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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Running Wild

Disclaimer: MetalUnderground.com does not support piracy of any kind and strongly encourages readers to buy their music and not plunder the seven seas. We do however, fully endorse any metal band who wants to base their image or lyrics around pirates, and there are a few. Pirates have become a popular topic amongst people over the past twenty years, thanks in part to successful franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Monkey Island games, so it’s no surprise that the drunken, debauched world of piracy found its way to the drunken, debauched world of heavy metal. It did so before either of the aforementioned franchises in fact and before bands such as Alestorm and Swashbuckle performed under the Jolly Roger, and most people would give full credit for the invention of pirate metal to a band from Hamburg, which were appropriately named, Running Wild.

The seeds of the band were sown in 1976 when members of the bands Granite Hearts and Grober Unfug began jamming together, eventually decided to form a new band with a new name. It seemed to be a relatively lengthy search as they didn’t settle on the moniker, Running Wild, until 1979, taking its name from the Judas Priest song of the same name. They released their first demos in 1981 and soldiered on for a few years this way, certain that their hard work would pay off. As luck would have it, it did, and they were eventually picked up by Noise Records, who released their debut album, "Gates to Purgatory" in 1984. Lyrically, the album was based more in fantasy and Satanic themes than the historical topics they would later adopt, though the record did feature a song entitled, "Genghis Khan." More...

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Sunday Old School: Salem

Last year, Sunday Old School columns looked at a variety of bands from countries the column hadn’t featured before. From Rotting Christ in Greece to Aria in Russia, from Pentagram in Chile to Mezerkabul in Turkey, a lot of ground was covered. Now, we’ll be once again heading to uncharted territory, as for the first time, Sunday Old School covers a band from Israel, who are represented well in the history books of extreme metal by a group from Giv’ atayim by the name of Salem.

The band was formed in 1985, just over four kilometres from Tel Aviv, originally under the name, Axe Metal and became one of the first groups outside of Europe to perform the extreme brand of music which would become known as black metal. They built up a fan base at the Penguin Club, where numerous other alternative Israeli artists made their name and where they recorded a live demo, "Destruction Till Death," which was preceded in 1986 by a self-titled rehearsal demo. Another live demo, "Millions Slaughtered" was released in 1990 and was able to spread throughout the underground metal scene. More...

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Sunday Old School: Broken Hope

The worst prompting to feature a band in the Sunday Old School column is when a member of the group dies. While the passing in question, that of drummer, Ryan Stanek, was over a week ago now, it is no less apt to feature one of death metals lesser known veterans, Broken Hope. The band was founded in 1988 in the state of Illinois by Stanek, along with vocalist, Joe Ptacek and guitarists Jeremy Wagner and Brian Griffin, with bassist, Ed Hughes joining later on.

They released two demos before signing with Grindcore International, who released their full length debut, "Swamped in Gore," the following year. Generally, it's garnered something of a mixed response from death metal fans, with some citing is as an excellent release of the time, while others appear to claim that the structure of the music can’t support the heaviness brought to the table. More...

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Sunday Old School: Enslaved

A couple of weeks ago, we concluded a month long look at the black metal genre, featuring such bands as Marduk and Sigh. While researching the feature, there seemed to be quite a few bands which began life as a black metal group, but had shed this style by their second album at the latest. One such band, who named themselves after an Immortal track, was formed by thirteen year old, Ivar Bjørnson and seventeen year old, Grutle Kjellson, and who were named, Enslaved.

The duo formed the group as a typical black metal band, but gradually brought in more eclectic influences and wrote songs much longer than many of their peers, moving them away from the black metal scene, although Enslaved’s first album, "Vikingligr Veldi," was released on Mayhem guitarist’s Euronymous', Deathlike Silence Productions label, albeit after he was murdered. The debut album contained only five songs but still clocked in at around fifty minutes, while being something of an oddity for containing lyrics mostly written in Icelandic, potentially because of its similarity to Old Norse. It was a very well received album and continues to be a favourite amongst fans to this day, with critics at the time claiming that the band were keeping younger Norwegian metal bands relevant. More...

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Sunday Old School: Racer X

Some bands tell you what they’re all about from their name alone. AC/DC promise high energy rock, Death was balls out death metal and Motorhead are all about speed, plenty of it and in more ways than one (allegedly...) Another band which attracted metal fans looking for something fast and furious that used their name to do so, was a young band from Los Angeles, California by the name of Racer X.

The seeds of the band were sown in the Guitar Institute of Technology, when students Juan Alderete and Paul Gilbert (who was soon to become a teacher at the school) met and decided to form their own band. Being highly skilled musicians themselves, they approached a gifted drummer, Scott Travis to join them, though he declined in favour of sticking with his band, Hawk. Instead, they recruited another fellow student, Harry Gschoesser, a native of Austria and the future founder of social networking site, Speedgig. The band completed their lineup with the addition of Phoenix, Arizona resident, Jeff Martin, who was unable to rehearse regularly with the band due to the long distance, but nevertheless, worked hard on writing lyrics for demos which Gilbert sent him. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 4 - Impaled Nazarene

Black Metal History Month has returned for a fourth installment! This year will see our special time analyze some of the roots of the genre, as well as some of the bleakest and obscene bands to fly the flag of darkness.

As we saw in last week’s Sunday Old School covering Marduk, Norway was not the only Scandinavian country contributing significantly to the black metal scene, though it is no doubt still considered the home of the genre. Yet, Norway and Sweden were not alone, as the Swedes other neighbours were also about to launch their own scene, one which was given greater attention thanks to a particular band from the city of Oulu. A band by the striking name of, Impaled Nazarene.

The group was formed twenty five years ago by vocalist and sole constant member, Mika Luttinen, guitarists, Ari Holappa and Mika Pääkkö, bass player, Harri Halonen and drummer, Kimmo "Sir" Luttinen, the brother of frontman, Mika. They were forged with a fierce sense of independence and aggression, evidenced by their ambition to stand out from what other Scandinavian bands were doing. Whilst bands from Sweden such as Marduk were welcomed into the black metal scene in Norway, Impaled Nazarene became known for their hatred of it, though they would eventually bury the hatchet in the frost, with Luttinen claiming that he made peace with Mayhem guitarist, Euronymous before his murder. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 3 - Marduk

Black Metal History Month has returned for a fourth installment! This year will see our special time analyze some of the roots of the genre, as well as some of the bleakest and obscene bands to fly the flag of darkness.

Sweden is perhaps best known in the extreme music world for their contribution to death metal, having been the birthplace of such bands as In Flames, Entombed, At The Gates and Katatonia, but they have also made a good contribution to black metal, perhaps most notably thanks to Bathory, one of the earliest influences on the genre. However, one of the more controversial names in the field (which is saying something when talking black metal, believe me) would be a band from the city of Norrköping which go by the name of Marduk.

Marduk was formed by guitarist Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson, with the intention of creating the most blasphemous and offensive band in the world. They began by fusing death metal with black to create a very extreme sound. They unleashed their sound in 1991 with the release of the demo, "Fuck Me Jesus," before releasing their first full length album, "Dark Endless" the next year. It was well received and the band took to the road to perform across Sweden, expanding their fan base along the way. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 2 - Sigh

Black Metal History Month has returned for a fourth instalment! This year will see our special time analyze some of the roots of the genre, as well as some of the bleakest and obscene bands to fly the flag of darkness.

When it comes to black metal, the first place that immediately springs to mind is Norway, despite the genre being pioneered by groups from England, Switzerland, Italy and Denmark. It would be appear that Mayhem guitarist and black metal figurehead, Øystein Aarseth, better known perhaps as Euronymous, was well aware that the genre wasn’t restricted to his home country, as evidenced by his offers to bands all over the world to join his Deathlike Silence label. One of this groups hailed from the other side of the world, in a country one might not associate with the frostbitten scene, Japan. Their name is, Sigh.

Sigh began life in 1989, forming in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo. They released two demo tapes, "Desolation" and "Tragedies" the following year, featuring the lineup of Mirai Kawashima on vocals and keyboards, drummer Kazuki Ozeki and multi instrumentalist, Satoshi Fujinami on guitar. The demos aren’t considered their best work and suffered from very poor production, but nevertheless attracted enough interest for Wild Rags Records to offer them an outlet for an EP release, which came in 1992 under the title, "Requiem for Fools," around the time that they had hired guitarist, Shinichi Ishikawa, a move which saw Fujinami moving to the drum stool. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 1 - Bulldozer

Black Metal History Month has returned for a fourth instalment! This year will see our special time analyze some of the roots of the genre, as well as some of the bleakest and obscene bands to fly the flag of darkness.

We’re kicking off this year’s Black Metal History Month with a band which was a massive influence on the genre, but perhaps don’t always get the credit and respect they deserve. They certainly don’t get mentioned in the same breath as Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate too often by entry level self-proclaimed experts very much. It also marks the first time Sunday Old School has looked at an Italian band, and who better to represent the beautiful country than one of the heaviest bands of their time, Bulldozer? More...

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Sunday Old School: Cro-Mags

There are some scenes that stay local, some which are struggling and then there those which become legendary. One such example is the Bay Area thrash metal scene, which gave the world such bands as Exodus, Testament and Metallica, but on the other side of the country was something just as important which would shape the thrash metal scene there. A movement which has been the subject of documentaries and books, the New York Hardcore scene. Many of the best bands in the genre came from this, including Agnostic Front and later, Sick of it All, but there was one band that were legends in their own time as well as today, who went by the name of Cro-Mags.

The group began life in 1981 in New York City, the brain child of bass player, Harley Flanagan, who was only fourteen at the time but was intent on making himself known in the local punk scene, as well as hitchhiking his way to California to check out the punk scene there. The band went through a number of musicians and at one point, were seriously considering approaching Beastie Boys member, Adam Yauch to join. They also didn't have a singer until 1984, when fifteen year old Eric Casanova was brought into the fold. Though he only performed two shows with the group, he contributed to the writing of such songs as, "Life of my Own" and "Hard Times." He was eventually replaced by John Joseph, also knows as John Bloodclot, who had worked with Flanagan before in Mode of Ignorance. Joseph was the perfect fit for the band and his lyrics helped them evolve into the image we know today, helping to craft more songs and complete a solid live set. More...

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Sunday Old School: Holocaust

Last year, MetalUnderground took a look at the history and legacy of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which included a personal top ten of bands from the movement. There were of course, far more than ten great bands at the time and it was mentioned in the article that some bands that didn’t make it into the list were of very high quality. One such band hailed from the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh and definitely made its own stamp on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. That band was Holocaust.

The band began life in 1977, comprising of guitarists John Mortimer and Ed Dudley, vocalist Gary Lettice, bassist Robin Begg and drummer Nick Brockie. They formed at an opportune time, allowing them to become swept up in the growing popularity of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, a time where record labels were searching for any metal bands they could, though instead of opting to sign with a company, the group formed their own label, Phoenix Record And Filmworks and released two singles, "Heavy Metal Mania" and "Smokin' Valves," before releasing their debut full length album, "The Nightcomers" in 1981. The record was very well received by heavy metal fans and remains one of the most popular albums of the NWOBHM era, featuring the two previously released singles as well as such songs as "Death or Glory" and the title track. More...

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Sunday Old School: Spooky Tooth

Sometimes in the Sunday Old School column, we like to go back to the very early days of heavy metal, before the term was even in use. It’s interesting to find out about some of the bands who were first slapped with the “heavy metal” tag, who may not fit in with today’s definition of the genre, but certainly influenced it. This week, we’ll be looking at just such a band, one who’s approach to the hard rock of the time had more attitude than most and whose name is still dropped today as one of heavy metal’s earliest pioneers, Spooky Tooth. The group was formed as The V.I.P.’s in 1963 in the North Eastern English town of Carlisle and initially performed a rhythm and blues brand of rock before changing their name in 1967 to Art. Under this name, they released the album, “Supernatural Fairy Tales” before changing it again soon afterwards to Spooky Tooth.

Under this new moniker, the group soon recorded a new album, “It’s All About,” which hit the shelves in the summer of 1968. The record received some very positive reviews and contained a cover of the Bob Dylan song, “Too Much of Nothing,” as well as another noteworthy cover track in the form of opener, “Society’s Child,” a song by Janis Ian which commented upon the then controversial subject of interracial romance. This was one of only two albums to feature the original Spooky Tooth lineup, the sophomore effort coming a year later under the title, “Spooky Two,” which featured the song, “Better By You, Better Than Me,” which was of course later to be covered by fellow British rockers, Judas Priest and go on to be the subject of a highly controversial court case. Many critics now regard, “Spooky Two” as the band’s best work to date, citing a great sense of passion found throughout the record. More...

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Sunday Old School: Therion

The band began life as Blitzkrieg (not to be confused with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band of the same name) in Upplands Väsby, located in the Stockholm county, a brainchild of bass player Christofer Johnsson, guitarist Peter Hansson and drummer Oskar Forss and played a style of music similar in sound to Venom. The band lasted only two shows before a falling out with Forss forced the group to fold. The group did reform a few months later however, under the new moniker, Megatherion, taking its name from the classic Celtic Frost album. Johnsson put down the bass in favour of guitar and brought in Johan Hansson as the new bassist, along with drummer, Mika Tovalainenm though shortly after the band shortened their name to Therion, both new members took their leave, with original drummer Forss returning to the fold and Erik Gustafsson, best known as a member of Dismember coming in on bass.

With a name finally decided on and a lineup in place, Therion got to work on their first demo, "Paroxysmal Holocaust," which was released in 1989 and followed the same year by a second demo, "Beyond the Darkest Veils on Inner Wickedness." After a third demo, "Time Shall Tell," recorded the next year, they signed a deal with Deaf Records, through which they released their first full length album, "Of Darkness…" in 1991. It was hailed as one of the first progressive death metal albums, though it received mixed reviews upon release and the band saw it as the shedding of their early death metal skin. More...

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Sunday Old School: Van Halen

Though the Netherlands have given the world some excellent metal bands over the years such as Pestilence and God Dethroned, the country doesn’t receive as much attention as some others in Europe, such as their neighbours in Germany. However, it’s worth remembering that one of the most important names in the history of hard rock and heavy metal was literally born in the Netherlands in 1953 and 1955, where in the city of Nijmegen, the brothers Alex and Eddie were born, siblings who would go on to bring their surname into rock folklore. The name of Van Halen.

The brothers moved with their family to the United States in 1962 and started to learn instruments shortly afterwards, with Eddie learning drums and Alex learning guitar, though they switched after Eddie found out that Alex had been playing his drums while the younger brother was out on his paper route. They eventually formed a band which they Christened, Genesis, along with bassist Mark Stone and ultimately bringing in singer David Lee Roth, who the band had been hiring a P.A. from, who was hired to save money. Stone was soon replaced by Michael Anthony and another change came when the quartet found out about the British band named Genesis, so decided to rename themselves, Mammoth, though this name would also be dropped in favour of the now familiar, Van Halen. More...

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Sunday Old School: Slade

I don’t know if any of you have noticed it, but it’s that magical time of year when Michael Buble releases a new album, which can mean only one thing... IIIIIIIIT’S CHRIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAAAAS!!! Whether you celebrate it or not, it’s a time meant for fun and games, and if ever there was a band in rock music that were all about a good time, it was one of the earliest stars of British hard rock, whose outlandish attire, booming vocals and deafening volume would go on to influence many of the biggest rock and metal bands for years to come and write one of the best modern Christmas songs of all time. A group still loved by generations in Great Britain, a group by the name of Slade.

Slade, like many of their heaviest compatriots, began life in the English Midlands, and was the result of two local bands, The Mavericks and The ‘N Betweens, the latter of which had been able to obtain high profile support slots for such bands as The Hollies and The Yardbirds. Within the ranks of the Mavericks was a guitarist and vocalist by the name of Noddy Holder that The ‘N Betweens desperately coveted. They unsuccessfully attempted to get Holder to switch sides on a ferry trip the two groups happened to be sharing, but were finally able to convince him to join during a conversation in Wolverhampton. More...

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Sunday Old School: Nocturnus

For decades, heavy metal fans have pointed certain things and debated as to whether they are or aren’t, “metal.” Haircuts, elements of classical music, or indeed most other forms of music, these are a couple of the targets, but one of the first things to shock some fans of metal music was the use of keyboards. In his book, “Hell Bent for Leather,” author Seb Hunter mentions the time when he first heard British legends, UFO and recoiling when he realised they were using keyboards. Metal has certainly evolved since the days of UFO and keyboards have been used on many metal records, especially in the symphonic black metal genre, but one of the first bands to bring the instrument to extreme metal music was a group from Tampa, Florida named Nocturnus.

Nocturnus began life in 1987 after drummer/vocalist, Mike Browning and guitarist, Gino Marino’s previous band, Incbus folded. They recruited Agent Steel bass player, Richard Bateman and a second guitarist named Vincent Crowley, recording and releasing their first demo later that year. This self-titled demo would prove to be their only recording with Crowley, who left soon afterwards to form, Acheron and was replaced by Marino’s eighteen year old cousin, Mike Davis. Bateman would also soon leave the group to join Nasty Savage, whereupon Nocturnus hired a new bassist, Jeff Estes and most famously, a keyboard player named, Louis Panzer, whose inclusion helped to set them apart from the ever growing Florida death metal scene, as it was practically unheard of at the time to utilise keyboards in extreme metal. More...

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Sunday Old School: Crash

As we approach the end of another year, it would seem that Sunday Old School's attempt to expose more metal veterans from across the world has been a success. From Aria in Russia to Moonspell in Portugal, from Channel Zero in Belgium to Mezarkabul in Turkey, we've seen some of the best the world has given the metal genre and heard some of the best music on offer. This week, we'll be continuing this trend by heading to Asia for the first and only time since 2011's column on Japan's, Loudness, to check out a contribution to thrash metal from South Korea, one which had the suitably high impact moniker of Crash.

The band was formed in 1991 by vocalist/bassist, Ahn Heung-Chan, guitar player, Yoon Doo-Byung and drummer, Jung Yong-Wook, in the country's capital city of Seoul and became one of the first groups in the nation to encourage stage diving and hardcore dancing. Their ferocious music and growing, rabid following soon caught the attention of Metal Force Records, a subsidiary of the SK Group, a giant corporation in Korea. More...

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Sunday Old School: Sadus

When it comes to naming some of music’s best bassists, who is it you think of? Bootsy Collins of Parliament-Funkadelic? Norman Watt-Roy of The Blockheads? The unsung legends such as James Jamerson? Personally, at least when it comes to metal, I believe it’s very hard to find a better bass player than Steve DiGiorgio, who first made his name with the thrash metal outfit Sadus.

Sadus was formed in Antioch, California in 1984 by DiGiorgio, vocalist Darren Travis, drummer Jon Allen and guitarist, Rob Moore, but was unable to record a demo tape until 1986, which came in the form of “D.T.P. (Death to Posers.)” Two tracks from the demo made their way to the Raging Death compilation album and with popularity steadily increasing, the group decided to self-finance a full length album, “Illusions,” with Metal Church guitarist John Marshall handling production duties.

The album found enough success underground to catch the attention of several record labels, with Roadrunner eventually being the company that snapped Sadus up. By 1990, the band had released second full length record, “Swallowed in Black,” which was able to break into the top fifty in Poland. Sadus expanded its profile further still by teaming up with Brazilian thrashers Sepultura and American death metal act Obituary for a tour of North America. The band followed this with the release of a third album, “A Vision of Misery,” in 1992. More...

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Sunday Old School: Aria

It’s interesting to think that this week will see a new album from one of the biggest metal bands in the biggest country in the world, one which has a long lasting love of metal music too, yet many, many head bangers will not have heard of them. We all know that back in the days of the Soviet Union, many freedoms were restricted by the regime, but this didn’t stop heavy metal music from leaking in and influencing the Russian youth to create their own bands. One such group hailed from the capital city of Moscow and was spawned when two Muscovite metalheads named Vladimir Holstinin and Alik Granovsky decided to pursue their beloved music with a new project named, Aria.

They chose the moniker so that it would be short, sweet and easily translatable, a memorable name inspired by the brand of guitar which Holstinin owned. They finished writing enough music for a full length album and began the process of looking for a singer, which they eventually found in the guise of Valery Kipelov. Before the end of 1985, the band released their debut album, "Mania Velichia," which attracted the attention of many rock fans in Russia because it was very different from anything else on show in the country at the time. It was even able to produce a music video for the song, "America is Behind," something which was not common for rock bands to do at the time. More...

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Sunday Old School: Mezarkabul

This past year we’ve looked at some of the old guard in a lot of places across the world. From Rotting Christ in Greece, to Belphegor in Austria to Pentagram Chile in… uh, Chile. Today Sunday Old School will once again be looking at a band from a place we haven’t examined yet, and another band called Pentagram to boot, though internationally they are not known by the same moniker as the Chilean and American groups, but rather by a word which in their home country of Turkey means "to accept the grave," a band known outside the former Ottoman Empire by the name of Mezarkabul. The group was formed in the city of Bursa in 1986 by drummer, Cenk Ünnü and guitarist, Hakan Utangaç, with bass player, Tarkan Gözübüyük joining their ranks the next year. Utangaç assumed the role of lead vocalist for the first few years, during which they performed live frequently, building up a fan base strong enough to get them signed to Nepa Muzik, through whom they released their self-titled debut full length.

Shortly after the record’s release, the group recruited a new vocalist named, Bartu Toptas, allowing Utangaç to concentrate more on his guitar playing, a pressure which was lessened when Pentagram brought in a second guitarist, Demir Demirkan in 1992. Toptas did not stay with the group for long however and his only recording with the group can be heard as part of the intro to the song, "Secret Missile," the opening track of their sophomore album, "Trail Blazer," on which vocals were performed by a singer named, Ogün Sanlisoy. The album was notable for the song, "Fly Forever," which was written about their guitarist, Ümit Yilbar, who was killed by terrorists in 1993 whilst performing national service. More...

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