Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Texas Metal Scene, Part 2
Band Photo: Rigor Mortis (?)
When it comes to American metal strongholds, New York, California, and Florida never escape mention, but Texas remains the wild card. Not only has the state produced a number of influential bands, but the fan base is famously strong. It's true that no scene is what it used to be, but Texas continues to turn out new and varied acts whose names reach far beyond its borders. San Antonio Metal Examiner Jacob Holmes did the first round up for Metal Underground, but it's a big state and there's still a lot of ground to cover.
Guitarist Wes Weaver has become something of a Texas metal folk hero in the last twenty years. Operating out of Houston, he co-founded Dark Reign in the early '90s, which soon morphed into the much-loved death metal juggernaut known as Imprecation. The band made a name for itself as a cult phenomenon, but they never broke out into the larger arena and finally disbanded. In the meantime, Weaver continued to boost the Texas scene with his venerable radio show, and he also appeared in the short-lived Infernal Dominion, which was regarded as a departure from his classic brand of crepitus death metal.
In 2004, the Texas metal community was surprised to hear that Weaver was spearheading a new band called Blaspherian. Their approach was a pummeling return to the Imprecation model, and the debut EP, "Allegiance to the Will of Damnation," was the antidote to an increasingly stagnant Houston scene.
Like most veteran metal musicians, Blaspherian eschewed the current standard of soulless digital production in favor of a traditional analog soundscape. There are no typewriter drums or varnished guitar tones here; Blaspherian specializes in the booming, fuzzed-out death marches that reveal the blackened heart of true death metal. The riffs are efficient and linear even at the fastest moments, and nothing about the writing is rushed or overplayed. Chords hang, drums rumble, and evil all but drips from the speakers.
Blaspherian is important not only as a revival band, but because it points back directly to the groups that sired it. If younger fans are inspired to dig into the vaults of Texas' metal history, then "Allegiance to the Will of Damnation" has succeeded in its mission. The band makes semi-regular live appearances around the the state in the name of converting newcomers and flying the flag for the best days of death metal.
Much like Houston, Dallas had a number of notable breakout metal bands throughout the 1980s, but the first death metal act to ever sign to a major label was Rigor Mortis. While the band amassed a respectable amount of fans, they lost a lot of the magic after founding vocalist Bruce Corbitt left the fold. Corbitt himself remained under the radar for almost two decades aside from the occasional Rigor Mortis reunion, but now his maniacal howl is showcased anew in Warbeast.
Once again, it's the veterans who get the job done; Warbeast not only includes Corbitt, but Scott Shelby and Rick Perry from Dallas thrash band Gammacide, so there's plenty of history on display. A lot of the material on the band's Housecore Records debut, "Krush the Enemy" (with a dubious “K”) was written for Gammacide, so be assured there's no new-fangled malarkey to be found here. Warbeast deals in heavy duty speed/thrash that combines the best elements of the classics, and Corbitt's aforementioned ogrish voice adds a unique flavor to the band's already incendiary mix. The production is dirty and lean, and the attitude has the ranginess of a hunting dog left to its own devices. The album's topics are equally broad, but songs like "Self Will Run Riot," "The Controller," and the colorfully creepy "Stalker" allow Warbeast to flex their muscles and show pretenders to the throne how we crush enemies in Texas.
The annals of Texas metal feature many bands that had huge potential but never quite made it off the starting line. Acts like Necrovore, Rotting Corpse, Militia made a small but notable dent in the underground before going to ground, and for a while Divine Eve rested quietly among them. After making a ripple with As the Angels Weep on Nuclear Blast in 1993, the Dallas-based death metal act foundered and then dissolved in 1995. Like a stubborn phoenix, Divine Eve arose again in 2008 with founders Michael Sleavin, Matt Killen, and Xan Hammack all accounted for.
The band released the "Vengeful and Obstinate" EP on Ibex Moon Records earlier this year, and they followed with a tour of Europe in support of Incantation. They're not appearing much locally, but word is that will change soon enough. Stylistically, not much has changed since their inception; the trio still wields a heavy stick that is equal parts European death metal and thundering doom - think Asphyx with more necrotic voicing. While Divine Eve's resurrection is plenty exciting for Texan metal veterans, it would also be nice to see the guys finally come up with a full album. There's a lot of lost time to make up for, after all! In the meantime, grab a copy of their compilation album, "Upon These Ashes Scorn the World," for a primer on these elusive Lone Star demigods.
Believe it or not, there are still more killer metal bands in Texas worth talking about. If there's one you think we should cover, feel free to discuss them in the comments below.
Make sure to check back every Monday, as Metal Underground.com will unearth more bands who are keeping the metal spirit alive.
Jeff Tandy writes about underground metal as the Austin Metal Examiner, but he spends most of his time doing all the stuff you read about with two touring bands. He thinks that Texas is one of the best places in America, though it doesn't really compare to Sweden.
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