During my previous loss of rationality concerning how people can be inaccessible due to their stupidity and self-centrism, I quoted a song. This song is called Atypical Suggestions By A Dead Artist. And the band that performed it is named after the woman who performs its vocals: Cadaveria.
Cadaveria the band is said by the Wikipedia to have originated in Biella, a town in the Northwestern area of Italy. At the time it was formed, Cadaveria the individual woman had departed from the Italian black-doom metal band Opera IX in acrimonious circumstances. Oddly enough, around this time, I happened to meet and hit it off with a woman who hailed from Rome, the national capital of Italy. I will not go into how that relationship went, except to say that I enjoyed my time with her to such a degree that she is one of the women I made veiled references to in my open letter to Hugh Hefner, and that we both felt that the first two Opera IX albums were among the most awesome things to hit civilisation since sliced bread.
Unfortunately, as people grow older, they tend to become separated by the fact, and things went badly enough for me during my efforts to make a new life that I ended up letting her walk out of my life whilst I basically went to hell. But during that time in hell, I also started to acquaint myself with the music that Cadaveria made after leaving Opera IX amidst an exchange of harsh words with Opera IX guitarist Ossian.
If you read my post about the music of the Finnish doom-black metal crossover band Unholy, then you know about one of my most fundamental rules of making a good album. No matter how good the rest of your material may be, you have to start and end your album with something that grabs the listener by the neck and smacks them about the head throughout the running time. Cadaveria‘s first album as an Ozzy Osbourne-like solo project, The Shadows’ Madame, does that.
There are seven songs on The Shadows’ Madame, which runs for a total of thirty-eight minutes and change. Obviously, people expecting the big super-epics that were common on Opera IX‘s first two albums were a little bit disappointed on first inspection, but they got over that disappointment quickly when Cadaveria quickly revealed that she had otherwise taken the best elements of that band with her on her departure.
You know those stupid films like The Craft in which groups of “teenage” girls dabble in “alternative spirtuality” or whatever codephrase one might like to use, and make it painfully clear that the screenwriter has not really even bothered to research his subject? Well, to those flicks, The Shadows’ Madame may as well have a subliminal track constantly singing “come and see the real thing” to the listener. Cadaveria clearly felt that adopting the tactic of emphasising her belief in herself as a woman and a maker of her own choices in all matters was the way to go. Indeed, when you have song titles like Declaration Of Spiritual Independence, it does not leave a lot of room to speculate.
This video for Spell, the opening song on The Shadows’ Madame, is terrible. Yes, it is expensive to make music videos. Yes, one has to work very economically in order to make the investment involved in making the things worthwhile. But no, endless shots of the band looking incredibly silly is not going to help. Watching this video, you may notice which shots I would keep exactly the same if I were making this video myself. If you do, then more power to you. But the point here is that the song goes right for the listener’s throat and gives them no reason to doubt about what the music will be about. “Beautiful witch”, Cadaveria roars repeatedly, “give light to this black muddy sky”. After a minute or so, Cadaveria sings of “morning devoid of stars and funereal lightnings”. Repeating the words “funereal lightnings” at least once, she then simply gives a dragged-out scream of the word “funereal”. This is an example of what doom metal is all about.
But for me, the true climax of the entire album comes with the final song, Absolute Vacuum. If there was a song that I felt could be the theme for numerous women who appear in my writings, Absolute Vacuum is it. In fact, much like Opera IX‘s My Devotion, Absolute Vacuum tends to make me picture Pearl Grenthumb, the thief who somehow becomes a Mage at the the end of my second novel, singing it. As Cadaveria informs us that “the throb is dying out in a vibrating echo”, she and keyboardist Baron Harkonnen bring to mind an imagery that I have only ever experienced with one other song: Black Sabbath‘s Megalomania. Yes, it is that damned good. And just why do I think this song should be played through speakers nailed to the ears of curebies until they cry at us to make it stop? “Choices cannot be erased, neither by mind,” Cadaveria informs as as an ending. Amen, lady Cadaveria.
Like The Shadows’ Madame, Cadaveria‘s second album suffers a bit of a drop-off in quality between certain songs and the rest of the album. Depending on how you look at it, the drop-off is a bit more dramatic on Far Away From Conformity. But when your opener is as strong as Blood And Confusion, you can afford to have a few songs in there that are not quite up to the same level. About a minute in, a dramatic change in style and tempo prompts Cadaveria to sing “I like this music… that twists… around itself”. Never has a better lyrical summary of black and doom metal’s superiority to pop rubbish been put forth. Oh sure, there is plenty of black metal and doom metal, or crossovers, that you can expect to follow a fairly linear and expected path. But in contrast to the flood of bullshit the mainstreamists throw at us, that happens to be the exception, as opposed to the rule. The rule is that you twist around yourself, around the consciousness of your listener, and around everyone’s expectations, and do so with abandon.
Actually, upon listening to the album once again, I am starting to become convinced that the quality of Far Away From Conformity is more consistent across the board than its predecessor. Not sure why I am thinking this. But now is a good time to talk about the relationship between vocals and the rest of a song. Cadaveria, as far as I am aware, is solely a vocalist. She certainly does not seem to play any instruments on any of these albums, unless the very brief flashes of keyboard heard on albums from Far Away From Conformity going forward are her work (Baron Harkonnen apparently left for reasons that remain unknown). But the point here is that in contrast to a lot of vocalists who are solely vocalists, Cadaveria knows how to complement rather than override the music behind her.
Is there a second song on Far Away From Conformity (it has a total of nine, adding up to slightly more than forty-seven and a half minutes) that I recommend unreservedly? Well, the cover of Call Me, one of Blondie‘s most well-remembered songs (and with good reason) is not it. To put it bluntly, this cover is fukking terrible. Fortunately, it is easily forgotten after songs like Prayer Of Sorrow, especially with that marching, pounding drum introduction. Vox Of Anti-Time is also a very good closer, although it does not have quite the memorability factor as Absolute Vacuum. But then, few songs in this world do. Eleven Three O Three gets featured a lot on web sites trying to advertise the album, but I do not tend to notice it.
I will briefly talk about the Call Me cover here. Deborah Harry was a renowned and loved singer during the 1970s because her voice was incredibly strong in addition to its harmony. Call Me, the original eight minutes and change version, was a prime example of that. After she sang the words “call me” and the men in Blondie echoed her, each time she would let loose with a supplemental set of words that came across like the surge of a six-note chord from a guitar through an overdrive pedal. Yes, I know I am contradicting my nature a bit here by focusing so much on the voice of Deborah Harry, but there is a point to this. Cadaveria does occasionally demonstrate an ability to harmonise, but harmonising as well as Deborah Harry does on Call Me is a tough ask for any professional vocalist. Cadaveria does not even try. The whole arrangement is as sloppy as hell, and the whole thing comes across as an exercise to fill some space. To say that it feels incredibly out of place amongst the rest of the material is an understatement. Perhaps this is an example of what some mean when they talk about “second album blues”.
Cadaveria‘s third album, In Your Blood, is not the place that I recommend looking if you are looking for an introduction to Cadaveria herself or any of the albums she has worked on. It is not that it is a bad album, but with twelve songs and a running time of only very slightly over fifty minutes, it is very easily the band’s most inconsistent and underwhelming album. I think the problem, essentially, is that whilst most of the songs hit a high note, they never develop for long enough to make it count. Except in one case, which I will get to in a moment.
The song Anagram is a classic example of what I am talking about here. Somehow, it is less than three minutes, and yet feels like much more than that. I think part of the problem is that it really never gives itself much of an identifiable theme or progression to follow. If you take note of what I have said about such Cadaveria classics as Spell, Absolute Vacuum, or Blood And Confusion, you will note that I have mentioned some very radical changes in progression or phrasing, and some extreme emphasis used as a tool to capture and retain the listener’s attention. The problem with Anagram, and to an extent the majority of what is on In Your Blood, is that no such radical changes of phrasing or emphasis ever occur. Not only does Anagram sound little different from bar to bar during its very short running length, it really does prompt a listener expecting a discernible evolution of “narrative” and point to wonder where the hell the rest of the song went.
Unfortunately, whilst none of the other songs on In Your Blood are that bad, they do lack a certain oomph for the most part. In fact, in preparing to write this article, as I went to listen to the Cadaveria albums on my iPood again, I realised that with one exception, I can clearly remember none of the songs on In Your Blood. That is a bad sign indeed, considering that I can remember every note of every song on every album that Black Sabbath released between 1970 and 1975. 100.000 Faces has the distinction of easily being the weakest opening song in Cadaveria‘s catalogue. It is not that it is a bad song. In fact, if you had never heard Cadaveria previously, you would be likely to think “oh yeah, I am really digging this, and start seeking out more of her work”. But if you had heard the previous two albums, the overall (relative) conventionality of this album would stick out like a sore thumb.
As with the previous two Cadaveria albums, there are two songs that stand out from the pack. They stand out more in this case, but that is the only real distinction. These songs are Queen Of Forgotten and Atypical Suggestions By A Dead Artist. The former is a relatively sedate affair, more of a sing-along for the audience as Cadaveria, and by extension the women who most relate to her (the previously-mentioned Roman woman for example) are the reigning female monarch over all that we have forgotten. As sing-along songs go, well, it is head and shoulders above others of its kind. Largely because it stimulates the audience to think or at least make some use of the matter betwixt their ears, as opposed to suppressing such an activity, as most sing-along songs are designed to do.
Which brings me to Atypical Suggestions By A Dead Artist. The title alone is a triumph of surreal imagery in songwriting. As Cadaveria sings out very clear images that are either horrifying (“I saw people inside a wrapping, like a protective veil for their soul”) or delightful (“I need two days to re-enter from my mental disease, I need to be loved once in a day”), the rest of the band attempt a rhythm that is somewhat remiscent of Children Of The Grave. For those who do not know, a Children Of The Grave rhythm consists of a constant repetition of minimal notes with occasional changes that are from time to time broken up by a radical change in rhythm. Some songs that use this technique are barely recognisable as being similar to the Black Sabbath song after which I have named it. Others are virtual copies. Atypical Suggestions By A Dead Artist, with its surreal horror imagery, is an example of being eight parts the former and two parts the latter. And it works brilliantly. By a long margin the best song on the album, Atypical Suggestions By A Dead Artist is the kind of song I do not mind putting on and saying “this is Cadaveria“. (It also demonstrates that she can combine harmony and growl to great effect.)
For five years, nothing substantial was heard out of the Cadaveria camp save for the recruitment of a second guitarist. Cadaveria aside, the band consists of Frank Booth and Dick Laurent on guitars, Killer Bob on bass (yes, that is really what he calls himself in the liner notes), and Marçelo Santos on drums. Then, this year (2012), they finally released an album with said lineup. This new album, deceptively simply titled Horror Metal, is easily my favourite since The Shadows’ Madame. It seems that taking a longer time to record and release this album has done the quality of the result some favours. Unlike a lot of albums where the title turns out to be absolute bollocks, Horror Metal is an apt description of what to expect on this outing. How could it not be, with an opening song called Flowers In Fire?
Horror Metal is also the first Cadaveria album with more than just a couple of what I will call high-marks songs. A bit of explanation here. A successful doom metal song comes in four levels, to my mind. The lowest level is basically what a mediocre pop asshole like Billy Joel et al can come up with on their best day. The next level up is a song like The Cry Of Mankind. It stands head and shoulders above the pop pack, it goes somewhere, but it is not (as Stephen King once put it) you know… boss. This is the level that the majority of the material on all of Cadaveria‘s albums is at. It is not a bad level, but both black and doom metal (or crossovers between the two) are capable of so much more. The next level up is songs like A Sea To Suffer In or Atypical Suggestions By A Dead Artist. If you have a powerful visualisation sector in your brain like I do, it goes apeshit at the stimuli provided by this kind of song. To say that pop-heads are incapable of ever reaching this level is an understatement. Then there is what I will call the fourth level here. The fourth level is where a lonely, PTSD-suffering, abused autistic former child like myself will sit with the ghost of the child he used to be, have a good cry, and listen to that ghostly child express understanding of why we are what we are. Sort of like a musical TRON: Legacy, if you will. Cadaveria only has a couple of songs that touch that level, specifically Absolute Vacuum and Blood And Confusion. But oh, does Horror Metal occasionally nudge that level with the top of its head with such frequency, and Flowers In Fire even manages to break through during a lot of its running time. Flowers In Fire is the first song since Blood And Confusion that I can picture Linula or Pearl Grenthumb singing during a therapeutic session.
Being that Horror Metal is the newest of Cadaveria‘s albums, I have not really fully come to properly assess what I think of it or how it fits on my scale of the albums I have in some form around my person. That usually takes me at least a dozen or so listens at the very least. But I can tell you that my early impressions of the album (which also seems to have more keyboard accompaniment on it than the previous two put together) mean that I will be listening to this album long after I have forgotten many others. Hopefully we will not have to wait quite so long for the next one, whilst still maintaining the same level of quality.
In closing, I will just say that I believe you can understand a lot about a person by the kind of entertainment that they gravitate towards. Have you ever noticed that the kinds of people who listen to whatever normie-approved shit the RIAA chucks at them, for example, tend to make those capable of thinking think of the Frank Zappa song What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body??
Anyway, if you have read this and feel like searching out copies of Cadaveria‘s albums, then thank you for reading. Should your search for the truth of what I am talking about here prove successful, feel free to drop me a line and let me know how it went.