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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Thunder

By the time the nineties reared its head, metal music had evolved significantly from the blooming genre it was twenty years previously. It had been commercialised as glam metal, deified by thrash metal and taken to the extreme by the emerging death and black metal sub genres. But not everyone had shrugged off or forgotten about the roots of metal, which were firmly in the blues. There was one band who decided to put the blues back into metal and hard rock, who went by the suitably striking name of, Thunder.

The origins of the band date well back to 1975, when guitarist Luke Morley and singer Danny Bowes met at college and formed a band called Nuthin' Fancy, who released an independent single, "Looking For a Good Time," before changing their name to Terraplane. It was after adopting this new moniker that they found some relative success, releasing two albums and performing at the 1982 Reading festival. However, in time, 1989 to be exact, the band decided to rename themselves to their familiar alias, Thunder and in that same year, inked a record deal with EMI after impressing with a demo audtion. More...

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Sunday Old School: Cryptopsy

Despite my recent live report in which I stated my disappointment with Cryptopsy during their show with Brujeria, it would be most remiss of me to ignore their contributions to the death metal genre. The group are one of the most influential names in the field of technical death metal, along with the likes of Atheist and Pestilence and have a rich catalogue of brutality behind them, so today we're going to be looking at Cryptopsy, one of the of the most hailed extreme metal acts to ever come out of Canada.

The band began life under the name Necrosis, with the original members consisting of vocalist, dan Greening, who became better known to fans as, "Lord Worm," drummer Mike Atkin and guitarist Steve Thibault, before they brought in bassist, John Todds. Under their original moniker, the band recorded the demos, "Mastication and Heterodontis" and "Realms Of Pathogenia," before a self-titled demo was released in 1992, the year the group performed their first live show and changed their name to the now familiar, Cryptopsy. Shortly after this, Atkin left the and was replaced by Flo Mounier, a recommendation of John Todds, who himself would leave before long, with Kevin Weagle entering the fold as the new bassist, while Dave Galea joined as a second guitarist. More...

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Sunday Old School: NWOBHM Trilogy

This week in Sunday Old School, we're going to be doing something we've never done before and taking a look at the careers of three different bands. We've established by now that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had a lot to offer, going back to the early days of the column when we looked at big names in the movement such as Venom and Diamond Head, to more recent editions examining Atomkraft and Tokyo Blade, but there were a number of bands who had very short careers but remain cut favourites amongst the NWOBHM afficianados. Today, we'll be looking at a trio of these treasures, starting with...

Ethel The Frog

One of the strangest names in heavy metal, quite literally, was Ethel the Frog. Their name came from a Monty Python sketch about the Piranha Brothers, themselves a parody of sorts of the infamous Kray Twins. They were formed in 1976 in the Yorkshire city of Hull and steadily built up a strong following in the north, which grew after they gained attention for their first single, a heavy take on the Beatles' classic, “Elanor Rigby.” Shortly afterwards, they joined prestigious company by contributing to the Metal For Muthas compilation series and signed a record deal with EMI, who had recently picked up Iron Maiden. The band released one self-titled album in 1980 before calling it a day soon after. More...

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Sunday Old School: Fear Factory

It has been well documented that the nineties were not particularly kind to heavy metal. Many bands from the once popular thrash era such as Death Angel and Vio-Lence, disbanded before the decade reached the half way point and others such as Megadeth and Anthrax kept their name alive by changing their style. Of course, there a few metal bands who were able to defy critics, trends and commercial pressures and become stars of their time such as Pantera, Machine Head and Sepultura, as well today’s featured band, Fear Factory.

The group began life under the name, Ulceration in 1989, though they adopted their now familiar moniker the year after, following the more extreme style that they had taken on, culminating in a mix of death metal, grindcore and industrial influences, particularly Godflesh. The band, whose official lineup consisted of drummer Raymond Herrera, singer Burton C. Bell and guitarist, Dino Cazares, performed their first show on Halloween in 1990 and soon afterwards recorded a demo album, "Concrete," which saw Cazares handle both guitar and bass duties. The band were unhappy with the result but producer Ross Robinson saw no problem, leading to a lawsuit which saw Robinson retain the rights to the album, with Fear Factory keeping the rights to their songs, many of which they re-recorded with Colin Richardson for their official debut, "Soul of a New Machine." More...

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Sunday Old School: Atomkraft

Speed metal is a genre that’s quite hard to define. Many bands are slapped with the tag while also labelled “heavy metal” or “thrash metal,” which most people agree are the genres that bookend Speed. Whatever the case, there are some excellent bands tagged with the label, many of whom found critical, if not commercial success. Today, we’ll take a look at one such band, which like some of Britain’s finest metal groups, formed in the North East, specifically New castle. A band whose name literally encapsulates power, Atomkraft.

The band was originally put together by vocalist, Tony Dolan and drummer, Paul Spillet as a punk outfit which went by the name of Moral Fibre, recruiting guitar players, Ian Legg and Chris Taylor along the way, though they would mostly operate as a trio. Their moniker was changed after Taylor returned from a trip to Bremen in North West Germany, with badges sporting the anti nuclear power slogan, "Atomkraft, Nein Danke!" and the group decided to take the first word for a new name, feeling that it suited their new, heavy metal approach better. More...

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Sunday Old School: Korzus

Thrash metal and Brazil go together like black metal and Norway, death metal and Sweden or moaning and Britain. Throughout the history of Sunday Old School, we’ve seen plenty of bands from Brazil take thrash metal and put their own spin on it, from the global stars, Sepultura to their crossover friends Ratos de Parão to their first wave black metal enemies, Sarcófago. This week, the column will once again be looking at some more boys from Brazil who could thrash with the best, a band by the name of Korzus.

The group began life in 1983, coming from Brazil’s most populated city, São Paulo. They released their debut album two years later, which was something of an oddity as it was a live album, simply entitled, "Korzus Live," before their first studio full length, "Sonho Maníaco" followed two years later. It was a harsh album, exploring the darker side thrash much like Slayer, Possessed and Dark Angel had done before them, though their next release, "Pay For Your Lies," a six song EP, would feature a sound more akin to Bay Area thrash metal and has been cited as a stand out release in South American metal music. More...

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Sunday Old School: Symphony X

For all the stereotypes that exist about heavy metal fans being mindless head bangers, who just want music that’s loud, fast and full of shouting, there is also a full awareness that heavy metal has a long history of complex arrangements and a penchant for storytelling. Many bands over the years have become highly skilled at this, many of which in the progressive metal genre, which is an area we’ll be looking at today as we examine American prog metallers, Symphony X.

The seeds of Symphony X were sown in 1994 when guitarist, Michael Romeo released his instrumental solo album, "The Dark Chapter," on which he was joined by keyboard player, Michael Pinnella. The album was something of a success in Japan and the two decided to expand their partnership by bringing in vocalist, Rod Tyler, drummer Jason Rullo and bass player, Thomas Miller and christened their new outfit, Symphony X, which was also the name of their first album released later the same year. It was another well received release in Japan, leading to a sophomore full length only six months later, though in this short time, the group had parted company with Rod Tyler and recruited singer, Russell Allen. More...

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Sunday Old School: Avulsed

Throughout much of last year, the Sunday Old School column tried to look at bands from as many previously uncovered countries as possible, bringing the spotlight to groups from places such as Greece, Russia, Turkey and South Korea for the first time. This year we’ve been able to do this twice more by covering Salem from Israel and Bulldozer from Italy and now we make it a charm by heading to Spain for the first time to take a look at one of the country’s greatest contributions to extreme metal, Avulsed.

The seeds of Avulsed were sewn when vocalist, David Sánchez González, better known as Dave Rotten to fans, moved to the Spanish capital of Madrid following his military service in 1991. He was keen to play the music he loved, at a time when death metal was beginning to really take off and bands such as Obituary and Cannibal Corpse were making a name for themselves. He was joined at first by a guitarist known as, Javi "El Largo," before more members were recruited the next year, the same time that the collective settled on the moniker, Avulsed, though by this time, "El Largo" had left. More...

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Sunday Old School: Tokyo Blade

You know the phrase, "the gift that keeps on giving?" That seems to have been made for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Everyone and their dog knows about the big stars from the movement such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Venom and Saxon, but there are so many great bands produced from the scene. There are the cult favourites such as Raven, Tygers Of Pan Tang and Angel Witch and then scratching even further beyond the surface, we find other great, often short lived groups such as Holocaust, Jaguar and today’s featured act, Tokyo Blade.

Tokyo Blade were formed in Salisbury, Wiltshire, itself a city well known for its musical history, particularly in the eighteenth century, in the late seventies and underwent several name changes, before settling on their now familiar moniker, which was settled on 1981. The name change proved fruitful for the band, as before long, they signed a record deal with Powerstation Records, releasing their self-titled debut album through the label in 1983. It cemented their place as one of the bands from the later stage of the NWOBHM that were well worth the listeners time, earning them plaudits from critics and head bangers alike and still being held up as one of, if not their best album to date by fans. More...

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Sunday Old School 300: Metallica

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel and A Christmas Carol. These are stories that we all know and in the case of metal fans, another story everyone knows is that of Metallica. However, since it’s the three hundredth edition of Sunday Old School (hooray for us,) we'll be marking the landmark with a look at one of metal’s biggest bands, even if we do all know the documented story by now. A band which has always been both revered and reviled but continued to do things their way throughout their illustrious career. A band known simply as, Metallica.

The group was the brain child of a young, Danish heavy metal fanatic named Lars Ulrich, who had gone as far as to travel to Europe to see his heroes, Diamond Head, eventually staying with the band for a month. Upon returning to the United States, where he had lived since his teenage years, he was determined to form his own band, inspired massively by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, even name dropping groups from the movement such as Tygers of Pan Tang in his advertisement looking for like minded musicians, which answered by Leather Charm guitarists, James Hetfield and Hugh Tanner, though Metallica itself would not be formed until five months later, when the drummer asked Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel if his band could appear on their forthcoming, "Metal Massacre" compilation. More...

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Sunday Old School: Atheist

Jazz is something which a lot of people would initially think is worlds away from heavy metal. After all, no one can say that "Blue in Green" sounds anything like, "Reign in Blood" and death metal vocals are hardly a copy of Chet Baker’s. But give it some thought and a little bit of research and it’s clear to see that jazz has had a big influence on the genre, including some of its biggest names such as Megadeth, whose lineup on the first two albums featured two jazz musicians in Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson, while Testament guitarist, Alex Skolnick has released a number of albums in the genre and bands like Sigh and Shining (Norway) are making the connection clearer than ever before. One band that helped bring it to the extreme end of metal was born in Florida, arguably the home of death metal and they go by the name of Atheist.

The band began life in the city of Sarasota, originally using the name, Oblivion before changing it to, R.A.V.A.G.E. and then settling on the moniker, Atheist. It was founded by guitarist, Kelly Schaeffer and drummer, Steve Flynn, joined soon afterwards by vocalist, Steve Freid, another guitarist named, Rand Burkey and eventually by bass player, Roger Patterson. They slogged it out in the live scene for four years before finally recording their debut album, "Piece of Time," by which point, Freid had left the band and Schaeffer assumed the vocalist duties as well. More...

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Sunday Old School: Grip Inc.

Throughout the history of the Sunday Old School, we’ve looked at a number of undervalued bands formed by musicians from more famous bands. Be it the recent article of Fastway, formed by Motorhead guitarist,"Fast" Eddie Clarke, the collaboration between former Sepultura/Soulfly frontman, Max Cavalera with Fudge Tunnel’s, Alex Newport on Nailbomb, or Rob Halford’s endeavours with Fight and Two. This week, Sunday Old School will continue this by taking a gander at what drummer Dave Lombardo got up to shortly after leaving Slayer for the second time.

After taking his leave from the thrash giants, Lombardo put together a new outfit with Polish guitarist, Waldemar Sorychta, a former member of the German thrash metal group, Despair. They took their influence from the groove metal style which had been popularised by Pantera and christened their new outfit, Grip Inc., being joined in their musical pursuit by British vocalist, Gus Chambers, a former member of punk band, The Squad, and bass player, Jason Viebrooks. This new quartet didn’t take long to attract interest from record companies and before long, they signed with German label, SPV. More...

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Sunday Old School: Cactus

It’s always interesting to look back at the very early days of heavy metal. That first batch such as Black Sabbath, Budgie and Blue Cheer that would influence even iconic bands such as Judas Priest before they were even formed. One such band which is often put into this group, straddling the line between hard rock and the new heavy metal genre, would be Cactus. Cactus were formed in Long Island, New York by former Vanilla Fudge members Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice, initially planned to include English guitar hero Jeff Beck before he had an automobile accident and was forced out of the music world for a long while. Instead, they brought in Jim McCarty and vocalist, Rusty Day, who had previously performed in The Amboy Dukes with Ted Nugent.

The quartet released their first full length album in July of that year, a self-titled debut which was adorned with a rather crude looking cactus. It’s become a genuine staple of early seventies hard rock, taking great influence from the blues, as evidenced by the covers of "Parchman Farm" and the Willie Dixon song, "You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover," as well as their own compositions. More...

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Sunday Old School: Pagan Altar

The worst inspiration in choosing which bands get covered in the Sunday Old School column is always whenever a band member dies. With the sad passing of Pagan Altar vocalist, Terry Jones this past week, it seemed only fitting that we take a look at one of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal's lesser known, though highly influential bands, who along with contemporaries, Witchfinder General, were a big part of forging the genre we know today as doom metal.

Pagan Altar was founded in 1978 by Terry Jones, along with his brother Alan on guitar and were joined in their venture by Glenn Robinson, Les Moody and Ivor Harper. Somewhat typically for heavy metal bands of their time, they focused on occult themes and dark subject matter, though without being as overtly Satanic as Venom, for example. This original lineup didn't last long and at the beginning of the eighties, Pagan Altar consisted of what is now known as their "classic" lineup, which saw the Jones brothers joined by bassist Trever Portch and Israeli native, John Mizrahi on drums. More...

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Sunday Old School: Nile

History is a subject which may have bored many people in school, but even those who dozed off during lessons will agree that along with the occult and war, it makes for one of the best topics for heavy metal. Motorhead for example has written several songs about famous wars, as well as an album entitled, "1916," while Iced Earth took things further with a concept album about the American Civil War. Iron Maiden approached the culture of ancient Egypt on their fifth album, "Powerslave," and other bands have touched on it too. But for one band, this wondrous civilisation was to inspire not only their lyrics, but their album titles and even their name. Far away from the Pyramids, in Greensville, South Carolina in fact, this band came to life, under the moniker, Nile.

The group emerged from the remnants of a thrash metal band called Morriah, who achieved success locally and were able to perform some shows with the then emerging death metal champions such as Morbid Angel. After their dissolution in the early nineties, member Karl Sanders decided to form a new, heavier band, joined by bassist and vocalist, Chief Spires and drummer, Pete Hammoura. Their first release came two years after forming, with the 1995 EP, "Festivals of Atonement," which was distributed via their own label, Anubis Records. It circulated strongly and helped them to build up enough of a fan base to support the likes of Obituary and Deicide amongst other death metal giants. More...

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Sunday Old School: Amorphis

When being interviewed a few years back in Tampere, Sakis Tholis of Rotting Christ stated that he believes Finland is now the capital of metal music. Looking at how many bands come from there and how commercially successful the genre is in the country, one could say it’s quite hard to argue with the man. It wasn’t always this way though, Finnish bands had to work hard to build both scenes and reputations and one of the bands who really helped make Finland a metal force was a group from the capital city, Helsinki, who go by the name, Amorphis.

Amorphis was put together in 1990 by drummer and guitarist, Jan Rechberger and Esa Holopainen, both members of the thrash metal outfit, Violent Solution, which struggled on for a while as the duo recruited a former bandmate, Tomi Koivusaari on vocals and guitar, as well as bass player, Oppu Laine. The band put together a demo, "Disment of Soul," the next year, helmed by the Stratovarius guitarist, Timo Tolkki, which was deemed good enough for the band to be offered a worldwide recording deal with Relapse Records. Their debut album was then released in 1992 under the title, "The Karelian Isthmus," receiving some very high praise upon release. It was much more of a solid death metal album than later releases, albeit with some doom influences on display, a style which could also be heard on the demo collection, "Privilege of Evil," which was released a year later. More...

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Sunday Old School: Fastway

One of the great things about the internet is that younger headbangers can find all sorts of bands so much easier than they could twenty years. Where once fans may have wondered what happened to certain members of bands, they are now able to find their subsequent or side projects with much greater ease. One such band who achieved success in their time but for a while were swept away featured a very important member of the classic lineup of one of metal’s most important bands, Motorhead, whose guitarist Eddie Clarke would leave for a new group, Fastway.

Fastway was formed in 1983 when "Fast" Eddie Clarke became disillusioned with Motorhead and teamed up with UFO bass player, Pete Way, who had also become disgruntled with his band. They recruited former Humble Pie drummer, Jerry Shirley and Irish singer Dave King. Despite Way being a founding member and half of the group’s namesake, he decided to leave the project early on because he was unable to escape his record deal with Chrysalis Records and instead opted to join Ozzy Osbourne’s band, later forming a new group, Waysted. More...

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Sunday Old School: Septicflesh

Greece is a country as fascinating as it is beautiful, though it’s had plenty of problems to contend with over the years, in recent times being one of the countries worst hit by the global financial crisis. Such harshness, as well as a history both violent and cultured, seem to be a perfect place for metal music to be born and thrive, and so it is that this week, we’ll take a look at one of their best known contributions to the field, Septicflesh.

Septic Flesh was formed in the Greek capital city of Athens in 1990 by bassist/vocalist, Spiros Antoniou, with his younger brother Christos Antoniou on guitar, as well as second guitarist Sotiris Vayenas. Nineteen months after coming together, the group released their first demo, "Temple of the Lost Race," which didn't take long to sell out and is now a highly sought after collectable. It was songs from this demo, as well as, "Morpheus (The Dreamlord,") which helped the band grab the attention of Holy Records, who signed the band up and released their debut full length album, "Mystic Places of Dawn" in 1994. The record was co-produced by former Rotting Christ keyboardist, Magus Wampyr and is still considered to be one of the best releases by Septic Flesh, as well as one of the best of the year, a notable feat considering this was the same year Emperor released, "In the Nightshade Eclipse" and Mayhem unleashed, "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas." More...

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Sunday Old School: Watchtower

Progressive metal appears to be one of the longer lasting popular sub-genres over the years, with bands such as Dream Theater and Queensryche selling very well, others like Atheist, Cynic and Fates Warning becoming underground legends and younger acts such as Periphery now making a name for them self in the field. It’s hard to pinpoint a time or which band specifically really launched the genre, but there are those who certainly need to be name checked and acknowledged as an important part of it, one of which would be Watchtower.

The band were formed in Austin, Texas in 1982 by guitarist Billy White and drummer, Rick Colaluca, with Doug Keyser joining soon afterwards on bass and eventually brought in Jason McMaster on vocals. They initially performed covers of bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal such as Raven and Iron Maiden, as well as older heavy rock like Thin Lizzy before working on their own material. They made their recording debut the next year with a contribution to a Texas Hardcore Compilation, in the guise of the song, "Meltdown," which they would later release themselves as a demo, which featured three other tracks. More...

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Sunday Old School: Gillan

One of the great things about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal is that not only did it bring the spotlight to new, young bands such as Iron Maiden, Saxon and Venom, amongst many others, but it sparked a renewed interest in some of the older guard and their outputs. Judas Priest were one band whose popularity was boosted higher than ever when they released "British Steel" in the glorious year for metal that was 1980, and the same thing happened to Ozzy Osbourne when he released his debut studio effort, "Blizzard of Ozz," five months later. Someone else who found his musical endeavours reaching a young head banging fan base was (then) former Deep Purple singer, Ian Gillan, who launched his own eponymous band in 1978.

Ian Gillan decided to form the band after becoming bored of his jazz fusion outfit, The Ian Gillan Band, retaining only keyboardist Colin Towns and recruiting new blood in bassist John McCoy, drummer Liam Genockery, and guitarist Steve Byrd. That year, the group recorded their first album, a self-titled effort, but found they were only able to get a record deal in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This debut was very much steeped in progressive rock, a style which had been almost obliterated by the ruling punk scene at the time.

Though it wasn't officially released in the United Kingdom until almost fifteen years later, it still sold well there via imports, helped along by positive reviews that those journalists who had heard it gave the album and an appearance at that year’s Reading Festival. The interest was great enough to earn the band a European deal with Acrobat Records though before a second album could be recorded, the group brought in new drummer, Mick Underwood and guitarist, Bernie Torme. Torme was to be a massive part of Gillan, essentially changing their sound towards a more heavy metal style and culminating in the excellent 1979 album, "Mr. Universe," which peaked at number eleven in the British albums chart.

Gillan “Mr. Universe” (Live 1981)
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