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I really don't have any kind of tenable position on the entire topic of the 'progress' of the Norwegian scene surrounding Moonfog records anymore. And while I first started disliking Satyricon's last album 'Rebel Extravaganza' (I still cringe when I say that out loud - it's as good an example of a foreign language concept not translating into English as you're ever going to hear) based purely on thematic reasons or issues of content and image, I finally started to turn away from contemplating it because I just thought it was a terrible album all around - the lyrics are horrible, the music is boring and one-dimensional, the 'futuristic' sound is demeaning and unoriginal (anyone ever hear of Voivod?), and the whole push Moonfog made for the 'mainstream' is disappointing. Satyr couldn't even sell out properly, or with a clear conscience. And who cares, anyway? Face it: we live in an age when the themes behind the creation of music no longer seem to matter, because the majority of listeners have completely lost the ability to distinguish between different 'types' of art. With all of the cross-breeding going around, and with the innovation (read: sterilizations) in sound production that can make a band like Immortal sound absolutely harmless (I mean here the over-processing of the guitar, etc.), it is a matter of little interest to the average listener what the music is trying to say, where it originates from (both in terms of geography and inspiration), or what emotional ties can be formed in the process of listening. All popular music now says the same thing, regardless of its scene affiliation or origin: 'let your mind go to sleep, and let your body move'. The world of music right now, whether it's pop or extreme or 'alternative', or anything else, is one giant vanilla wafer. Bland, bland, bland...
A lot of this is just a symptom of the metal scene's utter exhaustion. Because innovation or originality is not viewed as possible, it is then seen secretly as unwarranted, and what we get from the artists involved is a lot of talk about 'new sounds', when it's just the same tired formulas in new packages. Fine, I say. Let the Norwegian scene proceed merrily into sterility, they've outlived their usefulness anyway. The only problem is that they will continue to release albums and thus draw away attention and resources from other places that need (or deserve) it more. This is a constant burden, though...it's not new either.
And so it's depressing to me when, once again, I hear even more of the same - especially as it's (surprise!) being aggressively marketed as something different...in this case Cadaver, who were present before the Norwegian black metal boom (the Earache website praises their first album's thanks sheet, saying it 'reads like a who's who of the Norwegian black metal scene!') and who now stand up and take notice of what's going on after the entire scene died (why?), plug directly into the melding of electronics and black that is fermenting over at Moonfog headquarters, borrow a few musicians from other bands (the former drummer of Dimmu and the singer for Aura Noir, among others) and churn out eleven songs that sound almost exactly like what Satyricon were trying to do on their last album, and what Dodheimsgard easily accomplished already. That is: a 'black metal' take on Voivod and Fear Factory. Yawn.
I don't really understand why music like this is supposed to be 'futuristic' - what does it have that other bands don't feature? What does it point to? And it's also very interesting to me that when bands now want to create some kind of 'apocalyptic' future landscape or atmosphere with their music, they strip it down to its barest elements - 'metal modern primitive', I guess you could call it. I think that we all know that the future is going to be even more complex than the present - shouldn't the music reflect that? Maybe not. And so Cadaver, here, is really just an experiment in creating 'songs' out of the same old Thorns progressions, with an emphasis on minor chords and those atonal up-stroke sweeps that chime out at opportune moments (Krupp's single real innovation), and boosting the drums in the mix to the point where it sounds almost exactly like Satyricon.
Some of these songs have memorable melodies...out of all the chaos, for example, the initial blast of 'Primal' tends to hit home on occasion, and 'Killtech' (I know, I know) features actual attempts at singing. Or at least...growling in harmony with the guitars. This is just a good, catchy composition. I like it. The last song, the title track, features riffing that is right off 'Dimension Hatross', and while it's also attention-grabbing because of its dissonance, it's ultimately derivative. Blah.
To be fair, the drumming here, which sounds a lot cleaner than Dimmu or Emperor or bands of that sort, as if less processing/triggering was involved, is really, really good. The main themes of the skins are just speed and precision, that German military efficiency that Norwegian bands almost always bring to their records, and if you really appreciate that sort of thing (I do sometimes) you'll definitely want to hear this album. This drummer needs to be in a different band - right now...I would love to hear him in a group that actually took advantage of his full range as a musician, not just his capability for acceleration.
Because this record - with Earache's ties - is probably going to receive a much larger distribution than the earlier Satyricon or Dodheimsgard material (I know that Earache is sending out about a million promos), it will be interesting if it comes down through history in a spotlight, while the others that came before it are thrown into its shadows. In any case, if 'Satanic Art' and 'Rebel Extravaganza' (shudder) launched the 'electronic' or 'futuristic' trend, and Mayhem, Red Harvest, Zyklon, and the Thorns album solidified it, this is surely a good new spokesmodel for the movement...but like most spokesmodels, there is a lot more flash and glitter here than substance...approach with caution.
Metal history is littered with examples of bands who either changed or altered their names when shifting styles, but I think how Norwegians Cadaver pulled it off was rather neat. Despite having some limited success as a pure death metal outfit (largely through their sophomore ...In Pains), they decided to call it quits (for the first time) in 1993, and had only a brief reunion in '95 before finally reforming four years later with an entirely different style. Rather than shock their small, pre-installed death metal audience with this new sound, they altered the band name to Cadaver Inc and returned to the Earache Records roster. This was a thrashing black metal incarnation of the band, pretty evenly split between the two niches, with just one original member off the first two records, guitarist Anders Odden, who adopted the stage name of 'Neddo'.
He was joined by Aura Noir/Virus/Ved Buens Ende member Carl-Michael Eide as 'Czral' on drums and Aura Noir/Dødheimsgard member Apollyon on bass and vocals, both solid multi-instrumentalists; and a lesser known entity, vocalist/guitarist L.J. Balvaz, who had performed on a number of demos in the scene but was seeing his first major metal release on this very album. The aim here was to channel the more savage Scandinavian black metal influences (Satyricon, Marduk Immortal, Gorgoroth) that had sprung up since Cadaver's original demise, and then temper them with archaic, vitriolic thrash not unlike what a few of the members had performed in Aura Noir. But this isn't your frostbitten, wintry woodland variety of escapism; no, Cadaver Inc was honed on murderous, urbane concepts, to the point that they even set up a rather infamous mock 'corpse disposal' service website (complete with a functional phone #), that was convincing enough to pique the interest of local authorities. About the closest band I could compare this to thematically would have been Boston's own December Wolves (late 90s material and beyond), also a member of the Earache family at that time, but sonically Cadaver Inc were more traditional to their native land.
Discipline turned out a rather ferocious album, and while it seemed no one really gave a shit about it at the time, and most still seem to disregard its very existence, I found it a qualified success for such an overt shift in styles. Hostile and angry enough to compete with the more filthy and excessive black metal recordings in that region (Panzer Division Marduk, Destroyer, etc), the presence of thrifty thrash breakdowns ensured that the material felt more riff-focused, more concise, and redolent of classics like Slayer, Possessed and Celtic Frost. Loads of blast beats to the point that it often feels like a hybrid of black metal and grind, but there is also no shortage of thicker, melodic chord floes and choppier, animated picking progressions to break up any chance that this would become monotonous. The sheer ferocity with which this new material was performed had me puzzled why it didn't earn more attention, for it arrived at a time where scenes like Poland's intense, brutal and velocity-based black metal acts were beginning to take off (and fans of those would almost certainly get a kick out of this).
That said, it avoids the claptrap of monotony which such speed often evokes, and offers a good degree of variation along with its crazy, oppressive production. Discipline is an album I like to listen to loudly when possible, because there are plenty of details compressed into each of its 11 body bags. Crzals drums are bold and nasty, and you can really feel the kit as if you were sitting right next to it in some practice space, with a great, tinny hi-hat sound, resonant snares and still a lot of low end pummeling to fuel the voracious rhythm guitar work. Intricate, spurious thrashing sequences course through tracks like "Murderhead", but the band does just as well with a simpler, driving passage of boisterous chords. In truth, I found most of the faster, tremolo based notes or chords during the blast segments to be among the record's least interesting, but they never let this continue for so long that they become too soiled. The bass is thick and precise, but not incredibly interesting in terms of note selection, choosing instead to follow the guitar closely. The vocals were primarily a fulsome if generic, distorted black rasp, but they'll often fly off the handle with some growls and hyperventilated, spastic phrasing like the close of "Rupture".
Granted, it's not always the most original material, and even the better riffs throughout this aren't in the habit of staying memorable for much longer than the album's 39 minute duration, but when you're in the middle of this beast there's really no other choice but to pull out your own hair and ponder upon whatever acts of murder and mayhem it might steer you towards. Some of the lyrics are good ("Deliverance", "Discipline"), some not so much ("Murderhead"), and some just flat out bizarre in concept compared to their environs ("Rupture"). I did find the content a bit back-loaded, with closing cuts like "Snapper Organs" and "Discipline" more fresh, fulfilling and compelling than some of the early content like opener "Primal", but from track to track the entire body of extremity is well paced, the flow and placement of each track like another nail in an improvised coffin sending you to the bottom of the river. It ain't perfect, but it'll do when you're in the mood for something diabolically pissed. Alas, this would turn out to be the sole full-length recording of the band; they would soon become homesick for their death metal roots, and revert to the original Cadaver handle for their following effort Necrosis.