Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Michigan Metal Scene
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week, I am exploring the Michigan metal scene. With this column, I am not only discussing a brief history of each band and the sounds they create, I will also show links between the three bands. Just like the death metal that emerged from Stockholm, Sweden, the thrash from California’s northern bay area and the hardcore from New York City, Michigan’s death and black metal scene is one of interchangeable members.
On an international level, Michigan’s largest city has a reputation as “Detroit Rock City” or “Motown.” The city has produced a large number of Rock And Rock Hall of Fame members. In reference to the more extreme rock styles of black and death metal, though, the mid-southern region near the capital of Lansing has better soil for producing the Devil’s music.
Lansing’s Summon is one of the earliest black metal bands in the U.S. Although the group formed in 1991, it didn’t take off until 1995. From 1992-1994 former Lucifer’s Hammer guitarist Sean “Xaphan” Peters (guitar, vocals) joined with Chas “Necromodeus” Schoals (bass, vocals), Mark Hague (drummer) and Jeff “Tchort” Elrod (R.I.P.) in the black-doom band Masochist (another important underground USBM act). In ’95, Peters, Schoals and Hague left Masochist for Summon, while Elrod formed another black metal group, Wind of the Black Mountains.
Summon made its first recording, “Fire Turns Everything…Black” demo, as the three piece. This demo served as a blue print for the next couple of recordings. Released originally as a cassette tape, the group re-released it in CD format. Later Summon recordings featured revisions of tracks featured on the demo. The hellish screaming chorus of Schoals and Peters, catchy tremolo picking, chugging thrash breaks and whammy bar solos make hitting the stop button difficult on this recording.
The next two recordings closely kept to the black metal formula of the demo. Soon, the group would undergo changes in lineup and sound. Summon added a second guitarist and brought in Josh Moore—a drummer with quicker reflexes than Hague. Summon found its greatest success during this period. The group signed with cult black metal record label, Moribund Records, toured the States with Thornspawn and had an European stint with God Dethroned.
The James Murphy-produced “And the Blood Runs Black” (2003) showed the group turn to a black/death style. “Fallen,” their final recording, was a mixture of speed/black/death metal that the group liked to term “beer metal.” After releasing “Fallen,” Sean Peters left the group and Schoals put Summon on hold. He spent part of this time playing bass for another Moribund artist, Detroit black/thrash outfit Nocturnal Fear. In 2010, Schoals reformed Summon with a new lineup.
Hear more Summon tracks on the band’s Myspace page.
Cemetary Desekrator hails from Jackson, Michigan—a small city southwest of Lansing. It is the sole creation of Steve “Nunrapist” Russell. Russell has played guitar in Masochist, Summon and Wind of the Black Mountains—all part of the Michigan Moribund cult. In turn, members of Summon have joined Nunrapist on stage (Schoals appears on two of the live videos shown below) or in the studio. His compositions reflect not only a rebellious attitude toward Christianity, but also the freezing winds of Michigan’s cruel winter.
Speed is a major component of Cemetary Desekrator songs, but Russell and his small cast keep each song interesting. From plodding Mayhem “Freezing Moon” like passages to stop-and-start death metal movements and German thrash guitar gallops, Cemetary Desekrator songs are never boring. Guitar distortions combined with echoing vocal effects suck the listener into a vortex of malice.
Forming in 2003, Cemetary Desekrator recorded the “Nocturnal Sleep Until Autumn” EP in 2007. Russell played guitar, bass and handled all vocals. Ex-Summon blast machine, Josh Moore played drums. Russell followed up this recording with the 2009 recording “Prayers to Satan.” Moore’s quick hands and feet propelled Cemetary Desekrator to speeds approached only by the most adept players. The group has a number of new songs, but there is no information about when these will hit the studio, nor is there information on the band’s current lineup.
Hear more Cemetary Desekrator at the band’s Myspace page.
Currently considered a Lansing, Michigan band, Genocya’s roots are buried throughout Michigan. Two of its original members, Rick Leusby and Kris Smith hailed from Cadillac. Genocya recorded a self-titled demo in 2004, and since that time has gone through a number of lineup changes. Some past members include Jake Bryan of Summer Dying and Satyrasis and Dave Peterman, who also plays in Satyrasis.
Genocya’s current lineup consists of Dane Brown (vocals), Tim Sever (drums), Jim Albrecht (bass), Brad van Staveren (guitar) and Matt Cunningham (guitar). Sever and Van Stavern are notorious players. Sever played in Masochist and Wind of the Black Mountains. Van Stavern’s group, Cavalcade, recently signed to Phil Anselmo’s label, Housecore Records.
Genocya’s style is a mish mash of death, black, thrash and even Gothenburg, Sweden string play. Describing their sound in one or two words may prove difficult. Genocya went into the studio with Sean Peters (ex-Summon, Wastelander) to record its first full length “Ever Descent,” which has a June 11, 2011 release date.
“Condemned in Temptation” and “Frozen in Fear” are two new tracks featured online. “Condemned in Temptation” opens with Kreator/Slayer-like harmonies. “Frozen in Fear” is a death/black mix in the vein of Gorgoroth and Morbid Angel. This track features many tempo changes, but features riffs with enough transparency to lodge into your mind.
Hear some more of the new tracks on the band’s Facebook page.
Clearly there are still more quality metal bands in Michigan, so if you'd like to recommend some other good underground acts from the area, please feel free to discuss them in the comments below.
Check back every Monday as we delve into a different scene or genre to unearth new quality underground metal bands.
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