Death metal and netlabels
First of all, hello everyone, as it’s my first post here, and hopefully ps won’t regret letting me touch the WordPress after reading it :)
I’m maintaining Enough releases on Bandcamp, and as it’s coming slowly and painfully (converting mp3s to WAV, then uploading those huge uncompressed files takes about five hours per album – quite a lot, when you want to keep your daily job and private life intact), I hope that after some time Bandcamp will be a new way to deliver Enough music (sorry for terrible pun) to new listeners. End with chit-chat, let’s talk about heavy metal music and netlabels.
Some years ago, after my first exposure to netlabel music, I was wondering why there’s no such a thing for metal music. There was, same as today, plethora of netlabels releasing various types of electronica, but nothing for fans of constant headbanging and guitar riffs. Sure, some of the bands or solo artists were offering their works for free to download, like Burzukh, Dimaension X or Umbah, but let’s make it straight – those are quite experimental sounds, not really for a taste of your typical longhaired mofo w/ Cannibal Corpse tee. After failed attempt at making a death metal-centered netlabel (let it’s name cover in dust and never get mentioned again), I gave up on ever finding a place with fresh and free metal music.
Boy, I gotta say, I was a man of little faith.
Out of nowhere, friend of mine sent me a quite suspicious link titled “Free Metal Albums“. Imagining another “die-hard metal” fan blog filled with RapidShare and MegaUpload links of recent releases of the metal scene, I was quite suprised to find a nice organised site with legal download links for albums released “as-is” by some of the more far-seeing bands. And after even more lurking, I’ve finally found some active netlabels releasing metal music for free.
The official definition of TFR is “Torn Flesh Records is dedicated to working with and releasing Grindcore (all sub types), Death, Metal (all types), Industrial, Experimental/Electronic, and Extreme Rock (Punk, Psychobilly, Glitch, Breakcore, Doom, Dark Ambient, Noise, etc.) genres.” Fine, and how it comes to releases? At the time I’m typing those words, TFR has 199 releases ready to download, and the mega-compilation for marking the 200th is being finished. Those 199 releases consist of demos, eps, promos, full-length albums and compilations. And if you don’t know how from what start browsing this immersive catalogue, you should probably start with massive compilation of 44 tracks called “Torn Flesh Records Presents – Vestigial Sickness“.
Those 44 tracks cover everything you need to know about the releases here: full of grinding death metal, brutal vocals, bizzare bandnames (how you can’t love someone calling a musical project like “Vaginal Cadaver”, “The Captain Kirk on LSD Experience” or “EYETOFUK”?) and sometimes disturbing sense of humour and use of horror (or porn) movie samples. Don’t get me misunderstood – there are some examples of fine death metal here, as presented by Stillbirth, Gore Obsessed or Wraith. Still, if you never get into music presented by, say, Devourment or any other Brutal Death Metal band, maybe you should look somewhere else, like excellent noise/industrial compilation Uncomfortable Music – David Lynch’s Eraserhead Tribute, also released on TFR.
The next netlabel which I want to cover here is Death To Music Productions, and that’s the label’s summary:
“DEATH TO MUSIC productions is an “anti record label” (based in various locations throughout the south coast city of Brighton, England) run by a shadowy group of dedicated music fans known only as “The D.T.M Forward Attack Sqaudron”. All files are prepared by the “Forward Attack Sqaudron”, and then uploaded from an old computer which runs un-manned, 24hours a day at the “Council-Flat of Mass Destruction” – a secret location based somewhere amid the suburbs of this vile drug-death capital of the UK.
Founded in 2007, we have expanded to include a variety of molested musicians, aggravated artists, perturbed producers and, in general, all-round fucked-up and fucked-off creative types who are either all too aware of the nature of the music “industry”, or would rather just do it themselves.“
Nice, isn’t it? The DTM offers to it’s listeners 63 releases on various media (some of them are cd-only). The industrial metal subgenre is represented strongly here, with fine 6-part compilation “F**k ‘Em All” and highly experimental metal albums like cult demo “Dwellers on the Threshold” from Ewigkeit and EP’s from blackmetalfest Nutrition. There’s also great black metal band Old Forest and many more, all covered in anarcho-terrorism angst sauce of netlabel’s maintainer, James Fogarty.
And that’s probably all, my dear people. What makes metal music so obscure in netlabel scene? Part of the problem are probably the bands itself – while maintaining that netlabel of mine, I’ve met many different reactions after proposing the cooperation with metal bands. Some of them were very interested and really helped in making this happen, some of them have lukewarm reactions, but provided the material, but the worst kind were those touched the commercial success a little, and didn’t even want to listen about giving away for free even the old demos, which would be a treasure for the fans (probably they were keeping them for some re-releases or compilations for sell). Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against people who want to get paid for their hard work – it’s perfectly okay. Sadly, the metal bands often will agree for even the shittiest contract with a “real” label, even if it’s home-based and pressess about 300 copies of an album, making it hard to find and buy if you’re not living in Finland or Holland, than gave away even a portion of it’s music or older tracks, just for sake of satisfying fans. Maybe I was a little idealistic, or maybe all those slogans against greedy and evil (in the “wrong” sense, of course) contracts with labels were some kind of running gag?
And I’m not calling metal bands money-hungry – recording even the simplest death metal track costs a lot more, than making a piece of electronica. Metal musicians needs a lot of gear and a specialised studio with a guy, who will help with mixing. While many artists are capable of making a one-man electronica project using home computer and keep the quality high, the metal quartet needs guitars, drums, mics, amplifiers, miles of cables and similar stuff, and lot of money for even the most basic studio with someone with working ears inside, who will help making sound everything properly. Sure, there are fanatics like mentioned earlier Dave Lanciatti from Dimaension X or Cadaver of Agent Metal fame, those guys using even Wal-Mart-grade equipment will record something interesting – but that’s not the point. There are thousands of little local metal bands everywhere, some even with members hailing from high school. It’s sad for me to see their work lost completely, after “releasing” it to some crappy label with P.O. box instead of address, which will produce (or, as I sometimes heard, not) 100 CD-Rs with xeroxed artwork. Or guys will totally abandon playing, as no-one will want to make’em those CD-R’s, and will fade into obscurity, while they can release their work on the netlabel – and keep the spirit of metal alive by bringing fresh stuff to those interested.
Or maybe I am not right? Maybe metal music doesn’t fit well in the netlabel niche? What’s your opinion on this?