Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Abiotic VS Rings of Saturn


I have written elsewhere about the evolution of metal post-social networking. My thesis can be summed: the increasing speed of dissemination is having a profound influence on the number and types of musicological elements contained in any single composition (let alone genre). Another way of putting this is to say that metal's stylistic memes move more quickly and across a wider range of genre landscapes than previously possible. Sometimes the sheer velocity of information is so great that the listener may quite reasonably be unable to relate musicological elements to each other or indeed to the broader concept of metal as a whole. This raises an interesting question: are we seeing a perfect post-postmodern articulation of infinite competing discourses (knowledges, informations, personal narratives fixed through informational text technologies) competing infinitely thus rendering the weight of history insignificant?

Since metal as an aesthetic is evolving quickly and as new stylistic tropes are stacked on top of, underneath and against each other as a banal occurrence, it is becoming clear that historical roots are relegated to irrelevancy. Metal, like jazz, has always been jealous of its heroes, its obscurity, inaccessibility and independence. In the present, however, a first page google search and a few wikipedia pages can in no time produce an armchair expert. The dark edge to this is that even while the information is available it is in competition, a type of competition so fierce and unfairly stacked against the past. The vertical weight of respect and relevnace previously tipped toward the past has shifted toward an ever emerging future being created amid a multimedia textual maelstrom.

But "so what?", right? You know as well as I that a gnarly riff is just that, regardless of its genre classification or stylistic association. And here is where the truly complicating factor arises, the trajectory that remains obscure to yours truly. Even in an informationally obese society where so much is consumed through the eyes and mind and via myriad distractions the relevance of music can only be apprehended aurally: it must be listened to for it to have value. Where information can be assimilated in seconds, music as an act takes time, after all is that not what rhythm is? Space between events?

Meanwhile, what are we metal heads to make of the environment of consumption in the present. There is more music and more diversity than ever before and paths through this landscape are undoubtedly more individualised and complex than in the past. The so-called filters of the big record labels hardly apply anymore as relevance coalesces around apparently quantitative measures such as “like” buttons, re-tweets and obscure search algorithms based on links and recommendations. Labels will continue to exist but not as big business, more like patrons to the arts, a final expression of fidelity to the cause an ethical, critical and aesthetic gesture to art.

Which leads me to my latest review:

Head to Head:
Abiotic versus Rings of Saturn.


Abiotic while supported by a major (metal) label have made some questionable decisions relating to production and/or clear songwriting. There are definitely stand-out elements on "Symbiosis" and indeed some brilliant ideas, however for the most part it remains unfocused. This is not the controlled chaos of grind, or grind/death crossover such as Brain Drill. This is a band with formidable talent yet not enough experience to know quite when to rein in the ideas.

As for the production, for some reason the vocals are incredibly dominant, leaving the rhythm guitars sounding somewhat hollow. This makes sense since the focus is on the dueling lead lines, but the sonic real estate inhabited by the vocals does not always allow the instrumental ideas to be fully articulated in the mix. As a bass player, I dig what is going on but again, where the bass in this listener's opinion would have been better serviced by an Obscura/Jeroen Thesseling slippery, fretless fatness or a Steve DiGiorgio era Death dirty fretless grind, Abiotic instead opt for a scooped mids, smiley face clank and rattle.

Rings of Saturn

Rings of Saturn have on Dirgnir transformed themselves from an immature death metal parallel to deathcore band with a gimmick (chip tune sounding leadwork) to a focused and muscular beast. They still sound as though from another planet but their new gig incorporates more explicitly metal elements from prog to Swedish melo-death while remaining firmly unified in their overall vision. again, my only criticism here is with production and some ideas.

I normally reserve my opinion when it comes to the production of drums because I know just how hard it is to get them right. However, consistent with some of the average riffing, the drum lines tend towards the vanilla which makes them stand out, especially during fast sections. I like mechanical drums, Fear Factory's Demanufacture remains one of my favourite all time albums. However, it is a sound that should serve the cause and on Dignir, I am not always sure that it does. The sound is poor, one dimensional and very fake.

Conclusion: Both albums are flawed yet fucking rad articulations of modern metal by young bands and deserve more than a distracted cell phone speaker/ear bud listen. Stay tuned for another article on the Rings of Saturn production/performance scandal later in the week.
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