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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Coal Chamber

Has there ever been a time when metal was more at war with itself than the late nineties/early 2000s? After Korn hit the big time, many bands with a similar, though not always identical sound, soon emerged and thus, nu metal came to be. A sub-genre which was largely discredited by fans of "true" metal for its unashamed hip-hop influences, style and perhaps most offensively, lack of guitar solos. Whether you're a fan of the genre or not, there's no denying that nu metal is by now, old school, thus warranting coverage in this very column. This week, we'll be taking a look at one of the earliest success stories of the era, Coal Chamber.

Coal Chamber was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1993 by singer Dez Fafara and guitarist Meegs Rascón, who had both previously been members of the group, She's In Pain. They rounded up the lineup with the additions of drummer Jon Tor, who himself was soon replaced by Mike Cox, and bass player Rayna Foss. Early in their career, the band was dealt a blow when Fafara quit at the insistence of his wife, though he soon returned to the fold, at the expense of his marriage. With the help of Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares, the group earned themselves a contract with Roadrunner Records, who released their self-titled debut in February 1997. More...

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Sunday Old School: Fantômas

If there's one term in music guaranteed to raise eyebrows, and often nothing else, it's "supergroup." Arguably more often than not, the results don't quite go as hoped and for every Cream there's a Contraband and Ov Hell. There will, however, always be musicians that draw people to their projects no matter who they're working with and if ever there was a vocalist who was able to do this, it's Faith No More's charismatic frontman, Mike Patton. Throw in members of other esteemed bands such as Slayer and the Melvins and surely the results are going to be something special, which is exactly what happened in 1998 when Patton put together a new project as Faith No More were coming to the end of their first run, a project named Fantômas.

Fantômas, which was named after a French supervillain and one of the country's most popular literary figures, began initially as a series of avant-garde songs Mike Patton had penned on his own, in the hopes of putting together a supergroup of his own. He sent the songs out to his Mr. Bungle bandmate Trevor Dunn, as well as Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne and Sepultura drummer Igor Cavalera. Cavalera was the only musician to decline his invite to the group, though he did suggest that the drum stool should be occupied by another highly respected metal drummer, Dave Lombardo, who at the time was busy with Grip Inc., having left Slayer for the second time six years previously. More...

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Sunday Old School: Gordi

We've covered bands from many countries over the course of Sunday Old School's history. From Mezarkabul in Turkey to Aria in Russia and Holy Dragons from Kazakhstan across to Asian bands like Crash from South Korea and Sigh, Loudness and Church Of Misery from Japan. However, one thing we haven't done as of yet, is look at a group who's entire history took place in a country that no longer exists. Of course the land is still there, but the nation formerly known as Yugoslavia has since become several countries and the former capital city of Belgrade is now the capital of Serbia. Despite being gripped in the rule of Marshal Tito, a dictator whose legacy remains disputed, rock and metal music was able to find it's way into the country and was pioneered when it came into the hands of the proud ones, or rather, Gordi.

Gordi, which as the previous paragraph alluded to, is Serbian for "the proud ones," was formed in 1977 in Belgrade by guitarist, Zlatko Manojlovic, along with his brother Goran, drummer Stevan Milutinovic Steva and bassist Dragan Jankovic, who was soon replaced by Zdenko Pomper. It was only after this change that the group were able to record and release their first album, "Covek," through the Ljubljana based major label, ZKP RTLJ. It was very much a progressive rock affair, with Zlatko Manojlovic later describing it as "psychedelic." More...

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Sunday Old School: Cruachan

Those of you who follow international football (or soccer, if you insist,) you will probably know that less than two hours ago, the Republic of Ireland were eliminated in the Euro tournament by the host nation, France. While we won't be seeing any more Irish contributions to the Euros, the nation's reputation when it comes to music is outstanding. Irish folk music, along with that of the Middle East, is possibly the best known in the world and the country has produced a number of top rock and metal bands too, with Thin Lizzy probably the most famous example. With kudos in both of these musical styles, it was only a matter of time before Ireland had a world class folk metal band and they arrived in 1992, under the name of Cruachan.

Cruachan came to be following guitarist Keith Fay's endeavours with the J.R.R. Tolkien inspired black metal band, Minas Tirith. He had formed a new group, taking it's name from the capital of the middle ages Irish kingdom of Connachta, after becoming more interested in folk music and hearing how two of his favourite genres could be blended on the debut Skyclad album, "The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth." It would be two years before the band recorded material, which surfaced in the guise of the "Celtica" demo in 1994, before a full length album, "Tuatha na Gael" followed the next year through Nazgul's Eyrie Productions. More...

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Sunday Old School: Unleashed

There are some countries where heavy metal is very popular, then there are countries which don't just appreciate heavy music, they contribute to it... heavily. Many fans of the genre will tell you that it was born in England but Germany is its spiritual home, though Scandinavia is where it's very welcome to stay. Indeed, it's not uncommon to see metal bands reach high chart positions in Finland and their neighbours to the west, Sweden, are almost as welcoming, spawning many amazing and important bands of their own, as well as the famous Swedish death metal sound. This tone is often credited as the Gothenburg sound but many of these groups came from the capital city of Stockholm, including today's band, Unleashed.

Unleashed was founded in 1989 by singing bassist, Johnny Hedlund, who had only just been fired from Nihilist, the band that was to become Entombed. He was joined in his endeavour by drummer Anders Schultz and guitarists Robert Sennebäck and Fredrik Lindgren. The former was replaced by Tomas Måsgard pretty quickly and the group set about making their mark by recording the demos, "Revenge" and "Utter Dark." The tapes soon found their way to German label Century Media, who snapped up the band almost immediately, resulting in their 1991 debut full length, "Where No Life Dwells." The record was hailed instantly as a death metal classic and remains one of the most popular albums to emerge from the Swedish metal scene to this day, which helped propel the band's popularity massively, allowing them to tour Europe and the United States with fellow death metal favouites, Morbid Angel. More...

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Sunday Old School: Laaz Rockit

It's funny how some people come to bands through others. Perhaps when looking for the American cult heroes Pentagram, you stumbled across one of the bands of the same name from Chile or Turkey.

Maybe you never would have heard of Trust if Anthrax hadn't covered "Antisocial." Many American metal fans, and indeed younger fans from all across the world were introduced to the likes of Diamond Head, Budgie and Holocaust via Metallica covers. Speaking of Metallica, it was on an unlicensed documentary about the Bay Area quartet that I discovered today's featured band, as one of the interviewees mentioned he only attended one of their early shows because he wanted to see another group, by the name of Laaz Rockit.

Laaz Rockit was formed in San Francisco in 1982 by guitarists Aaron Jellum and Phil Kettner, along with vocalist Michael Coons and bass player Dave Starr, taking their name from the Clint Eastwood movie, "The Enforcer," before rounding up their lineup with drummer Victor Agnello, as well replacing Starr with Willy Lange in 1983. That same year, the band recorded their first demo, "Prelude to Death," which led to a record deal with Target for their debut, "City's Gonna Burn." Though by no means a bad album, there are fans who regard it as a slightly weak debut, feeling it's an unfocused work that didn't capture the band's full potential. More...

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Sunday Old School: Baron Rojo

We're back! After a long hiatus, save only for a very welcome contribution from xFiruath, Sunday Old School has returned. I could bore you with the details of the red tape that's caused such a long delay and the hassles that emigrating can bring, or I could tell you all about one of my new homeland's most revered bands in their contribution to heavy metal. A band that took their name from one of the most legendary figures of the first world war, Manfred von Richthofen. A band by the name of Baron Rojo.

Baron Rojo were formed in the Spanish capital of Madrid in 1980 by brothers Carlos and Armando de Castro, originally going by the name of Coz, though an internal split led to two versions of the band going at the same time for a period, before CBS Records, who owned the rights to the name demanded the version with the de Castro brothers change their name, with the siblings picking the more familiar, and frankly better, moniker. More...

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Sunday Old School: Ancient

Hey, what's this... I'm not Diamond Oz! Sorry folks, he's out this week, so I'm here to take over Sunday Old School. Today we're headed back in time all the way to the early '90s and mythical Norway, birthplace of second wave black metal and much diabolical full moon mysticism.

During that hallowed time in metallic history would emerge a black metal group called Ancient, which over the years mixed a lot of melody into the BM sound, utilizing memorable atmospheric interlude tracks and a gothic, vampiric vibe.

That would all arrive a good deal later though, as Ancient's beginnings are more rooted in the classic, raw black metal that would become so well known among the giant names like Emperor, Immortal, Mayhem, Burzum, and so on.

Beginning with just band founder Apahzel and vocalist Grimm, the first full-length Ancient release was “Svartalvheim,” which has everything you could want from a '94 black metal metal album, complete with breathing fire in a Norwegian forest!

Much like with the more well known Cradle Of Filth, there is a small but vocal subsection of the fan-base who feels this earliest, more kvlt release (along with the subsequent “Trolltaar” EP) is really the only era of the band worth hearing. Whether you agree with that assessment or not, “Svartalvheim” is easily a classic old school black metal opus, including the fuzzy production and frozen and gloomy atmosphere. If early '90s Norwegian BM is your thing, this is a forgotten classic worth checking out.

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Sunday Old School: Death SS

Heavy metal has been linked with Satanism practically since it was born. The genre's long standing fascination with the man downstairs, the occult and blasphemy has made it a target for religious groups, politicians and any religious leader who wants a spot on the local news. Of course, such accusations have usually been dismissed outright by the bands and fans of the genre, but sometimes these people actually find a band with Satanic links, such as today's featured band, Death SS and their singer, Steve Sylvester.

Sylvester, whose real name is Stefano Silvestri, a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, formed the band in the town of Pesaro in 1977, along with guitarist Paolo Catena and eventually recruiting Daniele Ugolini on bass and drummer Tomaso Castaldi. The group used many elements of horror and macabre theatrics to create a terrifying stage show, which went on to influence many black metal artists. Though they lasted for five years in their initial run, the band did not release a full length album, managing only two demos before Sylvester left the group and was replaced by Bologna native Sanctis Ghoram, who appeared on the EP, "Evil Metal" in 1983 before the group parted ways the following year. More...

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Sunday Old School: Nasty Savage

Professional wrestling and heavy metal music has plenty in common, perhaps more than one might initially think. Both fan bases are mocked by many people who don't share their enthusiasm for the colourful world they adore, both are perceived as appealing mostly to white males, though of course there are many overlooked female fans and both vary from the no nonsense to the ludicrous. So what happens when a professional wrestler has a penchant for metal music and brings his antics from the ring to the stage? Why, you get Nasty Savage of course!

Nasty Savage was formed in 1983 by lead singer "Nasty" Ronnie Galetti, along with drummer Curtis Beeson, bassist Fred Degischan and guitar players Ben Meyer and David Austin, in Brandon, Florida. The band recorded two demos, "Raw Mayhem" and "Wage of Mayhem" in 1984 and built up a solid following in their home state, thanks in part to Ronnie Galetti's outrageous stage persona, which would include smashing television sets over his own head. Their notoriety and popularity spread enough to earn the band a deal with Metal Blade Records, with whom they released their self-titled debut in 1985. More...

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Sunday Old School: Infectious Grooves

Metal music has long experimented with other genres. We've seen metal make the short trip to mix with punk and hardcore and it's been known to flirt with more distanced genres such as reggae, electronic and rap music. One band who helped pioneer the hybrid of metal, punk and funk music was Venice Beach's own, Suicidal Tendencies, led by one of rock's most charismatic frontmen, Mike Muir. When the group recruited bass player Robert Trujillo, Muir appeared to have found a kindred musical spirit, who not only shared his love of funk, but brought it into the band's sound. This partnership was to expand beyond Suicidal Tendencies and cause a new band to emerge, who go by the suitable name of Infectious Grooves.

Muir and Trujillo began the band in 1989 and were joined in their endeavour by Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins and former Excel guitarist Adam Siegel. The group brought a very bizarre and silly humour to their music, which had previously been seen Suicidal Tendencies, though not to the same extent and invented a character called Sarsippius, a reptilian lover who appeared in skits on the band's albums. Their quest for a record deal was a relatively short one, signing with major label Epic, who also housed Suicidal Tendencies. More...

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Sunday Old School: Monstrosity

There are areas of the world that can always be relied upon to give you great metal. The Bay Area offers some of the best thrash bands of all time, as does New York, which also contains many of history's greatest hardcore bands. Britain has many legends of the game such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, in addition to the classic heavy metal sound of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, while a short trip east to Norway showcases many of the most beloved named in black metal. When it comes to death metal, perhaps one place more than any other can lay claim to being synonymous with the genre, the southern American state of Florida, which has given us such bands as Obituary, Morbid Angel and today's featured group, Monstrosity.

Monstrosity began life in Fort Lauderdale in 1990, the brainchild of former Malevolent Creation drummer Lee Harrison and Maryland native George "Corpsegrinder" Fischer. The duo were soon joined by another ex Malevolent Creation member, Jon Rubin and Cynic bassist Mark Van Erp. After slogging it out in the state scene, the band were eventually rewarded with a record deal with German label, Nuclear Blast. The label released the group's debut album, "Imperial Doom" in 1992, for which they were assisted in the recording by another Cynic member, Jason Gobel. The record was considered very successful, selling over forty thousand copies and receiving rave reviews from the metal press, as well as allowing them to tour Europe with Dutch technical death metal band, Pestilence. More...

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Sunday Old School: Church Of Misery

There are some countries that bands dream about making it in. For a British band on the hunt for success, to make it in the United States has always been one of the biggest targets, and I'm told the same is true in reverse. There's another country however, where bands from all over the world want to make their name, located in the far east and the centre of many popular trends, art and spirituality, Japan. The country has always loved their heavy metal and as a result, many of metal's biggest names such as Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden have recorded live albums and DVDs there, especially at the world famous Budokan. But it's not all take, Japan has given the world some excellent metal music in return, from the good time classic heaviness of Loudness, to the avant garde and macabre of Sigh and most recently, Babymetal, perhaps the most talked about group in metal right now. There are some other fantastic bands from the country too, including today's featured band, a must have in the record collection for any doom fan, Church Of Misery.

Church Of Misery were formed in 1995 in Shinjuku, a special ward in the city of Tokyo by bass player Tatsu Mikami, who was formerly a member of one of Japan's leading thrash bands, Salem (not to be confused with the Israeli group.) A fan late sixties/early seventies rock and psychedelic bands like Leaf Hound and Blue Oyster Cult, along with the likes of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus, he wanted to put together his own outfit that would reflect these influences and soon found three partners in crime in guitarist Tomohiro Nishimura, vocalist Kazuhiro Asaeda and drummer Hideki Shimizu. The quartet would record their first demo, "ADV.1996" the following year and sent it out to labels, fanzines and friends across the world, before a company called Doom Records released the recording as "Vol. 1" without the band's permission, resulting naturally in complaints and the threat of legal action, but also in awareness and popularity for the band in doom metal circles. More...

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Sunday Old School: Cryptic Slaughter

Where would this column be without thrash metal? For that matter, where would metal itself be without thrash? It massively changed the genre by taking the sounds of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and turning them into something more ferocious, not only influencing many of younger headbangers, but also helping to create other successful genres such as death metal via bands like Possessed and Kreator, as well as black metal through the proto-black metal music of Celtic Frost, Bulldozer and Mercyful Fate. Beyond new areas, thrash metal also created a direct offspring of its own, after its marriage to hardcore punk, creating crossover thrash in the process. A number of beloved thrash bands belong in this category, from D.R.I. to Stormtroopers Of Death to today’s featured band, Cryptic Slaughter.

Cryptic Slaughter band began life in 1984, the brainchild of Les Evans, Scott Peterson and Adam Scott, all of whom were under the age of 18. The trio met through their participation in the American Youth Soccer League and were soon joined by another young soccer player named, Bill Crooks, who was appointed the bassist of the group. Scott didn’t last long however due to conflicts about school, so Crooks took over the vocal position, with a new bass player named Rob Nicholson was brought in, though until after the band had recorded their first demo, "Life in Grave." More...

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Sunday Old School: Aborted

Having recently been treated to a death metal extravaganza in London from Kataklysm, Septicflesh and Aborted (read the review here,) it seemed as good a time as any to revisit the history and story of one of these bands. In the interest of fairness, this week, we’ll be taking a look at the band whose country we’ve only examined twice before when covering Channel Zero and Enthroned, (which was only last week for those who need reminding.) The band whose career has been drenched in blood and fuelled by gore. The death metal band from Belgium known, quite simple, as Aborted.

Aborted was founded in 1995 by vocalist Sven de Caluwé, in the north west municipality of Waregem, West Flanders, reportedly choosing their name so that their albums would be first in the CD racks. This ambition came closer to be fulfilled, after they released two demos in 1998 entitled, "The Splat Pack" and "The Necrotorous Chronicles," which gained the attention of Uxicon Records, who released their debut album, "The Purity of Perversion" in 1999. The record received a good response from fans of extreme music, as well as disgust from onlookers at the cover art, a photograph of a mutilated woman. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 4 - Enthroned

And so we come to the end of Black Metal History Month for the fifth time. This year we’ve seen how Dimmu Borgir attained commercial success, how Melechesh overcame religious policing and fled their home country and examined the blood drenched story of Dissection. We close another fascinating month with a trip to Belgium, to take a look at another band with a history of extreme music and personal tragedy, Enthroned.

Enthroned began life in 1993 in the city of Charleroi, the brain child of drummer Cernunnos. He sought out like minded musicians and soon found them in Tsebaoth and vocalist/bassist Sabathan, who joined after the group briefly worked with a singer from the blackened grindcore band Hecate. The trio recorded a five track demo which circulated around the metal underground, eventually leading them to release a split EP with countrymen Ancient Rites through Afterdark Records. The label soon folded but the band was picked up by Evil Omen Records, a sub-label of Osmose Productions, who released the band’s debut album, "Prophecies of Pagan Fire" in 1995. It didn’t impress every listener, but received a generally good response, with "At the Sound of Millennium Black Bells" being singled out as an Enthroned classic. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 3 - Dimmu Borgir

We’ve now reached the halfway mark of our month long descent into darkness that is Black Metal History Month. Though some of the subjects we've look at this month like blasphemy, suicide and murder may be extremely shocking to the uninitiated, to the black metal faithful, perhaps one of the worst things a band could do is find mainstream success. It ruined the credibility of Cradle of Filth, but how would a band from black metal’s spiritual home fare in this situation? We’re about to find out as we continue our month of madness with Dimmu Borgir.

Dimmu Borgir was founded by vocalist Shagrath, guitarist Silenoz and drummer Tjodalv, taking their name from an Icelandic volcanic formation, which translates roughly to "dark cities" in English. They soon recorded an EP entitled, "Inn i evighetens mørke del I," which sold very quickly, leading the trio to record their first full length album with new members Stian Aarstad and Brynjard Tristan, "For all Tid," which was released in 1994 through No Colours Records. The roles were reversed a little on the first album, as Silenoz performed drums and Tjodalv handled guitars, before they switched positions. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 2 - Melechesh

Black metal is famous for its fierce opposition to organised religion, particularly Christianity. Most of the bands that espouse the anti-Christian view come from Christian or secular countries with a history of Christianity themselves, such as Norway, Sweden or Great Britain. This week, we’re taking a look at something of a strange case, as we examine a black metal band with opposition to religion from one of the Holiest cities on Earth, Jerusalem. A band who combined the surrounding languages of the Torah, the Bible and the Talmud to forge their name. A moniker formed in fire, Melechesh.

Melechesh was originally intended to be a one man band such as Burzum by Murat Cenan, better known as Ashmedi, or Melechesh Ashmedi, and took the name from the words "melech," which means king, and "esh," which means fire, two words rooted in Hebrew and Aramaic. Melechesh was soon expanded into a full band however, comprising of Israelis of Armenian and Asyrrian descent. Before they even released an album, the group themselves were not just talk of the metal underground with their demo, "As Jerusalem Burns..." and single, "The Siege of Lachish," but also in deep trouble with the local authorities, who charged Melechesh with "dark, cult like activities," with one Jerusalem paper even making them front page news, albeit with plenty of inaccuracies thrown in. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 1 - Dissection

It’s that special month again! Black Metal History Month is back for its fifth instalment, with some of the heaviest and most controversial bands lined up to celebrate our trademark four weeks of darkness. To get things going, we’re going to kick off the month with perhaps one of the craziest stories we’ve yet to cover in Sunday Old School by taking a look at one of Sweden’s most infamous bands, Dissection.

Dissection can trace its roots back to a thrash metal band, Siren’s Yell, which featured future members Peter Palmdahl, Öhman and Jon Nödtveidt. They only lasted one demo before Nödtveidt and Öhman spent a short time in a band called Rabbit’s Carrot, a group which the duo found very lightweight so they worked on darker and more aggressive music, which the other members rejected. This led Nödtveidt to form Dissection in the autumn of 1989 with Peter Palmdahl, with Öhman joining the pair once again the following spring. They soon recorded a demo, "Severing into Shreds," which they distributed to fanzines with the message that the recording marked the birth of Dissection and that they were "about to make a heavy impact on the scene." More...

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Sunday Old School: Tool

Metal music is full of weird and wonderful bands. Though many outsiders may see the genre as simple or worse, “just noise,” there have been many groups to utilise the sound with musical intellect such as Sigh and Dream Theater to name but two. Today’s featured band is another to create a sound all of their own and gain a rabid following in the metal community, one of the biggest, though maybe shortest names in the alternative metal area, Tool.

Tool began life in 1990, after all their founding members had moved to Los Angeles the previous decade. Whilst two founding members, Adam Jones and Paul D’Amour had originally come to the city to find work in the film industry, the other two, Danny Carey and Maynard James Keenan (the latter an art graduate who had been making a living remodelling pet stores,) had previously tasted what it was like being part of a cult musical act in their time with Green Jelly. Keenan and Jones would meet in 1989 through a mutual friend and decided to put together their own band, jamming together while actively seeking a rhythm section. Carey would be the next member to join, convenient since he lived above Keenan and had previously met Jones through his old friend, Tom Morello. Introductions were to play a key role again, as the lineup was completed when D’Amour, who he met via a friend, joined the ranks. More...

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