Wednesday, December 02, 2009

No love for Aussie avant-black pioneers Portal then?

Question: Been reading your blog and also your twitter for a while now dig and ive been wondering. why is it you think when you say you dont like certain bands, the press goes on about them like they are the saviours of a genre in respect of the reviews and also the coverage they get? The two I can think of recently are Portal and Skeletonwitch, although to be honest i do actually like what portal are doing as a band because at least they are trying somthing different (although its heavily indebt to morbid angel). From:

Answer: Is this the Portal street team emailing? You're persistant mate, I'll give you that. Y'know, its very rare for me to pass comment -good or bad- on this blog on any new band, I'm not a journalist so my opinions on bands are mostly kept to myself.I empathise with new bands - we have plenty of newbies on this label aswell- most are simply trying their damndest to do their best and to get noticed in the scene, so public criticism is not very helpful.

Eighty percent of the mails this blog receives is from new bands who want an A&R opinion of their music, I'm trying to avoid turning this blog into an A&R forum for new bands. Also I've been in the game long enough to know that bands can go from promising to devastating in like 6 months, which makes a mockery of any criticism, and on the downside, can also ruin any chance of Earache signing them in the future.

I was asked twice about Portal on this blog, and don't like em, I just don't get what the fuss is about,its actually not avant-garde enough for me because it sounds like early Akercocke to my ears, though the headgear is a wonder to behold. If other people love em, then thats great.Most of the stuff on Profound Lore leaves me perplexed, to me, its like the sound of Black Metal in its death throes. When the tag "avant-garde" or worse still, "progressive" becomes the accepted bench-mark by which bands are judged, its gotta be the death-knell. When style takes precedence over substance then its time to hang up the guitars. One Profound Lore band I am digging is Krallice though.

Heres Portal:

As for Skeletonwitch, my tweet was prompted by my shock and surprise at seeing them adorn the cover of Terrorizer mag. I'm not saying they don't deserve the accolade, any band who tours as much as Skeletonwitch, who tour like dogs, deserves all the breaks. Mostly it was a reaction to the description of the band in the mag: "blackened death-thrash".Now that is a pretty honest depiction of how the band sounds, but its also absurd, 3 genres in one tagline is what I'm objecting to.

I've followed Skeletonwitch closely for ages, and came close to inviting them onto our new school Thrash comp "Thrashing Like A Maniac" but the deathy/black vocals ruined it for me, somehow made the band non-thrash to my ears.

The new wave of Thrash scene - which has been covered in this blog since 2006- is rapidly splitting into 2 camps.The 'pure thrash' bands- Gama Bomb, Bonded By Blood, Violator, and the 'Thrash, but with other influences' brigade, which journalists are predictably lapping up, as a hint of black or a dash of death, well, its more familiar territory to them. How long before corpsepainted thrash band is heraled as the best new thing. Well, at least they dont live in the 80s!

For the last year, Earache has received thrash demos by the bucketload from bands who obviously were playing Death or Black Metal a year or so ago, but switched genres, because its now cooler to play Thrash.

Somehow the bands which single-handedly brought new life into the ailing scene, and blazed the trail for modern Thrash, are all of a sudden derided because they have no deathy parts, or blackened parts, and no mosh parts.

It's gonna be fun to see how it pans out.

Heres Skeletonwitch:


Anonymous said...

nah not on the street team dig, Just wondering how sometimes a band with huge flaws can be hyped up so much. I actually like them on a retrospective trip because they sound like early akercocke call it a blast from the past for me, as for me some of the later akercocke albums were a little to umm opeth esque for my liking.
and i agree with you fully on skeletonwitch the band sounds ropey as hell.

Anonymous said...

oh i forgot to say you brought up a great point about the "other influences" brigade. for me thease bands who mix bm with thrash are re treading ground that destroyer 666 and several other australian and canadian "war metal" bands have been doing for years!!

ReallyGood@Wounding said...

Portal have a bit of hipster cache, mostly because of being picked up by the hipster of the moment label, Profound Lore (supplanting Southern Lord). I did like Outré when I listened to it in the dark at 1am.
However, I think that Skeletonwitch sounds like an effortless, unconscious blend of Thrash, Black and Death. They sound like a bunch of guys who grew up listening to all three genres and just started organically fusing their influences in an uncontrived way. They sound like a "you got chocolate in my peanut butter" band, instead of somebody in a lab trying to synthesize the next trend.

Digby said...

Thanks for the comments.

Its all metal at the end of the day, I realise that, but its fun to split hairs and debate bands, its what I do all day anyway for a job, with my A&R staffers, not often so publicly.

I reckon Skeletonwitch sounds a bit like Dark Tranquility Moonclad Reflection demo era 92. Seriously similar vox and tempos, and I wouldn't call that Thrash.Y'know, many bands sound 'Thrashy' without being Thrash.

@Wounded- I like your chocolate-in my-peanut-butter analogy,so lets run with that. It would be wrong to call the slightly contaminated jar "peanut-butter-chocolate" or even worse, "chocolate". Even if you slapped Ed Repka art and a 2D logo on the label, it's still peanut butter.

Basically it comes down to this -I personally prefer Thrash that sounds like the big 4 in their prime.

Original 80s Thrash sure was a broad church, extending to Possessed, Sodom via Voivod, but modern Thrash and NWOTHM bands are getting popular precisely because they signal a return to a type of no nonsense, purer metal.

Its pretty cool to hear music again with no core, no gothic, no nu and no ambient bits. Hurrah for that!!

Call it retro if you like, but to me, it's nothing but unadulterated metal in arguably, its purest form.

Disclaimer: Earache currently has 6 new-school Thrash bands and 1 veteran Thrash band signed to the label.

CernunnosTrismegistus said...

I respect that Portal is not yours (or even everyone's) cup of tea, but I think it's a bit unfair to get hung up on the genre tag given to them. I think people just don't know what to call them yet. Consider that at the beginning of a lot of new genres, fans, critics, journalists, label reps, etc. struggle to find a tag. It's not really until years later after more bands have taken up a similar route that a solid genre tag sort of gets agreed upon. All the "____ metal" genre tags that emerged in the 80s and 90s must have sounded hackneyed to those who just saw it all as "heavy metal". In "Choosing Death" one of the interviewees (can't remember who) thought that black metal should have never been classed separately from death metal. Now the two genres cross over more than ever, but I don't think anyone argues that they are exactly the same thing. Meanwhile, sludge metal, stoner metal, doom metal, tech metal, etc. are mostly accepted as valid descriptions of distinct, if overlapping, niches.

If bands like Portal, Deathspell Omega, and Mitochrondrion are signaling the death throes of traditional death metal and black metal, I say bring on the coffins! I love old school extreme metal, but I don't need to hear anymore bands that sound like Immolation, Darkthrone, Dissection, Morbid Angel, or any other oft-imitated band. The latter bands are playing extreme metal in a style I haven't really heard before, save for a few anomalies like later Gorguts, Demilich, Ved Buens Ende, and some of Immolation. Right now we might not have a decent tag other than attaching "avant-garde" to the existing death/black metal paradigm, but what you see as a sign of decline, I see as the beginnings of a new direction, if not a new genre of extreme metal.