So, this is just noise?

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June 23, 2012 by Beldrac

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard or read people denounce Death Metal as simply “noise” with little or no musical value. “How can you listen to this noise? What is this shit? Turn the fucking volume down you’re scaring off the customers!”

I became a metalhead in my teens and admittedly Death Metal was very far from my speakers in those early years, and it was only later that I started to really appreciate it. And yes “it’s just noise” is a common first impression of the genre but if you’re here to stay, why don’t you enter the Asylum Cave, where your hosts wait to greet you:

Now that we have your attention, the first rule of Death Metal is: Don’t take it seriously. It’s meant to offend and scare the shit out of little children, but deathmetalheads are generally some of the friendliest, most laid-back, and well-adjusted people you’ll ever meet. (Well, this is the case for most metalheads anyway.) They don’t really want to be Eaten, unleash Pitbulls in the Nursery, or feed Christians to the Lions, these are often-taboo themes that they’re challenging, pushing the public to get out of their comfort zone face real life. Music is a great conduit for emotion and energy as all who’s ever cried, fell in love, danced, exercised, and expressed themselves while listening to music will know. This is no different, the speed and aggression in this music is a great companion for work when things have to be done fast (from writing to chores) and when you’re pissed off at the world the anger often just dissolves in the glorious riffs, blasts, growls, and screams, leaving you at peace and grinning like psychopath. Hahaha!

It takes a fair amount of skill too; drummers have to be fit as marathon runners to keep up the pace in often hour-long live sets, guitarists have to be able to concentrate on hitting the correct strings fast and on time, and any vocalist worth his salt would be one extremely talented singer. It takes skill and training to produce the sound, tone, and volume that these guys do, and who you’re listening to now is probably one of the best you’ll hear in the genre. The lengths of songs these guys write are most often shorter than Metal average, usually clocking in between 2 and 4 minutes and albums rarely make it to 40minutes. Which is just as well, there’s a lot of music compressed in a very short space of time. There has been a lot of evolution into a number of sub-genres, the bands mentioned here can be associated with monikers like Grindcore, Technical, Brutal, and yes, Symphonic.

But not Symphonic in this case:

The second rule of Death Metal is: Sometimes, take is seriously. While the music is often painted in the bloody colours of sick satire there’s a part of this scene that’s dead serious. (You probably couldn’t make it out so,) here follows the lyrics of the linked-above Napalm Death song:
A chronic complaint of dimness
Prevails your profound ideology.
– a romantic vision of a master race
Attained through coercive forms of authority.
Your observance is negligence
If you see the threat from different cultures.
Were all in this sinking ship,
Each of us together.
Where does the white man stand?
Where does the black man stand?
Where do we all fucking stand?
Knee-deep in the shit!
Look into yourself
And you’ll find within you the real oppressor
To a life of unchallenged hate,
Its yourself who’s the nigger

When was the last time anyone played a song on the radio with that type of message? This song was recorded in 1988. Relevant today, is it not? These bands have a statement to make; they are the conscience of a generation, pointing out the honest truths we refuse to see, challenging us to challenge what’s being fed to us as the truth. And yes, they often do express a lot of hate, but I’d much rather have this hate come out harmlessly in a night club than at a crowded market or from behind the visor of an Allied automatic assault rifle.

There is art here, too; Fleshgod Apocalypse wasn’t the first bands to try it, but probably the first one to add Symphonic elements to the music and get it right. Woven between their tracks of Brutal Death Metal are strings and keys you’d normally associate with Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart – Wagner even. As much as these parts can serve as filler between tracks, so they form integral parts of the whole and serve as the basis from where the music flows forth. Try not to be distracted by the costumes and the pomp in this video, but enjoy one of the best songs I’ve heard in the last few years. This is also a showcase of the skill and precision these guys need to make music like this. One might think that slips and mistakes are bound to creep in and wouldn’t be heard, but perfectionism is an obsession these guys share.

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