goat switches from the growls to the “clean” singing. The result is bizarre and disturbing. A mini-solo kicks in, and it’s back up to the first riff to finish the song.

Watain – 4.75/5

Watain is probably one of the most notorious songs of this album, unfortunately not my favorite. The riffs are more complex then on the two previous, but still as minimalist and brutal. The drums too are more technical and diverse. Unlike the two previous tracks, Goat seems to growl during the whole song, with the exception of the magnificent solo near the two minutes mark, which will also serve as outro.

Lamb – 5/5

Next comes Lamb, a very minimalist track which is also one of my favorites.
It starts out with a single riff accompanied by a drum fill. After the first thirty seconds there is a slight riff variation, the blast-beat kicks in and Goat starts to growl.
After the first minute stands another brilliant solo, that perfectly blends into the atmosphere of the song.

Veadtuck – 5/5

This track is not even classic, it’s above classic. It’s legendary.
Veadtuck is probably the track on which the most riff variations occur. It is also a full-instrumental track, if you exclude the first ten seconds. While still maintaining the macabre mood of the album, there are several dark riffs than follow each other, until the blast-beats kick in and accompany the song to the end.

Satanic Blood – 5/5

Legendary.
Satan fertile.
There are quite some bands following Von that tried to produce songs containing a single riff, they all failed miserably (Black Metal ist krap as an example).
If the song is not technically challenging, it must have demanded a great deal of instincts to produce something of this ilk.

Christ Fire – 5/5

Another dark track composed of very few riffs, all more demonic than the other. There are very slight guitar and drum variations, but all under the same demented atmosphere. Near a minute and a half, Goat speeds up and starts a short yet chilling solo to reinforce the mood of the track.

Von – 5/5

Minimalism at its best. If you don’t get Black Metal atmosphere you may walk right past it, but if you do enjoy the dark melodies of bands like Von, this track is pure gold.
Goat’s vocals are sick as ever, especially near a minute and a half where he sounds like a demented hound barking aloud.

Satanic Blood final score : 93 / 100

Von Goat – Septic Illumination (2010)

Von Goat Septic Illumination

Tracklist :
1. (Intro) Clay Jackals
2. The Gathering
3. Thru Your Skull
4. My God Your God
5. (Intro) Syringes
6. Syringes
7. (Intro) Black Wall System
8. Spiders
9. (Intro) Poison
10. Poison Bottle
11. Voodoo Word
12. Private Horror

Summary :
Release shortly before the phenomenal Von Goat Disappear, Septic Illumination is the debut album of Von Goat.
Somewhere between the raw and grim Satanic Blood Angel and the experimental Disappear, this album marks a defining point in Black Metal history. This is second wave Black Metal at its top level, mixing aggressive grimness and contemplative atmosphere with perfection.

Review of Septic Illumination by Von Goat

Not only is this album unarguably on of the best Black Metal releases ever produced, it is also a brilliant display of macabre in all its splendor. Septic Illumination is the first full-length album by the Black Metal band Von Goat, and one of the finest Black Metal release of all times.

Although this album contains no less than twelves massive Black Metal tracks, only four of them would suffice for this album to get five stars.
You could easily pick 4 tracks randomly out of Septic Illumination call that an album, and it would still be considered a black metal masterpiece.

Von Goat should be crowned king of Black Metal, for this release alone (let us not even talk about the following masterpiece, Disappear).

Septic Illumination final score : 89 / 100

Von Goat – Disappear (2011) Black Metal Album

Von Goat Disappear

Tracklist :

1. Disappear
2. Immortality
3. Catacomb
4. Dark Forces
5. Desecrate
6. Sweet Revenge
7. We Dive
8. Intercourse

Summary :

It is not an understatement to proclaim that early 2010 was one of the most active years in Black Metal history, similar to the early nineties. With the return of the more than legendary Von ; the solo debut of Von Venien, one of founders of Von ; and finally the release of Septic Illuminations, a beast of an album by Von Goat.
To mark this new age even further in blackness, Von Goat released a new album in June 2011 : Disappear. Imagine that, the return of Von and the release of one of the best Black Metal materials since Satanic Blood.

Review of Von Goat – Disappear

The history and events surrounding the legendary Black Metal band Von are, to say the least, intriguing and complex.
After the departure of the bassist Venien in 1990, the future of the band was uncertain. Yet Goat, Snake and later Kill were to release in 1992 what was to become the most influential Black Metal album of all times : Satanic Blood.

Since the reforming of Von in early 2010, two solo projects have emerged from the hands of the very founders of Von : Von Goat and Von Venien. These new projects have offered several releases of great quality, yet none rivaling with the 1992 landmark album. None except one.

Disappear sounds nothing like anything previously encountered in the Black Metal scene. With the return of Goat and the arrival of Blood, many would have assumed that they were likely to return to their roots deep in the second wave of Black Metal, wave they themselves founded.
In reality, Disappear marks a clear departure from anything Von Goat, or any other band, has ever attempted.

Musically, the whole album is pure ritualistic blasphemy. It sounds like Satanic Blood being passed through a meat grinder.
This is not a trendy second wave hippie album that you can headbang to, Disappear is a cold, mechanical and malevolent ride through the devastated abyss of hell. Having nothing to do with the trendy “ice and frostbitten” work, Disappear has an atmosphere of its own.

Beyond the raw and atmospheric aspect of the album, it is very technical and challenging.
Goat’s guitar work is absolutely brilliant, producing cold melodies and subterranean riffs to interact with a brutal and very tribal atmosphere.

The drumming of Blood is as always, utterly beast-like. Not only as fast as imaginable for an extreme metal drummer, but also far more creative, Blood at the image of this album surpassed anything ever attempted in Black Metal.

Last, but by no means least, comes the vocals by Goat. Once again, his vocals sound nothing like what he delivered on Satanic Blood, nor like anything around today.

Disappear final score : 91 / 100.