Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Autopsy Macabre Eternal

Autopsy Macabre Eternal


By: Chris Davison

For our younger readership, it might come as a shock, but death metal wasn't always synonymous with producing ultra-blasting drum beats, being more technical than the schematics of Gus's supercomputer from Superman III, or being obsessed with producing authentic recreations of ancient Mesopotamian myth and legend. Not every death metal musician used to have schooling in some swanky music school, have their own branded line of musical equipment, or po-faced grim adherence to the “art” of death metal. No, once upon a time, the death metal movement had more in common with cheap splatter gore B-movie VHS productions than high-brow psychological horror Blu-ray releases, and was all the better for it. Unashamedly sloppy, noisy and thoroughly unpleasant.

Enter past masters of wet, sloppy and decidedly fecund aural entertainment, Autopsy. Probably the most successful band in terms of portraying utterly repugnant sounds on record, this American troupe were always the best in producing a not so much organic atmosphere in their songs, as being massively biological. That they should have finally produced a full album – their first since the delightful Shit Fun in 1995, is worthy of celebration. Of course, the big worry with any big name that has been away for a while is that they will no longer be capable of cutting the mustard. I am happy to report that Macabre Eternal sees Autopsy at the top of their game.

See, death metal has really been corralled into a few camps, with many clones in each. You have the ultra technical brigade, the more brutal than brutal boys, the Swedish sound sons (complete with requisite black and white promo picture featuring at least one Nihilist T on display) and the saccharine melody mob. Nobody does what Autopsy does – that is to say producing the most deranged, unhinged and chaotic noise in metal. While Reifert does his thing on the drums – an almost Bill Ward-ian assault of smashing the drums as hard as inhumanly possible, he also provides that vocal delivery. The true sound of a maniac released thrashing and flailing into the world, adding a delightful frisson of madness to his lyrical sickness.

Elsewhere, the Celtic Frost on cheap spirits doom elements of Autopsy are brought to the fore, with brilliant atonal guitar soloing adding the sophistication into the mix. When the tempo slows – as in the adroitly titled “Seeded of the Doom,” the gap in between the thunderous bass and twisted guitar riffs is reverberant with madness and sickness. The atmosphere conjured is one of depravity and violence without any kind of motivation – in short, just the kind of nastiness for its own sake that death metal used to be famous for. Add to all this the clear as a bell production that somehow manages to cling onto the trademark grubbiness and sleaziness of the Autopsy tone, and you've somehow managed to get a comeback album that not only lives up to their back catalog, but also their best since the seminal Severed Survival.

Autopsy Official MySpace

Dave's Underground Laboratory

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kuma's Corner: A Pilgrimage

As I've mentioned, I grew up in the Chicago area. Recently, I had occasion to visit family and friends back in my old stomping grounds, so, naturally, Skull and I, along with a few close friends, had to make a pilgrimage out to metal community famous Kuma's Corner.

We headed out on a Saturday night, well aware that Kuma's 1) does not accept reservations, and 2) that the wait time would be over an hour. We arrived at about 6:45pm, and easily found street parking on Belmont Avenue about two blocks from the restaurant. Sure enough, for a party of five, the wait time would be two hours (patio dining is not available for large parties). Actually, we didn't mind so much as the evening was pleasant, and I had an opportunity to catch up with old friends.

During our wait, we hung out close to the door, being able to easily catch the familiar strains of Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer classics blaring out of the extensive sound system. Although I wasn't paying too much attention, being caught up in conversation, I also caught a few moments of Overkill and Motörhead. After being seated, the music changed to a montage of sludge and doom with YOB being prominently featured. Also during our wait, I used the graffiti-covered facilities.

We finally sat down at about 9:15pm.

I decided to go with the Absu, Skull had the Neurosis, and my other friends respectively ordered Slayer, Lair Of The Minotaur, and Mastodon.

We had fried calamari with jalapenos and lemons as an appetizer. Besides the food, Kuma's also has an extensive craft beer list, and I ended up ordering an Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale and a Lagunitas IPA.

Besides the great food, the vibe was excellent. The bar's metal memorabilia was prominent, but not overbearing, with vinyl records of Sleep, Napalm Death, Eyehategod, Minsk, and Dark Castle amongst those that I spotted in a row above the bar.

Adorning the walls were photos of everyone from a young, with hair, Rob Halford, to Slayer, to Philthy Taylor. The music was loud, so much so that you had to lean close to have a conversation with companions, and the room was dark. But, the place still looked like a bar/ restaurant, and would not necessarily put off the non-metal crowd (who were there in abundance along with the metalheads). I wore my Deathspell Omega logo t-shirt, and Skull wore his Celtic Frost Monotheist design t-shirt. Other t-shirts that I spotted amongst the patrons included Municipal Waste and Mortician.

As we walked out after finishing our meal, I flashed the horns and said thank you to our waitress. The hostess at the front thanked us for our patience as we left, and I told her that the meal was worth the wait.

It was.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Call...

I've been observing for years. I got my start through my father, helping him build a basic 10" Dobsonian telescope when I was a kid. Along the way, we also acquired a 4" Dobsonian. From suburban Chicago and the odd trip to darker skies, we pretty much pushed those telescopes as far as they could go. We still have the 10" in my parents' basement.

After I completed my education, I set about getting a hold of telescopes of my own. I briefly owned a simple 8" Dobsonian, but dumped it due to its simplistic performance. Not particularly wanting to go the "build your own" route again, I decided to upgrade to a Meade 12" LX200GPS "Go To" telescope around 10 years ago.

At that time, the technology for "Go To" telescopes really started to mature and hit the amateur astronomy market. Although I was pretty adept at "pointing and shooting" Dobsonian telescopes, I wanted to dramatically increase my deep sky target list. A "Go To" telescope is the best way to do this, and vastly improves the accessibility of the amateur astronomy hobby. Along the way, I also acquired a nice 6" Dobsonian from Orion Telescopes, one with digital, "push to" setting circles. In other words, once aligned, the telescope will guide your manual "pointing and shooting."

Here in Southern California, the most easily accessible, best place to go for amateur astronomy is Mt. Pinos, located about 60 miles north of the L.A. metropolitan area, and west of I-5 by about 15 miles. There is a wide paved parking lot near the summit at an elevation of over 8000 feet. The skies are not the absolute best that I've ever seen, but they're still much better than anything you'll see from a reasonably dark, suburban setting. For those of you in the know, the Andromeda Galaxy is easily a naked eye object at about 15 degrees above the horizon, but M33 is not. The Milky Way is bright, the Lagoon Nebula and the other "splotches" in Sagittarius/ Serpens are easily visible to the naked eye, and an eagle eyed observer can just pick out the North American Nebula unaided. When the fog moves into the L.A. Basin, thereby blocking out most of L.A.'s city lights, the skies are noticeabley darker at Pinos. The most light pollution actually occurs from Bakersfield, which is about 35 miles away to the north.

Pinos has its drawbacks, though. It can get bitterly cold at night, even in mid-summer. From early November to mid-May, only the hardiest of observers will get up to the summit and tough it out. I went to the summit in January once, just for kicks, in below zero temperatures. I spent most of my observing session hopping around trying to stay warm. There will also be some wear and tear delivered to your vehicle, having to climb up from sea level.

I'll tough it out at Pinos for good comets at any time of the year, though. For example, Comet Hale-Bopp in March, 1997, spanned over 30 degrees of sky from the summit, below freezing temperatures be damned. The various deserts east and southeast of L.A. are much better for winter observing, but are a much further drive for me. Pinos is doable without having to necessarily stay overnight, although it's still a 200-mile round trip.

Over the years, I've gotten vast enjoyment out of my Meade. I've pushed the telescope pretty far by observing compact galaxy groups, galaxy clusters, quasars,and the triumvirate of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. All of this can be done from a good dark sky with medium and low power eyepieces. I've messed around with some filters, as well, using them to observe certain details in galaxies, nebulae, and planets, such as Mars during opposition. In short, I've been able to use the telescope for a myriad of observing targets.

I've resisted diving into astrophotography, though. I tried it once in the days before CCD digital cameras and "Go To" technology. Those days involved film and guiding through an off axis eyepiece with a dimly lit reticle for 45 to 60 minutes at a time per exposure. In short, astrophotography was a hobby for those with infinite patience, and the ability to observe for many nights in order to practice. The technology has vastly improved with CCD cameras and "Go To" technology, but astrophotography is still very difficult and costly.

That is now changing with cheap, reasonably well performing CCD cameras for the novice hitting the market. Combined with a "Go To" telescope, all of the rather bright deep sky objects become relatively easy pickings, even without details such as polar alignment and guiding through an off axis eyepiece.

So, I went ahead and purchased one of the simplest cameras, a one shot Meade DSI II. My first opportunity to use it at Pinos occurred a few nights ago. Even with a bit of modest preparation, the results were about as I expected, more or less resulting with me being firmly within the "smudge stage." More research has resulted in my understanding of a myriad of mistakes. Live and learn. The results are below, mostly ten, fifteen-second exposures automatically stacked together in situ. That's not the way to go. As I said, live and learn...





The playlist...

Negură Bunget Poartă De Dincolo

Deathspell Omega Diabolus Absconditus/ Mass Grave Aesthetics

Obsequiae Suspended In The Brume Of Eos

Atriarch Forever The End

Aldebaran Buried Beneath Eons

Dave's Underground Laboratory

My article about Essential Black Metal albums.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Power of the Riff 2011

As always, a full review has been published here. For now, Power of the Riff 2011 was a great show, very well organized and executed by Southern Lord Records head honcho Greg Anderson.

My schedule consisted of the following after arriving at about 3:30pm:

Acephalix 3:45-4:15 Main Stage
Black Cobra 4:30-5:00 Main Stage
All Pigs Must Die 5:15-6:00 Main Stage

Eat a Waste 'Em All Burger at Grill 'Em All, drink some Newcastle, and then wander around, maybe catch a bit of Alpinist and/or Black Breath upstairs. I caught a few moments of Alpinist, and then headed back outside again. I subsequently chatted with a few friends, and then headed back inside to catch most of Pelican's set on the main stage.


Winter 8:15-9:15 Main Stage
Eyehategod 9:30-10:30 Main Stage
Pentagram 10:45-End Main Stage

Winter flat out stole the show. Acephalix, Black Cobra, and Eyehategod were close seconds. All bands started on time, or very nearly so.


Black Cobra

All Pigs Must Die

Grill 'Em All





The t-shirt haul (Eyehategod only; I didn't like the only Winter design available)...

Unfortunately, I have to skip the upcoming Gathering of the Bestial Legion V show...

Therefore, next up will be...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Exhumed, Macabre, Cephalic Carnage, and Withered at the Key Club

This show was a bit of a mixed bag; full review here. Once again, I skipped a t-shirt (Power of the Riff looms on the horizon)...


Cephalic Carnage



There's this one spotlight at the Key Club that optically affects my camera in video mode for some reason...


Dave's Underground Laboratory

Fleshgod Apocalypse Agony