Here’s another piece I wrote for NewsExaminer.net, writing as Austin Sweetwater. In case you’re wondering: I think “Black Messiah” is pretty freakin’ great. Austin Sweetwater, though, begs to differ. Read on…
I wanted to like “Black Messiah”, I really did.
I found my copy while going through the heavy metal section at Zia Records. I found it shelved in between a stack of Darkthrone and Deicide CDs. The cover caught my eye: a stark black and white photograph of hands up in the air. A refreshing change of pace from the usual pictures of botched autopsies and goat-headed dragon-demons that normally adorn metal CDs.
I had never of the band before, but De Angel O And The Vanguard sounded like a gnarly hardcore name. I’ve always had a soft spot for blackened political crust-metal, so this looked like it would be right up my nightmare alley. I decided to gamble on this new artist and spent $12 on it. I asked the employee at the register if the band’s name was pronounced De Angel O (with the O as the letter O), or if it was De Angel Zero. He was as clueless as I was… but no matter! I had a new album to rock out to.
I took it home, drew the curtains shut, lit 23 black votive candles, chalked up a protective circle around my spider-webbed reclining chair and put the De Angel O CD in my boombox. I reclined in the dark, ready to receive this aural testament to the glories of the Black Messiah, the Antichrist himself. I was not prepared for the sounds that reverberated in my dark, incense-scented living room. I was not prepared to listen to the worst heavy metal album of all time.
I listened to the entire album, all 12 tracks of it, 5 times to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Each listen was worse than the last one. At no point in this album is there even the faintest, most remote trace of anything that could be considered metal. It does not shred. It does not rage. It does not howl. It does not power-thrash. De Angel O And The Vanguard spend their entire album gently thwacking at their drums with what sounds like oversized q-tips, instead of drilling the suckers with double-kick blastbeats. You can actually hear the bass player on this record: that is WAY TOO MUCH BASS for a proper metal album! And the guitars? Pathetic. There are no solos worth banging heads or crushing skulls to on here. No sick riffage, just this tight chicken-scratchy sound. It sounds okay if you need music to listen to while putting on some sweatpants, but this won’t get you amped up hard enough to slay dragons or make heavy metal love to a Viking princess. And there’s keyboards, too! The only way keyboards make sense on a metal album is if you drench ’em in enough reverb that it sounds like ghosts tickling the ribs of a dead god. Or if you’re doing a Meat Loaf homage.
And then there’s De Angel O’s vocals. I’m assuming the singer’s name is De Angel O and the rest of the band is the Vanguard (who don’t sound revolutionary enough to be a political vanguard, and are far too wimpy to guard an actual van). He’s actually singing on this thing! Gentle sexy singing, which is NOT METAL. If you’re going to sing metal, you have to either shriek so hard you sound like the northern winds are shredding your larynx; sing classically, like you’re the Phantom of the Opera auditioning for the top spot in Hell’s choir; or you have to sound like James Hetfield. There’s no room in the metal world for someone who is comprehensible, pleasant sounding and doesn’t need emergency vocal chord surgery after every tour.
The song titles should have been a big hint. “Sugah Daddy”? Not metal. “Really Love”? Really Hate would have been a better title. Some of the titles are pretty metal (“The Door”, “Prayer”, “Betray My Heart”, both “Back To The Future” songs), but there’s no saving a metal album with a song titled “Till It’s Done (Tutu)”. There is nothing, NOTHING, in the world more inherently un-metal than a tutu. Grandmothers, Chia Pets and yoga mats are all MORE METAL than a freakin’ tutu. If you’re a metal band and you’re about to release an album with the word “tutu” in it, it better be in a song about a ballerina killing spree.
Worst of all is the false advertising. For an album called “Black Messiah” to not once mention the Antichrist is inexcusable. Sure, they mention the non-Antichrist in the second song (called “1000 Deaths”, which is a pretty metal title but would have been better if they called it “1,000,000 Deaths”)… but that’s it! De Angel O talks about God but not about the Destroyer of Mankind, Prince of the Goats, the Indweller of Almighty Evil. I decided to give him and the Vanguard the benefit of the doubt by playing “Black Messiah” backwards to see if there were any dark gospels hidden within… but all I heard were a couple of sneezes.
I went back to Zia Records the next day and picked up De Angel O’s earlier album. It was called “Voodoo” by De Angel O (before he started working with The Vanguard). Maybe his earlier stuff was harder and this was his “St. Anger”? The album name was reassuring: voodoo is pretty metal! The album cover is just him (at least I think that’s supposed to be De Angel O) with his shirt off. Having your shirt off can be metal (exhibit A: Danzig), but you got to scowl or snarl or something. He doesn’t do that. I figured that maybe he used invisible inks on this album, so I put it under black light at home to see if it would reveal his torso to be covered in blood or show a scorching hot succubus looming behind him. Nothing: still just a shirtless, really cut dude. I played the album and was stunned to hear an album as weak and devoid of metal as “Black Messiah”. And just like “Black Messiah”, there was no mention of the title’s subject matter: no possessions, no zombies, no Loa. Just a lot of talk about feelings. FEELINGS ARE NOT METAL.
I’ve heard lots of great metal music this year: Nux Vomica, Tryptikon, A Pregnant Light, Agalloch, Blut Aus Nord and so much more. I don’t want to seem like I’m just a hater: I LOVE music. But I can’t keep quiet when some fake bros like De Angel O drop this weak sh*t metal on the world. Be advised, headbangers of the world: go spend your blood-stained money on some righteously evil Real Metal. This Black Messiah is nothing but a False Prophet.