In Search Of...The Best Underground Metal Songs
Band Photo: Soilwork (?)
The vast, expansive world of underground metal can leave even the most persistent headbanger’s music collection lacking of many of the industry’s finest songs. With the depths of MySpace and the many other music sites which lend themselves to the exploration of one’s musical tastes, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to dig up the finest metal gems. Moreover, some metal fans so deeply embed themselves in one sub-genre that they might be missing some truly great stuff. This brief guide is intended to give you, the metalhead, a reference to some of those songs that “make” an album, that rattle around in your head for hours, and that warrant a deeper exploration of a band’s entire body of work. Furthermore, newer metalheads will find a few older songs from current big-name artists that are worthy of tracking down.
“Your Pain”—Callenish Circle (My Passion/Your Pain 2003) This track turns sideways, upside-down, then just when you think you’ve settled in, it throws you against the wall. It’s death metal with the hint of techno-metal that permeates all of Callenish Circle’s work. Their hybrid brand of German metal, usually formulaic, hits the bull’s-eye here with subservient lyrics screamed against catchy riffs that could comprise several noteworthy tracks if separated.
“Thousand Storms”—Angel Blake (Angel Blake 2006) “Clean” metal doesn’t get a lot of attention these days. For those who like the old-school, though, adding Angel Blake to your metal arsenal isn’t a bad idea. On “Thousand Storms,” Angel Blake delivers an arena-rock power riff that meets up perfectly with a punching base line. The quiet moments on the track are lambasted with interrupting, pounding drums and guitars—it lives up to the track title.
“Leech”—The Haunted (The Haunted Made Me Do It 2000) This slow-paced yet brutal track from the Marco Aro era of The Haunted is one of their finest. The thrash-growl “My future is forged with an ax” sets the tone for the rest of the dark-as-hell lyrics. This song reeks of hatred.
“Celestial Furnace”—Disarmonia Mundi (Mind Tricks 2006) A tri-vocal approach to a melodic death-metal song, with Soilwork’s Bjorn “Speed” Strid covering the chorus. The pacing is perfect, the chorus is catchy, and the instruments are tight. The pinnacle of the track might be the enormously-growled “Crawl in me…Grow in me” that introduces the chorus.
“Bleed the Meek”—Paths of Possession (Promises in Blood 2005) Corpsegrinder takes a break from his day job to growl out some of the truest death-vox known to man. The odd fit here is the death vocals on top of a power-metal guitar track, but it makes for a unique death-metal track. What makes this a great song, though, are the uncompromising doom and conquer lyrics.
“Looks Like Fall”—Samadhi (The Finest Sorrow EP 2002) Raw, chaotic yet precise, “Looks Like Fall” is possibly the best track on this underrated metalcore EP from Samadhi. These guys know how to change pace mid-song, and “Looks Like Fall” definitely has that headbanging moment that comes when the listener knows that the song is about to change direction.
“My Negation”—Dark Tranquility (Character 2005) Take you pick of elite tracks on this epic album. “My Negation,” though, may be the best ending track of any album in recent metal memory. This is the epitome of Dark Tranquility (and their namesake): a beautiful musical track sliced apart with nasty death growls. Rarely do albums go out with this much of a bang. If you haven’t discovered Dark Tranquility, this album is the perfect starting point.
“Songs Much Sadder”—Norma Jean (Redeemer 2006) Some readers will question just how “metal” or “underground” Christian-core Norma Jean may be, but “Songs Much Sadder” could be good enough to sway even the non-believers (pun intended). This track has prompted more “who is this?” questions than I’ve heard from a track in a long time. “From horror, to hope, to devastation,” rings out as the ultra-melodic chorus bleeds in. Skip this one if you will, but open-minded metalheads would do well to give this track a listen.
“Rebound”—Loch Vostock (Destruction Time Again! 2006) A little Ozzy, a little Nevermore, this track from Loch Vostok, featuring complementary female singing, is delivered in all-clean vocals. The rest of the album is a nice mix of clean and yelled vocals that are actually very distinctive, especially when combined with some of the more experimental instrumentations found on the album.
“Convalescence”—Darkest Hour (Undoing Ruin 2005) One of the best extreme-metal songs ever. It delivers that kind of “jump through a wall” adrenaline, with absolutely stunning instrumentation, a sick vocal delivery, and lyrics to match. While the vocalist's appearance is pure office worker, his sound is pure badass.
"The Fourth Dimension"—Hypocrisy (from the album "Fourth Dimension" and remastered on the "10 Years of Chaos and Confusion"  album) Make sure to find the most recent version of this track, available on "10 Years of Chaos and Confusion." This track is the essence of orchestral metal, bringing full death-growl in combination with orchestral violins and a great "Wake me up from this nightmare" chorus. Truly epic metal that destroys anything you'll hear from more mainstream orchestral metal bands.
“As We Speak”—Soilwork (Natural Born Chaos 2002) “As We Speak” is a massive hybrid song—full-blown keyboards, yelling vocals, and a multi-layered melodic chorus. Songs like “As We Speak” are precisely what have earned Soilwork a spot at the top of many metal fans’ lists. Diversity in spades.
“Catatonic”—Synthetic Breed (Fractured 2007) - Many bands are technical, brutal, or catchy. Somehow, Synthetic Breed are all three. “Psychotic blasts of biomechanical fury, pulsating polyrhythms and annihilating metronomic precision” means get in line, or get out of the way.
“Remote Viewing”—Alarum (Eventuality 2004) – This song (and band) mixes progressive, technical death/thrash metal and strong jazz infusions to create a mind-bending trap of interesting rhythms, break-aways and twisting riffs. Though working on their third album, and having performed with bands such as Obituary, Psycroptic, Aghora and Cattle Decapitation, these guys are relatively unheard of.
“Murdered And Dumped In The Willow”—Headkase (from The Chrome Sessions demo) - Blending industrial metal with circus-style techno elements, Headkase grab your attention with both hands before shaking you silly with their crazy, eerie, carnival death stylings. This clash of Slipknot and Mr. Bungle won’t leave you amazed so much as anxious and panicky.
"Cheat the Leader"—Demiricous (One [Hellbound] 2006) "Cheat the Leader" shows Demiricous at their best, breaking out of the Slayer-mold and creating a completely brutal track of extreme metal. "Cheat The Leader" is fast-paced from start to end, going from blast beats to thrash grooves and back several times, finally ending in an old-school Slayer-style riff.
"Falling From Hell"—Mahatma (from Perseverance) It might seem like a cop-out to choose a song currently featured as an exclusive track by Metalunderground.com, but Mahatma's "Falling From Hell" defines quality underground metal. The South Koreans open up with a pure thrash riff reminiscent of Slayer and then the vocals kick in sounding like Max Cavalera from old-school Sepultura. With a number of change-ups, excellent guitar solos and leads, and a great mid-song groove, after the five-minute track is over you probably won't remember that you were listening to a Korean thrash band. But if thrash is your thing, then Mahatma is a name you should commit to memory and "Falling From Hell" is a song you should check out. You can currently check out "Falling From Hell" on Metalunderground.com's MySpace page.
"Devoid of All Praise" by Crown The Lost, from "Reverence Dies Within"
With some excellent progressive-power metal guitar work, "Devoid of All Praise" showcases Crown The Lost's unique sound and musical ability very well. The nearly six-minute instrumental album opener showcases a variety of riffs ranging from slow to fast, heavy to melodic, and makes use of build-up very well. You probably can't imagine what a mix of Iced Earth and Candlemass would sound like, but that is the closest I can come to describing the qualities displayed in Crown The Lost's style. The entire album, vocal delivery included, does not disappoint on a single track, either.
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