Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Maltese 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 take on the small, but strong Maltese metal scene.
When one thinks Malta, the first thought that comes to mind is a gorgeous tourist destination rich in Greek, Roman and Arabic culture situated between Italy and North Africa. The Maltese metal scene is a much smaller than other island nations like Cyprus, but it is a strong and hard working underground scene. Though bands are not denied the right to play music they want in this free nation, metal in Malta is typically shunned by the typically close minded culture of the nation and the sheer lack of venues that would have them. Some Maltese bands have been welcomed abroad to mainland Europe and the U.K., though the costs for many are too high. However, the country does have its own metal festivals: the Extreme Maltese Metal and Xtreme Metal Assault festivals held in the summer as well as the “M.D.M.” (Malta Doom Metal) held in November in the city of Rabat.
Some Maltese acts have either made it beyond the Mediterranean to tour Europe and the UK, or at the very least been heard worldwide, but still remain largely underground. Today, we will look at three of those acts: Forsaken, Loathe and Weeping Silence.
Likely the most consistent band in the Maltese underground is Forsaken. Not to be confused with the litany of other bands with the same moniker, the band was born in 1990 as Blind Alley, a progressive metal band featuring vocalist Leo Stivala, drummer Simeon Gatt, then bassist Albert Bell and then guitarist Sean Vukovic. Forsaken changed its name and flavor into one with an epic doom variety. Drawing influences from Sabbath, Candlemass and Pentagram, the band fashioned its arsenal and released its demoe “Requiem” in 1991, which led to the release of the band’s EP “Vitues of Sanctity” for French label Arkham Productions. In stepped guitarist Daniel Magri as a second guitarist. It took until 1997 for the band to issue its debut full length entitled “Evermore” on the now defunct Maltese label Storm Records. It was met with rave reviews and wide acceptance in the doom metal circles.
In 2001, Magri passed away after a long battle with cancer. The band continued on with just Vukovic on guitar, a formula they still have to this day. They went on to produce albums of high quality doom to warm critical and fan reception (2002 – “Iconoclast” EP, 2004 – “Anima Mundi” and 2005 – “Dominaeon.”) . The latest effort, “After the Fall” (2009) was released on the Swedish label I Hate Records and added a raw edge to its epic doom style. Currently, the band is working on new material, an album tentatively entitled “Pentateuch, Vol. I.” The band announced one song title in March of 2013 – “Sabaoth (The Law Giver).” Follow them on Facebook at this location.
Hailing from the Gran Harbour area of Marsa, Malta, Loathe is a thrash/crossover act that was born in 2001. In the last five years, they have released three EP’s and a full length LP entitled “Despondent By Design.” The band has toured the U.K, opening for acts such as Evile, Sabbat and Trigger the Bloodshed. According to the band’s Facebook Page, they draw influences from “Aborted to Zimmer’s Hole” and everything in between.
Despite the despondent gutteral death dirge of vocalist David “Beast” Fenech, the band is not without its sense of humor. In December of 2012, they released the first music video “Bucketlove” from the self-released debut full length album:
From the southern city of Siggiewi, Malta’s finest death/doom metal act Weeping Silence, represents another of the island nation’s finest exports. With a sound somewhere in between Epica and Draconian, the band now employs the much used formula of “beauty/beast” male/female vocal style overlaying dark doomy and atmospheric metal. But it wasn’t always that way. The band was formed in the mid-1990’s by guitarist Mario Ellul (Ex-Forsaken) and drummer Angelo Zammit. While fashioning what would become the band’s current sound, they went with one vocalist Rachel Grech, issuing two demos (“Deprived From Roman ce” (2000) and a self-released demo in 2003), which caught the attention of Greek label Sleaszy Rider Records. In 2008, the band’s released its debut full length “End of An Era.” The album was met with international recognition.
In 2009, the band issued a promo EP, which caught the attention of Ravenheart Records. In 2011, the band released the sophomore LP “Theater of Life.” Later that year, the band entered Spine Splitter Studios to record its latest effort “For the Unsung” (2012) (see review at this location), which saw the band move in a new darker, more aggressive direction that has become its modern trademark. Joining Grech on vocals is husband Joseph as her death grunting male counterpart, with a lethal style that instantly propelled him to one of the genre’s elite. However, in October of 2012, the band parted ways with both Rachael and Joseph Grech, hiring the new vocal duo of Diane Camenzuli and Dario Pace Taliana. Follow Weeping Silence on Facebook at this location.
Certainly there are other quality bands in the Maltese metal scene over many metal subgenres. So if you'd like to recommend some other good underground metal bands from Malta, please feel free to discuss them in the comments below.
Check back every Monday as we delve into different scenes or genres to unearth some new underground metal bands.
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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