Live at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo, Norway on March 28th 2014
Sleepless in Finland
It was the year 2002, when melodic death metal had become somewhat stale and the subgenre was lingering in a state of dormancy, when a Finnish band named Insomnium appeared on the scene that would keep the essence of melodic death, but infused it with a melancholic atmosphere that was unheard of before and was forged into such a compact whole on In the Halls of Awaiting that it became an instant favourite. Fast forward 12 years and we arrive at Insomnium’s sixth album Shadows of the Dying Sun and the big question – can they keep up their uncanny run of high quality albums?
Often bands peeter out in their chosen style or veer from their trusted path in order to avoid stagnation and the Joensuu-based quartet stays fully in style with their past, but gently expand on it, with the clean vocals still playing a great role without ever taking over. And the magic continues with Shadows of the Dying Sun…
Finnish bands have been known to incorporate this typically Finnish melancholy into their respective sounds and the lone guitar at the beginning of opening “intro” “The Primeval Dark” is legacy to this. I put intro into quote marks, because it is actually over three minutes long and has this full, slow and atmospheric grandeur that perfectly sets the table for what is to follow. Throughout the songs of Shadows of the Dying Sun Insomnium weave between melodic death metal and atmospheric and epic parts, constantly shifting tempos and intensities, complementing Niilo Sevänen’s excellent growls with Ville Friman’s clean voice, but with all the dynamic changes, it always sounds organic and not forced or pieced together..
“While We Sleep”, the first ‘real’ song, is a perfect example for the interaction between calmer sections with Ville’s clear vocals and the heavier melodic death metal passages, where Niilo shines with his brilliant growls, which are harsh but at the same time intelligible, with light keyboards underlying both and the melancholic lead guitar tying everything together. And this basically is Insomnium’s innate sound, where every note has its place and infuses this atmosphere and warmth into this otherwise often melodic yet harsh style. “Lose to Night” and “Collapsing Words” are the most ‘extreme’ songs as in the former has the most atmosphere and calm in it and the latter standing the closest to melodic death metal, even though it still is more melodic and grander in both sound and approach compared to the more traditional kind.
Despite the very high quality throughout, there are two songs that have to be mentioned specifically, just for being the biggest and grandest of them all, these being “Black Heart Rebellion” and the closing title track, putting all ingredients together in a truly masterful way, sweeping epics with dynamics, flow, heaviness, growls and clean vocals, beautiful melodies, just the right amount of melancholy and atmosphere, proving the true class of Insomnium’s song writing.
The Finns prove with Shadows of the Dying Sun that it is possible to subtly expand their style while fully maintaining the integrity of the sound they created. A grand sweeping victory with melancholic and melodic death metal at its best and a surefire entry into the upper regions of any year end list!
U mad? Coz u should b.
Emmure’s last album, Slave To The Game (2012), was one of the first reviews I ever wrote for The Metal Observer. I had decided to review Slave To The Game because I thought the album might be fun to hate on but I actually ended up rather enjoying it and it has only grown on me over time. I’ll contend now, as I did then, that the secret to Slave To The Game’s success was its distancing itself from reality – drawing the listener into a world where the over-the-top braindeadedness of Emmure is not only acceptable but entirely appropriate. Not so with its follow-up Eternal Enemies…
In case you couldn’t tell from its oh-so-serious, not-trying-too-hard-at-all-even-a-little-bit, terrorist/ anarchist cover art, Eternal Enemies is where Emmure “get real.” To quote Emmure mastermind/figurehead Frankie Palmeri on “The Hang Up:” “I’m the realest motherfucker in the game.”
Eternal Enemies’ opening track, “Bring A Gun To School,” is desperately provocative, but it is also recklessly irresponsible and so requires rather a lot of discussion where it should be rightfully ignored for the disgusting attention-seeking garbage that it is.
There is a lot to be said about the power and responsibility of art, and most of it about bands with a whole lot more integrity and ambiguity than that inspired by Emmure – such as when founding Marilyn Manson guitarist, Daisy Berkowitz (real name Scott Putesky), contends on the “Shock Rock” episode of Sam Dunn’s Metal Evolution, “I thought you (Manson) were the Antichrist of Rock ‘n’ Roll… He should have said something like, ‘Yeah, see how influential I can be?’” in response to the Columbine High School shootings.1
Oh and let’s not forget that this happened:
(Cold Soul is Palmeri’s clothing line, whose online store was shut down by AllMerch for its offensive designs (and it seems their BigCartel store has been as well). If you really must, you can visit the line’s official Facebook page here. Be sure to note the terrorist cover photo, complete with AK-47 when making your assessment of Palmeri’s character.)
The glaring response that must be first refuted is that we, the metal community at large, laud Cannibal Corpse (rightfully) as the biggest and best in their field, and many like them, who write songs exclusively and far more graphically violent than Emmure ever have, nor are likely to.
Where Cannibal Corpse differ is that songs like “Fucked With A Knife,” “Force Fed Broken Glass” or the even more immediately immanent “Stripped Raped And Strangled” exist in a fantastical realm where violence is explored rather than glorified or demanded. “The Pick Axe Murders” is a story; “Bring A Gun To School” is a directive; and while there’s certainly room for exploration of violent fantasy, real/historical or otherwise (including outside the metal world) it needs to be done with a bit more finesse than “holy fucking shit, I’m having too much fun, killing everyone.”
By comparison the opening track, “Doomblade,” from longtime Emmure rivals The Acacia Strain’s 2012 album, Death Is The Only Mortal, contained the lyrics, “And when she screams, she will be screaming for you… And as you’re lying facedown in the dirt, I hope you feel it; I hope it fucking hurt,” which lyrics made me uncomfortable at the time (and still do) due to the album/song’s release coinciding with the murder of Jill Meagher.
The difference is, once again, that “Doomblade” didn’t demand that the listener act out the fantasy it described. If it did then that would lead to a far more complicated and precarious discussion of the merits of art and its right to exist vs. social responsibility but it is one that, with Eternal Enemies, Emmure prove they are entirely unworthy of – even if they do provide its inspiration.
As a last thought on the matter, historically, accusations of a causal relationship between songs and fan action – be it Ozzy Ozbourne, Marilyn Manson, Judas Priest, whoever – have been utterly ridiculous and can almost universally be dismissed as a case of misinterpretation or nefarious invocation. What has Palmeri to say in his defense if this discussion ceased being hypothetical and an Emmure fan2 really did take a gun to school? In what way would said Emmure fan misinterpret “Bring A Gun to School?”
“Shit. Has anyone got a hanky?”
By sheer merit of probability, if you throw enough first and open frets together then some binary set or other you come up with is going to stick, and such is the case with Eternal Enemies’s lead singles, “Nemesis” and “N.I.A. (News in Arizona),” which both do the whole violent fantasy thing discussed above rather well.
“Nemesis” is merittable merely by being inoffensive and well but “N.I.A” thoroughly surprises by managing to sound distinctly Meshuggah-rian without really devolving into djent. Seriously. Meshuggah and Emmure are about as far apart as musically possible but hit-up the 2:20 mark and honestly tell me that what you hear wouldn’t slot in comfortably somewhere on Koloss. “Grave Markings” is another successful combination, which goes abov and beyond by even containing (gasp!) an actual riff!!!
Even these better tracks of Eternal Enemies don’t come close to Emmure’s best,3 however. While probability dictates at least some of the album’s songs are sure to get you moving, even if you don’t necessarily like what you hear, there’s nothing on Eternal Enemies as good as “Protoman” or “I Am Onslaught;” or even “Solar Flare Homicide” or “Demons With Ryu;” and such musical discussion is truly made redundant, not by the band’s lack of fret variation but by Palmeri’s inescapable lyrical excretion, which is moronic to a tee.
Besides Palmeri’s penchant for spoken delivery – which, regardless of the content, he’s just flat out awful at delivering – Eternal Enemies’s vocal content is further corrupting due Palmeri’s blatant and bullying homophobia, which is so moronic that it would be almost laughable if Palmeri wasn’t busily going about playing the victim, claiming:
“I got fucked with just because I was a little strange. So I identify with people who get pushed over the edge. I don’t think senseless violence is cool. I’m not promoting that. But I’m definitely speaking for people who think, ‘Oh Yeah, you’re gonna fuckin’ bully me? Well watch this—bang! …maybe the assholes of the world can do something to make it a little brighter for everyone.”4
Emmure: well meaning assholes.
If Palmeri was bullied and that’s what made him into the confused, inconsiderate, buffoon of Eternal Enemies then that’s sad and it’s not excusable, but nor does it provide a valid excuse for Palmeri’s output on Eternal Enemies.
It’s hard to be sympathetic with Palmeri when his reaction to being put-down himself is to put-down and threaten everyone else. What little (contrite) sympathy is shown on, god-awful closer, “We Were Only Kids” and the actually-positive-and-reassuring (but still misguided) “Like Lamotta,” is contradicted and thus made entirely redundant by such unironically braggadocios proclamations that Palmeri makes with regard to his “realness,” such as on “Most hated” where he claims, “this is what I’m all about, no regrets no doubts… I’m the motherfucker people always talk about… true god is an understatement.”5
But, hey! At least there’s other tracks on Eternal Enemies that show Palmeri’s in it for the right reasons:
“I’m the realest motherfucker in the game… Where’s my money, power, fame.”
– “The Hangup”
I won’t give Palmeri the satisfaction of awarding Eternal Enemies a zero (in truth, the behind-the-scenes interface won’t allow it),7 and I guess “Nemesis” and “M.I.A” earn Emmure at least some credit, but they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel harder than ever with Eternal Enemies.
Lest I incur the thin wrath of “Free Publicity” I’ll use this penultimate “weak and spineless” moments to call out Palmeri from behind the shelter of my (and your) computer screen to remind him that nor does hiding behind the faccade of art excuse him from promoting violence and spouting hate speech.8
Emmure were easy to ignore when they were only harmlessly moronic, and even enjoyable when they took that ridiculousness to over-the-top (and surprisingly well-executed) levels, but Eternal Enemies is inexcusable.
1 For the record, I don’t agree with Puteski. Marilyn Manson’s “Antichrist” shtick was never about committing (senseless) violence, his connection to the event was entirely insubstantial and what Manson had to say about his personal vilification and the wider responsibility of art and the media at the time of the Columbine shootings (not least his interview in Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine) is a rather well-considered and enlightened take on the events and Manson probably gained a lot more from his response’s humanization than he would have by claiming any kind of responsibility.
2 And if there was ever a band with a fanbase stupid enough…
3 Yes, there is such a thing, necessarily even.
4 From an interview with Revolver magazine. Emphasis mine.
5 For realizes you guyz.
6 Their official is also only their merch site, so read into that what you will.
7 We also don’t have a 2.
8 And yes, whatever Palmeri (and unfortunately many others) may have to say about “how fucking PC” objecting is or how only people who use the word with homophobic intent are “fucking faggots,” screaming “faggot” every other line and using it (almost exclusively) as a description of those he is promoting violence against definitely counts as hate speech, no matter what “the legendary Korn” have to say back in 1995.
Sovereign is he who knows no laws.
I’ll never understand why Enthroned’s late 90s/early 00s output became the works by which they are judged and remembered for, as the riff-driven (and somewhat death and thrash inspired) nature of their first two albums and the more intricate nature of their modern day releases certainly point to a band capable of much more than the poker-faced and blast-happy incarnation that released The Apocalypse Manifesto, Armoured Bestial Hell and Carnage in Worlds Beyond upon the world. Much like their last two releases, 2010’s Pentagrammaton and 2012’s Obsidium, their latest effort Sovereigns eschews the relentless speed and aggression of yore in favor of a more textured approach that , while black metal at its core, also incorporates hefty doses of sluggish tempos, ritualistic chanting and guitar work that dabbles a lot with non-linear and somewhat discordant chord progressions.
It’s quite chaotic, actually, but the sparse use of melody prevents the songs from going off the rails completely and acts as a signpost of sorts for the listener.I say sparse because the melodies are faint at best, snaking in and out of the songs in the most subtle of ways, and even when they’re at their most scintillating (as they are on “Of Feathers and Flames”) they always play second fiddle to the opaque rumble of the guitars and Nornagest’s putrid growls. This isn’t really a complaint as I definitely appreciate the band’s decision to scrum away from predictable songwriting, but the melodic dynamic was arguably more effervescent on their last two albums.
That said, the somewhat Nile-ish intro segued perfectly into the punishing “Sine Qua Non”, the mid-paced grooves and chants of “Lamp of Invisible Lights” (which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any of Marduk’s last three albums) represented a welcome breather and the sombre undertones of “The Edge of Agony” all made for some entertaining listening. One could perhaps accuse the band for playing it a tad too safe on the latter half of the album, as the almost non-stop blasting basically negates the more playful and unorthodox sound explored on the first few songs. It’s a minor gripe though, as it’s always pleasing to hear the band letting loose and baring teeth. Sovereigns may be a slight step down compared to its immediate predecessors but it’s a perfectly fine latter day Enthroned album imbued with many morsels of enjoyment. This time around you just have to dig a little deeper to find them.
Live at John Dee in Oslo, Norway on March 19th 2014
Author: Dayal Patterson
Publisher: Feral House
Fuoco Fatuo is an Italian doom and death metal act hailing form Varese, north Italy. The band formed in 2011 and recently released their first full length album The Viper Slithers in the Ashes of What Remains through Iron Tyrant. The band consists of Fabrizio on drums, Ken on bass (also a member of Into Darkness) and Milo on guitar and vocals (also a member of Funest). The members of Fuoco Fatuo recently sat down and answered some questions for The Metal Observer.
Live at Mavericks in Ottawa, Ontario on February 13th, 2014.
Live at House of Blues in Houston, Texas on February 8th, 2014.
Live at Mavericks in Ottawa, Ontario on February 7th, 2014.
Finnish doom / death metallers Kuolemanlaakso have completed their sophomore album, Tulijoutsen, which is slated to be released on February 28, 2014 through Svart Records. The Metal Observer was given the opportunity to question the band on their recent accomplishments as well as what fans can expect in the future, among other topcis. Usva (bass) and Laakso (guitars and keyboards) were kind enough to provide some insight into their world.
While 2013 seems to a rather scatter-shot kind of year for many genres, thrash metal seems to still be going at full speed when it comes to upcoming new bands and classic bands continuing their relentless existence. With slightly under 180 albums listened to that could be tagged as thrash in some form or another; my queue this year was a mighty one indeed. The following list required much more thought and deliberation then many years previously and it made for a rather unique one to say the least.
Live at House of Blues in Houston, Texas on January 22nd, 2014.