Thursday, December 12, 2013

Disfiguring the Goddess

It's rare that you'll find me listening to non-cold weather music in cold weather. When the temperatures drop, I like to crank a lot of symphonic metal, or black metal, or power metal, or folk metal...or any genre that combines those, really. Wintersun, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Amon Amarth, Eluveitie - this is the music that accompanies me into the biting frost mainly because so much of it talks about the biting frost anyway. For me, it's as much a part of the holiday season as Christmas music - and it feels just as weird to hear it during warmer temps (which in Texas is most of the year).

So it comes as a surprise - even to me - that what I'm really enjoying right now is the sickening slam of Disfiguring the Goddess. A one-man act courtesy of Cameron Argon (who also produces curiously different music under the moniker Big Chocolate), Disfiguring the Goddess is among some of the most brutal and hard-hitting music IN THE UNIVERSE.

Haha! Screw you, READING!

I had been eagerly anticipating his latest release - Deprive - for as long as he had been teasing tracks from the new album on his Facebook page. Then Cameron went and did something pretty damn cool: he released a second album on the same day entitled Black Earth Child.

Normally with these album reviews, I like to take Pros and Cons point-for-point where possible. But slam metal is one of those subgenres you either love or hate. It's not the kind of genre with enough diversity for squeamish listeners to cherry pick one or two songs they like while not caring for the rest, unlike more colorful subgenres like progressive metal. Your brain either craves these anthems of the underworld dredged up through the graves of the unjustly slain, or it doesn't. And I'll be the first to admit that a lot of slam metal "sounds the same," but Disfiguring the Goddess is one of those artists that has managed to exist completely within the genre's confines while somehow still transcending them.

For those of you who come to this blog to occasionally learn more about metal out of morbid curiosity, allow me to jump right into this edition of Metal 101:

Death metal is a fairly large subgenre of metal that houses a number of subgenres in itself. One of those subgenres is "slam," so named for the characteristic musical device that defines much of its sound. Slam still uses the guttural and unintelligibly terrifying vocals that characterize much of death metal, and other ear marks of the genre (blast beats, for example) can be found in spades as well. But again it's these slams that set it apart from, say, deathcore. "Slams" are simply sequences of palm-muted transitions that wander around (usually) the first four frets of a heavily down-tuned guitar. So you know that deep chug-chug-chug sound that you hear in a lot of metal? When that chugging stays in one place and counts a rhythm in time with the drums, that's usually called a breakdown. When that chugging wanders up and down and all around - sometimes with the drums synchronized to it and sometimes not - that is how a new slam is born.

As with any genre label, it's dangerous to get too attached to those definitions.

From The Heavy Metal Handbook: Chapter 5 - "How To Not Be A Dick About This Music"

So what's up with Disfiguring the Goddess? What makes this guy so special, huh?

First off: that's a super awesome name, no? Up a few notches on the death-metal-bandname scale from the likes of Morbid Angel, but still below the overtly-intended-as-shock-value Aborted Fetus. And with a name like that, you'd probably guess that Cam was an imposing persona, evincing homicidal rage and terrifying inner turmoil.

He disfigured a LOT of goddesses that day.

Secondly, Cam's vocals are the definition of brutal. I don't know if he uses any effects or electronically enhances them in any way, but frankly I don't care even if he does. The raw brutality and aggression of the sounds coming out of his vocals cords just light up something in my brain that defies explanation. Imagine if the T-Rex from Jurassic Park was behind the mic, chunks of the lawyer's khaki short-shorts still dangled from its jaws.

Last but not least, the music. Oh, such sweet sounds of savagery... Deprive and Black Earth Child both showcase an increasing level of polish and mastery of the production process that wasn't present earlier in his work. His first two releases - Circle of Nine and Sleeper - progressively improved on what was an appropriately dark and chaotic sound. After all, death metal isn't normally a genre overly concerned about making sure the minutia of instrumentation comes across. The whole point of death metal is to be unintelligible and antagonistic on every level, even for its practitioners and fans. But as I've mentioned before on this blog, for better or worse, I like production values in my music. So I appreciated Circle of Nine and even enjoyed Sleeper when I was in the mood for something almost comically extreme, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them favorites. With the coming of Deprive and Black Earth Child however, Cam has managed to take the production values through the roof while still maintaining a relentless musical assault on the listener.

Black Earth Child
Elements he hinted at in Sleeper now take a greater amount of the spotlight (though not so much as to be distracting), like the choral arrangements that weave their way in and out of the chaos of "Death's Head Mask" or "Home of the Dollmaker." At once haunting and epic, they bring to these songs - otherwise fantastic examples of the merciless qualities that endeared me to Disfiguring the Goddess in the first place - aspects of sophistication and theatricality that I crave in my music. There are nods to Middle Eastern acoustic instruments with "Industrial Quarter," and the mournful string arrangements that bring "Old Man" to its conclusion are among my favorite moments of Disfiguring the Goddess's entire musical career. Ethereal soundscapes creep into "Suffer Square" that immediately transport the listener into some cosmic void before hurtling them back before a firing squad armed with nail guns and chainsaws. And in a similar vein with "Old Man," "Phantasmal Tempest" slowly decays into an ominous ocean of brass-like instruments, accented by a choir-like sound effect that makes the song sound like some ancient portent of doom. And those are just some of the highlights - in between and all around these more experimental moments are mountains of breakneck speed and ferocity, valleys of murky growls and sledgehammer guitar work, and every dark and disturbing sound that ever made you fall head-over-heels in love with this grisly genre in the first place.

And by releasing two albums in one day, he's managed to overcome my major gripe with his music thus far: the run-time. Sleeper clocked in at just over 20 minutes. And by itself, Deprive is even shorter: a measly 17 minutes and change. But tack on the 24+ minutes of Black Earth you've got a stew going!

It's a testament to just how good this music is that it doesn't have many "haters." Pick a metal band, any metal band, and go check out their Facebook or the comments section on their YouTube videos. It's practically an extended tantrum interrupted by peaks of enthusiasm and joy. It's like most metalheads these days can't enjoy one band unless they first unload all the things they don't like about it, and I'll admit I've been guilty of this too. But check out Disfiguring the Goddess's Facebook and/or YouTube and/or any other social media presence - the voice of the hater is but a whisper, if ever breathed at all. Cam has achieved a feat almost impossibly rare in the metal scene; he's changed. His music has evolved, by degrees but still noticeably, and he seems to have actually gained approval in the process. If you're not a big metalhead, you may not realize just how impressive that is - headbangers are notoriously fickle and difficult to please. At once they're condemning a band for "too much 0-0-0-0" and then in the same breath cursing them for "not sounding enough like ________" where that big blank is usually their debut album or some other release deemed more "brootal" and by extension, better. The message is as confusing as it is hypocritical: "be different but also exactly the same."
He disfigured even MORE goddesses on this day.

Disfiguring the Goddess has charted its own course throughout its musical career, and Cam seems content to make the music he wants to make no matter what his fans/anti-fans might say. And by some miracle he's managed to evolve slam into something a bit more experimental and varied while still preserving the gore-drenched heart at its core. I'm still stumped as to how he's pulled that off yet still grown his fan base. But however he's managed to do it, my hat is off to him.

With these releases, Disfiguring the Goddess has officially become one of my all time favorite metal acts. If you've been wandering the aisles of your local record store, aimlessly searching for some new tunes with which to damage your hearing...wander no more! Deprive and Black Earth Child have cascades and avalanches of raptors wielding assault rifles swirling through Sharknadoes just waiting to devour you and spit you out the other end like so much eviscerated gristle.

And that, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas.


  1. Great review ! I just discovered this blog and have read the review you did on "Tomorrow we die Alive". Very well written! I faved this page, keep up the nice work!

  2. Great review. Really explains how loved cameron's music is, and how unique it is. I love how you can go to almost any of his youtube videos and all it is, is love....

    As you said, most bands comments sections, is hate, hate, hate.

    DTG, is different.

    Also the pictures add a great touch of comedy into the post. The captions make them great lol.

    Well done sir.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Chris K, I really appreciate it! I'm jamming "Home of the Dollmaker" right now and I still can't get enough.