In Bone Part II
And then this new Witchery album comes in the mail. They were all the rage in '99 or so - I remember hearing them on a sampler that came glued to the cover of Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, I think, though it might also have been the Pit. Anyhow, I hadn't really thought about them in six years or so.
But I sorta take notice because the new album's called Don't Fear the Reaper, which is a pretty bold thing to call your album, being as one of the greatest songs of all time bears the same title. (Insert your own grousing-about-people-who-instantly-think-only-of-the-SNL-sketch groan here.) It's also an interesteing thing to call your album when you're a retro-thrash quasi-black metal band, because Blue Oyster Cult occupied this interesting blues-rock/boogie space that cross-pollinated with a whole host of "out" preoccupations: dystopian science fiction, subtler blends of Satanism than are usually found in shock-value above-the-radar rock, black comedy. So a BOC reference, besides serving as effective bait for rock critics, is a pretty canny contextualizing move.
And what, upon listening, do we find? Well, as indicated above, "retro-thrash" is a starting place. It's slower and more melodic than proper thrash, though, and the guitar solos - take the short one in standout cut "Damned in Hell," for example - are outright clean-tone rock-n-roll solo gunslinging, no apologies offered. The vocals, meanwhile, are what you'd imagine from the guys in Immortal at karaoke: non-melodic growling that you can still make sense of, occupying standard-rock-space twelve-bar intervals between choruses or solos.
When pop songs get this syncretistic, critics throw orgies about it and declare the death of history. When a metal band of whom you haven't thought since metalcore took over in '02 does it, though, it occurs in an entirely separate cultural room, one that's almost hermetically sealed off not only from the general architecture but even from its own denizens. Which isn't to say that the main metal outlets aren't reviewing Don't Fear the Reaper favorably; they are, because they have to, because the album fucking slays. But metal, to its considerable detriment, caught the same novelty bug that plagues indie and pop and dance and...well, what? Everything? Is the thirst for newness actually so deeply seated that one can't growl in any particular direction about it? Does it apply across disciplines: visual art (check), film (check), fashion (obviously, check), literature (duh, check)? Is it asking too much of people in general to keep celebrating something that only excels but does not surprise?
Yes; no; maybe. I look at this question in relation to more or less every record I play now; it has considerable bearing on one's relation to older music: of previous decades or eras or centuries. No answers yet, obviously. Just a strong recommendation that anybody who likes killer minor-scale solos over 3/4-speed retro-thrash buy the new Witchery with a quickness, and ask themselves: what does "new" mean?
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